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Medical News June 24, 2015

Welcome to this new post on the News Summary Blog. This post will be summarising the main news stories related to medicine and healthcare for the week ending the 20th June 2015.

During this week the morning-after pill has been officially licensed for use by girls under the age of 16. The morning after pill in question, EllaOne received a change of licence from the European Medicine Agency to allow girls under the age of 16 to have access to the drug. EllaOne will be available from any pharmacist that stocks the drug and aims to provide care to younger girls who need it. England has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe, although it has seen a 14% reduction in the last year. The licensing of EllaOne to girls under 16 is hoped to reduce this figure further.
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A research team at the Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge has found a link between the age that puberty starts and the development of a range of diseases. A normal age for puberty is defined as being between the ages of 8-11 in girls and 9-14 for boys. The Epidemiology team used data from Biobank, a collection of data on the health of British people. They found that both early and late puberty was linked to a range of health conditions such as cancer, asthma, obesity and early menopause. Hormone differences have been suggested as a causational pathway for conditions such as cancer. However, very little is known as to how puberty age affects other conditions such as asthma.
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To combat the shortage of GPs in less popular parts of the country the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt will announce plans to introduce a targeted financial incentive to attract GPs to the less popular parts of the country. Figures released show that the area with the least number of GPs to serve its residents is Bexley in south-east London, followed by Swale in Kent. The areas that are best served are Northumberland, Devon and Sheffield. Jeremy Hunt has outlined that the variations within England are “unacceptably large”. In addition to providing a financial incentive, he will implement a scheme to help doctors return to work and offer extra training to GPs in areas that might interest them, such as paediatric care.
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An interesting finding from medical research this week is the link between a chemical in the blood and the likelihood of someone experiencing a decline in brain function. The research published in the Translational Psychiatry Journal found that levels of the protein MAPKAPK5 tended to be lower in people whose brains declined. They analysed levels of 1,129 proteins found in the blood of more than 200 twins. Following this, they then asked the twins to complete cognitive-function tests over the next decade to indicate declining brain function.   If lowered levels of MAPKAPK5 indicate early stages of dementia this is hoped to increase the likelihood of diagnosing patients early. Currently, it is thought to take a decade for changes in the brain to present in symptoms. Although this study is a step forward, experts indicate that a test for dementia is a long way off.
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This week has seen a focus on the waiting lists associated with eating disorders. It is thought that eating disorder patients are experiencing delays of up to three years causing untreated patients to become seriously ill. Experts have warned that specialist services are struggling to cope with the increase in patients with anorexia. Those patients who are forced to wait for treatment are at a greater risk of serious long term health damage as well as a reduced chance of recovery. Ulrike Schmidt, professor of eating disorders at King’s College London expressed concern over the current system which require patients to have a certain severity of eating disorder before being able to access certain services. Recent Beat research (an eating disorder charity) that involved 435 eating disorder patients found that 19% of patients waited more than a year for treatment.
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AJB

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