Articles Posted in Mental Disability

biogenlogo-300x104With as many as 14 million Americans potentially suffering from various forms of dementia by 2040, including the common  Alzheimer’s disease, and with the costs of the care for them forecast to soar soon to more than $500 billion, a frenzied race is on for ways to deal with the debilitating cognitive syndromes. But will individual initiative or Big Pharma products matter most for seniors and their loved ones in the days ahead?

Industry analysts and patient advocates alike were stunned when drug maker Biogen reversed itself and announced that it would seek federal Food and Drug Administration approval for aducanumab, which the New York Times reported “is a monoclonal antibody, an expensive type of drug that attaches to specific proteins in order to disable them. The drug clears a key protein in Alzheimer’s disease — beta amyloid — that accumulates in plaques in patients’ brains. Aducanumab is given as an intravenous infusion once a month.”

Biogen had spent heavily on multiple tests of this drug, suddenly pulling the plug on it last spring, declaring with the counsel of an independent advisory board that the prospective prescription medication — and possibly the line of inquiry about beta amyloids and Alzheimer’s that had led to its creation — was a failure.

With back-to-back-to-back incidents of mass gun violence killing almost three dozen children, women, and men, can this nation muster the political courage to treat this lethal scourge as a public health menace?

Can it, finally, green light and fund rigorous research that could inform public policies that both could protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights while also reducing the estimated 40,000 or so firearm deaths that occurred in 2018 alone?

For what it is worth, there is considerable and (what should be) convincing evidence that:

nprsuicide-300x224The nation’s rising suicide crisis torments seniors, too, with just under one out of five such deaths in 2017 occurring with individuals 65 and older. Men 65-plus, experts say, face the highest suicide risk, while seniors 85 and older, men and women, rank No. 2 in groups most likely to die by taking their own lives.

As the nation grays — 10,000 baby boomers a day turn 65, in a trend that will persist until 2029 — the already high concern about suicide, especially among seniors, is rising,  National Public Radio reported.

NPR, noting that suicide already is the 10th leading cause of death among all Americans, said that experts see loneliness, bereavement, grief, and depression as key factors in cases in which older individuals kill themselves. They find themselves isolated, overwhelmed, and with unending sadness when spouses and friends die. Their children, grandchildren, and other family members often live far away. They also struggle with their lives due to age’s increasing debilitation. As NPR reported:

Doctors and hospitals finally are owning up to and treating mental and physical damages inflicted on some of the sickest and most vulnerable individuals in their care—the 5 million or so patients who get helped in intensive care units, published research shows.

Although ICU patients may get dramatic emergency care that saves them from deadly infections, major disease, and significant accident or injury, experts only recently have begun to recognize and assist them with a condition associated with their stays: post-intensive care syndrome (PICS). A readable new study in the medical journal JAMA says that ICU patients may suffer a “constellation of symptoms” with PICS that hinders their recovery to their pre-hospitalization well-being, including: “muscle weakness, cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

dumbrella-300x256They look like nursing homes, but they’re not. And for the health and safety of our elderly loved ones, we must know the difference.

These so-called assisted living facilities, operating with much less regulation and oversight than nursing homes, are raising concerns about the safety and quality of their dealings with a growing number of elderly Americans. That’s because they’re full not only of older residents but also difficult — and costly to care for — seniors with dementia.

Jordan Rau, of the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service, deserves credit for diving deep into rising complaints and documented harms to residents of facilities “originally designed for people who were largely independent but required help bathing, eating or other daily tasks.” These places, “unlike nursing homes … generally do not provide skilled medical care or therapy, and stays are not paid for by Medicare or Medicaid.”

ncaalogo-300x200College football has kicked off its fall season with a flourish, but the signs are increasing that concerns about players’ health and safety may slash at the game’s size, spectacle, and importance.

Just as the pro leagues were forced to answer in court for the harms that athletes suffer due to repeated blows to their heads, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has been hit with claims in the civil justice system, asserting wrongful deaths of players from the recent past.

Lawsuits, believed to be part of what will be a wave, were filed against the college sports conference on behalf of the survivors and estates of a onetime University of Southern California fullback and a University of California at Los Angeles running back.

brainlinetbi-300x245Rigorous researchers avoid leaping to unfounded conclusions, but  it’s hard not to look at two separate studies on areas of high current interest and just go “Hmmm ….”

In the first work, experts from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed available reports and surveys to find that 15.1 percent of American high school students or 2.5 million or so “reported having at least one of these concussions” in the most recent year, while 6 percent reported two or more concussions.

The researchers said:

debtyoungmed-300x177Big Data may be a business buzzword that puts most consumers into a big sleep, but big alarms are sounding for Americans about Big Brother intrusions into their lives via the collection and analysis of vast amounts of highly personal information. Of course, Big Pharma and medical insurers are at the fore of invasive practices — some of which patient-consumers themselves are helping, likely without knowing they’re doing so.

Millions of Americans may be little aware, for example, that they’re now working for GlaxoSmithKline, a global pharmaceutical conglomerate with $9 billion in revenues in just the most recent quarter. GSK just struck a $300-million deal with 23andMe, the company that has persuaded roughly 5 million consumers to spit in a test tube to get a glimpse of their genetic information, notably information about their ancestry and purportedly some of their genomic health risks.

Firms like 23andMe, with promotions at events like Baltimore Ravens pro football games, also have amassed highly personal genetic and medical data on millions of patient-consumers, promising to protect the information but also offering, casually and by the way, that this vital information could be shared — ostensibly for the betterment of public health.

gary-150x150dryden-150x150The 2018 Stanley Cup may rest for a bit as the pride and joy of enthusiasts in the nation’s capital and of its title-winning team. But as fans of the pro and amateur game look to the future, they may have reason to be downcast about hockey’s most important component: its players.

Author Ken Dryden (photo above, left) has important things to say about them, because he was a goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens and has been enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The onetime Canadian parliamentarian has pointed out that owners and bosses in the National Hockey League, as illustrated by videotapes of their sworn testimony in a long-running court case, are locking arms and taking a counter-factual position on the damages that players may suffer due to blows to the head they receive in games.

In “infuriating” fashion, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (photo above, right), Boston Bruins owner and chairman of the league’s Board of Governors Jeremy Jacobs, other team owners, senior league executives and doctors are playing ostriches, Dryden wrote in a recent Op-Ed in the Washington Post. They’re sticking their head in the sand, insisting that hockey has no issue at all with “chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. That’s a degenerative brain disease that has been found in athletes including professional hockey and football players, as well as soldiers and others who have suffered repeated brain injuries. Symptoms of CTE include cognitive impairment, depression, emotional instability and suicidal thoughts.”

mentalnyt-300x142Although Americans keep making progress toward ending the stigma associated with mental disorders, including trying to put public funding for the diseases’ treatment on a more even footing, patients with serious mental illness suffer unfairly and harshly still due to their conditions.

Dhruv Khullar, a doctor at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and a researcher at the Weill Cornell Department of Healthcare Policy and Research, has written a painful piece for the “Upshot,” an evidence-based column for the New York Times. His article, “The Largest Health Disparity We Don’t Talk About,” reports that:

Americans with depression, bipolar disorder or other serious mental illnesses die 15 to 30 years younger than those without mental illness — a disparity larger than for race, ethnicity, geography or socioeconomic status. It’s a gap, unlike many others, that has been growing, but it receives considerably less academic study or public attention. The extraordinary life expectancy gains of the past half-century [for most in this country] have left these patients behind, with the result that Americans with serious mental illness live shorter lives than those in many of the world’s poorest countries.

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