Harvard University announced on Wednesday that it would shut down its primate research center over the next two years. The facility has been cited for animal welfare violations, but the university said that it was closing the research center due to a tough economic climate.
After a federal judge recently ordered the Food and Drug Administration to make the morning-after pill available to women of all ages without a prescription, a New York Times article discusses a broader issue that follows: whether birth-control pills should require a doctor’s prescription. Various groups, gynecologists, and politicians are sharply divided on this issue. The author discusses procedural hurdles and safety issues around making the morning-after pills over-the-counter drugs.
Utah recently became the first state to explicitly permit general prisoners (not death-row inmates) to donate their organs if they die while incarcerated. The New York Times introduces discussions among various academic and health professionals regarding the law allowing prisoners to become organ donors.
After Colorado voters approved a measure in November legalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, Colorado legislators will discuss taxes on marijuana and the plan to use the tax revenues this week. The legislators are considering excise and sales taxes on marijuana of up to 30 percent combined. The goal is to set taxes high enough to finance the administration of new laws, but not so high that customers are driven back to the black market.
A NY Times article highlights the troubling trend of increased instances of “pseudoacademia,” in which conferences and journals will invite speakers and publish papers, but based on a monetary contribution and not peer review or any other merit-based decision making.
On April 15th, the Supreme Court was presented a case in which the central issue revolved around the permissibility of the patenting of genes. As a result, multiple articles have analyzed the possible repercussions of the final judgment, from economic, scientific, and bioethical perspectives.
This week’s slightly belated round-up concerns palliative care across cultures, the threat and problems of over-prescribing, and Big Pharma’s failure to create prices with the patient in mind. Read on for more from this week’s round-up.
Alex Smith (@AlexSmithMD) retweeted a piece on the lessons learned by Dr. Vvjeyanthi “V.J.” Periyakoil on how to approach palliative care for patients from a variety of backgrounds in ways that both extend life and fulfill the desires of the patient (in particular, reducing pain). (4/3)
Alex Smith (@AlexSmithMD) also retweeted an opinion piece in the NYT about the growing trend towards self- and over-medication, and the problems of overextending definitions of medical ‘conditions.’ As the piece’s author summarized: “The D.S.M. would do well to recognize that a broken heart is not a medical condition, and that medication is ill-suited to repair some tears.” (4/3)
Daniel Goldberg (@prof_goldberg) retweeted a link on two new wrongful death lawsuits against the NFL, which claim that the NFL withheld knowledge of the risks associated with concussions from players, that have been added to the string of other brain injury lawsuits filed against the league. (4/3)
Daniel Goldberg (@prof_goldberg) additionally retweeted a blog post on the striking results of a new study comparing male and female mortality amongst counties in the United States. While male mortality increased in only 34% of counties from 1992-1996 to 2002-2006, female mortality increased in 42.8%. This brings up questions concerning the cause of this demographic and largely geographic inequality, and what such a differential could mean on the health of dependents (children). (4/3)
Daniel Goldberg(@prof_goldberg) posted another article that put the recent New York “True Cost” campaign in historical context. The article called the campaign a “modern manifestation of…anxieties about the ‘contagion’ of working class and poor communities,” comparing it to the World War II-era venereal disease campaigns and the case of Typhoid Mary as all moralizing weapons aiming to instill shame rather than promote actual solutions to public health concerns. (4/4)
Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) linked to his own discussion of the problem with Novartis and India, noting that emphasis has been wrongly placed on patents when the concern should be on pharma’s hesitancy to create a pricing strategy that can provide medications for those who cannot afford huge prices. This unwillingness to do so, he claims, is violating a moral obligation. (4/4)
The Obama administration launched a new initiative on Tuesday to map the individual cells and circuits that make up the human brain. The project aims to provide a better understanding of how a brain works and how to devise better treatments for brain injuries and diseases.
A new clinic offering abortions and other women’s medical services has opened in the Wichita building where a slain abortion provider practiced. The South Wind Women’s Clinic saw its first patient Thursday, nearly four years after Dr. George Tiller was gunned down in his church by an abortion opponent in May 2009.
China announced Tuesday that four more people in the coastal part of the country had been infected with a new strain of bird flu, which is believed to have killed two Shanghai residents last month and left one person in critical condition.
Lawmakers in New York City are on the verge of passing legislation that will require the provision of paid sick leave in businesses larger than 15 employees, to the approval of labor unions and liberal activists. The mandate still needs a vote of approval from the City Council.
The controversy and debate over mandatory vaccination continues. Recently, federal health officials and doctors, concerned over low inoculation rates, have been pushing for the increased administration of HPV vaccinations. Opponents cite the implications of condoning sex in young girls, general distrust of vaccinations, and an unwieldy three-dose requirement.
North Dakota’s governor has signed into law one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws, banning abortions when the fetal heartbeat can be detected. Governor Dalrymple explicitly set the stage for a challenge to the US Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.
A New York Times article features Kaiser Permanente, an organization which combines a nonprofit insurance plan with its own hospitals and clinics, as the kind of holistic health system that Obamacare encourages.
As individual states continue their internal political debates over state-by-state Medicaid expansion, Florida’s Senate Committee rejected the measure. However, the panel continued to debate a possible compromise that would allow the state to receive more federal funding while also encouraging citizens to seek alternative options to Medicaid.
An opinion piece in the New York Times called for holding generic drug manufacturers more accountable for damaging side effects. The case of Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett will be argued this month in the Supreme Court. Bartlett, who experienced painful, debilitating effects from taking a generic drug manufactured by Mutual, is seeking to hold Mutual liable for its defective drug design.
As debate swirls around the mandatory labeling of foods with GMO ingredients, Whole Foods has announced that it will require such labels in all its stores by 2018.
Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are expecting a litigious year, as reported by a survey of chief IP counsels working in the industry. This highlights the growing importance and conflict over the protection of patents and intellectual property in the sector.
Small businesses have been trying to exploit a “loophole” in the ACA requirement for small business health insurance marketplaces by offering self-insurance. This practice, more typical of large companies, allows small businesses to simply pay most of their workers’ health expenses directly.
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has told federal officials that Texas has no intention of expanding Medicaid. In response, around 2,000 Medicaid recipients and others supporting expansion of the federal-state insurance program rallied at the state Capitol Tuesday, increasing the pressure on Governor Perry and other Republican leaders to switch their stance on expanding Medicaid.
As the federal government clambers to meet deadlines and broker deals ahead of the sequestration, Medicare remains, again, one of the more contentious issues. While Medicare spending has slowed, Democrats are resisting any further spending cuts to such entitlement programs beyond the $300 billion reduction agreed upon last year.
The healthcare sector has been suffering from a lack of consensus and resources, both financial and in human capital. Adding to these burdens is the federal panel on the health care work force that, two and a half years after its creation, has never met because they were never appropriated any funding. The commission was created to debate over crucial details of the health care law.
Lower-income consumers have been waiting for the release of knockoff versions of highly expensive biotech drugs, but it seems that they will have to wait some more. Pharmaceutical company projects to create such “biosimilar” drugs have faltered and policy has not been clearly established as to how to proceed.
In an unexpected reversal of policy, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced his support for a three year expansion of Medicaid in Florida. Once a critic of the federal health care proposals, Governor Scott joins a growing number of Republican officials who have swapped sides on the Medicaid expansion debate.
While considering the terms of health care packages, the Obama administration decided that mental health care coverage must be a component in health care insurance. This mandate was met with mixed reactions, as health insurance plans have been also split into multiple tiers offering varying degrees of services and provisions.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court reinforced the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to block hospital mergers under antitrust legislation. While hospitals have been arguing that these mergers allow for a broader provision of services, the FTC pointed out it also increases hospital leverage with insurance companies, potentially raising prices.
The FDA recently released warnings strongly advising against the use of codeine for children. Codeine had been used as pain relievers after the removal of tonsils or adenoids, but there had been a series of overdoses and deaths even when it was prescribed within an acceptable range.
This week’s round-up discusses the upcoming cases relevant to bioethics in the Supreme Court, the benefits of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, the surprisingly low effectiveness rate of this year’s flu vaccine, and the problems with ACA’s Accountable Care Organizations. See below for details and more summaries:
Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) shared a post on what’s being called the “alcoholism vaccine” being developed at the Institute for Cell Dynamics and Biotechnology at Universidad de Chile. The vaccine, which would have to be administered every 6 months or year, would mimic the alcohol intolerance mutation that prevents the breaking down of acetaldehyde and produces an instant “hangover-type” state. (2/16)
Dan Vorhaus (@genomicslawyer) retweeted a timeline from the Center for Law and Bioscience at Stanford Law’s blog giving dates for the upcoming Supreme Court cases relating to biosciences. (2/17)
Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) additionally included a piece on the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would “[require] manufacturers of drugs, medical devices and biologics to report the monetary value of gifts and payments to doctors and teaching hospitals on a publicly accessible website.” The author of the piece, a family physician with 15 years of experience, discussed his support for the plan. (2/17)
Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) retweeted a link explaining the scientific foundations of the Brain Activity Map Project, namely how it aims at “reconstructing the full record of neural activity across complete neural circuits” to better understand “fundamental and pathological brain processes.” (2/18)
Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) posted a news story on police arresting those involved in the illegal harvesting of eggs from women in Bucharest, Romania. The police reports claim that 11 suspects have been implicated in the trafficking, which would harvest the eggs to be sold to Israeli couples with fertility problems. (2/19)
Alex Smith (@AlexSmithMD) retweeted a link to his post on asking about a patient’s PPD (preferred place of death), noting that this is not one of the concerns often cited as part of advanced planning procedures. Such a practice was considered “vital” in the UK, in contrast. (2/20)
Alex Smith (@AlexSmithMD) shared a link to a post on the blog he co-runs, GeriPal, on “Five Things Patients and Physicians Should Question in Palliative Care and Geriatrics.” The post shares the two lists posted by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) and the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), which Smith claims “provide targeted, evidence-based recommendations to help physicians and patients have conversations about making wise choices about their care in order to avoid interventions that provide little to no benefit.” (2/21)
Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) also included a link reviewing the low effectiveness of this year’s flu vaccine: there was evidence that it was only effective in 56% of the cases, on the low end of the usual 50-70% effectiveness rate. His tweet noted that this was strong evidence in favor of mandating the vaccine for healthcare workers. (2/21)
Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) posted an op-ed piece by The Wall Street Journal about the problems with Affordable Care Act’s Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), namely their false assumptions: that success can come without changing doctor behavior, and without changing patient behavior, in a way that will save money. (2/23)