Welcome to this month’s edition of Comp Medical News, an essential update series. Yoga, federal guidance on workplace wellness, and more on opioid alarm-sounding are your headlines this month.
First, two methods of preventative medicine – Eastern and Western – are in the news:
Yoga and Deep Relaxation Techniques May Lead to Fewer Doctor Visits
Yoga, meditation and deep relaxation techniques can do more than ease stress and anxiety, they can also lead to quantifiable differences in the need for office visits in patients trained in the practices. Researchers with the Institute for Technology Assessment at Massachusetts General analyzed data on more than 4,400 patients who were referred by their healthcare providers to the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Those patients received “relaxation response training.” Compared to the year before the training, in the year afterward, these people had an average 43 percent reduction in their use of health services. Over the same period, health services use was little changed for another group of 13,000 similar patients who didn’t receive relaxation response training.
Read more from Reuters here.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Advises Blood Sugar Tests for Overweight Adults
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now recommends blood sugar testing for all overweight adults ages 40 to 70, regardless of diabetes symptoms. Once tested, those with high blood but not diabetes “should be sent for intensive behavioral counseling to promote a healthy diet and exercise that may delay or prevent the disease.” In 2008, the government-backed USPSTF endorsed diabetes screening for people with high blood pressure but failed to find enough evidence to support the same screening for those who are overweight but with no symptoms of diabetes. Since then, six studies found that lifestyle changes to prevent or delay diabetes are consistently beneficial, which the USPSTF used to endorse their policy. The USPSTF has not said how often blood sugar screening should occur, although computer calculations suggest that testing every three years is reasonable. Almost 40 percent of U.S. adults have abnormal blood sugar levels that increase diabetes risk.
Read further coverage via Reuters here.
Next, opioids are dominating headlines:
Survey Finds Physicians Admit Inadequate Education on Opioids
A new survey via Albany Medical College’s Comprehensive Pain Center found that the majority of physicians admit that they haven’t received enough training on long-term opioids to properly manage chronic pain patients. Despite affecting approximately 100 million adults in the United States and costing $635 billion, the researchers wrote, U.S. medical schools still have a limited amount of training in pain management, especially on the safe and appropriate use of opioids. The researchers surveyed 85 pain management specialists during two educational meetings to identify opioid therapy–related educational needs and practice gaps in primary care and the medical community. All specialists who were surveyed have patients on long-term opioid therapy. The survey and meetings were sponsored by Pfizer Inc. Eighty-six percent of respondents (of 84) agreed that there is a need for clearer guidelines on long-term opioid use, and 87 percent (of 83) said framework on when and how to use opioids should be incorporated into clinical practice.
Read more from Pain Medicine News here.
Heroin and Prescription Painkillers are Often Interchangeable for Addicts Based on Availability
Increasing numbers of people with opioid dependence use both prescription opiates and heroin concurrently, and shift between them depending on availability. In a study of more than 15,000 individuals diagnosed with opioid dependence, the percentage using prescription opioids and heroin together peaked at nearly 42 percent in 2014, up from 24 percent in 2008. Researchers with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, publishing as a letter in the October 29th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, collected data about past month opioid use from January 2008 to September 2014 among those entering drug treatment programs throughout the U.S. Exclusive use of heroin was low in the population, although it more than doubled from 4.3 percent in 2008 to 9 percent in 2014.
Read more from MedPage Today here.
FDA Gives Collegium Pharmaceutical Tentative Approval on Controversial Opioid
The new experimental painkiller from Collegium, Xtampza ER, received initial approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but full approval will have to wait for the results of a lawsuit from rival Purdue Pharma. Purdue claims that Xtampza ER infringes upon four of its patents. Three of the patents were recently found to be invalid by a U.S. District Court, a decision that Purdue is appealing. Collegium has been fighting the legal battle with Purdue over the patents for eight months in three states. Xtampza ER is Collegium’s lead experimental drug. Getting the painkiller approved and on the market is critical for the company, whose other products are simply abuse-deterrent versions of commonly abused painkillers.
Read more from Reuters here.
Finally, federal regulation continues to touch workplace wellness, on the rise in American business since becoming incentivized under the Affordable Care Act:
Feds Issue Proposed Rule on Health Information Collected by Workplace Wellness Programs
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a proposed rule late last week allowing voluntary employer workplace wellness programs to ask for health information, including some limited genetic details, from participants and their spouses. The agency said in a statement that it “is mindful that this change creates an exception to the general rule that no incentives may be provided for an employee’s genetic information. Therefore, the agency has interpreted the exception as narrowly as possible.” The release also notes that this exception does not apply to children. The proposal, which aims to amend rules related to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, also extends the ability of employers to seek health information from workers’ spouses who are covered by their workplace health insurance plans. This can include asking them to fill out health risk questionnaires or have medical exams, so long as the programs are considered voluntary. The proposal also expands a previous rule which had limited financial incentives to 30 percent of the cost of employee-only coverage; these new provisions will allow financial incentives for 30 percent of the cost of every person on the plan, which can be considerably more, sometimes thousands of dollars.
Image Credit: Portland Team Fitness