Richard Knox

Since he joined NPR in 2000, Knox has covered a broad range of issues and events in public health, medicine, and science. His reports can be heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Talk of the Nation, and newscasts.

Among other things, Knox's NPR reports have examined the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa, North America, and the Caribbean; anthrax terrorism; smallpox and other bioterrorism preparedness issues; the rising cost of medical care; early detection of lung cancer; community caregiving; music and the brain; and the SARS epidemic.

Before joining NPR, Knox covered medicine and health for The Boston Globe. His award-winning 1995 articles on medical errors are considered landmarks in the national movement to prevent medical mistakes. Knox is a graduate of the University of Illinois and Columbia University. He has held yearlong fellowships at Stanford and Harvard Universities, and is the author of a 1993 book on Germany's health care system.

He and his wife Jean, an editor, live in Boston. They have two daughters.

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12:01am

Mon November 21, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Shortage Of ADHD Drugs Has Parents, Doctors Scrambling

The scarcity of ADHD medications is a problem faced by an untold number of children and adults with the disorder.
GoodMood Enterprises iStockphoto

When it's time to renew her son's prescriptions for medicine to treat his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Roxanne Ryan prepares for another wild goose chase.

The Philadelphia mother says she typically has to call around to 10 to 15 different pharmacies to find where the prescriptions can be filled. And when 10-year-old Sergey doesn't get his medication, he's a bundle of uncontained energy.

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12:01am

Mon November 7, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Why HPV Vaccination Of Boys May Be Easier

Connor Perruccello-McClellan, a senior at Providence Country Day School in Rhode Island, has been vaccinated against HPV, something less than 1 percent of U.S. males can say.
Richard Knox NPR

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a half-dozen years ago that preteen girls be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, two things happened.

A lot of parents and some conservative groups were jarred by the idea of immunizing young girls against a sexually transmitted virus. And uptake of the vaccine has been poor — only about a third of 13- to 17-year-old girls have gotten the full three-shot series.

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5:34pm

Tue November 1, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

CDC: Time To Curb 'Shocking' Epidemic Of Narcotics Overdoses

Originally published on Tue November 1, 2011 6:14 pm

Federal officials say they're making headway in their push to stem abuse of addictive painkillers. Still, they say, U.S. doctors are prescribing enough narcotics to medicate every American around the clock for a month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses may soon overtake car crashes as the nation's leading cause of fatal injury.

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1:02pm

Mon October 31, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Obama Tackles Rx Drug Shortages

President Obama is wielding a unilateral prerogative of his office – the executive order – to get something done about a worsening shortage of essential drugs.

It's a problem that earlier this month one administration official called "a dire public health situation." Many thousands of patients with cancer, life-threatening infections, cardiac disease, severe gastrointestinal disorders and many other conditions aren't able to get the drugs they need.

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11:54am

Mon October 31, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Stomach Bug Has A Field Day At NBA

Locker rooms and clubhouses should be disinfected regularly with a solution such as bleach that's effective against the stubborn norovirus, researchers say.

iStockphoto.com

It's the season for stomach bugs again. And if you want to know just how contagious those bugs can be, just ask the National Basketball Association.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives the play-by-play on an outbreak of gastrointestinal misery that afflicted as many as 13 NBA teams a year ago, spreading rapidly from player to player and from players to team staffers.

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6:59pm

Wed October 26, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Advice To Guideline-Writers: Keep Patients Involved in PSA Decision

Hey guys, feeling confused about the fuss over PSA screening for prostate cancer?

Listen up. A couple of docs who ponder such medical dilemmas say there's a middle ground between business-as-usual and throwing PSA tests out altogether.

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10:54am

Thu October 20, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

After A Half-Million Cholera Cases, Vaccination Will Begin In Haiti

Originally published on Thu October 20, 2011 11:38 am

A Haitian protester in Port-au-Prince last month spray-paints a wall, equating the UN mission in Haiti (abbreviated here as MINISTA) with cholera.

Thony Belizaire AFP/Getty Images

A year after cholera burst upon earthquake-weary Haiti, plans are afoot to begin vaccinating people against the highly contagious disease.

Nearly half a million Haitians — about 5 percent of the population — have already been afflicted and more than 6,500 have died.

But the goal of the vaccinators isn't to stop cholera in its tracks. They can't do that in Haiti with just 200,000 doses — enough for only 100,000 people — that's all the manufacturer can offer.

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1:06pm

Tue October 18, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Experimental Malaria Vaccine Slashes Infection Risk By Half

Originally published on Tue October 18, 2011 3:33 pm

After decades of disappointment, researchers think they're finally on track to unleash the first practical vaccine against malaria, one of mankind's ancient scourges.

In the world's first large field trial of an experimental malaria vaccine, several thousand young children who got three doses had about 55 percent less risk of getting the disease over a year than those who got a control vaccine against rabies or meningitis.

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4:35pm

Tue October 11, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Vitamin E Pills May Raise, Not Lower, Prostate Cancer Risk

iStockphoto.com

Vitamins seem like such a good thing that drugstores have whole aisles devoted to them, including products that promise a healthy prostate.

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7:00pm

Wed October 5, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Women Exposed To Hormone In Utero Face Lifelong Health Problems

Originally published on Thu October 6, 2011 10:51 am

A still from A Healthy Baby Girl, a 1996 documentary in which filmmaker Judith Helfand chronicles the health consequences of her own in utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES).

Courtesy of Women Make Movies

Back in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, doctors prescribed a hormone called diethylstilbestrol, or DES, to millions of pregnant women in the unfounded belief it would prevent miscarriages.

Smack in the middle of this period, the deformed thalidomide babies demonstrated the terrible things that can happen when drugs are casually prescribed during pregnancy.

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3:33pm

Tue October 4, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Surprise In Your Sewage: Lots Of Exotic Viruses

Originally published on Wed October 12, 2011 10:03 am

You think your job is tough? Some scientists examined sewage from Pittsburgh, Barcelona and Addis Ababa in a hunt for unknown viruses.

They found scads. How many? At least 43,381.

To put that number into perspective, consider that up to now scientists have charted only about 3,000 viruses. And among the known viruses found in the sewage samples, only 17 were bugs that cause human disease — things like the common cold virus, diarrhea-causing Norwalk virus and human papilloma virus, or HPV, which causes cervical cancer and genital warts.

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8:22am

Mon October 3, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Nobelists Showed How Immune Defenses Work And Go Awry

Bruce A. Beutler was the only American winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine this year.

Mosimann for Balzan

Working with grasshoppers, fruit flies, mice and human cells, the three scientists who won this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine opened important windows on how all these creatures defend themselves against microbial invaders and refrain from attacking their own cells – except when they don't.

It's intricate and complicated stuff, but the two main concepts you need to know are: innate immunity and adaptive immunity.

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12:01am

Mon October 3, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Shortages Lead Doctors To Ration Critical Drugs

Laura Zakhar connects her son, Kevin, 15, to the "feedbag" that contains his nutrition. Lately, Zakhar has had trouble getting the calcium solution Kevin needs, in part because hospitals have been reserving limited supplies for patients who need it even more desperately than he does.
Elizabeth Larkin for NPR

Drug shortages mean a growing number of Americans aren't getting the medications they need. That's causing drug companies and doctors to ration available medications in some cases.

"We're now at 213 shortages for this year," says Erin Fox of the University of Utah, who tracks national drug shortages. "That surpasses last year's total of 211. And it doesn't seem like there's an end in sight."

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6:59pm

Tue September 20, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Predicting Sexual Function After Prostate Treatment

A study should help men facing prostate cancer treatment get a better sense of how good their sexual function will be down the road.
iStockphoto.com

Up to now doctors couldn't tell a man much about his chances of maintaining sexual function after surgery or radiation for prostate cancer.

"We'd say about half recovered or maintained their function," says Dr. Martin Sanda of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "And we'd be able to turn that up or down a little bit based on age."

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12:01am

Mon September 19, 2011
Your Health

HPV Vaccine: The Science Behind The Controversy

Experts disagree about whether girls as young as 11 should get the HPV vaccine.
Mike Kemp iStockphoto.com

The first vaccine against human papillomavirus, or HPV, which causes cervical cancer, came out five years ago. But now it's become a hot political topic, thanks to a Republican presidential debate in which candidate Michelle Bachmann inveighed against "innocent little 12-year-old girls" being "forced to have a government injection."

Behind the political fireworks is a quieter backlash against a public health strategy that's won powerful advocates in the medical and public health community.

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4:03pm

Tue September 13, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

The 'Next Big Step': Preventing 1 Million Heart Attacks And Strokes

iStockphoto.com

They're calling it Million Hearts – a newly launched campaign to put a half-dozen simple and proven public health strategies into wider practice. Federal health officials say it can prevent a million heart attacks and strokes between now and 2016.

Federal officials call it "the next big step" in cardiovascular prevention. There's lots of evidence it's an achievable goal.

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12:56pm

Thu September 1, 2011
Closing Walter Reed

\Military Medicine's Long War Against Malaria

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:33 am

A lab technician prepares blood samples from volunteers for viral genotyping at a government-run health center in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, in 2009. Tanzania is currently hosting the final stages of a human trial of a pioneering vaccine against malaria. The vaccine is one of many medical innovations to emerge from Walter Reed over the decades.
Tony Karumba AFP/Getty Images

Part of our series on the closure of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Army Maj. Jittawadee Murphy peers into a paper bucket full of freshly hatched Anopheles stephanii mosquitoes. She needs to separate out the females — the only ones that bite — so they can be infected with malaria.

It turns out that sexing mosquitoes is easy.

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12:02am

Mon August 15, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Younger Siblings Of Autistic Kids: Their Risk Greater Than Thought

Judith Ursitti is a Massachusetts mother of two children with autism spectrum disorders. Her son, Jack, 7, has severe autism, while her daughter, Amy (not pictured), who's 11, has Asperger's.
Richard Knox NPR News

Autism specialists have long thought the disease has a strong genetic component -– maybe stronger than any other neurodevelopmental disorder.

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6:28pm

Thu August 11, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

'I Will No Longer Be Disfigured': First Photos of Transplant Patient Released

Charla Nash received a full face transplant after she was mauled by a chimpanzee in 2009. The procedure was performed last month by a team of plastic and orthopedic surgeons at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
HO AFP/Getty Images

The Boston hospital that gave Charla Nash a new face in May has released the first post-surgery photo of the transplant's results.

Nash's face was mauled by an out-of-control chimpanzee in 2009. Before the transplant, she wore a veil to conceal the grotesquely misshapen face that was the best plastic surgeons could do.

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9:31am

Tue August 9, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Soy Pills Fail To Counter Menopause Effects Like Bone Loss

Woman who took a daily soy pill had no less bone loss after two years than others who took a sugar pill, a study found.
iStockphoto.com

Soy pills for the hot flashes and bone loss menopausal women may endure seemed like a great idea – a cheap way of getting the benefit of estrogen without the risks.

But alas, a new study concludes they don't work.

Woman who took a daily soy pill had no less bone loss after two years than others who took a sugar pill. (Women in both groups didn't know which pill they got.)

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12:43pm

Fri July 29, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Countdown To 7 Billion: A Tale of Two Worlds

Indian schoolchildren write English alphabets on slates at a primary school outside Hyderabad in June. India is on track to overtake China as the most populous nation in just 16 years.
NOAH SEELAM AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations says that sometime around Halloween the seven-billionth person will be born into this world — most likely in India, which is on track to overtake China as the most populous nation in just 16 years.

This latest milestone may not come as a surprise. But it is remarkable nonetheless. It took Earth 50,000 years to reach the one billion mark. By 1960 there were three billion souls. Since then we've added another billion every decade, or less.

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5:00am

Thu July 28, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Treatment Boosts Survival Rates For Some Kidney Transplant Patients

Doctors perform a kidney transplant operation in Spain in 2010. One in three people with kidney failure has antibodies that make it hard to receive a transplant, but a new treatment can get rid of them prior to transplant.
Xurxo Lobato Cover/Getty Images

Everybody knows there's a dire shortage of kidneys (and other organs) for transplant. The math: Over 80,000 on the kidney waiting list, but only 17,500 transplants are performed annually.

But there's another side to that coin. Thousands of patients with kidney failure have willing donors lined up among family members and friends. But they're just about impossible to transplant.

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1:32pm

Thu July 21, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Modesty Upgrade Coming To Some Airport Scanners

Originally published on Wed July 27, 2011 11:36 am

A sign at Chicago's Midway Airport informs travelers about the millimeter wave scanners used to screen passengers.
Scott Olson Getty Images

It may have seemed that the bureaucrats at the Transportation Security Administration turned a deaf ear to Americans who objected to the virtually naked images created by whole-body airport scanners. But it turns out, they heard.

Over the next few months TSA says it will retrofit 241 of its 488 airport scanners with software that's so unrevealing anybody, including passengers, can look at the pictures.

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12:01am

Tue July 19, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

HIV Treatment In Africa Brings Near-Normal Lifespan

A study of Ugandans found antiretroviral drugs can extend the lifespans of people with HIV to nearly normal lengths.
Adek Berry AFP/Getty Images

Lately the good news about HIV/AIDS just keeps rolling in.

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1:41pm

Fri July 15, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

As Cholera Surges In Haiti, Aid Withers Away

Mourners attend a memorial service for recent cholera victims in Haiti that took place Wednesday in Savanette, an isolated community in the mountains outside Mirebalais, Haiti.
Cate Osborn Partners in Health

Cholera is back in Haiti.

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11:17am

Thu July 14, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Who Should Get Pills To Prevent HIV?

Bottles of antiretroviral drug Truvada, a medicine used in trials that showed a reduction in transmission of HIV between heterosexuals.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

AIDS researchers are excited — to use their word — about two new studies that seem to nail down the effectiveness of a daily antiviral pill to protecting heterosexual men and women against HIV.

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4:46pm

Tue July 12, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Super-Resistant Gonorrhea Strain Found In Japan

Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea light up this microscopic view.
CDC

The emergence of a strain of gonorrhea that can thwart the last antibiotic effective in treating the common sexually transmitted disease was bound to happen, experts say.

The new, super-resistant strain is called H041, and so far, only a handful of cases are known in Japan. But don't count on it staying that way. Experience has shown that once a resistant strain of gonorrhea appears, it steadily displaces those that can be killed with antibiotics.

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5:26pm

Fri July 8, 2011
Science And Medicine

A Prenatal Surgery For Spina Bifida Comes Of Age

Drs. Lee Sutton and Scott Adzick perform prenatal surgery on Sarah White's fetus. The fetus has spina bifida — a hole in the lower back that exposes the spinal cord.
Jane Greenhalgh NPR

When she was 19 weeks pregnant, Sarah White went for a routine ultrasound and got a shock.

"I could tell that something was wrong because the ultrasound tech got real quiet," White says.

White's male fetus had spina bifida — a hole in his lower back that exposed the vulnerable spinal cord.

"When they said, 'Your baby has spina bifida,' I knew it wasn't good," says Joe Hensley, White's husband. "But I didn't have a sense of what was involved."

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12:59pm

Fri July 8, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Cancer Patient Gets First Totally Artificial Windpipe

Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, of Karolinska University Hospital, implants a synthetic windpipe.
Karolinska Institute

In a milestone for the fast-evolving field of tissue engineering, a 36-year-old geology student from Africa is breathing through a synthetic windpipe created in a laboratory from plastic and his own bone marrow cells.

Andemarian Teklesenbet Beyene was discharged today from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, one day short of a month since he had his cancerous windpipe replaced with the custom-made spare part.

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6:16pm

Tue July 5, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Colorectal Cancer Deaths Declining, But Millions Still Aren't Getting Screened

Katie Couric at the "Make That Call" For Colon Cancer Screening campaign launch in New York in March.
Slaven Vlasic Getty Images

Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is taking a page from TV anchor Katie Couric by going public about colonoscopy.

Three years ago Couric, whose husband died of colon cancer, had her colonoscopy on camera as a way of encouraging others to have one too. It was so effective that epidemiologists named the resulting increase in colonoscopy tests "the Couric effect."

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