Articles Posted in Medications

mlk-300x207With the nation taking a holiday to celebrate the remarkable life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his pioneering push for Americans’ civil rights, it may be worth remembering that his far-reaching visions of equality and social justice were deeply unpopular in their time, as was he.

King infuriated many, including in medicine and health care, observing, for example, that:

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.”

boozengals-300x180Tipple much, much less in 2020. That might be a life-saving bit of advice for too many Americans to follow, especially because of new data on a worrisome spike in alcohol-related deaths.

As NBC News reported, based on published research by federal researchers:

“The yearly total of alcohol-related deaths for people ages 16 and over more than doubled, from 35,914 in 1999 to 72,558 in 2017. There were almost 1 million such deaths overall in that time. While middle-age men accounted for the majority of those deaths, women — especially white women — are catching up, the study found. That’s concerning in part because women’s bodies tend to be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.”

drugslockedup-300x264Hospitals, clinics, and other health care settings — and those who staff them — aren’t immune to the ravages of the opioid crisis and its related abuse of prescription and illicit drugs. For patients, their caregivers’ addictions can have serious consequences, including a less-discussed nightmare: diversions of their drugs.

Lauren Lollini, a psychotherapist and a patient-safety advocate, has penned a powerful and scary Op-Ed for Stat, a health and medical news site. She describes how, while undergoing a relatively routine kidney stone removal at a respected Denver hospital, she was infected with hepatitis C — a draining and chronic liver disease that is blood-borne and is often associated with drug abusers. Lollini, however, had been healthy and did not use drugs. So, how did she get so sick? As she explained:

“[An investigation by the] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that I and at least 18 others had been infected with hepatitis C by Kristen Parker, a technician at Rose Medical Center who had tested positive for the disease before she was hired. She stole patients’ fentanyl-filled syringes off medication trays, injected herself with the painkiller, then refilled the syringes with saline. In the summer of 2009 — about three months after I learned I had hepatitis C — Parker was arrested in one of the biggest hospital drug diversion incidents to date. In 2010, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison.”

gabapentin-300x158A widely prescribed drug, formally approved only for limited uses but now dispensed for many nerve-related conditions, can put patients at serious risk of breathing problems, especially if they are aged, suffer from all too common chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or may also be taking opioid pain killers or other medications that depress the central nervous system.

That’s a toughened new warning about gabapentin and pregabalin from the federal Food and Drug Administration, which says it will require new packaging and cautions for the drugs. They may be better known in their branded versions as Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant (gabapentin) or Lyrica and Lyrica CR (pregabalin).

The nerve meds have been subject to “growing” medical “use as well as misuse and abuse,” the FDA said in a statement, adding:

hiriskdrivergovsafety-300x169Politicians and police may need to step up their crackdown on drug- and alcohol-impaired drivers, targeting repeat offenders with substance-abuse and mental health problems who also are “disproportionately responsible for fatalities,” a leading traffic safety group recommends.

As the Wall Street Journal reported of new work by the Governors Highway Safety Association and its consultant Pam Fischer:

“Nearly 30% of all vehicular-crash deaths in the U.S. last year were alcohol-related … Last year, 10,511 people died in crashes involving at least one driver with a blood-alcohol concentration of at least .08%, the legal cutoff in every state except Utah, federal figures show. While that represented a 3.6% drop from 2017, alcohol-related fatality levels have largely stagnated for the past decade. ‘What we’re failing to do is get to the root cause of why they’re doing this, what’s behind the behavior,’ [said Fischer].”

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Elite researchers — professors and staff with ties to 20 of the nation’s top universities and the respected National Institutes of Health — may be failing to be as candid as institutions and laws require about their potential professional conflicts of interest, notably the significant sums they get from Big Pharma and medical device makers.

ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative organization, and the Los Angeles Times jointly scrutinized the experts’ required disclosures, finding they not only fall short. They may fail to give the public a fair view of the credibility of their findings. And, in California, they may be a unique rip-off of the state’s top university system. The “UCs” provide research faculty with costly facilities and other support, as well as sharing its global renown — in exchange for revenue the experts may earn outside the system.

In total, after examining records on tens of thousands of university scholars and NIH experts, ProPublica not only has made public its “Dollars for Profs” database, it also quotes federal watchdogs as estimating that with the NIH alone, conflicts of interest with agency grants amounts to $1 billion.

lacasamhrc-300x200With mental health services stretched thin and failing to fill significant need, it may be more distressing still for the public to confront growing evidence of big problems in existing facilities that try to treat those with serious psychiatric ills.

The Los Angeles Times, based on its investigation, has found “nearly 100 preventable deaths over the last decade at California psychiatric facilities, including at La Casa Mental Health Rehabilition Center  (shown here). It marks the first public count of deaths at California’s mental health facilities and highlights breakdowns in care at these hospitals as well as the struggles of regulators to reduce the number of deaths.”

The newspaper said it “submitted more than 100 public record requests to nearly 50 county and state agencies to obtain death certificates, coroner’s reports and hospital inspection records with information about these deaths.” Reporter Soumya Karlamangla said she had to look far and wide for data on problems in psychiatric facilities because, “No single agency keeps tabs on the number of deaths at psychiatric facilities in California, or elsewhere in the nation.”

FDA-logo-300x129When it comes to medical products — devices put in or substances put on our bodies — consumers may be ill-served by the federal regulators who are supposed to protect them from injury.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has taken a double hit in recent news reports, with an investigation by Reuters news service raising big doubts about the agency’s oversight of products  with supposedly safe talc — but that long may have been tainted with disease-causing asbestos. The Kaiser Health News service, meantime, has followed up on the wave of lawsuits and research that has resulted from its discovery that the FDA for years allowed device makers to hide from public view a million complaints about medical devices.

The scathing findings in these two reports, combined with other deep digs into agency work, might well prompt members of Congress to conduct hearings into whether the FDA is acting as the watchdog that the public deserves or as a lap kitten beholden to the rich, powerful, and booming medical device industry.

cannabisleaf-281x300Fans of marijuana and its related products may want to take careful note of developments regarding their health and safety effects.

Federal researchers are racing to trace thousands of cases of lung damage and dozens of deaths to so-called smokeless consumption of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the ingredient that produces the marijuana high. Other federal officials also are warning about cannabidiol or CBD — a derivative of marijuana or its cousin hemp — and its burgeoning and unapproved use in an array of products on the market.

To be sure, because blue-nose attitudes blocked rigorous research on marijuana and other drugs, medical scientists have been scrupulous in declining to make sweeping declarations about grass and its potential benefits or harms.

clostridioides_difficile_369x285-300x232Federal officials have put out some scary new findings about the state of patients’ health in the 21st century: Superbugs may be more common and potent than previously believed. And we may now have plummeted into what experts are calling the perilous “post-antibiotic age.”

This all amounts to far more than a hypothetical menace. It could affect you if you get, for instance, a urinary tract infection. Or if you undergo a surgery, say, for a joint replacement or a C-section. Depending where and how you live, you may see the significance of this health problem if you contract tuberculosis or some sexually transmitted diseases.

As the news website Vox reported of the startling new information from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Every 15 minutes, one person in the U.S. dies because of an infection that antibiotics can no longer treat effectively.”

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