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Health Updates 16 August 2011

  • Researchers at MIT create super anti-viral drug: “The strategy takes advantage of a molecule called double-stranded RNA, which is produced by many, many viruses when they infect mammalian cells.  Uninfected, our cells usually don’t make this double-stranded RNA, and to some extent our cells have evolved to recognize this structure and respond.  Just not potently enough.  The drug created by the MIT team can enter mammalian cells and is engineered to induce the cells to commit suicide if – and only if – they contain double-stranded RNA.” (LA Times)
  • Menthol thwarts smoking cessation: “Smokers of menthol cigarettes had a significantly lower quit rate than those who smoked nonmenthol brands, according to data from a large population survey.  Overall, menthol cigarettes were associated with about a 10% lower cessation rate among smokers who tried to quit, as reported online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine….One recent study suggested that a ban on menthol cigarettes would prevent 300,000 to 600,000 tobacco-caused deaths over the next 40 years…”.  (Charles Bankhead, MedPage Today)
  • Medicaid pays less for prescription drugs than Medicare“Medicaid gets much deeper discounts on many prescription drugs than Medicare, in part because Medicaid discounts are set by law whereas Medicare prices are negotiated by private insurers and drug companies, federal investigators said Monday in a new report.  The report, from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, could be used by lawmakers trying to cut drug prices as Congress looks for ways to rein in the cost of Medicare under the new deficit-reduction law.” (NY Times)
  • Vitamin D linked to skin cancer: “Higher levels of vitamin D, still within the normal range, are associated with an increased risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer, researchers reported….Ultraviolet B light is known to cause skin cancer, but it also increases cutaneous vitamin D synthesis, the researchers notes, adding that the relationship between vitamin D and skin cancer is complex and studies have yielded conflicting results.  Indeed, some research suggests than vitamin D might reduce the risk of basal cell carcinoma, but other studies have had the opposite outcome.” (Michael Smith, MedPage Today)
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