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Defibrillator Drones Could Save Lives before Ambulance Arrives

June 13, 2017

(New Scientist) – Jacob Hollenberg at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and colleagues wondered if drones could be used to get a defibrillator to the emergency scene more quickly than an ambulance. They attached a defibrillator to a drone stationed at a fire station in Norrtälje, a rural location near Stockholm, and dispatched it to locations within 10 kilometres where actual cardiac arrests had taken place in the past eight years. Over 18 flights, the median time from the drone’s dispatch to its arrival at the emergency location was 5 minutes 21 seconds. During the real emergencies, the median dispatch time for the ambulance was 22 minutes.

Chip Captures Individual Cells in Minuscule Gels

June 13, 2017

(PhysOrg) – Researchers at the University of Twente’s MIRA research institute have developed a chip that can capture and hold individual cells in the exact centre of a minuscule hydrogel droplet. Their novel method keeps cells alive for multiple weeks, which makes it easier to study them. This makes it possible to, for example, test the action of new drugs and improve stem cell therapies with unparalleled control. Details of this research were published in the prestigious scientific journal Small, and are even displayed on its cover.

Gene-Editing Companies Hit Back at Paper That Criticizes CRISPR

June 13, 2017

(MIT Technology Review) – Two gene-editing companies are hitting back at a scientific publication that caused their stocks to plummet last week, calling it wrong, filled with errors, and saying it shouldn’t have been published. In separate letters sent to Nature Methods, scientists from Intellia Therapeutics and Editas Medicine criticized a report in the journal that claimed the gene-editing tool CRISPR had caused unexpected mutations in the genomes of mice and which cast a shadow over efforts to initiate human studies using the technique.

‘Tumor Agnostic’ Cancer Drugs Seen Boosting Wider Genetic Tests

June 12, 2017

(Reuters) – New cancer drugs that target genetic mutations regardless of where the tumor is growing should expand the practice of testing patients for such glitches, oncology experts say.  Such “tumor-agnostic” drugs from companies including Merck & Co and Loxo Oncology may help overcome misgivings by health insurers, who have balked at covering large-scale tests looking for genetic mutations in tumors, and quell concerns of some top cancer doctors who question whether enough patients benefit from such tests.

Artificial Intelligence Can Now Predict Suicide with Remarkable Accuracy

June 12, 2017

(Quartz) – Walsh and his colleagues have created machine-learning algorithms that predict, with unnerving accuracy, the likelihood that a patient will attempt suicide. In trials, results have been 80-90% accurate when predicting whether someone will attempt suicide within the next two years, and 92% accurate in predicting whether someone will attempt suicide within the next week.

New Zealand Likely to Legalise Euthanasia

June 12, 2017

(The Australian) – Euthanasia could be legal in New Zealand in less than a year with legislation to come before parliament in as little as a few weeks. The End of Life Choice Bill was plucked at random from the members’ ballot on Thursday, almost two years after it was first included, and there’s confidence it has the numbers to pass. It would give people over 18 with a terminal illness or a “grievous” medical condition the option to choose assisted dying if they have the support of two doctors.

‘How Long Have I Got?’: Why Many Cancer Patients Don’t Have Answers

June 12, 2017

(USA Today) – Surprisingly, huge numbers of cancer patients lack basic information, such as how long they can expect to live, whether their condition is curable or why they’re being prescribed chemotherapy or radiation, said Dr. Rab Razzak, director of outpatient palliative medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. The result: People with advanced cancer don’t know enough about their disease to make informed decisions about treatment or how they want to spend their remaining time.

No Price Pressure on Orphan Drugs (Yet)

June 12, 2017

(Managed Care Magazine) – When Biogen won regulatory approval late last year for a new drug to treat a spinal muscular atrophy, a rare genetic disorder in children, the price tag quickly sparked debate. The first year of treatment costs an eye-popping $750,000 and each year thereafter runs a hefty $375,000. Given the growing anger and anxiety about the cost of medications in this country, one Wall Street analyst worried the price tag for Spinraza might become “the straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of the U.S. market’s tolerance for rare disease drug pricing.” So far, though, Spinraza is rolling right along.

When Patients Refuse Lifesaving Care

June 12, 2017

(Medscape) – Medscape contributor Andrew N. Wilner, MD, recently encountered a vexing problem in his practice as a neurologist: multiple patients refusing medical treatment, at great cost to their own health and to the healthcare system. One such encounter involved cultural sensitivity around a particular therapy that further clouded the ethics of how to proceed with management. Dr Wilner and Ronald W. Pies, MD, a bioethicist and professor of psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, recently had an email discussion about such ethical quandaries, and about how to handle them in clinical practice.

‘Part of New Reality’: Despite Confusion, Zika Warnings Are Here to Stay

June 9, 2017

(STAT News) – Zika has faded from the headlines like a mosquito’s dying buzz. Puerto Rico declared its outbreak over this week. Brazil said its emergency was over in May. In the United States, summer approaches with little discussion of the virus outside public health circles. But the risk the insidious pathogen poses to a pregnancy hasn’t gone away, and public health authorities are grappling with how to get the message out to pregnant women. Despite public confusion over whether Zika remains a public health threat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to warn women who are pregnant to avoid traveling to wide swathes of Latin America and the Caribbean.

FDA Wants Opioid Painkiller Removed from Market

June 9, 2017

(UPI) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, Thursday requested Endo Pharmaceuticals remove its opioid pain medication Opana ER from the market due to risks. This is the first time the FDA has requested the removal of a currently marketed opioid pain medication from sale due to risks to public health based on abuse. It follows a March 2017 FDA advisory committee meeting where independent experts voted 18-8 that the benefits of reformulated Opana ER no longer outweigh the risks.

Kids Born Through Fertility Treatments Show Normal Mental Development

June 9, 2017

(Reuters) – Despite concerns that children born through Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) may develop differently from other kids, a UK study finds they have normal mental skills until at least age 11. In fact, at ages 3 and 5 years, kids born as a result of these techniques had greater verbal cognitive ability than those born through natural conception, though this gap diminished with time. Researchers say that the older, better educated and more financially well-off parents of ART kids may play an important role in this difference at early ages.

A Lesser Known Advanced Directive: ‘Do-Not-Hospitalize’

June 9, 2017

(US News & World Report) – Toward the end of life – particularly for some frail, older individuals with chronic conditions – hospitalizations can become more frequent.  While commonly these admissions are warranted, experts say, in some cases they don’t improve comfort and can instead be stressful, expose patients to more tests and procedures and, while possibly nominally increasing the length of a person’s life, not improve their quality of life.

The DIY Cyborgs Hacking Their Bodies for Fun

June 9, 2017

(Wired) – Life hacks make tedious tasks like slicing avocados or opening jars a bit easier. Such tricks are for amateurs. Hardcore hackers slice open their arms, or hands, or ears to install magnets, RFID tags, and other nifty devices that open doors, transmit data to a smartphone, and do other cool, if somewhat pointless, things. Photographer Hannes Wiedemann explores the wild world of DIY cyborgs in Grinders. The photos filling his book are not for the squeamish, as they present, in occasionally gruesome detail, the lengths these folks go to so they might live in the future. “They’re into technology, so they try to take shortcuts through technology,” he says.

California’s Aid-in-Dying Law Turns 1, But Not All Doctors Have Adopted It

June 9, 2017

(Kaiser Health News) – “What the numbers are showing is that the law is working incredibly well,” said Matt Whitaker, the organization’s point person for California and Oregon which both have aid-in-dying laws. “That it’s working as the lawmakers intended. Still, for some patients, finding a doctor willing to prescribe the life-ending drugs can be difficult, in part because the law allows doctors to opt out of prescribing – even when the hospital where they work has agreed to participate in assisting patients.

Daylight on Diabetes Drugs: Nevada Bill Would Track Insulin Maker’s Profits

June 9, 2017

(Kaiser Health News) – Patients notched a rare win over the pharmaceutical industry Monday when the Nevada Legislature revived a bill requiring insulin makers to disclose the profits they make on the life-sustaining drug. In a handful of other states, bills addressing drug prices have stalled. Many of the 1.25 million Americans who live with Type 1 diabetes cheered the legislative effort in Nevada as an important first step in their fight against skyrocketing costs of a drug on which their lives depend. The cost of insulin medications has steadily risen over the past decade by nearly 300 percent.

Yemen Cholera Cases Pass 100,000 Amide ‘Unprecedented’ Epidemic

June 8, 2017

(BBC) – The number of suspected cases of cholera resulting from a severe outbreak in Yemen has passed 100,000, the World Health Organization says. A total of 798 deaths associated with the disease have been recorded in 19 out of 22 provinces since 27 April. The charity Oxfam said the epidemic was killing one person almost every hour. Yemen’s health, water and sanitation systems are collapsing after two years of war between government forces and the rebel Houthi movement.

Charlie Gard: Parents’ Appeal for US Treatment Bid Fails

June 8, 2017

(BBC) – The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by the parents of sick baby Charlie Gard, over plans to take him to the US for treatment. Chris Gard and Connie Yates want the 10-month old, who suffers from a rare genetic condition, to undergo a therapy trial. His mother broke down and screamed as the decision was announced. Charlie can stay on life support for 24 hours to give the European Court of Human Rights a chance to give a ruling. He has been in intensive care at Great Ormond Street Hospital since October last year. The hospital said therapy proposed by a doctor in America is experimental and that Charlie’s life support treatment should stop.

ISIS’s Mass Killings of Civilians in Mosul

June 8, 2017

(The Atlantic) – A UN report Thursday said more than 200 Iraqi civilians attempting to flee western Mosul have been killed by the Islamic State since the end of May, which the UN Human Rights Office called a “signifiant escalation.” The report noted three specific incidents of civilian killings in ISIS-controlled parts of western Mosul, during which the militant group reportedly shot and killed individuals attempting to flee to areas controlled by Iraq’s security forces, resulting in the deaths of approximately 231 civilians. The report also cited civilian fatalities caused by airstrikes in ISIS-held areas of western Mosul on May 31, which caused between 50 and 80 civilian deaths.

Imran Khan’s Party Improves Services in Pakistan’s Wildest Province

June 8, 2017

(The Economist) – “THEY are getting away with murder,” says Khalid Masud, director of the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, the largest in a province long racked by insurgency. Dr Khalid was not talking of the Pakistani Taliban or other extremist groups, but of his own doctors. Of the 45 senior consultants at the hospital, many pop in for no more than an hour a day if at all. Then they leave for their private clinics, taking with them those patients who can afford to pay. Patients without money can die before they see a specialist at the 1,750-bed facility. Such is the state of public health care for the 27m residents of Pakistan’s mountainous, troubled border region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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