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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1:34am

Mon February 18, 2013
Shots - Health News

Targeted Cancer Drugs Keep Myeloma Patients Up And Running

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 1:13 pm

Don Wright runs at an indoor track at the Maplewood Community Center in North Saint Paul, Minn.
Ariana Lindquist for NPR

Don Wright got diagnosed with multiple myeloma at what turned out to be the right time. It was 10 years ago, when he was 62.

That was at the beginning of a revolution in treating this once-fearsome blood cell cancer, which strikes around 20,000 Americans every year. The malignancy can literally eat holes in victims' bones, which can snap from the simple act of bending over to pick up a package.

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4:11pm

Wed February 13, 2013
Shots - Health News

Report: Action Needed To Wipe Out Fake And Substandard Drugs

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 3:20 pm

Shoppers buy smuggled counterfeit drugs at the Adjame market in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in 2007.
Issouf Sanogo AFP/Getty Images

A blue-ribbon panel is urging stronger regulation of pharmaceuticals around the world to combat the growing problem of fake and poor-quality medicines.

The quality problems and fake medicines have affected Americans. Fungal contamination of steroids made by a Massachusetts pharmacy, which sickened more than 700 people and killed 46, is one recent example. Other U.S. patients have received fake cancer drugs and medicines obtained over the Internet with little or no active ingredients.

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4:13pm

Tue February 12, 2013
Shots - Health News

World's Most Popular Painkiller Raises Heart Attack Risk

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 7:35 am

The painkiller diclofenac is sold under several brand names in the U.S. and abroad, including Voltaren.
Wikimedia Commons

The painkiller diclofenac isn't very popular in the U.S., but it's by far the most widely used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, in the world.

A slew of studies, though, show diclofenac — sold under the brand names Voltaren, Cambia, Cataflam and Zipsor — is just as likely to cause a heart attack as the discredited painkiller Vioxx (rofecoxib), which was pulled from the U.S. market in 2004.

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2:44pm

Fri February 8, 2013
Shots - Health News

Widely Used Stroke Treatment Doesn't Help Patients

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 3:09 pm

An angiogram of a 48-year- old patient after treatment for a stroke. A blockage was targeted with clot-busting drugs using a catheter.
Zephyr Science Source

It's another case of a beautiful idea colliding with some ugly facts.

The beautiful idea is the notion that clearing the blocked artery of a stroke patient with a device snaked right up to the blockage would salvage threatened brain cells and prevent a lot of disability.

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8:37am

Mon February 4, 2013
Shots - Health News

Experimental Tuberculosis Vaccine Fails To Protect Infants

Originally published on Mon February 4, 2013 4:03 pm

Nurse Christel Petersen inoculates a child in the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative study in 2011.
Rodger Bosch AFP/Getty Images

Researchers are disappointed in the results of a long-awaited study of the leading candidate vaccine against tuberculosis, one of humankind's most elusive scourges.

But, pointing to more than a dozen other TB vaccines in the pipeline, they say they're not discouraged.

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1:40am

Thu January 24, 2013
Shots - Health News

Female Smokers Face Greater Risk Than Previously Thought

Originally published on Thu January 24, 2013 11:19 am

Women smoke in New York City's Times Square.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

There's still more to learn about the risks of smoking and the benefits of quitting.

Studies in this week's New England Journal of Medicine show that the risk for women has been under-appreciated for decades. New data also quantify the surprising payoffs of smoking cessation — especially under the age of 40.

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9:55am

Wed January 23, 2013
Shots - Health News

Old Drug Extends Life For Pancreatic Cancer Patients

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 1:55 pm

A CT scan showing an adenocarcinoma of the pancreatic head.
Wikimedia Commons

A large study is providing a rare glimmer of hope for patients with pancreatic cancer, perhaps the deadliest of all malignancies.

By the time they're diagnosed, most patients with pancreatic cancer have advanced disease that's spread to the liver and lung. And the primary tumor may be inoperable because it's wrapped around vital blood vessels and nerves.

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1:48am

Thu January 17, 2013
Shots - Health News

Bad Flu Season Overshadows Other Winter Miseries

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 9:11 am

People line up at a Duane Reade pharmacy in New York behind a sign announcing the recent flu outbreak.
Andrew Kelly Reuters/Landov

Dr. Beth Zeeman says she can spot a case of influenza from 20 paces. It's not like a common cold.

"People think they've had the flu when they've had colds," Zeeman, an emergency room specialist at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, Mass., tells Shots. "People use the word 'flu' for everything. But having influenza is really a different thing. It hits you like a ton of bricks."

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1:18am

Mon January 14, 2013
Shots - Health News

As Hepatitis C Sneaks Up On Baby Boomers, Treatment Options Grow

Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 1:27 pm

Hepatitis C patient Nancy Turner shows Kathleen Coleman, a nurse practitioner, where a forearm rash, a side effect of her treatment, has healed. Turner is one of many patients with hepatitis C experimenting with new drugs to beat back the virus.
Richard Knox NPR

A smoldering epidemic already affects an estimated 4 million Americans, most of whom don't know it.

It's hepatitis C, an insidious virus that can hide in the body for two or three decades without causing symptoms — and then wreak havoc with the liver, scarring it so extensively that it can fail. Half of all people waiting for liver transplants have hepatitis C.

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3:34am

Sat January 12, 2013
Shots - Health News

After Bringing Cholera To Haiti, U.N. Plans To Get Rid Of It

Originally published on Sat January 12, 2013 9:11 pm

Haitians protest against the United Nations peacekeepers in Port-au-Prince in November 2010.
Hector Retamal AFP/Getty Images

Not quite 10 months after Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake, a more insidious disaster struck: cholera.

Haiti hadn't seen cholera for at least a century. Then suddenly, the first cases appeared in the central highlands near a camp for United Nations peacekeeping forces.

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3:49pm

Wed January 9, 2013
Shots - Health News

U.S. Ranks Below 16 Other Rich Countries In Health Report

Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 4:46 pm

iStockphoto.com

It's no news that the U.S. has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than most high-income countries. But a magisterial new report says Americans are actually less healthy across their entire life spans than citizens of 16 other wealthy nations.

And the gap is steadily widening.

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3:08am

Tue January 1, 2013
Shots - Health News

Breast Cancer: What We Learned In 2012

Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 8:08 am

Betty Daniel gets a routine yearly mammogram from mammography tech Stella Palmer at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago in 2012.
Heather Charles MCT/Landov

The past year has seen more debate about the best way to find breast cancers.

A recent analysis concluded that regular mammograms haven't reduced the rate of advanced breast cancers — but they have led more than a million women to be diagnosed with tumors that didn't need to be treated.

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11:47am

Thu December 20, 2012
Shots - Health News

Merck: Niacin Drug Mix Fails To Prevent Heart Attacks, Strokes

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 12:59 pm

Niacin, a B vitamin that raises "good" cholesterol, has failed to benefit heart disease patients when taken in tandem with a statin drug that lowers "bad" cholesterol, according to drug maker Merck.

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11:20am

Tue December 18, 2012
Shots - Health News

Dangers of 'Whoonga': Abuse Of AIDS Drugs Stokes Resistance

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 2:01 pm

A whoonga smoker near Durban, South Africa, shows a crushed AIDS pill in the palm of his hand before mixing the drug with marijuana.
John Robinson AP

Opportunists who market street drugs may be undermining the global struggle against AIDS.

In South Africa, two mainstay HIV drugs have found their way into recreational use. That may help explain why some HIV patients are resistant to these front-line medicines even if they've never been in treatment before.

It can happen in two ways.

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1:23am

Mon December 10, 2012
Shots - Health News

As Childhood Strokes Increase, Surgeons Aim To Reduce Risks

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 1:08 pm

Maribel Ramos, 13, has both sickle cell disease and an abnormality of blood vessels called moyamoya. Both put her at risk of stroke, and, together, they add up to a 95 percent chance of a major stroke.
Richard Knox NPR

Boston brain surgeon Ed Smith points to a tangle of delicate gray shadows on his computer screen. It's an X-ray of the blood vessels on the left side of 13-year-old Maribel Ramos' brain.

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2:39pm

Fri November 30, 2012
Shots - Health News

SARS-Like Virus Found In Jordan, Hunt Is On For Other Cases

Originally published on Sat December 1, 2012 7:46 am

The World Health Organization says a new coronavirus has killed two people in Jordan — the third country where the novel microbe has been traced.

That brings lab-confirmed cases to nine, with five fatalities.

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1:54pm

Thu November 29, 2012
Shots - Health News

Clinton Reveals Blueprint For An 'AIDS-Free Generation'

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 6:52 am

United Nations Aids Executive Director Michel Sibide hugs Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after they they presented the a road map for stopping HIV around the world.
Jim Watson AFP/Getty Images

Before Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton passes the reins to her successor, she's got a few loose ends to tie up. One of them is mapping out the U.S.'s continuing efforts to combat AIDS around the world.

So today she unveiled a "blueprint" for what she called an "AIDS-free generation."

Now Clinton isn't talking about ending the HIV pandemic altogether. Rather, she hopes to prevent most new infections from occurring in the first place and to stop HIV-positive people from developing AIDS.

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8:44am

Wed November 28, 2012
Shots - Health News

More Women Choose Double Mastectomy, But Study Says Many Don't Need It

Originally published on Thu November 29, 2012 2:10 pm

It's a startling trend: Many women with cancer in one breast are choosing to have their healthy breast removed, too.

But a study being presented later this week says more than three-quarters of women who opt for double mastectomies are not getting any benefit because their risk of cancer developing in the healthy breast is no greater than in women without cancer.

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3:54pm

Wed November 21, 2012
Shots - Health News

With Routine Mammograms, Some Breast Cancers May Be Overtreated

Originally published on Wed November 21, 2012 4:01 pm

A mammographer prepares a screen-film mammography test for patient Alicia Maldonado at a hospital in Los Angeles.
Damian Dovarganes AP

The endless debate over routine mammograms is getting another kick from an analysis that sharply questions whether the test really does what it's supposed to.

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, coauthor of the analysis of mammography's impact, which was just published in The New England Journal of Medicine, tell Shots that the aim was to "get down to a very basic question."

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1:19am

Fri November 9, 2012
Shots - Health News

Experimental Malaria Vaccine Disappoints, But Work Continues

Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 10:59 am

A mother dresses her baby after doctors examined him during the malaria vaccine trial at the Walter Reed Project Research Center in Kombewa in Western Kenya in October 2009.
Karel Prinsloo AP

The public health world has waited for the results for more than a year. After a half-billion dollars in R&D, would the front-runner malaria vaccine protect the top-priority targets: young infants?

The results are disappointing. The vaccine — called RTS,S for its various molecular components — reduced infants' risk of malaria by about a third.

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