Q: Will congressional salaries be reduced now that the sequester has taken effect?
A: The 27th Amendment prohibits Congress from cutting its pay or giving itself a pay raise during the current term, according to USA Today. Congressional staffs face a possible 22 furlough days, which could result in a 20-percent pay cut, and potential layoffs as a result of the sequester, which went into effect on March 1. The sequester also doesn’t affect the pay of President Barack Obama and other top government officials.
Q: When a Pope is elected, does he pick his new name, or is it given by the electors?
A: When a pope is elected, the dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals asks him to choose a papal name. The new pope says what name he’ll take, and the oldest cardinal announces the new pope from Saint Peter’s Basilica, according to CNN.com. Joseph Ratzinger, who stepped down at the end of February, chose Benedict XVI when he was elected in 2005. John (23 times), Benedict (16) and Gregory (16) have been the most popular names for popes.
Q: There was a recent story about a 3-year-old girl confined to a wheelchair who became frightened at a TSA checkpoint. She and her mother got through the checkpoint, but did a TSA staffer confiscate the little girl’s stuffed toy and refuse to return it?
A: TSA agents at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport initially didn’t return the stuffed animal, which had been screened, to a 3-year-old who has spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair. Video taken later showed the girl with her stuffed animal. Annie Schulte, the mother of the girl, began video recording the Feb. 8 incident after a TSA agent said they needed to screen Lucy and her wheelchair. The agent initially told her it was illegal to record the patdown, according to The Associated Press. Agents eventually decided against a patdown and the TSA apologized for the incident.
Q: I was watching CNN last week and noticed news on the bottom of the screen that stated that the FDA approved a late-stage breast cancer drug. What is the name of this drug and what relief does it give a breast cancer patient? Also, can a patient be prescribed this drug now, or is this going to happen in the future?
A: Kadcyla, known as T-DM1 during clinical research, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 22 and is described as a “a new therapy for patients with HER2-positive, late-stage (metastatic) breast cancer." Genentech, which developed Kadcyla, said it would be available “within days," and that it would cost about $9,800 a month, or $94,000 during the course of treatment, according to The New York Times.
“Kadcyla delivers the drug to the cancer site to shrink the tumor, slow disease progression and prolong survival. It is the fourth approved drug that targets the HER2 protein," Richard Pazdur, director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a release. It “extended the median survival of women with advanced breast cancer by nearly half a year in a clinical trial," according to the Times.
The severe side effects include liver toxicity, heart toxicity, serious birth defects or fetal death. Lesser side effects include nausea, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headaches and constipation, according to the FDA.