Testing It Up

Study: Smoking Causes Millions of Medical Conditions in the U.S.

The idea that millions of medical issues are attributable to smoking may sound far-fetched, but a recent study merely echoes what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said in the past decade.

smokingResearchers from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products analyzed deaths related to smoking based on data from national surveys. The results are astounding: about 14 million major medical conditions can be traced to smoking.

Despite the large number, the proponents of the study said that the figure was a conservative estimate because it did not include other recent discoveries on smoking-related diseases. Excluded in the study were ovarian cancer cases that may have been caused by smoking, or detrimental health effects of secondhand smoke. “Most of these conditions were chronic bronchitis and emphysema, often classified as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)… but these estimates and methods, to our knowledge, have not been subsequently updated or refined,” according to the study authors in a news item.

The study data came from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) between 2006 and 2012, as well as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

CDC’s version of the report, which was released in 2000, revealed that 12.7 million medical cases linked to smoking were experienced by more than 8 million people.

October 16, 2014 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

Dallas Nurse Condition Improving After Blood Transfusion From Ebola Survivor

The first person to contract the deadly Ebola virus on U.S. soil has been declared as “doing well” after receiving blood plasma from a virus survivor.

nina pham dallas nurse ebola virusThe patient was identified as Nina Pham, a nurse who was part of the medical team that took care of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to arrive in the U.S. carrying the Ebola virus. Pham received blood from Dr. Kent Brantley, an American doctor who successfully recovered from the virus after being treated using an experimental Ebola drug last August.

Pham is currently being treated at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas. Health inspectors continue to investigate the circumstances behind Pham’s contracting of the disease, citing a possible protocol breach. Standard procedures in the hospital require medical professionals to wear protective gear such as masks, gloves and gowns when caring for an Ebola patient.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) chief Tom Frieden said in a news release that he should have sent a stronger and much larger response team during the first case of Ebola in Dallas. “Ebola is unfamiliar. It’s scary and getting it right is really important because the stakes are so high,” said Frieden. “(Sending a larger team) might have prevented this infection.”

The CDC continues to monitor Pham as well as other healthcare workers and people who have come in contact with Duncan, who died last week.

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October 15, 2014 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

Employees’ Opioid Use Wreaking Havoc with Companies

Abuse of prescription painkillers and heroin among employees is leading to lower productivity and higher turnover for companies where abuse is rampant, according to The Wall Street Journal.drug testing

Employers in Allen County, Ohio say up to a whopping 70% of job applicants are failing drug tests, according to Jed Metzger, President of the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce. Employees in the greater Cincinnati area have tested positive for opioids after being involved in accidents, ranging from damaging property with heavy equipment to crashing company vehicles.

In addition to higher accident rates, employee opioid use can contribute to increased theft and absenteeism in the workplace, Trey Grayson, President of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, said.

Although between 2003 and 2013, overall drug use among U.S. workers declined 18%, it actually rose for certain opioids, including Dilaudid and Vicodin, according to Quest Diagnostics numbers.

Companies are combatting employee opioid use by expanding drug testing, introducing zero-tolerance drug use policies and adding employee-assistance programs for workers who need addiction treatment.

October 14, 2014 at 8:53 am Comments (0)

New Drug Shows Promise in Fight Against Addiction

A new drug has been developed that could potentially help people kick their drug addictions. cocaine addiction

Developed by Dr. Stanley Glick, former head of the Department of Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience at Albany Medical College, 18-methoxycoronaridine (18-MC) has been successful in getting rats who are hooked on cocaine to completely stop craving the drug.

It has a similar effect on animals addicted to methamphetamine, morphine, alcohol, and nicotine and even seems to work with sugar, indicating potential as an obesity treatment.

“We hope it’s a paradigm shift in the way substance abuse is treated,” Steve Hurst, CEO of Savant HWP, which produces 18-MC, said. “But we’re still trying to figure out if it’s OK to give to people in doses that are safe enough to replicate what we see in animal models.”

18-MC works by blocking the pleasurable effects of cocaine and other substances by “dampening the response” to dopamine.

18-MC has its roots in ibogaine, a bitter white powder derived from the roots of a plant indigenous to the rainforests of Central Africa. Ibogaine is a potent hallucinogen used to induce spiritual visions during tribal ceremonies. Although side effects of ibogaine include nausea and intense hallucinations, Glick and other researchers have managed to formulate a strain of the drug that has the ability to block cravings while not producing any of the side effects.

The drug is ready to start human trials, but because ibogaine is a Schedule I drug in the United States and few pharmaceutical companies are interested in anti-addiction medicine, it has faced a lot of hurdles in its development.

October 14, 2014 at 8:37 am Comments (0)

Insulin-Producing Stem Cells: Hope For Type 1 Diabetes Patients

Type 1 Diabetes remains one of the top health issues that plague Americans to this day. This autoimmune disease renders the body unable to process sugars due to lack of insulin. The root cause is the disease’s attack on pancreatic beta cells, which are responsible for producing insulin.

insulin shot type 1 diabetes stem cell technologyA recent study aims to fix this health issue by using stem cell technology to replace the damaged pancreatic beta cells with new ones. Study lead author Douglas Melton, who serves as co-director of Harvard University’s Stem Cell Institute, revealed via HealthDay that they have developed pancreatic beta cells from human stem cells in large-scale proportions.

The study, published in the journal Cell Oct. 9, aims to “replace insulin injections using nature’s own solution, being the pancreatic beta cell,” according to Melton. Preliminary tests have been conducted on laboratory mice, to positive effects. What’s better is that unlike insulin shots that don’t cure the disease, pancreatic beta cells can actually circumvent Type 1 diabetes and its effects. “When provided to an immuno-compromised mouse, we can cure their diabetes right away, in less than 10 days,” Melton explained.

Melton’s team revealed that their product can survive for about six months inside test animals, but these fugures still need to be confirmed. Furthermore, the team hopes that human trials can be started soon.

October 14, 2014 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

Coffee, Not Caffeine, Linked To Improved Liver Protection

Many studies in the past have linked coffee drinking with better liver health, but new research suggests that it’s not caffeine that is doing the trick.

coffeeAccording to researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute led by Dr. Qian Xiao, drinking coffee at least three cups daily can improve the overall health of the liver. What’s peculiar about the findings of the study was that even those who drank decaffeinated coffee also exhibited the same positive effects. “These data suggest that ingredients in coffee, other than caffeine, may promote liver health,” said Xiao in a news release.

The study looked into about 28,000 U.S. residents at least 20 years old. The respondents were asked about their coffee intake, and subjected to blood tests to check the level of enzymes directly linked to liver condition. Results showed that regular coffee drinkers — whether caffeinated or not — were found to have lower enzyme levels, which meant that their livers were running in good condition.

The study proponents recommend more research to look into the active ingredients behind coffee’s liver-protecting capability against alcohol-related diseases. “Further studies are needed to identify these components,” Xiao added.

October 13, 2014 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

Binge Drinking Causes Protein Changes that Increase Risk of Liver Diseases

Several studies have already spotlighted excessive alcohol consumption as a leading cause of liver damage, but a new study reveals that binge drinking makes the damage worse.

binge drinking u.s. liver damageAccording to a study by researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, binge drinking causes changes in protein structures in the liver, leading to a higher risk of liver diseases. Study lead author Shivendra Shukla said that heavy episodic drinking heightens the damage that long-term alcoholism is already doing to the liver.

The study proponents discovered that binge drinking causes changes in the DNA structure not related to heredity or genetics. The “epigenetic” changes are experienced by protein DNA organizers — or histones — that become messed up because of the abnormal rise in alcohol toxicity. “Binge drinking is an environmental trigger that negatively affects histones by altering the correct binding of DNA. The result is unnecessary replication in the copied structure. This initially causes inflammation and damage to the cells as they form, but it is also eventually the cause of more serious diseases such as cirrhosis and cancer,” Shukla said in a news item.

Shukla adds that the changes in histones are not limited to the liver. “Binge drinking can create an inflammatory response in the liver that is like a cluster bomb, sending out various damaging signals to other organ systems in the body. If those organs are working at a lower level of function, then a whole host of physiological processes are affected as a consequence of binge drinking,” the lead author expressed.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers binge drinking as a very costly health issue. In 2011, the cost of binge drinking in the U.S. was estimated at $223 billion annually, primarily due to health care expenses and decrease in productivity at work.

October 12, 2014 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

Alaska, Oregon, District of Columbia Sets Voting On Marijuana Legalization in November

In an unprecedented turn of events, two U.S. states and the capital city are set to vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana by next month.

marijuana legalization alaska oregon district of columbiaAccording to a news release, the month of November will see votes in the states of Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia as the push for legalizing the recreational use of pot is under way. These three areas have already approved the use of medical marijuana, so it’s just logical that the next step would be to say yes to recreational marijuana.

They have all signed on to the “Yes to Marijuana Ballot Measures” movement, which supports the legal use of the illicit drug other than for medical use. The three regions may have the same goal, but are attacking the issue through varying approaches:

  • Alaska pot supporters are pushing for a Marijuana Control Board to facilitate the price regulations on the drug.
  • Oregon wants the state’s Liquor Control Commission to take charge in the regulation of selling marijuana.
  • A proposal in D.C. aims to give adult locals the right to cultivate marijuana in their homes.

Should any of these states vote the affirmative, they will be joining Washington and Colorado as the only U.S. states that have legalized cannabis for all uses.

October 10, 2014 at 3:22 am Comments (0)

Managing Workers’ Compensation Costs Through Advanced Drug Testing

Lab-based oral fluid testing can be a more affordable alternative to urine testing and with the federal government currently working on a set of regulations for saliva tests, more companies are bound to start using them in the near future.drug-free workplace

In addition to being more cost effective than urine testing, lab-based oral fluid testing and drug testing in general can also help a company save money on Workers’ Compensation claims and premiums, according to corporate drug testing expert Bill Current, founder of the Current Consulting Group, and Mark Pew, senior vice president of medical cost management services company PRIUM.

The two recently conducted a webinar detailing how lab-based oral fluid testing could potentially save money for companies for the actual testing process, in lost productivity costs and in Workers’ Compensation premiums.

Because the collection of oral fluid is so much easier than urine collecting, you don’t need to follow all the regulations for urine collecting. It’s also much quicker and you can easily train someone on your staff to do it, meaning you have less employee downtime.

Testing for drugs in the workplace will help companies cut down on employee absenteeism, accidents and Workers’ Compensation (WC) claims. It may even help them save money on their WC premiums.

Visit TestCountry to read the full article on how lab-based oral fluid drug testing can save your company money.

October 9, 2014 at 8:03 am Comments (0)

Dog Owned by Spanish Ebola Patient Set to be Euthanized

Barely two days after the first case of Ebola in Spain was reported, Madrid’s health officials said that they plan to euthanize the patient’s pet dog as a safety precaution.

dog euthanasia spanish ebola patientThe patient’s pet, a mixed-breed dog named Excalibur, was declared by the regional government of Madrid as a possible threat to public health, according to Yahoo! News. The patient and her husband, who is also now admitted to the hospital despite not showing any symptoms yet, have expressed objections to the government’s plan. The story was first published through Facebook and has generated online support for the dog’s owners from pet lovers and dog wellness advocates.

The female patient, 40 years of age, started exhibiting symptoms on September 30 but was admitted to the hospital five days later due to fever. Investigations showed that the woman worked at La Paz-Carlos III Hospital in Madrid with a team of medical professionals working on Spanish missionaries who died due to the virus.

The patient’s husband said he was approached by a local health official about the situation. “He said he was going to ask for a court order to forcibly enter my home and sacrifice Excalibur,” said the husband. “I was asked to give them my consent, but I obviously refused.”

The entry of the virus case onto European soil has baffled local health professionals, who have traced the problem back to lack of training and preparation.

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October 8, 2014 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

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