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The Devastating Allure of Medical Miracles

February 18, 2019

(Wired) – Consent in hand transplants is devilishly slippery: Can a person who has lost a hand properly weigh the allure of soon regaining such a vital part of themself against the seemingly distant probabilities of suffering treatment’s possible harms? Levin says this is best addressed by confronting the patient with the grimmest picture possible of the risks and by appointing them an independent patient advocate. James Benedict, a bioethicist at Duquesne University who has studied consent and the US hand transplant community for more than seven years, has a different concern. At this point, he says, “I’m not even sure it’s possible to give informed consent, because the outcome data is so sparse. How can you give consent about accepting risks if you don’t even know what they are?”

AI Is Reinventing the Way We Invent

February 18, 2019

(MIT Technology Review) – The problem is that human researchers can explore only a tiny slice of what is possible. It’s estimated that there are as many as 1060 potentially drug-like molecules—more than the number of atoms in the solar system. But traversing seemingly unlimited possibilities is what machine learning is good at. Trained on large databases of existing molecules and their properties, the programs can explore all possible related molecules.

Once a ‘Refugee,’ a Gene Therapy Pioneer Finds a Renewed Calling as the Field Advances

February 18, 2019

(STAT News) – At the turn of the century, the once-promising idea of replacing a faulty gene with a corrective copy took a tragic turn. A 1999 clinical trial resulted in the death of an 18-year-old patient, dashing the ambitions of researchers and beginning a years-long fallow period in which finding support — and funding — for gene therapy research was more difficult than ever. “I refer to the group that continued to work at it as ‘refugees,’” said Dr. James Wilson, a physician and scientist at University of Pennsylvania who has studied gene therapy for more than three decades. “That’s how we would refer to one another.”

Newly Developed Stem Cell Technologies Show Promise for Treating PD Patients

February 18, 2019

(News-Medical) – Cell replacement may play an increasing role in alleviating the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) in future. Writing in a special supplement to the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, experts describe how newly developed stem cell technologies could be used to treat the disease and discuss the great promise, as well as the significant challenges, of stem cell treatment.

My Wife Was Dying, and We Didn’t Tell Our Children

February 15, 2019

(The Atlantic) – We decided not to tell the kids. Marla knew that once our three daughters understood that their mother had been given 1,000 days to live, they’d start counting. They would not be able to enjoy school, friends, their teams, or birthday parties. They’d be watching too closely—how she looked, moved, acted, ate, or didn’t. Marla wanted her daughters to stay children: unburdened, confident that tomorrow would look like yesterday.

Discharged, Dismissed: ERs Often Miss Chance to Set Overdose Survivors on ‘Better Path’

February 15, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – This scenario plays out in emergency departments across the country, where the next step — a means to divert addicted patients into treatment — remains elusive, creating a missed opportunity in the health system. A recent study of Medicaid claims in West Virginia, which has an opioid overdose rate more than three times the national average and the highest death rate from drug overdoses in the country, documented this disconnect.

The Latest Instagram Influencer Frontier? Medical Promotions

February 15, 2019

(Vox) – These Instagram ads, for which influencers can be paid an estimated $1,000 per 100,000 followers, are selling not just a product but an entire lifestyle. Rather than buying a single-page ad or a minute-long TV or radio spot, companies benefit from the candor and storytelling on influencers’ feeds. However, selling a pair of shoes or luggage as part of a lifestyle is far different from selling pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and other health-related products. Nevertheless, pharmaceutical and biotech companies and Silicon Valley health startups see the opportunity Instagram presents and are increasingly using influencer-advertising as a way to increase their bottom lines.

Vaping Gone Viral: The Astonishing Surge in Teens’ E-Cigarette Use

February 15, 2019

(Vox) – Vaping has exploded in popularity in recent years — but not among the people it was intended for. Rather than adults trying to quit smoking, young people who’ve never picked up a cigarette are now vaping in record numbers.  According to a new Vital Signs report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018, some 4.9 million high school and middle school students used tobacco in the last 30 days, an increase from 3.6 million in 2017. E-cigarettes were the most popular tobacco product among the children and adolescents.

A Nursing Home Patient ‘Rotted to Death’ under Nurses’ Care, Ohio Attorney General Says

February 15, 2019

(CNN) – Current and former employees of an Ohio nursing facility are accused of mistreating two patients in their care, including one who died as a result of the nurses’ actions, Attorney General Dave Yost said Thursday. A Franklin County grand jury indicted seven people who worked as nurses in 2017 at Whetstone Gardens and Care Center in Columbus, Yost said in a news conference. The defendants face 34 charges, including involuntary manslaughter and patient neglect, Yost’s office said.

‘I Nearly Aborted My Baby Because of an Unreliable Test’

February 15, 2019

(BBC) – NIPT has been available privately in the UK since 2012 and is available to any woman or couple who want to pay the bill of up to £500. It’s mainly used to screen for Down’s Syndrome and two other chromosomal anomalies, Edwards Syndrome and Patau Syndrome. Medical professionals agree that, when used correctly, it is pretty reliable as a test for these conditions.

U.S. Women’s Health: Not So Great

February 15, 2019

(Managed Care Magazine) – The U.S. health care system places some unique burdens on women, who use more health care services than men and manage most of the bills for their families, researchers at the Commonwealth Fund found when they crunched some numbers about women’s health for 11 industrialized countries. The largely gloomy report found that U.S. women experience more chronic illness, are less satisfied with their care, and have more trouble affording it—skipping needed care because of cost—than women in comparable nations.

UN: Experts to Develop Oversight Standards for Gene Editing

February 14, 2019

(ABC News) – The World Health Organization is convening an expert meeting next month to develop global standards for the governance and oversight of human gene editing, months after a Chinese researcher rocked the scientific community with his announcement that he had created the world’s first gene-edited babies.

Nearly 1,000 Madagascar Children Dead of Measles Since October–WHO

February 14, 2019

(Reuters) – At least 922 children and young adults have died of measles in Madagascar since October, despite a huge emergency vaccination program, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.  The number of deaths is based on official numbers, but these are likely to be very incomplete, as is the current total of infections, at 66,000, Dr. Katrina Kretsinger of WHO’s expanded program on immunization told a news briefing.

Americans Cross Border into Mexico to Buy Insulin at a Fraction of U.S. Cost

February 14, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – Fenner is not the only one thinking like this. The U.S. government estimates that close to 1 million people in California alone cross to Mexico annually for health care, including to buy prescription drugs. And between 150,000 and 320,000 Americans list health care as a reason for traveling abroad each year. Cost savings is the most commonly cited reason.

Two Crises in One: As Drug Use Rises, So Does Syphilis

February 14, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – Public health officials grappling with record-high syphilis rates around the nation have pinpointed what appears to be a major risk factor: drug use. “Two major public health issues are colliding,” said Dr. Sarah Kidd, a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead author of a new report issued Thursday on the link between drugs and syphilis. The report shows a large intersection between drug use and syphilis among women and heterosexual men. In those groups, reported use of methamphetamine, heroin and other injection drugs more than doubled from 2013 to 2017.

Latin America Is Losing Its Battle Against Teen Pregnancy

February 14, 2019

(The Economist) – Ms Martínez lives in Estebanía, a small farming town near the Dominican Republic’s southern coast known as “la villa de las bellas” (“the town of beauties”). Two-fifths of its new mothers are teenagers, the highest share of any municipality in the country, which in turn has the highest rate of teen motherhood outside Africa. That is not because the women in Estebanía are beautiful, says a nurse in the town. She blames a lack of sex education and a “libertine environment”. Adults and youngsters mingle in boozy gatherings on the streets. “The mothers have one man a day, and a different one the next. It rubs off on the kids,” says the nurse.

Flu Shots This Winter Providing Moderate Levels of Protection, CDC Data Show

February 14, 2019

(STAT News) – This year’s flu shot is protecting about half of the people in the United States who have been vaccinated from getting sick enough from influenza to need medical care, according to new data, suggesting it’s providing moderate levels of protection. Interim estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate the vaccine offers about 47 percent protection against all influenza infections and 46 percent protection against H1N1 viruses, which are causing the lion’s share of illnesses this year in most parts of the United States.

Hindu Nationalists Claim That Ancient Indians Had Airplanes, Stem Cell Technology, and the Internet

February 14, 2019

(Science) – The most widely discussed talk at the Indian Science Congress, a government-funded annual jamboree held in Jalandhar in January, wasn’t about space exploration or information technology, areas in which India has made rapid progress. Instead, the talk celebrated a story in the Hindu epic Mahabharata about a woman who gave birth to 100 children, citing it as evidence that India’s ancient Hindu civilization had developed advanced reproductive technologies. Just as surprising as the claim was the distinguished pedigree of the scientist who made it: chemist G. Nageshwar Rao, vice-chancellor of Andhra University in Visakhapatnam. “Stem cell research was done in this country thousands of years ago,” Rao said.

Vaping Vexes Regulators: Smoking Cessation Tool or Gateway Drug?

February 13, 2019

(UPI) – E-cigarettes like JUUL may turn out to be effective tools for quitting smoking. But the products can also be a pathway to introduce young people to nicotine, creating a dilemma for federal regulators. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, has threatened to halt sales of Juul and other e-cigarettes because of their growing use among young people.

Ebola Vaccine Offered in Exchange for Sex, Congo Taskforce Meeting Told

February 13, 2019

(The Guardian) – An unparalleled Ebola vaccination programme in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has become engulfed in allegations of impropriety, amid claims that women are being asked for sexual favours in exchange for treatment. Research by several NGOs has revealed that a deep mistrust of health workers is rife in DRC and gender-based violence is believed to have increased since the start of the Ebola outbreak in August.

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