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Activity in Japan's services sector expanded at the fastest pace in almost two years in August, a survey showed on Thursday, as companies turned more optimistic on business conditions in a sign the economy may be bouncing back. The Markit/Nikkei Japan Services Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) rose to a seasonally adjusted 53.7 from 51.2 in July to reach the highest since October 2013. The reading on the services sector could ease concern about the economy after disappointing industrial production and household spending data for July.
California inmate dies of natural causes after 26 years on death row
A California prison inmate who spent 26 years on death row for murder has died of natural causes, the fourth so far this year in a state that hasn't carried out an execution since 2006. Ronald Harold Seaton, 69, died last week at Marin General Hospital near San Francisco, state prison authorities said on Wednesday. The death penalty is technically legal in California, but legal challenges to the state's lethal injection practices along with political reticence to push the issue in a liberal state have instead left condemned inmates in a limbo that in many cases has lasted for decades until their natural deaths.
Death toll in Legionnaires' outbreak in Illinois rises to eight
An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease has killed an eighth person in Quincy, Illinois, and sickened 41, mostly at a veterans home, health and veterans affairs officials said on Wednesday. The latest death occurred outside the Illinois Veterans' Home, the officials said, adding that three others were sickened in the city and six more at the veterans home, the officials said. There was no evidence the new cases in the city were connected to the outbreak at the veterans home, Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said.
Watchdog: 900,000 vets may have pending health care requests
WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 900,000 military veterans have officially pending applications for health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the department's inspector general said Wednesday, but "serious" problems with enrollment data make it impossible to determine how many veterans were actively seeking VA health care.
A cancer-killing therapy that engineers a patient's own immune cells to wipe out chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) has shown long-term success in a handful of people, a US study said Wednesday. Experts said the approach is on the cutting edge of a growing field known as immunotherapy, which coaxes the body to kill off cancer and may someday revolutionize oncology by ending the use of toxic chemotherapy. The method, known as CTL019, was developed by the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center and Perelman School of Medicine, which is now reporting the first long-term results on a group of 14 initial patients.
By Tom Esslemont LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Rising mistrust of international charities and a public push for greater transparency on spending in corruption-prone crisis zones are compelling some non-government organizations (NGOs) to hire a new recruit - the criminal investigator. In a bid to prevent as well as report fraudulent activity, Plan International, Oxfam GB, Americares and International Medical Corps are among those to have appointed trained counter-fraud directors at their head offices. Others, such as Medicins Sans Frontieres, Handicap International and Action Against Hunger use auditors and finance officers to handle cases of fraud.
Pennsylvania judge rejects parents' move to stop gender change surgery
A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday rejected an effort by the parents of a 48-year-old transgender woman to block her gender reassignment surgery after they said she is incompetent. Christine Kitzler's surgery had been scheduled to take place in New Hope, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, Sept. 1, but on Monday her parents filed an emergency petition in a Bucks County courthouse in suburban Philadelphia to stop the surgery. Kitzler, who lives in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was in a pre-operative appointment when she received news the surgery was halted, her lawyer, Angela Giampolo, said.
Washington state sues U.S. over toxic vapors at nuclear waste site
By Eric M. Johnson SEATTLE (Reuters) - The U.S. government has failed to adequately safeguard crews involved in the decades-long cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state, leaving workers sickened by exposure to toxic vapors, the state said in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday. The 18-page complaint, filed in federal court in Spokane, cited more than 50 instances since January 2014 of workers being exposed to hazardous fumes at the sprawling World War Two-era site along the Columbia River. One worker was treated last year for chemical pneumonitis, an inflammation of the lungs caused by chemical exposure, the complaint said.
By Kristina Cooke and Robin Respaut NEW YORK (Reuters) - Martin Szczupak had already been in and out of rehab when, for a misdemeanor possession charge, a judge sent the 21-year-old heroin addict to a century-old estate in the wooded hills of upstate New York for another chance to clean up. Belle Terre, the former home of a 19th-century copper baron, housed the 168-bed Phoenix House Delaware County Center, a private, nonprofit residential drug treatment facility. When Szczupak arrived in June 2012, all was not well behind Belle Terre’s stately walls.
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Review examines risks, responses to in-flight medical emergencies
By Gene Emery (Reuters Health) - An airplane in flight is one of the worst places to have a medical emergency, even if there's a doctor on board. The New England Journal of Medicine has published a review for doctors of the types of urgent problems they might encounter on board and some of the challenges they'll face if they try to treat them. Fortunately, the odds of having a medical emergency on a particular flight are long - by one count, about 1 in 600.
By Kathryn Doyle (Reuters Health) - A 25-year-old program named for Ryan White, who was expelled from school at age 13 because he had HIV, now provides essential services to nearly three-quarters of HIV-positive patients in the U.S., a new analysis shows. Compared to other outpatient HIV treatment facilities, those funded by the federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) offer more case management, mental health and substance abuse support services, and those services make a difference in patient outcomes, according to researchers from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Facilities that applied for and received funding through the RWHAP have served more vulnerable populations, including the poor or recently homeless or incarcerated, said lead author Dr. John Weiser of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.
Sierra Leone is to vaccinate around 200 people who came into direct or indirect contact with a woman who died of Ebola on Saturday, a spokeswoman for the U.N. World Health Organisation said on Wednesday. The death of the woman, a trader from Kambia District near the border with Guinea, sets back efforts to end an 18-month epidemic that has infected more than 28,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and killed more than a third of them. The 67-year-old woman died five days after Sierra Leone started a 42-day countdown to being declared free of Ebola. "We will vaccinate those in the (Tonko Limba) chiefdom who came into direct contact with the deceased and those contacts they also came into close contact with," said WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris.
By Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) - Syria's water network, heavily damaged by bombs and shelling, is at risk of collapse as its civil war drags on, increasing the threat of deadly typhoid or cholera outbreaks, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday. Millions of people in Aleppo and Damascus are cut off from water supplies for days at a time, a tactic used by all warring sides to exert control in divided cities, the ICRC said. ICRC aid workers have helped water boards and engineers to maintain and repair aging pumping stations throughout Syria since the conflict began in March 2011.
Dozens of North Carolina Students Sent Home Due to Mysterious Illness
More than 100 students from two North Carolina schools had symptoms.
A U.S. appeals court has cleared the way for Novartis AG to launch the first biosimilar drug in the United States as it declined on Wednesday to stop the sale of the company's copycat version of Amgen Inc's blockbuster cancer drug Neupogen. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in July said Novartis could begin to market its biosimilar drug, to be sold under the name Zarxio, after Sept. 2. Amgen had sought an injunction while both companies ask the court to clarify federal regulations on when close copies of biologic medicines may be brought to market.
Some leukemia patients see durable results from Novartis therapy
Some leukemia patients who had exhausted other treatment options have no trace of the disease more than four years after being treated with an experimental type of therapy called CAR T cells in a small pilot study at the University of Pennsylvania. The 14-patient study, which began in the summer of 2010, enrolled patients who had failed to benefit from standard treatments for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a cancer of white blood cells that most commonly affects adults. The first patient to receive the therapy is cancer-free after five years and another of the first three enrolled patients also remains in remission, the university said on Wednesday.
By Jacqueline Tempera BOSTON (Reuters) - Ballot initiatives from two marijuana advocacy groups were approved by the Massachusetts attorney general on Wednesday, leaving it up to voters to decide whether pot smoking should be legal in the state. The proposals, submitted to State Attorney General Maura Healey by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and the Bay State Repeal, argue that legalizing the drug will make it easier to regulate its sale and prevent underage kids from accessing it. In Massachusetts, 53 percent of voters told a Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll in February that they would favor legalizing marijuana with just 37 percent opposing.
By Reuters Staff NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sony Pictures Entertainment executives altered the script of its forthcoming movie "Concussion," about football-related brain trauma, to avoid antagonizing the National Football League, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. Citing emails between Sony studio executives that were leaked by hackers last year, the Times said marketing plans for the movie were positioned to focus on the story of a whistle-blower, rather than a condemnation of the sport. Sony said on Wednesday that the New York Times story "contains many misleading references" and that nothing had been "softened" in the film to placate anyone.
By Amanda Becker WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would launch a $10 billion initiative to tackle drug and alcohol addiction, a problem she speaks of often on the campaign trail and which affects 23 million Americans. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, announced her plan in the Manchester Union Leader, a New Hampshire newspaper. “To be candid, I didn’t expect what came next,” Clinton wrote in the piece posted late on Tuesday.
By Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - Scientists at U.S. biotechnology company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals researching a rare genetic disease that traps sufferers in a second skeleton have discovered a treatment that shuts down excessive bone growth in mice engineered to develop the illness. Company scientists said on Wednesday the protein Activin-A, which normally blocks bone growth, triggers hyperactive bone growth in patients with a genetic mutation that causes the disease. The disease is known as Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva, or FOP.
The Kansas City Royals found an unlikely, and far more insidious, enemy this week than their scheduled opponent the Detroit Tigers when two players came down with chicken pox. The players Kelvin Herrera and Alex Rios are expected sit out for a few weeks as they recover from the nasty virus that can lead to high fevers and itchy blisters. While chicken pox is often thought of as a childhood disease, for Herrera and Rios, their age might actually work against them as they battle through the virus.
Six charged in Oklahoma on suspicion of running deadly drug ring
Six people have been charged in Oklahoma with homicide, accused of running an illegal prescription drug ring that authorities linked to the overdose death of a woman last year, police said on Wednesday. The arrests of three men and two women took place outside of Tulsa and stemmed from the death of Jennifer McNulty, 38, who died after taking oxycodone she purchased from a network of prescription drug dealers.
Two polio cases have been confirmed in western Ukraine, the first to be recorded in Europe since 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday. A 10-month-old baby and a four-year-old child were diagnosed with the polio virus in Ukraine's southwestern Zakarpattya region, which borders four European Union member states, after paralysis associated with the disease was detected, the Ukrainian health ministry had said on Tuesday. "It's the first polio case in Europe since 2010," WHO spokesman Oliver Rosenbauer told AFP.
Study supports watch-and-wait approach for many prostate cancers
By Kathryn Doyle (Reuters Health) - In a long-term study of older men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer and followed with active surveillance, less than a third of cases eventually needed treatment, according to a new study. About one half of one percent of the men died of their cancer during up to 18 years of follow-up. Some prostate cancers do need to be treated on diagnosis, but older men with small, slow-growing cancers may die of other causes – often heart disease – before their prostate cancer shortens their lifespan, the authors note August 31 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Biogen patent survives challenge by hedge fund manager Bass
In another setback for prominent hedge fund manager Kyle Bass and his campaign to eliminate some drug patents, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Wednesday declined to hold a trial on the validity of a patent on Biogen Inc's multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera. Despite recent slowing demand, Tecfidera is the top-selling oral MS drug and widely considered to be Biogen's most important near-term growth driver. Biogen shares were up 2.8 percent at $300.65 at midday on Wednesday.
Congo bans documentary about renowned rape trauma surgeon
Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday banned a documentary film about a doctor who treats war rape victims, leading the film makers to say the government was trying to silence debate about sexual violence. Media Minister Lambert Mende gave no reason for the decision to ban "The Man who Mends Women (L'Homme Qui Repare Les Femmes)", which is about Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege, the founder of Panzi Hospital in the eastern city of Bukavu. Sexual violence by militias and the army is a defining atrocity of a conflict in eastern Congo that has lasted two decades, and the hospital has treated thousands of rape victims.
Kidney recipients, donors want info about each other’s health
By Kathryn Doyle (Reuters Health) - Living kidney donors and their recipients would like to share more health information before the transplant surgery, a new survey indicates. Currently, patients must be informed if they’re at risk for acquiring hepatitis or HIV from a donor organ, researchers write in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Beyond that, transplant professionals cannot share information without the permission of both parties, senior author Dr. Lainie Friedman Ross of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago told Reuters Health by email.
House Judiciary panel sets first Planned Parenthood hearing
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Judiciary Committee will hold Congress' first hearing on the Planned Parenthood videos next Wednesday. And the title they're using leaves little doubt about where majority Republicans stand on the issue.
Medical specialists urge more debate on gene-editing technology
By Kate Kelland LONDON (Reuters) - Medical researchers called on Wednesday for detailed, thoughtful debate on future use of new genetic technology that has the potential to create "designer babies". The technology, called CRISPR-Cas9, allows scientists to edit virtually any gene they target, including in human embryos, enabling them to find and change or replace genetic defects. Describing CRISPR as "game-changing", the Wellcome Trust global medical charity and four other leading British research organizations urged the scientific community to proceed considerately, allowing time and space for ethical debate.
British doctor in northern Yemen unfazed by 'crazy warfare'
By Kieran Guilbert LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Windows shattered next to Natalie Roberts as air strikes rained down around a hospital in northwest Yemen, but the British doctor focused only on keeping her war-wounded patients alive while the warplanes circled overhead. "You feel totally isolated and unsafe, but all you can do is try to stabilize the people and children who arrive with major injuries," said Roberts, emergency co-ordinator for northern Yemen for the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Roberts spent two months in the northwestern Saada and Amran provinces, where she said air strikes had shut down most health facilities, forced medical staff to flee and damaged roads, leaving the sick and injured stranded and unable to seek help.
An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at the Illinois Veterans' Home in Quincy, Illinois, has infected 35 infected people and killed seven, according to the Chicago Tribune. Officials expect additional cases in the coming weeks, since people with underlying medical conditions are at an increased risk of developing the disease. The outbreak...
The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday issued warning letters to five distributors of pure powdered caffeine, as the federal agency stepped up efforts to curtail ingestion of the stimulant in its pure form.The drug regulator had in 2014 issued a consumer advisory warning of the risk to taking pure powdered form of caffeine after...
Ukraine outbreak brings polio back to Europe, WHO says
By Tom Miles GENEVA (Reuters) - Two children in southwestern Ukraine have been paralyzed by polio, the first outbreak of the disease in Europe since 2010, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, in a setback for a global eradication campaign. The WHO said Ukraine had been at particular risk of an outbreak because of inadequate vaccination coverage. In 2014, only 50 percent of children were fully immunized against polio and other preventable diseases, it said.
Gilead combo HIV pill matches Truvada efficacy but safer in trial
Gilead Sciences Inc said on Wednesday its experimental fixed-dose combination treatment for HIV proved as effective in a late-stage study as the company's widely used Truvada combo pill but with significantly less loss of bone mineral density and kidney function. The company has already sought U.S. and European marketing approval for the new combo pill nicknamed F/TAF, which is meant to be a safer replacement for Truvada, a cornerstone of HIV treatment that has been associated with slight declines in bone mineral density and kidney function.
Sixty-one infants die at Indian hospital in just two weeks
The deaths highlight the challenges faced in India's underfunded public health system, where successive governments have failed to address the acute shortage of staff and clinics. A criminal probe was under way into the conduct of three staff at the Shishu Bhawan, or Children's Home, in the city of Cuttack in eastern Odisha, state health minister Atanu S. Nayak said on Wednesday. Opposition parties, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), staged protests outside several government hospitals across Odisha, waving flags and shouting slogans against state government officials.
(Reuters) - Canada's Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc agreed to buy surgical device maker Synergetics USA Inc , its eighth acquisition this year. Valent said on Wednesday it would commence a tender offer to acquire all outstanding shares of Synergetics for $6.50 per share, a premium of 48 percent to Synergetics' Tuesday close on the Nasdaq. At $6.50, the offer was worth about $166 million based on Synergetics' diluted outstanding shares as of April 30.
FDA approves Tesaro's treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea
(Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Tesaro Inc's treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in adults, the company said on Wednesday. The drug, Rolapitant, was approved to be used along with other agents to prevent delayed nausea and vomiting associated with initial and repeat courses of chemotherapy, Tesaro said. Tesaro licensed Rolapitant from Opko Health Inc in December 2010, giving it worldwide rights to develop and market the therapy.
Switzerland imposes alcohol limit on cable car operators
Switzerland on Wednesday closed a legal loophole that allowed cable car drivers to escape criminal prosecution if caught drunk on the job as the law did not impose an alcohol limit on them. "Employees who are entrusted with safety-relevant tasks will no longer be able to perform these duties after (a blood alcohol level of) 0.5 parts per thousand," Switzerland's highest governing body said in a statement. "Until now, it was already forbidden to perform security-relevant cable car activities while drunk, but under the prior formulation it was not possible to criminally prosecute someone caught under the influence of alcohol, except in the case of an accident," he said.