Articles Posted in Mental Disability

agingwell-150x150Although Americans dread the possibility of experiencing dementia and other debilitating cognitive decline as they age, they can do more than let fear rule their lives — or twiddle their thumbs waiting for Big Pharma to drop billions of dollars more to develop magical and, so far, unworkable pills.

Instead, doctors, epidemiologists, and public health officials argue that non-pharmaceutical approaches can be beneficial to patients’ overall health and play a significant role in decreasing the likelihood of individuals suffering severe memory loss and more crucially dementia, notably in its most common condition Alzheimer’s, the New York Times reported.

Dr. Gill Livingston, a psychiatrist at University College London and chair of the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, told New York Times columnist Paula Span this:

MLSlogo-150x150In 2015, public attention galvanized around the significant risks of head trauma and the sport of football with the disclosure that Andre Waters, 44, a hard-hitting, onetime Philadelphia Eagles player, had been diagnosed after his suicide with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Has soccer — one of the most popular pastimes on the planet and a dominant game of U.S. suburban life — also hit its day of reckoning for head injuries? The issue has been brought to the fore with the revelations that Scott Vermillion, 44, a onetime soccer pro, has been posthumously diagnosed with CTE, the degenerative brain disease “linked to symptoms like memory loss, depression and aggressive or impulsive behavior,” the New York Times reported, adding:

“The diagnosis gave Vermillion the grave distinction of being the first American professional soccer player with a public case of CTE. It was a solemn milestone, too, for MLS, a league that has, even in its young history, seen the consequences of the type of brain injuries more commonly associated with collision sports like football, boxing and hockey. For soccer as a whole, the finding will add another note to a small but growing chorus of concern about the health risks of playing the world’s most popular game. ‘Soccer is clearly a risk for CTE — not as much as football, but clearly a risk,’ said Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University.”

alzassoc-300x200Although Medicare officials have slammed the door for now on paying for widespread use of a drug targeted for Alzheimer’s treatment, patient advocacy groups have thrown themselves into the battle over Aduhelm and whether taxpayers should pay its hefty price.

Aduhelm is the risky, costly prescription medication with sparse evidence of its purported benefits for those in early stages of cognitive decline.

The giant federal health insurer for seniors will cover Aduhelm only for patients participating in clinical trials that may yield more persuasive evidence about the drug’s safety and effectiveness, Medicare officials have decided. In doing so, they withstood a furious lobbying campaign from the nonprofits Alzheimer’s Association, a leading patient advocacy group reporting more than $400 million in 2021 revenue, and UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, which reported $9 million in 2020 revenue.

fdaStemCells-300x200Yet more derelictions of duty by the federal Food and Drug Administration are happening now, in its handling of largely hokum treatments and health-threatening devices.  The latest examples: drug safety regulators step back from their oversight of those who peddle sketchy “stem-cell” treatments for a bevy of ills. And twiddle their thumbs as who knows how many more young people get addicted to nicotine because experts just aren’t ready to regulate e-cigarettes and vaping.

Here’s what the Associated Press reported about the agency and how it has allowed a boom in unsupported therapies using so-called stem cells (real versions, shown above):

“Hundreds of clinics pushing unproven stem cell procedures caught a big break from the U.S. government in 2017: They would have three years to show that their questionable treatments were safe and effective before regulators started cracking down. But when the Food and Drug Administration’s grace period expired in late May — extended six months due to the pandemic — the consequences became clear: Hundreds more clinics were selling the unapproved treatments for arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Covid-19 and many other conditions. ‘It backfired,’ said Leigh Turner, a bioethicist at UC Irvine. ‘The scale of the problem is vastly larger for FDA today than it was at the start.’ The continuing spread of for-profit clinics promoting stem cells and other so-called ‘regenerative’ therapies — including concentrated blood products — illustrates how quickly experimental medicine can outpace government oversight. No clinic has yet won FDA approval for any stem cell offering and regulators now confront an enormous, uncooperative industry that contends it shouldn’t be subject to regulation.”

aduhelm-150x150The nation’s largest integrated health system has declined to cover a drug approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration for treatment of early Alzheimer’s disease. The action is not only a rebuke by the Department of Veterans Affairs to the FDA, it also offers support of sorts to a plea by President Biden for a way that he says Congress could help slash at soaring prescription drug prices.

The drug that the VA says it will support only in highly select cases — due to safety and effectiveness concerns — for the 9 million patients in its system (military veterans and their loved ones) is made by Biogen and is called Aduhelm.

The FDA approved the prescription medication to the consternation of its own experts and leading specialists in dementia care based on multiple clinical trials which the company itself had deemed unsuccessful.

cte-300x157With coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths falling from scary winter highs, the easing of public health measures may see young athletes returning fast to what are supposed to be the fun and educational benefits of organized sports.

But will players, and more importantly grownups, ensure that appropriate practices are followed to ensure kids not only are safe from coronavirus infection but also don’t suffer serious and lasting head injuries?

The Washington Post has posted articles that could provide important reminders about the risks of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE — the degenerative brain disease associated with the repeated blows to the head.

doginservice-300x200Um, no, federal regulators have decided: The nation’s skies no longer will be a sort of bad airborne set for a pop psychology version of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Instead, owners of  so-called emotional support animals must keep their menagerie off commercial flights.

The federal Transportation Department has issued new rules halting what had become, in pre-coronavirus times, a flashpoint between airlines, their crews, and a preponderance of passengers. They were in growing conflicts with owners of critters they claimed they could not be without.

Airlines complained that they were barraged by not just a few, legitimate requests to board bona fide, trained service dogs  (as shown in AKC photo, above) but also by hundreds of thousands of demands for what effectively were pets to be flown in the human spaces for free. The companies successfully turned away reptiles, ferrets, rodents, spiders — and even in one case a performance artist’s sizable peacock.

aged-199x300For the old, sick, and injured who are institutionalized, the Covid-19 pandemic and the efforts to halt the spread of the disease into care facilities has created debilitating side-effects: isolation, loneliness, silence, fear, and worries of abandonment.

Facility lockdowns, combined with the relentless governmental bungling of the coronavirus response, are taking a terrible toll that may not soon be eased, the New York Times reported. Dr. Jason Karlawish, a geriatrician at the University of Pennsylvania, told the newspaper this about the situation in all too many nursing homes and other long-term care facilities:

“It’s not just Covid that’s killing residents in long-term care. It’s the isolation, the loneliness.”

cogtestsrs-300x170It sounds like a good idea. Have primary care doctors learn about older patients’ cognitive health by putting all of them, during routine office check-ups, through a few minutes of tests in which they are asked to recall lists of words, draw a clock face, describe the day and date of their appointment, talk about current events, and take on other simple tasks.

Such screenings, some advocates for the aged say, can be an important way to diagnose early and try to provide for help for patients with dementia and its most common affliction, Alzheimer’s disease. But a blue-ribbon panel of experts that advises the nation on medical testing and procedures isn’t buying the argument: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has given such screenings the group’s letter-grade rating of I, meaning the evidence is incomplete that a test or procedure is harmful or beneficial.

The panel, updating its 2014 findings, reported on the JAMA Network (the online medical journal collection) that:

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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