• Spinal Circuitry Responsible for Chronic Pain Charted: In a major breakthrough, a team led by researchers at the Salk Institute and Harvard Medical School have identified an important neural mechanism in the spinal cord that appears to be capable of sending erroneous pain signals to the brain. By charting the spinal circuits that process and transmit pain signals in mice, the study, published online November 20, 2014 in Cell, lays the groundwork for identifying ways to treat pain disorders that have no clear physical cause.
• PregabalinNot Effective in Controlling Lumbar spinal stenosis pain: Pregabalin is not effective in controlling the pain associated with lumbar spinal stenosis, the most common type of chronic lower back pain in older adults, a study concludes. Pregabalin, which is marketed by Pfizer under the name Lyrica, is approved to treat chronic pain associated with shingles, spinal cord injury, fibromyalgia, and diabetic peripheral neuropathy. However, it is also commonly prescribed as an "off label" treatment for chronic low back pain syndromes like lumbar spinal stenosis. Neurology
COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
• Rx for Better Health Care: Kindness and Compassion: Various studies suggest that when health care workers approach patients with compassion, patients often heal faster, have less pain and anxiety, and even bounce back faster from common colds. Compassion and Healthcare Conference in San Francisco
• Self Acupressure Can Help with Constipation: In a randomized clinical trial, 72 percent of participants said that perineal self-acupressure, a simple technique involving the application of external pressure to the perineum — the area between the anus and genitals — helped relieve their constipation. Journal of General Internal Medicine
• Mindfulness Intervention Boosts Brain Activation for Healthy Pleasures: How can people who are dependent on prescription opioids reduce their cravings? Learn to enjoy other aspects of their lives. Researchers report that after a sample of chronic pain patients misusing opioids went through Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE), they exhibited increased brain activation on an EEG to natural healthy pleasures. The MORE intervention concentrates on helping people to recover a sense of meaning and fulfillment in everyday life, embracing its pleasures and pain without turning to substance use as a coping mechanism. Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Yoga May Cut Heart Disease Risk Factors: A review, of 37 clinical trials, found that people randomly assigned to take yoga classes saw improvements in their weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology
FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION ACTION
• Approved “Abuse-Resistant’ Narcotic Painkiller Hysingla ER (hydrocodone bitartrate)
• Warned against using laparoscopic power morcellators to treat uterine fibroids
• Approved the Intercept Blood System for plasma, the first pathogen reduction system for use by blood establishments in the preparation of plasma in order to reduce the risk of transfusion-transmitted infections (TTI)
• Approved a new blood test, Lp-PLA2, that can help determine a person's future odds for heart attack and other heart troubles
• Flu Virus Mutation Not a Good Mach with Current Vaccine: Much of the influenza virus circulating in the United States has mutated and this year's vaccine doesn't provide good protection against it, federal health officials are warning. "Though reduced, this cross-protection might reduce the likelihood of severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death," CDC said in a health advisory to doctors. "In addition, vaccination will offer protection against circulating influenza strains that have not undergone significant antigenic drift from the vaccine viruses (such as influenza A (H1N1) and B viruses)." However the CDC recommends that everyone six months and older receive a flu vaccine every year.
• Jogging May Help Seniors Walk Better: The researchers looked at people older than 65 who either ran or walked for exercise. Those who ran at least 30 minutes three times a week were less likely to have age-related physical decline in walking than walkers. In fact, joggers were 7 percent to 10 percent more efficient at walking than those who didn't jog, according to the study published online Nov. 20 in the journal PLoS One.
• Restroom Hand Dryers Spread More Germs than Paper: Those air-blown hand dryers in public restrooms may spread far more germs than conventional paper towels, a new study suggests. Jet-air dryers were the worst, the study found. Bacteria levels in the air around jet-air dryers were 4.5 times higher than around warm air dryers and 27 times higher than around paper towel dispensers. Journal of Hospital Infection
• Could Your Job Help Preserve Your Aging Brain?: The researchers compared IQ scores obtained around age 11 from more than 1,000 Scottish people with their memory and reasoning scores around age 70. The scientists found that those who had mentally stimulating jobs appeared to retain sharper thinking even years after retirement. Neurology
• Exercise Might Not Help Some Type 2 Diabetics Control Their Blood Sugar:Certain genes might prevent regular exercise from improving blood sugar control in up to a fifth of people with type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism
• Common Knee Surgery May Boost Arthritis Risk: Meniscal tears are one of the most common knee injuries, and surgery is often performed to reduce pain and improve joint function. MRI scans were used to look at 355 knees with arthritis, and compared them to a similar number of knees without arthritis. The average age of the patients was about 60 and most were overweight. All 31 knees that were operated on to repair meniscal tears developed arthritis within a year, compared with 59 percent of knees with meniscal damage that did not have surgery. Radiological Society of North America annual meeting
• Common Painkillers May Help Prevent Certain Skin Cancers: Use of ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) appear to reduce the risk of squamous cell skin cancer by 15 percent, the researchers concluded after reviewing nine prior studies. Squamous cell skin cancer is usually caused by sun exposure. Journal of Investigative Dermatology
• Report: Analysis of Arsenic in Rice and Other Grains from Consumer Reports: In general, rice labeled as from the U.S. or from Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas tended to have the highest levels of total inorganic arsenic compared with rice from elsewhere.
• Health Benefits of Plant Based Omega 3: Increasing the amount of omega-3s in your diet, whether from fish or flax, will likely decrease your risk of getting heart disease, according to nutritionists. A substantial amount of evidence exists supporting the heart-health benefits of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA), marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids. However, much less evidence exists to demonstrate the positive effects of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal
• Doesa Yogurt a Day Keep Diabetes Away?: A high intake of yogurt has been found to be associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to research. This highlights the importance of having yogurt as part of a healthy diet. BMC Medicine
• Heart Disease and Diabetes Linked to Carbs Not Fat: The results of a study, which followed 16 middle-aged, obese adults for 21 weeks, found that it was the carbohydrates in the diets that were linked with increased levels of the type of fatty acid linked to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Plos One
• Better Diet, Exercise Can Prevent Diabetes: Lifestyle changes and medicines are equally effective in preventing men and women with prediabetes from progressing to type 2 diabetes, a new analysis finds. Diabetologia
• Mediterranean Diet Improves Cardiovascular Function in Men with Erectile Dysfunction: The Mediterranean diet is linked to improved cardiovascular function in patients with erectile dysfunction, according to a study presented at EuroEcho-Imaging 2014, the annual meeting of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI), a branch of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). The study also showed that patients with erectile dysfunction who had poor adherence to the Mediterranean diet had more vascular and cardiac damage.
• Could a Mediterranean Diet Extend Your Life?: Using data from the Nurses Study, researchers found that the diet -- rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, fish and olive oil -- appears to be associated with longer telomere length, which are indicators of slower aging. BMJ
• Study Casts Doubt on Low Dose Aspirin for Women Less than 65:Although low-dose aspirin may curb the risks of heart disease and colon cancer, the downsides appear to outweigh the benefits for many women, a new large study suggests. For women younger than 65, researchers found taking low-dose aspirin for years lowered the risks of heart attack, stroke and colon cancer by a small amount. But they also found that the benefit was countered by an increase in the risk of major gastrointestinal bleeding -- serious enough to land a woman in the hospital. The picture looked better for women age 65 and up. Aspirin boosted their risk of bleeding, too -- but the benefits against heart disease and colon cancer were bigger, researchers reported. Heart online
• Top Selling Eye Vitamins Found Not to Match Scientific Evidence: Researchers analyzed popular eye vitamins to determine whether their formulations and claims are consistent with scientific findings. They determined that some of the top-selling products do not contain identical ingredient dosages to eye vitamin formulas proven effective in clinical trials. They also found claims made on the products' promotional materials lack evidence.
• Vitamin C May Help People who Suffer from Exercise Induce Bronchooconstriction: A meta-analysis of three studies found that vitamin C halved post-exercise FEV1 decline in participants who suffered from exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Five other studies examined subjects who were under short-term, heavy physical stress and a meta-analysis revealed that vitamin C halved the incidence of respiratory symptoms. Another trial reported that vitamin C halved the duration of the respiratory symptoms in male adolescent competitive swimmers. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology
• Oral Salmon Calcitonin Shows No Clinical Benefit in Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis: A new tablet form of salmon calcitonin (sCT) failed to produce reproducible clinical benefits in phase 3 trials in patients with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis (OA), researchers said here at the 2014 Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ACR/ARHP)
• Ezetimibe Can Help Improve LDL-C Levels, Reduce Cardiovascular Events in High-Risk Patients: Adding ezetimibe to statin therapy among high-risk patients with acute coronary syndromes not only improved cholesterol levels, but also led to greater reductions in cardiovascular events, researchers said here at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA).
• Findings Do Not Support Routine CT Angiography in Patients With Diabetes: A study published in JAMA and presented at the 2014 Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association (AHA) showed that coronary computed tomographic angiography (CCTA) should not be used as routine screening for coronary artery disease (CAD) among patients with diabetes.
• Talk Therapy Linked to Lower Suicide Risk: Talk therapy significantly reduces suicide attempts and deaths among people who have previously attempted suicide, a new study finds. The new research included more than 5,600 people in Denmark who underwent six to 10 talk therapy sessions after they attempted suicide. The study also included more than 17,000 people who attempted suicide but received no treatment afterward. Lancet Psychiatry
• Mere Expectation of Treatment can improve brain activity in Parkinson’s Patients: Learning-related brain activity in Parkinson's patients improves as much in response to a placebo treatment as to real medication, according to a new study. "The findings highlight the power of expectations to drive changes in the brain," said a co-author of the study. "The research highlights important links between psychology and medicine." Nature Neuroscience, 2014;
• Obstructive sleep apnea treatments may reduce depression:Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure or mandibular advancement devices can lead to modest improvements in depressive symptoms, according to a study. PLoS Medicine
• HIV/AIDs Meds Could be Repurposed to Treat AMD: A landmark study in the journal Science by an international group of scientists, reports that HIV/AIDS drugs-Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)- that have been used for the last 30 years could be repurposed to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), as well as other inflammatory disorders, because of a previously undiscovered intrinsic and inflammatory activity those drugs possess.
Canadian Journal of Cardiology
• Antacids May Improve Head and Neck Cancer: The researchers examined the effects that two types of antacids -- proton pump inhibitors and histamine 2 blockers -- had on head and neck cancer patients. More than two-thirds of the nearly 600 patients in the study took one or both types of the antacids after their cancer diagnosis. Compared to patients who didn't take antacids, those who took proton pump inhibitors had a 45 percent lower risk of death, according to the researchers. They also found that those who took histamine 2 blockers had a 33 percent lower risk of death. Cancer Prevention Research
• Half of Dr. Oz’s Medical Advise is Baseless or Wrong, Study says: Researchers charged medical research either didn’t substantiate — or flat out contradicted — more than half of the popular medical TV host Dr. Oz’s recommendations. They selected 40 episodes from last year, identifying 479 separate medical recommendations. After paging through the relevant medical research, they found evidence only supported 46 percent of his recommendations, contradicted 15 percent and wasn’t available for 39 percent. BMJ
• New AARP Report: Brand Name Drug Prices Increasing Dramatically: Retail prices for brand name prescription drugs widely used by older Americans shot up by an average of nearly 13 percent in 2013, more than eight times faster than the 1.5 percent general inflation rate, according to a new AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) report . The report reveals the highest average annual price increase since AARP began tracking prescription drug prices in 2004.
• 1 in 5 US Adults Dealt with a Mental Illness in 2013: Nearly one in five American adults -- 43.8 million people -- had a diagnosable mental illness in 2013. The report also found that 10 million adults had a serious mental illness, 15.7 million had major depressive episodes, 9.3 million had serious thoughts of suicide, 2.7 million made suicide plans and 1.3 million attempted suicide. U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
• Nearly 1 in 12 Americans Struggles with Depression: Almost 8 percent of Americans aged 12 and older were moderately to severely depressed during 2009 to 2012, U.S. health officials reported. But, only slightly more than one-third of those suffering from severe depression sought help from a mental health professional in the previous year. NCHS Data Brief
• 40% of Seniors Report Having a Disability: Nearly 40 percent of Americans over the age of 65 -- about 16 million people -- live with at least one disability, a new federal government report shows. U.S. National Institute on Aging
• More Patients with ALS Have Genetic Origin: Genetics may play a larger role in causing Lou Gehrig's disease than previously believed, potentially accounting for more than one-third of all cases, according to one of the most comprehensive genetic studies to date of patients who suffer from the condition also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Annals of Neurology
• Feel Younger Than Your Age? It May Help You Live Longer: Seniors who said they felt three or more years younger than their actual age experienced a lower death rate over the course of eight years than people who either felt their full age or a little older, researchers report online Dec. 15 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
• Constant E-mail Checks Can Leave You Stressed: A new study featured 124 adults -- including students, financial analysts, medical professionals and others -- who were divided into two groups. During the first week, one group checked their emails only three times a day, while the other group checked their emails as often as they liked. The groups then switched for the second week of the study. "Our findings showed that people felt less stressed when they checked their email less often," Computers in Human Behavior