June 26, 2014

Quinn Signs Bill To Let Psychologists Prescribe

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed off on a measure that allows clinical psychologists in Illinois to prescribe medication to patients.

The governor signed the legislation Wednesday in Chicago. It was sponsored by Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park and Rep. John Bradley of Marion, both Democrats.
Psychologists have to receive specific training for prescription-writing privileges and be required to work with a coordinating physician.  Bradley says the legislation "increases access to medical care.''
Quinn says the new law will cut down on the number of appointments patients need to make in order to get their medication.
The measure was opposed by the Illinois State Medical Society. The physicians' group says psychologists don't have enough medical training to safely dispense medication.

A Champaign psychiatrist says she disagrees with a new Illinois law for the same reason.

Linda Derum said the psychiatric field is becoming more medical, and isn’t sure two and a half years of post-doctoral study will be enough for psychologists to acquire similar skills. 

She said there’s a big difference between psychology training, and medical school training.

“You can’t treat training and psychiatry as a 2-year MBA," he said.  "It’s not the same. You see an executive MBA program, and it presumes the people that go into it, they have a certain body of knowledge before they get that master’s level training.”

Derum said there’s been a mixed response to the law from the psychologists she knows, but understands their frustration when having to seek out someone to prescribe medicine for patients dealing with depression. 

She also questions whether it will draw enough interest statewide for public universities to add training programs.

Qunn's signature made Illinois the third state to allow patients to get medication through a psychologist, following New Mexico and Louisiana.

Dr. Kathleen Campbell
(SIU School of Medicine)
September 17, 2013

SIU Researcher Promotes Treatment For Hearing Loss

A researcher at Southern Illinois University is working on a pill that could restore hearing loss.

Dr. Kathleen Campbell, director of audiology research at SIU's School of Medicine, said the treatment involves a drug that "donates" electrons to make sure the hearing loss is not permanent. She said the U.S. Army is interested in her research and is involved in the clinical trial.

“The military is spending over $2 billion dollars a year for noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus,” Campbell said. “So, we would really like to reduce that so that these people who do serve our country do have good hearing in the long-run, but also from a financial standpoint for the U.S. government. The other thing is that hearing loss for the soldier on the battlefield increases their risk of mortality.”

Campbell noted that the treatment would not be a substitute for hearing protection, like earmuffs or earplugs.  If all goes well, she said the treatment could be widely available in five-to-six years.


August 08, 2013

Experimental Malaria Vaccine Shows Promise In Early Trial

A viable, effective vaccine against malaria has long eluded scientists. Results from a preliminary study have ignited hope that a new type of vaccine could change that.

An experimental vaccine offered strong protection against malaria when given at high doses, scientists report Thursday in the journal Science.

The study was extremely small and short-term. And the candidate vaccine still has a long way to go before it could be used in the developing world.

Nevertheless, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, calls the findings unprecedented.

The vaccine, called PfSPZ, protected 12 of the 15 volunteers from malaria, including all six who received the high dose. By contrast, 11 of the 12 participants who weren't vaccinated came down with malaria.

"It's true to say that this is really impressive to have this degree of protection," Fauci says about the results. "But on the other hand you have to temper it by saying the numbers are still relatively small."

The trial needs to be replicated on a far larger scale, he says. And it's still unknown how long the malaria protection lasts.

The participants in this study were all bitten by five mosquitoes infected with the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum three weeks after getting the vaccine shot.

Because everyone got exposed at the same time, this study wasn't designed to show how PfSPZ works over time. For any vaccine to be successful in the field, it would need to ward off the disease for years after the inoculation. Three weeks would be way too short.

Previous experimental vaccines have shown some effectiveness against the malaria parasite, but none have provided high levels of protection against the disease. In November, another candidate vaccine showed disappointing results in tests among young infants, though it provided children moderate protection against the parasite.

PfSPZ is different from these previous vaccines because it uses whole, weakened parasites to trigger an immune response, instead of just a small part of the parasite, like a protein on its surface.

"We don't have any vaccines against parasitic infections like malaria because the parasite is so complex. It changes itself in your body. It morphs from one stage to the next," says Stephen Hoffman, the CEO of the Rockville, Md., company Sanaria, which developed PfSPZ.

Specially, PfSPZ gets certain immune cells, called T cells, to attack the parasite directly, instead of relying primarily on an antibody response.

"The idea that somehow one is going to make a vaccine that just attacks one of those thousands of proteins, and that's going to provide long-term protective immunity has always seemed odd to me," he says. "But that's what all the other approaches are about."

Sanaria is moving quickly to conduct larger scale trials of PfSPZ in Africa. A study in Tanzania is slated to start in six weeks.

If things go well with the upcoming trials, Hoffman says, the earliest the vaccine might be available for widespread use would be in late 2017 or early 2018.


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