Essential Updates: Comp Medical News for July

Welcome to this month’s edition of Comp Medical News, an essential update series. Each update features stories from around the country, with special focus on medical treatment guidelines and emergent issues related to medical management in workers’ comp.

First, new innovations could benefit chronic pain and offer hope for paralyzed patients:

Australian Study Finds Online Tools Can Help Manage Chronic Pain Symptoms

People suffering from chronic pain were able to reduce both their symptoms and the need for physician visits with the help of an online resource program. Researchers tested a series of web-based pain management tutorials on a group of adults who had been suffering symptoms for more than six months. Regardless of how much contact the patients had with clinicians, they all experienced significant reductions in disability, anxiety and average pain levels at the end of the eight week experiment as well as three months down the line. The tutorials utilized cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for managing pain.

Read more from Reuters here.

New Flexible Spinal Implant Shows Promise for Electrical/Chemical Stimulation in Paralysis Patients

Swiss scientists have developed a thin and flexible spinal implant that sits directly on the surface of the spinal cord. The e-Dura implant, made from a silicon substrate embedded with electrodes, replicates the properties of the soft living tissue around the spinal cord and administers electrical and chemical stimulation. The advantage of the material is its ability to remain in place without causing discomfort, plus, the softness of the silicon prevents the accumulation of scar tissue that can eventually lead to a rejection of other spinal implants. The next hurdle for the e-Dura technology will be to synchronize the movement with the brain rather than an external pattern.

Read further details via Reuters here.

Next, two major American health crises – depression and diabetes – have newly discovered complications for treatment:

Meta-Analysis Finds that Depression Increases Risk of New Low Back Pain Episodes

Researchers discovered the link between depressed patients and new episodes of low back pain, and the analysis also showed that the more severe the depression, the greater the risk of low back pain overall. In a pooled analysis of 19 studies, 11 of which were incorporated into the meta-analysis, symptoms of depression increased the risk of developing low back pain by almost 60 percent compared with an absence of depression. Among three studies where severity of depression was categorized, subjects with the most severe depression had a 2.5-fold increased risk of experiencing an episode of low back pain compared to those with the lowest level of depression. Those with the lowest level of depressive symptoms still had a 50 percent greater chance of experiencing an episode of low back pain.

Read full coverage from MedPage Today here.

Only an Eighth of Pre-Diabetic People are Aware of their Status

In a study conducted at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, researchers found that very few patients with pre-diabetic health factors were informed about their significantly increased risk for developing diabetes in earnest. Lacking awareness, people with elevated blood sugar levels were also less likely to make lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise or eating less sugary food that might prevent them from ultimately becoming diabetic. Globally, about one in nine adults have diabetes, and the disease will be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030, according to the World Health Organization. More than one third of U.S. adults have elevated blood sugar levels consistent with pre-diabetic status and each year about 11 percent of them progress to a full diseased state. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has already advocated for more communication between clinicians and pre-diabetic patients.

Read more from Reuters here.

Finally, opioids continue to create more problems for both physicians and effective regulation:

Survey Finds Chronic Pain Specialists are Targets for Violence

Researchers from the Henry Ford Hospital, in Detroit, sent an email survey to members of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians to collect data on rates of violence against chronic pain care providers and mitigation strategies. The factors measured were demographics, rates and type of violence, injury, risk mitigation, and the context of the violence. The researchers found that 51.5 percent of respondents received threats, with 7 percent of those involving a gun. Personal injury was reported by 2.7 percent of providers. Opioid management was the most common context for violence, and anesthesiology was the most threatened specialty. Risk factors for targeted violence included older age, male sex and part-time working status.

Read further details from Pain Medicine News here.

Medicare Drug Plans Favor Generic Opioids over Abuse-Deterrent Versions

A study by Avalere Health found that Medicare coverage for long-acting prescription opioids declined from an average 46 percent of plans in 2012 to 36 percent of plans in 2015. However, coverage of OxyContin, the brand-name drug that has received “abuse-deterrent labeling” from the FDA, declined more sharply than other long-acting opioids that didn’t receive the deterrent labeling during that time period. The abuse-deterrent labeling approval means a drug is formulated to make it tougher for patients to snort, inject, or otherwise misuse. Although there’s no generic equivalent for OxyContin, the Avalere analysis found that generic oxycodone, which contains the same active ingredient as OxyContin but lacks its special abuse-deterrent labeling, was covered by nearly 100 percent of plans in each of the years studied. Experts indicated in response to the study that such coverage decisions imply that Medicare is considering initial costs of individual drugs and not considering abuse as a strong potential factor.

Read more from MedPage Today here.


Image Credit: “Depression and Hearing Loss

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