Review Category : Health

FDA Approves First Combination Pill to Treat Hepatitis C

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday announced the approval of the first combination pill to treat hepatitis C.

The approved medication, Harvoni, contains two FDA-approved drugs, ledipasvir and sofosbuvir, and does not require interferon or ribavirin to be administered in tandem with it. According to the FDA statement, both drugs in Harvoni “interfere with the enzymes needed by [hepatitis C virus] to multiple.”

Sofosbuvir is a previously-approved drug for the treatment of hepatitis C, marketed under the brand name Sovaldi, while ledipasvir is a new drug.

“Until last year, the only available treatments for hepatitis C virus required administration with interferon and ribavirin. Now, patients and health care professionals have multiple treatment options, including a combination pill to help simplify treatment regimens,” said Edward Cox, director of the Office of Antimicrobial Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Harvoni is the third drug approved by the FDA in the last year to treat hepatitis C.

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Ebola Scare Prompts US Hospitals to Prepare for Possible Outbreak

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As Ebola scares crop up around the country, hospitals nationwide are preparing for what to do if they find themselves face-to-face with the deadly virus.

Some hospitals are sending memos to staff, and others are running all-out drills to make sure staff members know everything from how to identify possible Ebola patients to how to get out of protective gear without contaminating themselves.

“You have to be proactive,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a health security and infectious diseases expert at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “You don’t want to be doing this on the fly.”

Earlier this week, ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser watched Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey conduct its own Ebola drill.

“Morristown Medical Center just started doing these drills after the event in Texas,” Besser said, referring to the first diagnosis of an Ebola patient on American soil in late September. “Hopefully, it was a wake-up call for hospitals around the country. It was definitely a wake-up call here.”

Though Besser said he saw a lot of good practices, he said he worries about the decontamination process. He called decontamination one of the most critical components of caring for Ebola patients because it ensures that health workers don’t infect themselves with virus particles on their protective gear as they undress.

In Liberia, this was overseen by trained hygienists who continually sprayed Besser down with bleach as he took off each layer of protective clothing and gear.

“In the decontamination room in New Jersey, they had a container of bleach wipes to use themselves,” Besser said.

Morristown Medical Center could not be reached immediately for a comment.

Hospitals from New York to Iowa to California have conducted drills, many of them following guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while it’s unlikely that most of them will ever encounter an Ebola patient in the flesh, experts say every little bit of preparedness helps.

For emergency room physicians, that means being quick to identify possible patients and isolate them quickly.

“We’re all a little bit on edge because we’ve never seen it before,” said Dr. Ryan Stanton, an emergency room physician in Lexington, Kentucky, and spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians. “Stuff we’ve seen before, like heart attack and stroke, we recognize as soon as we walk in the door. For Ebola, it’s not going to come as naturally.”

“It’s not even needle in haystack,” he went on. “It’s a needle in hayfield we’re going to find.”

Dr. Irwin Redlener, who directs the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, said while there are only four hospitals “at a very high level of readiness” to care for patients with potentially lethal diseases like Ebola, many hospitals can care for a limited number of patients at a time.

The real problem would be an epidemic like SARS, for which he called U.S. hospitals “woefully unprepared,” Redlener said.

“You only need to see what has happened to funding of the federal Hospital Preparedness Program, which was providing $515 million a year in 2003 and 2004, now cut back to approximately $250 million this year,” he said. “That is simply insufficient to make sure that U.S. hospitals are ready for a large-scale bio disaster.”

The Ebola scare may actually force the United States to rethink its preparedness, Redlener said, adding that he hopes to see “an immediate restoration” to the funding that was more than halved over the last 10 years.

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‘Magic Mirrors’ Boost Self-Confidence of Unsuspecting Shoppers

IKEA UK(NEW YORK) — “Mirror, mirror on the wall…who’s the fairest of them all,” is no longer just for fairy tales.

“Magic mirrors,” of sorts, are now popping up as an experiment designed to boost people’s self-confidence, telling them how they should really feel about the image staring back at them.

IKEA, the popular Swedish furniture store, recently unveiled their new “Motivational Mirror” in Britain last week, created for the purpose of delivering uplifting, confidence-boosting comments to those gazing into their own reflection.

Comments like, “You look amazing today,” “that’s a magnificent beard,” and “Wow, have you been working out?” greeted shoppers as they approached the real-life “magic mirror.”

“With well over two-thirds of Britons claiming image insecurity and self-doubt, IKEA have today announced the launch of the ‘Motivational Mirror’ — bestowing personalized compliments to provide the nation with a much needed morale boost,” IKEA’s description on their YouTube video showing off their new device, which has already garnered nearly 115,000 views since Oct. 2, read.

It’s a page out of the Dove playbook, which released an ad last year aimed at changing the way women see their own beauty as an FBI-trained forensic sketch artist first draws a woman as she describes herself, then draws her as a total stranger describes her. The difference in results couldn’t have been more dramatic.

Now, an all-female Texas rock band called The Mrs. with their hit song, “Enough,” is trying the experiment in real life with their #imEnough campaign.

“Women go around beating themselves up for every little thing, and it’s time we stop,” Andra Liemandt, the band’s founder and drummer, told ABC News.

They set up a talking mirror at a local mall which then comes to life as shoppers stand before it.

“Don’t be afraid of the reflection you see,” the mirror says as it talks to the women. “You are an amazing woman, and today I want you to look in this mirror and not just feel ‘ok.’”

When asked what the phrase “I’m enough” means to Liemandt, she replied, “It means ‘I’m enough for my family and for my friends.’”

And judging by their social experiment, which has gone viral with more than three million views on YouTube, their “magic mirror” is successfully convincing women everywhere that they are, indeed, enough.

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Americans Know More About Twinkies than Smoke Alarms

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — This being Fire Prevention Week, it’s probably smart to check on whether the smoke alarms in your home need replacing.

Unfortunately, a survey conducted for Kidde Fire Safety suggests that Americans still have a lot to learn about the longevity of smoke alarms.

For instance, just nine percent of respondents knew that these potential lifesavers have an operating life of ten years. In contrast, more than four in ten were aware that the shelf life of a Hostess Twinkie is 45 days.

Another distressing finding: about half of Americans spend 15 minutes or less to shop for smoke alarms.

Since fire deaths went up 16 percent in 2013, Kidde Fire Safety says it’s important that people take the matter more seriously. When fatalities from fires occur, 60 percent of the time they happen in homes with non-working smoke alarms.

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Huh, What? Pot Doesn’t Enhance Creativity, Say Researchers

iStock/Thinkstock(LEIDEN, Netherlands) — In addition to the pleasurable feeling attained from smoking marijuana, some users who possess artistic talents are convinced the drug enhances their creativity.

Lorenza Colzato and Mikael Kowal, psychologists at Leiden University in Holland, say they hate to burst anyone’s bubble but they believe that pot’s psychoactive ingredient THC is more of a creative inhibitor than anything else.

The researchers conducted experiments whereby participants did thinking tasks after smoking marijuana with a high THC content while others used the drug with low THC or took a placebo.

As it turned out, those who were very stoned performed far worse than the others on tests requiring them to come up with as many solutions to a problem as possible.

Colzato and Kowal believe the notion that creativity is improved after smoking a lot of pot is just an illusion.

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Detergent Pods Can Also Harm Little Eyes

ABC News(CINCINNATI) — In recent years, parents have been warned that their children can be poisoned by colorful liquid detergent pods that are easily mistaken for candy. Now, health officials are issuing another advisory resulting from kids suffering injuries to the eyes due to liquid that squirts out after a pod is squeezed or bit into.

Dr. Michael Gray from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical says that the injuries he’s seen include conjunctivitis and corneal damage. However, there’s an upside to the story in that there’s been no long-range problems, with children getting their eyesight back to normal within a week.

Just the same, Gray cautions that these detergent pods should be treated like any other toxic chemical in that they should be put in places that little hands can’t reach.

Even with all the warnings, hospitals and poison control centers have been kept busy because of youngsters accidentally ingesting liquid detergents. In 2012, close to 6,300 injuries were reported.

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Former Ballerina Teaches Down Syndrome Students to Dance

iStock/Thinkstock(SANTA MONICA, Calif.) — About 30 students get ready for dance class every Sunday at the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica, California. But, technically, the studio isn’t open for its usual classes. Instead the doors are open for the students of the Free 2 Be Me dance troupe.

Started by Colleen Perry, the program allows children (and a few adults) with Down syndrome to try out dancing. Some students are talkative and others don’t say a word. For those who are not willing to move on their own, dance volunteers will help them through the moves.

Perry, 49, started the program after reading an article about a choreographer who created a program allowing children with Down syndrome to work with a Boston ballet troupe. Perry instantly knew what she wanted to do.

“A voice said, ‘Colleen this is what you’re supposed to be doing with your life,’” she recalled.

Perry spent her childhood and early adult years in ballet, but had spent more than two decades as a family therapist. She had been looking for a way to get back into dance when she read the article.

Without any experience in teaching, Perry started preparing a dance class aimed mainly at children with Down syndrome, within six months she had space in a dance studio and a curriculum.

Rather than the rigorous perfectionism Perry chased when she danced in a ballet company, she now focuses on having fun with the kids and getting them to simply express themselves through their dancing.

Perry said many of the children are nonverbal and that movement and dance can be an alternate way they can show emotion and personality.

“Any kind of embodied movement is a beautiful way for people to express themselves,” Perry said.

Children who are nonverbal can be more vulnerable for certain mental health problems including anxiety, hyperactivity and social isolation, according to the National Down Syndrome Society.

Perry said she hopes the class can help nonverbal children be more social and expressive of their emotions. She said it can take months before a nonverbal child feels ready to step away from the sidelines and join in with the others.

“The child, who wants to sit in front of the mirror for three sessions, then she just leaps up and begins to dance like no bodies business,” she said. “Then we’re all crying.”

Perry and her Free 2 Be Me Dance Troupe are now the subject of a short documentary by Jeanette Godoy. Godoy followed the dancers for six months as they prepared for their big dance recital.

Godoy found out about the unique dancers when she went to see her daughter at a local ballet recital.

“I absolutely fell in love,” Godoy said. “When I saw them perform and saw the joy they felt out there on the audience on stage, I could absolutely relate to that joy.”

Godoy said she would get particularly moved at the end of class when students had a chance to perform their own solo. Some children moved across the whole floor and others weren’t ready to be the center of attention.

But Godoy said there was one girl who really epitomized the whole class. Named Daisy, Goody said, the 14-year-old didn’t talk much and relied on a volunteer to help her through movements. During one solo session, Daisy finally decided to take the floor.

“Little Daisy shuffled to the center of the room, her movement was a little bit of a fist pump,” Godoy said. You “saw a little smile creep across her face.”

“It was the first time I had seen her move on her own in all my weeks of shooting,” Godoy said.

The short documentary, also titled Free 2 Be Me, is available online.

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Researchers Hope Stem Cells Lead the Way to Diabetes Cure

shironosov/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new study conducted at Harvard University may be a step towards curing type-1 diabetes using human stem cells, researchers say.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 13,000 young people are diagnosed with type-1 diabetes annually. Researchers say they took human embryonic stem cells grown in a dish and turned them into cells incredibly similar to the natural insulin-producing cells in human bodies. Those cells, once grown, were then transplanted into mice, according to the study, which was published in the journal Cell.

Once transplanted, researchers say they functioned in much the same way that the same cells would when transplanted from human cadavers — a previously known treatment that is potentially curative.

While the study is far from being used in humans, it could lay the groundwork for future treatment of diabetes using human stem cells grown outside the body.

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Liberian Community in Texas Raises Concerns About Dallas Ebola Patient’s Treatment

Will Montgomery(DALLAS) — The death of Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who was the first patient in the U.S. to die of Ebola, is stirring debate in the Dallas Liberian community about whether there has been a difference in the quality of treatment between American and African patients with Ebola at U.S. hospitals.

Stanley Gaye, president of the Liberia Community Association in Dallas, said people have contacted him about concerns that Duncan was treated differently, “because he was African and not only that, he was Liberian.”

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital explained Thursday in detail how they cared for Duncan, including assigning 50 people to help with Duncan’s care and securing an entire intensive care unit for Duncan.

However, Gaye told ABC News that one of the biggest concerns expressed by the Liberian community was that Duncan was allowed to leave that hospital on Sept. 25 even though he had early Ebola symptoms and had told a nurse there that he had recently traveled from West Africa.

Hospital officials initially said that there was a lapse in the record keeping system that allowed Duncan to leave even though he met criteria from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating he should be quarantined for possible Ebola infection. But they later said the system was functioning properly and have yet to give a further reason for the error.

In Thursday’s statement, the hospital denied Duncan had received substandard care during his first visit to the emergency room.

“Our care team provided Mr. Duncan with the same high level of attention and care that would be given any patient, regardless of nationality or ability to pay for care,” read the statement, which clarified Duncan had a four-hour evaluation and numerous tests.

Three days later, on Sept. 28, Duncan was taken back to the hospital in an ambulance and put into an isolation ward at the hospital, health officials said.

Liberian community members have voiced concern that by not being admitted to the hospital immediately, the illness had time to make Duncan sicker and that “he was not properly taken care of,” Gaye said.

Duncan died from the Ebola virus on Wednesday, more than a week after being admitted to Texas Presbyterian Hospital. The day before his death, hospital officials said he was on a respirator and being given kidney dialysis.

He was also being given the experimental drug brincidofovir. Another Ebola patient, an American journalist being treated in Nebraska, has also started the same medication, health officials said.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital officials revealed new details Thursday about Duncan’s death and explained he had asked not to receive certain extraordinary measures, including chest compressions and defibrillation.

“In spite of the intensive care he was receiving, his heart stopped,” the hospital said in its statement.

The hospital also adamantly defended its treatment of Duncan and explained why he had not received some of the same medications other Ebola patients had been given. Duncan’s family told reporters on Wednesday that Duncan had received “unfair” treatment compared to other patients who had been cared for in the U.S.

“No one has died of Ebola in the U.S. before. This is the first time,” Weeks told ABC News.

Weeks said the family asked doctors at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital why Duncan was not moved to Emory University Medical Center, where two missionaries were treated for Ebola earlier this year. Weeks said doctors told the family they had everything necessary to treat Duncan in Dallas.

The CDC has not recommended that Ebola patients be transferred to a specialized isolation facility like the one at Emory University.

Weeks also said doctors told the family Duncan was not given any donated plasma, called convalescent serum, from former Ebola patients. The hospital stated Thursday that Duncan’s blood type was not compatible with convalescent serum donors.

The hospital also affirmed that Duncan was not given ZMapp, a serum used on two U.S. healthcare workers, because the supply had been exhausted.

At least one expert said this information is crucial to rebuilding trust between nervous community members and medical institutions.

Art Caplan, a medical ethicist and director for Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University Langone Medical Center, said just the appearance of a hospital or medical institution treating patients differently can have severe negative consequences for public health during an epidemic.

Caplan said if people don’t trust health authorities then they might not seek help when they’re sick and inadvertently infect others.

“The key to fighting Ebola is trust. You want people to go to the hospital when they’re sick,” said Caplan.

Caplan said it is a valid concern for the Liberian community to be distressed that Duncan was sent home from the hospital on Sept. 26. and that the hospital’s decision needs to be fully explained.

“That demands a close investigation,” said Caplan. “You want the Liberian community to understand and want the world to understand” what happened.

Gaye stressed that even though the Liberian community in Dallas is concerned over Duncan’s treatment, no one he has spoken to talked about avoiding the medical treatment if they show Ebola symptoms.

Caplan also said that health officials should be even more upfront with information about exactly what is going on with a patient in an epidemic, especially if there is any chance people might think the patient is being treated unfairly.

Caplan pointed out that a patient may not be given experimental treatments if their health is too far deteriorated, but that the information should all be made public so that people can understand the doctor’s decisions not to give medication.

“In an epidemic, you have to chip away a little bit of privacy. You have public health goals that trump ethical situations,” said Caplan. “I think pushing a little bit further into what happens is key to public health.”

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Liberian Community in Texas Raises Concerns About Dallas Ebola Patient’s Treatment

Will Montgomery(DALLAS) — The death of Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who was the first patient in the U.S. to die of Ebola, is stirring debate in the Dallas Liberian community about whether there has been a difference in the quality of treatment between American and African patients with Ebola at U.S. hospitals.

Stanley Gaye, president of the Liberia Community Association in Dallas, said people have contacted him about concerns that Duncan was treated differently, “because he was African and not only that, he was Liberian.”

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital explained Thursday in detail how they cared for Duncan, including assigning 50 people to help with Duncan’s care and securing an entire intensive care unit for Duncan.

However, Gaye told ABC News that one of the biggest concerns expressed by the Liberian community was that Duncan was allowed to leave that hospital on Sept. 25 even though he had early Ebola symptoms and had told a nurse there that he had recently traveled from West Africa.

Hospital officials initially said that there was a lapse in the record keeping system that allowed Duncan to leave even though he met criteria from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating he should be quarantined for possible Ebola infection. But they later said the system was functioning properly and have yet to give a further reason for the error.

In Thursday’s statement, the hospital denied Duncan had received substandard care during his first visit to the emergency room.

“Our care team provided Mr. Duncan with the same high level of attention and care that would be given any patient, regardless of nationality or ability to pay for care,” read the statement, which clarified Duncan had a four-hour evaluation and numerous tests.

Three days later, on Sept. 28, Duncan was taken back to the hospital in an ambulance and put into an isolation ward at the hospital, health officials said.

Liberian community members have voiced concern that by not being admitted to the hospital immediately, the illness had time to make Duncan sicker and that “he was not properly taken care of,” Gaye said.

Duncan died from the Ebola virus on Wednesday, more than a week after being admitted to Texas Presbyterian Hospital. The day before his death, hospital officials said he was on a respirator and being given kidney dialysis.

He was also being given the experimental drug brincidofovir. Another Ebola patient, an American journalist being treated in Nebraska, has also started the same medication, health officials said.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital officials revealed new details Thursday about Duncan’s death and explained he had asked not to receive certain extraordinary measures, including chest compressions and defibrillation.

“In spite of the intensive care he was receiving, his heart stopped,” the hospital said in its statement.

The hospital also adamantly defended its treatment of Duncan and explained why he had not received some of the same medications other Ebola patients had been given. Duncan’s family told reporters on Wednesday that Duncan had received “unfair” treatment compared to other patients who had been cared for in the U.S.

“No one has died of Ebola in the U.S. before. This is the first time,” Weeks told ABC News.

Weeks said the family asked doctors at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital why Duncan was not moved to Emory University Medical Center, where two missionaries were treated for Ebola earlier this year. Weeks said doctors told the family they had everything necessary to treat Duncan in Dallas.

The CDC has not recommended that Ebola patients be transferred to a specialized isolation facility like the one at Emory University.

Weeks also said doctors told the family Duncan was not given any donated plasma, called convalescent serum, from former Ebola patients. The hospital stated Thursday that Duncan’s blood type was not compatible with convalescent serum donors.

The hospital also affirmed that Duncan was not given ZMapp, a serum used on two U.S. healthcare workers, because the supply had been exhausted.

At least one expert said this information is crucial to rebuilding trust between nervous community members and medical institutions.

Art Caplan, a medical ethicist and director for Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University Langone Medical Center, said just the appearance of a hospital or medical institution treating patients differently can have severe negative consequences for public health during an epidemic.

Caplan said if people don’t trust health authorities then they might not seek help when they’re sick and inadvertently infect others.

“The key to fighting Ebola is trust. You want people to go to the hospital when they’re sick,” said Caplan.

Caplan said it is a valid concern for the Liberian community to be distressed that Duncan was sent home from the hospital on Sept. 26. and that the hospital’s decision needs to be fully explained.

“That demands a close investigation,” said Caplan. “You want the Liberian community to understand and want the world to understand” what happened.

Gaye stressed that even though the Liberian community in Dallas is concerned over Duncan’s treatment, no one he has spoken to talked about avoiding the medical treatment if they show Ebola symptoms.

Caplan also said that health officials should be even more upfront with information about exactly what is going on with a patient in an epidemic, especially if there is any chance people might think the patient is being treated unfairly.

Caplan pointed out that a patient may not be given experimental treatments if their health is too far deteriorated, but that the information should all be made public so that people can understand the doctor’s decisions not to give medication.

“In an epidemic, you have to chip away a little bit of privacy. You have public health goals that trump ethical situations,” said Caplan. “I think pushing a little bit further into what happens is key to public health.”

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