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)
Have an interesting science policy link? Share it in the comments!