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Should Patients Have to Opt Out of Electronic Records?

Public HealthJun 30 06

The potential benefits of sharing patient electronic records within health systems are broadly agreed, but concerns remain over patient consent and security. Experts in this week’s BMJ discuss how patients should consent to use of electronic records in the NHS and how the data can be kept secure.

There are two broad schools of thought. The first (the opt-out model) is for the public to be informed of the NHS care records service and to be given a chance to opt out if they do not want their clinical records shared within the NHS. The second model is for no sharing to occur until people have expressed their desire to share their clinical records within the NHS (the opt-in model).

Nigel Watson, Chief Executive of Wessex Local Medical Committees, has experienced an opt-out approach and believes that this is the way forward.

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Research into Parkinson’s Disease receives a boost

NeurologyJun 30 06

Research into Parkinson’s Disease at the University of Dundee has received a boost from a fundraising campaign organised by the Falkirk Branch of the Parkinson’s Disease Society.

In 2005 over 100 people participated in a sponsored walk using the local canal network around Falkirk as a route and raised ?5,500 for research into the disease.

Dr Anton Gartner, a Principal Investigator in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee will be presented with the cheque on 29 June 2006 by Dr Richard Lenton, the President of the Falkirk Branch of the Parkinson’s Disease Society and a Consultant Geriatrician at Falkirk Infirmary.

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Gen-Probe and Bayer to settle patent disputes

Public HealthJun 30 06

Gen-Probe has announced that Bayer HealthCare LLC has agreed to end a series of disputes involving multiple patent litigations and contract arbitrations.

Under the binding terms of the agreement, Gen-Probe will withdraw its patent litigation against Bayer and will grant Bayer immunity from suit with respect to all existing and future Gen-Probe patents for all of Bayer’s current nucleic acid diagnostic products. Further, future Bayer products will be immune from suit under four specified Gen-Probe patent families. Also, Bayer will grant Gen-Probe immunity from suit under certain Bayer patents with respect to Gen-Probe’s current TIGRIS instrument and future instruments. As part of the agreement, Bayer will pay Gen-Probe certain lump sum royalties over the next 18 months.

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CDC’s advisory committee recommends changes in varicella vaccinations

InfectionsJun 30 06

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in its meeting in Atlanta today, voted to recommend a second dose of varicella (chickenpox) vaccine for children four to six years old to further improve protection against the disease.

The first dose of varicella vaccine is recommended at 12 to 18 months old.

Fifteen to 20 percent of children who have received one dose of the vaccine are not fully protected and may develop chickenpox after coming in contact with varicella zoster virus. Additionally, one dose of the vaccine may not continue to provide protection into adulthood when chickenpox is more severe. A second dose of varicella vaccine provides increased protection against varicella disease compared to one-dose. The ACIP also recommended that children, adolescents and adults who previously received one dose should receive a second dose.

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Probable cause for Parkinson’s found

NeurologyJun 29 06

Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease and other brain disorders are among a growing list of maladies attributed to oxidative stress, the cell damage caused during metabolism when the oxygen in the body assumes ever more chemically reactive forms.

But the precise connection between oxidation and neurodegenerative diseases has eluded researchers. Now, a study by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine reveals that damage is linked to a natural byproduct of oxidation called nitration.

“We looked at a healthy brain and found nitration of proteins that are implicated in neurodegenerative disease,” said Colette Sacksteder, PNNL scientist and lead author of the study, published in the July issue of the journal Biochemistry. PNNL scientist Wei-Jun Qian was co-lead author.

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HPV testing improves cervical cancer screening

CancerJun 29 06

Testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) may be a useful first step for cervical cancer screening in women younger than 35 years, preliminary findings indicate.

Testing for HPV is better than standard cell testing at picking up pre-cancerous changes, but it is also more likely to yield false results. This is particularly true among young women, where there is a higher rate of infection, Dr. Guglielmo Ronco explained in comments to Reuters Health.

Using the strategy of HPV testing first, followed by cervical cell examination if needed, “we showed that it is possible to have a relevant increase” in pre-cancer detection without increasing the false results, even among young women, said Ronco, from the Centre for Cancer Prevention in Turin, Italy.

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Europe may have delay and shortage of flu vaccine

FluJun 29 06

The UK’s general practitioners (GPs) were warned on Thursday to expect delays and possible shortages of the seasonal influenza vaccine as manufacturers struggle to produce one of the strains needed for this year’s product.

In a letter sent to GPs today, England’s Chief Medical Officer, Liam Donaldson congratulates them on vaccinating a record number of people in 2005, but warns that problems lie ahead this year.

The Department of Health (DoH) said: “The letter also informs GPs of the latest situation on vaccine supply for the forthcoming flu season. This follows advice from the UK Vaccine Industry Group (UVIG) that there are likely to be Europe-wide delays in deliveries of influenza vaccine and that there may be shortages, as manufacturers are encountering problems growing one of the vaccine virus strains recommended for this year’s seasonal flu vaccine.”

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Magnetic stimulation helps with stroke rehab

StrokeJun 29 06

As a rehabilitation technique for stroke, repetitive magnetic stimulation of the brain, or “rTMS,” can improve patient movement on the side of the body affected by the stroke.

With rTMS, a magnet is used to slow nerve activity on the side of the brain not affected by the stroke. Previous research has suggested that after a stroke, the unaffected side becomes hyperactive, sending signals to the affected side that actually impair the patient’s ability to move the arms and legs.

The findings, from a study reported in the journal Stroke, indicate that the magnitude and duration of movement benefits can be safely increased after more than one rTMS session. With five consecutive sessions, sustained improvements in movement in stroke patients were noted over the 2-week study period.

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Researchers discover new cell structures

Public HealthJun 29 06

Carnegie Mellon University researchers Kris Noel Dahl and Mohammad F. Islam have made a new breakthrough for children suffering from an extremely rare disease that accelerates the aging process by about seven times the normal rate.

Dahl, an assistant professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon, said her work with researchers at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the John Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania reveals that children suffering from Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS) have an excessively stiff shell of proteins.

The nucleus in all three trillion cells of the human body contains the DNA genome, which is wrapped with a stiff protein shell called the nuclear lamina. Children with HGPS have a mutation in one of the proteins of the lamina shell. For years, experts have thought this mutation made their nuclei much softer and more likely to be ruptured when cells were under stress.

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Australian team test new bird flu vaccine

FluJun 29 06

Australian researchers have begun a trial to test the effectiveness of a new vaccine to protect against the potentially deadly bird flu.

The Vaccine Trials Group at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and Princess Margaret Hospital for Children is recruiting 150 adult volunteers to participate in the study.

Study leader, Dr Peter Richmond, said the Australian-developed vaccine has shown encouraging results in early trials.

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Rich folks get more sleep - blacks and men get less

Sleep AidJun 29 06

In a study of sleep characteristics in 669 adults in Chicago who were compared by sex and race, investigators found that blacks got less sleep than whites, while men got less sleep than women.

Furthermore, the wealthier you are, the more sleep you’re likely to get, Dr. Diane S. Lauderdale of the University of Chicago and her colleagues found.

“There was an expectation that people with very demanding jobs in terms of high status, high income, would be getting less sleep, and that was not true,” Lauderdale told Reuters Health in an interview. The findings could help explain why blacks suffer from more health problems than whites, she added.

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Babies to be tested after London hospital worker is stricken with TB

Public HealthJun 29 06

Following the discovery that a London hospital health worker has been found to have tuberculosis (TB), more than 200 babies are to be tested for the disease.

The health worker who was diagnosed with TB in March may have been ill since last December and it is very unlikely that the person has infected others at the hospital.

However the families of 213 babies treated on a postnatal ward at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Obstetric Hospital in London have been advised to have their babies screened.

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New sleep medication Ramelteon shows less potential to foster abuse and dependence

Sleep AidJun 28 06

As part of the effort to develop effective behavioral and medical sleep therapies, scientists consider the potential for dependence and abuse associated with prescription sleep drugs.

This line of research has produced findings showing that a recently approved prescription sleep drug may spare users the potential for dependence and abuse found with other sleep aids. Laboratory studies of the effects of ramelteon suggest that the drug’s targeting of the brain’s melatonin receptors rather than its benzodiazepine receptors make its subjective side effects different from those of old and new sedative hypnotics. The research is reported in the June issue of Behavioral Neuroscience, which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

At the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, pharmacology researchers led by Charles P. France, PhD, assessed whether ramelteon instigated the same kinds of broad cognitive effects as other, more commonly prescribed sleep aids. That other group includes traditional hypnotics and newer drugs such as zaleplon (Sonata) and zolpidem (Ambien), all of which bind to the brain’s benzodiazepine receptors and may result in impaired thinking, hangover, withdrawal symptoms and rebound insomnia.

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Superbug outbreaks linked to unlicensed tattooing

Skin CareJun 28 06

People who get tattoos from unlicensed sources are at risk of developing a drug-resistant bacterial skin infection, federal health officials warn.

Six recent outbreaks of infections with this “superbug,” methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have been traced to unlicensed tattoo artists, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

MRSA infection typically manifests as abscesses or areas of inflammation on the skin, though it can also lead to more serious problems such as pneumonia, blood infections or, in some cases, necrotizing fasciitis, also referred to as the “flesh-eating disease.”

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First-in-class biologics poised to drive malignant melanoma drug market

Drug NewsJun 28 06

Decision Resources, Inc., a research and advisory firm focusing on pharmaceutical and healthcare issues, finds that first-in-class targeted biologics will enter the malignant melanoma market during the next five years.

Their premium price and robust uptake (as a result of the current lack of efficacious therapies) will drive market expansion.

According to the new Pharmacor report entitled Malignant Melanoma, Medarex/Bristol-Myers Squibb’s ipilimumab and Pfizer’s ticilimumab will be the first monoclonal antibodies to launch for the treatment of malignant melanoma.

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