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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Shots - Health Blog
7:56 am
Fri December 9, 2011

With Doubts, FDA Panel Votes For Yaz And Related Contaceptives

Katie Anderson, shown with her mother, Beth, in 2010, suffered a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Her symptoms started within a month of taking the birth control pill Yaz.
Jane Greenhalgh NPR

Originally published on Fri December 9, 2011 2:52 pm

Doubts have been growing about Yasmin, Yaz and their sister contraceptives for several years now. And those doubts reached full flower at a Food Drug Administration advisory panel on Thursday.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:51 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Why Observing Prostate Cancers Is Gaining Ground On Surgery

Originally published on Wed December 7, 2011 2:26 pm

A federally convened panel of experts says most men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer should be offered the chance to put off treatment in favor of medical monitoring of their condition.

In fact, the panel went so far as to say doctors should stop calling most of these low-risk tumors cancer at all.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:33 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

US AIDS Chief Says Tipping Point Is In Sight

Eric Goosby, United States Global AIDS Coordinator, sees a turning point for HIV coming soon.
Brendan Hoffman Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 2, 2011 2:51 pm

If all goes according to plan — the plan President Obama laid out on Thursday — the HIV pandemic may reach an important tipping point by the end of 2013.

"We believe that with 2 million more people in treatment, we will reach a point where the number of new infections is less than the number going into treatment," says Dr. Eric Goosby.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:59 pm
Thu December 1, 2011

Obama Embraces 'End of AIDS,' Promises To Accelerate HIV Treatment

AIDS activists haven't always been happy with Barack Obama. But many of them were on this Worlds AIDS Day.

The president used the occasion to pledge a 50 percent increase in the number of HIV-infected people getting treatment through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR — from around 4 million now to 6 million by the end of 2013.

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Shots - Health Blog
10:05 am
Wed November 30, 2011

HIV Treatment Lags In U.S., Guaranteeing More Infections

The latest numbers from CDC show that only 28 percent of the nation's 1.2 million HIV-infected people are getting effective antiviral treatment; effective treatment rates are lowest among African-American men.
Robyn Beck AFP/Getty Images

The United States is doing a pretty miserable job of treating people with HIV.

The latest numbers show that only 28 percent of the nation's 1.2 million HIV-infected people are getting effective treatment — that is, antiviral medications to keep the virus in check.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:01 pm
Wed November 23, 2011

Scientists Bag Small Game In Bathroom Germ Safari

Right this way, ladies and germs.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed November 23, 2011 3:03 pm

Turns out Howard Hughes was right. The world is a very germy place, especially public restrooms.

The reclusive billionaire, who had the world's most notorious case of so-called germophobia, would go to just about any length to avoid contamination. He wore tissue boxes on his feet. He burned his clothing if someone near him got sick. He wrote careful instructions to his staff on how to open a can of peaches without contaminating them.

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Shots - Health Blog
10:01 pm
Sun November 20, 2011

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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Shots - Health Blog
8:54 am
Thu October 20, 2011

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

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

Originally published on Thu October 20, 2011 9:38 am

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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Shots - Health Blog
11:06 am
Tue October 18, 2011

Experimental Malaria Vaccine Slashes Infection Risk By Half

Originally published on Tue October 18, 2011 1:33 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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Shots - Health Blog
2:35 pm
Tue October 11, 2011

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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Shots - Health Blog
5:00 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

Women Exposed To Hormone In Utero Face Lifelong Health Problems

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

Originally published on Thu October 6, 2011 8:51 am

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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Shots - Health Blog
1:33 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Surprise In Your Sewage: Lots Of Exotic Viruses

Originally published on Wed October 12, 2011 8:03 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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Shots - Health Blog
6:22 am
Mon October 3, 2011

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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Shots - Health Blog
10:01 pm
Sun October 2, 2011

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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Shots - Health Blog
4:59 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

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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Your Health
10:01 pm
Sun September 18, 2011

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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Shots - Health Blog
2:03 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

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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Closing Walter Reed
10:56 am
Thu September 1, 2011

\Military Medicine's Long War Against Malaria

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

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:33 am

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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Shots - Health Blog
10:02 pm
Sun August 14, 2011

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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Shots - Health Blog
4:28 pm
Thu August 11, 2011

'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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Shots - Health Blog
7:31 am
Tue August 9, 2011

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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