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‘Right to Try’ Seeks Traction in US

2 days 18 hours

(Medical Xpress) – Drugs that are already on the market—if they exist—no longer work for them. They want to take part in a clinical trial but can’t, either because they are too sick, too young, too old or too far away. It is this desperate population that lawmakers—both Democrat and Republican in 38 of the 50 US states—have been trying to help by adopting “right to try” laws for experimental treatments that may be given outside of clinical trials.

There’s an Opioid Abuse Problem Unfolding in African Cities and It’s Not Getting the Attention It Needs

2 days 18 hours

(Quartz) – In Gabon, where Tramore is known as “Kobolo” high school teachers are struggling to contain a crisis. Upon request, some of Khartoum’s roadside tea-sellers are even known to drop the painkiller in a cup of tea. In January, Afrobeats rapper Olamide was forced to defend himself after Nigeria’s broadcasting regulators declared his hit song ‘Science Student‘ (which makes a reference to Tramadol) “unfit for broadcast” because of “the profligate mention and the subtle promotion of illegal drugs.” The singer (real name: Olamide Adedeji) argued he’s bringing awareness to a much ignored problem that’s spreading with young Nigerians on Lagos’ tough streets.

Genetics Tests Ordered by Doctors Race to Market, While ‘Direct-to-Consumer’ Tests Hinge on FDA Approval

2 days 18 hours

(STAT News) – The Food and Drug Administration is keeping tight watch on “direct-to-consumer” genetic tests but has been taking a hands-off approach with similar tests that have a crucial distinction: a physician’s sign-off. A physician order appears to be a key regulatory difference between companies like 23andMe, whose tests FDA has said must seek official approval, and companies like Color Genomics, Helix, and Veritas, who are offering some similar tests but don’t need the agency’s permission.

Young Blood: Magic or Medicine?

2 days 18 hours

(The Conversation) – Blood is a potent symbol of life and of death. It is hardly surprising, then, that this incredible fluid is linked to the search for eternal youth in literature, legend, magic and medicine. Recent scientific studies have claimed, almost vampire-like, that transfusions of blood from teenagers can help delay or reverse the ageing process. Where do these claims come from? Do they stack up? And how long will it be before we have the power to stave off what now is inevitable?

2 Fertility Clinics Notify Couples after Storage Failures Destroy Eggs and Embryos

2 days 20 hours

(TIME) – Two fertility clinics across the country from each other experienced equipment failures on the same day that may have damaged hundreds of frozen eggs and embryos, something that a fertility expert called a stunning coincidence and that is already producing lawsuits from crestfallen couples.

For Aspiring Doctors with Disabilities Many Medical Schools Come Up Short

3 days 19 hours

(Kaiser Health News) – Being a medical student or resident is hard enough, but what if you have a disability that adds to the challenge? One medical resident with a physical disability was about a year and a half into training when the health care institution finally installed an automatic door he needed. Another student faced frustrations when arranging accommodations for taking tests, with it seeming like the medical school was “making up rules along the way.” When another resident first sought support, the disability representative for the school was allegedly unfamiliar with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Med Students Are Getting Terrible Training in Robotic Surgery

3 days 19 hours

(Wired) – Now add to the mix the da Vinci robotic surgery system, which operators control from across the room, precisely guiding instruments from a specially-designed console. In traditional surgery, the resident gets hands-on action, holding back tissue, for instance. Robotic systems might have two control consoles, but attendings rarely grant residents simultaneous control. According to UC Santa Barbara’s Matt Beane—who recently published a less-than-rosy report on robot training for residents—he never once saw this happen.

Hospitals Are Confronting a New Opioid Crisis: An Alarming Shortage of Pain Meds

3 days 19 hours

(STAT News) – That is the reality now facing Brigham and Women’s and other medical providers across the country. Production of injectable opioids has nearly ground to a halt due to manufacturing problems, creating a shortage of staple medications used to treat a wide array of patients. Alarms are now ringing at all kinds of medical providers, from sprawling academic hospitals to small hospice programs, and many are launching efforts to conserve injectable opioids and institute safeguards to prevent dosing errors that can result from rapid changes in medication regimens.

Long Miles, Lonely Roads: In Rural Texas, Dying at Home Means Little Is Easy

3 days 20 hours

(STAT News) – Hospice providers in the more remote western and southern parts of the state shared stories with STAT of nursing shortages, scheduling gymnastics, run-ins with wildlife, and the wear and tear of long days in cars for the men and women who treat people at home. Distance sometimes forces hard conversations: At the moment they and their caregivers need help most, a nurse may not quickly be at their side.

Scientists Trick the Brain into Sensing the Movement of a Prosthetic

3 days 20 hours

(STAT News) – When a muscle moves, there’s a feedback loop at work between the brain and the rest of the body. In an able-bodied person, the brain signals to a muscle to move, and that movement sends feedback to the brain that allows it to sense how a muscle is moving. It’s how we inherently know how far to reach, for example, to pick up a glass. In a person with a motorized prosthetic limb, though, there’s no loop — the brain can tell the prosthetic limb to move, but the prosthetic limb isn’t sending any messages back. That means it’s almost impossible to sense how a prosthetic is moving without looking directly at it.

Kenyan Nurse Handed Brain Surgeon the Wrong Patient

3 days 20 hours

(BBC) – A Kenyan nurse has admitted to sending the wrong patient for brain surgery, blaming a heavy workload for the error. Mary Wahome only realised her mistake when surgeons said they could not find the patient’s blood clot. They were meant to operate on a man with a blood clot on the brain. But the man who had surgery only needed non-invasive treatment for swelling. The mistake, which made international headlines earlier this month, left Samuel Wachir with memory loss.

From App Store to Drug Store, Digital Health Is Redefining Pharma’s Pipeline

4 days 11 hours

(STAT News) – Backed by a growing body of evidence, software is itself becoming a prescription for diseases ranging from depression to heart disease, and drug companies are starting to take notice. In the past couple years, many have quickly ramped up their investments in digital startups, infusing software-based therapies into pipelines once dominated by traditional medicines. These products, known broadly as digital therapeutics, deliver treatment to patients through video games, smartphone apps, and sensors buried in pills or attached to medication dispensers. They are designed to stimulate changes in behavior — and in some cases brain function — to help patients control a variety of illnesses and chronic conditions.

When an AI Finally Kills Someone, Who Will Be Responsible?

4 days 12 hours

(MIT Technology Review) – Here’s a curious question: Imagine it is the year 2023 and self-driving cars are finally navigating our city streets. For the first time one of them has hit and killed a pedestrian, with huge media coverage. A high-profile lawsuit is likely, but what laws should apply? Today, we get an answer of sorts thanks to the work of John Kingston at the University of Brighton in the UK, who maps out the landscape in this incipient legal field. His analysis raises some important issues that the automotive, computing, and legal worlds should be wrestling with in earnest, if they are not already.

Dutch Prosecutors to Investigate Euthanasia Cases after Sharp Rise

5 days 14 hours

(The Guardian) – About 7,000 people were euthanised by doctors in 2017, according to official records, up from 4,188 five years ago. There is yet to be a single prosecution of a doctor involved but concerns have been raised that assisted death is becoming normalised. There is yet to be a single prosecution of a doctor involved but concerns have been raised that assisted death is becoming normalised.

Judge Rules that Spouse Has Authority to Remove Partner’s Life Support if There’s No Directive

5 days 14 hours

(Los Angeles Times) – A Los Angeles judge has ruled that a spouse in California is the presumptive healthcare decision maker when the partner is in a persistent vegetative state. Ruling in the case of a San Gabriel Valley man, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Thornton House said that in the event that there is no advance directive for a someone in a vegetative state, their partner can decide for them. California law, House noted in her ruling, has left “a gap” when it comes to this issue.

In Oregon, Pushing to Give Patients with Degenerative Diseases the Right to Die

5 days 15 hours

(The Washington Post) – As it turned out, both Harris and Yelle were ineligible: People with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, multiple sclerosis and a host of other degenerative diseases are generally excluded from the Oregon law. This is because some degenerative diseases aren’t fatal. People die with Parkinson’s, for example, not because of it. Other diseases, such as advanced Alzheimer’s, rob people of the cognition they need to legally request the suicide medications.

In a Remote West African Village, a Revolutionary Genetic Experiment Is on Its Way–if Residents Agree to It

6 days 14 hours

(STAT News) – This small village of mud-brick homes in West Africa might seem the least likely place for an experiment at the frontier of biology. Yet scientists here are engaged in what could be the most promising, and perhaps one of the most frightening, biological experiments of our time. They are preparing for the possible release of swarms of mosquitoes that, until now, have been locked away in a research lab behind double metal doors and guarded 24/7. The goal: to nearly eradicate the population of one species of mosquito, and with it, the heavy burden of malaria across Africa.

How an Inconspicuous Slaughterhouse Keeps the World’s Premature Babies Alive

6 days 14 hours

(STAT News) – This small firm had carefully courted slaughterhouses so that its workers could be allowed inside to suck this off-white foam out of cow lungs. Then, they purified the hell out of it, and shipped vials of it across Canada, and to India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Ecuador, and Iran, where it was shot into the lungs of struggling premature infants. Preemies’ lungs, like the rest of them, aren’t quite ready for birth, and some — almost all of those born very early — haven’t started producing this foam themselves. It’s called pulmonary surfactant, and without it, their air sacs could collapse. In the 1980s, doctors had tried squirting surfactant collected from other creatures in through the tiny nostrils and mouths of babies with respiratory distress syndrome, while also putting them on ventilators. The transformation was immediate: Newborns went from blue to pink. Their chests filled with air.

FDA Sets Path for Stem Cell Therapies

6 days 15 hours

(CNN) – Just months after the US Food and Drug Administration announced efforts to crack down on stem cell clinics touting unapproved therapies, the agency now plans to help expedite the development of stem cell therapies proved to be safe and effective. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the FDA commissioner, and Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, co-authored a new paper detailing the delicate balance between safety and innovation when it comes to the possibilities of using stem cells in medicine.

India’s Top Court Upholds Passive Euthanasia, Allows Living Wills in Landmark Judgment

6 days 15 hours

(U.S. News & World Report) – Individuals have a right to die with dignity, India’s Supreme Court upheld on Friday in a landmark verdict that permits the removal of life-support systems for the terminally ill or those in incurable comas. Passive euthanasia, as it is called, will apply only to a terminally ill person with no hope of recovery, a panel of five judges said. Active euthanasia, by administering a lethal injection, continues to be illegal in India.

A Puzzling Opioid-Linked Killing Points to a Dangerous Trend

1 week 2 days

(The Atlantic) – The tragedy that played out in Zong’s office speaks to a dangerous trend: In many parts of the United States, the number of people addicted to opioids far exceeds the capacity of doctors willing and authorized to treat them. That is particularly true when it comes to professionals like Zong who dispense Suboxone or Subutex, both formulations of buprenorphine, which is widely considered the optimal addiction treatment because it all but erases opioid-withdrawal symptoms without creating a significant high.

AI Researchers Embrace Bitcoin Technology to Share Medical Data

1 week 2 days

(Nature) – Dexter Hadley thinks that artificial intelligence (AI) could do a far better job at detecting breast cancer than doctors do — if screening algorithms could be trained on millions of mammograms. The problem is getting access to such massive quantities of data. Because of privacy laws in many countries, sensitive medical information remains largely off-limits to researchers and technology companies.  So Hadley, a physician and computational biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, is trying a radical solution. He and his colleagues are building a system that allows people to share their medical data with researchers easily and securely — and retain control over it. Their method, which is based on the blockchain technology that underlies the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, will soon be put to the test.

Fast Genome Tests Are Diagnosing Some of the Sickest Babies in Time to Save Them

1 week 3 days

(MIT Technology Review) – Usually it takes weeks for scientists to sequence an entire genome. But Friedman and her colleagues at Rady have sped up the process to less than a week, making it much faster to identify what’s wrong with critically ill babies so they can get the treatment they need to recover. Genetic diseases are the leading cause of death for infants in North America, affecting an estimated 4 percent of newborns. So while the work at Rady is still in the research stage, costing the hospital about $6,000 per baby, the hope is that it could lead to a standard medical test with the potential to save thousands of lives.

Egypt Struggles to End Female Genital Mutilation

1 week 3 days

(Reuters) – Genital cutting of girls was banned in Egypt in 2008 and criminalized in 2016. But the practise often referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM) or circumcision remains a rite of passage and is often viewed as a way to promote chastity. Villagers say husbands prefer wives to be cut and often ask young brides to undergo the procedure before their wedding.

Of ‘Miracles’ and Money: Why Hemophilia Drugs Are so Expensive

1 week 3 days

(STAT News) – Medications to treat hemophilia cost an average of more than $270,000 annually per patient, according to a 2015 Express Scripts report. If complications arise, that annual price tag can soar above $1 million. The U.S. hemophilia drug market, which serves about 20,000 patients, is worth $4.6 billion a year, according to the investment research firm AllianceBernstein. Examining the stubbornly high cost of these medications opens a window into why some prescription drugs the United States — especially those for rare diseases — have stratospheric prices. The short answer: Competition doesn’t do its traditional job of tamping down costs.


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