Essential Updates: Comp Medical News for August

Welcome to this month’s edition of Comp Medical News, an essential update series. Leading into August, yoga, alcohol, the opening of University Medical Center in New Orleans, and the mysterious deaths of four SUNO professors working in the same building are your major stories.

First, methods of pain management are in the news as patients turn to both in-vogue traditional treatments (yoga and meditation) and typical modern remedies (alcohol and NSAIDs):

More Americans Practicing Yoga and Meditation, Pursuing Supplements to Control Pain

Herbal supplements are still the most utilized form of alternative medicine in the United States, but more patients are experimenting with yoga and meditation, especially in the realm of chronic pain. According to the National Health Interview Survey, yoga practice has approximately doubled since 2002, with 21 million adults and 1.7 million children reporting that they practiced yoga in 2012. In addition, nearly 20 million adults and 1.9 million children had chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation and 18 million adults and 927,000 children practiced meditation. The National Health Interview Survey is a large, in-person, annual survey of Americans conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for Health Statistics. Every five years, the survey looks at the use of alternative and complementary health approaches. The results were from responses from 34,525 adults and 10,218 children to the survey in 2012.

Read full coverage from Pain Medicine News here.

Moderate Drinking May Relieve Chronic Pain Disability

A new population-based study out of the U.K. found that patients with chronic widespread pain (CWP) who consume moderate amounts of alcohol have lower levels of disability. The greatest benefit was observed in those who drank three to five standard servings of alcohol daily. The research doesn’t determine whether the relationship between alcohol consumption and CWP is causal, although researchers noted that the magnitude of the association suggests further study is needed. Another smaller U.S. study previously showed that in patients with fibromyalgia, moderate alcohol consumption was associated with reduced symptom severity and increased quality of life.

This study depended on a pain scale to determine which percentage of the 13,574 subjects met the criteria for CWP, which researchers found to be 16.5 percent. In those with CWP, the percentage of subjects with disabling pain decreased with increasing alcohol consumption – from 47.2 percent among those who didn’t drink regularly to only 18.6 percent among those who drank 21-35 alcohol units/week. The difference remained highly statistically significant after adjusting for confounders such as age, gender, employment, smoking, and body mass index.

Read more from MedPage Today here.

Canada Mulls Lowering Maximum Acetaminophen Daily Dose

Canada’s top health agency is considering lowering the maximum recommended daily dose of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol and other pain relievers. Citing the risk of liver damage from overdosing on the popular pain medication, Health Canada announced it will review changes to labels, the creation of an educational awareness campaign and possible revisions to dosage recommendations. Acetaminophen is in hundreds of products, resulting in multi-medication “double dipping” that can lead to unintentional overdose, it is also especially damaging to the liver in the presence of alcohol. The Canadian announcement comes as awareness about the issue lags in the U.S., where a ProPublica investigation found that 1,500 people have died and tens of thousands more had been hospitalized as a result of overdosing on acetaminophen over the past 10 years.

Read full coverage from Workers’ Compensation Institute 360 here.

Next, occupational disease remains a point of contention and confusion for public and private employees on both national and local levels:

Samsung Electronics to Create Fund for Cancer-Stricken Factory Workers

Samsung announced this week that it will create a $85.8 million fund to compensate cancer-stricken workers and their families, and for efforts to prevent such diseases at its chip and display factories. Samsung said in a statement that the fund will make payments to workers or families of those who became sick while working at its plants, including contractors. The fund would also pay for research, development of experts and other methods to improve worker safety. According to a Reuters report, the proposal comes after negotiations between South Korean activist group Sharps, workers and their families, as well as outside experts, over the company’s responsibility. Illnesses including lymphoma and leukemia have been attributed to prolonged exposure to radiation or dangerous chemicals used in Samsung’s factories. Samsung issued a public apology in May 2014 to affected workers and their families, marking a turning point in a dispute that has lasted nearly a decade.

Read more from Reuters here.

Times-Picayune Investigative Series Probes the Deaths of Four SUNO Professors Tied to Health Problems Associated with Moldy Building

A five-part investigative series from Time-Picayune journalist Jed Lipinski assessed the deaths of four Southern University at New Orleans professors following their move to a moldy building after Katrina. The professors all died within three months of each other and had all worked on the second floor of the Multipurpose Classroom Building, which, though cleared for harmful mold by a third-party company, was tied to respiratory illnesses, vertigo, migraines and other complaints. Lipinski reports that professors coming forward after the deaths have cited the SUNO administration’s “band-aid solutions” to concerns about the building and poor emergency management as major contributing factors.

Read the series via here.

Last, New Orleans finally has a completed safe haven replacement hospital for poor and uninsured patients, though its future remains uncertain:

University Medical Center Opens in New Orleans With Memory of Charity Hospital Still in Sight

The New York Times published a feature on the opening of University Medical Center over the last weekend. The piece addresses the controversy surrounding Charity Hospital’s fate after Katrina and the disparities in care that could potentially occur as University Medical Center seeks to attract privately insured patients with “destination services” to offset costs from the uninsured and indigent.

Read more from NYT here.


Image Credit: To Hold the Sun

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