Medical Notes 18-44

Medical Notes this week…

Some people are more likely than others to become persistent opioid users after surgery, and a new report from “Choices Matter” finds that millennial women are at greatest risk. Researchers say the number of women age 18 to 34 who become persistent opioid users six months after surgery rose by 17 percent last year alone. Forty percent more women than men continue using opioid painkillers long after surgery, and while 12 percent of patients overall become addicted or dependent on them after surgery, that number is 18 percent among millennials.

Over the last decade or so, a number of studies have come out suggesting that a glass of wine per day is good for your heart. But a new study finds that the risks of drinking far outweigh the benefits. In fact, researchers say consuming just one drink per day, every day increases the risk of premature death by 20 percent. The study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research explains that daily drinking increases cancer risk so much that it overshadows any heart benefit.

A person’s mix of intestinal bacteria can mean the difference between being thin or obese. Now a new study shows that the bacteria in an infant’s mouth can predict obesity. The study in the journal Scientific Reports finds that a child’s oral bacteria at age two can predict obesity two years later. Researchers hope the finding may lead to preventive steps for children who are found to be at risk.

Lung cancer deaths in California are 28 percent lower than the rest of the country, and that gap is increasing by almost a percentage point per year. What are they doing right? A new study in the journal Cancer Prevention Research gives credit to the state’s aggressive anti-smoking campaign. Researchers say the campaign has resulted in a 39 percent lower rate of people who start smoking compared to the U.S. as a whole, a 30 percent lower consumption of cigarettes among those who do smoke, and a 24 percent higher early quit rate.

And finally… if you want to avoid getting sick this flu season, science has proven a way to increase the odds—turn on your tv. A study in the journal BMC Infectious Disease shows that people who watch more tv get sick with the flu less often. The reason is pretty obvious. Those people are staying home and have a lot less chance to catch a flu virus from someone else.

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18-17 Segment 1: Medicare Tackles the Opioid Epidemic

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With the opioid epidemic continuing to take many lives every year, people are concerned with how to stop it. In order to help counter this epidemic, Medicare has taken steps to implement limits on the prescriptions of opioids. However, the Medicare proposal has left doctors wondering if these new limits will do more harm than good for patients.

Currently, the United States is experiencing the second wave of the opioid epidemic. Dr. Anna Lembke, Associate Professor and Chief of Addiction Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, explains that opioid addiction arises from the prescription of these medications as a go-to for doctors even if the medical condition does not necessarily call for it. Furthermore, Dr. Sally Satel, an addiction psychiatrist and lecturer at Yale University School of Medicine and Resident Scholar at American Enterprise Institute, states that another issue is not just the prescribing of opioid medications, but the over-prescribing. In many cases, a doctor will prescribe a patient an unnecessary amount of opioids, but this often leads to leftover medication that tends to get into the hands of people who are likely to abuse it. So, one way that Medicare is working to counteract this is by regulating the quantity and overall dose of opioids that are allowed to be prescribed to a patient. Dr. Satel explains that by limiting the number of pills allowed when refilling a prescription, not only will it decrease the number of leftover pills, but it will also guarantee that those who benefit from opioids continue to take them appropriately. Along with this, Dr. Lembke states that this limit on the number allowed to be prescribed is important because doctors most likely would not limit their prescriptions enough to a point that would allow for a decrease in the epidemic. With this regulation, the number of leftover pills being circulated outside of who they were prescribed to will decrease which will allow for a drop in the number of people addicted to prescription opioids.

The proposed Medicare regulations also came with a second leg to it. This other guideline would cut-off any doctor from prescribing a high-dose of opioid medications. However, Dr. Satel explains that many pain physicians had problems with this regulation because it would make it extremely difficult for patients who do benefit from these prescriptions, and use them properly, to have access to them. So, when the final Medicare proposal was released, this second guideline was altered to allow physicians to prescribe high-doses of opioid medications, but it gave pharmacists the power to override a high-dose request that seemed unnecessary.

While these Medicare limits are a step in the right direction for managing the opioid epidemic, there is still much that can be done to improve it. For instance, other medical treatments should be made more accessible through Medicare, explains Dr. Lembke. It’s important to reduce the access to opioids. However, it is also important to facilitate the use of other medical treatments to help with pain. Improvements are being made in the healthcare system to stop the opioid epidemic, but those who benefit from opioid prescriptions should not have to suffer.


  • Dr. Anna Lembke, Associate Professor and Chief of Addiction Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Dr. Sally Satel, addiction psychiatrist and lecturer at Yale University School of Medicine, and Resident Scholar at American Enterprise Institute

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Coming Up On Radio Health Journal Show 18-17

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Medicare Tackles the Opioid Epidemic

New limits on Medicare prescriptions of opioids are controversial, as some doctors believe patients could suffer more pain. Others believe the limits will achieve a much needed brake on the temptation to overprescribe while allowing legitimate treatment. Experts discuss.

Curing Chronic Sinusitis

Many people confuse allergies, colds, and sinus infections. A physician specializing in these maladies describes the differences, and the new ways sinusitis can be treated.