Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Hepatitis C In The News; HIV Vaccine As Distant Goal,Marijuana,Diabetes,HCV Geno 1 and More

Merck Scientist Sees Potential HIV Vaccine As Distant Goal

PHILADELPHIA -(Dow Jones)- Merck & Co. (MRK), whose experimental HIV vaccine failed in a clinical trial more than three years ago, isn't close to testing any follow-up vaccines in humans, a company scientist said.

"We don't see ... a product vaccine that we could make at this point," Roger Pomerantz, who leads infectious disease research at Merck, said at a conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists here. He cited limits on scientific understanding of how best to combat such a complex virus.
Merck, however, continues to conduct basic research aimed at coming up with a vaccine, and it's monitoring outside research efforts, he said. Also, Merck continues to work on improving treatments for people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

In September 2007, a clinical trial of a Merck vaccine was halted because it didn't reduce the rate of HIV infections compared with a placebo--a major disappointment for researchers and patients who had seen promise in Merck's approach.

Pomerantz said Merck, of Whitehouse Station, N.J., had spent hundreds of millions of dollars and many years developing the experimental vaccine that ended in failure.
A separate attempt to develop an HIV vaccine, funded by the federal government, showed some promise in reducing HIV infection in a clinical trial in 2009, but there has been scientific debate about the trial results, casting doubt on the potential for the vaccine.
-Peter Loftus, Dow Jones Newswires; +1-215-982-5581;

Extended treatment duration for chronic Hep C genotype 1 late viral responders

This month's issue of the Journal of Viral Hepatitis compares 48 weeks with 72 weeks of pegylated interferon and ribavirin for treatment naïve chronic hepatitis C genotype 1 late viral responders.

Patients with genotype I chronic hepatitis C virus infection with late virological response to therapy have low sustained viral response with standard 48 weeks of therapy and may benefit from extended therapy.
Dr Sood and colleagues from Texas, USA performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of 5 studies to compare the outcome of 48 weeks vs 72 weeks treatment in treatment naïve chronic hepatitis C genotype I patients with late virological response.

The research team found that the end of treatment response with extended 72 weeks of treatment compared to standard 48 weeks of treatment was similar 48% and 56%, respectively.

However, the sustained viral response rates were higher with 72 weeks of treatment compared to 48 weeks treatment 32% vs 25% with pooled odds ratio of 1.7 in favor of extended duration therapy.
This was because of lower relapse rates with extended duration therapy with odds ratio of 0.4 in favor of 72 weeks therapy.

The team observed no publication bias as assessed by Egger’s test.
The research team noted that extending the treatment duration from 48 to 72 weeks in genotype 1 infected patients with late virological response improves sustained viral response."
"Thus, therapy extension in genotype 1 late viral responders may be a consideration to improve treatment response."
"However, the proportion of patients with LVR that might benefit from 72-week therapy appears to be small."

* Whistleblower will receive $2.6 million

WASHINGTON, April 15 (Reuters) - CVS Caremark Corp (CVS.N), which runs 7,000 pharmacies, has agreed to pay $17.5 million to resolve claims that it overbilled Medicaid, the Justice Department said on Friday.

CVS ran into trouble with Medicaid programs in 10 states when it overbilled the government for prescription drugs, according to the Justice Department.

The department declined to specify the amount by which the government was overbilled.

The case was brought to the Justice Department by a whistleblower in Minnesota, who will receive $2.6 million.

The FDA warns consumers to steer clear of any temporary tattoos labeled as “black henna” or “pre-mixed henna,” as these have been known to contain potentially harmful adulterants including silver nitrate, carmine, pyrogallol, disperse orange dye and chromium. Researchers have linked such ingredients to a range of health problems including allergic reactions, chronic inflammatory reactions, and late-onset allergic reactions to related clothing and hairdressing dyes. Neither black henna nor pre-mixed henna are approved for cosmetic use by the FDA and should be avoided even if they are for sale in a reputable store.

Something else to watch out for are the micro-injection machines used by some professional temporary tattoo artists such as might be hired for a corporate event or a festival  While getting a microinjection-based temporary tattoo may not hurt, it does puncture the skin. The United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive recently issued a warning that improperly cleaned machines could facilitate the spread of infectious diseases including HIV and hepatitis. As a result, several types of micro-injection machines with internal parts that could carry contamination from one customer to another have been banned there. Such machines aren’t as popular in the U.S., but if you aren’t sure, it’s best to avoid it. The more familiar press-on temporary tattoos are .........
The Canadian government was reviewing its options on Wednesday after a judge said it may have to rewrite the country's medical marijuana laws to make it easier for patients to obtain the drug.

Marijuana growing, possession and distribution are illegal in Canada, but the government was ordered by the courts a decade ago to allow its use for medical purposes by people who have a doctor's approval.
An Ontario judge sided this week with a man who wants the drug for medical purposes, and argued his rights were violated because he was forced to raise it illegally when he was unable to find a doctor willing to prescribe it.

The government appears to be using a shortage of doctors willing to support the drug for medical purposes as a way to limit patient access to it, Ontario Superior Court justice Donald Taliano ruled on Monday.
"Rather than promote health, the regulations have the opposite effect. Rather than promote effective drug control the regulations drive the critically ill to the black market," Taliano wrote in the 109-page ruling.
Many doctors will not prescribe marijuana to treat chronic pain or other ailments out of fear that unanswered scientific questions about its safety and therapeutic value would violate their oath not to harm patients.
New On The Blog

Other Health News

 Today at Scope and pubilshed in Nature ; Stanford researchers  reported that type-2 diabetes is looking more and more like an autoimmune disease, rather than a strictly metabolic disorder. According to co-first author Daniel Winer, MD
Successful strategy developed to regenerate blood vessels

Researchers at the University of Western Ontario have discovered a way to stimulate the formation of highly functional new blood vessels. Dr. Geoffrey Pickering and Matthew Frontini developed a strategy in which a biological factor, called fibroblast growth factor 9 (FGF9), is delivered at the same time that the body is making its own effort at forming new blood vessels in vulnerable or damaged tissue. The research is published in Nature Biotechnology.

Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Lawson Health Research Institute

Caption: Cardiologist Dr. Geoffrey Pickering of the University of Western Ontario describes a new strategy for stimulating the formation of highly functional new blood vessels in damaged tissue.
Credit: The University of Western Ontario

Complementary Medicine / Alternative Medicine News
Dietary Supplement Industry Hosts First Dietary Supplement Caucus Briefing For The 112th Congress
18 April 2011
The Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus (DSC), in cooperation with the leading trade associations representing the dietary supplement industry-the Natural Products Association (NPA), Council for Responsible Nutrition...
[read article]

Ginger Used as Painkiller for Arthritis

Ginger contains dozens of the most potent inflammation fighting substances known, phytonutrients called gingerols.
Japanese researchers writing in the Journal of Medicinal Food explain that red ginger (Zingiber officinale var. Rubra) is used in Indonesian traditional medicine as a painkiller for arthritis.
Learn more about fighting pain and inflammation in my article: Natural Anti- Inflammatory Foods and Supplements That Help Arthritis

Ginger Fights Inflammation Like Common NSAID's
In research done over the past...continue reading..


by: Pharm-line
When people who advocate integrating conventional science-based medicine with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) are confronted with the lack of evidence to support CAM they counter by calling for more research, diverting attention to the 'package of care' and its non-specific effects, and recommending unblinded 'pragmatic trials'.  We explain why these responses cannot close the evidence gap, and focus on the risk of biased results from open (unblinded) pragmatic trials.  These are clinical trials which compare a treatment with 'usual care' or no additional care.  Their risk of bias has been overlooked because the components of outcome measurements have not been taken into account.  The components of an outcome measure are the specific effect of the intervention and non-specific effects such as true placebo effects, cognitive measurement biases, and other effects (which tend to cancel out when similar groups are compared).  Negative true placebo effects ('frustrebo effects') in the comparison group, and cognitive measurement biases in the comparison group and the experimental group make the non-specific effect look like a benefit for the intervention group.  However, the clinical importance of these effects is often dismissed or ignored without justification.  The bottom line is that, for results from open pragmatic trials to be trusted, research is required to measure the clinical importance of true placebo effects, cognitive bias effects and specific effects of treatments.

Healthy You

April 18, 2011 9:20am
Directtoconsumer genetic tests are controversial, with Congress last year scrutinizing their scientific accuracy and marketing practices.
April 18, 2011 9:05am
Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration convened a twoday advisory panel meeting to discuss the pros and cons of providing consumers with direct access to genetic tests such as those sold by 23andMe and Navigenics.

Just For Fun

What’s in Your Belly Button?

Ever wondered what microorganisms live on you?
You are alive, but just how alive? We know that species live under our beds or in our backyards. But how many living organisms are on a square centimeter of your skin? What do they do, and how they differ from those of your neighbor? Very little is known about the life that breathes all over us. Each person’s microbial jungle is so rich, colorful, and dynamic that in all likelihood your body hosts species that no scientist has ever studied. Your navel may well be one of the last biological frontiers. It is time then, to explore.
Sampling the nation for Belly Button Bacteria

We are a group of biologists and science communicators from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and we want to know what lives on us. But this project is as much about teaching as it is about learning. We imagine germs as bad, and yet most are not. Most are either good or simply present, whether in between your toes or up your nose. The diversity on our bodies is, like any biological diversity, fascinating and full of awe and we want to share the joy of discovering it, one body part at a time. You give us a sample, we will grow and identify the bacteria, and you get the results. Meet your personal ecosystem, in color! With time we will not only grow the microbes off of your parts, we will sequence them, to know the easy to cultivate species but also all the rest. The life on us knows no celebrity, or rather it knows them as well as it knows the rest of us. Lady Gaga may live the wild life, but she also hosts it.
.Why begin with the belly button?

Because no one volunteers when we ask for armpit samples. Because our belly buttons are relatively isolated, a place where microbes are safe. Because everybody has one, its what once connected us to our past. Yet, we barely notice it in our daily lives, to the point that few people actually wash theirs. Which is great for the bacteria! They are well protected, and provide a refuge of our wild nature. We can ask many questions about the microbes on our bodies (what controls which live where, whether the species on men and women are different, whether innies and outies sport different fancies, etc…) but a first step is to simply see who is there, the way the first explorers, upon arriving at new continents, simply wrote home to describe what they found.
.So far, so bountiful
Your body’s life is beautiful. Browse through our collection of bodily life, or, if you have already been sampled, find your own sample here. Samples shown in our collection came from the first few sampling events: the ScienceOnline 2011 convention (see microbes that grow on our favorite science writers), the Darwin Day at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, and various others.


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