Monday, January 7th, 2013
Four sisters who have all been diagnosed with breast cancer are suing the makers of a drug their mother took when she was pregnant in the 1950s. More from The Associated Press:
The four sisters are now suing a former maker of DES, or diethylstilbestrol, in a case set to unfold in federal court on Friday, when it will become one of the first of scores of such claims around the U.S. to go to trial. The Melnick women are seeking unspecified damages.
The numerous pharmaceutical companies that made or marketed the drug argue that no firm link has been established between breast cancer and DES, a synthetic estrogen that was prescribed to millions of women from the late 1930s to the early 1970s to prevent miscarriage, premature births and other problems.
It was eventually pulled from the market after being linked to a rare vaginal cancer in women whose mothers used DES. And studies showed the drug did not prevent miscarriages after all.
All four Melnick sisters had miscarriages, fertility problems or other reproductive tract problems long suspected of being caused by prenatal exposure to DES. Then in 2008, one of the sisters read about a study reporting an increased incidence of breast cancer in the daughters of women who took DES during pregnancy.
‘‘That’s when we really started to say, ‘Wow, there really could be a link. It’s not just in our head,’’’ said Donna Melnick McNeely, a special education assistant from Las Cruces, N.M., who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 49.
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The sisters, who grew up in Tresckow, Pa., say they have compelling anecdotal evidence within their family: Their mother took DES while pregnant with Donna, Michele, Andrea and Francine. All had reproductive problems and developed breast cancer in their 40s. But their mother did not take DES while pregnant with the oldest sister, Mary Ann. She did not have fertility issues and has not had breast cancer.
Thursday, November 29th, 2012
A relatively new type of blood test that can detect genetic diseases including Down syndrome in pregnant women is making news because it is so much less invasive than amniocentesis, a procedure that carries a small risk of miscarriage, and can be conducted at 10 weeks gestational age. But the new test–three are currently on the market–is expensive, costing nearly $2,000, and is not yet regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. More from The Washington Post:
“Tens of thousands of women have used them, according to the companies that sell the tests. But they are not subject to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration, and questions have been raised about a technology whose accuracy and role are still being assessed. As a result, no major insurance company has yet agreed to cover the tests, whose list prices range up to $1,900.
New medical technologies often challenge a health-care industry grappling with pressures to control costs. It’s not yet clear whether the new tests will cut costs and miscarriages by reducing invasive prenatal diagnostic procedures such as amniocentesis or inflate costs because they’re used by women who probably would never have opted for amnio because of miscarriage fears. (The established tests are performed about 200,000 times annually in the United States and cost roughly $2,500 in the Washington area.)
With the new tests, fragments of fetal DNA extracted from the mother’s blood sample are checked for increased amounts of material from chromosomes 21, 18 and 13, a sign that the fetus carries three instead of the normal two copies of those chromosomes.
In this case, more is not better. Having an extra copy of 21, a condition called trisomy 21, is the main cause of Down syndrome, while having a third copy of 18, a condition called trisomy 18, causes a less common disorder named Edwards syndrome. Trisomy 13 is also known as Patau syndrome. All three conditions are linked to serious developmental and medical problems.
Standard first-trimester screening for these genetic conditions can be performed as early as 11 weeks’ gestation. It consists of a blood test to check levels of pregnancy-associated proteins and hormones in the mother’s blood and an ultrasound to look for extra fluid under the skin at the back of the fetus’s neck. The results are usually available within a week.
Used together, the standard blood tests and ultrasound can detect about 90 percent of Down syndrome cases and an even greater proportion of trisomies 18 and 13. But there’s a false-positive rate of about 5 percent, and only amniocentesis or the much less commonly used chorionic villus sampling, another invasive test that can cause miscarriage, can provide a definitive answer.”
Image: Pregnant woman talking to doctor, via Shutterstock
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Friday, November 16th, 2012
A 17-week pregnant woman who died in an Irish hospital late last month is at the center of a debate over whether the Catholic country’s anti-abortion laws put women’s lives in danger. Savita Halappanavar checked into the hospital complaining of back pain, but was soon told she was having a miscarriage. Despite her considerable physical pain, she was denied assistance that would have amounted to an abortion. She died 3 days later of a blood infection. From CNN.com:
“Doctors at Galway University Hospital said that as long as the fetal heartbeat could be felt, the law prevented them from ending the pregnancy, Holland said. Halappanavar died of septicemia, or a blood infection, after three days in the hospital.
“Tuesday morning, came back and said, ‘Sorry, can’t help you. It’s a Catholic country. Can’t help you. It’s a Catholic team.’ So, Savita said that she was not a Catholic. She is Hindu, so why impose the law of the land on her?” her husband said.
The death led to protests, and top Irish lawmakers are asking whether the law needs to be changed.
In Ireland, abortion is legal if the mother’s life is at risk, which is different from her health being at risk, Holland said.
The hospital expressed sympathy to Halappanavar’s husband, but noted in a statement that “the facts of this tragic case have yet to be established.”
Image: Empty hospital bed, via Shutterstock
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Monday, August 6th, 2012
Listeria, the food-borne bacteria that is of particular danger to pregnant women, is rearing its head again in a recall of cantaloupes grown in North Carolina and sold in 10 states, NBC News is reporting. Last summer and fall, a similar cantaloupe-related outbreak claimed 30 lives, sickened 146, and caused at least one miscarriage.
Burch Equipment LLC of Faison, N.C., is pulling 188,902 melons from store shelves in 10 states because of possible contamination that can cause illness and death, particularly in the very young, the very old, pregnant women and those with health problems….
The new recall of 13,888 cases of whole Athena variety cantaloupes follows a recall last week of 580 cases of the summer fruit.
Federal Food and Drug Administration officials and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture are conducting an ongoing inspection at Burch Farms. The FDA warned this week that consumers should not eat the summer melons, which carry a red Burch Farms label and the code PLU #4319.
The melons were shipped between July 15 and July 17 and distributed to retail stores in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia.
No illnesses have yet been connected with Burch melons.
Image: Cantaloupe, via Shutterstock
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Monday, July 30th, 2012
Ashley Moser, whose 6-year-old daughter Veronica Moser-Sullivan was the youngest person to die in the horrific July 20 shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, has suffered a miscarriage while undergoing treatment for her own wounds, the family has revealed. From MSNBC.com:
Moser…was pregnant and was shot in the neck and stomach during the attack July 20. The family said the trauma that Moser sustained caused a miscarriage and that she underwent more surgery on Saturday morning.
Moser, 25, is being treated at Aurora Medical Center.
The family released the following statement:
Ashley Moser is recovering from an additional surgery she had this morning. Tragically, the extreme trauma she sustained also caused a miscarriage.
We want to send a special thank you to the courageous heroes of law enforcement, other first responders, paramedics, and doctors and nurses who have all gone beyond the call-of-duty in caring for our daughter, granddaughter and all of the other victims of this tragic event.
Our sincere appreciation goes out to all of those who have been sending well-wishes, prayers and good thoughts to Ashley. Her lifetime of care will be a long road. For those who wish to donate, please go to any Wells Fargo Bank and request the “Donation Account for Ashley and Veronica Moser.” This is the only official donation account for the family.
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