News in Brief

Antiretroviral gel researchers honoured

The US-based Drug Information Association (DIA) has, for its inaugural DIA President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in World Health, honoured the scientists involved in the Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) for their groundbreaking research on the gel form of the antiretroviral drug, Tenofovir, for the prevention of HIV infection in women. The award recognises the significant and innovative contributions of an individual, group of individuals, or organisation to the improvement of world health.

Voluntary blood donation increases

The number of countries collecting all their blood supplies from voluntary unpaid donors increased by more than 50% between 2002 and 2008, according to new global data from WHO, released on World Blood Donor Day, 14 June. This year's slogan, “More blood, more life” aims to encourage still more people to come forward to give blood and save more lives. “WHO’s goal is for all countries to obtain all blood supplies from voluntary unpaid donations by 2020,” says Dr Neelam Dhingra, Coordinator, Blood Transfusion Safety at WHO. Nine years ago, 39 countries were obtaining all their blood supplies from voluntary unpaid donors: in 2008 that figure had gone up to 62.

Funds for GAVI

GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) has been donated more than US$4 billion to support vaccination programmes through 2015 during a oneday pledging conference in London, 13 June. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated more than US$1 billion, Britain $1.3 billion and Australia $211 million. GAVI offers accelerated access to vaccines. UNICEF estimates that 2 million children die each year from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccination.

COPD inhaler could be cause for more deaths

People who use a mist inhaler to deliver a drug widely prescribed in more than 55 countries to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be 52% more likely to die according to research published by the British Medical Journal. It raises concerns not only about the mist inhaler – which delivers the soluble form of the medication tiotropium – but also about the drug itself. “What we think is going on is that the mist inhaler is delivering a higher concentration of tiotropium than it should be and that may be increasing the risk of death,” says Sonal Singh, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the lead author of the study. The increased deaths linked to the inhaler are primarily from cardiovascular disease.

Siemens Biograph mMR wins red dot design award

Siemens’ Biograph mMR (molecular MR) – the world´s first fully integrated magnetic resonance (MR) and positron emission tomography (PET) system, has won the red dot product design award 2011 and the Frost and Sullivan innovations award 2011. The red dot jury praised the Biograph mMR for its design quality; the Frost & Sullivan jury for its groundbreaking technological achievement, saying it was the most innovative new medical imaging product of 2010.
 

Global war on drugs has failed, says high-profile commission

   

The global war on drugs has failed and governments should explore legalising marijuana and other controlled substances, according to a Global Commission on Drug Policy report. The high-profile commission comprises former heads of state, a former UN secretary-general and business people. The Commission is the most distinguished group of high-level leaders ever to call for such far-reaching changes.

Their report argues that the decadesold “global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world”. The commission says the war on drugs has failed to cut drug usage, but has filled our jails, cost millions in tax payer dollars, fuelled organised crime and caused thousands of deaths.

“We need a new approach, one that takes the power out of the hands of organised crime and treats people with addiction problems like patients, not criminals,” the commission says in the report. Global Commission on Drug Policy report http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/Report



Social bookmarking site launched for physicians

A medical web design and marketing agency has officially launched the first social bookmarking website for physicians amidst the growing popularity of social networking and bookmarking websites: www.doctorbookmarks.com

The site provides physicians and other healthcare professional with the ability to share healthcare-related web content with others industry professionals who have similar interests. It allows users to create a user login identity and post links to medically relevant web content while other users “vote” on the value of the post. Voting gives other users a way to quickly find “popular” content, as rated by their peers. The home page allows visitors to easily see the most current posts.

Users can also comment, discuss, save the page, or share the content with a friend. User-posted content comes from a range of websites, including news sites like CNN.com or MSNBC.com, healthcare blogs, healthcare technology websites, Electronic Medical Record resources, and more. The site is currently moderated by the Medical Web Experts team, in order to provide relevant content to its users during the months following the site’s launch.

The site’s focus on bookmarking healthcare information offers doctors, nurses, and non-healthcare professionals alike an opportunity to share medical-related information. “By having a dedicated social bookmarking site for physicians, we’re presenting physician- related content that would not normally make it to the headlines in mainstream social bookmarking sites,” says John Deutsch, president and CEO of Medical Web Experts. DoctorBookMarks www.doctorbookmarks.com



Stillbirths could be halved

Preventing stillbirths can cost just US$2.32 per mother if governments, the private sector and international institutions adopt a package of 10 health interventions, rather than allowing stillbirths to be an almost invisible problem.

If 10 recommended interventions were 99% implemented in 68 priority [low and middle-income] countries, the number of stillbirths could be halved, said Professor Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta of the Aga Khan University Medical Centre in Karachi, Pakistan, author of one of a series of papers on stillbirth published in The Lancet.

Even if the interventions were 60% covered, stillbirths could be reduced by onequarter. Some 2.64 million foetuses die after the 28th week of pregnancy, mostly in lowand middle-income countries.

Interventions include:

- basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care

- skilled care at birth;

- detection and management of foetal growth restriction

- detection and management of hypertension in pregnancy

- elective induction in post-term pregnancies

- insecticide-treated bed nets and intermittent prophylaxis to prevent malaria

- detection and treatment of syphilis

- folic acid supplementation

- management of diabetes in pregnancy

The Lancet series hopes to change this perception by re-framing stillbirths so that they are not seen as an unexplained event that occurs in the womb, but as something that is potentially preventable if appropriate care is given during pregnancy and birth.

Bhutta suggested in his paper that cheaper solutions, such as improving antenatal care, preventing malaria, detecting and treating syphilis, be adopted immediately, while more expensive interventions, such as training health workers, and procuring equipment for emergency births, could be built up gradually.

Providing skilled attendants at birth would reduce intrapartum stillbirths by about 23%, said Dr Joy Lawn, of NGO Save the Children, making it the most effective single intervention. Almost half the women in low- and middle-income countries give birth at home, without any skilled assistance. The Lancet – Stillbirths www.thelancet.com/series/stillbirth



Court OKs Federal Stem Cell Funding

A US federal appeals court has given the Obama administration approval to resume funding for embryonic stem cell research. The contentious 2-1 decision on 29 April by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is a win for those supporting federally funded testing for a spectrum of illness and diseases. The court lifted the injunction imposed by a federal judge last year who ruled all embryonic stem cell research at the National Institutes of Health amounted to destruction of embryos, in violation of congressional spending laws.

Laws passed in 1996 ban the use of taxpayer money to create or destroy human embryos “for research purposes”. Private funding was used in the collection of developing cells at US-run laboratories. In 2009 the Obama administration split with the Bush White House, issuing new guidelines allowing those cells to be recreated in controlled environments and for work on them to proceed. White House officials allegedly disagree with several members of Congress concerning whether NIH research actually causes an embryo’s destruction prohibited by the Dickey-Wicker Act signed into law in 1995 by President Bill Clinton.


 

                                  
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