Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
NIH Clinical Trials Affected by Government Shutdown
Critically ill people are still being enrolled in U.S. National
Institutes of Health clinical trials during the federal government
shutdown, but the pace of enrollment is much slower than
That means that many sick people who otherwise would be accepted
into the clinical trials must wait to receive treatment.
The NIH runs more than 1,400 clinical trials at any given time.
About 12 patients were enrolled between Oct. 1, the first day of
the shutdown, and Oct. 8. Most of those people were cancer
patients, NIH spokeswoman Renate Myles told
The New York Times.
That's a much lower number than in a typical week, when about
200 new patients would be enrolled in NIH trials. About 30 of those
patients would be children, a third of whom would have cancer.
Only patients at high risk of dying are being accepted in the
trials during the shutdown. They still have to meet the criteria
for the trial and investigators have to believe that the treatment
would provide a benefit for patients,
No new studies are being started during the shutdown, and at
least seven new clinical trials had been delayed as of
The government shutdown has led to significant staff reductions
at the NIH with about three-quarters of its employees -- more than
13,000 people - furloughed.
The shutdown threatens public health in other ways. More than
two-thirds of employees at the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention are furloughed. There are no staff members to conduct
important monitoring tasks, such as tracking the flu virus or
conducting genetic testing on it. That means that researchers have
no data on how it is spreading or where it is most severe.
"Last flu season was early and severe," CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds told The Times. "This flu season, we are not going to know."
At the Food and Drug Administration, nearly 1,000 of its
approximately 1,600 investigators who keep on eye on everything
from food facilities to drug makers are on furlough.
Shutdown Threatens Food Safety
Food safety is one of the casualties of the U.S. government
shutdown, experts warn.
The doors are locked at federal agencies in charge of making
sure that fruit, vegetables, dairy products and a wide range of
other U.S.-made food items are safe to consume.
"This is a self-inflicted wound that is putting people's health at risk," Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, told The New York Times.
Because the shutdown comes on top of earlier budget cuts to the
agencies, there is "the potential for a real public health crisis,"
the longtime food safety advocate said.
The Food and Drug Administration, which inspects most of the
food that Americans eat, has gone from a target of inspecting about
200 food plants per week to none, and has also cut back on
inspections of imported food,
And the Agriculture Department has closed a meat and poultry
hotline that consumers can call for information about food safety
or to report problems.
Ban Fighting in Hockey: Concussion Experts
Fighting at all levels of hockey should be banned, researchers
at a Mayo Clinic conference on concussions said Wednesday.
They said junior and professional hockey should replace
five-minute fighting penalties with automatic game ejections and
suspensions. Their recommendation comes eight days after a Montreal
Canadiens player was hospitalized after a fight on the opening
night of the NHL season,
The New York Timesreported.
"Science has responded to the game on the ice," said Ken Dryden, a Hall of Fame Canadiens goalie who spoke at the conference. "Now it's time for the game to respond to the science."
While no direct link has been made between fighting in hockey
and long-term brain damage, there is research suggesting that
fighting could lead to serious brain damage.
"You have grown men, standing on skates, punching each other in the head," said Dr. Michael Stuart, a director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center and the chief medical officer for USA Hockey, The Timesreported.
"They frequently fall, their helmet may come off, maybe their arms are pinned and the opponent falls on top of them, then their head hits the ice. Those forces acting on the brain are alarmingly high," he explained.
New Calif. Law Permits Midwives to Perform Early Abortions
A bill permitting nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives
and physician assistants to perform a type of early abortion has
been signed by California Governor Jerry Brown.
The legislation would allow those professionals to perform
aspiration abortions during the first trimester. This technique
involves inserting a tube and using suction to end a pregnancy, the
The new law will help expand access to abortion services in
areas of the state with few physicians, said Democratic
Assemblywoman Toni Atkins of San Diego, who introduced the
Nurse practitioners in Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon and
Vermont can perform this type of abortion, the
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