Biomedical Update Tuesday: Myriad, Medical Isotopes, and Contraception

Some quick notes on three items that have graced these pages before.

Medical Tests – In light of its decision in Mayo v. Prometheus, the Supreme Court has remanded, or returned, the Myriad Genetics case to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for a re-hearing (H/T Bioephemera).  It will be a few weeks or more before a schedule for the new appellate hearing becomes clear.  The case may or may not end at that hearing, depending on the content of the decision.

Medical Isotopes – Shifting from medical tests to medical isotopes, the United States, along with three other countries, has announced a quadrilateral agreement concerning the production of medical isotopes.  As part of the nuclear summit currently happening in South Korea, the U.S., France, the Netherlands, and Belgium have entered an agreement to ensure a reliable supply of medical isotopes like technetium-99.  An important part of this agreement is minimizing the use of highly-enriched uranium for the production of those isotopes.

A very brief summary of the agreement is that the countries have committed to shifting production facilities away from highly-enriched uranium, with the U.S. guaranteeing supplies of the material during the transition period.  With legislation in the U.S. Congress going nowhere fast, such action by the Executive Branch (specifically the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration) allows the nation to continue working on the production challenges highlighted by the Chalk River production facility shutdown in 2009.

Contraception – No, this does not concern the latest hullabaloo over insurance coverage in the U.S.  But this article from the Knight Science Journalism Tracker caught my interest because it suggested a repeat of the Obama Administration’s supposed scientific arguments from late last year against extending the over-the-counter availability of Plan B One Step to women under 17.  In this case, the situation seems to be repeating itself in Spain.  The Ministry of Health claims that only scientific criteria will guide its decision, but it seems to make a logical leap from ‘inconclusive’ studies to claiming that the emergency contraceptive pill “can damage women’s health.”  The article author, Pere Estupinyà, properly notes that Spanish media coverage is too narrowly focused on this scientific question (as seemed to be the case in the U.S.).