Medical Monday: Delayed Edition

Deep in the backcountry of Montana I was able to almost forget about medical politics. However, now that I am back, the time has come to recap events of last week in both medicine and policy. 

Moderate Republicans had hoped to achieve passage of a rewrite of the Affordable Care Act by making scaling down their proposal, making the changes less extensive. However even this “ skinny ” rewrite failed to pass as three Republican Senators Collins of Maine, Murkowski of Arkansas, and John McCain of Arizona opposed the measure. If you ask me it is no coincidence that two of these maverick Republicans are women and the other, Senator McCain, is a cancer patient. Here are three people who understand what is at stake, i.e. health care for women and the seriously ill. 

Also during the week, 148 Democrats wrote to HHS ( Health and Human Services) Director Tom Price objecting to the decision to cut two years of funding from the TPPP (Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program). Again, if someone could explain to me why decisions of this magnitude can be made single handedly, I would be much obliged. 

Texas has passed a bill which requires women to obtain separate addition insurance coverage for non-emergency abortions. It seems to me that this could be a compromise solution in which everyone would get a chance to support what they espouse. Of all the health care controversies, it seems this one is the biggest, and thus the one to compromise on. 

On the other hand, insurance wold become useless as a tool to support the general health and prosperity of the population if we conceded to every anti-vaccine person who refused to pay for coverage which included vaccines, or a Jehovah’s Witness who refused to pay for insurance covering blood transfusions. You could imagine the list would go on, as there are folks who are anti-antibiotic, and anti-mammogram, and yes, those who are anti-birth control. And just as I would advocate compromising on abortion coverage, I would dig in just as firmly on the critical need for birth control coverage, which is I think essential to our stability and progress as a society, not to speak of essential to the health and well being of women and children. 

Here’s a brand new issue: Menstrual Leave. This is is policy which allows a worker to take a paid day off during her period. Such leaves are in place in several countries including Japan and Taiwan. However, many experts feel that this has the potential to retard women’s progress in the workplace. The notion that work performance suffers during menstruation is a fallacy, and this policy plays into it. If a women’s period is so heavy, painful or otherwise debilitating that she need stay home from work, then she should seek consultation with a Gynecologist. 

In medical news, it turns out that some perinatal exposures may last through several generations. A new study in mice has shown that exposure in pregnancy to environmental pollutants results in offspring with increased asthma risk for up to three generations. 

For your we-already knew-this report of the week, new research has demonstrated that a brief daily run helps protect bone mineral density in women. Indeed brief bursts of any high intensity exercise will do it, increasing bone by about 4 %, which may not sound like much but is considerable. 

In exhilarating and awe-inspiring news, we have CRISPR. If you do not know this acronym, you should. It stands for "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”. Basically these are short segments of DNA which read the same way in one direction or the other. In nature, they are used as part of the immune system of various creatures. In technology, they are useful for editing genes. 

The MIT technology review has reported on original research at Oregon Health Sciences University where researchers have edited DNA in the viable human embryos as a way of preventing disease. It is interesting to note that while the federally funded National Institutes of Health does not support studies involving CRISPR in human embryos, the US National Academy of Sciences has “ opened the door to such research providing that the work would address serious inherited diseases.”


And with this momentous news we conclude this delayed edition of Medical Monday. See you next week.