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.

It was 11 on a Tuesday night nearly six years ago when Jean-Clair Desir's mother fell ill with cholera in the Boucan-Carre district of Haiti's central highlands. "She started vomiting with diarrhea," Desir recalls. "I made oral rehydration for her, nothing worked. She died at 3 in the morning." She never made it to a hospital or clinic and so probably wasn't counted as a cholera victim. After burying his mother, Desir, a third-year student at Haiti's University of Agronomy Sciences, nearly...

Mike Quaglia was 42 when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, which gradually robs its victims of their ability to move normally. For the next seven years, his condition deteriorated despite medication. "I was at a point where I was either going to give up and let the Parkinson's take over, or I was going to decide to fight back," Quaglia says. Fight back he did — literally. Last February he stumbled on a program called Rock Steady Boxing. That's right: It teaches Parkinson's patients...

Haiti's magnitude 7.0 earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, left 220,000 people dead, 300,000 injured and rubble nearly everywhere. The catastrophe also unleashed an unprecedented flood of humanitarian aid — $13.5 billion in donations and pledges, about three-quarters from donor nations and a quarter from private charity. But today Haiti is a long, long way from realizing the bullish goal of "building back better." "There have certainly been improvements," says Brian Concannon of the Institute for...

Authors of the first-ever global guidelines for treating hepatitis C went big Tuesday, advocating for worldwide use of two of the most expensive specialty drugs in the world. The new guidelines from the World Health Organization give strong endorsement to the two newest drugs. Gilead Sciences' Sovaldi costs $1,000 per pill, or $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment. Olysio, sold by Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit, costs $66,360 for a three-month course. The high prices...

When sweeping new advice on preventing heart attacks and strokes came out last November, it wasn't clear how many more Americans should be taking daily statin pills to lower their risk. A new analysis provides an answer: a whole lot. Nearly 13 million more, to be precise. If the guidelines were followed to the letter, about half of all Americans over 40 would be on cholesterol-lowering statins — more than double the current level. Even more striking, the new recommendations would make...

Colorado opened its first pot stores in January, and adults in Washington state will be able to walk into a store and buy marijuana this summer. But this legalization of recreational marijuana is taking place without much information on the possible health effects. "We should have been doing a lot more research to find out just how useful it is, how it affects the brain, et cetera, et cetera," according to Dr. Herbert Kleber , a Columbia University psychiatrist and drug abuse researcher. But...

Scientists have gotten close to pinning down the origin of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, a dangerous respiratory disease that emerged in Saudi Arabia 17 months ago. It turns out the MERS virus has been circulating in Arabian camels for more than two decades, scientists report in a study published Tuesday. So far MERS has sickened more than 180 people, killing at least 77 of them — an alarming 43 percent. But scientists haven't been sure where the virus came from or how people catch it. A...

As flu-watchers like to say, you can always count on influenza virus to surprise. The latest revelation is that scientists have apparently been wrong about where new flu viruses come from. The dogma is that they always incubate in wild migratory birds, then get into domestic poultry, and then jump into mammals — especially pigs and humans. If novel flu viruses acquire the ability to transmit readily in humans — boom! — you've got a pandemic on your hands. And if a pandemic virus is...

A Pennsylvania county judge has thrown out an assisted suicide case against a 58-year-old nurse named Barbara Mancini, who was accused of homicide last year for allegedly handing her 93-year-old father a bottle of morphine. The decision is the latest in a series of recent developments signaling a reluctance of courts and state legislatures to criminalize medical care that may hasten death. Assisting in suicide is illegal in all but five states — Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New...

An effective new medicine is developed as a cure for a major disease. The drug company prices the medicine at tens of thousands of dollars for a course of treatment. How can the disease-curing medicine be made accessible to patients who need it, most of whom live in low- and middle-income countries? It's well worth watching as drugmaker Gilead Sciences tries to solve this riddle for Solvadi, a newly approved drug for the deadly liver infection hepatitis C that afflicts more than 150 million...

There's new evidence that widely prescribed testosterone drugs — touted for men with flagging libidos and general listlessness — might increase the risk of heart attacks. A study of more than 55,000 men found a doubling of heart attack risk among testosterone users older than 65, compared with men who didn't take the drug. The research was inspired by a smaller study published in 2010 that hinted at an elevated risk among frail, older men who were on testosterone replacement therapy. The...

As China gets ready to usher in the Year of the Horse on Friday, millions of them will find it hard to buy chicken for traditional Lunar New Year feasts. That's a mark of the nation's growing anxiety about a poultry-borne flu virus called H7N9. On Tuesday, Hong Kong agricultural workers will begin destroying 20,000 chickens. The bird flu virus H7N9 was found in a single live bird from a farm in neighboring Guangdong Province. "The Department (of Food and Health) has declared the wholesale...

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. "The three-burst is a crisis alarm," systems engineer James Piepenbrink of Boston Medical Center explains on a tour of 7 North, the hospital's cardiac care unit. That might signal that a patient's heart has gone into a potentially fatal...

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. "There was no difference between the pharmacology of the...

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. An analysis in the JAMA, the American Medical Association journal, estimates that 8 million Americans avoided premature death as a result of tobacco control efforts launched by the 1964 report. Those...

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. Hepatitis researchers call the drug a landmark in the treatment...

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...

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. The Boston patients have stirred considerable hope among HIV researchers since...

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. The...

After decades of cajoling Americans to know their cholesterol level and get it down as low as possible, the nation's leading heart specialists are changing course. Cholesterol is still important. But new guidelines published Tuesday afternoon throw out the notion that a specific blood cholesterol level should automatically trigger treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs. Also out the window is any notion of treating patients with drugs until their so-called bad cholesterol hits a specific...

Images of the swath of devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in the central Philippines are reminiscent of the tsunami's aftermath in Banda Aceh, Indonesia nearly a decade ago. And indeed, the World Health Organization grades the great typhoon of 2013 as a Category 3 disaster – its most severe category. "The scale [of the typhoon's damage] is huge," Dr. Richard Brennan of the World Health Organization tells Shots. "It's monumental. This is one of the biggest emergencies we've dealt with in...

Lisa Dieckman, a retired psychologist in Los Angeles, likes the Affordable Care Act's promise that everybody can get health insurance. But she's not happy about being told she can't keep her own coverage and will have to pay considerably more for a policy she doesn't consider any better. Doug Normington, who runs his own video production company in Madison, Wis., is also among those who recently got a cancellation letter from his health insurer. He's frustrated he can't find out about his...

More than 12 million Americans buy health insurance on their own, and many are getting cancellation notices because their individual coverage does not meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act. This is causing anxiety and anger — especially since most of these people can't get onto the healthcare.gov website to figure out their options for 2014.

Scientists have a new idea for beating HIV: Target the virus with guided missiles called monoclonal antibodies. At least in monkeys infected with an experimental virus similar to the human AIDS virus, the approach produced what researchers call "profound therapeutic efficacy." The results appear Thursday in two papers published by Nature — one from a Boston group and a confirmatory report from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases. The virus plummeted to...

A 3-year-old girl born in Mississippi with HIV acquired from her mother during pregnancy remains free of detectable virus at least 18 months after she stopped taking antiviral pills. New results on this child, published online by the New England Journal of Medicine , appear to green-light a study in the advanced planning stages in which researchers around the world will try to replicate her successful treatment in other infected newborns. And it means that the Mississippi girl still...

A South Asian strain of cholera that was introduced into Haiti three years ago this month has now spread to this continent's mainland. Mexico is the fourth Western Hemisphere country to experience the cholera outbreak. It's a disease that's very hard to stamp out once it gets into an area with poor water and sanitation. Mexican health officials first picked up on the problem Sept. 9, through routine surveillance of hospital cases of severe diarrhea. Since then there have been 171 reported...

Getting tested for HIV in the U.S. is almost always private, sometimes even secretive. Ditto for disclosing the results. But some say the approach is outmoded at a time when many at risk for HIV — gay men — are in committed relationships. Research shows as many as two-thirds of new HIV infections among gay men these days are within committed couples. That's very different from the days when promiscuity fueled the epidemic. The implications of this for HIV prevention are big. AIDS researcher...

Human rights activists are suing the United Nations on behalf of five Haitian families afflicted by cholera — a disease many believe U.N. peacekeeping troops brought to Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake there. The lawsuit , filed Wednesday in a New York federal court, challenges the U.N.'s claim that it's immune from lawsuits arising out of damage done in the course of its activities. The activists say they have no choice but to sue because the U.N. has failed to...

Many online journals are ready to publish bad research in exchange for a credit card number. That's the conclusion of an elaborate sting carried out by Science , a leading mainline journal. The result should trouble doctors, patients, policymakers and anyone who has a stake in the integrity of science (and who doesn't?). The business model of these "predatory publishers" is a scientific version of those phishes from Nigerians who want help transferring a few million dollars into your...

Today marks a milestone on the nation's long march toward universal health coverage: the launch of online marketplaces, called exchanges, designed to help people find insurance they can afford. It's an idea pioneered by Massachusetts seven years ago. People here call their program a success, and say the state's exchange was an indispensable factor. Those involved since the beginning say the Massachusetts health insurance exchange, called the Connector , was the brainchild of former Gov. Mitt...

Pages