May 19, 2018 - May 25, 2018
WHO: Saturated fat should be less than 10 percent of diet
recommends cutting down on
saturated fats in your diet. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
London (AP) — The World
Health Organization is taking on the battle of the bulge, saying that
saturated fats shouldn’t make up more than 10 percent of a person’s
In its first draft guidelines on fat intake, the
U.N. health agency said to avoid piling on the pounds, both adults and
children should ensure that no more than 10 percent of their calories
come from saturated fat. That type of fat is found butter, milk, meat,
eggs and chocolate, among other items.
WHO said only 1 percent or less of calories should
be from transfats, commonly found in baked and fried foods, processed
foods and cooking oils.
WHO’s draft advice largely matches similar
nutritional guidelines in Britain and the U.S. The agency says it will
consider external comments before the recommendations are finalized.
Kids with rare rapid-aging disease get hope from study drug
This March 2017 photo shows Carly Kudzia, 7,
with her mother, Heather Unsinger, in Whitehouse, Ohio. (Heidi Bisbee
Chicago (AP) — Children with
a rare, incurable disease that causes rapid aging and early death may
live longer if treated with an experimental drug first developed for
cancer patients, a study suggests.
The small, preliminary study isn’t
proof the drug works and it found only a small benefit: Treated children
with the disease progeria were more likely than others to survive during
the two-year study. But some kids taking the drug in this and other
studies have lived into their late teens. Researchers and others say
the results suggest a potential breakthrough for a heartbreaking
condition that typically kills kids before they reach adulthood.
“Anything we can do to try to
provide them hope of a longer life is well worth doing and well worth
celebrating,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the United States
National Institutes of Health, who was not part of the new study. A
geneticist, Collins led laboratory experiments that in 2003 identified
the genetic basis for the disease, formally known as Hutchinson-Gilford
Among 27 children with progeria who
got the drug lonafarnib, one died during the 2007-2010 study. That’s
compared with nine of 27 untreated children with the disease. Thirteen
of the treated children are still alive; most began taking other
experimental drugs too.
“For the first time ever we have a
drug that is shown to extend lifespan for children with progeria,” said
lead author Dr. Leslie Gordon of Brown University. Her son was a study
participant and died in 2014 at age 17.
The study, conducted at Boston
Children’s Hospital, was unusually designed, comparing children given
the drug with other progeria patients worldwide who weren’t enrolled in
the study. The untreated kids were matched as closely as possible with
study participants by age, gender and other characteristics, but they
weren’t a standard control group and didn’t receive dummy medication.
That design weakens the study
conclusions, said Dr. Howard Worman, a Columbia University biologist.
“You really cannot say anything ‘worked’ without a contemporary placebo
The children in the study were also
involved in earlier research testing the same drug combined with two
others. Within a period of about five years, survival was extended by
about 19 months. It wasn’t clear if all three drugs or just one or two
of them contributed to the improvement. Lonafarnib also appeared to
reduce blood vessel damage.
Average life expectancy for
progeria children is about 14 years. Though many die younger, usually
from heart attacks or strokes, some lonafarnib-treated kids have lived
to their late teens.
For parents, who want to see their
children grow up, that sliver of extra time is a bittersweet blessing.
“If you’re a mom and you’re told
that life expectancy is 13 years, that 1.6 years is gold,” said Heather
Unsinger. Her 7-year-old daughter, Carly, was a study participant and
has been taking lonafarnib since age 3. “But it’s really hard to jump
up and down.”
Affected children are typically
small, bald and fragile-looking but intellectually normal. Carly “has
full-throttle dreams” and envisions becoming an art teacher one day, her
Other kids “always think I’m a
baby,” Carly said. But “I’m a regular kid.”
Progeria is caused by a mutation in
a gene that regulates production of a protein that helps shape and
support the nucleus of cells throughout the body. In normal aging, the
protein accumulates in cells but in children with progeria, an abnormal
buildup occurs that severely damages cells. Lonafarnib helps block that
The disease affects about 1 in 20
million people. It is a chance mutation and isn’t inherited. Affected
children are born looking healthy, but fail to grow normally, lose body
fat and hair and develop aged-looking skin, stiff joints and diseased
Lonafarnib was initially developed
as a potential cancer treatment but without much success. Schering
Plough/Merck supplied the study drug; the research was paid for by the
Progeria Research Foundation.
May 12, 2018 - May 18, 2018
Dutch probe ‘appalling’ euthanasia of dementia patient
April 10, 2001 file photo, thousands demonstrate outside Dutch
government buildings as the Upper House of Parliament debates the
legalization of euthanasia at The Hague, Netherlands. In 2018, the
Netherlands is one of five countries that allow doctors to kill patients
at their request, and one of two, along with Belgium, that grant the
procedure for people with mental illness. (AP Photo/Serge Ligtenberg,
In a rare series of
moves, Dutch authorities are investigating whether doctors may have
committed crimes in five euthanasia cases, including the deaths of two
women with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
In one of the
Alzheimer’s cases, which prosecutors began probing in September, a
physician drugged the patient’s coffee without her knowledge and then
had the woman physically restrained while delivering the fatal
injection. The ongoing criminal investigation is the first since the
Netherlands made it legal for doctors to kill patients at their request
announced they were examining four other cases last month, including the
death of another Alzheimer’s patient who “lacked the capacity to express
her own will,” according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office. A
spokesperson said that specific criminal charges, if any, would be
determined only after the investigations are finished. Several legal
experts said that if doctors were found to have killed patients without
their explicit request, potentially they could be charged with murder.
highlight the difficulties doctors face in handling euthanasia requests
for those who later develop dementia. Mental decline can eventually make
patients unable to understand the significance of their earlier demand
to be killed, and as their brain changes, so can their personality and
“If you made a
living will when you were competent and asked for euthanasia, do we
attach more weight to a decision you made when you were competent, or to
your present situation where you’re no longer yourself and are no longer
asking to die?” said Johan Legemaate, a professor of health law at the
University of Amsterdam.
The Netherlands is
one of five countries that allow doctors to kill patients at their
request, and one of two, along with Belgium, that grant the procedure
for people with mental illness. For those with late-stage dementia,
euthanasia is still possible if the person made a written demand
specifying the conditions under which they want to be killed and if
other criteria are met, namely if the doctor agrees the patient is
suffering unbearably with no prospect of improvement.
authorities prosecute the doctors in the two Alzheimer’s cases being
investigated will likely set a course for how the increasing numbers of
people with dementia who seek euthanasia will be handled.
Since 2002, more
than 55,000 patients have been lawfully killed by a doctor. About 6,500
cases were reported last year, of which 166 involved people with
dementia. In the vast majority of these cases, the patients were still
in the early stages of the disease and were competent to make a request
investigators began scrutinizing in September involved a 74-year-old
woman who had renewed her living will about a year before she died,
according to a detailed report issued by a Dutch regional euthanasia
She wrote that she
wanted to be euthanized “whenever I think the time is right.” Later, the
patient said several times in response to being asked if she wanted to
die: “But not just now, it’s not so bad yet!” according to the report.
The committee wrote
that when the doctor surreptitiously slipped a sedative into the
patient’s coffee, she took away the patient’s chance to physically
protest her death. When the doctor began administering barbiturates to
end the patient’s life, the woman tried to get up and the doctor asked
her family to hold her down.
The doctor said she
was fulfilling a written request the patient made for euthanasia years
earlier and that since the patient was not competent, nothing the woman
said during her euthanasia procedure was relevant.
“Even if the
patient had said at that moment: ‘I don’t want to die,’ the physician
would have continued,” the committee wrote, citing the doctor’s
testimony. Given the clear signs the patient was struggling to protest
her death, the committee said the doctor should have stopped.
“On the morning of
the euthanasia, when her family was present, the patient was even making
plans to go out to eat with them,” the report said.
The examining judge
will soon hear witnesses and receive expert reports before deciding
whether to charge the doctor with a crime in the case.
Among the four
remaining cases, one other suspicious euthanasia death is also being
examined by the prosecutor’s office in The Hague and three other cases
are being investigated in the northern and eastern parts of the country.
The 2016 case has
divided opinion even among those who support assisted dying.
“This case is
appalling,” said Dr. Boudewijn Chabot, a euthanasia advocate who was
involved in a historic case at the Supreme Court that helped set the
legal conditions for the procedure. He said the euthanasia of the
Alzheimer’s patient “goes beyond the law as we understand it.”
said it was problematic to kill people with late-stage dementia because
it’s hard to know what their wishes truly are.
Thompsell, chair of old-age psychiatry at Britain’s Royal College of
Psychiatrists, said it can be risky to assume how much a dementia
patient is suffering mainly by observing them. “If the person says they
don’t want something, then we have to accept that,” she said.
Other experts said
that it can be ethical to act without patients’ full understanding, such
as when they are covertly given medicine, if it helps the patient or if
it is consistent with what the patient wanted.
“You respect the
patient’s choice, in a situation where nothing else can be done to
help,” said Suzanne van de Vathorst, an associate professor of medical
ethics and philosophy at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
Thiel, a medical ethicist at Utrecht University Medical School, said she
would be surprised if Dutch prosecutors don’t take the 2016 Alzheimer’s
case to trial.
“We are definitely
crossing a line if we’re overruling the wishes of incompetent patients
to live, because a will to live is your basic, fundamental right,” she
said. “This is such a big discussion that we need the consideration of
the courts to set standards on how the law views the rights of people
with dementia and how we should consider their wishes.”
May 5, 2018 - May 11, 2018
US experts back marijuana-based
drug for childhood seizures
On Thursday, April 19, 2018, a panel of Food
and Drug Administration health advisers recommended approval of
Epidiolex, moving the closely watched medication closer to the U.S.
market. (AP Photo/Kathy Young, File)
Washington (AP) - A medicine
made from the marijuana plant moved one step closer to U.S. approval
Thursday after federal health advisers endorsed it for the treatment of
severe seizures in children with epilepsy.
If the Food and Drug Administration
follows the group’s recommendation, GW Pharmaceuticals’ syrup would
become the first drug derived from the cannabis plant to win federal
approval in the U.S.
The 13-member FDA panel voted
unanimously in favor of the experimental medication made from a chemical
found in cannabis - one that does not get users high. The panelists
backed the drug based on three studies showing that it significantly
reduced seizures in children with two rare forms of childhood epilepsy.
“This is clearly a breakthrough
drug for an awful disease,” said panel member Dr. John Mendelson, of the
Friends Research Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.
The drug carries a potential risk
of liver damage, but panelists said doctors could monitor patients for
any signs. More common side effects included diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue
and sleep problems.
FDA regulators are due to make
their decision by late June. Approval would technically limit the drug,
called Epidiolex, to patients with hard-to-treat forms of epilepsy. But
doctors would have the option to prescribe it for other uses and it
could spur new pharmaceutical research and interest into other
More than two dozen states allow
marijuana use for a variety of ailments, but the FDA has not approved it
for any medical use. The FDA has approved synthetic versions of another
cannabis ingredient for other medical purposes.
Several patients and parents at
Thursday’s meeting spoke about the benefits of Epidiolex. Sam
Vogelstein, 16, said he experienced daily seizures - at times more than
100 per day - before enrolling in a study of the drug.
“I just went to South Africa for
two weeks without my parents on a school trip,” said Vogelstein, who
lives in Berkeley, California. “I would not have been able to do that if
I had not tried this medication.”
It’s not yet clear why the medicine
Epidiolex is essentially a
pharmaceutical-grade version of cannabidiol, or CBD oil, which some
parents have used for years to treat children with epilepsy. CBD is one
of more than 100 chemicals found in the cannabis plant and it doesn’t
contain THC, the ingredient that gives marijuana its mind-altering
CBD oil is currently sold online
and in specialty shops across the country, though its legal status
remains murky. Most producers say their oil is made from hemp, a form of
cannabis that contains little THC and can be legally farmed in a number
of states for clothing, food and other uses.
It’s unclear how FDA approval of a
CBD drug would affect products already on the market. Executives for the
British drugmaker GW Pharmaceuticals say their goal is to provide a more
standardized, research-backed version.
“We’re not looking to impact the
availability of other products on the market,” GW executive Steve
Schultz said before the meeting. “Our goal is to provide an additional
option for patients and physicians who desire a purified version of CBD
for treatment of seizures.”
The company declined to comment on
the price of the drug before the approval decision. Wall Street analysts
estimate it could cost more than $25,000 per year.
UN health agency: Dengue vaccine shouldn’t be used widely
The World Health Organization says
that the first-ever vaccine for dengue should mostly be given to
people who have previously been infected with the disease. (AP
Photo/Bullit Marquez, file)
London (AP) - The
World Health Organization says the first-ever vaccine for dengue
needs to be dealt with in “a much safer way,” meaning that the
shot should mostly be given to people who have previously been
infected with the disease.
In November, the vaccine’s
manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, said people who had never been
sickened by dengue before were at risk of developing a more
serious disease after getting the shot.
After a two-day meeting
this week, WHO’s independent vaccines group said it now had
proof the vaccine should only be used “exclusively or almost
exclusively in people who have already been infected with
The U.N. health agency said
a test should be developed so doctors would be able to quickly
tell if people had previously been sickened by dengue - but the
group acknowledged doing that so isn’t straightforward.
“We see significant
obstacles in using the vaccine this way, but we are confident
this also spurs the development of a rapid diagnostic test,”
said Dr. Joachim Hombach, executive secretary of WHO’s expert
group, during a news conference Thursday.
Sanofi said last year that
doctors should consider whether people might have been
previously infected with dengue before deciding whether they
should risk getting immunized. The company said it expected to
take a 100 million euro ($118 million) loss based on that news.
People who catch dengue
more than once can be at risk of a hemorrhagic version of the
disease. The mosquito-spread virus is found in tropical and
sub-tropical climates across Latin and South America, Asia,
Africa and elsewhere. It causes a flu-like disease that can
cause joint pain, nausea, vomiting and a rash. In severe cases,
dengue can result in breathing problems, hemorrhaging and organ
About half the world’s
population is at risk of dengue; WHO estimates that about 96
million people are sickened by the viral infection every year.
announcement last year, the Philippines halted its dengue
immunization program, the world’s first national vaccination
program for dengue. The government also demanded a refund of
more than 3 billion pesos ($59 million) from Sanofi and is
considering further legal action.
In February, the
Philippines said the vaccine was potentially linked to the
deaths of three people: all of them died of dengue despite
having received the vaccine.
The country imposed a
symbolic fine of $2,000 on Sanofi and suspended the vaccine’s
approval, charging that the drugmaker broke rules on how the
shot was registered and marketed.
More than 730,000 children
aged 9 and above in the Philippines have received at least one
dose of the dengue vaccine, usually delivered in three doses.
There is no specific
treatment for dengue and there are no other licensed vaccines on
April 28, 2018 - May 4, 2018
CDC: Drug-resistant ‘nightmare bacteria’ pose growing threat
Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, one of the
germs that can evolve to resist antibiotics. “Nightmare bacteria” with
unusual resistance to antibiotics of last resort were found more than
200 times in the United States last year. (CDC via AP, File)
“Nightmare bacteria” with unusual resistance to
antibiotics of last resort were found more than 200 times in the United
States last year in a first-of-a-kind hunt to see how much of a threat
these rare cases are becoming, health officials said Tuesday.
That’s more than they had expected to find, and the
true number is probably higher because the effort involved only certain
labs in each state, officials say.
The problem mostly strikes people in hospitals and
nursing homes who need IVs and other tubes that can get infected. In
many cases, others in close contact with these patients also harbored
the superbugs even though they weren’t sick - a risk for further spread.
Some of the sick patients had traveled for surgery
or other health care to another country where drug-resistant germs are
more common, and the superbug infections were discovered after they
returned to the U.S.
“Essentially, we found nightmare bacteria in your
backyard,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“These verge on untreatable infections” where the
only option may be supportive care - fluids and sometimes machines to
maintain life to give the patient a chance to recover, Schuchat said.
The situation was described in a CDC report.
Bugs and drugs are in a constant battle, as germs
evolve to resist new and old antibiotics. About 2 million Americans get
infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year and 23,000 die,
Concern has been growing about a rise in bacteria
resistant to all or most antibiotics. Last year, public health labs
around the country were asked to watch for and quickly respond to cases
of advanced antibiotic resistance, especially to some last-resort
antibiotics called carbapenems.
In the first nine months of the year, more than
5,770 samples were tested for these “nightmare bacteria,” as CDC calls
them, and one quarter were found to have genes that make them hard to
treat and easy to share their resistance tricks with other types of
bacteria. Of these, 221 had unusual genes that conferred resistance. The
cases were scattered throughout 27 states.
“Even in remote areas” this threat is real, because
patients often transfer to and from other places for care, said Dr. Jay
Butler, chief medical officer for the state of Alaska and past president
of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
Others in close contact with the infected patient
then were tested, and 11 percent were found to be carrying the same
superbugs even though they were not sick. This gives the bugs more of a
chance to spread.
What to do? CDC suggests:
- Tell your doctors if you recently had health care
in another country.
- Talk with them about preventing infections,
taking care of chronic conditions to help avoid them, and getting
vaccines to prevent them.
- Wash your hands regularly and keep cuts clean
Midlife ‘wealth shock’ may lead
to death, study suggests
Cut stacks of $100 bills make their way down the
line at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Western Currency Facility in
Fort Worth, Texas. Middle-aged Americans who experienced a sudden, large
economic blow were more likely to die during the following years than those
who didn’t. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Carla K. Johnson
A big financial loss may shorten your life, a new study
Middle-aged Americans who experienced a
sudden, large economic blow were more likely to die during the following
years than those who didn’t. The heightened danger of death after a
devastating loss, which researchers called a “wealth shock,” crossed
socio-economic lines, affecting people no matter how much money they had to
The analysis of nearly 9,000 people’s
experiences underscores well-known connections between money and well-being,
with prior studies linking lower incomes and rising income inequality with
more chronic disease and shorter life expectancy.
“This is really a story about
everybody,” said lead researcher Lindsay Pool of Northwestern University’s
medical school. Stress, delays in health care, substance abuse and suicides
may contribute, she said. “Policymakers should pay attention.”
Overall, wealth shock was tied with a
50 percent greater risk of dying, although the study couldn’t prove a
cause-and-effect connection. The study was published Tuesday in the
Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers analyzed two decades of
data from the Health and Retirement Study, which checks in every other year
with a group of people in their 50s and 60s and keeps track of who dies.
About 1 in 4 people in the study had a
wealth shock, which researchers defined as a loss of 75 percent or more in
net worth over two years. The average loss was about $100,000.
That could include a drop in the value
of investments or realized losses like a home foreclosure. Some shocks
happened during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Others happened before or
after. No matter what was going on in the greater U.S. economy, a wealth
shock still increased the chance of dying.
Women were more likely than men to have
a wealth shock. Once they did, their increased chance of dying was about the
same as the increase for men. Researchers adjusted for marital changes,
unemployment and health status. They still saw the connection between
financial crisis and death.
The effect was more marked if the
person lost a home as part of the wealth shock, and it was more pronounced
for people with fewer assets.
The findings suggest a wealth shock is
as dangerous as a new diagnosis of heart disease, wrote Dr. Alan Garber of
Harvard University in an accompanying editorial, noting that doctors need to
recognize how money hardships may affect their patients.
The findings come at a time when U.S.
life expectancy has dropped for two straight years.
“We should be doing everything we can
to prevent people from experiencing wealth shocks,” said Dr. Steven Woolf,
director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and
Health, who was not involved in the study.
What exactly to do, however, may take
more research, said Katherine Baicker, dean of the Harris School of Public
Policy at University of Chicago, who also was not involved in the study.
“We don’t yet know whether policies
that aim to protect people’s savings will have a direct effect on mortality
or not,” Baicker said. “But that’s not the only reason to try to protect