Entries in British Medical Journal (4)


Study Says Public Smoking Bans Help Lower Rate of Premature Births

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A study published in the British Medical Journal found that the frequency of premature births dropped in Belgium as the result of a public smoking ban.

The ban was rolled out in three stages, and after each phase, the rate of premature births dropped. The ban's first phase prohibited smoking in public places and workplaces and was instituted in 2006. Restaurants banned smoking in 2007, and bars serving food followed suit in 2010.

The study, conducted at Hasselt University in Belgium, was based on 600,000 births between 2002 and 2011 and defined premature birth as birth before 37 weeks. Researchers found that the rate of premature births fell after each phase of the ban.

The most notable drops were after the second and third stages, which saw the premature birth rate fall by about 3 percent each time.

A Scottish study in 2012 found a similar pattern, strengthening the theory that public smoking bans help to cut the number of children born prematurely. Separate studies have concluded that secondhand smoke has an impact on pre-term birth rate.

The study supports the belief that public smoking bans may help take some of the risk out of pregnancy.

Public smoking has been banned in 28 states as well as a number of other cities and counties.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


New Review Questions Effectiveness of Tamiflu

Hannah Johnston/Getty Images(OXFORD, England) -- Could Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) be not as effective as originally reported? The efficacy and safety of the drug, known as the most widely used medication against the influenza virus, has been questioned in a report published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal.

Researchers at the Cochrane Collaboration found that evidence supporting the use of Tamiflu is flawed and say that Roche -- the company that manufactures Tamiflu -- is withholding important data from independent reviewers and government agencies.

According to a BMJ release, researchers at Cochrane attempted to test Roche's claims that Tamiflu could prevent complications from influenza and reduce the number of patients needing hospital treatment. Their trials were hindered, however, when Roche refused to release its own complete trial data for analysis.  Reports from European Medicines Agency (EMA) were available to investigators, but presented "inconsistencies," the BMJ release stated.

More than 70 governments have placed orders for Tamiflu, with at least 220 million treatment courses stockpiled since 2003, according to the CDC.  Roche has reportedly pocketed $3.4 billion from sales of the medication.

Amid the questions raised about the Tamiflu maker's willingness to make data public for review, Roche maintains they have given Cochrane all the information needed to conduct a substantial evaluation. But one Cochrane investigator says this is not the case.

"In the BMJ in December 2009, Roche promised full study reports to any legitimate investigators," said Dr. Peter Doshi of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "They have not provided a single full study report to Cochrane, despite our repeated requests."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


BMJ Declares MMR Study 'Elaborate Fraud'

Photo Courtesy -- ABC News(LONDON) – An article in the British Medical Journal has declared that a study that linked the MMR vaccine to autism was “an elaborate fraud” that may have led to the preventable disease and death of children.

In an editorial, the BMJ has charged that a 1998 study in Lancet by Andrew Wakefield was not just bad science, but rather a deliberate falsification of data. The journal’s editor-in-chief, Fiona Godlee, has called for an investigation into Wakefield’s other studies to determine if they too should be retracted. Lancet itself retracted the article a year ago, saying it contained elements that were “incorrect.”

Godlee has likened the scare caused by the article to the Piltdown man, the paleontological hoax that convinced people for 40 years that the missing link between man and ape had been found.

In a series of three articles, Godlee, along with deputy BMJ editor Jane Smith and leading pediatrician and associate BMJ editor Harvey Marcovitch, conclude that there is “no doubt” that it was Wakefield who perpetrated the fraud. Meanwhile, they say he has denied any wrongdoing.

“Instead, although now disgraced and stripped of his clinical and academic credentials, he continues to push his views. Meanwhile the damage to public health continues,” they said.

Medical experts have declared outrage over the article, questioning how many parents may have kept their children from vaccines based on Wakefield’s study.

 “We can only wonder how many children may have died or suffered debilitating illnesses because of this slander against a powerful medical tool that could have saved them, and how many still will before the autism scare is finally put to rest,” said Robert Field, professor of Law at Drexel University.

Some also question the study’s effect on the public’s trust in science.

“Andrew Wakefield has done inestimable damage to the public health both in the U.S. and Europe,” said Bill Schaffner, chairman of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt. “Bad enough when his work was thought to be a combination of inept science and misguided hucksterism – now there are allegations of premeditated fraud!”

And if those allegations are correct, could Wakefield be charged criminally or civilly in England or the U.S.? According to British and American legal experts, prosecutors would have to prove that Wakefield deliberately and knowingly published false information for personal gain. Furthermore, they would have to prove the study was a "substantial factor" in parents' decision to forego vaccination and that Wakefield could have "reasonably foreseen" kids getting sick because of his fraudulent study.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sleep-Deprived Individuals Appear Less Healthy and Attractive, Study Finds

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) -- Did you get your beauty rest last night?

Swedish researchers say there's an important link between sleep and your physical appearance. In a study published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal, researcher John Axelsson and his team at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found that sleep-deprived individuals appear less healthy, more tired, and less attractive than those who have received a full night's worth of sleep.

"Sleep is the body's natural beauty treatment," Axelsson said. "It's probably more effective than any other treatment you could buy."

In the study, 23 healthy adults from ages 18-31 were first photographed after eight hours of sleep, wearing no makeup. The same adults were photographed again after sleeping only five hours and being kept awake for a full 31 hours, with the same lighting and camera settings.

The photos were rated by 65 untrained observers who graded the images in these three categories -- how healthy, attractive, and tired the individuals appeared. On the whole, the participants were judged to be worse-off after sleep deprivation, in all categories, and the scientists believe the effects would be even more dramatic in person, when factors like blink rate and drowsiness could be observed.

Only one photo set was publicly released from the sample, showing a young man. After sleep deprivation, his eyes seem duller and the skin under his eyes appear puffy.

While the effects in Axelsson's research were observed after severe sleep deprivation, he says his team will soon tackle whether an occasional short night of sleep can also cause problems. This experiment called for severe deprivation because the scientists wanted to maximize any effects.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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