December
05
 

BIOTECH JOBS LOST TO OFFSHORING TREND

One of the most potent political arguments for legalising stem cell research is the threat of job losses. In Australia's recent debate over therapeutic cloning, for instance, its supporters harped on the departure for the US and Singapore of talented researchers. But is this biotech brain drain a result of hostile laws or part of a natural movement towards offshoring? A recent feature in the Union Tribune, of San Diego, home to a thriving biotech industry, highlights the giant sucking sound of jobs flowing east to China and India.

Recent studies have shown that drug companies are farming out jobs to American contract research groups or cheaper offshore companies. A survey of 186 top global companies with a combined R&D budget of US$76 billion found that by the end of 2007 China and India will account for 31% of global R&D staff, up from 19% in 2004. "Companies are increasingly looking abroad to spur innovation and build new markets. In… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
December
05
 

TURF WARS IN COSMETIC SURGERY

A turf war is building up in the US over the lucrative field of cosmetic surgery. Lured by a better lifestyle and higher pay for less work, doctors are deserting conventional specialties and hanging up shingles as "cosmetic surgeons", "aesthetic surgeons" and laser surgeons". Established doctors are upset by the newcomers. Dentists are doing Botox, and urologists are doing hair transplants and vein removal," says New York dermatologist Ellen Gendler. Everyone wants to be a plasticologist [sic]."

Established doctors claim that the field requires specialist training, but squatters say that beauty treatment is far less complicated than Caesareans or appendicectomies and that professional development classes can quickly bring them up to speed. One obstetrician and gynaecologist told the New York Times that she and her business partner refer difficult procedures to a dermatologist. Specialists, however, tell horror stories of patients who received botched treatments from doctors practicing out of their scope. The root of the conflict appears to be money.… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
December
05
 

SPANISH WOMAN ASKS FOR EUTHANASIA

A 51-year-old woman with advanced muscular dystrophy is trying to get the Spanish government to legalise euthanasia. Inmaculada Echevarria has been in a hospital bed for 20 years and says that she wants to die. Euthanasia supporters are hoping that her case will spark a debate in parliament. The present government appears to be broadly in favour of euthanasia, but legalising it would provoke huge opposition. The health minister, Elena Salgado, says that Ms Echevarria's case is a matter for the courts.

In an October press conference, Ms Echevarria said that "the loneliness is worse than the physical pain. People treat me well, with kind words, but in the end no one helps me." Her partner died in a car accident and she gave her son up for adoption. She has a brother in the northern city of Logrono, but he has not contacted her for years. click here to read whole article and make comments




 
December
05
 

IN BRIEF: animal rights; sperm donors

  • Buoyed up by the news that a Dutch animal rights party won two seats in parliament last month, activists in the UK have launched a party of their own, Animals Count. Their Dutch colleagues' success was made possible by a proportional representation system, so they will contest elections first in Wales, where this is used to elect the Welsh Assembly. Party leader Jasmijn de Boo refused to rule out standing against Greens candidates. click here to read whole article and make comments



  •  
    November
    28
     

    BRITISH DOCTORS TO BE FORCED TO HONOUR LIVING WILLS

     British doctors have been told that they risk jail or lawsuits for damages if they fail to allow patients who have made living wills to die. A senior cabinet minister, Lord Falconer, has set out guidelines to the Labour Government's Mental Capacity Act, which become effective next year. Living wills, which can be made years in advance, often stipulate that if a patient becomes incapacitated, doctors should withdraw food and water. The new act gives their wishes legal force. Conscientious objectors are required to pass the patient to another doctor who will carry out the living will.

    Critics of the act say that it raises the possibility that a doctor who refuses to kill a patient could go to jail, or that relatives could sue him for not killing a patient, or even that a patient who recovers could sue because he did not die.

    Dr Peter Saunders, head of the Christian Medical Fellowship, says that "we… click here to read whole article and make comments




     
    November
    28
     

    WHAT’S WRONG WITH SEX SELECTION, ASKS IVF PIONEER

     The UK's most prominent IVF researcher, Lord Robert Winston, has taken a strong stand as a supporter of social sex selection. Writing in the London Daily Mail, he writes that every parent has a right to choose their baby's sex. Although this practice is currently banned in the UK, he feels that the justification for this is flimsy.

    He even argues that in countries like India and China, where the sex ratio has become grossly distorted because of abortions of girls, IVF sex selection would be beneficial. "Pre-conception sex selection might reduce the incidence of selective abortion and female infanticide. Of course, sex selection is hardly the ideal way of dealing with such an iniquitous practice but, in the short term, it would be a far better option until there was a radical change in a culture which seemingly prefers boys to girls," he argues. In the UK, he says, sex selection is unlikely to lead to an imbalance… click here to read whole article and make comments




     
    November
    28
     

    SILICON IMPLANTS RETURN IN US

    After a 14-year moratorium, US cosmetic surgeons may now use silicon breast implants. In 1992, the Food and Drug Administration imposed a moratorium on their use because many women had complained that silicone from leaky or faulty implants made them ill. However, several subsequent studies claim that they are safe, although there is always a chance of rupture or infection. "I think this is a huge victory for women," says Dr David Song, of the University of Chicago, "not just for those seeking cosmetic surgery but also for many reconstructive patients after breast surgery". It is also a victory for the cosmetic surgery industry. Breast augmentation is the second-most popular procedure in the US, after liposuction, with nearly 365,000 patients in 2005.

    The FDA's decision has savage critics. Dr Sidney Wolfe, of the Public Citizen's Health Research Group, told the New York Times that the breast implant was "the most defective medical device ever approved by the FDA. The approval… click here to read whole article and make comments




     
    November
    28
     

    SINGER SUPPORTS ANIMAL EXPERIMENTS

     Peter Singer has blindsided his many critics by backing some medical experimentation on animals. In a BBC documentary on the controversial issue, he says: "It is clear at least some animal research does have benefits. I would certainly not say that no animal research could be justified and the case you have given sounds like one that is justified." Singer, an Australian bioethicist now working at Princeton, is the author of the well-known book Animal Liberation.

    His unexpected flexibility may offset remarks he made back in May to an Australian gay magazine. He asserted then that chimps were too social and sensitive to be used in AIDS research. He suggested that patients in a persistent vegetative state could be used instead. "Maybe we could keep them alive for another month or two to do some research that could save millions of lives potentially, and then allow them to die," he told an interviewer.

    click here to read whole article and make comments



     
    November
    28
     

    DRUG COMPANIES HIDE ADVERSE RESULTS,
        SAYS HARVARD PROFESSOR

    In a stinging article in the New England Journal of Medicine, a Harvard Medical School professor has accused big drug companies of hiding evidence of adverse results of their products. The latest example, says Dr Jerry Avorn, is Bayer's behaviour over a drug used in cardiac surgery, aprotinin. On September 21, the Food and Drug Administration decided that despite a negative study in the NEJM, there was no need for an additional warning to consumers. But only a few days later, on September 30, it warned that the drug could cause renal failure, congestive heart failure, stroke or death. What had happened in the meantime was that the FDA had learned that Bayer had commissioned its own report. This confirmed the NEJM study's conclusions and showed that patients who received aprotinin had substantially higher mortality rates and renal failure. But it withheld the study from the FDA -- which Bayer later described as "a mistake".

    Dr Avorn feels that drug… click here to read whole article and make comments




     
    November
    28
     

    CHILDREN OF YOUNG MOTHERS LIVE LONGER

    If you want to live to be 100, make sure that your mother is under 25. That's what scientists at the University of Chicago say after analysing historical data on 198 centenarians born in the United States between 1890 and 1893. They found that first-born children were 1.7 times more likely to live to 100. The reason, they surmise, is the age of the mother (but not of the father). Why? Perhaps a younger woman's eggs are more youthful; perhaps a younger woman has not been exposed to as many diseases and infections and therefore provides a healthier environment in the womb. The study was presented to the Gerontological Society of America's annual meeting. click here to read whole article and make comments



     

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