Health Highlights: Nov. 1, 2012
Medical Research Threatened by Sandy Power Loss Planned Parenthood in Texas Continues to Receive Funding for Now NYC's Bellevue Closes, Remaining Patients Evacuated More Drug Trial Data Required Under New Journal Policy Canada, Switzerland Lift Ban on Novartis Flu Vaccines
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Medical Research Threatened by Sandy Power Loss
Researchers at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City are struggling to save cells, tissues and animals used for medical research.
NYU lost power when superstorm Sandy struck Monday night and backup generators later failed, which meant there was no power for refrigerators, freezers and incubators used in research, ABC News reported.
The loss of power also blocked access to NYU's Smilow Research Center because the electronic key card readers would not work.
"It's so horrible, you don't even want to think about it," cancer biologist Michelle Krogsgaard told ABC News. "All the work we did, all the time and money, we're going to have to start all over."
On Wednesday, she and members of her lab were allowed into the research center to rescue tissue samples from thawing freezers, and also hoped to top up depleted tanks of liquid nitrogen that house irreplaceable cell lines.
Planned Parenthood in Texas Continues to Receive Funding for Now
Planned Parenthood in Texas will continue to receive money from a joint state and federal program for the time being, despite Gov. Rick Perry's pledge to cut its funding by Nov. 1, the Associated Press reported.
A new Texas law forbids state funds from going to organizations linked to abortion providers. Planned Parenthood in the state is funded by the joint state and federal program that provides health care to low-income women.
The federal government funds 90 percent of the $40 million yearly cost of the program, but says the Texas law violates federal rules. Perry says only state money will be used to keep the program going.
On Wednesday, Perry announced that the state was ready Thursday to begin a women's health program with state-only funding. But Health and Human Service Commissioner Kyle Janek said the program will not begin immediately and may not take effect until Dec. 31 since federal funding will continue until then, the AP reported.
In addition, there are three unresolved lawsuits over the issue.
NYC's Bellevue Closes, Remaining Patients Evacuated
It could be weeks before Bellevue Hospital in New York City opens its doors again, an official says.
The city's flagship public hospital and premier trauma center in Manhattan closed Wednesday after fuel pumps for its backup power generators failed. The remaining 300 patients were evacuated to other hospitals, The New York Times reported.
Conditions at the hospital had deteriorated to a third-world level, with no hot water, no lab or radiology services, and pails of water lugged up flights of stairs to use for flushing toilets, Alan Aviles, the president of the Health and Hospitals Corporation which runs Bellevue, said at a news conference Wednesday night.
"If we can get this hospital back up within two to three weeks we will be doing really well," he said, The Times reported. "Nothing has happened like this in Bellevue's 275-year history."
More Drug Trial Data Required Under New Journal Policy
Beginning in January, the British Medical Journal will no longer publish the results of clinical trials unless drug makers and researchers agree to provide detailed study data on request.
The move is meant to push drug companies to provide access to the huge amounts of data they collect when researching new drugs. Currently, very little of that data is made public.
Critics say that when clinical trial results are published in medical journals, they often include only the most favorable findings and independent researchers are not allowed to analyze all the data.
Journal editor Dr. Fiona Godlee said she hopes other major journals will adopt similar policies. "We expect that eventually this will become the norm," she told The Times.
The journal will publicize cases in which access to full clinical trial data is denied, Godlee said.
Canada, Switzerland Lift Ban on Novartis Flu Vaccines
Bans on two Novartis flu vaccines were lifted Wednesday by Canadian and Swiss health officials after they determined the vaccines were safe.
The two countries were among a number of nations that halted the use of the Fluad and Begripal flu vaccines after white particles were seen in the products, Agence France-Presse reported.
Use of the vaccines was also frozen in Austria, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
Switzerland's national drug agency Swissmedic said the "security and efficiency of the vaccine are in no way weakened by these (particles) present in some syringes." The Public Health Agency of Canada said it is "advising health care professionals in possession of these vaccines that they can start using them once again," AFP reported.
"Novartis is working diligently with other health authorities to address their questions and resume distribution," the Swiss drug maker said Wednesday.