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.

Guests:

  • 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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Medical Notes 18-16

 

Medical Notes this week…

Opioid drugs are a major public health threat but two new studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that legalizing pot may be a way to reduce their impact. The studies show that in states that have legalized marijuana the number of opioid prescriptions have fallen dramatically. Researchers can’t say for sure that people are replacing opioids with marijuana or whether it’s patients or doctors that are the driving force.

Therapy dogs are a welcome sight in some hospital wards but an editorial in the journal Critical Care says they’d do a world of good in the one place you wouldn’t expect them—intensive care. Doctors say trained therapy dogs can substantially ease physical and emotional suffering of the most seriously ill patients. Therapy dogs also do a good job getting patients engaged one of the more difficult tasks in the ICU.

And finally, if you lose your life savings, you’re at a much greater risk of early death. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that losing at least 75 percent of your net worth increases the odds of death by about 50 percent over the next 20 years. And if you lose your home, the risk of death is even worse. Researchers say a personal financial crash makes people put off expensive doctor’s appointments and creates intense stress that’s harmful to your health.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.

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17-22 Segment 1: Alternatives to Opioids for Pain

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Americans consume 80 percent of the opioid painkillers prescribed worldwide, ultimately resulting in the deaths of more than 20,000 Americans each year of overdoses of these drugs. The crisis is making doctors look at alternative medicine therapies for a substitute for these drugs. Experts discuss modalities that have shown success.

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Coming Up On Radio Health Journal Show 17-22

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Alternatives to Opioids for Pain: Americans consume 80 percent of the opioid painkillers prescribed worldwide, ultimately resulting in the deaths of more than 20,000 Americans each year of overdoses of these drugs. The crisis is making doctors look at alternative medicine therapies for a substitute for these drugs. Experts discuss modalities that have shown success.

Giggling Epilepsy: Epilepsy can show itself in many ways, including as episodes of giggling and laughing. An expert discusses the case of a nine-year old boy with such seizures, the danger they posed, and the novel way he was treated.

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17-09 Segment 1: Can Primary Care Doctors End the Opioid Epidemic

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Eye transplants have long been attempted unsuccessfully. Doctors are taking what they’ve learned in hand transplants, especially in nerve regeneration, and applying it to eye transplant development. Experts discuss what need to be accomplished to make transplants a reality.

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Click here for guest information and the transcript