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How Drug Company Ads Downplay Risks

February 20, 2019

(Scientific American) – However, the FDA’s assumption that more risk information leads to greater concern about risk is misplaced. Across six experiments, comprising of over 3000 US participants, we reliably find that when drug commercials include all side effects (both major and minor), in line with the FDA’s regulations, consumers’ judged the overall severity of drug side effects to be lower than when exposed to only major side effects. This lowered assessment of severity led consumers to prefer the drug more—and made them willing to pay more for the drug.

Supreme Court Blocks Texas from Executing Mentally Disabled Man

February 20, 2019

(NPR) – Finding that a Texas court hadn’t followed its instructions, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that a Texas man who killed a store clerk during a botched robbery attempt “is a person with intellectual disability” and therefore cannot be put to death. This is the second time the Supreme Court has weighed in on the case, which stems from a 1980 robbery in which Bobby J. Moore shot and killed a store clerk. The issue before the court has been whether Moore lacked the intellectual capacity to be put to death for his crime.

With One Manufacturer and Little Money to Be Made, Supplies of a Critical Cancer Drug Are Dwindling

February 20, 2019

(STAT News) – It wasn’t just one doctor’s office. There’s a critical national shortage of BCG, a biologic drug that has been used for decades and that is a remarkably effective medicine. Many smaller clinics have already run out of the lifesaving drug, and larger hospitals — including New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where Field is being treated — have changed their policies on distributing BCG to prioritize newly diagnosed patients with active cancers.

Nature Retracts Paper on Delivery System for CAR T Immunotherapy

February 20, 2019

(The Scientist) – Last September, a group of 27 researchers led by scientists at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas published a paper in Nature reporting a new technique that would allow immune cells to cross the blood-brain barrier and home in on hard-to-reach brain tumors. After garnering more than 50 comments on the anonymous post-publication peer-review website PubPeer, the article was retracted today (February 20).

Ebola Vaccine Will Be Provided to Women Who Are Pregnant, Marking Reversal in Policy

February 20, 2019

(STAT News) – Women who are pregnant and lactating, as well as children under the age of 1, will be offered access to an experimental Ebola vaccine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, officials said Wednesday, marking the reversal of a controversial policy that had drawn fire from public health experts. The decision was made by a committee advising the Congolese Ministry of Health, but received the support of the World Health Organization. The decision to exclude pregnant women from the vaccination program sparked blowback from some experts, with some calling the policy “indefensible.”

Criminal Case Spurs a Rethink of Euthanasia for Mental Illness

February 20, 2019

(Medscape) – The recent launch of a criminal investigation into a case of medically assisted death for psychiatric illness in Belgium is shining a spotlight on growing concerns — even among supporters — about the controversial practice. The charges, which are reportedly the first criminal investigation of medically assisted euthanasia in that country since it was legalized in 2002, are related to the 2010 death of a 38-year-old woman with Asperger syndrome, a mild form of autism.

Gene Therapy Could Treat Rare Brain Disorder in Unborn Babies

February 20, 2019

(The Guardian) – Scientists are developing a radical form of gene therapy that could cure a devastating medical disorder by mending mutations in the brains of foetuses in the womb. The treatment, which has never been attempted before, would involve doctors injecting the feotus’s brain with a harmless virus that infects the neurons and delivers a suite of molecules that correct the genetic faults. Tests suggest that the therapy will be most effective around the second trimester, when their brains are in the early stages of development.

Why a Scientist Warns Against Always Trusting AI’s Scientific Discoveries

February 20, 2019

(Science News) – We live in a golden age of scientific data, with larger stockpiles of genetic information, medical images and astronomical observations than ever before. Artificial intelligence can pore over these troves to uncover potential new scientific discoveries much quicker than people ever could. But we should not blindly trust AI’s scientific insights, argues data scientist Genevera Allen, until these computer programs can better gauge how certain they are in their own results.

Codeine: An Opioid Threat to Kids

February 19, 2019

(Medical Xpress) – Codeine has often been prescribed to kids to ease pain after a surgery like tonsillectomy. It’s also been part of the formula in some prescription and over-the-counter cough syrups that are still available on drugstore shelves in some states. But there’s no evidence that it does anything to stop coughing. Rather, it can make kids drowsy. In fact, codeine’s effects vary greatly from one child to another.

‘Alarming’ Number of People Received Restricted Fentanyl, Study Says

February 19, 2019

(CNN) – An “alarming” number of US patients received a highly potent form of opioid that is 100 times more powerful than morphine and that they never should have been prescribed, according to a new study.  The research, published Tuesday in JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the US Food and Drug Administration and opioid manufacturers failed at multiple levels to adequately monitor the restricted use of these types of fentanyl as part of a federal program — and that few substantive changes were made even after officials discovered problems.

FDA: Young-Blood Transfusions Provide ‘No Proven Clinical Benefit’ for Aging, Alzheimer’s

February 19, 2019

(STAT News) – The quest to rejuvenate aging people with the blood of young donors has generated paying customers, captured the popular imagination, and, now, prompted a warning from the Food and Drug Administration. The agency on Tuesday said in a statement that plasma infusions from young people provide “no proven clinical benefit” against normal aging, Alzheimer’s disease, or a host of other diseases — despite a surge in their promotion for those purposes.

Joining a Clinical Trial Is Too Hard for Many Cancer Patients

February 19, 2019

(Reuters) – Only a small fraction of cancer patients volunteer for clinical trials. The reason, a new study suggests, is not that they don’t want to, but that the system makes it too hard.  “The reason most patients don’t go into clinical trials is not because of the patient, but because of all the barriers in front of the patient, including structural and clinical factors,” said the study’s lead author, Joseph Unger, a health services researcher and biostatistician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Scientists Raise Concerns About Revisions to Human Research Regulations

February 19, 2019

(The Scientist) – Lacks’s experience has become nationally acknowledged as a shameful episode in the history of biomedical research in the US—particularly after the publication of a popular book about Lacks and her family—and forced the scientific community to consider how to conduct ethical research with human samples. The case was one of the reasons for a heated debate during a recent, six-year-long process of revising the Common Rule, a package of regulations adopted in the 1990s intended to ensure that all federally funded research conducted on human subjects is done ethically.

Hospital, Doctor Face 3 New Lawsuits Over Drug Doses, Deaths

February 19, 2019

(ABC News) – Three more wrongful-death lawsuits have been filed against an Ohio hospital system and a doctor accused of ordering potentially fatal doses of pain medication for dozens of patients over several years. The Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System and Dr. William Husel (HYOO’-suhl) now face at least 19 lawsuits .

Supreme Court Deals a Fatal Blow to Maryland Drug ‘Price Gouging’ Law

February 19, 2019

(STAT News) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt a fatal blow to an expansive Maryland law that aimed to bar drug makers from “price gouging” consumers. The law, which the Maryland General Assembly passed in 2017, would have prohibited generic drug manufacturers from raising prices in a manner the state deemed “unconscionable.” It was nullified in April 2018, when an appeals court held it was unconstitutional because it regulated commerce beyond Maryland’s borders.

Gene Therapy First to ‘Halt’ Most Common Cause of Blindness

February 19, 2019

(BBC) – A woman from Oxford has become the first person in the world to have gene therapy to try to halt the most common form of blindness in the Western world. Surgeons injected a synthetic gene into the back of Janet Osborne’s eye in a bid to prevent more cells from dying. It is the first treatment to target the underlying genetic cause of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Academy-Award Nominated Film ‘End Game’ Examines End-of-Life Care

February 19, 2019

(PBS News Hour) – The Academy Award-nominated documentary “End Game” looks at different approaches in palliative care for people with terminal illness. The film follows medical practitioners, patients, and their families, as they tackle the difficult questions that arise during end-of-life care. NewsHour Weekend’s Hari Sreenivasan sat down with the film’s directors, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, to learn more.

Gender Transition Hormone Therapy May Increase Cardiovascular Risk

February 18, 2019

(UPI) – Transgendered people who’ve undergone hormone therapy may be at an elevated risk for cardiovascular events, a new study says. People receiving estrogen and testosterone treatments as a part of their gender transition have an increased risk for heart attacks, strokes and blood clots, according to a study published Monday in the journal Circulation, though researchers note that the risk appears to decrease over time.

Japan Approves Test of iPS Cells for Treating Spinal Injuries

February 18, 2019

(Reuters) – Japanese scientists will test the use of human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) to treat spinal cord injuries, a health ministry panel that approved the research project said on Monday.  The research team from Tokyo’s Keio University planned to inject about two million iPS cells into the damaged areas of an individual patient and review the results over the course of a year, according to the plan approved by the health ministry.

Anesthetists Say Patients at Risk after Flawed Oxygen Guidelines

February 18, 2019

(The Guardian) – Patients may have been placed at risk of serious harm because of flawed advice to administer highly concentrated oxygen after surgery, leading anaesthetists have said. The concerns relate to World Health Organization guidelines to administer 80% oxygen to patients in the hours after an operation. The advice was introduced in 2016 after a series of influential clinical trials led by an Italian surgeon, Mario Schietroma, suggested that high-dose oxygen reduced the risk of infections. However, a new analysis has uncovered troubling statistical anomalies in 38 scientific papers authored by Schietroma, raising doubts about the credibility of the data and prompting calls for an investigation.

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