Pregnancy & Fertility

Federal Government to Insurance Companies: Contraceptives Are Part Of Female Coverage

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In an updated statement related to the Affordable Care Act, the federal government emphasized the inclusion of FDA-approved contraceptives in the healthcare coverage.

An updated FAQ about the implementation of the federal health care act said that “all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity” are included in the provisions of the act. All contraceptives may be recommended by a health care provider. The statement further stipulates that “plans and issuers must cover without cost sharing at least one form of contraception in each of the methods… that the FDA has identified for women in its current Birth Control Guide.”

Several women’s groups expressed their joy and support for the policy statement of the federal government, according to a news release. “It is past time for insurers to adhere to the law and stop telling women that their chosen method isn’t covered or that they must pay for it,” said Gretchen Borchelt, who works as vice president for health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center. “Insurance companies have been breaking the law and, today, the Obama Administration underscored that it will not tolerate these violations.”

In addition to this, the policy statement also tells insurance companies to cover testing for BRCA gene mutation, which is a known precursor to certain aggressive cancers.


Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Angioplasty Patients Experience Less Chest Pain Upon Quitting Smoking

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It’s hardly a novel discovery for healthy individuals, but this recent study confirms the benefits of kicking the habit.

A new study conducted by a team of researchers at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute revealed that quitting smoking after angioplasty leads to a lower likelihood of patients experiencing chest pains. More than 2,700 adults who underwent angioplasty — a non-surgical treatment to address obstructed veins or arteries as a result of atherosclerosis — were asked about their smoking habits during and after the procedure.

Results showed a lower rate of chest pains in patients who stopped smoking after angioplasty compared to those who continued to use cigarettes. “It’s a no-brainer. Stopping smoking seems like a relatively easy way to increase your chances of getting the best outcomes from angioplasty,” study senior author Dr. John Spertus said in a news report.

Roughly 1 million U.S. adults undergo angioplasty, and so findings of the study could benefit thousands of patients from fewer chest pains. “It’s not just important that we do a good job treating the blockage… Cardiologists have to work with patients to help them stop smoking, whether it means nicotine replacement, a smoking cessation program or some other intervention,” Spertus added.

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Health & Wellness

B.B. King Dies In His Sleep At Age 89

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More than a month after being sent to the hospital for diabetes-related dehydration, legendary blues musician B.B. King died in his Las Vegas home on Thursday, May 14.

An AP report said that the King of Blues died in his sleep at 9:40 PM PDT, according to King’s attorney Brent Bryson. His death was confirmed by John Fudenberg, coroner at Clark County. Shirley King, the musician’s daughter, expressed her frustration over not being able to see her father before his peaceful passing.

King’s health has been on a decline over the years, and was diagnosed with diabetes. Aside from his dehydration bout in April, King was also reported to have collapsed during his Chicago concert in October 2014. Despite having an active career well into his prime, he has been taken under medical care in his home.

No confirmation regarding funeral arrangements have been finalized as of this writing.

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Medical Marijuana Real Drug Stories

Exploring Marijuana Legalization: The Pros and Cons

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With more and more states at least considering legalizing marijuana — either medically or recreationally — the polarizing subject continues to pick up supporters on both sides of the issue. Those who want it fully legalized and those who want to keep it illegal have entrenched themselves for a potentially long and arduous battle.

From marijuana advocates to lawyers and law enforcement officials, everyone seems to have a strong opinion about marijuana and whether it should be and will be legalized.

Pros & Cons

Kris Krane, for one, who is the principal and managing partner at 4Front Advisors, a medical cannabis dispensary consulting firm, says he sees great benefit to legalizing marijuana fully.

“The pros of legalization are nearly endless,” he said in an interview with TestCountry.

As long as it is regulated like alcohol, Krane says, legalizing it should:

  • eliminate the criminal black market for it;
  • reduce violence in American cities and in Mexico;
  • deny drug cartels of a key revenue source;
  • free up police resources to focus on violent and dangerous crimes, rather than non-violent marijuana consumers;
  • generate billions in tax revenue for cash strapped governments; and
  • generate millions of new jobs for the economy.

Freeing up police resources to tackle more violent and pressing crime and generating tax revenue is a common theme with people who advocate for the legalization of marijuana.

The court system would likely benefit, too, with fewer cases to try and the overburdened jail system would also benefit from fewer people needing to be placed in prison, Dallas criminal defense attorney Paul Saputo Jr. said.

“I think the biggest impact will be to remove a number of high-turnaround people, reducing some stress on deputies and jail systems, and to clear jails of poor people who would otherwise be able to bail themselves out quickly if they were not poor,” the defense lawyer said.

More stringent regulation of marijuana is also a common pro listed in favor of legalization.

“Marijuana could be better regulated if it was legal,” observed Arkady Bukh, a criminal defense lawyer in New York and a member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “Stores and marijuana dispensaries can card kids and prevent young people from getting marijuana, while people who illegally sell marijuana don’t do that.”

But, with all the talk of the pros of marijuana legalization, plenty of people still see potential cons. Kirby Lavallee, a private investigator with Sharpline Investigations and a former DUI investigator and drug recognition expert, said some cons he can foresee are:

  • a possible increase in burglaries or robberies of business selling marijuana, due to the large quantity of marijuana and cash on hand
  • an increased number of impaired drivers on the roadway due to marijuana impairment
  • an increase in calls to emergency services due to people possibly having negative reactions

Lavallee said in his opinion he believes legalizing it would actually make it more readily available to younger people, possibly having some negative impacts on education and causing possible health issues.

He also doesn’t see it as the innocuous drug that many marijuana legalization activists do.

“I truly believe that this would be a huge issue for Law Enforcement Officers nationwide,” Lavallee said. “Most people say marijuana isn’t a harsh drug and believe that it doesn’t cause any issues. I can say in my experience as a Deputy Sheriff most of the street level violence is drug related, more specifically marijuana because it tends to be more readily available.”

Another downside to legalizing marijuana is that it will take away the police’s ability to search a vehicle or a person when they smell the odor of marijuana, which is legitimate grounds for searching a vehicle or a person as long as it’s illegal. Legalizing it would take this tactic away, Lavallee said.

“I believe that law enforcement will have some hurdles to cross with catching criminals with other illegal drugs which cannot be detected by smell, along with firearms and other illegal items normally found while conducting searches,” the private investigator said.

Lavallee also called marijuana a gateway drug that leads people to experiment with harder drugs. He also said he believes incidents of personal injury would rise, as more people would be under the influence at work or while driving, potentially causing more accidents in the workplace, on the roadways and out in public places. As personal injuries increase, Lavallee said, he believes more people will be receiving medical benefits and insurance companies will have lawsuit settlements to deal with as a result.

Opinions differ in regards to the potential for more impaired driving cases, though. Bukh called the evidence that says marijuana impairs a person’s driving to the point of being dangerous “inconclusive.”

Legalization and Medical Marijuana

Whether legalization for recreational purposes would affect its standing medically — as medication is not generally deemed to be a recreational substance — Krane said he believed legalizing it would actually be a boon to the advancement of medical marijuana, as its current standing as a schedule 1 drug means researchers cannot conduct studies on its health benefits. Full legalization would pave the way for research to be done on its health benefits and would likely lead to a wave of new cannabinoid medications, he says.

Similarly, Bukh said its legalization for recreational use may even lead to more research and development.

“Legalization for recreational purposes can also lead to more growth and development of different strains of cannabis plants that could have different medicinal benefits,” he noted.

Nationwide Legalization

As its legalization continues to be spotty, with states legalizing it either medically or recreationally one at a time and the federal government opting not to, whether it will eventually be fully legal across the country also saw disagreement.

Krane, Saputo and Lavallee all said its legalization across the country seemed like an inevitability. But, Bukh saw more of an issue with its potential for nationwide legalization.

“I believe it will be difficult for marijuana to be legalized nationwide,” he said.

Bukh pointed to progressive states like New York being slow to move forward with legalization efforts even for medical marijuana.

The courts are not going to legalize marijuana because there’s no constitutional right to the drug, the defense attorney pointed out,  and because it’s so politically polarizing, the federal government doesn’t want to really touch it at this point.

Bukh also said that not all states make policy decisions based on factual evidence. Some of them, he noted, make policy decisions based on ideology, so even if the states that have legalized it recreationally show more positive effects than negative effects, it will likely be a long time before every state legalizes it and there’s no guarantee that will happen.

Obstacles to Legalization

Standing in the way of legalization across the country is that same political polarization that Bukh pointed to before. As it is being treated as a partisan issue, people tend to get entrenched in their party’s position rather than looking at the issue from a factual perspective. To counteract this will take a grassroots movement, he said.

“There is a libertarian, conservative, liberal and progressive argument to be made for legalization and all of these arguments should be made at the grassroots level to drive support and convince party leadership of all major political parties to get on board,” he stated.

Krane agreed that the federal government largely remains the biggest obstacle to full legalization, as it has largely opposed it at every step while state lawmakers seem to be well behind the public in terms of their support for legalization.

The best way to get around this obstacle, he says, is to continue to let the voters decide on whether they want it legalized or not.

“We have been able to get around these obstacles by taking the issue directly to the voters.  Every time we have done so, in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and DC, voters have overwhelmingly supported legalization,” he said.

As it continues its slow march toward acceptance and legalization throughout many different states, marijuana will likely continue to also polarize people as they fall into either the pro-legalization or anti-legalization camps.

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Addiction Substance Abuse

Lower Risk of Relapse for Alcoholics Enrolled in Treatment Program

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Alcohol treatment programs may not guarantee a person’s total cure from alcohol addiction, but a new study discovered that it’s better than having no intervention at all.

A study funded by the European Social Fund showed that people who are enrolled in alcohol treatment programs after being mandated to do so have a lower likelihood of committing a similar offense. Results of the study, which was published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, revealed that offenders who failed to join any treatment program had twice more likelihood of being charged with reoffending. They were also 2.5 times more susceptible to getting convicted again.

The research team from Plymouth University said that enrolling male alcohol offenders to treatment programs generates many benefits. “Given the hundreds if not thousands of offenders who might be eligible to attend an alcohol treatment program each year, this could amount to substantial public savings. Beyond financial gains, committing fewer offences and staying out of prison have strong and continued benefits for the offenders, their families, and the community,” the researchers said in a news item.

The study was a joint effort of Plymouth University, University of Exeter and the Virginia Commonwealth University.


Addiction Substance Abuse

Study Reveals Staggering Figures on Smoking and Alcohol Use

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If you think cigarette smoking and alcohol intake are already on a decline, you might need to see this new Australian study.

A comprehensive report published in the journal Addiction revealed that close to 5 percent of adults worldwide are engaged in some form of alcohol abuse, while more than 20 percent of the adult population are tobacco users. The report, entitled “Global Statistics on Addictive Behaviours: 2014 Status Report”, identified the Eastern European region as having the highest concentration of smokers at 30 percent of its adult population. Oceania and Western Europe follow suit at 29.5 and 28.5 percent, respectively.

In terms of alcohol intake volume, Eastern Europe leads the world with roughly 13.6 liters of alcohol ingested per person in a year. The figures for Western and Southern Asia pale in comparison at only 2.1 liters per person per year.

Study lead author Linda Gowing, who works as associate professor at South Australia’s University of Adelaide, highlighted the importance of their study in raising awareness. “Bringing all this data together has been very challenging but having this global snapshot in one accessible resource should prove invaluable for policymakers and researchers,” Gowing said in a news release.

The report also stated that alcohol consumption resulted to more harm than use of illicit drugs.


Health & Wellness Real Drug Stories

FDA Schedules Meeting About Female Libido Enhancer

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After rejecting it twice, the US Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a meeting for early June to discuss further a female libido enhancer that could effectively do for women what Viagra does for men.

The pill, flibanserin, is backed by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, which has enlisted the help of various women’s groups and other advocates to lobby the FDA to approve the pill, saying that women’s sexual issues often get ignored by the federal government even though men’s sexual issues get much attention.

The FDA said it plans to convene a meeting of its reproductive drugs and drug safety panels on June 4. The agency is not required to follow the advice of these panels, but it often does.

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Health & Wellness Real Drug Stories

Two-Drug Combination Reduces Colon Cancer by 67%

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A combination of two new antibodies, that act against the same protein, reduces tumours in colorectal metastatic cancers that no longer respond to conventional treatment by 67%, a clinical trial has shown.

The Results of the international phase one clinical trial, led by Barcelona’s Vall d’Hebron Hospital, were published on May 11.

“This is important progress because we have showed this improvement for the first time in a clinical phase, although it is just one more step, it does not cure cancer, it only gives us more control time,” said Josep Tabernero, head of Medical Oncology at Vall d’Hebron Hospital and director of the Vall d’Hebron Oncology Institute.

The study, published in the American Association for Cancer Research’s Cancer Discovery journal, demonstrated that the drug “Sym004″, a mixture of two antibodies that act against the EGFR protein, is effective in patients with advanced colorectal cancer who had become resistant to previous treatments.

This new drug opens the possibility for a treatment with better results in these advanced colon cancer cases.

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Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Study Links Celiac Disease with Increased Risk of Nerve Damage

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People who have the digestive disorder known as celiac disease appear to be at an increased risk for nerve damage, a new study by Swedish researchers suggests.

The researchers looked at more than 28,000 people who have celiac disease and a control group of more than 139,000 people who do not have celiac disease. Those with celiac disease were 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with nerve damage than those without it. Nerve damage is medically known as neuropathy.

However, the researchers pointed out, the risk of nerve damage is still low and the study, published online May 11 in the journal JAMA Neurology, does not show a cause-and-effect relationship.

“We found an increased risk of neuropathy in patients with celiac disease that persists after celiac disease diagnosis,” Dr. Jonas Ludvigsson, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and colleagues wrote.

“Although absolute risks for neuropathy are low, celiac disease is a potentially treatable condition with a young age of onset. Our findings suggest that screening could be beneficial in patients with neuropathy,” the researchers concluded.

When people with celiac disease eat gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, they develop problems in their small intestine.

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Medical Marijuana

Colorado House Bill Allows Medical Marijuana For Persons On Parole

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People on parole or probation have various limitations but not when it comes to medical marijuana use, based on a recent ruling by the state of Colorado.

Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed into law House Bill 1267, which “makes an exception to the probation conditions for the possession and use of medical marijuana pursuant to the state constitution.” However, the new bill is not applicable to persons “convicted of an offense related to medical marijuana.”

The medical marijuana bill for people on probation or parole was sponsored by House representatives led by Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Thornton) and state senator Aguilar Guzman.

Previous rules on probation or parole prohibits possession and use of marijuana, but the new ruling allows cannabis for medical purposes.

Read the full details of House Bill 1267 here.

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