Health and Fitness Sat, 03 Oct 2015 22:10:33 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-us Opt-Outs Abound as Majority of EU Says No to GMOs

15 out of 28 European Union member states declare their intention to send territorial exclusionary requests to agrochem companies

EU--(ENEWSPF)--October 2, 2015
The majority of EU governments are "rejecting the Commission's drive for GM crop approvals," Greenpeace EU said. (Photo: European Parliament/flickr/cc)

On the eve of the European Union's deadline for member states and territories to declare their stance on allowing or banning genetically modified (GM or GMO) crops, more than half of EU countries are asking to opt out—a total of 15 out of 28 members, according to the latest count by the European Commission.

The governments, including those of Germany and Scotland, are utilizing new EU rules which allow member states to send territorial exclusion requests to agrochemical manufacturers like Dow, Monsanto, Syngenta, and Pioneer—even if their crops snag wider EU approval.

As of October 2, the list of members opting out also includes Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Belgium's Wallonia region, and Wales and Northern Ireland in the UK.

By invoking those rights, Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said, the majority of EU governments are "rejecting the Commission's drive for GM crop approvals."

"The only way to restore trust in the EU system now is for the Commission to hit the pause button on GM crop approvals and to urgently reform safety testing and the approval system," Achterberg said.

In European Parliament, Green food safety spokesperson Bart Staes said, "The resolve of these EU member states to ban GMO cultivation on their territory is laudable. It confirms what we already know: that a clear majority in Europe is opposed to genetically-modified crops. It is clearly regrettable that the Commission and some member states want to push ahead with GMO cultivation in spite of the myriad of problems this poses, also cross border."

Currently, only one GMO crop is cleared for cultivation in Europe—Monsanto's MON810 maize—but seven more varieties are under consideration by the Commission. The EU rules allow member states to ban all eight.

The opt-outs only cover the cultivation of GMO crops, rather than importing of GMO products. The EU has approved 70 GMO products, including human food, animal feed, and cut flowers.

Negotiations for a strategy that would allow member states to ban GMO imports in their border-free territories are still under way. If such a plan is approved by the European Parliament's environmental committee at its meeting next month, it could bring even more substantial changes.

The widespread opposition to GMOs has blocked the Commission from authorizing new strands of crops for years, even as a smaller number of countries, such as Spain and England, push for their approval. The opt-outs emerged as a compromise to that division after years of negotiations between member states.

Unsurprisingly, agrochemical companies opposed the deal and expressed their disappointment with the swift and far-reaching opt-outs. Biotechnology lobbyist group Europabio said the rules send a "negative signal for all innovative industries considering investing in Europe."

As Common Dreams has previously reported, the new laws have gotten a mixed reception from food safety advocates who say the EU may in fact be empowering agribusiness companies while failing to protect organic farmers:

Among the law's weaknesses, environmental groups say biotech companies are given the power to negotiate with individual countries who seek a ban in a particular territory or geographic area.

[....] If a government does not first seek permission from the GMO manufacturer, it must enact a national ban on one of the following grounds: environmental policy objectives, town and country planning, land use, socio-economic impacts, avoidance of GMO crop presence in other products, agricultural policy objectives, or public policy. Notably, a country is not permitted to ban GMOs on the grounds of environmental concerns—an exclusion that Greenpeace warns could have "serious consequences."

Nonetheless, green groups called on EU members to take the options available to them and ban GMO crops.

Now, Staes said, it is "imperative that the Commission and the minority of pro-GMO governments both respect and actively support all those EU governments that have opted to ban GMO cultivation. There are serious concerns that the legal framework for these opt-outs, under the EU rules finalised earlier this year, is not watertight. This could leave governments subject to challenges by biotech corporations. Those member states opting-out of GMO authorisations must therefore have the full support of the Commission and other EU governments.

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the Commission, in July 2014 said that member states should not be forced to accept GMO crops if the majority of governments disapprove of them.

As of their October 3 deadline, it seems that is officially the case.


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]]> (Press Release) Health and Fitness Fri, 02 Oct 2015 22:25:11 -0500
FDA Approves Keytruda for Advanced Non-small Cell Lung Cancer

First drug approved in lung cancer for patients whose tumors express PD-L1

Silver Spring, Maryland--(ENEWSPF)--October 1, 2015. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today granted accelerated approval for Keytruda (pembrolizumab) to treat patients with advanced (metastatic) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose disease has progressed after other treatments and with tumors that express a protein called PD-L1. Keytruda is approved for use with a companion diagnostic, the PD-L1 IHC 22C3 pharmDx test, the first test designed to detect PD-L1 expression in non-small cell lung tumors.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with an estimated 221,200 new diagnoses and 158,040 deaths in 2015, according to the National Cancer Institute. NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer.“Our growing understanding of underlying molecular pathways and how our immune system interacts with cancer is leading to important advances in medicine,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Today’s approval of Keytruda gives physicians the ability to target specific patients who may be most likely to benefit from this drug.”

Keytruda works by targeting the cellular pathway known as PD-1/PD-L1 (proteins found on the body’s immune cells and some cancer cells). By blocking this pathway, Keytruda may help the body’s immune system fight the cancer cells. In 2014, Keytruda was approved to treat patients with advanced melanoma following treatment with ipilimumab, a type of immunotherapy. Another drug, Opdivo (nivolumab), manufactured by Bristol-Meyers Squibb, also targets the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway and was approved to treat squamous non-small cell lung cancer (a certain kind of NSCLC) in 2015.

The safety of Keytruda was studied in 550 patients with advanced NSCLC. The most common side effects of Keytruda included fatigue, decreased appetite, shortness of breath or impaired breathing (dyspnea) and cough. Keytruda also has the potential to cause severe side effects that result from the immune system effect of Keytruda (known as “immune-mediated side effects”).

The effectiveness of Keytruda for this use was demonstrated in a subgroup of 61 patients enrolled within a larger multicenter, open-label, multi-part study. The subgroup consisted of patients with advanced NSCLC that progressed following platinum-based chemotherapy or, if appropriate, targeted therapy for certain genetic mutations (ALK or EGFR). This subgroup also had PD-L1 positive tumors based on the results of the 22C3 pharmDx diagnostic test. Study participants received 10 mg/kg of Keytruda every two or three weeks. The major outcome measure was overall response rate (percentage of patients who experienced complete and partial shrinkage of their tumors). Tumors shrank in 41 percent of patients treated with Keytruda and the effect lasted between 2.1 and 9.1 months.                                                                                                         

In the 550 study participants with advanced NSCLC, severe immune-mediated side effects occurred involving the lungs, colon and hormone-producing glands. Other uncommon immune-mediated side effects were rash and inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis). Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take Keytruda because it may cause harm to a developing fetus or newborn baby. Across clinical studies, a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system (Guillain-Barre Syndrome) also occurred.

The FDA granted Keytruda breakthrough therapy designation for this indication because Merck demonstrated through preliminary clinical evidence that the drug may offer a substantial improvement over available therapies. The drug also received priority review status, which is granted to drugs that, at the time the application was submitted, have the potential to be a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness in the treatment of a serious condition.

Keytruda was approved under the agency’s accelerated approval program, which allows the approval of a drug to treat a serious or life-threatening disease based on clinical data showing the drug has an effect on a surrogate endpoint reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit to patients. This program provides earlier patient access to promising new drugs while the company conducts confirmatory clinical trials. An improvement in survival or disease-related symptoms in patients being treated with Keytruda has not yet been established.

Keytruda is marketed by Merck & Co., based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey and the PD-L1 IHC 22C3 pharmDx diagnostic test is marketed by Dako North America Inc. in Carpinteria, California.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, promotes and protects the public health by, among other things, assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.



]]> (Press Release) Health and Fitness Fri, 02 Oct 2015 21:32:21 -0500
Study: Daily Cannabis Use Is Safe, Effective For Chronic Pain

Study: Daily Cannabis Use Is Safe, Effective For Chronic Pain

Montreal, Canada--(ENEWSPF)--October 2, 2015. Chronic pain patients who use herbal cannabis daily for one-year report reduced discomfort and increased quality of life compared to controls, and do not experience an increased risk of serious side effects, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Pain.

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal assessed the long-term health of 216 medicinal cannabis patients with chronic non-cancer pain who consumed a standardized, daily dose (12.5 percent THC) of herbal cannabis compared to 215 controls (chronic pain suffers who did not use cannabis). Subjects in study were approved by Health Canada to legally use medicinal cannabis and consumed, on average, 2.5 grams of herb per day, typically via inhalation or vaporization.

Investigators reported that daily cannabis consumers possessed no greater risk than non-users of experiencing "serious adverse events."

Specifically, researchers identified no significant adverse changes in consumers' cognitive skills, pulmonary function, or blood work following one-year of daily cannabis consumption. Medical cannabis consumers did report elevated risk of experiencing "non-serious adverse events" (e.g., cough, dizziness, paranoia) compared to controls; however, authors classified these effects to be "mild to moderate."

Pain patients who used cannabis reported a reduced sense of pain compared to controls, as well as mitigation of anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

"Quality-controlled herbal cannabis, when used by cannabis-experienced patients as part of a monitored treatment program over one year, appears to have a reasonable safety profile," authors concluded.

The study is one of the first to ever assess the long-term safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis. A prior health review of patients receiving cannabis monthly from the US federal government as part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program similarly reported that it possesses therapeutic efficacy and an acceptable side-effect profile.

Full text of the study, "Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study," appears in The Journal of Pain.



]]> (Press Release) Health and Fitness Fri, 02 Oct 2015 17:13:03 -0500
New Lawsuit Challenges Two Oklahoma Laws That Delay Women's Health Care and Criminalize Doctors

OKLAHOMA--(ENEWSPF)--October 2, 2015.  The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a new lawsuit in state district court today challenging two Oklahoma measures which threaten to make safe and legal abortion even harder to obtain in a state with only two abortion providers.

The first measure bans the most commonly used method of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester—which could force some women to either undergo additional invasive unnecessary procedures, incur additional costs, delay their care, or even lose access to abortion services entirely.  HB 1721 mirrors a Kansas measure which was signed by Governor Sam Brownback in April 2015 over the objections of local and national medical experts, including over 20 area physicians  The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the Kansas measure in June and a state court judge blocked it from taking effect a few weeks later.

The second measure triples the state’s mandatory waiting period from 24 to 72 hours for all women seeking abortion services--making Oklahoma the fifth U.S. state to force women to delay constitutionally protected health care for at least three days. 

Both measures were signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin this past spring and are slated to take effect on November 1, 2015.

“Oklahoma politicians have made it their mission to block women from safe and legal abortion when they need it most, trampling the rights afforded to women by their state constitution in the process,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “When faced with an unintended pregnancy, Oklahoma women need high-quality care, not forced delays or measures that criminalize their doctors.

“Oklahoma women have had to go to court a shocking eight times in the last five years to protect their basic health and rights. This is simply unacceptable.

“We look to the district court to once again step in and block these unconstitutional measures to protect Oklahoma women’s health, futures, and lives.” 

From clinic shutdown laws—which have closed clinics in Texas and threaten to shutter abortion providers in LouisianaMississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama—to outright bans on abortion and mandatory delays, women in the South face innumerable hurdles when trying to access their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services.  Oklahoma women face many of these challenges, with only two clinics providing safe and legal abortion services in the entire state. Rather than focusing on increasing the number of policies that are known to support women and children, politicians in Oklahoma have spent their time enacting abortion restrictions that do nothing to improve women’s health and safety.

Today’s filing is the eighth time in five years that the Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged unconstitutional restrictions on abortion in Oklahoma, including a lawsuit filed last week challenging an omnibus measure that blatantly violates the Oklahoma Constitution.  The Center is also challenging the state’s Texas-style clinic shutdown law and most recently passed restrictions on medication abortion.  The state Supreme Court temporarily blocked the clinic shutdown law from taking effect in November 2014 and a state court permanently blocked the restrictions on medication abortion last month.

Autumn Katz and Tiseme Zegeye of the Center for Reproductive Rights and Blake Patton of Walding & Patton filed today’s challenge on behalf of Reproductive Services, a Tulsa reproductive health provider with over 41 years of experience providing safe and legal abortion to Oklahoma women.



]]> (Press Release) Health and Fitness Fri, 02 Oct 2015 17:01:38 -0500
CDC Unveils Redesigned Healthy Pets Healthy People Website
Young girl with her mom holding a hen

Atlanta, GA--(ENEWSPF)--October 2, 2015.  CDC today launched its redesigned Healthy Pets Healthy People website, with expanded information about diseases people can catch from pets, farm animals, and wildlife. Users can now search alphabetically by animal and learn which zoonotic diseases they may carry. It is a unique “one-stop shop” where people can learn simple actions to protect themselves – and their pets.

The redesigned website offers:

An alphabetized list and description of diseases that can spread from animals to humans.

A list of animal species with the description of diseases associated with the animal.

Specific groups of people that may be more susceptible to diseases from animals.

Tips for preventing illnesses acquired from pets and other animals.

Detailed information about the health benefits of owning a pet.

Approximately 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting people began as diseases in animals. In recent years, CDC has responded to many illness outbreaks associated with people’s contact with animals. These include Ebola, avian influenza, and salmonella.

CDC is officially launching the redesigned website to coincide with World Animal Day on Oct.  4, a day that celebrates the importance of animals and the bonds that people share with them.

“Pets play an important part in many of our lives. CDC recognizes the health benefits of keeping pets and the importance of the human-animal bond,” said Heather Bair-Brake, M.S., D.V.M., CDC veterinarian. “The Healthy Pets Healthy People website was created to educate pet owners about some of the risks associated with animals and to provide tips on how they can be safe with their pets.”

Through the “Animal Tales” section, visitors can read stories that explore the rich connections between animals and people. The Animal Tales offer a closer look at how animals are positively affecting human lives. As the stories unfold, they provide tips and valuable information on how to protect against diseases that can spread from pets and other animals.

The redesigned website also includes specific precautions that people with weakened immune systems, children, and pregnant women should take when interacting with animals. The content, which is geared toward a broad audience, includes images, little-known facts, and videos.

Check out the redesigned site at:



]]> (Press Release) Health and Fitness Fri, 02 Oct 2015 16:02:48 -0500
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Keynote Address at the Opioid Misuse and Addiction Summit
Waltham, MA--(ENEWSPF)--October 2, 2015

Before we begin today’s program, I want to take a moment to address the devastating events that occurred yesterday at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.  Like you, I was shocked and appalled by this monstrous and tragic attack.  Although we are still gathering information, the Department of Justice is already on the ground assisting local law enforcement and we will continue to do everything we can to support the Douglas County community going forward.  My heart goes out to all those affected by this heinous crime and I know that the entire Justice Department family – and all of us here today – will keep the victims and their loved ones in our thoughts and prayers.

Thank you, U.S. Attorney [Carmen] Ortiz, for those kind words – and for your outstanding service to the people of Massachusetts over the course of this administration.  I’d also like to recognize Attorney General [Maura] Healey and Commissioner [Monica] Bharel for the bold steps they have taken – beginning the moment they took office this year – to clamp down on opioid trafficking and abuse throughout Massachusetts.  And I’d like to thank Dr. [Dennis] Dimitri and the entire Massachusetts Medical Society for advancing public health and public safety; for bringing attention and expertise to the critical issue we’re discussing today; and for hosting this vitally important summit that recognizes the critical public health issues in what far too many, for far too long, have seen only as a law enforcement issue.  It’s a pleasure to be in Waltham this morning and a privilege to join such a distinguished group of public servants and health experts as we explore new strategies for curbing drug abuse and building stronger, safer communities.

It is particularly appropriate that this morning’s gathering is taking place at the Massachusetts Medical Society.  As the oldest continually operating state medical organization in the United States, the Massachusetts Medical Society has set the standard for its peers for well over two centuries.  You have attracted and united more than 25,000 physicians and medical students behind your essential mission of “promot[ing] … the health, benefit and welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth.”  And you have built a striking record of success in educating and advocating for Massachusetts’s medical professionals and the patients for whom they care.  I applaud you for leading a truly comprehensive campaign to reduce prescription drug abuse in the Commonwealth – and I want you to know that the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration, is standing with you in this fight.  Through the tireless efforts of our Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – under the leadership of Acting Administrator [Chuck] Rosenberg – we are making major strides on all four of the action areas identified in the White House Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan, which President Obama discussed in his weekly address just a few days ago: enforcement, disposal, monitoring and education. 

On the enforcement front, we are using every civil, criminal and administrative tool we have to discover, disrupt and dismantle illegal traffic in pharmaceutical controlled substances – and we are making real and significant progress.  We have targeted the illegal supply chain, thwarted doctor-shopping attempts and disrupted so-called “pill mills” – just a few days ago, we won a conviction in a 49-count case against a former heart surgeon in Georgia who aggressively prescribed controlled narcotics to patients who were addicted to them and who, at one point, received more Oxycodone pills than any other doctor in the state.  Further highlighting the often heartbreaking costs of addiction, the doctor was himself addicted to painkillers. We have ramped up our focus on individuals and organizations who use the Internet to buy and sell controlled substances and we have seen a marked reduction in online trafficking as a result.  And we are building cooperation and seamless communication between agencies tasked with combating this challenge by integrating DEA agents and investigators with other federal, state and local law enforcement officers in 66 Tactical Diversion Squads stationed across 41 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia – with three more on the way.  Just this past May, our collaborative approach enabled us to execute the largest pharmaceutical-related takedown in the DEA’s history – a takedown of pill mills as well as medical professionals who were illegally diverting prescription painkillers; diverting them away from real patients and into the hands of street sellers. This operation spanned four states, involved nearly a thousand law enforcement officers and resulted in 280 arrests – including 22 doctors and pharmacists.   

We also know, as you do, that opioid addiction often begins not with a law-breaking doctor, but with a family medicine cabinet.  That’s why we are working to ensure that unused, unwanted and expired medications are responsibly discarded and taken out of circulation.  In the last five years, the DEA has held ten National Take Back Days – most recently this past Saturday – when the public is encouraged to bring excess prescription drugs to thousands of designated sites across the country for safe and secure disposal.  In only the last nine Take Back Days, the DEA – in conjunction with state, local and tribal law enforcement partners – collected nearly 5 million pounds of medication – that is, 2,400 tons of medication that is no longer circulating through our communities.  And last year, the DEA introduced several new ways to dispose of old or unused prescription drugs – including many more authorized drop-off sites, as well as pre-paid return-mail packages – that will make this program even more efficient and even more effective.

Still, aggressive enforcement and conscientious disposal are just part of the picture.  We are also continuing to support Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs at the state level, because we recognize that rigorous monitoring is one of the best ways to detect and prevent the diversion of pharmaceuticals.  Forty-nine states and Guam currently have monitoring programs in place, while Washington, D.C., has authorized one and we look forward to working with every jurisdiction going forward – in part through the Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring grant program – to make those programs more robust and more effective.  At the same time, we have amplified our education and outreach efforts to help inform professional associations, industry organizations and law enforcement agencies at all levels about the latest developments, programs and policies affecting opioid trafficking and addiction.  In FY 2014 alone, the DEA conducted 150 such events, building on 114 the year before.  And in addition to monitoring, we are working to expand medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorders and placing additional focus on treatment for incarcerated individuals who have experienced issues with addiction to help ensure that they can return to their communities as productive members of society.

This work has taken on a special importance, because as we have learned from scientific studies, treatment providers, victims and investigations, prescription drug abuse is a common precursor to the abuse of heroin – an incredibly dangerous drug that has also experienced increased use in recent years.  That’s why, since April, a multi-agency Heroin Task Force has been meeting to design a comprehensive plan – which will be delivered to Congress by year’s end – to counter the spread of heroin nationwide.  Meanwhile, the Department of Justice/Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force has allocated additional funding to help address the surge of heroin overdoses in the New England region, including here in eastern Massachusetts.  And the DEA recently led several major actions against drug cartels and heroin traffickers, while raising awareness about the growing presence of fentanyl in heroin sold on the streets, which substantially and tragically increases the risk of overdose.

Of course, we won’t be there to stop every person from abusing heroin or prescription painkillers – but those of us in law enforcement can take steps to ensure that we are prepared to respond when we do encounter heroin- or prescription-drug-related emergencies in the field.  That’s why my predecessor, Attorney General Eric Holder, urged local law enforcement authorities to carry the drug naloxone – which can help restore breathing after an overdose – as a standard tool on their beats.  He followed up by issuing a memorandum last July directing federal law enforcement agencies – including the DEA, the ATF, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service – to assess whether their agents should be trained and equipped to recognize and respond to opioid overdoses, in part by carrying naloxone.  And since that time, our Bureau of Justice Assistance has provided a Law Enforcement Naloxone Toolkit, which serves as an information clearinghouse to help law enforcement agencies establish their own naloxone programs.  This is an area in which Massachusetts has been a groundbreaking leader and I want to recognize all of you in this room for your work on this issue. You have saved lives.

Through all of these efforts, we at the Department of Justice are fighting diligently, creatively and collaboratively – with the partnership of individuals like all of you, each and every day – to ensure that our communities have the assistance, the resources and the guidance they need to bring wrongdoers to justice and to end this deadly crisis once and for all.  Although our ongoing work will not be easy, it is clear from what we have already accomplished that we have reason for optimism.  If we are able to harness the expertise, the passion and the conviction assembled in this room today, I have no doubt that we can preserve opportunity, strengthen families and save lives.  After all, today’s summit is not only about reversing the spread of opioids – it’s about mending the basic fabric of our communities.  It's about providing real help, with true compassion and without judgment, to those in the grips of an addiction that has coiled around their spirit and their soul. It’s about making real and lasting progress on behalf of those in desperate need.  And it’s about confronting a deep and persistent challenge in order to chart a new course for our future and for the future of our country.

That is what the women and men in this room have always done.  It is what our nation has always done.  And it is what the Department of Justice, with your invaluable partnership, will continue to do.  As we gather here today – with so many individuals and organizations committed to this cause – I am hopeful for all that the future holds.  I am thankful for your inspiring leadership.  And I am confident that, by continuing our partnership and staying true to our guiding ideals, we will succeed – together – in creating the stronger, safer, healthier communities that our children – that all Americans – deserve.



]]> (Press Release) Health and Fitness Fri, 02 Oct 2015 15:34:49 -0500
Demanding Medicare-for-All, Medical Students Rise Up Nationwide

'By improving and expanding Medicare to cover all Americans, we can use this existing infrastructure to achieve universal coverage, better health outcomes, and better physician working conditions.'

Washington, DC--(ENEWSPF)--October 1, 2015
The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not guarantee universal health care. Medical students say that must change. (Poster detail: Students For A National Health Program (SNaHP))

Taking a stand for the future of their profession and the healthcare needs of the nation, medical students across the U.S. are holding rallies and demonstration on Thursday as they demand the creation of a non-profit, publicly financed, single-payer system—a solution, they say, long overdue.

Led by the Students for a National Health Program (SNaHP), the student arm of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), and working in coalition with numerous other groups—including the American Medical Student Association, WhiteCoats4BlackLives, the Latino Medical Student Association, Universities Allied for Essential Medicine, California Health Professional Student Alliance, and Pre-Health Dreamers—the future doctors and their supporters are holding teach-ins, rallies, and candlelight vigils at dozens of med school campuses and public venues throughout the day and evening as they call attention to "the millions of people in the U.S. who remain uninsured, underinsured and underserved" by the nation's current, for-profit healthcare system.

With actions happening nationwide, organizers and participants are using the #tenone hashtag on social media to chronicle the day's numerous events.

In an op-ed published by Common Dreams last week, Vanessa Van Doren, co-founder of SNaHP and a second-year medical student at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, explained that the driving force behind Thursday's action are the contradictions young doctors are confronted with when the match their earnest desire to serve and treat patients with the inequities they see within the existing system.

"Very early in our medical careers – on the wards and in the classroom – we learn that inequality, preventable illness, and death are an inherent part of our current private, for-profit-oriented health insurance system," she wrote. "We see patients receive preventable amputations due to untreated diabetes. We see people permanently disabled by stroke because they were unable to afford their medications. College funds emptied out to pay for $100,000-a-year cancer treatments. Families bankrupted and lives destroyed."

That simply doesn't make sense, says Van Doren, when the United States is one of the wealthiest countries on earth. And just as the problem is self-evident, she argues, so is the solution that she and her young colleagues are now calling for. She continued:

There is an excellent model for universal health care – one that covers everyone, leads to better health outcomes, and costs taxpayers far less than the current U.S. system – implemented in dozens of countries around the world, including our next door neighbor, Canada. This model is called single-payer health care.

Implementing a single-payer system in the United States would be far from revolutionary. As part of its fragmented, multi-payer system, the U.S. also has a single-payer-like subdivision, which we call Medicare. It is efficient, cost-effective, and has stood the test of time, providing health insurance to all American seniors for the past 50 years.

By improving and expanding Medicare to cover all Americans, we can use this existing infrastructure to achieve universal coverage, better health outcomes, and better physician working conditions.


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]]> (Press Release) Health and Fitness Thu, 01 Oct 2015 18:32:24 -0500
Dormant Viral Genes May Awaken to Cause ALS

NIH human and mouse study may open an unexplored path for finding treatments

Bethesda, Maryland--(ENEWSPF)--October 1, 2015. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health discovered that reactivation of ancient viral genes embedded in the human genome may cause the destruction of neurons in some forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The results, published in Science Translational Medicine, suggest a link between human endogenous retroviral genes (HERVs) and ALS. The findings also raise the question of whether antiretroviral drugs, similar to those used for suppressing HIV, may help some ALS patients.

For generations, humans have been passing on genetic remnants of HERV infections that may have happened millions of years ago. Although nearly eight percent of the normal human genome is made up of these genes, very little is known about their role in health and disease.

“People call the genes for these viruses junk DNA. Our results suggest they may become activated during ALS,” said Avindra Nath, M.D., clinical director at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and a senior author of the study. “Ultimately we hope the results will lead to effective treatments for a heartbreaking disorder.”

Currently, there is no effective treatment for the more than 12,000 Americans who live with ALS. This fatal disorder destroys neurons that control movements, including speaking, walking, breathing and swallowing. On rare occasions, HIV-infected, AIDS patients develop ALS-like symptoms. In many of these patients, the symptoms can be reversed by treatment with antiretroviral drugs. Previous studies found reverse transcriptase, a protein encoded by retroviral genes, in the blood of some ALS patients but its role in the disorder is unknown.

These observations prompted Dr. Nath and his team to explore the possible link between retroviruses and ALS. Unexpectedly they found that endogenous, or inherited, retroviruses may be involved with ALS.

Image of a brain scan

Viral genes in ALS - Scientists studied human and mouse brains to show that genes for a seemingly inactive and inherited virus may be linked to ALS. Courtesy of Nath lab, NINDS.

Initially, they showed that brain samples from ALS patients had higher than normal levels of messenger RNA (mRNA) encoded by genes of the human endogenous retrovirus K (HERV-K). A protein encoded by a critical HERV-K gene, called env, was found in brain samples from ALS patients but not from healthy individuals or patients with Alzheimer’s disease. They also showed that activation of HERV-K genes killed healthy human neurons grown in petri dishes.

To test the role of HERVs in ALS, the scientists genetically modified mice so that their neurons activated the HERV-K env gene. The mice died earlier than normal and had problems with balance and walking that progressively worsened with age. When the scientists inspected the brains, spinal cords and muscles of these mice they found that only motor neurons, the cells that control movements and die in ALS, were damaged. Cells in other parts of the nervous system remained healthy.

“We showed that motor neurons may be susceptible to activation of these genes during ALS,” said Dr. Nath.

Finally the scientists showed that activation of HERV-K genes may be controlled by TDP-43, a gene-regulating protein that has been strongly linked to ALS and known to control HIV production. Genetically enhancing TDP-43 in human neurons increased the cells’ production of HERV-K mRNA and proteins whereas genetically blocking TDP-43 in other cells reduced HERV-K reverse transcriptase activity.

Dr. Nath and his team are now collaborating with the ALS center at Johns Hopkins University to study whether antiretroviral treatments are effective at controlling HERV-K replication in a subset of patients with ALS.

“We may have discovered a precision medicine solution for treating a neurodegenerative disorder,” said Dr. Nath.

This work was supported by intramural research programs at the NINDS, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD).

For more information, visit:

NINDS is the nation’s leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.

The mission of the NIAMS, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health, is to support research into the causes, treatment and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. For more information about the NIAMS, call the information clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484 or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS website at

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®


Li et al. "Human endogenous retrovirus-K induces motor neuron disease," Science Translational Medicine, September 30, 2015. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aac8201



]]> (Press Release) Health and Fitness Thu, 01 Oct 2015 17:30:39 -0500
Drug Used to Treat HIV Linked to Lower Bone Mass in Newborns

NIH study finds mothers’ use of tenofovir tied to lower bone mineral content in babies

Bethesda, Maryland--(ENEWSPF)--October 1, 2015.  Infants exposed in the womb to a drug used to treat HIV and reduce the transmission of HIV from mother to child, may have lower bone mineral content than those exposed to other anti-HIV drugs, according to a National Institutes of Health study.

Researchers found that pregnant women who received the drug tenofovir disoproxil fumarate in their third trimester gave birth to babies whose bone mineral content was 12 percent lower than that of infants who were not exposed to the drug in the uterus. Proper mineral content helps strengthen normal bones. The Study appears in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“At this point, we can say that those who care for pregnant women with HIV and their children should be aware that prescribing tenofovir to pregnant women could be a concern for their infants’ bones,” said George K. Siberry, M.D., the first author of the study and medical officer with NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Although the study authors described the results as concerning, they cautioned against any changes in the use of tenofovir in pregnant women. The drug has proved successful as part of drug regimens that treat HIV in pregnant women, and often is used to prevent HIV transmission to infants. The researchers called for additional studies to understand bone health and development among children born to women who took tenofovir during their pregnancies.

“Families should keep in close touch with their physicians to monitor their child’s bone development,” Dr. Siberry added.

In the study, researchers enrolled a total of 143 infants at 14 sites across the United States from 2011 to 2013. Of these participants, 74 were exposed to tenofovir in the uterus, while 69 were given other anti-HIV drugs. Researchers used special, low-radiation X-ray scans, called DXA scans to measure bone mineral content within the first four weeks of birth.

The researchers then compared the bone mineral content of the two groups and found that the group of infants whose mothers took tenofovir, on average, had lower bone mineral content than the group of infants whose mothers were given other kinds of anti-HIV drugs. However, the researchers do not know whether the lower bone mineral content of the children in the tenofovir group is abnormal and will increase the risk of fractures. Dr. Siberry added that it is also unknown whether children can regain bone mineral content as they get older.

The study authors point out that tenofovir use has been associated with bone loss in adults and older children. A few NIH-funded studies have found that adults who used tenofovir were at increased risk for bone fracture.

The study was supported by several NIH institutes, including the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Office of AIDS Research, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Information on how to promote healthy bone development in children is available from NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at

About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit the Institute’s website at  

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®


Siberry, GK, et al. Lower Newborn Bone Mineral Content Associated With Maternal Use of TenofovirDisoproxil Fumarate During Pregnancy. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2015.



]]> (Press Release) Health and Fitness Thu, 01 Oct 2015 17:28:02 -0500
Center for American Progress, National Partnership Call on States to Protect Patient-Provider Relationships and Proactively Respond to Political Interference in Women’s Health Care

Nurse practitioners go over a patient's chart at Ingalls Family Care Center in Flossmoor, Illinois, June 2013. Source: AP/M. Spencer Green

Washington, D.C. —(ENEWSPF)--October 1, 2015. Yesterday, a new brief released by the Center for American Progress and the National Partnership for Women & Families recommends states proactively respond to political interference in health care to protect both health care providers and patients, including women seeking abortion care. In the brief, CAP and the National Partnership also examine state efforts to preserve the patient-provider relationship and demonstrate how these efforts can serve as models for other states.

“Important health care decisions—including whether a woman wishes to obtain abortion care services—should remain in the examination room between the patient and provider, not dictated by politicians,” said Donna Barry, CAP Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program and co-author of the brief. “Efforts to interfere with patients’ personal health care decisions expose patients to procedures and requirements that are often contrary to medical and scientific evidence and have no place in our laws.”

Health care providers and women seeking abortions have been increasingly subjected to legal requirements that make abortion care more difficult to obtain, including mandating biased and even inaccurate counseling; prohibiting the provision of medication abortion using modern technology; and requiring medically unnecessary delays in care, even though abortion is a time-sensitive procedure. In response, states and advocacy groups have partnered with the health care community to put forth proactive proposals to safeguard care and protect the patient-provider relationship.

“We need more legislation at the state level that tells politicians to exit the exam room so women can make their most personal health decisions with the people they trust,” said Andrea Friedman, Senior Policy Advisor for Reproductive Health Programs at the National Partnership and co-author of the brief. “It is critical that we keep medical judgment in the hands of health care providers who will put the needs of patients first. We urge more states to adopt the approach being used by legislators in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other states to help ensure that ideology does not interfere with evidence-based medical practices.”

Pennsylvania and Ohio offer two examples of state legislation designed to keep medical decisions in the hands of patients and trained health care providers. In Pennsylvania, lawmakers just reintroduced the Pennsylvania Patient Trust Act, which addresses political interference in all areas of health care, including—but not limited to—abortion care by ensuring that health care providers are not required by law to administer inaccurate or inappropriate care, nor prohibited from providing accurate, evidence-based, and medically appropriate care.

A second example of legislation, which was introduced in Ohio, takes a slightly different approach than Pennsylvania, focusing specifically on existing restrictions on abortion. The bill would allow health care providers to decline to follow certain abortion restrictions that are not based on evidence or that would require them to deliver care in ways that contradict their professional and ethical mandates.

Read the issue brief: Changing the Conversation on Abortion Restrictions: A Proactive Response to Political Interference in Health Care by Donna Barry, Andrea D. Friedman, and Sarah Lipton-Lubet

See the model Patient Trust Act and supporting materials: The Patient Trust Act: Model Legislation for Getting Politics Out of the Exam Room by the National Partnership for Women & Families

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just, and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care, and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at



]]> (Press Release) Health and Fitness Thu, 01 Oct 2015 17:15:29 -0500