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 News
2:35 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Silencing Many Hospital Alarms Leads To Better Health Care

Amanda Gerety, a staff nurse at Boston Medical Center, checks monitors that track patients' vital signs. Fewer beeps means crisis warnings are easier to hear, she says.
Richard Knox NPR

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 8:46 am

Go into almost any hospital these days and you'll hear a constant stream of beeps and boops. To most people it sounds like medical Muzak.

But to doctors and nurses, it's not just sonic wallpaper. Those incessant beeps contain important coded messages.

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Shots - Health News
1:42 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

Half Of A Drug's Power Comes From Thinking It Will Work

iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 2:37 pm

When you take a pill, you and your doctor hope it will work — and that helps it work.

That's not a new idea. But now researchers say they know just how much of a drug's effect comes from the patient's expectation: at least half.

When patients in the midst of a migraine attack took a dummy pill they thought was a widely used migraine drug, it reduced their pain roughly as much as when they took the real drug thinking it was a placebo.

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Shots - Health News
4:25 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

50 Years After Landmark Warning, 8 Million Fewer Smoking Deaths

Tobacco companies incorporated doctors in their ads, such as this 1930 Lucky Strike campaign, to convince the public that smoking wasn't harmful.
Stanford University

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 2:22 pm

Saturday marks an important milestone in public health – the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health.

Few if any documents have had the impact of this one — both on the amount of disease and death prevented, and on the very scope of public health.

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Shots - Health News
2:22 am
Mon December 30, 2013

$1,000 Pill For Hepatitis C Spurs Debate Over Drug Prices

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 2:43 pm

Federal regulators this month opened a new era in the treatment of a deadly liver virus that infects three to five times more people than HIV. Now the question is: Who will get access to the new drug for hepatitis C, and when?

The drug Sovaldi will cost $1,000 per pill. A typical course of treatment will last 12 weeks and run $84,000, plus the cost of necessary companion drugs. Some patients may need treatment for twice as long.

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Shots - Health News
4:44 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Tagging Along On A Wisconsin Man's Odyssey To Buy Insurance

Doug Normington is 58, self-employed, and has diabetes.
Courtesy of Doug Normington

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 1:47 pm

Enrollment is picking up in new health insurance marketplaces. But the 365,000 who've signed up as of November 30 is a fraction of just one high-visibility group – those whose previous insurance has been cancelled because it didn't meet Affordable Care Act standards.

They're people like Doug Normington, a 58-year-old self-employed videographer in Madison, Wis., who has struggled to buy new insurance since late October.

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Shots - Health News
9:03 am
Sat December 7, 2013

Gene Therapy Keeps 'Bubble Boy' Disease At Bay In 8 Children

David Vetter was born without a functioning immune system and spent his life in a bubble that protected him from germs. He died at age 12 in 1984. Scientists are using gene therapy to treat the disorder so that children can live normally.
Science Source

Researchers say they are achieving success in curing the genetic defect that causes some children to be born without immune defenses, a rare condition made famous in the 1970s by a Texas boy who lived most of his short life in a sterile "bubble."

Scientists now report that 8 out of 9 young children given gene therapy for a type of severe combined immunodeficiency disease, called SCID-X1, are alive and living amid the everyday microbial threats that would otherwise have killed them. The oldest is just over 3 years old.

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Shots - Health News
11:33 am
Fri December 6, 2013

Hoped-For AIDS Cures Fail In 2 Boston Patients

The HIV virus has proven once again that it can evade detection in the body.
BSIP UIG via Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 12:15 pm

HIV has reappeared in the blood of two Boston patients who scientists had hoped had been cured of their infections.

This disappointing development, reported by The Boston Globe's Kay Lazar, is yet another cautionary tale of how researchers can never afford to underestimate the human immunodeficiency virus's ability to hide out in patients' bodies and overcome their most ingenious efforts to eliminate it.

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Shots - Health News
4:06 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Obama Launches HIV Cure Initiative, Ups Pledge For Global Health

President Obama walks into an auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Monday for a speech about World AIDS Day.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 4:45 pm

Commemorating the 25th World AIDS Day a day late, President Obama announced an initiative Monday to find a cure for HIV infections that would be funded by $100 million shifted from existing spending.

"The United States should be at the forefront of new discoveries into how to put people into long-term remission without requiring lifelong therapies — or better yet, eliminate it completely," Obama said at a meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.

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Shots - Health News
5:51 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

2009 Flu Pandemic Was 10 Times More Deadly Than Previously Thought

PLOS Medicine/Michaeleen Doucleff/NPR

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 9:10 pm

By the World Health Organization's official tally, the flu pandemic of 2009-10 killed 18,449 people around the world. Those are deaths of people who had laboratory-confirmed cases of the so-called swine flu.

But a fresh analysis says the real toll was 10 times higher — up to 203,000 deaths. And maybe it was twice that, if you count people who died of things like heart attacks precipitated by the flu.

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Shots - Health News
5:01 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

How A Vitamin D Test Misdiagnosed African-Americans

Disease susceptibility varies among ethnic groups, but medicine hasn't always recognized that.
Jo Unruh iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 11:43 am

By the current blood test for vitamin D, most African-Americans are deficient. That can lead to weak bones. So many doctors prescribe supplement pills to bring their levels up.

But the problem is with the test, not the patients, according to a new study. The vast majority of African-Americans have plenty of the form of vitamin D that counts — the type their cells can readily use.

The research resolves a long-standing paradox.

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