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Most of my blog reading this week has involved swine flu; feel free to add non-flu-related links to other worthwhile blog posts in the comments. (More flu links are welcome, too.)
First, a few numbers: CDC has confirmed 141 cases in the US; Mexico reports that it has 358 confirmed cases; and the WHO reports 68 additional confirmed cases in 11 other countries. The current worldwide pandemic alert level is 5.
Christine Gorman at Global Health Report identifies and corrects flu-related misperceptions in media reports.
Janet Stemwedel at Adventures in Ethics and Science suggests a way for airlines to reduce the likelihood of having sick passengers aboard.
Merritt Clifton at Gristmill cautions against jumping to conclusions about industrial pig farming’s connection to the outbreak.
Merrill Goozner at GoozNews reports that Arlen Specter’s negotiation on the stimulus package shifted money to research by taking it away from public health – leaving many local agencies without money that would be very useful right now.
A very small selection of this week’s interesting blog posts:
- Effect Measure is staying on top of the news of a swine flu outbreak; 16 of 61 apparent flu deaths in Mexico have been confirmed as swine flu, and 8 people in the US have been diagnosed with swine flu and have recovered.
- Ezra Klein examines some of the many health- and environment-related amendments added to the Senate budget bill, and invites readers to help him dig through the amendments list.
- Lisa Suatoni at Switchboard applauds three US actions addressing the problem of ocean acidification.
- Alison Bass reports that some psychiatrists aren’t happy with the recent criticisms of researchers with financial ties to the makers of pharmaceutical products they’re studying.
I don’t have nearly enough time to keep up with all the great blogging that’s going on. If you’ve got a post to suggest, leave a link in the comments!
Today’s big news is that EPA has officially determined that greenhouse-gas emissions pose a threat to public health and welfare. Over at Gristmill, Kate Sheppard explains what this all means (and tells you how to submit a public comment), Jonathan Hiskes and rounds up reactions from industry, environmentalists, and politicians.
The ways drugs are tested and marketed are under the spotlight these days:
- Liz Kowalczyk at White Coat Notes reports that doctors at Massachusetts Partners HealthCare hospitals will no longer be allowed to accept gifts, meals, or “speakers bureau” travel from drug companies.
- Sarah Rubenstein at WSJ’s Health Blog explores the new Johns Hopkins policy, which is banning free drug-company samples as well as doctor gifts and meals.
- Roy M. Poses MD at Health Care Renewal responds to a Wall Street Journal op-ed that bemoans the criticism of ties between researchers and the pharmaceutical industry.
- Merril Goozner at GoozNews explains why it’s difficult for journal readers to detect bias in clinical trials, and suggests one solution.
- Janet D. Stemwedel at Adventures in Ethics and Science uses Pfizer’s Nigerian trial of a new antibiotic as an example of how not to conduct an ethical drug trial.
There’s new climate legislation in the House (Waxman-Markey), and bloggers have a lot to say about it:
- David Doniger at NRDC’s Switchboard explains what’s in each of the bill’s four titles.
- Also at Switchboard, Melanie Nakagawa examines what the bill does for clean technology in developing countries.(And check the blog’s US Law and Policy page for more NRDC analysis.)
- Matthew Madia at The Fine Print warns that the bill will strip EPA of the power to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants, but Andrew Leonard at How the World Works suggests that might be smart politics.
- Kate Sheppard at Gristmill highlights one thing the bill doesn’t allow for: using budget reconciliation to pass it. That means it’ll take 60 votes to pass.
Bloggers weigh in on some of the questions in US healthcare reform:
- Ezra Klein explains what a public insurance option is, and describes three different forms it could take.
- Maggie Mahar at Health Beat asks whether health insurers are really giving up much ground when they promise community ratings in exchange for an individual mandate, and considers what kinds of reforms will get enough votes in Congress.
- Henry Aaron at The Treatment advocates limiting the tax benefits for employer health insurance.
- Also at The Treatment, Jonathan Cohn reminds us that universal coverage can also benefit those who already have insurance.
Sunday is World Water Day, so bloggers are highlighting water issues:
- Ronnie Cohen at NRDC’s Switchboard and Kevin Ferguson at Gristmill report from the World Water Forum, which is going on this week in Istanbul.
- Melanie Nakagawa, also at Switchboard, emphasizes the economic benefits that clean water investments yield.
- Robert Stavins, also at Gristmill, suggests approaching water management as an economic problem, and corrects some misperceptions about water pricing.
Bloggers are reacting to the news of major scientific fraud: Massachusetts anesthesiologist Dr. Scott Reuben falsified data in his published studies for more than a decade.
- Janet Stemwedel at Adventures in Ethics and Science explores the effects of Dr. Reuben’s duplicity on anesthesiology and surgical patients.
- Orac at Respectful Insolence considers how Dr. Reuben was able to get away with fraud for so long.
- Merrill Goozner at GoozNews notes that Dr. Reuben’s drug trials, like many industry-funded studies, didn’t examine the question that would really be of interest to physicians.
- Alison Bass focuses on the conflict-of-interest angle, noting that Dr. Reuben received speaking fees from Pfizer while reporting positive results from studies of its drugs – a conflict not disclosed in the journals where he published. (Remember, Alison Bass will be speaking here at GW next Wednesday!)
And also on the topic of doctors accepting drug-industry money, Roy M. Poses MD at Health Care Renewal notes medical school faculty members are often paid too little for teaching – which makes it more likely that they’ll accept pharmaceutical-industry funding.
There’s been a lot of news about Obama appointees this week:
- Mike Dunford at The Questionable Authority is furious about the secret holds placed on the nominations of John Holdren (for Science Advisor) and Jane Lubchenco (to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and urges readers to “raise more hell over this issue.”
- Maggie Mahar at Health Beat reports on Sanjay Gupta’s withdrawal of his name for the Surgeon General position.
- Kathleen Reeves at RH Reality Check explains how Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s new pick for Health and Human Services Secretary, is a “pro-pregnancy nominee.”
- Jonathan Cohn at The Treatment has the early word on Nancy Ann Min DeParle, who Obama has chosen to be White House Healthcare Advisor. (In another post, Cohn tells the story of how DeParle arranged for family leave when she was last a presidential appointee – something that was harder than it should’ve been.)
- Deron Lovaas at NRDC’s Switchboard considers the nomination of Roy Keinitz as Undersecretary for Policy at the Department of Transportation to show that the administration’s serious about transforming transportation policy.
Bloggers have lots of thoughts on Obama’s budget:
- Merrill Goozner at GoozNews gives us the big picture
- Maggie Mahar at Health Beat explores the challenges of the budget’s approach to healthcare
- Ezra Klein explains how it addresses the question of an individual mandate for health insurance
- Sarah Rubenstein at WSJ’s Health Blog highlights proposed spending on food safety, the healthcare workforce, cancer, and autism
- Emily Douglas at RH Reality Check examines reproductive-health related items
- Kate Sheppard at Gristmill gives us a rundown of the environmental provisions