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Prescription Drug Costs Driven by Manufacturer Price Hikes, Not Innovation

January 9, 2019

(NPR) – The skyrocketing cost of many prescription drugs in the U.S. can be blamed primarily on price increases, not expensive new therapies or improvements in existing medications as drug companies frequently claim, a new study shows. The report, published Monday in the journal Health Affairs, found that the cost of brand-name oral prescription drugs rose more than 9 percent a year from 2008 and 2016, while the annual cost of injectable drugs rose more than 15 percent.

To Get Mental Health Help for a Child, Desperate Parents Relinquish Custody

January 9, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – Two-thirds of states don’t keep track of how many families give up custody to help a child get mental health services. But a study by the Government Accountability Office found that, back in 2001, families in 19 states relinquished nearly 13,000 children. Today in Illinois, state records show that dozens of children enter state custody this way each year, despite a 2015 state law aimed at preventing it. And new data collected by the University of Maryland for the federal government finds that Illinois is not alone in failing to address this issue.

Unethical Experiments’ Painful Contributions to Today’s Medicine

January 9, 2019

(CNN) – He’s experiments, which are still clouded with the uncertainty of his claims and his whereabouts, open a Pandora’s box of questions around ethics in experiments with humans — even though these dilemmas aren’t new. Historic examples of human experimentation include wartime atrocities by Nazi doctors that tested the limits of human survival. Another led to the creation of the hepatitis B vaccine prototype. Wendell Johnson, who made several contributions to the field of communication disorders, tried to induce stuttering in normally fluent children. In the 1940s, prisoners in Illinois were infected with malaria to test anti-malaria drugs.

Rwanda Deploys Officials to Enforce Ban on Skin Lightening Creams

January 9, 2019

(CNN) – The Rwandan government is sending officials across the country to enforce its ban on skin lightening and bleaching products. The East African country is leading a campaign against skin bleaching and substandard cosmetics, particularly products that include hydroquinone, a spokesman from the Rwanda Standards Board told CNN.

Male Workers Face DNA Testing After Comatose Woman Had Baby

January 9, 2019

(ABC News) – Police have served a search warrant to get DNA from all male employees at a long-term care facility in Phoenix where a patient in a vegetative state for years gave birth, triggering reviews by state agencies and highlighting safety concerns for severely disabled or incapacitated patients. Hacienda HealthCare owns the facility and said Tuesday that it welcomed the testing.

CRISPR Studies Hint at Cell Pathways Involved in Autism

January 9, 2019

(Spectrum) – A variety of genetic risk factors for autism disrupt some of the same processes in cells, two new studies suggest. Both studies used the DNA-editing tool CRISPR to mutate genes with ties to autism. In one of the studies, researchers grew neurons from human stem cells lacking any of 10 genes implicated in autism. Half of these neurons show diminished electrical activity at their connections with other cells, or synapses.

U.S. Women Face Abuse from Partners Over Contraception Choices

January 9, 2019

(Reuters) – Up to three in 10 women seeking family planning healthcare in the United States have suffered coercive control over their reproductive choices, researchers said on Monday. Women experienced abuse ranging from pressure over reproductive choices to deliberate sabotage of contraception to threats of violence if they did not comply, a review of studies in the journal “BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health” found.

A New Edition of The American Journal of Bioethics Is Now Available

January 9, 2019

The American Journal of Bioethics (vol. 18, no. 10, 2018) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Shrinking Poor White Life Spans: Class, Race, and Health Justice” by Erika Blacksher
  • “A Radical Approach to Ebola: Saving Humans and Other Animals” by Sarah J. L. Edwards et al.
  • A Randomized Trial of Rapamycin to Increase Longevity and Healthspan in Companion Animals: Navigating the Boundary Between Protections for Animal Research and Human Subjects Research” by Holly A. Taylor, Christian Morales, Liza-Marie Johnson, and Benjamin S. Wilfond
  • “Ethical Considerations for Unblinding a Participant’s Assignment to Interpret a Resolved Adverse Event” by Benjamin S. Wilfond, Christian Morales, Liza-Marie Johnson, and Holly A. Taylor

 

‘Left Behind’: Drug Companies and Researchers Have Overlooked Patients Who Don’t Respond to HIV Meds

January 8, 2019

(STAT News) – Vergel, 59, attributes most of these conditions to his low CD4 count, a key marker of immune function in HIV-positive people. He is what’s known as an immunologic non-responder (INR) — someone whose immune system does not rebound even after years of antiretroviral therapy. There are tens of thousands of these non-responders in the U.S., whose low CD4 numbers put them at much higher risk of heart attacks, stroke, cancers, secondary infections such as tuberculosis, and death. And yet, drug companies and researchers aren’t actively pursuing new treatments that would boost their immunity, leaving people like Vergel feeling neglected.

Europe’s Top Rights Court to Hear Belgian Euthanasia Case

January 8, 2019

(ABC News) – Europe’s top human rights court has agreed to hear a case being brought against Belgium by a man whose mother was euthanized in 2012 for depression, the second case that implicates one of Belgium’s leading euthanasia doctors. In a statement Tuesday, lawyers for Tom Mortier said they brought their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg after Belgian authorities declined to pursue it.

U.S. Cancer Death Rate Hits Milestone: 25 Years of Decline

January 8, 2019

(STAT News) – The U.S. cancer death rate has hit a milestone: It’s been falling for at least 25 years, according to a new report. Lower smoking rates are translating into fewer deaths. Advances in early detection and treatment also are having a positive impact, experts say. But it’s not all good news. Obesity-related cancer deaths are rising, and prostate cancer deaths are no longer dropping, said Rebecca Siegel, lead author of the American Cancer Society report published Tuesday.

Alzheimer’s Attack on the Brain May Vary with Race

January 8, 2019

(Scientific American) – Research on Alzheimer’s has mainly focused on Caucasians. New findings, however, suggest the disease process that leads to dementia may differ in African–Americans. According to a study published Monday in JAMA Neurology, the brains of African–Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s have less buildup of a protein called tau—one of the two hallmark proteins that characterize the disease.

Health Care Industry Spends $30B a Year Pushing Its Wares, from Drugs to Stem Cell Treatments

January 8, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – Hoping to earn its share of the $3.5 trillion health care market, the medical industry is pouring more money than ever into advertising its products — from high-priced prescriptions to do-it-yourself genetic tests and unapproved stem cell treatments. Spending on health care marketing nearly doubled from 1997 to 2016, soaring to at least $30 billion a year, according to a study published Tuesday in JAMA.

23andMe Will Add Weight-Loss Advice to Its DNA-Testing Services

January 8, 2019

(Bloomberg) – Consumer DNA-testing giant 23andMe Inc. plans to add new wellness offerings it hopes will help its customers shed a few pounds, but some genetics experts say the jury is still out on the science behind the products. On Tuesday, the Mountain View, California-based company announced a partnership with Lark Health, an artificial-intelligence coaching service that delivers personalized advice for weight loss and diabetes prevention via an app. Lark will allow customers to incorporate weight-related genetic data from 23andMe into its service.

WHO Study Likens Palm Oil Lobbying to Tobacco and Alcohol Industries

January 8, 2019

(Reuters) – The palm oil industry is deploying tactics similar to those of the alcohol and tobacco industries to influence research into the health effects of its product, a study published by the World Health Organization said on Tuesday. Evidence of the health impact of palm oil is mixed, with some studies linking consumption to several ailments, including increased risk of death from heart disease caused by narrowing arteries, the report said.

Indian Scientist Claims Ancient Hindus Invented Stem Cell Technology and Test Tube Babies

January 8, 2019

(Newsweek) – Ascientist in India has claimed that ancient Hindus invented test tube babies and stem cell technology. G. Nageshwar Rao, the vice chancellor of Andhra University in southern India, referred to an ancient Hindu text in which one woman gave birth to 100 children—the Kauravas. In ancient mythology, the Kaurava are the descendants of the legendary Kura king Dhritarashtra. In the story, Dhritarashtra’s wife, Gandhari, took great care of the saint Vyasa, and for her kindness was granted a wish: 100 sons.

A New Edition of JAMA Is Now Available

January 8, 2019

JAMA (vol. 320, no. 12, 2018) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Reducing Maternal Mortality in the United States” by Michael C. Lu
  • “Letting Her Be in Charge” by Lynn E. Fiellin
  • “The Path to the First FDA-Approved Cannabis-Derived Treatment and What Comes Next” by Rita Rubin
  • “Disability and Access to Care” by Bridget Kuehn
  • “Informing Physicians of Fatal Overdose Curbs Opioid Prescribing” by Anita Slomski

 

A New Edition of The American Journal of Bioethics Is Now Available

January 8, 2019

The American Journal of Bioethics (vol. 18, no. 8, 2018) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “In Defense of “Denial”: Difficulty Knowing When Beliefs Are Unrealistic and Whether Unrealistic Beliefs Are Bad” by J. S. Blumenthal-Barby and Peter A. Ubel
  • “The Ethics of Smart Pills and Self-Acting Devices: Autonomy, Truth-Telling, and Trust at the Dawn of Digital Medicine” by Craig M. Klugman, Laura B. Dunn, Jack Schwartz, and I. Glenn Cohen

 

In a Vegetative State for Years, She Gave Birth. Now Families Wonder If There Are Other Victims

January 7, 2019

(The Washington Post) – On Dec. 29, with help from one of the facility’s nurses, the patient gave birth to a healthy baby boy, KPHO reported. The birth — and the sexual assault of a vulnerable individual that must have preceded it — has cast a harsh glare on conditions at a nonprofit organization that bills itself as a leading provider of health care for Phoenix’s medically fragile.

Growing Opioid Crisis Adds to Puerto Rico’s Problems

January 7, 2019

(ABC News) – The government is struggling to keep up, and failed to apply for a multimillion dollar U.S. grant that advocates say could have helped save lives. More than 600 fentanyl-related overdoses and 60 deaths were reported in Puerto Rico in 2017, largely before Hurricane Maria, up from 200 and eight the previous year. While that’s much less dire than the crisis in some U.S. states, activists and experts say the problem appears to be expanding rapidly as use of fentanyl, the opioid blamed for much of the problem in the U.S., spreads more widely here.

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