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
3:35 am
Wed February 27, 2013

Younger Women Have Rising Rate Of Advanced Breast Cancer, Study Says

Blend Images/Jon Feingersh Getty Images/iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 8:19 am

Researchers say more young American women are being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.

It's a newly recognized trend. The numbers are small, but it's been going on for a generation. And the trend has accelerated in recent years.

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Shots - Health News
9:23 am
Thu February 21, 2013

Medical Waste: 90 More Don'ts For Your Doctor

Scans shouldn't be ordered routinely for kids with minor head injuries, new advice to doctors says.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 4:54 pm

Doctors do stuff — tests, procedures, drug regimens and operations. It's what they're trained to do, what they're paid to do and often what they fear not doing.

So it's pretty significant that a broad array of medical specialty groups is issuing an expanding list of don'ts for physicians.

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Shots - Health News
3:34 am
Mon February 18, 2013

Targeted Cancer Drugs Keep Myeloma Patients Up And Running

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

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 3:13 pm

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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Shots - Health News
6:11 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Report: Action Needed To Wipe Out Fake And Substandard Drugs

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

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 5:20 pm

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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Shots - Health News
4:44 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

Widely Used Stroke Treatment Doesn't Help Patients

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

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 5:09 pm

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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Shots - Health News
10:37 am
Mon February 4, 2013

Experimental Tuberculosis Vaccine Fails To Protect Infants

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

Originally published on Mon February 4, 2013 6:03 pm

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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Health
5:20 pm
Fri January 25, 2013

Season's Stomach Bug A New Strain Of Norovirus

A new strain of the common intestinal bug called norovirus has been spreading misery across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the new virus, which popped up in Australia last spring, caused 19 percent of U.S. norovirus outbreaks in September — and nearly 60 percent of December's outbreaks. The highly-contagious virus causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. Most people recover in a few days, but it can be very dangerous for some.

Shots - Health News
3:40 am
Thu January 24, 2013

Female Smokers Face Greater Risk Than Previously Thought

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

Originally published on Thu January 24, 2013 1:19 pm

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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Shots - Health News
11:55 am
Wed January 23, 2013

Old Drug Extends Life For Pancreatic Cancer Patients

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

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 3:55 pm

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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Shots - Health News
3:51 pm
Fri January 18, 2013

A Worm's Ovary Cells Become A Flu Vaccine Machine

The fall armyworm, a corn pest, is now also a vaccine factory.
Wikimedia Commons

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 9:57 am

As the flu season grinds on from news cycle to news cycle, there's some flu news of a different sort. Federal regulators have approved a next-generation type of flu vaccine for the second time in two months.

The two new vaccines are the first fruits of a big government push to hasten and simplify the laborious production of flu vaccines.

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Shots - Health News
3:48 am
Thu January 17, 2013

Bad Flu Season Overshadows Other Winter Miseries

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

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

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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Shots - Health News
3:18 am
Mon January 14, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 3:27 pm

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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Shots - Health News
5:34 am
Sat January 12, 2013

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

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

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

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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Shots - Health News
5:49 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

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

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 6:46 pm

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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Shots - Health News
4:58 am
Wed October 24, 2012

Meningitis From Tainted Drugs Puts Patients, Doctors In Quandary

Matthew Spencer receives intravenous infusions of a potent antifungal drug at home twice a day for an indefinite period to treat a suspected case of fungal infection linked to a contaminated steroid drug that came from New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts.
Richard Knox NPR

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 10:58 am

Two weeks after Matthew Spencer got a spinal injection for his chronic back pain, he felt "not quite right." Nothing too specific: worsening headache, nausea.

Then he saw a TV report on a recall of contaminated steroid medication used for back pain.

"I thought, well, I don't know if I had that medicine or not, but maybe I'd better go check it out," Spencer says.

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Shots - Health News
7:03 am
Sat October 20, 2012

CDC: Meningitis Mold In Tainted Drug Can Incubate For Months

Federal agents investigate the offices of the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., on Tuesday. The company's steroid medication has been linked to a deadly meningitis outbreak.
Barry Chin AP

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 12:38 pm

As the caseload of fungal meningitis linked to a tainted steroid drug climbs, experts are learning more about this human-made epidemic. The signs indicate that cases could still be emerging until Thanksgiving or beyond.

The latest count is 268 cases of meningitis and three patients with fungal joint infections, spread across 16 states from New Hampshire to Texas and Idaho to Florida. Twenty-one people have died.

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Shots - Health News
12:29 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

Old Drug Gets A Second Look For TB Fight

Under the microscope, Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. The germs that cause TB have become resistant to many drugs.
Janice Haney Carr CDC

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 1:04 pm

A small study offers a bit of cautious optimism about the prospects for treatment of tuberculosis, one of humankind's most ancient scourges.

This week's New England Journal of Medicine has a report showing that adding a 12-year-old antibiotic called linezolid, brand name Zyvox, to existing treatments cured nearly 90 percent of patients with a form of tuberculosis resistant to both first- and second-line antibiotics.

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Shots - Health Blog
8:00 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Meningitis Outbreak Puts Doctors, Regulators In New Territory

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 5:13 pm

There's new information on the ongoing outbreak of a rare meningitis caused by a fungus that somehow got into a steroid drug. Federal officials now say the drug got injected into 14,000 patients — 1,000 more than earlier thought.

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Medical Treatments
5:48 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Special Pharmacies Suspected In Meningitis Outbreak

Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 7:38 pm

The tainted drug believed to have caused 170 cases of rare fungal meningitis and 14 deaths came from a so-called "compounding pharmacy" in Massachusetts. But this is no corner drugstore. It's one of dozens of industrial-scale companies that mix and ship drugs nationally. They operate under old-fashioned rules that require pharmacies to custom-mix medications for individual patients on a prescription-by-prescription basis. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration largely leaves regulation of these pharmacies to each of the 50 states but now many experts say it has to change.

Shots - Health Blog
6:33 pm
Fri October 5, 2012

Meningitis Outbreak Update: List Of Hospitals Released

The government has named 75 medical facilities that received a potentially contaminated drug suspected of infecting 47 patients with meningitis nationwide.

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