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Headlines: October 19, 2011

by Kyle Thomson


Preliminary results for a malaria vaccine that has been in development for nearly 25 years shows considerable promise according to scientists associated with the study.  The vaccine, known as RTS,S protected nearly half the children that received the vaccine from serious malaria.  Clinical trials for the vaccine will continue through 2014 but the results are encouraging even though the success rate is considerably lower than normal vaccines.  Usually vaccines have effective rates over 90 percent before they are put into production, but given the scope of the malaria problem and the lack of alternatives because of the difficulty in creating a vaccine against a parasite, RTS,S could prove to be a groundbreaking therapy in the developing world.

The top court in the European Union, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), has banned patenting of any stem-cell development process that involves destroying a human embryo.  Many in the scientific community have criticized the ruling as potentially having a negative effect on medical development since it will hamper the ability for European countries to profit off of new research techniques.  A European Union directive had previously banned the patenting of inventions whose commercialization does not protect human dignity, prompting a German court to hold the patent invalid.  The ECJ upheld the ruling, saying that using stem cells in order to commercialize off of the human body is illegal.  The Court distinguished this from patents for techniques that have a diagnostic or therapeutic benefit to the embryo itself or stem cell development processes that did not destroy human embryos as a side effect, both of which would remain legal.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced a move to cut a variety of outdated and overly burdensome regulations that apply to hospitals and other healthcare providers.   Katherine Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said these rollbacks would apply to over 6,000 hospitals and institutions and would save nearly $1.1 billion in the first year and $5 billion over five years without creating any adverse externalities for patients.  The move comes as part of a larger effort by the Obama administration to trim outmoded and ineffective regulations from the administrative state.  The proposal involves a long list of measures that will be open for notice and comment for 60 days before a final ruling is issued.


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