Marijuana Extract: Miracle Drug for Children With Epilepsy?

Researchers have been studying the effects of Cannabidiol (“CBD”), a marijuana extract claimed by some to be a “wonder drug” for treating children who suffer from severe epilepsy.  CBD, which has also been used in to treat many different conditions including schizophrenia and anxiety, has been legalized in many states and others are considering legislation.

Early research of CBD has revealed mixed results. For example, Dr. Kevin Chapman, a neurologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado conducted a study of 75 children treated with CBD. He found a drop in seizures by at least half in 33% of the children.  But, also found that 44% of the children had a negative response that included an increase in seizures.

However, GW Pharmaceuticals (“GW”) conducted a study focused on a “purified CBD extract” known as Epidolex as part of their program to treat resistant childhood epilepsies. The study revealed that of 58 participants, 40% had a decline in seizures, 10% of which became completely seizure-free, while one patient had an increase in seizures. (read more about Epidiolex and GW Pharmaceuticals follow the link



Zero Cases of Ebola in Liberia

The last known Ebola patient in Liberia has been discharged from a treatment center in Monrovia, potentially marking the end of an epidemic that according to the World Health Organization, claimed 4,117 victims in Liberia alone.  On April 4 the epidemic will be considered officially over as long as no new cases emerge. The date was selected because it would mark 42 days (double Ebola’s 21 day incubation period) after the last known infection.

Even though the number of known Ebola cases in Liberia has dropped to zero, officials are warning people to remain cautious. Within Liberia, authorities are still monitoring roughly 100 people who may have been exposed to the virus. Furthermore, Sierra Leone and Guinea have seen a recent spike in the number of known cases — increasing in the last week of February from 99 to 132.

FDA Approves Cheaper Version of Popular Drug Prescribed for Chemotherapy Patients

In early March 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) approved Zarxio, the first “biosimilar” drug, to be introduced into the U.S. market. Biosimilars are expected to offer cheaper versions of existing biologics. They are nearly identical to the originals, and are used to treat the same conditions. Biosimilar drugs are expected to create a more competitive market by providing people with comparable, less expensive prescription medication.

Zarxio, the first of what is likely to be many biosimilar drugs to receive FDA approval, will compete with Neupogen, a drug prescribed to chemotherapy patients. Zarxio promises to be cheaper than Neupogen and similar enough to serve all five of Neupogen’s current uses.  However, questions remain as to how effective biosimilars will be in lowering the cost of drugs. In fact, the makers of Zarxio have not announced how much cheaper the drug will be.  Secondly, there is no telling whether clinicians will embrace biosimilars.

Amgen, the makers of Neupogen, asked a California federal judge for an injunction blocking the launch of Zarxio.  They allege that the makers of Zarxio failed to follow the rules in seeking regulatory approval.   A court hearing is set for March 13, and Novartis, the maker of Zarxio, has agreed not to sell Zarxio until the hearing or April 10, whichever is earlier.

DEA Increases Restrictions on Hydrocodone

The Drug Enforcement Agency recently issued a new regulation meant to reduce drug abuse by placing hydrocodone, the most prescribed painkiller in the United States (and the drug found in Vicodin), in a more restrictive category. The regulation changes the way that prescriptions of drugs containing hydrocodone can be filled by requiring a new prescription for each refill and prohibiting doctors from calling in prescriptions for such drugs by telephone. Proponents of the regulation claim that it will help curb the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse in the country. However, others point out that oxycodone has always been in a more restrictive category and is responsible for more deaths than hydrocodone.

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Shift Workers Experience 9% Increase of Type 2 Diabetes

Chinese researchers recently reported that “shift workers” are 9% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes when compared to people that work “regular office hours.” The increase was shown to be even more dramatic for men and women who work “rotating shifts.” Those working rotating shifts had a 42% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers attributed the increased risk to weight gain caused by “disputed sleep patterns and inconsistent hormone levels.”

Read more here.

Liberia Reacts to Ebola Virus Outbreak

In order to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, which has a fatality rate of up to 90%, the Liberian government has closed most of its borders and imposed a ban on large gatherings. The five month long outbreak is responsible for 672 deaths and the infection of 1,201 people (including two American Health Care Workers).   Early symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, and diarrhea and can be spread “through close contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alerted the health care community within the U.S. to be on the lookout for patients who have recently traveled to West Africa and who are exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

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CDC Reviews Safety Procedures After Accidently Shipping the Deadly H5N1 Virus

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) stopped shipments of samples from its “high security” laboratories following accidents with Anthrax and the deadly H5N1 flu virus. The CDC reported that many employees might have been exposed to live Anthrax after workers failed to properly “inactivate the bacteria” before shipment to other labs. Most recently, CDC workers accidentally cross-contaminated the “low-pathogenic” H9N2 virus with the highly deadly H5N1, then shipped the sample to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The CDC said that it would be reviewing the safety procedures involving shipments from its high security laboratories.

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Center for Motivation and Change Offers Alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous

The Center for Motivation and Change (“CMC”) offers an alternative to the “strict abstinence” treatment used by Alcoholics Anonymous. The center does not make patients swear off drugs and alcohol for life as they believe this causes many (young people in particular) to become discouraged.  Instead, CMC treats substance abuse with “anti-craving medications,” “motivational interviewing,” and prohibits the use of the words: “addict,” “alcoholic,” and “enabling.”

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Medical Boards Back Push for Interstate Online Treatment

After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, there seems to be a shortage of doctors and an increase of insured people. This has many State Medical Boards pushing for laws that would allow doctors to treat patients online and across state lines.   The proposed plan aims to increase patients’ access to health care by making it easier for doctors already licensed in one state to obtain licensure in other states as well.  The plan intends to give doctors more opportunities to treat patients by using “videoconferencing,” or other comparable technologies.

Read more here.

Violent Video Games Can Make Players Sensitive to Real-World Moral Codes

Violent video games may not cause players to become desensitized to the “real world.”  In fact, Mathew Grizzard, PhD, assistant professor at the University at Buffalo Department of Communication, found the opposite to be true. His findings reveal “heinous behavior” in the virtual world does not lead players to become less moral but might actually increase players’ sensitivity to real-world moral codes.   The study showed that players that committed heinous acts in video games had feelings of guilt that elicit pro-social behavior in the real world.

Read more here.