Thursday

Haiti’s Storm Damage Raises Fears of Food Shortages and Cholera

Sandy’s strong winds and heavy rains destroy huge amounts of crops in Haiti. Officials said more than 70 percent of their crops — including bananas, plantains and maize — were wiped out in the south of the country. What’s more, there is concern that floods and unsanitary conditions could worsen the nation’s cholera epidemic, which already has taken more than 7,500 lives since 2010, the same year that Haiti was ravaged by a massive earthquake. The storm already is blamed for the deaths of at least 54 people in Haiti, and for leaving more than 20,000 homeless. The death toll from Sandy for the entire Caribbean is at least 71. BBC, The Associated Press

Storm reveals widespread flaws with hospital generators. As Sandy approached the East Coast, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was assured hospitals were ready. Yet generators at one hospital after another failed after the storm struck. A key factor: While newly constructed hospitals are supposed to place their generators and fuel above flood level, the requirements do not apply to existing hospitals. “What I find most remarkable about this story is that [more than seven] years after Hurricane Katrina, major hospitals still have critical backup systems like generators in basements that are prone to flooding,” one expert said. ProPublica

U.S. mine safety authorities say their enforcement blitz found more than 120 violations at 13 sites. The September coal mine inspections, conducted in seven states, focused on conditions that leave workers at risk for developing black lung disease. According to the citations, many of the mines failed to install proper ventilation and relied on broken-down equipment to suppress dust, which also can lead to explosions. Many of the inspections were in Appalachia, which has witnessed a sharp increase in black lung disease. Overall, rates of black lung disease have declined since 1969, when a landmark law forced companies to control dust levels. Since the late 1990s, however, the disease has made a comeback. The Center for Public Integrity, NPR

Food and Drug Administration tightens scrutiny of generic extended-release drugs. The FDA’s move came after it found one generic antidepressant, a 300-milligram dose of bupropion, failed to work as well as its brand-name counterpart, Wellbutrin XL. Soon after the generic drug was introduced in 2006, patients who switched to it began complaining that their depression returned. The 300-milligram dose has since been taken off the market. Although the incident appears to be limited to just one dosage level of a single drug, an FDA official said the agency now is looking at the issue more broadly. It is a rare departure for the FDA, which usually insists that generics are as effective as brand-name drugs. The New York Times

British Medical Journal will require drug makers to provide more detailed data. The prominent journal said, beginning in January, it will no longer publish results of clinical trials unless drug companies and researchers comply with “reasonable” requests for patient-level information. The decision is meant to prod pharmaceutical companies to open up the vast quantities of data they collect in researching new drugs, very little of which is ever made public. Critics say that when results are published in medical journals, they often present a drug in the best possible light and prevent vetting by independent researchers. An industry group expressed concern about potential interference with patient confidentiality. The New York Times

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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