1. A breakthrough in treating parasitic infections
Parasitic infections are the cause of thousands of deaths every year. In a study published in Nature this week, a new drug was shown to cure mice infected with three different parasites. The drug is novel as it directly targets the parasite proteasome (proteins that break down unneeded or damaged proteins), without affecting mammalian cells. It has yet to be tested in humans; however it is a breakthrough in our understanding of how parasites function. This could lead to a new broad-spectrum drug for these infections, which suffer from a lack of research and have limited effective treatment options.
2. Get cured or your money back!
In an interesting drug marketing strategy, GSK has reportedly agreed to provide a “money-back guarantee” on its gene therapy Strimvelis for the extremely rare immune deficiency condition ADA-SCID (“bubble-boy” disease). The treatment costs around $665,000 and can be paid in installments over a number of years. It is supposed to be a one-time cure, providing long-term value compared to existing treatments. The drug is currently only available in Italy, but the price extends throughout Europe. Italy has also negotiated performance-based deals for other high-cost drugs such as cancer medicines.
This pricing strategy may be one way to counteract criticism of high prices for one-off treatments. With a wave of new gene therapies on the horizon, it will be interesting to see if more alternative pricing strategies emerge.
3. Could mobile phones be used to drive healthy behavior change in developing countries?
Texting advice could improve healthy behavior and prevent diabetes. A study published in Journal of Medical Internet Research this week used twice-weekly text messages to encourage adults in India to engage in diabetes-preventing activities e.g. exercising more and eating more vegetables, as well as providing disease education. Diabetes is prevalent in developing countries such as India, but mobile phone use is prolific, allowing easy and widespread access to the population. Over 1 million adults took part in the initiative, with over 1,000 surveyed in the study. Around 40% more people reported improving healthy behaviors in the text group versus the control group (no texts received).
Although results were self-reported and the actual effect of the program on diabetes incidence was not measured, texting could be a low-cost and simple way to educate people about diseases and drive behavior change.
Read more: Science Daily
4. Scientists’ top priorities for the new US president
In an open letter to the US presidential candidates, a host of scientific organizations outlined their top 20 science, tech, engineering, health and environmental issues that they want the candidates to address. Topping the health issues were mental health, antibiotic-resistant superbugs, vaccinations and opioid abuse. They have called for answers by 6th September followed by attendance at a broadcast forum to discuss their stance on these issues.