Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Archive for December 2011

Science Policy Around the Web – December 19, 2011

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By:  Rebecca Cerio

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Less is Better:  Taking Heat for Cancer Screening Advice – The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has taken a lot of heat lately.  “For much of its 27-year history, it helped convince millions of Americans to get screened early for disease.  Now the panel of primary care doctors, nurses and academics has reviewed a growing body of research that shows some early screening harms more people than it helps.  But it has struggled to convince patients and doctors.”  A great article on how the wrong wording and public confusion can swamp a solid scientific message.  (By Alina Selyukh via Reuters)

President’s Bioethics Commission ConcludesA Presidential Commission has concluded that current US regulations provide adequate protection for human subjects in government-funded research.  Unethical research such as the Public Health Service’s experiments in Guatamala in the 1940s could never be replicated today.  “However, the…investigation covers only federally funded research.  Issues relating to research funded by the pharmaceutical or other industries, or by non-governmental organisations, were not considered at all.”  Given that the most dangerous research (clinical trials) are often funded by industry and have an inherent conflict of interest, this could be a significant oversight, says Emma Veitch on the Speaking of Medicine blog.

Greener commute routes could significantly cut emissions – In detailed, computer simulations of traffic in upstate New Yorks Buffalo Niagara region, University of Buffalo researchers Adel Sadek and Liya Guo found that green routing could reduce overall emissions of carbon monoxide by 27 percent for area drivers, while increasing the length of trips by an average of just 11 percent.  (By Charlotte Hsu via Futurity.org)

Have an interesting science policy link to share?  Let us know in the comments!

Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 19, 2011 at 4:22 pm

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Science Policy Around the Web – December 12, 2011

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By:  Rebecca Cerio

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Real Science vs. Fake Science: How Can You Tell Them Apart? – How can non-scientists (and even scientists) tell when claims about a product or process are shaky, exaggerated, or just plain false?  Here are 10 questions you should ask before shelling out your hard-earned money – (by Emily Willingham on Double X Science)

Scientists Have Trouble Accessing Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lines – “A survey of more than 200 human embryonic stem cell researchers in the United States found that nearly four in ten researchers have faced excessive delay in acquiring a human embryonic stem cell line and that more than one-quarter were unable to acquire a line they wanted to study.” – (by Abby Robinson via Georgia Tech Research News)

Affordable Solar Power…Is HereA Michigan Tech professor’s study “shows that solar photovoltaic systems are very close to achieving the tipping point in many regions: they can make electricity that’s as cheap— sometimes cheaper—than what consumers pay their utilities.”  Their results conclude that solar power is also cheaper than previously calculated, due to solar panels being more durable than previously estimated.  Also mentioned is the large part that government subsidies on renewable energy plays in keeping solar power’s price-per-watt low.  (via Michigan Technological University press release)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 12, 2011 at 9:28 pm

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HPV Vaccination: Not Just For Girls Anymore

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Image used with permission from alvimann, Morguefile.com


By: Rebecca Cerio

Vaccines are one of the great triumphs of modern medicine.  The ability to give someone an injection and protect them from diseases that used to claim millions of lives each year at low cost is a huge step forward in public health.  They have helped us to turn polio, tuberculosis, measles, smallpox, and dozens of other diseases from major killers into preventable hurdles easily overstepped by a visit to the doctor.

HPV:  A Vaccine Success Story
The human papillomavirus vaccines (Gardasil from Merck and Cervarix from GlaxoSmithKline) are two of the newest vaccine successes.  Both are safe, with nearly all adverse events reported being minor and no serious complications causally lined to the vaccines.  Gardasil, the most widely-used of the two, protects against infection with HPV 6, 11, 16, and 18, which are responsible for most types of cervical cancer and some vulvar, vaginal, head and neck, and anal cancers.  Gardasil also protects against genital warts caused by HPV 6 and 11.  In one of its major clinical trials, Gardasil’s ability to protect against cervical cancer was so overwhelmingly evident that the trial was stopped early on ethical grounds…so that women in the control group could also be given the vaccine.

 

Gardasil is a preventative vaccine and thus cannot prevent against any disease if it is given after initial HPV infection.  Since HPVs are ubiquitous and extremely common sexually transmitted viruses, Gardasil and Cervarix are both most effective if given before sexual activity begins.  Gardasil has been approved for use in adolescent girls for several years, but uptake has been sluggish.

There has been some use of the vaccine among college-age women, but depending on when sexual activity begins, this may be too late to prevent infection.  Additionally, convincing young people of the dangers of cervical cancer, which usually only affects women decades after HPV infection, presents its own challenges.

 

The Cervical Cancer Vaccine:  Not Just For Girls Anymore
HPV vaccination is remarkably effective at preventing new HPV 6, 11, 16, and 18 infections, and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended these vaccinations as a public health measure for girls age 11 and up.  Most recently, they have also recommended vaccination for boys.  The rationale for giving boys a vaccine against cervical cancer is severalfold:

  • Vaccination will protect boys from anal and possibly head and neck cancers.
  • Gardasil can prevent genital warts in males as well as females.
  • Prevention of HPV16 and 18 infection in men will prevent those men from infecting others and thus protect their unvaccinated male and female sexual partners.

 

The Choice Is Ours
Whether the CDC’s recommendation will cause a significant uptake of the HPV vaccines among adolescent boys is unclear.  There are several concrete benefits to males being vaccinated, but the vaccination price and scheduling may hinder vaccination efforts.   The recommended vaccination course costs almost $400 and requires three separate injections over 6 months (though recent studies have suggested that two doses give the same level of protection and even one dose gives some protection).  There has also been some pushback from parents and social groups who are uncomfortable with vaccinating pre-teens of either sex for a sexually transmitted disease.

 

The slow uptake of the HPV vaccines is disheartening, considering its effectiveness.  However, with over 40 million doses of Gardasil alone administered, we are already on our way to making the vast majority of cervical cancers a thing of the past.  With the success of HPV vaccination, we have taken a huge scientific step.  As Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine points out in a recent New York Times article, “This is cancer, for Pete’s sake.  A vaccine against cancer was the dream of our youth.”

 

References

Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 7, 2011 at 11:44 am

Science Policy Around the Web – December 6, 2011

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By:  Rebecca Cerio

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Image used with permission from CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture

International Panel Makes Recommendations for Achieving Sustainable Food Security – “The Commission emphasises that food security is a problem for everyone, with rich and poor countries facing different but equally challenging problems. Its recommendations support climate-resilient agricultural production, efficient resource use, low-waste supply chains, adequate nutrition and healthy eating choices that, together, will constitute a sustainable food system.”  A summary of the panel’s findings can be downloaded for free here, including a sobering projection of the effect of climate change on global agricultural production for the next 50 years.  (via Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

Suicidal Behavior and Depression in Smoking Cessation Treatments – 90% of reported cases of suicidal and self-injurious behavior in the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) database from 1998 through Sept 2010 involve use of an anti-smoking drug sold under the brand Chantix.  These results have been reported previously, but should the FDA impose stricter limits on when Chantix should be prescribed?  (via PLoS One, by  Singh, et. al.)

Nicotine as a Gateway Drug – It’s long been known that the vast majority of cocaine users smoked tobacco before they began using cocaine.  Whether there was a link (biological, sociological, or otherwise) between tobacco and cocaine use, however, was unclear.  Now new mouse studies have shown that nicotine use prior to cocaine use has a significant effect on cocaine’s effects and markers of cocaine addiction.  If nicotine works the same in people, smoking cessation policies may reduce addiction to cocaine as well as tobacco.  (via NIH Research Matters)


Have an interesting science policy link to share?  Let us know in the comments!

Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 6, 2011 at 4:45 pm