The Pills Are Adding Up—Especially for Seniors

WW_PolyPharmacyIt’s easy to rack up the amount of pills taken in a day without realizing what and why you’re taking them — especially for seniors who often see several prescribing specialists. Polypharmacy, defined as taking five or more drugs concurrently, is a growing phenomenon with problems that are hard to control without communication between patients’ physicians and the patients themselves. An article published in JAMA Internal Medicine found more than a third of people 62 to 85 were taking at least five prescription meds, and almost two-thirds of the total surveyed were using dietary supplements, which includes herbs and vitamins, according to the New York Times. And nearly 40 percent in that age range were taking over-the-counter drugs.  

“We’re not paying attention to the interactions and safety of multiple medications,” says Dima Qato, lead author of the JAMA study, in the Times blog. Many dietary supplements, such as fish oil, the use of which has quadrupled over five years, are unregulated and can produce adverse side effects when combined with prescriptions. And patients aren’t likely to tell their docs about every pill they’re taking if they aren’t asked. A brown bag review of a patients regiment is a good way for all parties to get on the same page.

What's Going On In the Emergency Department?

We hear a lot about patient engagement and getting patients more involved in their own care — but how many hospitals are actually doing something about it? The emergency department, often thought of as an area ill-suited for collaboration between patients and doctors, was the source of a new shared decision-making aid for patients with low-risk chest pain at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Called Chest Pain Choice, the includes info on the diagnosis, displays a 45-day risk of heart attack and options for care. Results have been positive — finding an increased knowledge and engagement in decisions and less of a likelihood to undergo cardiac testing than a control group receiving only the doctor’s explanation. “Our goal is not to put the decision in patient’s laps so they feel abandoned, but to involve them in the decision process to the degree they wish,” says Erik Hess, M.D., chair of research in the department of emergency medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in the Journal report

The Key to Happiness is ,… Genes?

WW_happygenesCountless people have claimed to have found the key to happiness: money, family, love, health care journalism, the list goes on, but researchers can now point to genes in how we experience the emotion. Researchers at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam found three genetic variants for happiness, as well as two that account for differences in symptoms of depression and 11 that may explain degrees of neuroticism, according to a Science Daily report. Apparently, differences in happiness are expressed mainly in the central nervous system, the adrenal glands and pancreatic system, as published in the journal Nature Genetics. The results of the study confirm a genetic aspect to happiness and open new doors for studying depression, says Meike Bartels, VU Amsterdam Professor and researcher involved in the study.

California School May Lose Program and Future M.D.’s

WW_BerkleyRallyMandated budget cuts are putting pressure on the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health to cut a small, but proven program that is producing primary care physicians in a state that’s falling behind in that category, according to an NPR report. The school’s Joint Medical Program admits just 16 students a year, but half the graduates of Berkeley’s program go into primary care, compared to the 12 percent of medical students that went into primary care residencies in 2014 nationally, the same report states. Even more startling is a California Primary Care Association report that predicts a shortage of more than 8,000 primary care doctors by 2030.

“Certainly with the shortage we are facing, we should not eliminate any existing programs that we know have successful track records into funneling people into primary care,” says Carmela Castellano-Garcia, president of the California Primary Care Association. Staff and students have been voicing their opinion in the classic Berkeley fashion, though we couldn't. 

Gamers Become Amateur Scientists in Malaria Video Game

WW_malaria_videoYou might have played Bejeweled or Angry Birds, but a new app, MalariaSpot Bubbles offers students all the mind-numbing fun of playing an app, while also contributing to the research of new diagnosis methods.  Researchers at the Technical University of Madrid developed the game that requires players to analyze digital images of parasites and spot the differences between the five species that cause malaria, according to an article in Science Daily. In the real world, malaria is diagnosed by looking at blood smears under a microscope, examining for parasites. The game hopes to study the habits of amateur scientists. “The aim of MalariaSpot Bubbles is to research if remote diagnosis could be performed collectively by non-experts,” says Maria Linares, MalariaSpot biomedical specialist.