Science geeks, rejoice! STAT’s holiday gift guide is here

first_imgFitness fashionSwarovskiRubber fitness bracelets are so 2015. The new trend: haute-couture jewelry that hides high-tech functionality, from the likes of Swarovski and Tory Burch. They can track the number of steps you’ve walked, your running distance, sleeping patterns, and more.Precise cutsMoMA StoreGeometry can make creating healthy meals at home a lot more fun. For discerning salad enthusiasts who like perfectly bias-cut radish slices or rhomboid hunks of carrot, this hardwood cutting board lets them slice and dice with accurate measurements of lines and angles.Smart sipsThermosHealth advice may be fickle at times, but no one’s arguing you should drink less water. A smart water bottle can tell you how well you’re doing, either working alone or connecting with your phone.Clean waterLifeStrawBut, for outdoorsy types, what if your water bottle is empty in the middle of the wilderness? Just take a swig from the nearest stream, pond, or lake, with the LifeStraw personal water filter. It removes sediments, bacteria, and other unpleasantness, so you can rehydrate without worry.Standing orderIKEAStudies showing how bad constant sitting is for your body just keep coming. So a sit-stand desk could be just the thing for the office rats on your list. These adjustable desks, like this well-reviewed version from Ikea, get users off their butts and on their feet for greater alertness, productivity, and health.Genetic colorssandraculliton via EtsyA customized plasmid DNA map makes a beautiful sciencey gift for any art lovers on your list. For a plasmid to illustrate, you could consider the one just discovered in E. coli that makes them resistant to last-line antibiotics. That should be holiday cheer aplenty. By Leah Samuel Dec. 18, 2015 Reprints Self swabuBiomeChristmas is a time of community, and we think that should extend to your millions of microbial residents. Friends and family on a self-hacking kick can find out what’s living in and on their bodies with a send-away microbiome testing kit, like this one from uBiome. Or try the monthly subscription for a gift that keeps on giving.Germy decorartologica via EtsyFor those who prefer sharing their bacteria with others, check out these petri dish ornaments. Merry microbes give them festive colors and patterns — but don’t worry, nosophobics, they’re just watercolors.advertisement Got health-obsessed relatives? Science-loving friends? There’s a little something for everyone in STAT’s first annual holiday gift guide.We did our best to round up off-the-beaten-path science and health gift ideas that range from the practical, to the playful … to the pathogenic.So without further ado, the list:advertisement HealthScience geeks, rejoice! STAT’s holiday gift guide is here last_img read more

Pulitzer Prize-winning doctor wades into biotech with cancer startup

first_img Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee developed the core technology behind Vor BioPharma. Evan Agostini/Invision/AP Damian Garde But Vor, launched on Monday by Boston startup factory PureTech Health, is years behind. Its CAR-T candidates are still being studied on mice, and the company has no timeline for clinical trials. Furthermore, Vor’s bedrock science comes from a surprising source: Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, a Columbia University physician-scientist who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for his book “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.”As oncologists go, Mukherjee is about as famous as it gets. His last book was adapted into a PBS miniseries by the awarding-winning documentarian Ken Burns, and his latest one, “The Gene: An Intimate History,” has been well-received.But his resume as a drug hunter is comparatively light. Though Mukherjee has long worked in blood cancer, and he has a couple dozen journal articles to his name, his research has never crossed over into drug development. He has never published an academic paper on CAR-T, and his only listed patent is unrelated to the field. BusinessPulitzer Prize-winning doctor wades into biotech with cancer startup Vor is working on technology that uses the immune system to fight cancer. The process entails removing patients’ disease-fighting T cells and reengineering them to home in on the telltale signs of tumors. The resulting products, called CAR-T cells, are then injected back into the body as newly armed tumor-killers. About the Author Reprints @damiangarde Announcing the birth of a new biotech company tends to follow a well-worn path: There’s a breathless press release explaining the technology, a list of moneyed investors buying into it, and a sizable dollar figure thrown in for gravitas.But a new oncology upstart is turning heads in the industry with none of those things. Instead, Vor BioPharma is getting off the ground with few details on its unproven approach to cancer and enlisting the aid of a scientist whose big prize is named for Joseph Pulitzer, not Alfred Nobel.What’s more, the Boston-based company is wading into a field crowded with competition, where “if they’re going to go me-too, they’re going to lose,” said Eric Schmidt, a biotech analyst at Cowen Group.advertisement Newsletters Sign up for Daily Recap A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day. Related: By Damian Garde May 9, 2016 Reprints Mukherjee isn’t the only scientific mind at work within Vor, though. The company’s Acting Chief Scientific Officer is Joseph Bolen, who filled the same role for 14 years at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, where he developed the blockbuster cancer drug Velcade. Joining him as scientific founders are Stanford University radiologist Dr. Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, New York University immunologist Dr. Dan Littman, and Harvard University stem cell biologist Derrick Rossi, all of whom have advised academic spinoffs in the past.What brought them all together, Rossi said, was the promise of Mukherjee’s CAR-T discoveries. And Rossi believes Vor’s work will eventually clear up any skepticism around Mukherjee’s bona fides in the field.“What’s published in a lab and what’s not published in a lab — the actual work going on — are two completely different things,” Rossi told STAT. “There’s a lot of really exciting science coming that hasn’t seen the light of publication yet.”center_img [email protected] Watch: Turning your cancer against itself Privacy Policy National Biotech Reporter Damian covers biotech, is a co-writer of The Readout newsletter, and a co-host of “The Readout LOUD” podcast. Tags cancerimmunotherapypharmaceutical industry CAR-T isn’t terribly new. Novartis, with help from the University of Pennsylvania, has demonstrated stellar clinical results with the technology in lymphoma and plans to submit its lead therapy for marketing approval next year. And behind the Swiss drug giant are a group of smaller US firms including Juno Therapeutics and Kite Pharma, all of which have successfully treated human tumors with their technology and are moving toward regulatory filings.advertisement Leave this field empty if you’re human: One thing Vor is disclosing: The young company is looking for areas where its bigger and better-established forbears haven’t succeeded. To date, the majority of CAR-T projects have focused on leukemias and lymphomas that stem from white blood cells called B cells, but according to PureTech associate Aleks Radovic-Moreno, Vor is staying out of that field altogether, training its efforts on cancers outside the realm of B cells.It’s early days for Vor, and it will take years to determine whether the company can eventually compete with the likes of Novartis, Juno, and Kite. But cancer is “a massive opportunity with tons of unmet need,” Cowen’s Schmidt said, and there’s plenty of room for new ideas. “Just because there are other well-funded CAR-T companies ahead of them doesn’t mean they couldn’t have success.”Kendall Squared brings you dispatches from the world’s epicenter for biotechnology and drug discovery. Please enter a valid email address. Related: The newest cancer therapies don’t work on everyone. Now, doctors have a clue why last_img read more

Not all there: My mother’s lobotomy

first_imgLeave this field empty if you’re human: And Freddie was there for more serious reasons as well. My mother’s seizures terrified me, erupting without warning. She would fall to the floor in a heap, her body shaking, her voice strangled. Sometimes we would have to call an ambulance, and my mother would be carted away to the hospital.At some point when I was young, Freddie tried to explain to me that something happened to my mother’s brain. “That’s why she is the way she is, dear, she can’t help it.” But what does that mean, I remember thinking. Can she be fixed? Will she ever get better?Mostly my mother seemed lost in her own world, oblivious to me unless I irritated her. Yet when I was 7, she demanded that I share a room with her because my father no longer wanted to sleep with her. I was shocked, inconsolable. I cried to Freddie for days. My mother didn’t even love me; why would she want this? But there was nothing Freddie could do. I prayed my father would rescue me, put a stop to my mother’s insanity. He didn’t. I felt like I had been thrown to the wolves.I slept in a room with my mother for the next nine years. We had twin beds and matching chenille bedspreads. We shared a closet: her cocktail dresses, hats, wigs, and high heels on one side, my dresses, sweaters, and tennis shoes on the other. Initially I coped with her invasion by reading. In the closet was a bookcase, stacked with books and National Geographics. I’d sit on a stool reading for hours, looking for escape. Then my mother would burst in, ordering me to get out.When I was 9 or 10, she started going out at night and drinking. She would call a cab, then trot out the front door down the walkway to the curb, her red lipstick perfect, smelling of Chanel No. 5. My father was mostly absent by now, off in Palm Springs playing golf, or off at Carol’s house, the woman who would become my stepmother. I found it hard to sleep. I’d lie there in the dark, waiting for her to stumble in the door, drunk. She was always drunk. There were nights when she didn’t come home at all. When I was old enough to stay over at friends’ houses, I stopped coming home, too.Throughout, my mother was an enigma to me. No one could tell me why she was so strange. But for years, wanting to escape her, wanting to be sure I was nothing like her — bonkers, embarrassing, helpless — it’s perhaps equally true that I didn’t want to know. When I left home to go to college at Berkeley, I was ecstatic, I was finally free of her. I could begin my life, become someone new.It wasn’t until my 20s, when I started therapy, that I began to feel compassion for my mother, and began researching her medical history. It wasn’t easy; her medical records had been destroyed in a hospital fire. My father had died, without having ever revealed to me my mother’s tumors or subsequent surgery.But slowly I began to piece together her story, the changes she endured after she was butchered. I tracked down the neurologist who treated her when I was a child. One afternoon I called him on the phone from work. I remember holding my breath before he answered. Oh, yes, he remembered her, he said laughing. She was his worst patient. Wouldn’t do anything he said. Hated taking her medication. He’s the one who told me my mother had the lobotomy. I cried after we hung up. When my mother’s cataclysmic surgery took place, she was 33, a wife and mother of four children under age 9. I don’t remember ever hearing a reason for mom’s illness; my brothers never shared with me their recollections of her in earlier years. My father was a respected doctor, with patients ranging from sportswriters to football players. But he never told me what happened to her or alluded to her brain surgeries. We just didn’t talk about my mother.As a child I didn’t find this strange at all. As far as I was concerned, my father was a saint. He was quiet and kind. He went out on house calls and made sick people well. His patients adored him. I know because when I visited him in his office near Balboa Park, they told me. @monalgable Growing up, I didn’t know what was wrong with my mother. I was 25, maybe 26, when I learned she had a lobotomy. I am still trying to make sense of it.My mother had two brain tumors. The first one, in July 1945, was operated on in Oklahoma City and she survived, her bright mind intact. The second one, in November 1953, occurred when she was pregnant with me. Shortly after I was born, my mother flew from San Diego, where we lived, to Oklahoma City. This time there was trouble during surgery, and to staunch the trouble they took both her frontal lobes.I never knew my mother when she was well, but I do know that after the lobotomy, she was never the same. She developed grand mal epilepsy. She could not taste or smell. She drank like a fish and cursed like a sailor. Her short-term memory was shot, her vocabulary frozen in the 1950s. She had what we now call “poor impulse control,” meaning she said and did whatever sailed into her head.advertisement My mother, in contrast, was a holy terror. She raged at me for nothing. She raged at my father the moment he walked in the door, poured himself a glass of gin. The last thing I wanted was to upset him, so I swallowed my anxiety and learned not to ask questions. Besides, the stigma of mental illness at the time was intense. No one I knew had a mother like mine.Did she just wake up one day like this? I wondered. Disassembled and furious? How could I explain her to other people if I couldn’t fathom her?The author’s parents, circa 1943 Courtesy Mona GableFor a long time the only thing I knew was what I could see. Beneath my mother’s bangs was an ugly square dent, as hard and shiny as a flattened tin can. The dent both fascinated and repelled me. No wonder she tried to cover it up with bangs. But how did it get there? Did someone punch her? Did she fall during a seizure and smash her head? Does the painful-looking impression hurt? My mother hated the dent. The times she caught me glancing at it she would snap, “What the hell are you looking at?”I eventually learned what it was. The dent had been caused by a metal plate put inside my mother’s forehead to prevent her brain from swelling. The swelling would have killed her.We lived in a ranch-style house in a middle-class neighborhood in San Diego. When I was a baby, my father hired a middle-aged Irish woman named Freddie to take care of us. She stayed for 16 years.Freddie did everything my mother couldn’t do. She went grocery shopping, kept the house tidy, cooked our dinner every night. She tucked me in bed and read me Irish fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Because my mother wasn’t allowed to drive — one of many restrictions that infuriated her to no end — Freddie ferried me to my swimming lessons and Girl Scout meetings, my brothers to their baseball games. She took me to church, where I sang in the choir.Freddie also corralled my erratic mother. When Freddie arrived, my mother often wouldn’t bathe or get dressed. She lay about in her room, the curtains closed, chain-smoking in bed, her hair a wiry brown mess. She sat on the couch in the family room for hours, watching “Dialing for Dollars” and “Queen for A Day.”Freddie would yank her gently out of her lassitude and stubbornness, get her functioning again. She encouraged her to take her meds, took her to the beauty parlor to get her hair done. My sister made her end-of-life wishes clear. Then dementia took hold I spoke with an aunt in Oklahoma, my father’s sister-in-law. She had known my parents before they got married. She gave me a packet of old family letters between members of my father’s family, some of them written by my grandfather from his ranch in Southern California, where he had retired in the 1940s. They spoke of my mother’s first brain surgery, their anxiety waiting for the call from my father, their hopes for the tumor to be safely removed. Little did they know. The lobotomy was yet to come.Few people remained who could tell me who my mother was before the surgery: She was an only child, with few living relatives. Eventually I found an address for one of her cousins, Dorothy, who lived in Arizona. I wrote her a long letter, explaining my wish to learn more about my mother. She was delighted to hear from me, happy to share her memories, and we arranged to talk on the phone. She told me how smart and beautiful my mother had been. How sweet. All the fun they had as teenage girls, the summers they spent at their grandparents’ in Colorado, going to dances, flirting with boys. My mother had gone to college in Tennessee. She had been engaged to an Air Force pilot before she met my father. I was dumbstruck. I had never known any of this. When Dorothy saw my mother a few years after her surgery, she told me, she was shocked, heartbroken, by the changes in her.With all that, I finally began to grieve for my mother, the young woman she had been. And for losing her.By then she lived alone in San Diego, in an apartment complex where Freddie had an apartment too. She still did things that made me nuts. I could call her umpteen times before I visited, and she would still forget we had a lunch date. Answer the door in her housecoat. She would call me in the middle of the night, oblivious of the time. “Whatcha doin’?” she’d chirp. “Sleepin’ mom,” I’d say. She’d send me birthday cards on the wrong date, signing them with quotation marks: “Lovingly, mom.” But when I was good and patient, I was able to catch myself. It’s not her fault. Sometimes I wonder whether the surgeons made the right choice to save my mother’s life, when she was left so debilitated after her lobotomy. I wonder if she’d had her surgery today, if she would have woken up whole, intact. This makes me feel terrible. But as medicine comes up with treatments that increasingly extend our lives, we’re all having to face wrenching decisions like this. Do we want to live if we lose who we are?In one respect, my mother was lucky. She had the gift of not remembering her past, so she could not mourn the person she was. She lived vividly — and often, for me — infuriatingly in the present.Learning about her past changed how I felt about her. I was finally able to stop expecting her to be the mother I never had, and to accept her to be the mother she was. Privacy Policy 5 lessons from my decades of struggle with depression and anxiety Newsletters Sign up for First Opinion A weekly digest of our opinion column, with insight from industry experts. Please enter a valid email address. Related: Tags brain cancerneuroscience Eros Dervishi for STAT Related: By Mona Gable Oct. 27, 2016 Reprints First OpinionNot all there: My mother’s lobotomy Mona Gable About the Author Reprints Mona Gable is a writer in Los Angeles. She is working on a book for Simon & Schuster about the murder of Savanna Greywind and the crisis of missing and murdered Native American women. This might involve any number of wild and alarming stunts. Sneaking the keys to our station wagon and going on a joy ride. Sleeping with military guys she met in the bars on Shelter Island. Running up my father’s credit cards. Frying up hamburgers for my brothers and me at 5:30 in the morning because she thought it was dinnertime. Chasing my brothers around the house with a baseball bat.What my mother really suffered, though, was the brutal loss of her self. But it’s taken me decades to understand that, and to excavate who exactly it was that was lost.advertisementlast_img read more

As the world’s top blood experts gather, 5 key questions to watch

first_imgBiotechAs the world’s top blood experts gather, 5 key questions to watch Experimental cancer therapy holds great promise — but at great cost Meghana Keshavan Privacy Policy SAN DIEGO — The world’s experts on all things blood will convene here starting Friday to discuss the latest advances in treating disorders ranging from hemophilia to sickle cell anemia to cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.Academics will share their latest research. So will scientists from biotech startups and global drug companies. Here, five questions we’ll be seeking answers to at the American Society of Hematology meeting, which runs through Tuesday.1. How safe are the latest cancer immunotherapies?There will be a lot of buzz about CAR-T immunotherapy, and for good reason. It’s been a rough year for the intricate cellular science, which involves extracting cancer patients’ own immune cells and engineering them to attack their tumors.advertisement Two other startups working on CAR-T will also give presentations. Bluebird Bio will share early data from a clinical trial that has gone very well so far: Tumors shrank in the six multiple myeloma patients who received a high dose of Bluebird’s CAR-T therapy, and two of them had no traces of cancer after several months. It’s still early in the trial, but cancer doctors will be eager to hear more.At one of the last sessions of the conference, we’ll hear from Kite Pharmaceuticals, which is widely expected to be the first to get a CAR-T therapy to market. Expectations are running high for Kite’s pivotal Phase 2 ZUMA-1 study, which is testing a CAR-T therapy in lymphoma patients. We’ll see the data on Tuesday.2. Are we finally making progress against sickle cell?Sickle cell anemia — which can cause intense pain, infections, and even organ failure — has been stubbornly hard to treat for decades.We might finally get some good news this weekend. Juno Therapeutics, one of the leaders in the field, stunned the research community with news that five patients died due to side effects from a CAR-T therapy it developed with an experimental drug called JCAR015. Clinical trials for that drug are now on hold. Selexys Pharma, a small biotech based in Oklahoma, will be presenting the results of a trial of a drug to treat sickle cell. It uses an antibody called SelG1 to try to cut down on episodes of “sickle cell-related pain crises,” in which the malformed blood cells obstruct circulation in blood vessels.One hint that the results will be positive: Selexys was recently acquired by Novartis in a $665 million deal.3. Can we do transfusions with artificial blood cells?Early stage research led by Washington University in St. Louis suggests that, one day, we may not have to go through the hardship of transporting blood to hard-to-reach locations, such as battlefields.The concept behind these synthetic blood cells is simple: just add water. In theory, they’re then ready to transfuse into a patient.The product, called ErythroMer, is still in very early, preclinical stages — but it’ll be interesting to hear more. A solid proof-of-concept could have some intriguing applications.4. Are we entering a new era for lymphoma care?A trio of Phase 3 studies seems to indicate that the standard of care to treat lymphoma could be shaken up.Next-generation biologic drugs, coupled with chemotherapy, are helping some cancer patients live longer without their tumors growing substantially.One of the drugs up for discussion is from Genentech. Marketed as Gazyva, it seems to be more effective in treating follicular lymphoma than Rituxan — another widely used Genentech drug. NewslettersSign up for The Readout Your daily guide to what’s happening in biotech. We’ve known for 50 years what causes sickle cell disease. Where’s the cure? Related: Leave this field empty if you’re human: 5. Can we stop the body from rejecting cell therapies?As we hurtle toward the era of cell therapies, such as CAR-T, one key question is how to scale up such highly personalized treatments — and how to do it in a cost effective way.Right now, cell therapies usually involve extracting a patient’s own cells and turning them into a biologic drug to infuse back into the patient. That’s called an autologous cell transplant. Some companies are trying instead to develop a one-size-fits-all cell therapy, called an allogeneic transplant. In theory, such a treatment would be quicker and cheaper to develop than one customized to each individual patient’s cells.But it’s been a hard road, because the immune system tends to attack any foreign body — like an unfamiliar cell — in what’s known as “graft vs. host disease.” (That’s why patients who receive organ transplants have to take powerful immune system suppressants to ward away organ rejection.)At the ASH conference, we’ll get a peek at several intriguing new approaches to treat graft vs. host disease. Specifically, it looks like the cancer drug ibrutinib shows promise in preventing the immune system from flaring up against allogeneic transplants. We’ll be eager to see more data.center_img About the Author Reprints Juno executives will give more details both on the JCAR017 trial and its investigational work on another therapy, JCAR018, which has not experienced the same problems. They’ll seek to settle swirling concerns from investors, patients, and physicians about the safety of CAR-T — which has great promise, but also holds serious risks.advertisement Biotech Correspondent Meghana covers biotech and contributes to The Readout newsletter. By Meghana Keshavan Dec. 2, 2016 Reprints Please enter a valid email address. Red blood cells. Annie Cavanagh/Wellcome Images Tags biotechnologycancerdrug developmentresearch [email protected] @megkesh Related:last_img read more

China bans carfentanil, possible ‘game-changer’ in US opioid epidemic

first_img Good international cooperation and effective early warning systems to track the emergence of novel drugs helped speed the process, Chinese drug control officials said Thursday.China’s action is “a hopeful sign of political and strategic law enforcement cooperation,” said Jeremy Douglas, a regional representative for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Bangkok. “But having legislation is a first step. The law will need to be enforced effectively.”Offers for carfentanil from Chinese vendors were scarce Thursday, but the AP quickly secured five offers to export furanyl fentanyl to the United States. Some vendors also pushed U-47700.“One news I just got is that the carfentanil and furanyl fentanyl etc opioid analogs will be controlled in China on March 1 effective,” one vendor called Ete wrote in an email. “So if you need them pls make it before that day. After that day it will be unavailable.”The vendor did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AP.— Erika KinetzAssociated Press researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report from Shanghai. HealthChina bans carfentanil, possible ‘game-changer’ in US opioid epidemic This June 2016 photo provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police shows printer ink bottles containing carfentanil imported from China. Royal Canadian Mounted Police via AP The Drug Enforcement Administration called China’s move a potential “game-changer” that is likely to have a big impact in the US, where opioid demand has driven the proliferation of a new class of deadly drugs made by nimble chemists to stay one step ahead of new rules like this one. After China controlled 116 synthetic drugs in October 2015, seizures in the United States of compounds on that list plunged. SHANGHAI — So deadly it’s considered a terrorist threat, carfentanil has been legal in China — until now. Beijing is banning carfentanil and three similar drugs as of March 1, China’s Ministry of Public Security said Thursday, closing a major regulatory loophole in the fight to end America’s opioid epidemic.“It shows China’s attitude as a responsible big country,” Yu Haibin, the director of the Office of the National Narcotics Control Committee, told the Associated Press. “It will be a strong deterrent.”He added that China is actively considering other substances for sanction, including U-47700, an opioid marketed as an alternative to banned fentanyls. China said the March 1 ban will also apply to carfentanil’s less-potent cousins furanyl fentanyl, acryl fentanyl, and valeryl fentanyl.advertisement Legally used as an anesthetic for elephants and other large animals, carfentanil burst into the North American drug supply last summer, causing hundreds of unsuspecting drug users to overdose. The DEA confirmed more than 400 seizures of carfentanil across eight U.S. states from July through October. So lethal an amount smaller than a poppy seed can kill a person, carfentanil was researched for years as a chemical weapon and used by Russian forces to subdue Chechen separatists at a Moscow theater in 2002.New data from DEA laboratories suggests the supply of furanyl fentanyl is now surging. DEA labs identified 44 samples of furanyl fentanyl in the last three months of 2016, up three-fold from the prior quarter.Though Beijing has said U.S. assertions that China is the top source of fentanyls lack evidence, the two countries have deepened cooperation as the U.S. opioid epidemic intensifies. Beijing already regulates fentanyl and 18 related compounds, even though they are not widely abused domestically. Since 2016, China has arrested dozens of synthetic drug exporters, destroyed eight illegal labs and seized around 2 tons of new psychoactive substances, according to the Office of the National Narcotics Control Committee.But the battle against rapidly evolving synthetic drugs is complicated by the deeply global nature of the narcotics trade and the deeply national nature of law enforcement. Some online drug vendors host their websites on servers abroad to thwart police. All benefit by submerging their illicit packages in the vast tides of legitimate commerce shipped or sent by courier from China. Related: Tags addictionopioids By Associated Press Feb. 16, 2017 Reprints ‘The Amazon of drug trafficking’ Newsletters Sign up for Daily Recap A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day. Privacy Policy Why fentanyl is deadlier than heroin, in a single photo Associated Press Please enter a valid email address. “It’s a substantial step in the fight against opioids here in the United States,” said Russell Baer, a DEA special agent in Washington. “We’re persuaded it will have a definite impact.”advertisement About the Author Reprints Related: Leave this field empty if you’re human: One example of the kind of global coordination needed to take down synthetic drug barons is the case of Zhang Lei, whom the U.S. Treasury Department designated a drug kingpin in 2014. China shared 4,221 clues with 58 countries and areas in the hunt for Zhang, Chinese drug control authorities said Thursday. Zhang was sentenced to 14 years in Chinese prison last year, according to one of his lawyers, Fan Renzhong.In October, the AP identified 12 Chinese companies willing to export carfentanil around the world for a few thousand dollars a kilogram (2.2. pounds), no questions asked. That same month China began evaluating whether to ban carfentanil and the three other drugs. Usually, the process can take nine months. This time, it took just four.last_img read more

NIH fetal tissue research would be barred under House panel’s spending plan

first_img Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. Politics About the Author Reprints WASHINGTON — A House subcommittee’s draft 2018 spending plan would prohibit federal funds from being spent on research that uses fetal tissue, a symbolic win for conservatives who are also taking aim at money for family planning and public health programs around the country.The proposal from the House Appropriations health subcommittee is unlikely to be enacted, and the restriction would impact a tiny portion of the National Institutes of Health’s roughly $33 billion budget — in 2016, the agency spent roughly $103 million on research involving fetal tissue. NIH fetal tissue research would be barred under House panel’s spending plan Unlock this article — plus daily intelligence on Capitol Hill and the life sciences industry — by subscribing to STAT+. First 30 days free. GET STARTED By Lev Facher July 13, 2017 Reprints [email protected] What is it? The National Institutes of Health James Shannon building in Bethesda, Md. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/APcenter_img Washington Correspondent Lev Facher covers the politics of health and life sciences. @levfacher STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. Lev Facher Log In | Learn More What’s included? GET STARTED Tags Congresspolicylast_img read more

Flesh-eating bacteria: 5 things to know after a hiker’s almost-fatal infection

first_imgHealthFlesh-eating bacteria: 5 things to know after a hiker’s almost-fatal infection By Catherine Caruso July 25, 2017 Reprints Tags antibioticslists Here are five things to know about flesh-eating infections:1. What causes the infection?Multiple types of bacteria can cause so-called flesh-eating infections, also known as necrotizing fasciitis, but Atkins fell victim to Group A Streptococcus, which Dr. Bernard Camins, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, considers “the quintessential flesh-eating bacteria.”advertisement 4. What are the symptoms?A necrotizing fasciitis infection can develop within a few hours, and is difficult to diagnose, especially early on when patients may have vague symptoms, such as pain or soreness at the injury site. Early symptoms can also include reddish or purplish areas of swelling that spread rapidly, and Camins said one giveaway is when people have “pain that is out of proportion to what the wound looks like.” Later symptoms include fever, chills, or vomiting. Doctors generally treat the infection with a combination of strong antibiotics to knock out the bacteria and surgery to remove dead tissue.5. How can I avoid it?To avoid infection, Camins recommends washing wounds with soap and water, applying antibacterial ointment like Polysporin, and checking wounds on a regular basis. And if you are in huge amounts of pain from a wound that otherwise looks OK, get yourself to a hospital ASAP. Last month, a few minor blisters turned into a flesh-eating nightmare for hiker Wayne Atkins, who developed a dangerous bacterial infection after climbing Mount Garfield, a 4,500-foot peak in New Hampshire. Atkins survived, but barely: He spent 2 1/2 weeks in a medically induced coma while doctors pumped him full of antibiotics and removed chunks of his flesh to get rid of the infection.And Atkins was lucky, relatively speaking: Infection with flesh-eating bacteria is considered a surgical emergency, and can require limb amputation. One in four people with necrotizing fasciitis dies.But is there any reason for the rest of us to be concerned? Or was Atkins’s case a bacterial lightning strike?advertisement Illustration of Group-A Streptococcus bacteria. James Archer/CDC Related: Privacy Policy Newsletters Sign up for Daily Recap A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day. Forget sharks: 7 things in the water swimmers should actually fear Please enter a valid email address. Leave this field empty if you’re human: Group A strep may sound familiar: It is the same bacteria that causes strep throat.2. Where does a person catch that bacteria?Around 3 percent of healthy adults and 5 to 15 percent of healthy children have Group A strep bacteria colonies in their nose and throat or on their skin. When people develop necrotizing fasciitis, it’s usually because Group A strep already on their skin get inside a wound after an injury or surgery, though a needle prick or blister could be enough. From there, the bacteria quickly start destroying skin, fat and muscle, and eventually work their way into the bloodstream.3. Why does a generally harmless bacteria turn deadly?According to Camins, Group A strep bacteria are very unpredictable, and scientists don’t know for sure. They can turn deadly once they breach the body’s natural barriers and reach the superficial fascia, a layer of connective tissue just underneath the skin. From there, they start spreading rapidly into the surrounding tissues, releasing destructive toxins along the way.This is more common in people with weakened immune systems whose bodies can’t fight off the bacteria as effectively. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only 700 to 1,100 cases of necrotizing fasciitis occur every year in the U.S., and most occur in people with diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, or other conditions that weaken the immune system.last_img read more

Prescribing opioids: Balancing pain relief and addiction prevention haunted my early days in medicine

first_img The attorney general of Oklahoma recently charged a doctor with second-degree murder in the overdose-related deaths of five of her patients. In describing these charges, AG Mike Hunter said:“Nichols prescribed patients, who entrusted their well-being to her, a horrifyingly excessive amount of opioid medications. Nichols’ blatant disregard for the lives of her patients is unconscionable.”Horrifyingly excessive. Those words stopped me in my tracks because they could easily have described the first time I prescribed opioids on my own.advertisement Tags opioidspatientsphysicians No one responded. I was surprised.Trial and error. In managing pain, finding that middle ground is all about trying, and possibly failing. When the goal is to treat patients in ways that don’t foster addiction, I’m left wondering: How many patients’ lives have been destroyed and how many medical decisions have been questioned by a mode of practice that is such a shot in the dark?As I begin to treat psychiatric patients exclusively, I’m actually relieved that I won’t have to deal with prescribing opioids that much anymore. But, I’m aware — and sad — that the fallout of the opioid addiction epidemic is what I will face every day. So pain won’t be that far behind me. Columnist, Off the Charts Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu is a psychiatrist and a columnist for STAT. Related: About the Author Reprints Mike Reddy for STAT Fatal drug overdoses in US on the rise, CDC says “This seems like an unusually large dose of oxycodone,” said the inpatient pharmacist, who paged me to double check the order.My patient had a long history of opioid abuse, so I knew that she had developed a high tolerance. She needed a higher dose to manage her pain, and my intention had been to help her do that.I remember learning two things about pain in medical school. First: Pain is effectively the fifth vital sign, and needs to be taken as seriously as a spike in temperature or drop in blood pressure. Second: Each opioid medication is metabolized differently. I remember learning the relative strength of each analgesic in terms of its morphine equivalents.This was supposed to help me compare apples to apples when it came to prescribing.I logged onto her records to compare what I had ordered with what I had written down on the patient’s medication list. “Oh, my God,” I said to the pharmacist. “Yeah, this is a lot.” I profusely thanked him and lowered the dose to one I hoped would manage her pain. I’m starting my career as a doctor as the opioid epidemic escalates in the U.S. It puts me in the middle of wanting to honor and treat the pain my patients tell me they feel while sometimes having to count what’s in their prescription bottles to verify they are taking the prescribed dose and not more.Practicing medicine means being part of the opioid police, while, at the same time, having little guidance on how to effectively treat pain. So I worried: Was I underprescribing? Was I overprescribing? And would this trial and error ever get easier?advertisement [email protected] Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu I didn’t catch my own mistake because tolerance felt like a moving target — I was still learning how much was too much, and, unfortunately, how little was too little.Soon after, I had a patient who was dealing with addiction and had infections in his legs that required someone to change his dressings every day. He was in such a fragile state of health that I worried about sedating him too much with opioids. Thinking about my overprescribing mistake, I decided to go with 1,000 milligrams of Tylenol, which is equivalent to two extra-strength over-the-counter tablets, hoping it would do the trick.It did not.The next morning when I made my rounds, this patient cursed at me, telling me how much pain I had caused him, asking me if I knew how it felt to have the skin peeled off my legs. I felt horrible that I caused my patient so much suffering.But he was right — I have never experienced that type of pain. I was trying to spare him the sedative and addictive effects of opioids, but in doing so, I made a choice that didn’t address his actual issue: pain. I chose Tylenol because I was in the first few weeks of my residency. I was afraid of hurting my patient. Prescribing an opioid seemed riskier than prescribing Tylenol.My training was to use morphine equivalents, but I’ve never taken morphine. It was like trying to describe the way fruit tastes relative to an apple without never having eaten an apple.This is what I mean when I say I feel like I’m stuck in the middle trying to treat a person in pain while not feeding an epidemic that often leads to death. The guidance for other illnesses is more defined — I’ve never had a heart attack, but feel confident I could treat someone based on what I’ve learned and seen. With pain management, it’s not that clear.I promised to get my patient something a bit stronger for his next dressing change. But what? Looking for assistance I tweeted out : The first time I prescribed opioids, I misread my patient’s medication list and accidentally ordered a dose that could easily have hurt her. Related: Doctors must be honest about their own biases when treating people in pain Off the ChartsPrescribing opioids: Balancing pain relief and addiction prevention haunted my early days in medicine @JenniferAdaeze By Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu Aug. 3, 2017 Reprintslast_img read more

Peter Thiel funds offshore test of herpes vaccine, evading U.S. safety regulations

first_img GET STARTED What’s included? By Marisa Taylor — Kaiser Health News Aug. 28, 2017 Reprints [email protected] WASHINGTON — Defying U.S. safety protections for human trials, an American university and a group of wealthy libertarians, including a prominent Donald Trump supporter, are backing the offshore testing of an experimental herpes vaccine.The American businessmen, including Trump adviser Peter Thiel, invested $7 million in the ongoing vaccine research, according to the U.S. company behind it. Southern Illinois University also trumpeted the research and the study’s lead researcher, even though he did not rely on traditional U.S. safety oversight in the first trial, held on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. Unlock this article — plus daily market-moving biopharma analysis — by subscribing to STAT+. First 30 days free. GET STARTED What is it? PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel speaks during the Republican National Convention last year. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images @marisaataylor About the Author Reprints STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. Peter Thiel funds offshore test of herpes vaccine, evading U.S. safety regulations Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. Log In | Learn More Marisa Taylor — Kaiser Health News Tags drug developmentfinanceinfectious diseasepolicyVaccines Business last_img read more

Smartphones a likely culprit in the recent decline in teen mental health

first_imgFirst OpinionSmartphones a likely culprit in the recent decline in teen mental health This study could unlock the mysteries of teen brain development Related: Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens.In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. teens who felt useless and joyless — classic symptoms of depression — surged 33 percent in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23 percent. Even more troubling, the number of 13- to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31 percent.In a new paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, my colleagues and I found that the increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background — more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country. All told, our analysis found that the generation of teens I call “iGen” — those born after 1995 — is much more likely to experience mental health issues than their millennial predecessors.advertisement @jean_twenge Please enter a valid email address. However, according to the Pew Research Center, smartphone ownership crossed the 50 percent threshold in late 2012 — right when teen depression and suicide began to increase. By 2015, 73 percent of teens had access to a smartphone.Not only did smartphone use and depression increase in tandem, but time spent online was linked to mental health issues across two different data sets. We found that teens who spent five or more hours a day online were 71 percent more likely than those who spent only one hour a day to have at least one suicide risk factor (depression, thinking about suicide, making a suicide plan or attempting suicide). Overall, suicide risk factors rose significantly after two or more hours a day of time online.Of course, it’s possible that instead of time online causing depression, depression causes more time online. But three other studies show that is unlikely (at least, when viewed through social media use). Jean M. Twenge — The Conversation Two followed people over time, with both studies finding that spending more time on social media led to unhappiness, while unhappiness did not lead to more social media use. A third randomly assigned participants to give up Facebook for a week versus continuing their usual use. Those who avoided Facebook reported feeling less depressed at the end of the week.The argument that depression might cause people to spend more time online doesn’t also explain why depression increased so suddenly after 2012. Under that scenario, more teens became depressed for an unknown reason and then started buying smartphones, which doesn’t seem too logical.What’s lost when we’re plugged inEven if online time doesn’t directly harm mental health, it could still adversely affect it in indirect ways, especially if time online crowds out time for other activities.For example, while conducting research for my book on iGen, I found that teens now spend much less time interacting with their friends in person. Interacting with people face to face is one of the deepest wellsprings of human happiness; without it, our moods start to suffer and depression often follows. Feeling socially isolated is also one of the major risk factors for suicide. We found that teens who spent more time than average online and less time than average with friends in person were the most likely to be depressed. Since 2012, that’s what has occurred en masse: Teens have spent less time on activities known to benefit mental health (in-person social interaction) and more time on activities that may harm it (time online).Teens are also sleeping less, and teens who spend more time on their phones are more likely to not be getting enough sleep. Not sleeping enough is a major risk factor for depression, so if smartphones are causing less sleep, that alone could explain why depression and suicide increased so suddenly. All signs point to the screenBecause the years between 2010 to 2015 were a period of steady economic growth and falling unemployment, it’s unlikely that economic malaise was a factor. Income inequality was (and still is) an issue, but it didn’t suddenly appear in the early 2010s: This gap between the rich and poor had been widening for decades. We found that the time teens spent on homework barely budged between 2010 and 2015, effectively ruling out academic pressure as a cause.advertisement Tags mental healthpediatrics Using social media to prevent adolescent suicide Privacy Policy By Jean M. Twenge — The Conversation Nov. 14, 2017 Reprints Leave this field empty if you’re human: Depression and suicide have many causes: Genetic predisposition, family environments, bullying and trauma can all play a role. Some teens would experience mental health problems no matter what era they lived in.But some vulnerable teens who would otherwise not have had mental health issues may have slipped into depression due to too much screen time, not enough face-to-face social interaction, inadequate sleep or a combination of all three.It might be argued that it’s too soon to recommend less screen time, given that the research isn’t completely definitive. However, the downside to limiting screen time — say, to two hours a day or less — is minimal. In contrast, the downside to doing nothing — given the possible consequences of depression and suicide — seems, to me, quite high.It’s not too early to think about limiting screen time; let’s hope it’s not too late.Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D., is professor of psychology at San Diego State University.This article was originally published on The Conversation. [email protected] About the Author Reprints Related: Newsletters Sign up for First Opinion A weekly digest of our opinion column, with insight from industry experts. The rise in smartphone use by teens parallels increases in depression, suicide attempts, and suicides in this age group. AP What happened so that so many more teens, in such a short period of time, would feel depressed, attempt suicide and commit suicide? After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.last_img read more