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Medical News July 3, 2015

Welcome to the Medical News Summary Blog. This blog is designed to keep you up to date with weekly instalments focusing on international health news, advances in medical research and any highlights concerning the NHS. I am a recent Medical Science graduate from the University of Exeter. I have previously spent a year in research working on a Clinical Trial looking at treatments for patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. In the next academic year I am going onto begin the graduate position entry course for Dentistry at Kings College London.

The following post will cover the main news stories from the 27th June until the 3rd July 2015.

This week has seen a divide in California over the controversial SB 277 vaccination bill. The bill if legalised will make it compulsory for all school children to be vaccinated. Previous to this parents have been able to opt-out of vaccinations on the grounds of personal belief. If the bill is passed then exemptions will only be made if children have serious medical issues. The proposed bill comes a year after the Disneyland measles outbreak. The SB 277 bill has been supported by the Supreme Court and is now in the hands of the Californian governor, Jerry Brown who has 11 days to decide whether he will sign it or not.

The Clinical Science Department at Novartic Vaccines have found an indication that the swine flu jab and narcolepsy might be linked by an autoimmune response. The Pandemrix vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was given to six million people in Britain and in some rare cases has triggered the development of narcolepsy, a debilitating sleep disorder. The study conducted found antibodies that cross-reacted between the swine flu protein and also receptors found on neurons. It is thought that following the vaccine the group of patients suffering with narcolepsy had lost a group of neurons responsible for producing the wakefulness hormone hypocretin. The condition can be partly controlled by powerful sleeping drugs at night and stimulants such as Modafinil during the day.

The health secretary Jeremy Hunt has unveiled a way to encourage patients to minimise waste by inspiring them to complete courses of medication. The price of NHS prescribed medicine costing more than £20 is to be written on medication. Research has indicated that between 30-50% of patients do not take prescribed drugs in the way that doctors or nurses have intended. Jeremy hunt has said that people need to demonstrate more personal responsibility for their health to reduce the strain on the NHS. From next year medicines costing more than £20 will also display the words “funded by the UK taxpayer”.

Two licensed drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease have been shown to half brain degeneration in mice. The findings were presented at the Alzheimer’s Society annual research conference. The two drugs in question have already been shown to be safe to prescribe. It is hoped that this will cut years from the time it takes for the drugs to reach patients in need. The scientists have chosen not to name the two drugs in question, however, they have emphasised that they are drugs that are currently being used to treat other conditions.

This week has also seen an advancement in cystic fibrosis treatment. An article published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal indicated that gene therapy has stabilised and slightly improved cystic fibrosis in a study of 136 patients. The new treatment uses liposomes inhaled through a nebuliser that carries the genetic material. Using this approach the defective gene is fixed. Professor Eric Alton of Imperial College London led the trial and warned that the effect was only modest and was variable. However, the control group who did not receive the intervention showed a decline of 3-4% suggesting that the treatment was beneficial.

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