Monday, January 19, 2009

Noteworthy News in Bioethics this past week

- National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has set aside $3.9M in funding for 2010 to create several cross-disciplinary centers to study the ethical, legal, and social implications of genomics technologies. (Might sound like a lot, but does that money go quickly!)

- Personal genomics continues to grow and commodify, but is it accurate, is it wise? The average consumer can order up tests via the Internet, but what to make of the results? Once the information is known, what about one’s insurability in this era of tricky health care coverage?

- Transfusion-free medical facilities avoid the need for blood transfusions during surgery by using technology to conserve and re-infuse the patient’s own blood. The technique eliminates all sorts of risks and expenses.

- Emergency planners seek to help home-based life-support users in major outages, etc. All the various ice storms have been taking a toll, and sometimes the outages are so long that even those individuals prepared with backup plans aren’t adequately covered.

- Meta-analysis confirms value of risk reducing salpingo-oophorectomy for women with BRCA mutations.

- Injected biomaterial allows new blood vessels to grow by creating a “smart scaffold.”

- Life as we know it nearly created in lab. Primordial stuff, but haven't we heard this before?

- InNexus primate study clears way for human trials on non-Hodgkins lymphoma tumors.

- Government relaunches site for Web-based family tree of medical history. Touts it as a way to keep the complete family history in one place, so it’s more accurate for doctors to use.

- The “Malthusian Spectre” and American Health Care (a transcript of a discussion of health care costs and what could be done).

- Democrats seek $1B to compare effectiveness of medical treatments, part of efforts to lower health care costs.

- Both sides claim victory in patent battle over new type of heart valve. Both sides? How often does *that* happen? Actually, it makes sense when read in light of patent law.

- Government investigators report that the FDA is lax on requiring—and following up on—financial conflicts of doctors who conduct clinical trials of drugs and medical devices in human subjects. Ah, one of those comforting stories. Not.

- FDA promises openness in approval process for drugs and food from genetically engineered animals. Scrutiny by independent advisors at public meetings (hmmm….does that include spidergoats and glow-in-the-dark pigs?)

- USDA unable to weed out unapproved modified foods . Oh good, even if we shore up our own regs on this, we can’t keep the engineered plants and animals out of our food supply anyway. Not hopeful news.

- FDA lets drugmakers advise doctors on unapproved uses of medications, per FDA’s new guidelines on the matter. (Why does the image of foxes and henhouses come to mind?)

- People who sleep less than 7 hours per night are 3 times more likely to catch a cold. So get some rest!

[Thank you to Lisa von Biela, JD candidate, 2009, UMN, Editor of the BioBlurb, from which this content is partially taken and edited. BioBlurb is a weekly electronic publication of the American Bar Association's Committee on Biotechnology, Section of Science & Technology Law. Archived issues of the BioBlurb, as well as further information about the Committee on Biotechnology, are available here.]

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