Physicians recognize new psychoactive substances as health threat

AMA, 12 June 2017
Author: Sara Berg
“New psychoactive substances (NPS) are quickly emerging, transient and difficult to track. While some coordinated public health responses have been used to combat NPS outbreaks, most strategies and solutions remain disconnected, lacking necessary information and data sharing capability. With the eruption of both illicit and synthetic drugs, as well as a lack of regulation, physicians are also searching for further education to aid in treating patients. Delegates at the 2017 AMA Annual Meeting voted to support multifaceted, multiagency approaches to combat NPS.”
Find article here.

Medical device theft at SSM Health puts data on 836 patients at risk

Information Management, 30 May 2017
Author: Joseph Goedert
“A medical device that records physiological data was stolen on April 12 from SSM Health Orthopedics, which operates out of SSM Health-owned DePaul Hospital in St. Louis, potentially affecting the data of 836 patients. The organization said the medical device, which looks similar to a laptop computer, contained in its memory some physiological data as well as protected health information from patients who participated in a study between 2002 and 2017. The organization notified the patients that some of their protected health information has been compromised.”
Find article here.

ACCC takes health insurer to court

Herald Sun, 30 May 2017
Author: Stuart Condie
“The consumer watchdog has launched legal action against Nib over allegations the health insurer failed to tell customers they were suddenly liable for some out-of-pocket costs. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on Tuesday said it believed Nib contravened Australian Consumer Law in 2015. At the time, the health insurer failed to give its members advance notice of a decision to remove certain eye procedures from a program where the ­insurer paid gap amounts to doctors. Elderly patients were among those most affected, the watchdog said.”
Find article here.

Disease-awareness ads lead to overdiagnosis, boost Rx sales

ModernHealthcare, 22 May 2017
Author: Alex Kacik
“Ads that try to bring awareness of diseases boost prescription drug sales and over diagnosis in the U.S., according to a new study. There is a fine line between direct-to-consumer drug ads, which the Food and Drug Administration regulates, and ads meant to create disease awareness that often skirt the purview of the FDA, per the article published in JAMA. Disease awareness advertisements, particularly for conditions that only have one approved drug treatment, can bolster drug sales and lead to “inappropriate” prescriptions as patients turn to their doctors and request the drugs they see advertised.”
Find article here.

The controversy over statins has revealed something: the nocebo effect is real

The Guardian, 4 May 2017
Author: Ann Robinson
“A new study shows that media-fuelled controversy among health experts has dented public confidence in the cholesterol-lowering drugs that prevent 80,000 heart attacks and strokes every year in the UK. The benefits far outweigh the harm from rare side-effects, according to a review of the evidence in the Lancet medical journal. But 200,000 people stopped taking their statins in 2013 following six months of “disputed research and tendentious opinion” on their potential side-effects.”
Find article here.

New evidence in France of harm from epilepsy drug valproate

BBC, 21 April 2017
Source: BBC News
“A drug given to pregnant women for epilepsy and bipolar disorder caused “serious malformations” in up to 4,100 children, a French study suggests. Introduced in France in 1967, valproate is prescribed widely worldwide. Doctors in France are now advised not to give it to girls, women of childbearing age and pregnant women. Some families of children with birth defects born to women who took the drug while pregnant have sued Sanofi, saying that it did not adequately warn about the risks.”
Find article here.

Do patients and doctors understand breast cancer genetic testing results?

Reuters, 19 April 2017
Author: Will Boggs
“If you have early-stage breast cancer and have undergone genetic testing, the odds are high that the results were not explained to you by a genetic counselor, and chances are, the results did not affect your surgeon’s recommendations for treatment, according to a recent U.S. study. Expert guidelines increasingly call for genetic testing to identify the presence of inherited mutations. But it’s not clear if patients or their doctors are using the results to make informed treatment choices.”
Find article here.

Italy experiencing measles epidemic after fall-off in vaccinations

The Guardian, 20 April 2017
Source: Reuters
“Italy is experiencing a measles epidemic following a fall-off in vaccinations. The Italian health ministry said on Wednesday there had been almost 1,500 registered cases of measles so far this year against some 840 in all of 2016 and some 250 in 2015. The Higher Health Institute says only around 85% of two-year-olds are being vaccinated against measles at present, well below the 95% threshold recommended by the World Health Organisation to block the illness.”
Find article here.

A critique of the regulation of data science in healthcare research in the European Union

BMC Medical Ethics 2017 18:27
Authors: John M. M. Rumbold, Barbara K. Pierscionek
“The EU offers a suitable milieu for the comparison and harmonisation of healthcare across different languages, cultures, and jurisdictions (albeit with a supranational legal framework), which could provide improvements in healthcare standards across the bloc. There are specific ethico-legal issues with the use of data in healthcare research that mandate a different approach from other forms of research. The use of healthcare data over a long period of time is similar to the use of tissue in biobanks. There is a low risk to subjects but it is impossible to gain specific informed consent given the future possibilities for research. Large amounts of data on a subject present a finite risk of re-identification.”
Find article here.

Alberta rushed $10-million grant, eliminated ethical oversight, for unproven health program

CBC, 4 April 2017
Authors: Jennie Russell, Charles Rusnell
“Six days before Alberta Health rushed to deliver a $10-million grant to a private alternative-health foundation, the ministry abruptly changed the grant’s purpose, eliminating the need for ethics approval for what experts say was a human-subject experiment on thousands of Alberta seniors. The decision was made against the advice of officials from several ministries who had determined the Pure North program was not adequately supported by scientific evidence, could not prove the incredible health and economic benefits it claimed, and could cause adverse health effects in participants.”
Find article here.