Friday, September 18, 2015

New: 87 Deceased NFL Players Test Positive for Brain Disease | Concussion Watch | FRONTLINE | PBS

A total of 87 out of 91 former NFL players have tested positive for the brain disease at the center of the debate over concussions in football, according to new figures from the nation's largest brain bank focused on the study of traumatic head injury.

Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University have now identified the degenerative disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in 96 percent of NFL players that they've examined and in 79 percent of all football players. The disease is widely believed to stem from repetitive trauma to the head, and can lead to conditions such as memory loss, depression and dementia.

In total, the lab has found CTE in the brain tissue in 131 out of 165 individuals who, before their deaths, played football either professionally, semi-professionally, in college or in high school.

Forty percent of those who tested positive were the offensive and defensive linemen who come into contact with one another on every play of a game, according to numbers shared by the brain bank with FRONTLINE. That finding supports past research suggesting that it's the repeat, more minor head trauma that occurs regularly in football that may pose the greatest risk to players, as opposed to just the sometimes violent collisions that cause concussions.

But the figures come with several important caveats, as testing for the disease can be an imperfect process. Brain scans have been used to identify signs of CTE in living players, but the disease can only be definitively identified posthumously. As such, many of the players who have donated their brains for testing suspected that they had the disease while still alive, leaving researchers with a skewed population to work with.

Even with those caveats, the latest numbers are "remarkably consistent" with pastresearch from the center suggesting a link between football and long-term brain disease, said Dr. Ann McKee, the facility's director and chief of neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

The cost of not taking meds as prescribed: $330 billion - MarketWatch

Being married helps men, but not women, take their medicines as prescribed. People with children in the home tend to adhere less to their medication regimes than those without dependents underfoot.

Pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts has collected these and other data points to predict ahead of time which patients are less likely to take their medications as prescribed, in a bid to improve health and save money. Prescription non-adherence costs the country roughly $330 billion a year in unnecessary medical complications, Express Scripts estimates. While people sometimes scrimp on medications to save money, this can lead to bigger health problems with bigger price tags, like a trip to the emergency room.

The Express Scripts 2014 Drug Trend Report breaks down adherence by ailment, and the numbers are startling: 29% of high cholesterol patients don't take medications as prescribed, versus 39% of diabetics and 55% of adults with asthma. It's a complex issue, with "plenty of blame to go around," said Albert Wu, a practicing physician and the director of the Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Doctors, pharmacists, family members, health insurance carriers and others all have a role in helping patients follow the doctor's orders.

Below are some common reasons why patients don't take their medications as prescribed, and strategies for coping with them.

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Researchers: 2001 Paxil study seems to play down suicide risks to youths - The Washington Post

The study that paved the way for prescribing the antidepressant Paxil to millions of adolescents was seriously flawed, marked by what appear to be attempts to play down harms such as an increase in suicidal behavior by younger people who tested the drug, according to a reanalysis released Wednesday.

Using 77,000 pages of previously unavailable documents, a team of researchers concluded that paroxetine, marketed as Paxil by drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, was no more effective than a placebo and considerably more dangerous than the original study indicated.

Similar criticism of what is known as "Study 329" began within a year of its publication in 2001, but Wednesday's reappraisal in The BMJ, a medical journal, may be the most thorough yet.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Social and Behavioral Sciences Team - The White House

On September 15, 2015, President Obama signed an Executive Order that directs Federal agencies to use behavioral science insights to better serve the American people. The Executive Order directs Federal agencies to identify programs in which applying behavioral science insights can yield substantial improvements; develop strategies for applying behavioral science insights to programs, and, where possible, for rigorously testing and evaluating the impact of these insights; recruit behavioral science experts to join the Federal Government; and strengthen agency relationships with the research community.

Answering Your Questions About Aspirin, Heart Attack and Colon Cancer - The New York Times

Earlier this week, an influential medical panel issued new draft recommendations about taking aspirin to prevent heart disease and colon cancer. It was the first time a major medical organization has recommended using low-dose aspirin to ward off a type of cancer, but the guidelines from the United States Preventive Services Task Force aren't for everyone. Here are answers to some of the questions people are asking.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

NYTimes: One Symptom in New Medical Codes: Doctor Anxiety

The nation's health care providers are under orders to start using a new system of medical codes to describe illnesses and injuries in more detail than ever before. The codes will cover common ailments: Did a diabetic also have kidney disease? But also included are some that are far less common: whether the patient was crushed by a crocodile or sucked into a jet engine.

The more than 100,000 new codes, which will take effect on Oct. 1, have potential benefits, as they will require doctors to make a deeper assessment of many patients.

But the change is causing waves of anxiety among health care providers, who fear that claims will be denied and payments delayed if they do not use the new codes, or do not use them properly. Some doctors and hospitals are already obtaining lines of credit because they fear that the transition to the new system will cause cash-flow problems.

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