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The Epipen Debacle: Patients Against Big Pharma

The Epipen Debacle: Patients Against Big Pharma

If you’ve been following healthcare news, you may have noticed the recent spike (and uproarious backlash) in EpiPen, a lifesaver for those who suffer from life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

Some people are so allergic to things like peanuts that they develop anaphylaxis, when the airways for breathing swell and close.  Possible allergies include but are not limited to peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts and pecans), shellfish, fish, cow’s milk, eggs, wheat and soy. Many affected are children, who rely on EpiPens in case of emergency. Between 1 and 2 percent of people have this condition, but there’s a simple hormonal treatment to counteract this allergic shock; Epinephrine ( or adrenaline). It’s a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands. In addition to making your heart beat faster, pupils to dilate, and blood vessels to constrict, it opens your airways. When it stimulates the heart it works to reduce hives and swelling that may occur around the face and lips thus saving peoples’ lives everyday.

In September 2016,  CEO Heather Bresch testified before a congressional committee last week saying Mylan’s profit was $100 for a two-pack of the injectors, despite a $608 list price. Since acquiring the rights to EpiPen in 2007, they have increasec prices 550%. Pens now sell for $608. What this means is people can’t get their medication. The situation is so dire that people on Youtube are showing ways to DIY the medication at home. This alternative “EpiPencil,” is the brainchild of Michael Laufer of DIY medicine collective Four Thieves Vinegar. It consists of an auto-injector (usually used by diabetics), a syringe (available isn ten-packs), a 22-gauge hypodermic needle, and the epinephrine (a prescription still necessary, but its generally inexpensive).

Nobody can force Mylan to lower its prices. But what consumers are doing with their angry articles and clever alternatives are showing that it is possible to provide affordable healthcare to those who need it. Their profit margin was an entire 60% higher than what they originally told Congress. Remember, this product saves lives. While the health care industry is a playing field for high profit margins in research and product, when it comes to life-saving drugs, significant increases in price like Mylan’s abuse of EpiPen prices translate as profiteering off a person’s life or death need.


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Dialysis-Style Treatment Washes Blood Of Cancer Cells

Dialysis-Style Treatment Washes Blood Of Cancer Cells

A team of researchers at the University of New South Wales have developed a new system that can potentially lower the cost of cancer treatment as well as reduce the risk of cancer spreading by cleaning cancer from the blood.

The new cancer treatment uses biochip filters that identify and remove cancer cells. The team refers to the technique as “dialysis for cancer.” For patients who are in the early stages of cancer treatment, the process can be used to lower the chance of cancer metastasizing by using the method to cleanse the blood of circulating tumor cells.

“We are simply getting the blood from the patient, it’s a mixture of normal blood cells and cancer cells,” describes Dr. Majid Warkiani, who leads the team of researchers. “We put it inside one of our biochips and the cells go under migration, and they get affected by hydrodynamic forces. Under those forces that we are applying to the cells inside the chip, the bigger cells go up to the cancer cell outlet, and the smaller cells get pushed down and essentially they get fractionated, they get separated.”

Cancer patients require regular scans to ensure that their tumors are shrinking; these scans tend to cost around $700. This new producer, using the biochip to track and monitor the level of cancer cells in a patient’s blood, could offer patients the same level of efficiency at a fraction of the price: costing anywhere from $50 to $100.

This revolutionary method comes on the heels of a different cancer-research development that can hopefully provide a way to effectively manage, if not eradicate, the disease.

“There is still a long way to go – including securing money and support in Australia – before this is possible,” Warkiani adds. With proper funding and support, it is expected that the study will be rolled out in Australian hospitals within a couple of years. The team is hopeful that this discovery can make inroads in cancer research and management.

New Protein-Blocker Stops the Spread of Cancer Cells

New Protein-Blocker Stops the Spread of Cancer Cells

Scientists have discovered a new treatment for leukemia that has the potential to provide a much better alternative to existing methods of treatment. The cancer breakthrough allows us to fight cancer without killing any of the healthy cells.

Researchers from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne are responsible for developing the new treatment, which could soon be available for one of the most aggressive cancers: acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

This news is incredibly promising, but it will need to undergo rigorous testing before it can get approval from the Food and Drug Administration, as is the case with any medical breakthrough. Although there are no guarantees that this treatment will get approved or implemented, the discovery is certainly exciting news for the medical community.


What exactly does the treatment involve?

The scientists identified a protein that is crucial to stopping the spread of the blood cancer called Hhex protein. When they are able to effectively cut off production of the Hhex protein in laboratory conditions, the results show that cancer can be stopped from spreading uncontrollably.

The use of the Hhex protein is especially beneficial because it is not required in healthy blood cells. This makes it a great alternative treatment to typical AML treatments that normally have damaging side-effects.

“Most existing treatments for AML are not cancer cell-specific, and, unfortunately, kill off healthy cells in the process,” said one of the studies researchers, Matt McCormack. “Hhex is only essential for the leukaemic cells, meaning we could target and treat leukemia without toxic effects on normal cells, avoiding many of the serious side-effects that come with standard cancer treatments.”

The researchers are now looking at whether or not the same results can be recreated in humans.

“Hhex only regulates a small number of genes and is dispensable for normal blood cells,” stated McCormack. “This gives us a rare opportunity to kill AML cells without causing many side-effects. We now hope to identify the critical regions of the Hhex protein that enable it to function, which will allow us to design much-needed new drugs to treat AML.”

Time will tell if this treatment becomes readily available for cancer patients. But if clinical trials prove to be successful then widespread use may be just a few years away.

A New Approach To Knee Pain

A New Approach To Knee Pain

Moximed, a California and Zurich-based company, has recently been awarded the European CE Mark to introduce its Atlas Knee System. The device is a knee joint unloader, which helps to lower pressure applied to knee joints and possibly delay costly and inevitable knee replacement surgeries. The technology is similar to the shock absorbers found on vehicles.

The knee system will also be extremely beneficial to patients suffering from knee injuries to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle while reducing pain and minimizing repeat surgeries.

The company believes that they will be able to help lessen damage to the knee cartilage, allowing it to last longer than it naturally would. However, the device will require surgery to fix the implant correctly in your knee and it will need a period of rehabilitation to allow patients to regain strength and flexibility.

The device has the capacity to unload up to 13 kg; it is clinically proven to provide pain relief and preserve knee joints.

According to the website, the system is made from “advanced biomaterials and has passed durability and biocompatibility testing.” The device is perfect for anyone who suffers from pain on the inner side of the knee (particularly during activity), wants to improve physical activity, wants to regain full range of motion, or suffers from medial compartment knee osteoarthritis (OA).

Although it was not designed to provide a cure, the device does have the potential to provide relief. Regardless of whether or not the device is used as a preventive measure or to address certain knee conditions, it should be able to restore the join to normal loading conditions and alleviate a great deal of pain.

From the announcement:

The Atlas System design was evaluated in a 40 patient, prospective, multi-center clinical study. One of the study investigators, Konrad Slynarski, MD, of Lekmed Szpital in Warsaw, Poland commented, “My practice treats many young, active patients with mild osteoarthritis. I was amazed at the overwhelming patient interest in receiving joint unloading therapy, and I was very happy with my patients’ consistently rapid recovery and return to daily activities. I have already shifted my practice patterns to offer the Atlas System to patients.”

Another of the investigators in the study was Willem van der Merwe, MD, FCS (SA) of the Sports Science Orthopaedic Clinic in Cape Town, South Africa, who noted, “I enrolled my full allotment into the study and could have enrolled additional subjects. I believe the Atlas System could be a pre-arthroplasty treatment solution for people who are too young or not ready for joint replacement, and I look forward to adding the service as a regular part of my practice.”

3D Printing Changing Health Care

3D Printing Changing Health Care

3D printing has been around for more than three decades, but it wasn’t until recent years people started to realize the importance of it, likely due to technology’s constant improvement.

Nowadays, anything 3D is at your disposal. You can purchase 3D-printed shoes, 3D-printed pens, and even 3D-printed vehicles. The 3D printing industry grew by 35.2 percent in 2014, followed by a slight slowdown in the year to follow. Nonetheless, the 3D printing industry continues to advance, particularly in the healthcare industry. 3D printing is starting to shake things up, especially as the price tag for it drops and the technology becomes more accessible.

Medical technologies are often expensive, especially when they’re new to the market. However, many of these new 3D-printed solutions are coming in at a reasonable price point and they’re doing incredible things with the technology.

For example, experts recently created 3D-printed skin for burn victims and airway splints for babies with tracheobronchomalacia, a rare condition where the airways around the lungs are prone to collapsing. The production of the airway splints are especially significant because they’re the first 3D implant made for children and they’re designed to grow with the patient.The splints can be produced in a matter of hours, and, miraculously, they only cost just $10 per unit.

Another important detail to take notice of is cost-effectiveness. The reason 3D-printed solutions are often cost-effective is the technology behind it. The process involves building solid, three-dimensional objects from a digital model, using additive processes in which successive layers of material are assembled on top of one another to build the desired object. This is extremely important because items can now be assembled from a digital model, which can increase precision and remove the risk of error. The 3D printing is quite different from older manufacturing techniques, which traditionally rely on removal (by cutting, drilling, chopping, etc.) instead of addition.

These medical solutions are not just for serious medical issues, they have also helped treat a wide range of different issues. Over the past two years,3D-printed ankle replacements,3D-printed casts, and3D-printed pills have all been developed and have seen great success rates.

This is all encouraging news, as the future for healthcare looks bright with technology continuing to improve in today’s society.

For more information on 3D printing,please read this article.