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Archive for November 2012

Science Policy Around the Web – November 30, 2012

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photo credit: aloshbennett via photopin cc

By: Jennifer Plank

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

Tobacco Companies Are Told to Correct Lies About Smoking
A recent ruling by Judge Gladys Kessler of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia requires tobacco companies to publish corrective statements admitting that they lied about the dangers of smoking. Each corrective advertisement must include a statement that a federal court has ruled that tobacco companies “deliberately deceived the American public about the health effects of smoking.” The tobacco companies opposed this ruling; however, Judge Kessler maintains that all of the statements are backed by specific findings of the court. (The Associated Press)

A Huge Pay Cut for Doctors is Hiding in the the Fiscal Cliff – On January 1, a 30 percent pay cut for doctors treating Medicare patients is set to take effect. This pay cut has been looming for a decade. Each year, doctors increase the amount they bill for services and procedures. Therefore, in 1997, Congress adapted a solution to this problem to reduce rising costs to Medicare- if doctors’ fees increased too much per patient per year, Medicare would pay a little less for services. For example, in 2002, using the formula developed by Congress, Medicare was to cut 4 percent from the amount paid to doctors. However, that year, doctors complained resulting in complaints to Congress from Medicare patients, and ultimately, Congress passed a bill to ignore the pay cuts. This pattern repeated itself yearly resulting in a cumulative cut of about 30 percent. This reduction in pay for doctors is one component of the fiscal cliff negotiations. (Channa Joffe-Walt)

Smith Wins Chair of U.S. House Science Committee – Leaders in the House of Representatives recommended that Lamar Smith of Texas become the new chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Representative Smith is about to begin serving his 14th term in Congress and has served on the House science committee for 26 years. While Representative Smith maintains some conservative ideals- including being skeptical of government action on climate change, he has also been successful at working in a bipartisan manner. Many lobbyists for universities and science organizations are happy with the selection. (David Malakoff)

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November 30, 2012 at 11:47 am

Science Policy Around the Web – November 22, 2012

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photo credit: Jeff Kubina via photopin cc

By: Jennifer Plank

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

Hope Delayed for Sharks in Atlantic  The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas recently concluded their annual meeting in Morocco. The ICCAT was founded in 1966 and manages the catch limits of 30 marine species such as tuna, swordfish, and marlins. The group, however, does not set catch limits or manage protections for sharks. This year, conservationists attended the meeting hoping that the ICCAT would include sharks in the list of protected species. While the conservationists failed to obtain new protections for sharks, the commission did agree to open its treaty to changes including shark management. (Erik Stokstad)

New push for most in US to get at least 1 HIV test – The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently set new guidelines recommending that individuals aged 15-64 get at least 1 HIV test. The USPSTF aims for HIV screening to become a routine part of medical visits and to become as common as a doctor ordering a cholesterol test during a physical.  Additionally, if the guidelines set forth by the task force are finalized, the number of patients eligible for HIV screening without a copay will increase. Currently, only individuals at high-risk for HIV- including gay and bisexual men and injecting drug users- are eligible for HIV tests with no co-pay. (Lauran Neergaard)

Makers of diabetes drug will pay $90 million – With increasing numbers of individuals developing diabetes, many pharmaceutical companies are quickly trying to develop new drugs to manage the disease. One company, GlaxoSmithKlein, who manufactures the drug Avandia, will pay $90 million following a settlement suggesting that GSK unlawfully promoted the drug. In 2010, the Senate Finance committee found that the drug was linked to thousands of heart attacks and that GSK knew of the risks for years but did not inform the public of the risks. The $90 million settlement will be distributed among 37 states and the District of Colombia. (Trisha Henry)

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November 22, 2012 at 10:00 am

Science Policy Around the Web – November 16, 2012

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By: Jennifer Plank

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

What the world can learn from Denmark’s failed fat tax – Last October, the Danish tax ministry added a tax of 16 kroner ($2.70) per kilogram of saturated fat in foods from milk to butter to frozen pizza. The tax resulted in increased costs to consumers, increased administrative costs for companies, and a loss of jobs due to Danish citizens leaving the country to buy fatty foods. Therefore, the tax ministry decided to scrap the tax law. Olga Khazan reviews the Danish “fat tax” and similar taxes elsewhere- including the soda tax in New York.

From Physics to Politics: Mr. Foster goes to Washington – Citizens from Illinois’s 11th district recently elected physicist Bill Foster to the House of Representatives. After spending years in the lab contributing to findings such as the top-quark or co-inventing a system to increase the efficiency of the Tevatron, Dr. Foster decided to apply his analytical thinking skills to political issues. Scientific American interviewed the newly elected Congressman who encourages other scientists to become involved in the political process. (JR Minkel)

Call for global crackdown on fake medications – According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly one in ten medications sold in poorer countries are fake, and strikingly, one-third of all malaria medications are fake.  While richer countries do not face this problem to the same extent, they are not immune from the effects of falsified drugs. For example, a contaminated drug supply led to an outbreak of meningitis that has killed 16 people in the United States. A recent article in the British Medical Journal outlines an approach that can be taken by the WHO to inhibit the sale of counterfeit medication. (Michelle Roberts)

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November 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – November 8, 2012

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By: Jennifer Plank

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

As Dengue Fever Sweeps India, A Slow Response Stirs Experts’ Fears  While the Indian government will not acknowledge the magnitude of the Dengue Fever epidemic in their country, the virus spread by mosquitoes is affecting hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. In New Delhi, India’s capital, hospitals are overcrowded with patients affected with the disease. Interestingly, experts estimate that millions of people have been sickened with Dengue in 2012 while officials for the Indian government estimate that only approximately 30,000 individuals have been affected thus far in 2012. This underestimation results in insufficient policies to reduce spreading of the disease and delays in developing vaccines to prevent Dengue infection. (Gardiner Harris)

Warmer Still: Extreme Climate Predictions Appear Most Accurate – While most scientists agree that the temperature on earth is increasing, the extent of the increase has remained a point of contention. A new study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research suggests that the more extreme predictions may actually be true resulting in temperature increase of 8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. Such a temperature increase will cause higher seas, disappearing coastlines, droughts, and floods (Brian Vastag). To try to circumvent these catastrophic events, some initiatives are underway in an attempt to reduce global climate change. Some states, such as California and Michigan are beginning to take measures to reduce global climate change.  Additionally, a village on the coast of British Columbia dumped 100 tons of iron sulfate into the ocean in what some are calling a “rogue climate change experiment” to cause a bloom of plankton to capture greenhouse gases.

NIH’s New Translational Chief on How to Solve Pharma’s Woes – Last December, Congress approved the $575 million National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) which has been criticized due to fear that funding for NCATS will reduce the funds available for basic biomedical research. Dr. Christopher Austin, a developmental neurogeneticist with experience in the private sector, became the director of NCATS in September. Recently, Dr. Austin sat down with ScienceInsider to provide insight to the mission of NCATS and respond to recent criticism. (Jocelyn Kaiser)

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November 8, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – November 4, 2012

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By: Jennifer Plank

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

Scientists unsure if humans are to blame for Hurricane SandyFollowing the devastation of Hurricane Sandy last week, one must ask “Did this storm occur as a result of global climate change?” While most climate scientists will not conclusively say that the storm resulted from global climate change, some will offer several pieces of evidence that global warming at least intensified the effects of the storm. (Justin Gillis)

Politics and fetal diagnostics collide – A new diagnostic called non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) will increase the amount of genetic information available early in pregnancy. This test is currently used to determine a fetus’s blood type, gender, father, trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) and trisomy 13. Due to its non-invasive nature and the fact that it can be completed at 10 weeks gestation rather than during the second trimester (when amniocentesis can be performed), NIPT is a valuable tool for diagnosing genetic abnormalities. This new screening method is strongly opposed by pro-life groups and has resulted in the introduction of new legislation to limit abortions following genetic screening. To date, “the FDA has not developed a regulatory scheme for genetic tests”. (Jaime King, subscription required)

Will Elephant Contraception Work in South Africa? – Although the elephant population in much of Africa is endangered due to poaching, the number of elephants in South Africa keeps increasing. Elephants eat approximately 600 pounds of food per day and can be incredibly destructive to their environment. Therefore, wildlife conservationists have encouraged the use of a contraceptive vaccine on female elephants to reduce elephant fertility. However, some experts oppose this new treatment and raise questions about its feasibility. (Martin Plaut)

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November 4, 2012 at 8:38 am