Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Archive for June 2013

Science Policy Around the Web – June 30, 2013

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photo credit: lanier67 via photopin cc

photo credit: lanier67 via photopin cc

By: Katherine Donigan

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

FDA Gets Tough on Tobacco– The FDA earlier this week announced its rejection of four proposed tobacco products, signifying the agency’s new oversight over tobacco products.  The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, passed in 2009, allows the FDA to regulate new tobacco products that are looking to enter the market.  Though a promising step, medical professionals remain concerned that the FDA’s assessment of these products took four years. Authorization by the FDA is not an indicator of safety, nor does it allow companies to claim FDA approval.  It simply means that the product does not pose more of a risk to public health than those already available.  By further regulating ingredients in cigarettes (like nicotine and menthol), experts are hopeful that such regulation may generally help reduce tobacco use. (Gillian Mohney, ABCNews)

W.H.O. Issues Guidelines for Earlier H.I.V. Treatment– According to new guidelines released by the W.H.O. people infected with HIV should be placed on anti-retroviral therapy sooner than they are currently – when a patient’s CD4 white blood cell count falls to the lowest level of the normal range.  For certain populations (including those with other serious infections, pregnant women and young children), the new guidelines recommend starting treatment as soon as a positive HIV result is seen.  Scientists have been recommending that all patients begin therapy immediately upon testing positive, so as to maximize patient outcomes and reduce further infections.  Such early intervention comes at increased cost, but falling costs of HIV drugs combined with improving economies in at-risk countries are helping to reduce this burden.  (Donald G. McNeil, Jr. NYTimes)

Questions about effect of over-the-counter Plan B for all ages– Timely access to emergency contraception (EC) is critical to preventing unintended pregnancies.  In 2011, the Obama administration overruled the FDA’s decision to make EC available over the counter to women and girls of all ages. This meant that girls 16 and younger needed to obtain a prescription for EC, and girls 17 and older had to show identification to a pharmacist.  The decision was reversed a few weeks ago when the administration announced they would no longer fight to keep the age restriction (see link).  Emergency contraception is now (theoretically) available to women and girls regardless of age, but whether the FDA’s recommendation will actually increase access remains to be seen.  Some pharmacists indicate they will still refuse to provide EC to girls who look “too young”, and the price (around $40-50) is still a barrier for some, including teens. (Meeri Kim, Washington Post)

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June 30, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – June 21, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: ZaldyImg via photopin cc

photo credit: ZaldyImg via photopin cc

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

HPV Vaccine is Credited for Fall of Teenagers’ Infection Rate – Despite low vaccination rates in the US, the incidence of high risk HPV infection, the virus that causes the majority of cases of cervical cancer, in girls aged 14-19 was cut in half between 2006 (when the vaccine was introduced) and 2010. This comes a surprise to public health experts because only approximately 1/3 of teenaged girls in the US have been vaccinated, as compared to 80 percent vaccination rates in Denmark and Britain. One possible explanation for the drop in HPV infection despite low rates of vaccination is “herd immunity”  which means that vaccinated individuals in the population reduce the total number of infections and overall, HPV becomes less prevalent. At the current vaccination rate, approximately 45,000 future cases of cervical cancer in girls who are under the age of 13 will be prevented. (Sabrina Tavernise)

SARS-like Virus has High Mortality Rate in Saudi Arabia – To date, 32 out of 49 individuals infected with a new SARS-like respiratory virus, called MERS-CoV, have died, resulting in an unusually high 65 percent mortality rate. Findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicate that the virus is spread by person-to-person contact and can spread quickly in a hospital setting. The majority of MERS-CoV infections have occurred in Saudi Arabia, however, there have been instances reported elsewhere. All instances of infections have been linked to travel to the Middle East. MERS-CoV has an incubation time of 5 days (similar to SARS), during which, the virus is highly contagious. (Meeri Kim)

ASBMB Gives Mixed Review to the Supreme Court Decision on Gene Patenting – Last week, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the Association for Molecular Pathology (Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics) and overturned the patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) has mixed feelings on the ruling: while the ASBMB agrees with overturning the patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2, they do not agree with the ruling that because cDNA is not naturally occurring, it is patentable. (Chris Pickett)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

June 21, 2013 at 10:20 am

Science Policy Around the Web – June 11, 2013

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pills and money

photo credit: StockMonkeys.com via photopin cc

By: Katherine Donigan

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

An Experimental Drug’s Bitter End– Clinical trials for a promising drug that could ease the behavioral symptoms Fragile X syndrome and autism were recently halted, after failing to meet goals for both syndromes.  Despite failing in trials, some patients saw improvements, including reduced social withdrawal and the ability to express emotions or verbalize for the first time.  Drug developer Seaside Therapeutics has indicated that they can no longer afford to produce the drug for the select group of responsive patients and will be halting production.  This incident raises a few important questions about clinical trials.  How should results be assessed for drug trials targeting disorders characterized by a diverse spectrum of neurological symptoms?  What is the responsibility of the drug developer to the responsive trial participants when a drug has failed trials? Parents have organized to petition Congress and increase awareness through social media in pursuit of a new funding source to continue the trial.  (NYTimes, Andrew Pollack)

Michael Douglas HPV Comment Highlights Rise in Cancers, as Few Boys Vaccinated– Actor Michael Douglas made headline news when he revealed that his case of oral cancer could have been linked to HPV infection.  Oral cancer incidence has been on the rise in the US, increasing over 200% from 1998 to 2004.  The majority of oral cancers are thought to be caused by HPV, with about 3000 new cases being diagnosed in the US every year.  Compared to women, men are four times as likely to develop this type of cancer.  Only 2% of boys in the US have received the HPV vaccine, which protects against several common cancer-causing strains of the virus. HPV vaccination rates of US girls now top 50%, accompanied by a decline in cervical cancer rates.   Ideally, increased public awareness about HPV-related cancers in men will lead to a similar result. (ABC News, Susan Donaldson James)

Few children get hepatitis A in frozen berry outbreak– Since late April, a nationwide outbreak of food-borne Hepatitis A has affected 79 people, but only one of them was a child.  Health officials are attributing this to routine HepA  childhood vaccines that were recommended by the CDC starting in 2006.  The single child who fell ill had not received the vaccine.  Since the vaccine became available in 1996, the US has seen a dramatic drop in infection rates – from over 31,000 in 1995 to just over 1600 in 2010.  Hepatitis A is highly contagious and can result in liver failure, making it all the more critical that young children who are able to do so receive their vaccinations.  (USAToday, Elizabeth Weise)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

June 11, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Legislating health care: balancing between vaccine mandates and personal freedoms

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syringe

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By: Jessica Lamb

To establish my perspective, let me begin by stating that I believe unequivocally everyone who can be vaccinated should be.  I think boys should be vaccinated against HPV [i], and everyone should get a yearly flu shot.  For a long time I was on the fence – I certainly wanted to get vaccines against diseases like measles for myself and my family, but I was undecided regarding whether I should bother to get the flu shot if I am currently healthy.  Should I worry if others don’t want to get their shots?  I approached this issue purely in terms of individual protection – how likely am I to benefit from my decision? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by sciencepolicyforall

June 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – June 4, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: NCinDC via photopin cc

photo credit: NCinDC via photopin cc

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

Supreme Court upholds Maryland law, says police may take DNA samples from arrestees – On Monday, the Supreme Court decided the case King v. Maryland and ruled that police officers can collect DNA samples upon arrest just as it takes mugshots and fingerprints. The case originated in 2009 when John King was convicted of a 2003 rape after a DNA sample was obtained following an assault charge. The Supreme Court ruling will reinstate the rape charge against King. Justice Kennedy, who wrote the opinion for the majority, stated that the ruling is limited in scope- DNA can only be collected from suspects who are arrested for “serious crimes”. (Robert Barnes)

Greece’s 200% increase in HIV shows how dangerous austerity can be for public health – European health and finance officials met in March to determine how healthcare systems are doing following severe budget cuts. Evdoxia Andrianopoulou, a Greek financial ministry official, presented data showing the steep budget cuts made to the Greek healthcare system. Included in budget cuts was the reduction of the mosquito spraying program, and consequently, an increase in the number of malaria outbreaks. Additionally, the number of new HIV infections increased 200 percent due to a reduction in funds for Greece’s clean needle program.  (Michael Scaturro)

NIH fact sheet lays out sequester impact – Following implementation of sequestration, the NIH has detailed how the Institutes will absorb the $1.55 billion budget cut. The cuts were applied across all institutes and programs meaning that every niche of biomedical research will feel the cuts. Briefly, the NIH will award approximately 700 fewer grants, training grant stipends will be frozen, approximately 750 fewer patients will be admitted to the clinical center, and ongoing grants will have their budgets reduced 4.7%. The intramural program will have to implement 5% budget cuts over the second half of the fiscal year. (Jocelyn Kaiser)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

June 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm