Medicine and Health
By Niles Williamson, 11 October 2014
The United States and other Western powers are seeking to take advantage of the crisis sparked by the deadly Ebola epidemic, not to save the victims, but to establish a stronger military presence in West Africa.
By Niles Williamson, 9 October 2014
Responsibility for the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa lies with the imperialist powers that have subjected the continent to extreme economic exploitation.
By Shannon Jones, 2 October 2014
A man from Liberia visiting family in Texas is the first person in the US diagnosed with the deadly virus.
By Patrick Martin, 26 September 2014
The epidemic now devastating West Africa is not a natural calamity, but a social one: it is a product of colonialism and imperialist oppression.
By David Brown, 25 September 2014
International health agencies predict the Ebola outbreak in West Africa could affect hundreds of thousands.
By Bill Van Auken, 17 September 2014
The response to the Ebola epidemic underscores the reliance of US imperialism on its residual military superiority in the second “scramble for Africa”, which pits it against China.
By Julie Hyland, 17 September 2014
Figures from England and Wales indicate that there was a 19 percent increase in the number of people hospitalised for malnutrition in the last year.
By John Rowe, 11 August 2014
The Ebola virus has already claimed the lives of nearly a thousand people in West Africa, amid a breakdown of health care systems in the impoverished region.
By Douglas Lyons, 1 August 2014
The drug used for patients suffering from atrial fibrillation has a grave side effect: internal and irreversible bleeding.
By David Brown, 29 July 2014
Liberia has closed most of its borders in response to an Ebola outbreak that has killed one doctor and infected two others.
By Gabriel Black, 29 July 2014
In the wake of a massive budget cut in 2013, an investigation probing the anthrax scare at several CDC labs found a culture of “insufficient” safety.
By John Rowe, 9 July 2014
International agencies say that the deadly Ebola virus is spreading out of control in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
By W. A. Sunil, 5 March 2014
The disease has reached epidemic levels because of inadequate health facilities and government neglect.
By Kate Randall, 23 November 2013
Of the 34 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US ranks 26th in life expectancy, below Greece, Portugal, South Korea and Slovenia.
By Jordan Shilton, 10 September 2013
Facing intolerable working conditions as a result of an 8 percent health budget cut, Irish junior doctors have voted in favour of strikes.
By Kate Randall, 7 August 2013
The ranks of doctors accepting Medicare are steadily decreasing under the impact of the Obama health care legislation.
By Ellis Wynne, 31 July 2013
The attack on health provision follows the lockout of 70,000 teachers.
By Joan Smith, 24 June 2013
Pharmaceutical conglomerates Merck and GlaxoSmithKline have won contracts to supply some of the world’s poorest countries with cancer vaccines.
By Harvey Thompson, 1 May 2013
An epidemic outbreak of measles in Swansea, Wales has seen almost 950 cases to date.
By Dietmar Henning, 6 April 2013
Large sections of the European population are paying with their health, or even their lives, for EU-dictated austerity measures.
By Shane Feratu, 30 March 2013
Researchers have been able to neutralize the HIV virus from causing harm in two separate studies.
By John Marion, 2 March 2013
The United Nations has refused reparations to Haitian victims and survivors of cholera, which was brought to the island by its forces.
By Naomi Spencer, 25 January 2013
Although the company was aware that 40 percent of metal hip replacements would fail in five years, it sold the devices anyway.
By Naomi Spencer, 9 January 2013
While the proposals have been hailed as “landmark” improvements to US food oversight, they will provide FDA inspectors with no meaningful enforcement powers.
By Tony Robson, 4 January 2013
The downsizing of local hospitals is in line with plans to dismantle much of the NHS.
By Mark Blackwood, 22 December 2012
A report reveals that when compared to the London area, the UK’s poorest region in the North East has almost three times the rate of self-harm/attempted suicide hospital admissions.
By Richard Duckworth, 19 December 2012
Private consultancy firms have been central to the coalition government’s plans to carve up the National Health Service.
By Robert Stevens, 26 November 2012
The ongoing offensive against the National Health Service (NHS) has led to 28,500 health workers losing their jobs since the Conservative Party/Liberal Democrat coalition came to power in 2010.
By Mark Blackwood and Paul Mitchell, 24 November 2012
The Socialist Party is helping public sector unions Unison and Unite isolate 300 National Health Service clerical and administrative workers employed by Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust.
By Werner Albrecht and Konrad Kreft, 19 November 2012
It has taken the Grünenthal company 50 years to apologise for its role in subjecting thousands of people around the world to the disastrous effects of thalidomide poisoning.
By Richard Duckworth and Paul Stuart, 8 November 2012
Four out of nine A&E departments catering to nearly 2 million people in northwest London face closure as part of £20 billion in cuts to the NHS.
By our reporters, 30 July 2012
Some 3,000 people gathered in Millennium Square, Leeds on July 23, to protest the proposal to end paediatric heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary.
By Will Morrow, 5 July 2012
Monday’s settlement is the latest in a long list of cases in which pharmaceutical giants have paid cash fines for fraudulent and criminal practices, without anyone being held accountable.
By Paul Stuart, 9 April 2012
The first privatised hospital since the creation of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948, Hinchingbrooke Cambridgeshire, began operating under Circle Healthcare Limited on February 1.
By Elisabeth Steinert, 2 February 2012
The Siemens group has decided not to commission its particle therapy cancer treatment facility in Kiel.
By Debra Watson, 27 January 2012
Doctors in Mumbai, India’s largest city, reported in December that they had confirmed four cases of Totally Drug Resistant Tuberculosis.
By Eileen Rose, 25 January 2012
The ongoing scandal over PIP (Poly Implant Prostheses) breast implants makes clear the human cost of the privatisation of health care in the UK, and the callous indifference of the political elite towards its consequences.
By Nicholas Russo, 11 January 2012
Since 2010, at least 15 deaths have been linked to the shortage of critical drugs in the US.
By Joe Mount, 16 July 2011
Detailed health profiles for each English local authority highlight large health inequalities and the underlying poverty in Britain’s major towns and cities.
By John Mackay, 19 May 2011
Despite warnings by health professionals, no national surveillance system has been introduced for the potentially fatal Clostridium difficile bacteria.
By Barry Mason, 11 May 2011
Two recent reports highlight the lack of health care provision affecting women in semi-colonial countries.
By Ed Hightower, 30 June 2010
For the past several months, a recall crisis has been developing at the Johnson & Johnson company over serious quality control problems in over-the-counter medicines, including children’s versions.
By Carl Bronski, 9 November 2009
Federal and provincial health officials are backtracking on earlier commitments to help both high-risk groups and members of the general population seeking vaccination.
By Alex Lantier, 4 May 2009
The handling of the swine flu outbreak underscores the difficulty, in the present political environment, of separating medical science from corporate interests and the political agendas of governments that are beholden to them.
By John MacKay, 29 December 2008
A study, based on a survey of Canadian hospitals, has found that hospital-acquired infection rates continue to rise and that for want of funding, infection-control programs continue to fall well short of expert recommendations.
1 November 2008
The following letter was sent to the World Socialist Web Site in response to the article, “Canadian Government defends export of asbestos to poorer nations.”
By John Mackay, 14 October 2008
The number of deaths linked to the listeriosis outbreak that originated at the Maple Leaf Foods meatpacking plant in Toronto has now risen to 20.
By Barry Mason, 25 September 2008
In August the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a report, “Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health.”
Unregulated dairy industry
By John Chan, 24 September 2008
The contamination of Chinese milk products with the toxic industrial chemical melamine is rapidly becoming a major national and international scandal. Already, some 53,000 infants have become sick and at least 12,892 have been hospitalised.
By John Mackay, 20 September 2008
The Canadian Medical Association Journal, one of the world’s top medical publications, has made a scathing attack on Canada’s Conservative government, charging that “government policy errors helped bring about” the recent epidemic of listeriosis.
By Barry Mason, 12 August 2008
The latest figures for the AIDS epidemic were published by UNAIDS and WHO (World Health Organisation) last month. Two million people died of AIDS in 2007—of whom one-quarter of a million were children. A total of 33 million people are now living with HIV/AIDS, two million of them children.
By Barry Mason, 13 January 2007
Last year saw a major spread of the global AIDS epidemic. According to the report “2006 Aids Epidemic Update” published by the United Nations bodies UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation (WHO), an estimated 39.5 million people now live with HIV, and in 2006 alone 4.3 million became infected with the HIV virus and 2.9 million died from the effects of AIDS.
By Françoise Thull and Pierre Mabut, 15 March 2006
The epidemic that has raged on the Réunion Island since March 2005 has, according to official figures, affected 157,000 people, 20 percent of the population, with 77 deaths directly or indirectly attributed to the chikungunya virus. This very debilitating disease is transmitted by the Aedes Albopictus mosquito, which had only been present in Africa before appearing in Réunion at the start of 2005. The disease’s symptoms are bouts of high temperatures associated with pain or even paralysis of the body’s joints, forcing the patient to move in a bent position; hence the name chikungunya, which in Swahili means “he who walks bent over.”
By Andreas Reiss, 13 March 2006
Cases of Asiatic bird flu are spreading in Germany and other European states, but no governmental authorities—at either the national, state or local levels—seem to have developed serious plans to deal with this fully foreseeable crisis.
By Perla Astudillo, 6 March 2006
Last year’s Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded in December to two Australian scientists who revealed the bacterial basis for the world’s second most prevalent disease—gastritis and peptic ulcers. Ulcers were previously connected to bad diet or a stressful lifestyle—to the point that it pervaded popular culture, including in film and literature. The breakthrough paved the way for relatively straightforward treatments for a debilitating and potentially fatal disease.
By Patrick Martin, 21 February 2006
In the most rapid and far-flung extension of the area of infection since the most recent strain of avian flu was first detected nine years ago, health authorities in India, Western Europe and parts of Africa reported new outbreaks of the disease and announced emergency measures over the weekend.
By Frank Gaglioti, 4 November 2005
Health authorities around the world are warning that humanity could face the first global influenza pandemic of the twenty-first century. The spread of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza through poultry stocks in Asia and recently into Europe raises the prospect that the virus will mutate so that it can be transmitted from person to person, resulting in millions of deaths. In spite of the constant warning from scientists, governments in wealthier countries have responded in an uncoordinated and belated manner, largely leaving poorer countries to their own devices.
By Barry Mason and Chris Talbot, 20 October 2005
Cases of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu virus have now been confirmed in poultry in Turkey, Romania and Greece. So far, the virus that is spreading from the Far East, through Russia and into Europe is infecting birds, though more than 100 people working in proximity to infected poultry have caught the flu and at least 63 have died over the last two years. Large-scale culling of domestic birds in Vietnam, China and other countries has failed to stop the spread. A World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesman said, “Never before in the history of this disease have so many countries been simultaneously affected, resulting in the loss of so many birds.”
By Dragan Stankovic, 10 September 2005
The discovery of avian influenza, or bird flu, among migratory birds and domestic poultry in Siberia during July has triggered fears that the virus will reach Western Europe. Despite warnings by many scientists that bird flu could mutate and cause a global pandemic, sharp divisions emerged among European Union (EU) member states over whether to take action to stem the spread of the virus.
By Perla Astudillo, 5 September 2005
The complex connection between genes and cancer has been further clarified in fascinating findings published in the June 9 edition of the British science journal Nature. Separate studies by three major US cancer research laboratories have positively correlated the relationship between over 200 types of miRNA (also called microRNA) and the development of cancer tumours.
By Perla Astudillo, 20 June 2005
Recent successful medical trials of a cancer treatment involving the use of “nanotechnology” may open up important new avenues for the diagnosis and treatment of other cancers and diseases.
By Barry Mason, 31 March 2005
A new study using epidemiological, geographical and demographic data has demonstrated that there are over 500 million cases of malaria each year. This figure is more than double that previously estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of around 210 million. Of these cases, 70 percent occur in Africa and 25 percent in Southeast Asia. Around 2 billion people, i.e., a third of the world’s population, are at risk of contracting the disease.
By Dragan Stankovic, 29 March 2005
The appearance of new cases of the bird flu virus HIN5 among poultry and humans in Asia has prompted urgent warnings about the potentially catastrophic consequences of a deadly worldwide pandemic. At present, the virus is transmitted to humans via infected birds. With the virus entrenched in parts of Asia, what concerns scientists and health workers is the possibility that a mutant strain will emerge that can spread directly from human to human.
Asbestos industry—corporate murder on a global scale
Review of a Real Life documentary produced in the UK for ITN television.
14 September 2004
This documentary, broadcast in August, is about corporate murder, premeditated and on a massive scale. Widows Joan Baird and Pauline Bonney listen to a haunting song about the epidemic of asbestos deaths that is an international scandal. The words of “He Fades Away” bring the heartache back. Joan lost her husband, William, seven years ago to asbestos-induced mesothelioma. Pauline’s husband, John, succumbed to the same deadly form of cancer five years previously. ITN followed the quest of these two courageous women as they investigate the reasons why their loved ones had died—a journey that takes them to disused, though still contaminated, asbestos factories, and all the way to the mines in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Wherever they travel, they uncover a trail of death.
By Guy Charron, 11 September 2004
Infectious disease specialists have drawn a causal link between an alarming rise in the number of Quebec hospital patients becoming infected with and dying from Clostridium difficile—a bacterium resistant to standard antibiotics—and government budget-cutting. As the World Socialist Web Site previously reported, researchers studying the C. difficile pandemic in Quebec have linked the bacteria’s spread to the unsanitary environment created by decaying infrastructure, patient overcrowding, and reduced staffing. [See “Canada: budget cuts have contributed to spread of super-bug”]
By David Adelaide, 23 August 2004
A recently released report by Alberta’s auditor general reveals that the major meatpacking companies reaped windfall profits from Canada’s BSE crisis, while the social cost of the crisis fell onto cattle producers, including small farmers and farm workers, and the public treasury.
By Trevor Johnson, 18 August 2004
UK scientists are upwardly revising their estimates of the number of people likely to die from new variant CJD (vCJD, also known as “mad cow disease”). It follows the death of a second patient, who contracted the disease after a blood transfusion .
By Paul Mitchell, 2 August 2004
The spread of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, has provoked a trade war in cattle and beef products.
By Trevor Johnson, 31 July 2004
The global rate of polio infection declined in recent decades to the point where the disease was almost eradicated. This year, the disease has experienced a resurgence, as basic health care collapses in large parts of Africa and in other poor countries around the world.
By Carol Divjak, 29 July 2004
More than 17,000 delegates, including scientists, health officials, policy makers and activists, gathered from July 11 to 17 at the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok. What dominated the agenda was not so much the latest scientific research but the failure of the major powers, especially the US, to provide the resources needed to deal with the rapidly spreading AIDS epidemic.
By Trevor Johnson and Chris Talbot, 26 July 2004
The UNAIDS report released at the fifteenth International AIDS Conference last week shows that there is an escalating shortfall in the funding required to deal with the global spread of AIDS.
By Perla Astudillo, 6 May 2004
Scientists at the Harvard Medical School in the United States have identified a human gene, known as TRIM5-alpha, which is capable of preventing the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from replicating inside cells. While the discovery, announced in February, is unlikely to lead to any immediate medical breakthrough, it is an important step in understanding the life cycle of HIV and has the potential to enable the future development of a drug to block HIV infection.
By Barry Mason, 9 February 2004
Obesity is one of the major causes of non-communicable disease. Worldwide there are around 300 million obese people with another 750 million considered overweight—approximately one sixth of the world’s population. In May 2002 the World Health Organisation was mandated to prepare a report on the virtual “epidemic” of obesity that is concerning health workers around the world.
By John Roberts, 6 February 2004
The current outbreak of avian influenza—popularly known as bird flu—in a number of Asian countries is looming as a major international health crisis. It has potentially catastrophic human and economic consequences. While the full story is yet to be established, it is already clear that economic backwardness, government cover-ups and an inadequate system of international monitoring and response have all played a part in enabling the emergence and spread of the disease.
By Richard Tyler, 12 December 2003
The reintroduction of the free market into the former Eastern Bloc countries has unleashed a health catastrophe.
By Ann Talbot, 2 December 2003
Five million people were infected with HIV this year. This is a record number of new infections and indicates that the global AIDS epidemic is continuing to worsen.
By Chris Talbot, 9 October 2003
Randall Tobias, ex-Ely Lilly CEO and a member of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), was confirmed as head of the Bush administration’s Emergency Plan for AIDS by the US Senate last week.
By Paul Mitchell, 12 August 2003
Governments across the world are holding back stem cell research and its promise of revolutionising healthcare. Pressure from religious organisations and anti-abortion campaigners has forced many governments to introduce legislation to limit vital research.
By Richard Tyler, 22 July 2003
Pledges made by US president George W. Bush and European Union Commission president Romano Prodi to each provide $1 billion for the global fight against AIDS were proved worthless last week.
By Joanne Laurier, 4 June 2003
Postmenopausal women over the age of 65 using combined hormone therapy face significantly increased risks of dementia and strokes, according to new findings from a sub-study of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The research, part of the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS) and reported in the May 28 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that older women taking Prempro, the most commonly used form of estrogen plus progestin, were twice as likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, than their placebo-taking counterparts.
Part 2: Science, internationalism and the profit motive
By Joseph Kay, 13 May 2003
The outbreak of a new virus responsible for what is known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) raises a number of scientific, medical and social problems. Thanks in part to the quick response and collaborative effort of a team of international scientists, the virus has remained fairly well contained. However, it has infected 7,000 people worldwide and has killed over 500. It is still an enormous health risk in China, and there is still the possibility of an international epidemic that would have devastating consequences.
Part 1: Viruses and the nature of present outbreak
By Joseph Kay, 12 May 2003
The outbreak of a new virus responsible for what is known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) raises a number of scientific, medical and social problems. Thanks in part to the quick response and collaborative effort of a team of international scientists, the virus has remained fairly well contained. However, it has infected 7,000 people worldwide and has killed over 500. It poses an enormous health risk in China, and there is still the possibility of an international epidemic that would have devastating consequences.
By Joanne Laurier, 26 April 2003
Global cancer rates are expected to increase 50 percent by the year 2020, according to the latest report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO). The 351-page study, titled World Cancer Report, begins by explaining that 10 million people developed malignant tumors and 6.2 million died from the disease in the year 2000.
By Barry Mason, 27 February 2003
On February 19 the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva confirmed that an outbreak of haemorrhagic fever in the Cuvette Ouest region of northwest Congo-Brazzaville, near its border with Gabon, was due to the Ebola virus.
By Barry Mason, 18 February 2003
US President George W. Bush announced $15 billion to fight HIV and AIDS in his State of the Union address on January 28. The proposed funds are to be spent in the African countries of Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Also included are the two Caribbean countries Guyana and Haiti.
By Barry Mason, 17 January 2003
World Trade Organization (WTO) talks on the provision of generic drugs to underdeveloped countries broke down as the United States, on behalf of the major pharmaceutical companies, blocked agreement at the last minute.
By Barry Mason and Ann Talbot, 11 November 2002
The Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria has announced that unless donations double it will have to stop processing grant applications because requests for help have outstripped the money available.
By Joanne Laurier, 31 October 2002
Women in northern California’s Marin County are presently being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer at a rate approximately 40 percent higher than the officially recorded national average. In this affluent community the recorded incidence of the disease among white women aged 45 to 64 has increased by 72 percent during the last decade. Diagnoses of breast cancer for the entire female population climbed by 37 percent in the county during the last decade, compared with a 3 percent increase for the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area.
By Joanne Laurier, 11 July 2002
A major study carried out by scientists in Finland suggests that radiation from mobile phones causes changes to the brain. Professor Darius Leszcynski headed up the two-year program at Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.
By Joanne Laurier, 26 April 2002
Recent advances in human tissue transplantation have created an exploding commercial industry for the purpose of supplying hospitals and clinics with transplantable human tissue. The business of processing and storing human tissue used to treat a myriad of medical problems operates largely outside of any governmental control.
By Barry Mason, 21 January 2002
The risk to humans developing variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) could be far greater if the brain-wasting disease Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) has entered the sheep population. This was the conclusion of a study published in the British science magazine Nature on January 10.
By Barry Mason and Chris Talbot, 27 December 2001
The South African government is to appeal a court decision instructing it to make the drug Nevirapine universally available in order to prevent maternal transmission of the HIV virus. It is appealing to the Constitutional Court, the country’s highest legal body, against the right of a judge to set government policy.
By Barry Mason, 8 December 2001
The United Nations (UN) has just issued its latest AIDS epidemic update. It is now 20 years since the immunodeficiency syndrome that came to be known as AIDS was first reported. In that time the disease has wrought death and debilitation across the planet. According to the UN in that 20 years more than 60 million people have been infected with the AIDS virus. Worldwide it is the fourth largest killer, whilst in sub-Saharan Africa it has become the foremost cause of death. The report states that in the year 2001 there are 40 million people living with the disease, five million people became infected and three million people died as a result of AIDS.
By Paul Mitchell, 29 November 2001
The Labour government has suppressed a damning report into the procedures used by hospitals to prevent the spread of the incurable brain-wasting disorder variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD).
By Paul Mitchell, 26 October 2001
Farming and Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett has been accused of seeking to suppress how vital experiments concerning the safety of British lamb and mutton were botched-up. Scientists had hoped to determine whether deadly Mad Cow Disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or BSE) has infected British sheep.
By Paul Mitchell, 11 September 2001
The incidence of variant Creutzfeldt Jacobs Disease (vCJD)—the human form of “Mad Cow Disease”—has increased 20 percent in the UK since last year. In his announcement last week, Professor James Ironside, head of the CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh, said that instead of “a flat line, we are now seeing an upward trend that has been sustained for the past four quarters”. The total number of cases could vary between several hundred and 150,000, he added. Professor Ironside’s unit has released figures showing there are now 106 confirmed or probable cases of vCJD, the fatal and incurable brain wasting disorder in the UK. Most scientific opinion now accepts that the disease is probably related to eating beef infected with BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy), or “Mad Cow Disease”.
By Barry Mason, 7 September 2001
The recent announcement that the Microsoft Gates Foundation has donated $15 million to fund research into sleeping sickness has only served to highlight the abysmal response by pharmaceutical companies and Western governments to a disease that is now affecting millions in Africa.
By Leanne Josling, 21 August 2001
According to various studies and statistics, diabetes has become the fourth leading cause of death in most developed countries and will be one of the most challenging health problems worldwide in the 21st century.
By Barry Mason, 19 July 2001
Tuberculosis, or TB, poses a growing threat to world health. According to an article in the New Scientist magazine, it is estimated that a third of the world’s population carry the disease, but nine out of ten do not show symptoms. It infects one person every four seconds. Eight million people a year develop the disease, of which three million die. According to the charity TB Alert, by 2050 there will be five million deaths a year from the disease. Many of its victims are young.
By Joanne Laurier, 19 July 2001
In a move that cries out for a response from a master satirist on the order of Jonathan Swift, Philip Morris, the New York-based tobacco giant, recently handed the government of the Czech Republic a study arguing that the Czech state had benefited from “health-care cost savings due to early mortality” resulting from smoking. According to the company-commissioned study, premature deaths from cigarettes saved the Czech government between 943 million koruna and 1.19 billion koruna (between $23.8 million and $30.1 million).