Living in ignorance of trial results

Thousands of patients who took place in clinical trials may never learn whether the drugs or devices were faulty, the New York Times says. Although the US Congress recently required manufacturers to disclose results of approved products, it did not require disclosure of non-approved products. Hence, people with implanted medical devices such as shunts or breast implants could be at risk.

For everyone involved in the research, "there is a tremendous incentive to go on, to forget about the old and move on to the new," said Drummond Rennie, a deputy editor at the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Although researchers conducting clinical studies are not required to disclose test results to participants, they are supposed to alert them to emerging product dangers. They are also supposed to follow the health of participants. But this often is neglected.

Industry successfully lobbied Congress against disclosure of the results of trials which failed. The manufacturers argued that releasing data about them would confuse patients… click here to read whole article and make comments





Head and shoulders above other genome sequences

Just a bit of flaky news for genetics buffs: Proctor & Gamble has sequenced the complete genome for a fungus that causes dandruff. In an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, P&G scientists say that their work could help fight dandruff and a range of other skin conditions. In the course of their research they also managed to grow 10 litres of the fungus, Malassezia globosa -- enough to give 10 million people a very bad hair day. click here to read whole article and make comments




Lung patients denied intensive care in UK

Patients with chronic lung disease are being denied intensive care treatment because doctors are too pessimistic about their chances, research suggests.A British Medical Journal study of 800 patients who had been admitted to intensive care to help them breathe has found survival rates were higher than doctors predicted. The implication is that patients might not be admitted, even though they would benefit from the treatment.

The syndrome under study, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, causes 30,000 deaths a year in the UK.

When patients have a COPD attack, they can benefit from intubation -- where a tube is put into their airway to help them breathe -- but they have to be admitted to intensive care so they can be sedated for the procedure. However, doctors may be unwilling to admit patients who have a poor prognosis.

Often, however, the survival rate is higher than pessimistic doctors believe. Some 62% of patients who were intubated were alive six… click here to read whole article and make comments





Thou shalt not bear false witness

Most medical ethics issues are brain teasers, but occasionally they are just no brainers. Take this case brought before the UK's medical registration board, the General Medical Council. Dr Alan Howlett, a general practitioner from Devon, was suspended for 10 months because he failed to disclose that he had been named a beneficiary in the will of an elderly woman in his care.

He lied on the form which authorised her cremation and stated that he had no pecuniary interest in her death. Furthermore, he failed to honour an agreement with his partners to disclose any such bequests. A remorseful Dr Howlett was told that "the offence for which you were cautioned is one which is particularly serious in professional terms". -------- click here to read whole article and make comments





British DNA databank growing

Britons are beginning to worry about the size of their expanding national DNA database. More than 6% of the population, or about 4 million people, have had their profiles recorded by the government. Although its population is five times larger, the US has only 5 million profiles. Under 2001 rules for England and Wales, DNA can be taken without consent from anyone arrested for a serious crime -- and kept even if he is found innocent.

Now the government wants to expand the database by including samples from people arrested for littering and minor traffic offences. "We must consider anything which frees up police time or improves the efficiency and effectiveness of police investigations," says a spokeswoman for the Home Office. Critics of the database says that it is turning Britain into an Orwellian Big Brother society.

click here to read whole article and make comments




No halt to Asian sex imbalance

The problem of sex imbalance in Asia continues to make the news. At the Fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights, a demographer said that if the sex ratio at birth had been natural in the region, there would have been 163 million more girls in 2005.

, "In 2005, six Asian countries reported a severe sex-ratio imbalance, with levels for children above 108: India, South Korea, Georgia, Azerbaijan, China and Armenia." He foresees big changes in Asian family structures, with many men remaining unmarried, and women's status declining "due to the simultaneous increase in pressure to marry, higher risk of gender-based violence, rising demand for sex work and the development of trafficking networks." Furthermore, the simple fact that there are fewer women in democratic countries will make their voices weaker in policy-making.

Although preference for males is traditional in Asian societies, the radical change in the sex ratio is basically due to… click here to read whole article and make comments





Cloned horses off to slow start

While human reproductive cloning is unlikely to be endorsed by any scientific body or government in the near future, cloning horses is also meeting strong opposition. "You'd have to see humans [cloned] before you'd even consider it for the horse," says Dan Fick, of the US Jockey Club, which writes the thoroughbred racing rulebook. Both the Jockey Club and the American Quarter Horse Association prohibit the practice.

Horse cloning is not making great strides at the moment, but there are about 20 cloned horses and 3 cloned mules. ViaGen, a Texas company which is a leader in the commercial application of cloning, feels that it is a good option for gelded horses which prove their mettle.

The industry believes that cloning, if successful, would reduce the gene pool because people would only want to reproduce the more successful bloodlines. "Once you have a superior animal and all you're doing is making Xeroxes, where's the fun in that?"… click here to read whole article and make comments





Globalised bioethics

Like many other industries in India, IVF clinics are going global. Pulse, a women's hospital in Ahmedabad, has forged agreements with a hospital in Ghana to provide infertility treatment and IVF. Doctors in India will examine ultrasounds from Africa remotely. A team of gynaecologists will also visit Ghana several times a year to treat patients.

A step down on the globalisation ladder is surrogacy. According to the , women from the US, UK and Russia are travelling to India to seek cheap surrogacy. It is not difficult to find willing women. They appear to receive between US$1,000 and $2,000 for a successful birth.

And Brazil could become the world capital of cosmetic tourism, judging from a report from Ireland. Michael Moeckle, of Cosmetic Tourism, says that the Irish are now his second largest market in Europe. He flies his clients to Rio de Janeiro where they combine a holiday in the sun with a make-over -- at half the cost of having… click here to read whole article and make comments





Doctors to make millions from Australian IVF clinic sale

Although IVF is said to be a US$3 billion industry in the United States, it is seldom reported in the financial press. However, the sale of one of the world's most prominent IVF clinics, Melbourne IVF, in Australia, has brought some figures to light. Private equity firms are reportedly interested in buying the business for about A$200 million. The 20 shareholders would pocket some tidy sums, according to the Australian Financial Review. A sale would value the shares of Dr Gab Kovacs at $13.8 million, managing director Donna Howlett at $9.3 million, and biologist Alan Trounson at $8.8 million. Melbourne IVF is Australia's largest clinic, followed by IVF Australia and Sydney IVF. The three account for more than a third of Australia's authorised clinics. click here to read whole article and make comments




My brain made me do it

The "neuro-mitigation of blame" should be regarded with deep suspicion, says a British doctor. Professor Raymond Tallis says that recent developments in neuroscience appear to show that we are not as free as we once thought. Hence, American lawyers are licking their lips at new ways for their clients to plead diminished responsibility. He imagines a typical address to a jury: "The case against Mr X must be dismissed. He cannot be held responsible for smashing Mr Y's face into a pulp. He is not guilty, it was his brain that did it. Blame not Mr X, but his overactive amygdala."

However, says Prof Tallis, this view is contradictory. "My brain made me do it" presumes that the person is not the brain, but the foundation of neuro-law is that the person is the brain. Neuro-law, he suggests, is just another branch of neuro-mythology. Quoting a law academic, he says, it is people, not brains, who commit crimes and "neuroscience... can… click here to read whole article and make comments




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