October 6, 2015

UW graduate William Campbell awarded Nobel Prize

nobelprize2015-medA graduate of the University of Wisconsin is one of three scientists who’ve been awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine. William Campbell and Satoshi Omura of Japan were honored for discovering the drug Avermectin. Two derivatives of that drug helped reduce the presence of diseases caused by parasitic worms, mostly in Asia and Africa. The other Nobel Prize winner is Tu Youyou, China’s first medicine laureate. He created a drug that sharply dropped mortality rates for malaria.

The 85-year-old Campbell earned a doctorate degree from UW Madison in 1957. He worked for 33 years at Merck Pharmaceuticals, and is a research fellow-emeritus at Drew University in New Jersey. One of the diseases his drug helped reduce is river blindness, 90-percent of which is inflicted in Africa. The other disease causes swelling in limbs and genitals that affect 120-million people, primarily in Africa and Asia.

Assembly passes funding restrictions on Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin

Rep. Andre Jacque

Rep. Andre Jacque

The Wisconsin Assembly has passed funding restrictions on Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. The bill (AB 310) prevents Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin from accessing about $3.5 million in annual funding under the federal Title X program.

“Those funds should be going to our county and local health departments, things like the Wisconsin Well Woman program where we have breast and cervical screenings, things that are very fundable under Title X,” said the bill’s author, Representative Andre Jacque (R-DePere).

The bill would prohibit the state from passing on any of the federal funding to abortion providers or those making abortion referrals. “None of these facilities provide abortions. What they do provide is lifesaving care to women,” said Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison).

Planned Parenthood is the only provider receiving the money. Jacque said the state is in a better position to make decisions about how its distributed, but Democrats argue there’s no infrastructure in place to provide many services, particularly in rural areas.

Representative Deb Kolste (D-Janesville) said the measure undermines the process that has been in place for 40 years in Wisconsin. “There has been an infrastructure in place to take care of these patients, and I don’t see how create that access, because it isn’t in place now,” Kolste said.

The bill passed on a 60-35 vote and now heads to the Senate.

Wisconsin offers ‘Dose of Reality’ on prescription drug abuse

Attorney General Brad Schimel helps launch the Dose of Reality campaign. (Photo: Mike Kemmeter)

Attorney General Brad Schimel helps launch the Dose of Reality campaign. (Photo: Mike Kemmeter)

State officials are launching a new effort to tell people about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. The “Dose of Reality” campaign aims to encourage people to lock up their medications and to properly dispose of any unused drugs.

Attorney General Brad Schimel says medicine cabinets are a common target of those who become addicted to opioid painkillers, with addicts often using the homes of family and friends to find the medications. During a news conference Thursday at the Medical College of Wisconsin in De Pere, Schimel said “none of us would leave a loaded handgun sitting on the kitchen cabinet in our home with teenagers coming in and out, and yet few people think twice about what they have in their medicine cabinet with those same teenagers coming in and out.”

Schimel said many people are aware of how widespread and dangerous heroin has become, and yet most don’t realize prescription drugs kill more people each year than heroin and cocaine combined, or handguns. He also noted that nearly four out of five heroin addicts started with an addiction to prescription painkillers, and said “without the abuse of prescription painkillers, we might not even be talking about heroin at all in this state.”

The campaign encourages residents to make sure their prescription painkillers are kept in a secure location. Unused drugs should also be safely disposed of, using local drop-off locations that securely collect unused medications.

Mike Kemmeter of affiliate WHBY contributed to this report.

Fetal parts sale ban poised to advance in Wisconsin legislature

Despite concerns from the state’s biomedical industry, and objections from the Wisconsin’s largest business lobby, a bill banning sale of tissue obtained from aborted fetuses appears poised to advance in the state legislature. The measure has passed an Assembly Committee, and the leader of Republicans in the state Senate said this week that work is underway to take up the measure in that chamber.

“If it in fact passes, and the governor signs it into law, we know that it’s going to be the death of an industry that does lifesaving research,” said Representative JoCasta Zamarippa (D-Milwaukee). “That’s why we see folks like WMC joining progressive Democrats like myself, in opposition to that bill.”

Rep. Zamarripa

Rep. Zamarripa

Opponents of the bill have voiced concerns that it could set up researchers at the University of Wisconsin and elsewhere for criminal prosecution, should it become law. Similar legislation has failed to advance in past legislative sessions. The difference this time has been the release of undercover videos which purport to show a Planned Parenthood official in California talking about the cost of providing fetal body parts with anti-abortion activists posing as tissue buyers.

Planned Parenthood is allowed to charge to cover the costs of transferring the parts of aborted fetuses, but federal law prohibits the sale of the parts themselves.

“It seems like a video is released on a daily basis at this point, and it certainly continues to drive the discussion,” said Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) is in support of the measure. “We’re working with the Assembly, and with certain caucus members to try and develop a strategy where eventually we can have agreement with the houses, and with Governor Walker, on what exactly he is looking for in a piece of legislation,” Fitzgerald said.

The bill’s author, Representative Andre Jacque (R-DePere), said he was caught off guard by the opposition to his legislation from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the business lobby group. “It was not something that I was forewarned about, either in terms of the my colleagues in the Assembly or with WMC,” Jacque said. “That being said, I still see a lot of positives moving forward”

Rep.  Jacque

Rep. Jacque

Fitzgerald indicated that the opposition from WMC is something his caucus will need to consider. “No one really knew or expected that, I think, and when they did, certainly it’s something I think many members will take into account.”

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce president and chief executive officer Kurt Bauer told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in an e-mail that the organization would oppose the bill, despite work by its supporters to narrow its scope. “As the state Chamber of Commerce, WMC has members in all sectors of the economy, including bio-tech and bioscience. Those members have expressed concerns about the bill’s impact on their ability to conduct medical research,” Bauer told the paper.

Green Bay school closed after meningitis death

A Green Bay school has cancelled classes for the rest of this week, after a kindergartner died from viral meningitis on Tuesday. Trinity Lutheran Principal Brett Jones said a cleaning crew disinfected the school building as a precaution.

Jones said they’ll have pastors and counselors available for those who need some help dealing with their grief. In addition the school will have therapy dogs on hand Monday to help students.

Jones said viral meningitis is not contagious, so other students are not in danger of catching the disease. But he added that many parents are getting their children tested, as a precaution.