The Top Medical/Health News Stories of the Week
Here’s our round-up of the medical and healthcare news stories of the week – and what a week it’s been! We’ve scoured the news for the stories we think are important to know about. Every week, we’ll bring you a fresh batch of healthcare stories for you to feast on.
Use these stories to help boost your knowledge of the healthcare sector and the biggest health topics affecting us.
Cancer: High Street Pharmacists to Make Referrals
A new pilot scheme has launched in England that allows pharmacists to refer patients for scans and checks. Prior to this, individuals would have had to wait to see their GP. This scheme is intended to diagnose more cancers early in an effort to treat them earlier. High street pharmacies will be funded to refer their customers for these checks and the NHS plans on sending trucks out to the community to perform “on the spot” scans.
Ensuring patients are able to easily be diagnosed and treated is a fundamental goal of the current Health and Social Care Secretary in England, and this new pilot will give more people the opportunity to have their symptoms investigated.
Met Office issues heat alert warning for England
Temperatures are set to soar this week, reaching highs of 34C. The Met Office and UK Health Security Agency have issued a heat alert warning as a response. The southern parts of the UK are expected to hit at least 30C, with the more northern areas expected to have highs of 28C.
The chief meteorologist, Dan Rudman, shares the temperature predictions, although unusual for this time of year, are the result of southerly airflow introducing warm air and home-grown warming due to pressure. Keep cool out there, and don’t forget to stay hydrated as you check on your vulnerable loved ones, like your grandparents!
Rename Monkeypox Strains to Remove Geographic Stigma, Researchers Say
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced its plans to rename monkeypox as a result of the stigma and discrimination surrounding the current name. Historically, there were two branches of the virus, termed “clades:” West African and Congo Basin. Researchers argue that the current circulating strain actually forms a third clade and the name, as such, should reflect this. The geographic naming of viruses and diseases had had negative consequences in the past; the Beta variant of COVID-19 was originally dubbed the South African strain, which led to travel bans and sparked negative reactions.
It is possible that renaming monkeypox could set a precedent against naming future diseases after geographic locations. Something to keep an eye on, for sure!
Pfizer stops enrollment in Paxlovid trial in standard-risk population
Pfizer Inc has been developing a COVID-19 antiviral drug, Paxlovid. However, the company is now halting enrollment in a trial for the drug in standard-risk patients (i.e., those without health conditions that put them at risk of severe disease who can recover without the drug) after a study revealed the treatment to be ineffective in reducing symptoms. High-risk groups, in contrast, have experienced lower rates of hospitalizations and deaths with the use of Paxlovid. Pfizer plans on including this new data in its application to the Federal Drug Administration seeking full approval for the drug’s use in these high-risk populations.
Clinical trials for drug development are expensive and take a long time, but are important in determining which treatments work best.
Air pollution cuts life expectancy by more than two years, study says
A new study completed at the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute has stated that reducing global levels of PM2.5 – hazardous floating particles that damage the lungs – to the WHO’s recommended level would raise average life expectancy by an average of 2.2 years. 97% of the world’s population resides in areas where air pollution exceeds these recommended levels, making air pollution a significant public health issue.
This is an issue of global health and requires governments to treat air pollution as an urgent policy issue. As an aspiring healthcare professional, you may be interested in focusing on problems that cross national borders.
Parts of the Brain Form a Circuit that May Fuel Smoking Addiction
Researchers have found a potential addiction circuit in the brain after looking at brain scans of people who lost the desire to smoke after a stroke. Individuals who lost the urge to smoke exhibited damage in one of three areas of the brain – the dorsal cingulate, lateral prefrontal cortex, insula – or regions related to the three. Don’t worry too much about the vocab, just know the researchers believe a fourth key area of the circuit could be targeted to help people overcome addiction with the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS essentially boosts activity in part of the brain, although its exact mechanism for working is unclear.
This is a really exciting development in the field of neuroscience and medicine, as it could potentially enhance the effect of TMS in practice.
New Covid Variant BA.5 has a Growth Advantage, becoming the Most Common Strain and Driving Third Omicron Wave
New Covid variant BA.5 has a growth advantage, becoming the most common strain and driving third Omicron wave
This news report is a stark reminder that viruses can continue evolving and become more or less severe as time goes on.
That’s a wrap on this week’s news round-up, before you leave, pick one that you found the most interesting out of our selection.
Stay tuned for next week’s roundup. Who knows what will happen in the next seven days?
Before you leave, take 5 mins and reflect on what you’ve learnt from this
- What surprised you? What was expected?
- How has this improved your knowledge of healthcare developments?
Make a quick note of these reflections (bullet-points are fine) in your reflective diary. You might find it useful when answering medical interview questions!