The results of two large clinical trials of a new drug offer hope to the estimated 1.6 million adult Americans with an uncontrolled moderate to severe form of atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema. The disease is characterized by an itching, oozing rash that can cover almost all of the skin. The constant itch, to say nothing of the disfigurement, can be so unbearable that many patients consider suicide. There has never been a safe and effective treatment until now. Most patients who got the active drug, dupilumab, instead of a placebo reported that the itching began to wane within two weeks and was gone in a few months, as their skin began to clear. Nearly 40 percent of participants getting the drug saw all or almost all of their rash disappear.

Contraceptives tied to depression risk

Aside from pesky side effects like nausea and headaches, hormonal contraceptives are generally considered quite safe and effective. But researchers identified a heightened risk of an unintended consequence: depression. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found women using hormonal contraception faced a higher rate of developing depression and using antidepressants than women who did not use the drugs. Overall, compared with nonusers, users of hormonal contraception had a 40 percent increased risk of depression after six months of use. Some types of contraceptives carried even greater risk. Women who used progestin-only pills more than doubled their risk, while those who used the levonorgestrel IUD (brand name Mirena) tripled their risk.

Teen birthrate hits record low, again

The birthrate among U.S. teenagers hit an all-time low in 2015, the seventh straight year a record has been set. Overall, there were 22.3 births for every 1,000 young women between 15 and 19, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That represents an 8 percent drop in just one year. Declines like this add up. The teen birthrate is now 46 percent lower than it was in 2007 and 64 percent lower than in 1991, researchers at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found.

Zika vaccine shows promise in mice

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has announced early success with two experimental vaccines that prevented the pups of immunized female mice from becoming infected with the Zika virus. Both vaccines succeeded in producing an immune response to the virus that was transferred from mother to her pups. That would represent an important goal in a human vaccine, given the severe neurological birth defects including microcephaly and Guillan-Barre syndrome that Zika can cause.

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