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Archive for May, 2013

Ban tobacco advertising to protect young people

29 MAY 2013 | GENEVA – On World No Tobacco Day, 31 May, WHO is calling for countries to ban all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship to help reduce the number of tobacco users. Tobacco use kills nearly 6 million people every year.

“Governments must make it their top priority to stop the tobacco industry’s shameless manipulation of young people and women, in particular, to recruit the next generation of nicotine addicts.”

Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General

Bans on tobacco advertising are effective

Bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship are one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco consumption, with countries that have already introduced bans showing an average of 7% reduction in tobacco consumption.

Research shows about one third of youth experimentation with tobacco occurs as a result of exposure to tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Worldwide, 78% of young people aged 13-15 years report regular exposure to some form of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

“Tobacco use ranks right at the very top of the list of universal threats to health yet is entirely preventable,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “Governments must make it their top priority to stop the tobacco industry’s shameless manipulation of young people and women, in particular, to recruit the next generation of nicotine addicts.”

“Most tobacco users start their deadly drug dependence before the age 20”, says Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases department. “Banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is one of the best ways to protect young people from starting smoking as well as reducing tobacco consumption across the entire population.”

Dr Bettcher warns however that, even when bans are in place, the tobacco industry is constantly finding new tactics to target potential smokers including:

  • handing out gifts and selling branded products such as clothing, in particular targeting young people;
  • “stealth” marketing such as engaging trendsetters to influence people in places such as cafes and nightclubs;
  • using online and new media, such as pro-smoking smartphone applications and online discussions led by tobacco company staff posing as consumers;
  • placement of tobacco products and brands in films and television, including reality TV and soap operas; and
  • corporate social responsibility activities such as making donations to charities.

“That is why the ban has to be complete in order to be fully effective,” he added.

Countries and banning tobacco advertising

WHO’s report on the global tobacco epidemic 2011 shows that only 19 countries (representing just 6% of the world’s population) have reached the highest level of achievement in banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. More than one third of countries have minimal or no restrictions at all.

Countries that are making strong progress in banning the last remaining forms of advertising include Albania, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Iran, Mauritius, Panama and Vietnam.

WHO supports countries to meet their obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which requires Parties to introduce a comprehensive ban of all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship within five years of the entry into force of the WHO FCTC for that Party.

According to the “2012 Global Progress Report on Implementation of the WHO FCTC”, 83 countries have already reported that they have introduced a comprehensive ban of all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Countries that have banned displays of tobacco products at points of sale include Australia, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Palau and Panama, with Australia also introducing plain packaging of tobacco products.

A recent survey on tobacco use in Turkey shows the ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship, combined with other tobacco-control measures, has contributed to cutting tobacco use by more than 13% – translating to 1.2 million fewer tobacco users – since 2008.

Tobacco kills millions

Tobacco kills up to half its users. By 2030, WHO estimates that tobacco will kill more than 8 million people every year, with four out of five of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries. Tobacco is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases.

First global treaty for health

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO and demonstrates the world’s commitment to decisive action to reduce tobacco use, the leading preventable cause of death. The Treaty was adopted in 2003 and now has 176 Parties, covering 88% of the world’s population.

WHO

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2013/who_ban_tobacco/en/index.html

 

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Artichoke and Feta Tarts

Artichoke and Feta Tarts

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces feta, divided
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 14-ounce (1 sheet) or 17.3-ounce (2 sheets) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • All-purpose flour (for work surface)
  • 2 4-ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained, halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 425°. Blend cream and 2 ounces feta in a food processor until smooth; season with salt and pepper.
  • If using 14-ounce package of puff pastry, cut in half and roll out each half on a lightly floured surface into a 16×10-inch rectangle. (If using 17.3-ounce package, use 1 sheet of pastry for each tart.) Transfer each piece of pastry to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a paring knife, lightly score pastry (do not cut all the way through), leaving a 1-inch border.
  • Spread feta mixture over pastry, dividing evenly and staying within border. Arrange artichoke hearts over feta mixture and crumble remaining 2 ounces feta over; drizzle with oil. Brush pastry border with egg.
  • Bake tart until pastry is puffed and beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375° and continue to bake until pastry is deep golden brown and cooked through, 20-25 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  • DO AHEAD: Tart can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Read More http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/quick-recipes/2013/05/artichoke-and-feta-tarts#ixzz2UmTsPgst

Common painkillers ‘pose heart risk’

Pills

Two common painkillers, ibuprofen and diclofenac, can slightly increase the risk of heart problems if taken in high doses for a long time, data suggests.

People with severe arthritis often take the drugs, which also calm inflammation, to go about daily life.

The researchers said some patients would deem the risk acceptable, but they should be given the choice.

A study, published in the Lancet, showed the drugs posed even greater risks for smokers and the overweight.

The risks have been reported before, but a team of researchers at the University of Oxford analysed the issue in unprecedented detail in order to help patients make an informed choice.

The group investigated more than 353,000 patient records from 639 separate clinical trials to assess the impact of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

They looked at high-dose prescriptions levels, rather than over-the-counter pain relief, of 150mg diclofenac or 2,400mg ibuprofen each day.

They showed that for every 1,000 people taking the drugs there would be three additional heart attacks, four more cases of heart failure and one death as well cases of stomach bleeding – every year as a result of taking the drugs.

So the number of heart attacks would increase from eight per 1,000 people per year normally, to 11 per 1,000 people per year with the drugs.

“Three per thousand per year sounds like it is quite a low risk, but the judgement has to be made by patients,” said lead researcher Prof Colin Baigent.

He added: “So if you’re a patient and you go and sit in front of your doctor and discuss it, you are the one who should be making the judgement about whether three per thousand per year is worth it to allow you, potentially, to go about your daily life.”

He said this should not concern people taking a short course of these drugs, for example for headaches.

However, he did warn that those already at risk of heart problems would be at even greater risk as a result of the high-dose drugs.

High blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking all increase the risk of heart problems.

Prof Baigent said: “The higher your risk of heart disease, the higher your risk of a complication. Roughly speaking, if you’ve got double the risk of heart disease, then the risk of having a heart attack is roughly doubled.”

He said patients should consider ways to reduce their risk, which could include statins for some patients.

Alternative

A similar drug called rofecoxib (known as Vioxx), was voluntarily taken off the market by its manufacturer in 2004 after similar concerns were raised.

There are more than 17 million prescriptions of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the UK each year. Two thirds are either ibuprofen or diclofenac.

A third drug, naproxen, had lower risks of heart complications in the study and some doctors are prescribing this to higher-risk patients.

The drug does a similar job to aspirin by stopping the blood from clotting although this also increases the odds of a stomach bleed.

Prof Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said the drugs were a “lifeline” for millions of people with arthritis and were “extremely effective in relieving pain”.

He added: “However, because of their potential side-effects, in particular the increased risk of cardiovascular complications which has been known for a number of years, there is an urgent need to find alternatives that are as effective, but safer.”

Prof Donald Singer, member of the British Pharmacological Society and from the University of Warwick, said: “The findings underscore a key point for patients and prescribers – powerful drugs may have serious harmful effects.

“It is therefore important for prescribers to take into account these risks and ensure patients are fully informed about the medicines they are taking.”

By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22694858#?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

 

War on drugs ‘driving hepatitis C pandemic’

Artwork of HCV
Hepatitis C virus can lead to fatal liver disease

The global war on drugs is fuelling a hepatitis C pandemic causing millions of needless infections, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has warned.

Repressive drug law enforcement is driving high rates of infection among injecting drug users, it said.

Resources need to be redirected into treatment and prevention.

The Commission estimated that of 16 million people worldwide who inject drugs, 10 million are living with hepatitis C.

This puts them at risk of fatal and debilitating liver disease.

The Global Commission called on governments to decriminalise drug use and provide schemes, such as those which give access to sterile needles, to halt the spread of the disease.


“The war on drugs is a war on common sense.”

Ruth DreifussGlobal Commission on Drug Policy

The group, which includes seven former presidents, ex-UN chief Kofi Annan and other world leaders, has previously linked the “failed” war on drugs with the spread of HIV.

In its latest report it says in some countries with the harshest drug policies more than 90% of people who inject drugs are living with hepatitis C.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia have seen the fastest spread of infection and the highest number of infections has been reported in China, the Russian Federation and the USA.

Strongly enforced policies criminalising drug use force users away from public health services and locking up vast numbers of injecting users perpetuates the spread of the infection, the Commission warned in the latest report.

Hidden epidemic

Hepatitis C is highly infectious and around a quarter of those with chronic infection will develop fatal liver disease.

But the disease can go undetected for several years with no or few symptoms and many people are completely unaware they are infected.

Governments “must immediately redirect resources away from the ‘war on drugs’ and into public health approaches that maximise hepatitis C prevention and care”, the report recommended.


Hepatitis C

  • Hepatitis C is most commonly spread through blood-to-blood contact
  • It is three times more prevalent than HIV among injecting drug users
  • Initially it can cause no or very mild symptoms such as fever, nausea and fatigue
  • In 80% of those infected the infection becomes chronic and the virus remains in the body long-term
  • A quarter of those with chronic infection will develop potentially fatal liver disease
  • Many people do not know they are infected until they get advanced liver disease

“Hepatitis C has to be one of the most grossly miscalculated diseases by governments on the planet,” said commissioner Michel Kazatchkine, who is also the UN secretary-general’s special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“It is a disgrace that barely a handful of countries can actually show significant declines in new infections of hepatitis C among people who inject drugs.”

The report highlighted Scotland’s national Hepatitis C Action Plan as an example of best practice.

Launched in 2006, the strategy has led to a four-to-six-fold increase in the provision of sterile injecting equipment and an increase in the number of people, mainly in drug services and prisons, being tested for the infection.

The provisions put in place, which also include an eight-fold increase in the number of prisoners receiving treatment for hepatitis C, have led to falling rates of infection.

The Commission also highlights the potential for dramatic savings to countries’ health and welfare budgets in the long term from preventing cases of liver disease.

“The war on drugs is a war on common sense,” said commissioner Ruth Dreifuss, who is also the former president of Switzerland.

“Repressive drug policies are ineffective, violate basic human rights, generate violence and expose individuals and communities to unnecessary risks.

“The hepatitis C epidemic, totally preventable and curable, is yet another proof that the drug policy status quo has failed us all miserably.”

The World Hepatitis Alliance said: “It is incomprehensible that hepatitis C, along with hepatitis B, is so consistently ignored.

“If you compare rates of hepatitis C in drug users in countries with good harm reduction and more enlightened drug policies with those in countries without, it is clear that regarding drug use exclusively as a criminal justice issue is a health disaster. Hepatitis C, its prevention, care and treatment must be addressed and must be addressed as the health issue it is.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “This government is committed to breaking the vicious cycle of addiction and drug usage remains at its lowest level since records began.

“The best protection from drugs is not to take them in the first place, but we must ensure good healthcare is available for those who want to treat their addiction – and we are seeing a rise in the numbers of users exiting treatment programmes free of drugs.”

BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22705901#?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

 

HIV inner shell structure revealed

HIV
HIV escaping from a white blood cell

Researchers have for the first time unravelled the complex structure of the inner protein shell of HIV.

The US team, reporting in Nature, also worked out exactly how all the components of the shell or ‘capsid’ fit together at the atomic level.

Until now the exact structure had proved elusive because of the capsid’s large size and irregular shape.

The finding opens the way for new types of drugs, the researchers from the University of Pittsburgh said.

It was already known that the capsid, which sits inside the outer membrane of the virus, was a cone-shaped shell made up of protein sub-units in a lattice formation.

But because it is huge, asymmetrical and non-uniform, standard techniques for working out the structure had proved ineffective.

HIV
Computer model of HIV capsid structure

The team used advanced imaging techniques and a supercomputer to calculate how the 1,300 proteins which make up the cone-shaped capsid fit together.

Critical interactions

The process revealed critical interactions between molecules in areas that are necessary for the shell’s assembly and stability.

These potential vulnerabilities in the protective coat of the viral genome could be exploited by scientists designing new drugs to tackle the problem of HIV resistance, the researchers explained.

Study leader Dr Peijun Zhang, associate professor in structural biology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine said: “The capsid is critically important for HIV replication, so knowing its structure in detail could lead us to new drugs that can treat or prevent the infection.

“The capsid has to remain intact to protect the HIV genome and get it into the human cell, but once inside, it has to come apart to release its content so that the virus can replicate.

“Developing drugs that cause capsid dysfunction by preventing its assembly or disassembly might stop the virus from reproducing.”

She added that the fast mutation rate of HIV made drug resistance a big problem.

“This approach has the potential to be a powerful alternative to our current HIV therapies, which work by targeting certain enzymes.”

Prof Simon Lovell, a structural biologist at the University of Manchester, said not only had the researchers managed to achieve something that was very difficult, they had also found some really interesting results.

“The big problem with HIV is that it evolves so quickly that any drug you use you get drug resistance which is why we use a multi-drug cocktail.

“This is another target, another thing we can go after to develop a new class of drugs to work alongside the existing class.”

BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22708437#?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

 

UN anti-cholera plan in Haiti ‘failing’

Cholera victims in Haiti
The epidemic has killed 8,000 people and many thousands have fallen sick

UN efforts to tackle cholera in Haiti are “almost non-existent”, a charity says, as the world body faces court action for inadvertently starting a cholera epidemic in the country.

Late last year, the UN launched a $2.2bn-appeal (£1.5bn) to improve water supplies in Haiti.

But Medecins Sans Frontieres says this has had almost no practical effect.

The UN is accused of negligently allowing peacekeeping soldiers to pollute Haiti’s water with cholera.

The epidemic, which is spread by infected sewage, has killed more than 8,000 people since late 2010.

‘Alarming’ situation

“There have been grand plans – a 10-year $2.2bn project,” Duncan McClean, a senior manager for MSF, told the BBC.

But the UN plan had not been implemented, he added.

“I travel regularly to Haiti; the impact on the ground today is almost non-existent.”

The UN plan to improve drinking water and sewage outlets – which MSF says is unfulfilled – was widely seen as the international body’s attempt to deflect calls by the victims of cholera for financial compensation.

Responding to the MSF charge, the UN told the BBC that “enormous efforts” had been made to support Haiti’s cholera eradication plans. These efforts had resulted in significantly fewer cases and reduced mortality rates.

But the UN also recognised that a shortage of funds meant “resources mobilised to date are clearly insufficient to face a potential peak of cases” in the forthcoming rainy season.

It has called for more resources from member states to tackle the cholera epidemic.

The UN says it has legal immunity from the compensation case.

Lawyers for the cholera victims say that unless talks on compensation begin in the next few weeks, they will take the UN to court in New York.

MSF said the cholera situation in Haiti was currently “extremely alarming”. The rainy season had begun – causing the usual flooding of infected open sewers – while donor countries had reduced aid commitments.

By Mark Doyle BBC International Development Correspondent

BBC –
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-22703387#?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

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