Welcome to this month’s edition of Comp Medical News. Marijuana, over- and under-use of medicine worldwide, and pharma money in odd places are your headlines for February 2017.
Middle-Aged Workers Suffer Job Limitations Due to Frailty in High Numbers
A recent study out of the UK has found that nearly a third of middle-aged workers suffer from some level of frailty, including fatigue, issues with walking and other physical limitations that make them less able to hold a job. The researchers, writing in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine, note that while “frailty” is generally a concern for the elderly, middle-aged people face similar symptoms. “Frailty” was defined in the study by questionnaires assessing three to five factors: unintentional weight loss of more than ten pounds over the past year, physical exhaustion during the past week, and slow walking speed or inability to walk. Frailty was tied to a large impact on employment. Three-quarters of frail people were not working at all and 60 percent had left their last job on health grounds. Compared with non-frail people, frail people were 30 times more likely to lose their jobs. Blue collar and manual labor jobs were especially affected.
Read more via Reuters Health here.
Marijuana Emerges as Opioid Alternative for Acute Pain
Marijuana has already been on the radar of chronic pain doctors for some time, but its use in treating acute pain (like that after surgery) is unclear. As the Atlantic reports, a surgeon in Connecticut, James Feeney, is planning to research the issue at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford. The self-funded study will compare opioids and medical marijuana for treating acute pain. The implications are significant if Feeney’s study results in real gains because, in the midst of the national opioid epidemic, marijuana’s potential uses are threefold: to treat chronic pain, to treat acute pain, and to alleviate the cravings from opioid withdrawal.
Read the full feature from the Atlantic here.
Doctor Assesses Medical Profession’s Role in Opioid Addiction Scourge
A study appearing in the journal Pain attempted to quantify the rate of transition from one-time to chronic opioid use. In video for MedPage Today, clinical reviewer F. Perry Wilson, MD, examines the crucial missing data, and whether physicians bear responsibility for the opioid epidemic. He concludes from his own reading of the data that doctors “are not exclusively responsible for the increase in overdose and death in this country due to opioids. But we can’t deny that we are in the chain of events that leads to opioid abuse via the prescription pad.” Wilson notes that most abusers get the drugs from friends and family, but that the initial prescription is derived from a likely well-intentioned provider.
Watch the video here.
CMS Projects U.S. Health Spending to Reach 19.9 Percent of GDP by 2025
New numbers reveal that overall health spending could account for 19.9 percent of the total U.S. economy by 2025 versus a 17.8 percent share in 2015. Health spending is projected to grow annually at a rate of 5.6% on average from 2016 to 2025, surpassing the average projected growth in gross domestic product by 1.2 percent, as reported by MedPage Today. Health spending growth averaged 5.5 percent in 2014 and 2015 when significant coverage expansion occurred following implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Changes to the ACA (like a repeal that causes a significant drop in the insured rate) could impact these figures.
Further coverage here.
Pharma Money Reach is Broader than Previously Thought
A new series of papers on money and influence in medicine published in JAMA Internal Medicine and reviewed by ProPublica found that guideline writers, ordinary doctors, and even patient groups can be paid off by pharmaceutical companies and device makers. Researchers Ray Moynihan and Lisa Bero explain in an accompanying commentary in JAMA: “The very way we all think about disease – and the best ways to research, define, prevent, and treat it – is being subtly distorted because so many of the ostensibly independent players, including patient advocacy groups, are largely singing tunes acceptable to companies seeking to maximize markets for drugs and devices.”
Read more from ProPublica here.
Medical Care is Over- and Under-Utilized at Troubling Rates
A series of international studies commissioned by The Lancet discovered astonishing levels of overuse of certain procedures and antibiotics, while other countries languish in preventable suffering. The researchers noted that a study in China found 57 percent of patients received inappropriate antibiotics; that inappropriate hysterectomies in the United States range from 16 to 70 percent; and inappropriate total knee replacement rates were 26 percent in Spain and 34 percent in the United States. One of the authors of the study explained that the failure to provide appropriate treatment across the world is due to “greed, competing interests and poor information” on all sides.
Read more from Reuters Health here.