Attorney General files suit against Walgreens for their role in opioid epidemic

Andy Beshear has filed suit against Walgreens for their “dual role” in fueling the opioid epidemic faced throughout the state. The lawsuit claims Walgreens contributions stem from unlawful business practices. The FDA originally approved opioids for short-term pain management in patients after surgery or other instances related to trauma, as well as patients undergoing end-of-life care. Despite the original intent opioids have become commonly prescribed as treatment for chronic pain, although they’ve been found to fair worse than over-the-counter drugs in relieving chronic pain. The suit claims the dual role Walgreens played is due to dispensing unreasonable amounts of opioid medication, shipping orders to and from their own pharmacies, all while failing to report the suspicious orders to state and federal authorities.

Opioid-releated deaths in Kentucky were nearly double the national average in 2016, while healthcare providers in the state wrote 4.47 million opioid prescriptions in 2015 alone. Opioids bind to specific receptors in the brain to reduce the feeling of pain and create feelings of euphoria; however through extended use the body grows tolerant, requiring higher doses to produce the same effect. Opoiods are one of the world’s oldest used drugs, both medically and recreationally, going as far back as 3400 B.C. Morphine was isolated and marketed in the 19th century where it became the staple for doctors in the United States and around the world.

This isn’t the first time Beshear has filled a lawsuit against those profiting from drugs, previous suits have been filed against distributors, manufacturers and retailers. The goal in these lawsuits have always been to bring drug companies to court where they can be held accountable for their part in the current opioid epidemic in Kentucky, accounting for the spread of disease in addition to the countless lives taken. This latest lawsuit was filed in Boone County, as the northern part of the state has been hit particularly hard by the epidemic. The official filing can be found here, while more information on the actions Beshear has taken against drug manufacturers can be found here.

Commonly prescribed medications linked to depression

Researchers at the University of Illinois released a study suggesting over one-third of Americans use prescription medications linked to depression or increased risk of suicide. Many of the prescribed medications aren’t used in the treatment of depression or other mental illnesses, leaving both doctors and patients in the dark about potential side effects. With suicide rates on the rise the study sheds light on potential factors involved in these deaths. The team found medicines prescribed for high blood pressure, acid reflux and even birth control to be affecting the mental health of patients.

Suicide rates have nearly climbed 30% since 1999, all while the number of Americans taking prescription medication is at an all time high. The team found many of these drugs to not have warning labels associated with these side effects, and many participants were found to be taking multiple medications in conjunction. More than 26,000 adults were analyzed in the study that spanned 9 years, while completing the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Though the findings of the study didn’t find these drugs to be a direct cause of depression, concerns remain valid. Hopefully these findings along with rising concern of depression, a leading cause of disability in the United States, mental health and suicide will prompt patients to be more vocal with their doctors about possible risks.

Effective stroke treatments continue to be explored

The CDC lists stroke as the fifth leading cause of death in Kentucky, as well as the United States. Stroke is not only a leading cause of death but those who survive can suffer from a wide range of disabilities for the rest of their lives. The human brain is limited in its ability to regrow damaged tissue, after a stroke the brain undergoes an inflammatory response. Additionally, a limited ability to develop new blood cells and a hindrance to neurological growth results in an area void of functional brain tissue.

Stroke rehabilitation is geared towards relearning skills lost by brain damage in an attempt to improve quality of life, and a regaining of independence. Rehabilitation focus differs from person to person as well as the affected areas, or abilities, of the body. Physical training to improve strength and coordination is common, as well as improving affected limbs and increasing range of motion. Cognitive therapy focusing on speech and memory retention are also common after a stroke. Some experimental therapies like stem cells and magnetic stimulation are being investigated, but nothing conclusive has been found to help outside of a clinical trial setting.

New experimental treatments are always being pursued, like a recent experiment at UCLA involving stroke affected mice. The team of UCLA scientists developed a gel infused with growth stimulating, and inflammation suppressing molecules that was injected directly into the stroke affected areas. More than three months later neural networks had formed and brain tissue had regenerated, resulting in improved motor function. The study on mice was intended for the period of time immediately following a stroke, but the team plans to test this on mice with long term damage. More research and experimentation needs to be performed, but this should come as exciting news for the more than 6 million Americans suffering from the long term effects of stroke.

Scientists discover the mechanism of P53 in preventing cancer

Within our body the P53 gene plays a role in regulating cell death, tumor suppression, cell cycle regulation and preventing cell division when DNA has become damaged. Just this week a group of scientists from Melbourne have discovered the mechanism in which P53 prevents the development of cancer. Discovering exactly how the process works can potentially aid doctors in identifying patients who have an elevated risk of certain forms of cancer, along with the potential for safer and more effective forms of treatment. The full study was published in Nature Medicine which details the roles of additional genes, and their importance in regard to the ability of P53 to prevent B-cell lymphomas from forming.

The findings may not be felt immediately as it will take time before they can be implemented clinically, but the discovery itself is a world first. These findings allow other researchers a way to test the importance DNA and genetic repair processes play in other forms of cancer. Patients with a genetic predisposition to cancers due to a mutation of P53 can receive other forms of treatment less harmful to DNA, close to 70% of colon and pancreatic cancer is due to a mutation occurring in P53. During the study scientists screened more than 300 genes regulated by P53, in an attempt to identify which aided in the crucial role of tumor suppression.

One of the team’s biggest findings was the importance of the MLH1 gene, which plays a role in DNA repair through the development of a protein. The loss of MLH1 halted the functionality of P53, but stalled development of tumors when reintroduced. The findings helped the scientists understand just how important the DNA repair process is to the functionality of P53. When the P53 gene isn’t functioning properly it becomes the cause of at least half of all forms of cancer, so discovering the mechanism that powers the gene itself is a truly groundbreaking discovery.

Benefits of exercise on the aging mind and body

An article from Business Insider has been published exploring the benefits of exercise on the aging body and mind, including different ways multiple exercises can be easily implemented in any lifestyle regardless of experience. Anaerobic and aerobic exercise are beneficial to young people but have been shown to be especially so as we age, helping to preserve muscle, maintain balance and strengthen parts of the brain effected by MCI . The article goes on to talk about other effects on the brain such as an increase to attention span and processing speed, all attributed to regular exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In addition, the article explores different ways of implementing resistance training with or without equipment.

Regular cardio will benefit the aging body, even simple forms of cardio have been shown to produce positive results. Walking just a few days a week has been found to strengthen areas of the brain important to cognition,while a 44 year long study on women found a correlation between levels of cardiovascular health and a reduced risk of dementia. Aging adults who engage in regular exercise have been shown to slow or even reverse stiffening of the left ventricle attributed to a sedentary lifestyle as we age, oxygen uptake was also found to have increased. Elderly women suffering from symptoms of MCI may also benefit from regular cardio, more studies need to be done but one study found increased volume of the hippocampus , an area of the brain aiding memory and learning.

Regular anaerobic exercise has many positive impacts on the aging body, things like muscle effectiveness and balance can be maintained with functional forms of resistance training. More research needs to be done but the Chinese art of Tai Chi has been known to help maintain muscle mass, improve balance along with other positive effects . Anaerobic exercise is more than just weight training, squats and other forms of calisthenics improve muscle strength and flexibility. As we age, balance and muscle strength begin to decline, highlighting the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle. Functional resistance training as we age can help maintain or even improve the ability to complete household chores, climb stairs and has been shown to improve joint pain and stiffness.

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