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Daily Rounds: Meningitis 'Waiting To Happen'; Free Birth Control Cuts Abortions; How Ketamine Lifts Depression

In a drug linked to a deadly meningitis outbreak, a question of oversight (The New York Times) - The nation’s growing outbreak of meningitis, linked to spinal injections for back pain, was a calamity waiting to happen — the result of a lightly regulated type of drug production that had a troubled past colliding with a popular treatment used by millions of Americans a year. The outbreak, with 5 people dead and 30 ill in six states, is thought to have been caused by a steroid drug contaminated by a fungus. The steroid solution was not made by a major drug company, but was concocted by a pharmacy in Framingham, Mass., called the New England Compounding Center...The question is, Why? Why would pain clinics around the country rely on a pharmacy that mixes its own brand of unapproved drugs, especially for a delicate procedure like an epidural injection that has the potential — realized in these awful cases — to infect a patient’s nervous system? There seems to be no one answer. Some doctors say compounding pharmacies offer specialty products or dosages not easily found elsewhere, or sometimes simply better prices than big drug companies. But other physicians have reservations about using compounded pharmaceuticals.

Related: Meningitis outbreak widens; Mass. company suspected (The Boston Globe)

Free birth control cuts abortion rate dramatically, study finds (NBC) - "A dramatic new study with implications for next month’s presidential election finds that offering women free birth control can reduce unplanned pregnancies — and send the abortion rate spiraling downward. When more than 9,000 women ages 14 to 45 in the St. Louis area were given no-cost contraception for three years, abortion rates dropped from two-thirds to three-quarters lower than the national rate, according to a new report by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis researchers."

Ketamine relieves depression by restoring brain connections (NPR-Shots) - "Scientists say they have figured out how an experimental drug called ketamine is able to relieve major depression in hours instead of weeks. Researchers from Yale and the National Institute of Mental Health say ketamine seems to cause a burst of new connections to form between nerve cells in parts of the brain involved in emotion and mood. The discovery, described in Science, should speed development of the first truly new depression drugs since the 1970s, the researchers say."

This program aired on October 5, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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