Testing It Up » September 2012

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Substance Abuse

Kentucky Medical Board Suspends Doctor’s License Following Death of Patients Due to Prescription Drug Overdose

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The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure suspended early this week the license of a 67-year old doctor after more than a dozen of his patients died from prescription drug overdose.

Dr. Gary Shearer is subject to face a federal criminal investigation following the death of fifteen patients in the past three years.

According to the medical board’s emergency order of suspension, the doctor failed “to comply with acceptable and prevailing practices in the treatment and monitoring of patients prescribed controlled substances.”

The Courier-Journal.com reports that the medical board began investigating Shearer on November after they found, through a system called KASPER, that he was a top prescriber of the narcotic OxyCodone in the state of Kentucky.

KASPER tracks prescription medication to identify patients who “doctor shop” or doctors who operate “pill mills.”

A law passed this year requires doctors to use KASPER before writing prescription. But the medical board consultant found upon reviewing records of fifteen patients that Shearer did not bother to check the patients’ history of prescription drug use on the system.

“Those patients were still given a prescription for narcotics without being closely monitored,” the consultant wrote in a report to the medical board. “These patients are at a very high risk for narcotic overdose.”

On April, FBI and DEA agents seized all patients’ charts and more than 300 blank pre-signed prescriptions from Shearer’s office. The raid was part of an investigation on the death of fifteen patients.

The doctor could not be reached for any comment following the suspension of his license.

Substance Abuse

New York Smoking Shop Ordered to Stop Selling Synthetic Drugs

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A Syracuse-based adult smoking shop was ordered to permanently remove synthetic drugs from its shelves and pay $27,000 in penalties and cost.

According to a report on Centralny.ynn.com, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Tuesday that a consent order and judgment was issued against Twisted Headz and its owner for selling Permagrin and White Rhino, which were marketed as potpourri. Although both products were labeled with “not meant for human consumption,” a store clerk was claimed to have recommended a type of pipe to achieve the best effect from the substances. Aside from Permagrin and White Rhino, the undercover agents have also purchased a package of “kratom,” Fly Agaric Mushrooms and a nitrous oxide charger, cracker and balloon.

“The proliferation of synthetic drugs has become a crisis in Onondaga County, New York State and across the country,” says Schneiderman in a media release. “The judge’s order proves that, by taking a creative approach in using the state’s existing labeling laws, we can get swift results to remove dangerous designer drugs off store shelves and hold sellers accountable for breaking the law.”

The order and judgment against  Twisted Headz stemmed from the lawsuit filed by Schneiderman’s office in July. Twisted Headz is only one of the sixteen head shops sued by the Attorney General’s office for violating New York’s labeling laws.


The lawsuits follow an undercover operation targeting head shops throughout New York.

Substance Abuse

KLEAN Treatment Center Chairman and CEO Shares the Importance of Substance Abuse Intervention in an Exclusive Interview

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Dealing with drug addiction is no easy feat for both drug addicts and their family members. But thanks to the concept of drug rehab, there now exist a handful of professionals and recovery centers that offer programs meant to reclaim lives that were once lost.

Drug rehabilitation centers are equipped with addiction and behavioral specialists who monitor patients’ physical health, as well as address emotional and mental issues during recovery. Aside from helping drug addicts recover, the staff also educate them about avoiding environment that may trigger relapse and teach them to live a productive life without drugs. These centers can work on outpatient or inpatient basis, depending on the degree of addiction that needs to be treated.

One of those centers that provide cutting edge treatment approach for alcohol and drug addiction is KLEAN Treatment Center. The residential rehab facility provides an array of treatment services, including professional intervention, detox, inpatient treatment, and aftercare.

Recently, TestCountry had the opportunity to interview KLEAN’s Chairman and CEO Andrew Spanswick. The discussion tackles the organization’s stand on synthetic drugs which is one of the popular drugs of abuse among teenagers and adults in the recent years.

Mr. Spanswick is a 20 year veteran manager and owner of behavioral health hospitals and services who began his career in New Orleans, Louisiana. He received his MSW in Clinical Mental Health from Tulane University in Louisiana and had worked for five years in multiple inpatient psychiatric settings as a Director of Social Services. He later entered the Master of Hospital Administration Program at Tulane while simultaneously founding Paradym Health Systems, Inc., a psychiatric hospital management company, with Dr. Alan Jason Coe as partner.

Mr. Spanswick specializes on a dual diagnostic treatment modality which he gladly explained in the exclusive interview. In addition, he offered recommendations about finding the appropriate treatment for addiction, and talked bout what makes KLEAN Treatment Center different from the other recovery centers in terms of services and approaches.

To read the full text of the interview, please visit Klean Treatment Center: Exclusive Interview About Synthetic Drug Abuse & Treatment.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Cranberry Juice Could be an Effective Solution for High Blood Pressure

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Cranberry juice is known to prevent urinary tract infection, but a new study reveals it can also help lower blood pressure, according to a feature on Beforeitsnews.com.

In a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it was found that drinking low-calorie cranberry juice may benefit the heart by reducing blood pressure.

The study observed 56 participants that were, for eight weeks, placed on either a controlled diet or a placebo beverage. Participants under the controlled diet consumed low-calorie cranberry juice, while placebo beverage included matching color, flavor, calories, sugar, and vitamin C. Prior the study, blood pressure of the participants was measured, and again in the middle and following the study.

The findings show that those who consumed low-calorie cranberry juice displayed significant reduction in their blood pressure — a drop from 121/73mmhg to an average of 118/70mmhg. Meanwhile, no change had been observed on those in the placebo group.

Janet Novotny, lead researcher of the study, said cranberry juice is rich in antioxidants which in other studies have been associated with lower blood pressure.

“Cranberry juice is rich in phenolic compounds, whether sweetened with sugar or with an artificial sweetener, therefore I would expect regular cranberry juice and low calorie cranberry juice to convey similar health benefits,” she said.


Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Researchers Found Connection Between Early Menopause and Heart Disease

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Menopause is a natural occurrence in every woman’s life. Some go through it in their 50s, while others experience the episode as early as 40s. The signs and symptoms of menopause vary for each woman, but among the most common of them are hot flashes, mood changes, weight gain, diminished sexual desire, and fatigue. Other health problems associated with menopause are osteoporosis and heart problems.

However, a new Johns Hopkins-led study found that women who go through menopause before the age of 46 have increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, the ScienceDaily reports.

The study, published in the October issue of journal Menopause, investigated data from over 2,000 women aged 45 to 84 years. The women were part of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a longitudinal, ethnically diverse cohort study which also involved male subjects of the same age bracket. They were all enrolled between 2000 and 2002 and followed until 2008.

According to the researchers, their findings about the negative impact of early menopause were similar whether the women reached it naturally or surgically.

Dhananjay Vaidya, Ph.D., lead researcher of the study and an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said: “If physicians know a patient has entered menopause before her 46th birthday, they can be extra vigilant in making recommendations and providing treatments to help prevent heart attacks and stroke.”

The result also suggest that preventing early menopause, if at all possible, may protect a woman from heart disease and stroke. For example, some women who undergo hysterectomy, a surgery that removes ovaries to precipitate rapid menopause, should avoid the procedure to delay the onset of menopause. Similarly, smokers who are likely to reach menopause earlier compared to non-smokers should start quitting their vice.

“… What our study reaffirms is that managing risk factors when women are young will likely prevent or postpone heart attacks and strokes when they age,” Vaidya explained.

Health & Wellness Home Health Hazards

Chemical-free Swimming Pools Making a Trend

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Chlorine is a widely-known chemical used in swimming pools to keep the water clean and clear. But as consumers demand for more natural alternatives, new technologies are emerging, paving the way for chemical-free swimming pools.

In a Los Angeles Times report, BioNova Natural Pools — a German company with North American headquarters in New Jersey — is planning to install the first public natural swimming pool in the United States next year. The location would be at Webber Park in Minneapolis.

Natural swimming ponds are relatively new to the country, but according to a BioNova Natural Pools spokesperson, there are already 20,000 of these chemical-free pools globally.

“A lot of people are interested in leading a chemical-free lifestyle. We’re not using any devices, sterilizers or chemicals of any kind,” said Alan Weene, spokesman for BioNova, which has partnerships to build natural swimming ponds in more than 30 countries.

The BioNava system uses shallow- and deep-water plants in conjunction with filters to keep the water clear. The water is circulated with pumps to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.

Compared with traditional swimming pools, the installation of natural swimming pools is slightly more expensive. However, maintenance roughly the same with the use of vacuum and hand skimmers to pluck off surface debris. Additionally, natural swimming pools do not require weekly visits from a pool professional to add chemicals, though, they would need occasional weeding and replanting.

Early Disease Detection Substance Abuse

Combination of Existing Medications Could Help Treat Cocaine Addicts

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Cocaine remains one of the most widely abused drugs in our society, but a new research found that buprenorphine and naltrexone may effectively work together in treating cocaine addiction without causing opioid dependence.

The study, published in the August 2012 issue of Science Translational Medicine,  was reported on TIME Healthland.

To test the drug combo, the researchers used the cocktail on rats and found that at low doses, naltrexone and buprenorphine was able to block compulsive cocaine self-administration without producing opioid dependence. Even better, this dose was still sufficient in staving off significant withdrawal symptoms from occurring when the buprenorphine was stopped.

“When I heard the results, I was very pleased,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Volkow asked George Koob of the Scripps Institute in California to lead the study after getting intrigued by the clinical trials showing that use of buprenorphine significantly reduces use of cocaine.

The initial trial in humans is being conducted in people who use both cocaine and opioids. If the combo drugs work for them without triggering opioid dependence, future trials will be performed in people with cocaine addiction alone. Since methamphetamine and cocaine act similarly in the brain, Volkow noted that the combo drugs could work for meth users as well.

If all clinical trials are successful, the combination medication treatment could benefit the 1 million Americans who struggle with cocaine addiction and several others who have other stimulant addiction.

Health & Wellness Home Health Hazards

Arsenic in Rice Raising Concerns Among Consumer Groups

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Rice is considered an excellent source of carbohydrates which provide the body with energy. However, it seems that the benefits of rice is now being clouded by the possibility that it may contain high levels of arsenic that can harm the health.

A Huffington Post report says that consumer groups are urging the Food and Drug Administration to set federal guidance on the allowable levels of arsenic in rice.

The reaction came after the Consumer Reports study found higher levels of arsenic in brown rice than white rice, and that an alarming level of arsenic is present in rice produced in Southern U.S. states than in rice from California or Asia.

Despite the findings, FDA officials maintain they have not found any evidence suggesting that rice is unsafe to eat, but assures the public that they are conducting a study to measure arsenic levels in rice products. The study involves 1,200 samples of grocery-store rice products, including short and long-grain rice, cereals, drinks, and even rice cakes.

In response to the growing concern, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says: “Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains – not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food.”

Hamburg added that they cannot draw any conclusion from the result of Consumer Reports study until FDA completes its own study by end of the year.

Arsenic can be either organic or inorganic. While organic arsenic passes through the body quickly and is essentially harmless, inorganic arsenic — found in pesticides and insecticides — is linked to a number of health risks. Exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic may result to gastrointestinal problems, muscle pains, red and white blood cell problems, neurologic symptoms, and liver and kidney damage.

Drug Testing Substance Abuse

New Urine Drug Test That Detects Kratom Use Launched!

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Millennium Laboratories, the leading research-based clinical diagnostic company dedicated to improving the lives of people suffering from pain and/or addiction, announced late last month the introduction of a new urine drug test for Kratom detection.

Unlike bath salts and synthetic marijuana, Kratom may still be a little obscure, but many addiction specialists in the United States are already aware of the dangerous effects of the substance. Though currently not a federally scheduled compound, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considers Kratom a drug of concern, as documented use and abuse of the plant is growing in the country.

The drug is made from the Kratom plant, a tropical tree indigenous to Thailand, Malaysia, other Southeast Asia countries. It comes in a packaging that’s similar to synthetic marijuana, and young people are purchasing them from local tobacco shops and the Internet. Experts say it can be more addictive and dangerous than other illegal drugs.

“Kratom, as well as emerging illegal substances such as bath salts and spice, which were recently added to our test menu, pose a major challenge for clinicians and addiction treatment centers,” said Howard Appel, President of Millennium Laboratories, in a press release. “Our company will continue to be at the forefront among laboratories in offering new testing of illicit substances and dangerous legal consumables, such as Kratom.”

The new Kratom drug test uses Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) technology to detect the presence of the major active alkaloids found in the Kratom leaf. LC-MS/MS technology is highly sensitive and specific, providing a quantitative identification that is unaffected by other drugs or dietary supplements.

DNA & Paternity Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

University of Florida Utilizes Genetic Testing to Bring Personalized Medicine on Cardiac Patients

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The University of Florida (UF) on late June announced that genetic testing will become a significant part of the regular care protocols for heart patients at Shands at UF medical center.

In a news release published on the University of Florida (UF) Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) website,  UF doctors are tasked to take into account a patient’s genetic makeup before prescribing medications that prevent blood clot after a heart procedure.

The screening is similar to a typical blood draw, except that one sample will be sent UF Pathology Laboratories to be tested for the presence of any of seven genetic variations that influence how the body responds to clopidogrel — a common anti-clotting drug.

Results are typically available within 24 hours and are added to the patient’s electronic medical record. If the results suggest clopidogrel is not the best treatment option, the electronic medical record system will alert the cardiologist and recommend alternate drugs when a prescription is written.

Helping out in the interpretation of the tests are pathologists and clinical laboratory professionals.

“This helps us prescribe the right medication the first time and absolutely has the potential to reduce complications,” said R. David Anderson, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at UF and director of interventional cardiology and the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Shands at UF.

The new UF screening procedure aligns with the National Institutes of Health’s objective to use a patient’s genetic information to tailor their health care.

Meanwhile, the Stanford University has also adopted the UF&Shands model effective July. The two universities collaborated to develop a custom chip to collect and screen DNA samples for a total of 256 genetic variations that are suspected of influencing how the body responds to medications, including the seven relevant to clopidogrel.

The Clinical and Translational Science Awards program funded the collaboration by a grant of nearly $500,000. Additional support has been provided by a grant of more than $350,000 through the NIH Pharmacogenomics Research Network.