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In Contraceptive Tech, the App’s Guess Is as Good as Yours

January 22, 2018

(Wired) – Last year, a small Swedish startup made waves with what it called the world’s first form of “digital contraception.” The company’s product, a smartphone app called Natural Cycles, pairs with a thermometer to track women’s basal temperature every day, then uses that data to make predictions about ovulation. Rather than curbing ovulation, like an oral contraceptive, Natural Cycles gives women either a red light or a green light on unprotected sex depending on when they’re most likely to be ovulating. The app promised a 21st-century update to contraception—one that used algorithms, not hormones; one that lived on an iPhone, not inside of a woman’s body.

Apple Health Data Is Being Used in a Murder Trial

January 19, 2018

(Gizmodo) – In a German murder trial in which an Afghan refugee has been accused of rape and murder, health data from the refugee’s iPhone is being used by the prosecution as proof of murder. Hussein K admitted to raping and strangling 19-year-old medical student Maria Ladenburger in a park in Freiburg, Germany in October 2016 until she lost consciousness, according to the German website The Local. But some details of the surrounding Ladenburger’s death by drowning, which occurred directly after the assault, have been hazy.

They’re Waiting Longer, But U.S. Women Today More Likely to Have Children Than a Decade Ago

January 19, 2018

(Pew Research Center) – The share of U.S. women at the end of their childbearing years who have ever given birth was higher in 2016 than it had been 10 years earlier. Some 86% of women ages 40 to 44 are mothers, compared with 80% in 2006, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. The share of women in this age group who are mothers is similar to what it was in the early 1990s.

Family of Patient Found at a Cold Bus Stop Demands Justice

January 19, 2018

(CNN) – A young patient, dressed only in a thin, hospital gown and tube socks, was left standing outside by a bus stop earlier this month after being discharged from a Baltimore hospital, as seen in a viral video. A passerby recorded the incident and posted the video online, which sparked widespread outrage.

Hungry Venezuelans Rely on Work-for-Food Barter as Economy Spirals

January 19, 2018

(Miami Herald) – The economic crisis in Venezuela has spiked in recent months. Inflation rates in the rich-in-oil country in 2017 topped a stunning 2,600 percent, according to the opposition-controlled legislature. Venezuela’s tailspin has created poverty, personal insecurity, food scarcity, medicine shortages and money insufficiency. The situation has been labeled as a humanitarian crisis by opposition parties, foreign governments and Pope Francis.

Parents Will Be Allowed to Choose Sex of Their Baby Under Proposed New Legislation

January 19, 2018

(The Independent, Ireland) – Parents will be allowed to choose the sex of their baby under proposed new legislation, it emerged yesterday. The right of parents to decide the gender to avoid passing on a serious inherited disease will be part of the first law regulating fertility treatments and will permit couples to only implant a healthy embryo in the womb. Department of Health chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan revealed yesterday the technique known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis will be permitted.

Nursing Home Study Raises Questions on Medicare Managed Care Networks

January 19, 2018

(Reuters) – Most Medicare Advantage plans are HMOs or PPOs. When you join, Medicare provides a fixed payment to the plan to cover Part A (hospitalization) and Part B (outpatient services). Advantage is growing quickly, fueled by its value proposition of savings and simplicity – the plans bundle together prescription drug coverage and the out-of-pocket protection of Medigap plans.

China’s Great Leap into Biotech

January 19, 2018

(Bloomberg) – So far, CAR-T has shown extraordinary results. More than 60 percent of children treated with Kymriah were cured, while the rate of full remission for patients treated with Yescarta was more than half. The big problem is price. Kymriah costs $475,000 for a single treatment; Yescarta goes for $373,000. Now China reckons it can do this better and cheaper. There are currently 153 CAR-T studies in the nation, just behind 186 in the U.S., according to Bernstein Research’s Laura Nelson Carney.

U.S. Doctors Plan to Treat Cancer Patients Using CRISPR

January 19, 2018

(MIT Technology Review) – The first human test in the U.S. involving the gene-editing tool CRISPR could begin at any time and will employ the DNA cutting technique in a bid to battle deadly cancers.  Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania say they will use CRISPR to modify human immune cells so that they become expert cancer killers, according to plans posted this week to a directory of ongoing clinical trials.

Protein Designed Entirely from Scratch Functions in Cells as a Genuine Enzyme

January 19, 2018

(Eurekalert) – A dawning field of research, artificial biology, is working toward creating a genuinely new organism. At Princeton, chemistry professor Michael Hecht and the researchers in his lab are designing and building proteins that can fold and mimic the chemical processes that sustain life. Their artificial proteins, encoded by synthetic genes, are approximately 100 amino acids long, using an endlessly varying arrangement of 20 amino acids. Now, Hecht and his colleagues have confirmed that at least one of their new proteins can catalyze biological reactions, meaning that a protein designed entirely from scratch functions in cells as a genuine enzyme.

White House to Shield Health Workers Who Refuse Services on Moral Grounds

January 18, 2018

(Medical Xpress) – Any medical professional who feels his or her rights have been violated can file a complaint with the new conscience and religious freedom division of the office for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The New York Times reported Thursday. The move, which comes one day before the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., was a priority for anti-abortion groups, according to the Times.

A Cheap and Easy Blood Test Could Catch Cancer Early

January 18, 2018

(MIT Technology Review) – A simple-to-take test that tells if you have a tumor lurking, and even where it is in your body, is a lot closer to reality—and may cost only $500.  The new test, developed at Johns Hopkins University, looks for signs of eight common types of cancer. It requires only a blood sample and may prove inexpensive enough for doctors to give during a routine physical.

Denial of Abortion Leads to Economic Hardship for Low-Income Women

January 18, 2018

(Reuters) – Women who want an abortion but are denied one are more likely to spend years living in poverty than women who have abortions, a new study suggests. Carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term quadrupled the odds that a new mother and her child would live below the federal poverty line, researchers reported in the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday, a few days before the 45th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion.

Child Pregnancies Reignite Sexual Abuse Debate in Turkey

January 18, 2018

(BBC) – News reports of a spate of underage pregnancies in Turkey have sparked anger online. One hundred and fifteen girls, including 39 from Syria, have been treated at a single hospital in Istanbul in less than five months. News website Hurriyet Daily reported 38 girls became pregnant before the age of 15, and 77 before turning 18. The age of consent is 18 in Turkey and all cases of pregnancy under the age of 15 are classified as child abuse.

Young Women’s ADHD Prescriptions Have Soared Since 2003, CDC Finds

January 18, 2018

(The Guardian) – Prescriptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications have increased 700% among US women in their late 20s since 2003, according to new research by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers raised alarms about the increase because “little information is available about the safety of taking ADHD medication during pregnancy”.

Angered by High Prices and Shortages, Hospitals Will Form Their Own Generic Drug Maker

January 18, 2018

(STAT News) – Angered by rising prices and persistent shortages of generic drugs, four of the nation’s largest hospital systems are forming a new, not-for-profit manufacturer. The new company plans to either directly make or subcontract manufacturing to combat “capricious and unfair pricing practices” that are damaging the generic drug market and hurting consumers, according to a statement from the four hospital groups — Intermountain Healthcare, Ascension, SSM Health, and Trinity Health, which together run more than 300 hospitals.

Germany: Medical Experts Urge Top Court to Revisit State’s Right to Rule on Suicide Cases

January 18, 2018

(Deutsche Welle) – A German court decision  relating to assisted suicide could prove to be unconstitutional. The 2017 ruling had ordered the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) to decide for itself when to hand out lethal medication to suicidal individuals. However, Udo di Fabio, a former judge on Germany’s Supreme Court and an attorney representing the BfArM, published a legal opinion on Tuesday casting doubt over the constitutionality of the 2017 ruling.

Walmart Offers Way to Turn Leftover Opioids into Useless Gel

January 17, 2018

(STAT News) – Walmart is helping customers get rid of leftover opioids by giving them packets that turn the addictive painkillers into a useless gel. The retail giant announced Wednesday that it will provide the packets free with opioid prescriptions filled at its 4,700 U.S. pharmacies. The small packets, made by DisposeRX, contain a powder that is poured into prescription bottles. When mixed with warm water, the powder turns the pills into a biodegradable gel that can be thrown in the trash.

Physician Burnout Takes a Toll on U.S. Patients

January 17, 2018

(Reuters) – Nearly two-thirds of U.S. doctors feel burned out, depressed, or both – and those feelings affect how they relate to patients, according to a survey conducted by Medscape.  “One in three depressed doctors said they were more easily exasperated by patients; 32 percent said they were less engaged with their patients; and 29 percent acknowledged being less friendly,” Leslie Kane, Senior Director, Medscape Business of Medicine, said in an email to Reuters Health.

A Popular Algorithm Is No Better at Predicting Crimes than Random People

January 17, 2018

(The Atlantic) – He appealed the ruling on the grounds that the judge, in considering the outcome of an algorithm whose inner workings were secretive and could not be examined, violated due process. The appeal went up to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, who ruled against Loomis, noting that the sentence would have been the same had COMPAS never been consulted. Their ruling, however, urged caution and skepticism in the algorithm’s use. Caution is indeed warranted, according to Julia Dressel and Hany Farid from Dartmouth College. In a new study, they have shown that COMPAS is no better at predicting an individual’s risk of recidivism than random volunteers recruited from the internet.

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