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How IVF Has Redefined the Modern Family

March 29, 2019

(ABC News) – IVF, originally created to fight infertility, has expanded to allow people to think beyond the traditional family and carve a new path to parenthood. “I chose this field for the science and for the medicine and for the drama and for the excitement and for the amazing things that we can do for people,” says Dr. Richard Grazi, founder of Genesis Fertility & Reproductive Medicine in Brooklyn, New York. ABC News spent more than a year following three families on their unique IVF journeys. As different as these families are, there is one common theme: There are no guarantees on the road to parenthood.

‘I Had My Misgivings About Going Abroad for Surgery’

March 29, 2019

(BBC) – Patients Beyond Borders, a publisher of guidebooks for “medical tourists” estimates that more than 20 million people will travel to another country for medical treatment this year, up 25% from 16 million last year. Meanwhile, a 2016 report by payments giant Visa estimated that the medical tourism industry was worth $50bn a year, and continuing to grow.

Researchers Analyze Epigenetic Signatures to Diagnose Rare Diseases

March 28, 2019

(The Scientist) – Current genetic testing methods often fall short in diagnosing pediatric patients with developmental delay, intellectual disability, or congenital abnormalities. Sometimes, this is because certain genetic variants are technically very difficult to detect. Other times, tests reveal genetic mutations that clinicians simply don’t know how to interpret: it’s not clear whether they are pathogenic, so it’s impossible to say if they’re related to a disease or not.  Over the past several years, researchers have found that several rare conditions associated with these symptoms are caused by mutations in epigenetic genes, such as those encoding histone modifying enzymes or components of DNA methylation machinery. These result in wide-scale disruptions in methylation patterns across the genome, creating a distinct “episignature.” 

Cholera Cases Rise to 139 as Mozambique Prepares Mass Vaccinations

March 28, 2019

(Medical Xpress) – The number of confirmed cholera cases in cyclone-ravaged Mozambique climbed sharply to 139 Thursday as authorities prepared to roll out a mass vaccination campaign to stem the spread of the deadly disease. “The total number of cholera cases is now 139,” government health officer Ussein Isse told AFP.

New York Attorney General Announces Sweeping Lawsuit Against Opioid Manufacturers, Sackler Family

March 28, 2019

(CNN) – The New York attorney general’s office announced a comprehensive amended lawsuit Thursday against six opioid manufacturers, one of America’s richest families and four opioid distributors as the opioid abuse epidemic rages. The lawsuit alleges that six manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma — along with eight members of the Sackler family, which owns the pharmaceutical giant that manufactures the painkiller OxyContin — engaged in false and deceptive marketing practices. The suit also alleges that opioid distributors failed to prevent their drugs from getting into the wrong hands.

World’s First Living Donor HIV-to-HIV Kidney Transplant Delivers Hope

March 28, 2019

(UPI) – The world’s first kidney transplantation from a person living with HIV to a recipient also living with HIV took place on Monday. Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Medicine performed the procedure on Nina Martinez, a 35-year-old woman living with HIV, who donated her kidney to an unnamed recipient. “A disease that was a death sentence in the 1980s has become one so well-controlled that those living with HIV can now save lives with kidney donation — that’s incredible,” Dorry Segev, professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a news release.

False Hope for Autism in the Stem Cell Underground

March 28, 2019

(Spectrum) – Many parents of autistic children are, like the Perskins, turning to social media to exchange information on stem cell clinics, which have proliferated in the United States and abroad over the past few years. These forums play down the fact that only a small fraction of stem cell treatments — specifically, those for generating blood cells — have been proven safe and effective in the eyes of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

How Much Prenatal Genetic Information Do You Actually Want?

March 28, 2019

(Wired) – But what is available is something called noninvasive prenatal genetic screening (NIPT). Based on a blood sample from mom, they have been used for several years to tell expectant parents if their baby might have, say, a chromosomal abnormality. Then the parents might make the choice to terminate the pregnancy—or to prepare for a child with disabilities. Makers of those tests, though, are already pushing the technology beyond its recommended uses to flag a rapidly expanding list of the unborn’s potential genetic flaws. But these bigger and bigger menus of genetic testing also come with less and less information about how predictive the data they reveal actually is. And as these types of tests become routine, women like Hamann have to figure out what they want to know, and what they’ll do with the information they receive.

Drug Rationing Common for Shortages, Patient Disclosure Rare

March 28, 2019

(Medscape) – Drug shortages of all types have slowly become the new normal in US healthcare, affecting supplies of everything from sterile saline solution to essential oncologic agents. But while these shortages continue to be highlighted in the media, a new study now shows that the method of addressing the issue is by rationing drugs — and often without the knowledge of the patient.

Killer Robots Already Exist, and They’ve Been Here a Very Long Time

March 28, 2019

(The Conversation) – These technologies have existed for a very long time. During World War II, the proximity fuse was developed to explode artillery shells at a predetermined distance from their target. This made the shells far more effective than they would otherwise have been by augmenting human decision making and, in some cases, taking the human out of the loop completely. So the question is not so much whether we should use autonomous weapon systems in battle – we already use them, and they take many forms. Rather, we should focus on how we use them, why we use them, and what form – if any – human intervention should take.

Their Baby Died During His Nap. Then Medical Bureaucrats Deepened the Parents’ Anguish

March 27, 2019

(STAT News) – When an infant unexpectedly stops breathing during sleep, the usual bureaucracy of death is multiplied, the paperwork thickened with accusation. Investigations are triggered with the local police, the state police, the agency that checks for child abuse. In some jurisdictions, officials appear soon afterward, asking parents to re-enact what happened, a doll standing in for their baby. The medical examiner or coroner takes the body, to determine a cause of death, looking for hints of “foul play.” These protocols are designed to protect. Often they do. But how an officer or medical examiner carries them out can sharpen the suspicion inherent in any investigation, heightening parents’ self-blame even when there’s no evidence of wrongdoing.

America Is Too Glib About Breast Implants

March 27, 2019

(The Atlantic) – Boob jobs have been ubiquitous in American popular culture since the 1980s, when laws changed to allow plastic surgeons to advertise and credit cards became widely available. But safety concerns have dogged the procedure since the first silicone breast enhancements were successfully implanted by Texas surgeons in 1962. In that time, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of silicone implants and then reinstated them on the condition that the industry closely monitor their impact on patients. Now both silicone implants and the more popular, saline-filled alternatives have found themselves under the agency’s lens again, this time over their potential links to a rare cancer and claims from patients that they cause pain, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune problems.

More Than 1,000 People Are Infected with Ebola in DR Congo and the Outbreak Is Still Spreading

March 27, 2019

(Quartz) – The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the midst of the worst Ebola outbreak the country has ever experienced, it’s spread heightened by suspicion and violence. The relationship between aid workers, the state and affected communities has become “toxic” with distrust in the already restive eastern part of the country. Since the outbreak was first identified in August 2018, more than 1,000 people have been infected with the haemorrhagic virus, with 639 deaths as of Mar. 26, according to the national health ministry.

Smoking Pot During Pregnancy May Cause Psychosis in Children Later in Life

March 27, 2019

(UPI) – Expecting mothers who smoke marijuana or use the drug in any form may be putting their children at risk for psychosis later in life, a new study says. Women who use cannabis during pregnancy may cause paranoia and schizophrenia in their children when they get older, according to new research published Tuesday in JAMA Psychiatry.

FDA Chief Calls for Release of All Data Tracking Problems with Medical Devices

March 27, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced in a tweet Wednesday that the agency plans to release hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of previously unpublished injury and malfunction reports tied to about 100 medical devices. “We’re now prioritizing making ALL of this data available,” Gottlieb tweeted. A recent Kaiser Health News investigation revealed the scope of a hidden reporting pathway for device makers, with the agency accepting more than 1.1 million such reports since the start of 2016.

Child Cancer Drugs Increasingly Scarce

March 27, 2019

(Baltimore Sun) – As a pediatric hematologist/oncologist, I strive to provide my patients with the same level of care Governor Hogan received. Unfortunately, due to shortages of old and off-patent drugs used to cure approximately 85 percent of all children with cancer in the U.S., increasingly, it is getting hard to do so. Typically, we only get one chance to cure disease. If that opportunity is missed, it is rare that we are able to cure childhood cancer. U.S. drug shortages have become the new normal. According to the FDA, shortages are occurring with greater frequency and lasting longer, causing a significant public health impact.

Flood of Products Containing Marijuana Extract Puts FDA in a Bind

March 26, 2019

(Politico) – Even by the superhyped standard of internet cures, the marijuana and hemp extract cannabidiol is unique, touted as everything from a hair conditioner to a sleep aid and a way to help manage diabetes and fight cancer. The CBD boom is also giving regulators fits, blurring the line between a drug and a dietarysupplement and testing how much the government can police health claims.

Purdue Pharma, Maker of OxyContin, Settles Opioids Lawsuit in Oklahoma

March 26, 2019

(STAT News) – The maker of OxyContin and the company’s controlling family agreed to pay $270 million in a deal announced Tuesday with the state of Oklahoma to settle allegations they helped set off the nation’s deadly opioid crisis with their aggressive marketing of the powerful painkiller. It is the first settlement to come out of the recent coast-to-coast wave of lawsuits against Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma that threaten to push the company into bankruptcy and have stained the name of the Sackler family, whose members are among the world’s foremost philanthropists.

Federal Judge Ends North Carolina Ban on Abortions After 20 Weeks

March 26, 2019

(Reuters) – A U.S. federal court struck down North Carolina’s decades-old ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, saying any “week- or event-specific” abortion ban is unconstitutional. The law, which took effect in 1973, only allowed an abortion after 20 weeks in the case of a medical emergency. Abortion-rights groups sued in 2016 after the health exception was further narrowed.

Venezuela Crisis: Day Off as Fresh Power Cuts Shut Down Service

March 26, 2019

(BBC) – Venezuela’s government has told workers and students to stay at home as the country faces a second day without electricity. Hospitals, public transport, water and other services have been affected. The capital, Caracas, was first plunged into darkness on Monday. Power was restored four hours later, before a second blackout struck. A days-long nationwide power cut earlier this month prompted looting and desperation in parts of the country.

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