Medical Notes 19-05


Medical Notes this week…

Cancer deaths are continuing to decline. In fact, a report from the American Cancer Society trumpets a major milestone—cancer death rates have dropped every year for the last 25 years. Overall, they’ve dropped 27 percent since 1991… but some cancers are even more striking. For example, lung cancer death rates are down by 48 percent among men. Breast cancer death rates are down by 40 percent, and prostate cancer death rates have dropped by 51 percent.

Parents of teenagers are remarkably pessimistic that schools are keeping their kids safe. A study in the Journal of Community Health shows that 36 percent of parents believe their local high school is “highly likely” to have a shooter incident in the next three years. The study finds that the majority of parents are dissatisfied with the systems schools have in place to counteract gun violence.

Two drugs commonly prescribed for type two diabetes may significantly raise the risk for heart attacks. The drugs, sulfonylureas (sul-fon-eye-loor-ee-ahs) and basal insulin, are often prescribed when metformin doesn’t work. But a study in the journal JAMA Network Open shows that patients who take basil insulin are twice as likely to experience cardiovascular harm, and those taking sulfonylureas are 36 percent more likely to be harmed than patients taking newer second-line drugs. Experts say the results should prompt large scale changes in how type two diabetes is treated.

And finally… more than half of people who take medical marijuana for chronic pain admit they’ve driven while under the influence… and one in five users say they’ve driven while they were “very high” in the last six months. The study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence surveyed medical marijuana users in Michigan… where recreational marijuana is also legal. Researchers say they’re troubled that users don’t think there’s much risk to driving under the influence of pot… but they admit they’re not sure how marijuana affects driving for people who use it every day.

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17-25 Segment 1: “Textalyzers” To Stop Texting While Driving

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American highways have become increasingly safe, but in the past three years, traffic fatalities have jumped by 14%. So, what’s the problem? Many say the culprit is texting and driving. According to AAA, 67% of Americans are guilty of this form of distracted driving. Ben Lieberman, co-founder of Distracted Operators Risk Casualties or DORC, has proposed that law enforcers use a “Textalyzer,” a kind of device that works like a Breathalyzer, but instead of measuring a driver’s intoxication, it measures their cell phone activity while driving.  

When Lieberman lost his son in a car accident, he suspected that there was more to the story than the driver falling asleep on the road. After obtaining the phone records of the driver, he discovered that the driver was texting throughout the drive. Lieberman says that while a drunk driver would be severely penalized for such an accident. The penalties for texting and driving are often as low as a $20 fine, and Lieberman also notes that there are currently states that don’t even have laws against texting and driving.

This led Lieberman to approach Cellebrite, a “mobile forensics” company that obtains digital data from cell phones, and together they developed a Textalyzer, a device that follows the same concept as a Breathalyzer; but instead of testing for alcohol, a Textalyzer can generate a report showing how many times a phone was accessed while driving.

While Cellebrite CEO, Jim Grady, and Ben Lieberman believe that the Textalyzer is ready for traffic enforcement, others disagree.  Rashida Richardson, Legislative Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of New York, believes that the Textalyzer infringes on the privacy and rights of others and brings up questions about racial disparity in how these laws are enforced.

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Guests:

  • Ben Lieberman, founder, Distracted Operators Risk Casualties (DORCs) and Alliance Combatting Distracted Driving
  • Jim Grady, CEO Cellebrite, Inc.
  • Rashida Richardson, Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union of New York

Links for more information:

Coming Up On Radio Health Journal Show 17-25

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“Textalyzers” To Stop Texting While Driving: After 40 years of declining traffic deaths, American roads have become more dangerous the past two years. Police blame texting. Now activists are seeking to put teeth into anti-texting-while-driving laws with the legalization of a device that police can use to instantly determine if a driver was texting at a given time. Experts discuss the “textalyzer,” how it would work, and its pros and cons.

Household Chemicals: The average American is exposed to more than 100 potentially toxic synthetic chemicals every day, and there is little oversight of their safety. A noted expert discusses the vast amount that we don’t know about these chemicals and how tougher regulation in other countries could help keep Americans safer.