Headlines: October 12, 2010
by Meg Larkin
First, in legal news, the Justice Department has won a key court ruling in one of the suits challenging the new health care law. The ruling came in a Federal District Court in Michigan that was hearing a challenge to the law brought by a Christian legal group and four individuals. According to the Washington Post, “Judge George Caram Steeh in Detroit said the mandate to get insurance by 2014 and the financial penalty for skipping coverage are legal. He said Congress was trying to lower the overall cost of insurance by requiring participation.” Although the Obama administration has touted this ruling as a victory, the case in Michigan is only one of many challenges to the health care law, and judges in other districts are not bound to follow the Detroit court’s lead. The Judge hearing the Florida lawsuit filed by 20 states is expected to issue a ruling on motions to dismiss that case this week.
In research news, a new study shows that hormones used to treat menopause may put women at a higher risk for kidney stones. According to the Boston Globe, “Among more than 24,000 postmenopausal women taking either hormones or dummy pills, those using hormones were 21 percent more likely to develop kidney stones over about five years.” The findings are unlikely to change how doctors prescribe hormones to treat the symptoms of menopause. Because of earlier studies linking the drugs to more serious health risks such as breast cancer, heart attack, and stroke, the government recommends hormones be used only in low doses and for the shortest time possible. The full study can be found here: http://jama.ama-assn.org/
In other research news, the safety of codeine is being questioned. A new commentary set to appear in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association suggests that morphine may be a better choice because its effects are more predictable. According to the New York Times, “Codeine works because it is converted to morphine in the body. But it can cause dangerous complications and even death for the almost 1 in 10 Americans who have a genetic variation that makes them metabolize it very rapidly.” In addition, because codeine can be passed through breast milk from mother to infant, it poses added risks to children. The authors of the commentary urge tighter restrictions on the use of codeine in children.
Finally, in global health news, the United States is donating $130 million to African medical schools. The donations will be spread over 5 years and 30 schools in about 12 countries. The funding will also go to some American medical schools that are partnering with the African institutions. The money will come mainly from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, but it will be used to fund a range of projects. Investments will include higher salaries for doctors to keep medical talent from leaving Africa, and increased investment in technology and teaching equipment.
Meg Larkin is a third year law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns.