Articles Posted in Research Studies

snore-300x225Americans may put off to the weekend catching up on sports scores, store sales, the latest news and more. But there’s a health essential that new research suggests cannot be put off for the weekend: a good night’s  sleep.

The study, conducted at the University of Colorado and published in the science journal “Current Biology,” focused on a small group: three dozen healthy adults, split into three groups, with one allowed to sleep nine hours nightly, another getting just five hours of slumber, and a third with a staggered schedule. The last group, for five days, got five hours of sleep, followed by two days in which they could snooze for as long as they wished. They had to return, though, to the five-day cycle of five-hour slumbers.

Researchers followed their subjects for nine-day spans. The results will be un-welcome for proponents of weekend catch-up sleep, because it didn’t help in the ways that many of us would wish. As the Washington Post reported, those “who were limited to five hours of sleep on weekdays gained nearly three pounds over two weeks and experienced metabolic disruption that would increase their risk for diabetes over the long term. While weekend recovery sleep had some benefits after a single week of insufficient sleep, those gains were wiped out when people plunged right back into their same sleep-deprived schedule the next Monday.”

davincirobot-300x176The federal Food and Drug Administration finally has pushed back at surgeons and hospitals for experimenting on patients, spending $3 billion a year for surgical robots. The devices should not be used for mastectomies and other cancer-related procedures without caution, regulators warn.

The FDA acted after studies have shown that minimally invasive procedures for early-stage cervical cancer, many robot-aided, were more likely than standard, large-incision surgeries to result in recurrences of the disease and deaths.

Regulators also may have been prodded by their poor history in halting harms to women with so-called keyhole procedures, particularly the nightmares the FDA was slow to react to involving minimally invasive hysterectomies and a tissue-grinding tool called a morcellator.

teenstress-300x168Recent news reports underscore how the nation’s youth are struggling more than had been believed with stress, anxiety, and depression.

The New York Times, based on nationwide polling by the respected Pew Research Center, reported that 70 percent of teenagers surveyed cited mental health concerns as a top issue for them. It ranked ahead of bullying, drugs, gangs, alcohol, and teen pregnancy.

As the newspaper reported, dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression hits teens hard these days, for a lot of good reasons:

fentanylA steady flow of news reports shows how our nation’s opioid crisis can be fairly blamed on just about every actor in the medical field that should have known better: Big Pharma, doctors, hospitals, and regulators. It’s been a toxic mix of incompetence, indifference and out-and-out  deceptive conduct that produced the epidemic that now claims tens of thousands of American lives each year.

Take, for instance, the drug fentanyl, a lab-created painkiller 100 times more powerful than morphine. How did it escape the confines of legitimate prescription pain control to become a killer street drug? The Washington Post reports, based on research from Johns Hopkins experts, on how doctors, hospitals, and the federal Food and Drug Administration bungled a plan to safeguard the administration of this highly potent drug that had obvious abuse potential from the day it came onto the market.

Meantime, two other news organizations — the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative website Pro Publica and the online health site Stat — have pried loose disturbing, sealed court testimony, showing how a wealthy, philanthropic family approved a lethal deceit about the potency of OxyContin, a billion-dollar opioid pushed relentlessly by Purdue, the Big Pharma firm they owned.

vamps-300x169Funny the mischief that can happen with a little blood and spit. Seemingly unrelated medical stories last week brought home the lesson of the law of unintended consequences. Those consequences abound everywhere, in health care most especially. So with blood, we’re learning about a bizarre new fountain-of-youth treatment, with echoes of vampires, for seniors who ought to know better.   And with spit, we’re learning how seemingly harmless genetic tests can raise from the dead some disturbing revelations about our deceased family members.

Bunk about blood transfusions

The federal Food and Drug Administration has warned older Americans about a new kind of anti-aging bunk flying out of the Silicon Valley: blood transfusions. Companies, dancing on a fine legal line, have hinted that seniors could benefit by getting transfusions of young people’s blood and blood products.

mdepressionRoughly 1 in 7 moms, who, during or after pregnancy, suffer debilitating depression — losses of energy or concentration, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, feelings of worthlessness or suicidal thoughts — now may get counseling that has proven helpful to women and their babies.

Preventive health experts have called on medical providers to guide women to this specialized care that could benefit 180,000 to 800,000 mothers each year. Because this treatment has been put forward this way, women also can get help affording it. As the New York Times reported, the recommendation for maternal depression counseling, by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, means insurers must cover the services — with no co-payments — under the Affordable Care Act.

Experts told the newspaper the USPSTF action was an important step on perinatal depression, noting:

noop-300x158Seniors and their friends and companions should consider reality versus magical thinking about the power of pills. The blunt truth: Over-the-counter dietary supplements can’t cure diseases. Not  Alzheimer’s, not cancer, not diabetes, not any known disease. They don’t extend your lifespan either.

Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the federal Food and Drug Administration, not only has warned a dozen companies to stop making reckless health claims about supplements, he also told Congress his agency needs greater authority to regulate what the New York Times reported has become a “$40 billion industry, which sells as many as 80,000 kinds of powders and pills with little federal scrutiny. These products range from benign substances like vitamin C or fish oil to more risky mineral, herbal and botanical concoctions that can be fatal.”

Gottlieb told the newspaper that regulators have been reluctant to rein in the wildfire spread of supplements and their wilder claims. But the public health is at such risk now that Congress must step in.

conditionslowdowns-300x215Take heart, Americans. Taking care of ourselves makes a difference, making us healthier — and saving us money.  New research supports policies for spending on the wellness of the elderly, improving heart care, and how smart interventions can reduce rising overall health costs.

This evidence-based approach to figuring the government’s optimal role in individuals’ health also may provide a rebuke of sorts to the way that partisans are imposing draconian new rules to curtail medical assistance for the working poor, poor, aged, and chronically ill Americans.

The rare good news about the nation’s health care costs traces to investigators’ efforts to determine why, in contrast to expectations that spending would leap, Americans’ $3.5 trillion annual medical expenditures increased only slightly. They drilled down, focusing on an area where the “sharpest slowdown” occurred in their research period, 1999-2012: Medicare, a federal program that now enrolls roughly 15 percent of the U.S. population, with beneficiaries 65 and older.

hospitalprices-300x162Patients and reformers attacking skyrocketing health care costs may want to focus less on doctors and more on big, shiny hospitals, where in just five years prices soared by 42 percent for inpatient care versus the still sizable 18 percent price hikes that MDs scored.

Those findings are part of a new study that examined medical costs based on actual payments, focusing on common procedures like deliveries of babies (vaginal and cesarean), colonoscopies, and knee replacements.  “Hospital prices grew much faster than physician prices for inpatient and outpatient hospital-based care in the period 2007–14 … The same pattern was present for all four of our procedures,” wrote the researchers from Yale, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon. They found that hospital costs also spiked for outpatient care, increasing 25 percent, versus 6 percent for doctors.

This meant that for a knee replacement costing $30,000 or so, the doctors’ mean price was almost $4,900, while the hospital price was almost $25,000. For a $13,000 C-section, the doctor’s mean price was $4,600, while the figure for hospitals was $8,300. These numbers were derived from analyzing hundreds of thousands of procedures.

HepatitisCInvestigators have teased out yet another damaging thread in the villainous web of harms of the opioid crisis. A spike in hepatitis C infections is a costly, long-term, and major health consequence of the hype and disastrous reformulation of OxyContin, the powerful painkiller made by Purdue Pharmaceuticals owned by the wealthy Sackler family.

Purdue, in the 1990s, promoted and sold OxyContin to doctors and hospitals in a relentless campaign that stressed how this drug was supposedly safer and longer acting, releasing its potent effects over as long as a 12-hour span instead of requiring many pills that needed to be taken more often.

Although those claims of the drug’s benefits were dubious to start, patients — especially those abusing the highly addictive prescription medication — found they could get around OxyContin’s delayed release, getting an immediate jolt or walloping high, by crushing their pills. They then snorted Oxy as a powder or mixed it with a liquid and injected it.

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