Why Haven't We Cured Cancer Yet?

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iStock

Walkathons, fundraisers, and ribbon-shaped bumper stickers raise research dollars and boost spirits, but cancer—the dreaded disease that affects more than 14 million people and their families at any given time—still remains bereft of a cure.

Why? For starters, cancer isn't just one disease—it's more than 100 of them, with different causes. This makes it impossible to treat each one using a one-size-fits-all method. Secondly, scientists use lab-grown cell lines cultivated from human tumors to develop cancer therapies. Living masses are far more complex, so potential treatments that show promise in lab experiments often don't work on cancer patients. As for the tumors themselves, they're prone to tiny genetic mutations, so just one growth might contain multiple types of cancer cells, and even unique sub-clones of tumors. These distinct entities might not respond the same way, or at all, to the same drug.

These are just a few of the challenges that cancer researchers face—but the good news is that they're working to beat all of them, as this TED-Ed video explains below.

FDA Recalls Thyroid Medications Due to Contamination Risk

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iStock

Hypothyroid medications manufactured by Westminster Pharmaceuticals have been recalled after it was discovered that one of the company’s Chinese suppliers failed to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, CNN reports.

The oral tablets contain levothyroxine (LT4) and liothyronine (LT3), which are both synthetic hormones used to treat thyroid conditions.

The medicine was recalled as a precaution after it was discovered during a 2017 FDA inspection that the Chinese supplier in question, Sichuan Friendly Pharmaceutical Co., was not practicing good manufacturing practices.

However, patients with serious thyroid conditions shouldn’t throw out their pills just yet. No adverse effects from the medication have been reported, and the risk of not taking the medication outweighs the risk of taking a recalled pill.

According to the FDA, “Because these products may be used in the treatment of serious medical conditions, patients taking the recalled medicines should continue taking their medicine until they have a replacement product.”

For more information on the specific lots and products in question, visit the FDA’s website.

[h/t CNN]

The First Generic EpiPen Just Received FDA Approval

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iStock

For people with severe allergies, having an EpiPen on hand could mean the difference between life and death. But that safety net comes at a high price: In the past decade, the cost of the brand-name drug has risen by more than 400 percent, with a set of two pens selling for $600. Now, CNBC reports that patients can finally get the treatment they need for a more reasonable amount of cash: The FDA has approved a generic version of Mylan's EpiPen, making it the first direct generic competitor to the brand-name medication.

Teva Pharmaceutical's versions of both the EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. will work like the originals, with an injector delivering epinephrine, a chemical that opens the airways, into the bloodstream of someone suffering an allergic reaction. Similar generics have been made commercially available in the past: In 2016, Mylan introduced a cheaper version of its own product at $300 for a two-pack, and in 2017 CVS started selling an EpiPen alternative for $110. Teva's drug is different, though. It's a direct generic copy of the EpiPen, which means pharmacists will be free to offer it to patients who have been prescribed Mylan's product. A price hasn't been announced, but Teva's EpiPen could end up being significantly cheaper than Mylan's generic EpiPen, which could in turn bring down prices of the injector drug across the board.

The exorbitant price of the EpiPen has hit patients hard in recent years. Some EMTs have even started loading epinephrine into syringes manually rather than paying for the drug-injector combo. Though the drug itself isn't protected by a patent, the design of the EpiPen device is difficult for competing pharmaceutical companies to replicate, which has allowed Mylan to charge whatever it can for the product.

In 2017, the FDA tweaked its guidelines to make it easier for generic EpiPen competitors to receive market approval, even if the design of the new injector differed slightly from the original. With the approval of Teva's auto-injector made official, more EpiPen generics could soon start appearing behind pharmacy counters.

[h/t CNBC]

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