Top Five Health Stories of 2018

Here are the top five health stories, among several others, that made headlines in 2018

Top Five Health Stories of 2018

Uber Launched UBER HEALTH – New Ride-Hailing Platform for Non-Emergency Patients


Uber may have played its part in addressing transportation issues across sections of society, but it hadn’t paid much attention to what the company itself acknowledged was “vital to all of us: health.”

However, in March this year, the ride-hailing company launched ‘Uber Health’ – a HIPAA-compliant platform, tailored to suit the healthcare industry.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 to safeguard the privacy and security of patients’ health-related information and data.

Uber Health is planned along the lines of UberCENTRAL, a service that allows the company’s business customers to provide transportation to their clients.

According to healthcare statistics, at least 3.6 million non-emergency patients in the country fail to turn up for their medical appointments because of the lack of dependable transportation options.

The concept behind the platform is to partner with healthcare providers, including hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, senior care facilities, home care centers, and the likes, in order to allow them access to the “Uber Health” dashboard for ordering rides on behalf of patients, to and from their appointment.

Additionally, the company has introduced a platform-specific API (application programming interface) to allow smooth integrations of Uber Health into existing healthcare products.

Uber Health bypasses the need for an Uber app, or even a smartphone for that matter, considering the fact that there are many patients out there who do not own smartphones or those who find apps a bit too complicated to understand.

Uber Health allows partners to book rides on behalf of patients through the Uber Health dashboard and text them the trip details, or call them on their mobiles or landlines with the information, thereby taking apps and smartphones out of the equation

FDA Ordered Recall of Carcinogen-Contaminated Blood Pressure & Heart Medicines


In July, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert to healthcare professionals and patients for a voluntary recall of several brands of drugs that were found to contain NDMA-contaminated Valsartan.

Valsartan is generally used by healthcare professionals to treat high blood pressure and heart conditions in patients.

Some of the companies selling these Valsartan-based drugs, which go by different brand names, are marketing products whose Valsartan content doesn’t meet the US Food and Drug Administration’s safety requirements.

The sub-standard Valsartan has been found to contain a dangerous impurity, referred to as NDMA, short for N-nitrosodimethylamine – a substance believed to be “a probable human carcinogen (a substance that could cause cancer).

FDA attributed the Valsartan contamination to deviations from the standard manufacturing practice for the drug.

The FDA is committed to maintaining our gold standard for safety and efficacy. That includes our efforts to ensure the quality of drugs and the safe manner in which they’re manufactured,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in the July 13 press release.

“When we identify lapses in the quality of drugs and problems with their manufacturing that have the potential to create risks to patients, we’re committed to taking swift action to alert the public and help facilitate the removal of the products from the market,” Gottlieb said, justifying the recall.

The FDA alert came in the wake of a multi-nation recall that saw 22 countries recalling some 2,300 batches of Valsartan-containing drugs, just a week prior to the FDA press release.

In November, the FDA recalled another common blood pressure medicine, Irbesartan, manufactured by ScieGen Pharmaceuticals.

The US Federal Drug Administration said ScieGen Pharmaceuticals was recalling certain batches of Irbesartan tablets because they contained an organic chemical called N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA), classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a possible human carcinogen.

According to the FDA, NDEA “occurs naturally in certain foods, drinking water, air pollution, and industrial processes.”

FDA Approved Swedish Birth Control App ‘Natural Cycles’ for Marketing in the U.S.


In August, FDA approved the marketing of a Swedish App called Natural Cycles – a tech-based method of contraception – in the country.

While the app has been in use across EU countries ever since it was certified by the concerned European organization for inspection and certification in February 2017, it was the first time an app-based form of contraception was being approved for use in the U.S

This method of contraception through fertility awareness, however, is not without its fair share of controversy.

In July, an investigation into the Natural Cycles marketing was initiated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the U.K., after it received three complaints about the app and its paid ad on Facebook that vouches for the high accuracy of the app for use as contraception, based on clinical trials.

“We would require robust substantiation from any company to support such a claim,” an ASA spokesman said.

To be fair to Natural Cycles, its Facebook page is chock-a-block with user testimonials in support of the app as well, with one woman going to the extent of posting “the launch of a petition against any possibility of the app being banned in Sweden following the Medical Product Agency’s investigation,” the Guardian reported.

FDA spokesperson Deborah Kotz declined to comment on the ASA investigation, other than saying that the FDA expected Natural Cycles to follow the agency’s own set of marketing policies, according to VICE.

She did, however, acknowledge that the agency was aware of the investigation and had even contacted the Swedish authorities in that regard.

Electric Spine Implant Helps Three Patients Walk Again


Three patients with waist down paralysis were able to walk again after doctors implanted an electrical device into their spines, reconnecting the severed communication between the neurons in their legs and brains.

The beneficiaries of this seemingly miraculous line of treatment included 29-year-old Jered Chinnock from Tomah, Wisconsin; Kelly Thomas, 23, from Homosassa, Florida; and Jeff Marquis, 35, belonging to Louisville, Kentucky.

Chinnock was the beneficiary of a spinal procedure performed by surgeons at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, as part of a study that was published in the journal ‘Nature Medicine on Sep. 24.

Thomas and Marquis underwent a similar procedure as voluntary participants in another study conducted at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville, also published on Sep. 24 in the ‘New England Journal of Medicine.’

Basically, the study involved implanting an array of electrodes below the injured section of the spine and a pacemaker-sized spinal cord stimulator under the skin in the abdominal region, with communication between the two established through a connecting wire.

The implanted devices were controlled remotely using a TV-type controller that allowed doctors to regulate the voltage and even target specific areas for stimulation.

However, the implants alone could not have achieved the level of recovery witnessed in the patients if they were not backed by intensive training in a controlled environment, overseen by trained professionals, and, of course, a ton of willpower on the patients’ part.

Uterus Transplant from Dead Donor Led to First Successful Childbirth


Earlier this month, in an absolute first, a 32-year-old Brazilian woman gave birth to a healthy baby girl – thanks to a uterine implant from a dead donor.

The organ came from a 45-year-old unnamed woman who had voluntarily agreed to donate her organs before her death from brain hemorrhage; she had had three normal vaginal deliveries during her short lifespan.

The transplant took place in 2016, and the recipient gave birth to a perfectly normal baby girl weighing 2.5 kilograms (5.6 pounds) on Dec 15, 2017, through Caesarean section.

The achievement is all the more impressive if you consider that ten similar attempts in the U.S., Czech Republic, and Turkey had ended in failure, although successful birth using a uterus from a living donor has been achieved eleven times in the past.

Despite that, it isn’t a perfectly viable option because finding a woman who would willingly give away her uterus is never going to be easy unless a family member or a close friend agrees to make the sacrifice.

But the latest breakthrough opens the door for women with uterine infertility issues to have children of their own rather than going for adoption or surrogacy options.

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