World Health Organization Pushes for E-Cigarette Regulation Without Conclusive Evidence of Future Hazards

The World Health Organization (“WHO”) is pushing for tighter restrictions on electronic cigarettes (“E-Cigarettes”). E-Cigarettes heat nicotine solution for the user to inhale. Manufacturers, claiming users merely inhale harmless water vapor, market the devices as a “safer” alternative to smoking. No conclusive study has shown that E-Cigarettes are a health hazard. However, the WHO points to independent studies showing large “variations” in toxicity and emission levels among the rapidly growing number of E-cigarette brands. In light of these “variations,” coupled with the steep rise in adolescent use, the organization has called for E-Cigarettes to be treated like other tobacco products on the market. The WHO suggests that E-cigarettes should not be marketed as aids for quitting smoking, that indoor use should be prohibited, and that minors should be restricted from purchasing E-cigarettes.

Read more here.

Study Shows New Nerve Treatment Doesn’t Have the Side Effects of Traditional Treatments

Traditionally, doctors have relied on two techniques to treat jagged nerve injuries that cause gaps in nerves. One technique is called a “nerve autograft” which takes nerve tissue from one part of the patient’s body and uses it to repair the injured nerve. However, because the nerve used to repair the injured nerve is harvested from another part of the patient’s body, the harvest site experiences a “nerve deficit.” The other approach is to use a “nerve conduit,” a synthetic tube that fills the gap in the nerve. A nerve conduit may cause problems for the patient because implants can be rejected by the patent’s body or become infected.

However, a recent study conducted by Dr. Brian Ringer suggests that a new treatment known as a “nerve allograph” can repair the gap in a severed nerve without the side effects of the two traditional methods of treatment. An allograft uses an actual human nerve, taken from a cadaver, to repair the patient’s nerve injury. The study found less foreign body reactions and infections when compared to nerve conduit operations, and the technique does not leave the patient with a nerve deficit somewhere else in the body.

Read more here.

Baby Pictures Banned by Patient Privacy Laws

It is not uncommon to see snapshots of newborns adorning the walls of an obstetrician’s office. However, more and more doctors are removing baby photos from their walls in order to comply with one interpretation of the federal patient privacy law known as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPPA”)which does not distinguish between “a patient’s photograph and a medical chart.” Pursuant to this interpretation, a doctor must first obtain “specific authorization from the patient or personal representative” before hanging a photo in a public area. Even though it could be implied that a parent has given authorization by sending a photo, the law does not provide a “concept of implied authorization for this type of use.”

Read more here.

FDA Approves New “At Home” Colon Cancer Screening Test

The FDA recently approved a new “at home” colon cancer screening test known as Cologuard after it outperformed fecal immunalchemical testing (FIT), which was previously “the most reliable stool test on the market.” In a study comparing the two tests, Cologuard “accurately detected cancers and advanced adenomas” more often than FIT, and is the first test that detects “DNA mutations, as well as blood” to screen for cancerous growths. However, Cologuard detects more abnormalities that end up not being cancer than FIT. In fact 13% of those who used Cologuard received a false positive compared to FIT’s 5%.

Read more here.

Cyber Attack Community Health’s Data Base Affects 4.5 Million Patients

Hospital operating company Community Health, Inc. recently announced it was the target of a “highly sophisticated malware and technology attack” during the months of April and June. The attack is believed to have originated in China, ultimately affecting about 4.5 million people. The hacker was able to bypass the company’s security measures and copy data including “patient names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers, and social security numbers.” The information taken was described as being solely “non-medical,” Patient medical information, as well as credit card numbers were allegedly not compromised. The company has begun to notify patients of the breach and is offering identity theft protection to affected patients.

Read more here.

Stress May Be Passed Down Through Generations

BMC Medicine, an open-access, online medical journal, recently published the results of a study indicating that stress during pregnancy may stretch across generations. Researchers subjected late-term, pregnant rats to high levels of stress, which in turn caused shorter pregnancies. Then, the researchers separated the next two generations of female rats into two groups. Group one was subjected to stress during pregnancy; group two was not subjected to stress. Both groups showed shorter pregnancies than rats whose ancestors were not stressed during their pregnancies. Thus, the study suggests that stress during pregnancy can be passed along to future generations, even causing shorter pregnancies for mothers who did not suffer high amounts of stress during pregnancy.

Read more here.

Wal-Mart Wants to Be Your Primary Care Doctor

Recently, Wal-Mart has begun promoting itself as a “primary medical provider” in order to sway customers into becoming patients. The retail giant has opened five primary care facility clinics in South Carolina and Texas, with plans to double the number of clinics by the end of the year.   Wal-Mart is using its “vast rural footprint” to bring primary care to areas of the country where people have limited access. CVS and Walgreens already offer some medical services, but unlike Wal-Mart, they are not equipped to treat patients as a primary medical provider.

Wal-Mart relies on physicians to supervise the clinics’ operations rather than actually to treat patients. Medical assistants and nurse practitioners will administer the bulk of the patient care. Wal-Mart’s focus is becoming the first stop for patients, but some experts are concerned that stores like Wal-Mart will be unable to provide care for more complex medical issues.

Read more here.

Arizona Prisoner’s 2-Hour Execution Involved Controversial Combination of Drugs

The recent execution of Arizona inmate, Joseph R. Wood III, has some people questioning the use of lethal injection. The injection used on Mr. Wood was a combination of midazolam and hydromorphone. It is the same combination that was used during an execution in Ohio; witnesses to the Ohio executive claimed that the prisoner was gasping for air. Lethal injection normally takes about “10-15 minutes,” but Wood’s execution dragged on for nearly 2 hours. Some witnesses allege that Mr. Wood was “repeatedly gasping” for air, while Arizona officials stated that he was “comatose” throughout the entire execution.

Read more here.

Shift Workers Experience 9% Increase of Type 2 Diabetes

Chinese researchers recently reported that “shift workers” are 9% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes when compared to people that work “regular office hours.” The increase was shown to be even more dramatic for men and women who work “rotating shifts.” Those working rotating shifts had a 42% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers attributed the increased risk to weight gain caused by “disputed sleep patterns and inconsistent hormone levels.”

Read more here.

“Cure” HIV by Speeding Up the Virus’ Mutation?

It has been fifteen years since MIT professor John Essigmann proposed that in order to fight HIV, drugs should be developed that drastically increase the rate of the virus’ mutation. Essigmann’s idea has lead to the current use of inhibitors (drugs that force cells to mutate so quickly they weaken) for HIV treatment. Once HIV infects a cell, it “rapidly makes copies of its genetic material.” Rapid copying causes errors allowing the virus to mutate quickly and evade the immune system. Essigmann hypothesized that the virus could be starved of essential proteins if the mutation process is increased to an even more rapid pace, eventually killing the virus. Current HIV treatments fight the virus using Essigmann’s 15-year old idea of forcing cells to mutate at unsustainable rates, but researchers have not yet been able to completely “cure” patients.

Read more here.