Gene therapy gets FDA approval – and a $2 million price tag

The US Food and Drug Administration approved a treatment Friday for a genetic disease called spinal muscular atrophy that causes infants’ muscles to waste away, potentially killing them before age 2. And then came the price tag: $2.125 million for a one-time treatment. The gene therapy, called Zolgensma, will be marketed by AveXis, whose parent company is Novartis. “Today’s approval marks another milestone in the transformational power of gene and cell therapies to treat a wide range of diseases,” Dr. Ned Sharpless, the FDA’s acting commissioner, said in a statement Friday. “The potential for…

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Hospital comforts children with motorized car they can drive into surgery

HUNTSVILLE Ala. — A hospital can be a scary place for anyone, which is why a team of Alabama specialists are doing everything they can to make the experience not only bearable, but even fun. The child life specialists’ sole job is to help Huntsville Hospital’s youngest patients beyond their medical needs. The hospital waiting room is more like a game room, with interactive activities projected onto the floor for kids to play with while they wait in the emergency room. “So this is kind of one of those things that…

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Virginia doctor shares ‘best bet’ in preventing mosquito-borne viruses

RICHMOND, Va. — With the recent amount of heavy rain, and now much warmer temperatures, the threat of mosquitoes is now upon Central Virginia. The threat of mosquito-borne viruses is also a concern for physicians who handle infectious diseases. Dr. Sarika Tripathi, an infectious disease expert with Johnston Willis Hospital, says she starts to see cases of mosquito-borne illnesses in May. “Mostly with mosquito-borne illnesses here in Virginia, we have viral infections such as West Nile infection, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and Lacrosse Virus,” Tripathi says. Last year, Virginia reported 48…

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Victims rally outside State Capitol: ‘Don’t punish me for my pain’

RICHMOND, Va. — Over a dozen people rallied on the steps of the Virginia State Capitol Wednesday to protest what they said are the unintended consequences of the crackdown of the opioid epidemic. The rally-goers were either sufferers of, or knew someone who suffered from, chronic pain. Sue Walker with the Richmond Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association. “I’ve been in chronic pain for at least 20 years,” said one woman, who identified herself as Denise. “My husband has the misfortune of being a very severe, intractable pain patient,” said Kristen…

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How these 7 eating choices can impact your cancer risk

Your diet may have more impact on your cancer risk than you might think, a new study has found. An estimated 80,110 new cancer cases among adults 20 and older in the United States in 2015 were attributable simply to eating a poor diet, according to the study, published in the JNCI Cancer Spectrum on Wednesday. “This is equivalent to about 5.2% of all invasive cancer cases newly diagnosed among US adults in 2015,” said Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, a nutrition and cancer epidemiologist at Tufts University in Boston, who…

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CBD effective in treating heroin addiction, study finds

Cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive ingredient in hemp and marijuana, could treat opioid addiction, a new study says. Given to patients with heroin addiction, cannabidiol, also known as CBD, reduced their cravings for the illicit drug as well as their levels of anxiety. “The intense craving is what drives the drug use,” said Yasmin Hurd, the lead researcher on the study and director of the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai. “If we can have the medications that can dampen that [craving], that can greatly reduce the chance of relapse and overdose risk.”…

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McConnell unveils bill to combat youth tobacco use by raising purchase age to 21

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell formally introduced legislation Monday to raise the age for buying tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21, a move designed to combat the health effects of tobacco addiction across the country and help his home state of Kentucky move off production of the crop that has sagged in popularity for decades. “Youth vaping is a public health crisis,” McConnell said. “It’s our responsibility as parents and public servants to do everything we can to keep these harmful products out of high schools and out of youth culture.”…

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Increasing number of girls are dying by suicide, study says

Suicide rates for young girls are rising at a pace faster than that of boys, changing the established patterns that boys are more likely to die by suicide and that girls are more likely to consider it and attempt it, according to a new study. Researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in in Columbus, Ohio analyzed suicide rates of US kids and teens ages 10 to 19 between 1975 and 2016 using the Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research database, run by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In…

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Nurse comforts 5-year-old waking up from surgery in touching photo

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – When a 5-year-old Pennsylvania boy woke up from his tonsil surgery, all he wanted was to be snuggled and cared for. That’s when a nurse jumped in to help. That unexpected gesture was caught on camera and has been shared hundreds of times. Slade Thompson, of Clinton County, waited patiently for his new friend, nurse Annie Hager. Thompson came to UPMC last month to get his tonsils out. It was his second surgery this year. “He’s been through a lot this last year,” Slade’s mother, Layla Thompson,…

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