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A summary of important health news from the past week.

Canada’s fight with Big Tobacco is back on

By: Kelly Crowe

Two weeks ago, the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld the 2015 ruling that held three Canadian tobacco companies–Imperial Tobacco Canada, JTI-Macdonald Corp. and Rothman, Benson and Hedges Inc.–responsible for failing to warn customers about the risks of cigarettes. Their action ignited developments in the battle to make the tobacco industry pay for the deaths and disease from their products. As the three tobacco giants are faced with a new multi-billion-dollar payout, they argue that Canadians have been aware of health risks for decades. They have been successful in suspending court actions throughout all provinces to avoid bankruptcy. Health researchers believe the companies are overexaggerating the financial repercussions from acknowledging their inability to warn consumers and are concerned with the companies’ new strategy of targeting young Canadians to regain a consumer base. 

Ohio can block Planned Parenthood funding, appeals court rules

By: Jessica Ravitz

The US Court of Appeals for the 6th circuit has voted in a 11-6 decision to uphold an Ohio law which bars access to state funding for organizations which provide access to abortions, such as Planned Parenthood. Judge Jeffrey Sutton, author of the case’s majority opinion, stated, “The state also may choose not to subsidize constitutionally protected activities. Just as it has no obligation to provide a platform for an individual’s free speech … it has no obligation to pay for a woman’s abortion”. Planned Parenthood, which stands to lose $1.5 million in state funding, operates 26 heath centers in Ohio and serves over 80,000 patients in 2017. In addition to providing access to abortions, the organization administers STI testing (including 18,000 HIV tests administered in 2017), and organizes outreach and education programs. 

Global pandemic of fake drugs killing children worldwide, report says

By: Susan Scutti

Children worldwide are dying from fake drugs that are supposed to treat diseases like malaria and pneumonia. The increasing phenomenon of false and substandard medical products has severe impacts in low and middle-income countries where drugs aren’t as regulated. However, other issues such as antimicrobial resistance are also consequences. And easy access through the internet has only facilitated the distribution of these fake drugs. The WHO will probably be the organization that sets standards and laws as there is a need for international regulation.

FDA approves first immunotherapy regimen for breast cancer

By:By Michael Nedelman and Sandee LaMotte

On March 8th, 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted accelerated approval for the first immunotherapy treatment for breast cancer. The treatment targets locally advanced or metastatic triple-negative breast cancer using a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy. Approximately 15% of breast cancers are triple-negative and do not respond to any available hormonal cancer treatments; this results in substantially reduced survival rates. However, the therapy has been shown to extend progression-free survival in breast cancer patients, as demonstrated by the results of a recent phase 3 clinical trial. Hopefully this advancement will act as a powerful alternative to the current standard of care for breast cancer patients and enable more widespread treatment.