Health Desk

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

An investigation into a clinical test in France that left one person dead and put five in the hospital has found evidence of brain damage in people who took high doses of the experimental pain medicine.

The early-stage clinical study, conducted by Biotrial in France, was halted in January when the side effects surfaced. It was the first time the drug, made by the Portuguese company Bial and known as "BIA 10-2474," was tested in humans.

Miss Manners and skilled prep cooks should be pleased: Our early human ancestors likely mastered the art of chopping and slicing more than 2 million years ago. Not only did this yield daintier pieces of meat and vegetables that were much easier to digest raw, with less chewing — it also helped us along the road to becoming modern humans, researchers reported Wednesday.

And our ancestors picked up these skills at least 1.5 million years before cooking took off as a common way to prepare food, the researchers say.

Medicare is going to test new ways to reimburse doctors for medications, in hopes they'll choose less expensive drugs.

The plan would alter Medicare Part B, which pays for medicines administered in doctors offices or outpatient hospital clinics — to eliminate incentives for doctors to use the most expensive drugs.

Sheryl Sandberg. Hillary Clinton. Malala Yousafzai. Oprah. Even Taylor Swift.

These names pop up when you Google "women changing the world." Depending on your politics and point of view, you may agree that these influencers have broken stereotypes, raised global awareness for critical issues like energy and education, and/or served as role models for girls.

Serekalem Alemu is crocheting a basket.

Wearing a gray fleece jacket and a long gray skirt speckled with blue flowers, Alemu sits on a sofa on the second floor of a former warehouse in the industrial section of Tel Aviv. A damp Mediterranean winter breeze blows in through the open window. Traffic whizzes by on the boulevard below. With her thick, black hair held back in a ponytail, the 28-year-old winds long, narrow strips of teal-colored fabric into a ball, which will eventually become a basket.

Teenagers often are not comfortable talking about their sex lives with a doctor, but Asian-American teens might have an especially tough time, a study finds.

They are particularly uncomfortable talking with Asian-American or Asian health care providers and say they would lie to them about sex because they think the provider would breach confidentiality and tell their parents.

"If my mom was even outside this door right now, I would not be saying anything about my sexual activities," an 18-year-old woman told the researchers. "I would just be lying."

Anyone can follow the pregnancy of a monkey infected with Zika virus in real time, thanks to an experiment in data sharing that's unusual for biology.

The once routine practice of getting a glass of water before a restaurant meal in Flint, Mich., is now fraught with apprehension, since lead pipes started leaching into the drinking water after officials switched to the highly corrosive Flint River as the city's water supply.

The Dutch dentist was initially welcomed to the rural French town of Chateau-Chinon, which had been without a dental care provider for two years.

Then the horror stories started.

When she was 17, Tracey Helton Mitchell was prescribed an opioid pain killer after getting her wisdom teeth extracted. The medicine helped her deal with the pain related to the extraction, but when the prescription ran out, her desire for its euphoric high remained. That's when she turned to heroin.

For Barbara Radley, there is "before" and "after." Before was when she could work — moving furniture, and driving a long-haul truck.

"It was nothing for me to throw a couch on my back and carry it up a flight of stairs," says the 58-year-old from Oshkosh, Wis.

Then there's after. After she herniated five disks in her back. And after, she says, her blood pressure medicine destroyed her pancreas.

Now Radley is disabled, suffering from diabetes, liver failure and scleroderma.

And she is bankrupt.

How Not To Celebrate #InternationalWomensDay

Mar 8, 2016

How can you tell it's International Women's Day? There's something in the air. Actually, it's an Air India flight that's returning from San Francisco to New Delhi after setting the record over the weekend for the longest distance trip ever recorded with an all-female crew — covering some 7,600 miles in 18 hours.

Carla used to get dialysis a couple of times a week at the public hospital in Indianapolis, Eskenazi Hospital. She would sit in a chair for hours as a machine took blood out of her arm, cleaned it and pumped it back into her body.

Then one day in 2014, she was turned away.

Even though her lungs were full of fluid, the doctors said her condition wasn't urgent enough to treat that day, she says. "I explained to the doctors that I couldn't breathe," she recalls, "and they told me it wasn't true, that I had to wait three more days."

As people get older, their health care goals may shift from living as long as possible to maintaining a good quality of life: quality over quantity.

In many cases, the medical treatment older people receive often doesn't reflect this change in priorities.

You don't expect a bunch of 80-pluses to be working up a sweat, but at the Motion Picture and Television Fund gym, they do. An exercise instructor encourages them. "Squeeze your tush. ... Tushies, tushes, tushies. Squeeze your buns," she urges.

When South Sudan gained independence in 2011, there was great optimism both inside and outside of the country that it was putting its deeply troubled past behind it.

For generations, the South Sudanese had been terrorized by rebel armies and repressive government soldiers. At independence, South Sudan was one of the poorest nations in sub-Saharan Africa but also one of its most oil-rich.

The honeymoon for the world's newest nation didn't last long. Late in 2013 the president and vice president took up arms against each other. And things went downhill fast from there.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Depression prompts people to make about 8 million doctors' appointments a year, and more than half are with primary care physicians. A study suggests those doctors often fall short in treating depression because of insurance issues, time constraints and other factors.

Attend any conference on global health or peruse the United Nations website, and you'll find some ambitious thinking. World leaders say they want to eliminate tuberculosis and malaria, end AIDS and ensure that every pregnant woman can get the medical care she needs. And they want all that to happen now.

But is any of it actually achievable?

Shiva is one chill deity.

He's one of the three major gods in the Hindu religion. And he has a penchant for pot.

"Shiva loves marijuana. So we come to share Shiva's prasad [offerings] with everyone else," explains a 60-year-old holy man who gives his name as Radhe Baba.

It's the eve of the festival of Shiva Ratri, or "The Night of Shiva" — March 7 this year. The celebration marks the day Shiva saved the universe from darkness and married the goddess Parvati.

The Marshall Islands is on an unlikely mission — trying to press India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom to curb their nuclear programs.

The Pacific archipelago, which was the site of dozens of U.S. nuclear tests in the '40s and '50s, is suing the three countries in the U.N.'s International Court of Justice. The Marshall Islands says the three countries haven't carried out in good faith their obligations to pursue negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.

Last week, the Twitterverse became enraged after advertising copywriter Nathalie Gordon posted a photo of pre-peeled, plastic-packaged oranges.

"If only nature would find a way to cover these oranges so we didn't need to waste so much plastic on them," tweeted Gordon in a post that soon went viral. To make matters worse, these decidedly unwhole fruits were being sold by the grocery chain Whole Foods.

In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, by a vote of 8 to 1, to uphold a state's right to forcibly sterilize a person considered unfit to procreate. The case, known as Buck v. Bell, centered on a young woman named Carrie Buck, whom the state of Virginia had deemed to be "feebleminded."

Though the majority of Americans have a primary care doctor, a large number also seek treatment at urgent care centers, statistics show. For many people, the centers have become a bridge between the primary care doctor's office and the hospital emergency room.

There's a sales tax exemption for treating erectile dysfunction in Wisconsin.

The same can't be said for feminine hygiene products.

Sales tax isn't applied to Viagra in Wisconsin, but it is applied to tampons and pads. Birth control, medicated condoms and yeast infection medication are exempt because they are considered drugs.

One lawmaker in that state says the taboo around menstruation that prevents women from openly talking about their periods may also explain why women are paying extra to manage those periods.

Something was wrong with Nat.

I got the call about my 25-year-old severely autistic son just as I was parking, about to meet a friend for coffee. It was from Richard, the day program director. Like many adults with significant disabilities, Nat spends his weekdays at a day program, an organization that helps his employer so that he can work — he does carriage return at a local Shaw's. When Nat is not working at Shaw's, he is out in the community with support staff and other individuals in his program, volunteering at Meals on Wheels and various activities.

The annual letter from the Gates Foundation calls for an "energy miracle" — the creation of a cheap and clean source of energy to get power to the 1.2 billion people on the planet without electricity.

Pages