In brief

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 05 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1472

Two thirds of syphilis cases in antenatal clinics are undetected: In 2008 1.4 million women around the world had syphilis, and 80% of them received antenatal care, a study published in PLOS Medicine has estimated.1 Of these women, 30% in Africa were tested for the infection, compared with 70% in Europe. Syphilis resulted in 215 000 stillbirths, 90 000 neonatal deaths, 65 000 preterm or low birthweight babies, and 150 000 babies with congenital infections. Around 66% of adverse outcomes occurred in women who attended antenatal clinics but who were not tested or were not treated for syphilis.

France sees more legal actions against pill firms: Since December at least 57 legal cases have been launched in France against four drug companies (Bayer, MSD, Biogaran, and Effik) over serious health problems and two deaths allegedly related to use of third and fourth generation contraceptive pills. After a request by France the European Medicines Agency has begun a review of all existing evidence of the risk of venous thromboembolism associated with these drugs. The agency is expected to announce in May whether any new evidence merits a European Union-wide change in prescribing advice.

Exposure to secondhand smoke is on the wane: In 2009 half (46%) of Europeans were affected by passive smoking, but last year the number had fallen to 28%, finds a European Commission report on national implementation of a 2009 European Union recommendation on smoke free environments.2 It also found that smoking bans have had little negative effect on bars’ and restaurants’ revenue.

Compulsory detention for drug use must end: The United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez, has called for donors to stop funding compulsory drug detention centres and for governments to close such centres “without delay.” In a report to the UN Human Rights Council he said that people identified as drug users were held without due process in government run detention centres where they faced physical and sexual violence and forced labour, all in the name of “rehabilitation.” Instead countries should create voluntary, evidence based health and social services that respected human rights.

New York mayor supports push to eradicate polio: The mayor of New York city, Michael Bloomberg, has made a $100m (£66m; €77m) donation through Bloomberg Philanthropies to help fund the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s six year plan to eradicate the disease by 2018. The number of cases fell to the lowest level ever in 2012, to fewer than 225 in only three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Bloomberg’s commitment is the result of a collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of whose top priorities is eradicating polio.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1472