Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News release] Psychedelic Drug Use Could Reduce Psychological Distress, Suicidal Thinking

Major rethink in order for some of us, including me? Or is the jury still out, so to speak. Perhaps a major rethink of some substances in light of the emerging role of personalized medicine.
Personal flashback to 1979 and Peace Corps training in Nashville TN. We were housed in motel rooms during our 1 1/2 month stateside training. One evening I returned to my room, where my two roommates were lounging. One told me the other was tripping on LSD (it had come to her on the back of the postage stamp from a mailed letter from a friend). Well, I about lost it, I had smoked (but not inhaled!) some marijuana once, but my perception of LSD was that it, well, took control of you and made you do things you wouldn’t normally do. The other roommate told me I just had to accept it. I said I didn’t have to and left the room for a few others and hung out with other volunteers. I was well, a bit scared that if the roommate was caught or reported, I could get kicked out of the Peace Corps program. Well, we never talked about the LSD, and had about 3 weeks to go in the program. And we all managed to get along fairly well after this incident. Stayed home while I attended college, so I guess this was a version of college roommate “drama”.

 

From the 9 March 2015 Johns Hopkins news release

FAST FACTS:

  • U.S. adults with a history of using some nonaddictive psychedelic drugs had reduced likelihood of psychological distress and suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts, according to data from a nationwide survey.
  • While these psychedelic drugs are illegal, a Johns Hopkins researcher and study author recommends reconsidering their status, as they may be useful in treating depression.
  • Some people have serious adverse reactions to these drugs, which may not stand out in the survey data because they are less numerous than positive outcomes.

 

The observational nature of the study cannot definitively show that psychedelics caused these effects, Johnson says, because those who chose to use psychedelics may have been psychologically healthier before using these drugs. However, the results probably reflect a benefit from psychedelics — the study controlled for many relevant variables and found that, as the researchers expected, other drugs assessed in the study were linked to increased harms, he says. The use of nonaddictive psychedelic drugs may exacerbate schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders and can sometimes elicit feelings of anxiety, fear, panic and paranoia, which can lead to dangerous behavior, Johnson says. But these instances of individual harm, while serious, may not stand out in the survey data because they occur less often than the positive outcomes that some people experience.

“Our general societal impression of these drugs is they make people go crazy or are associated with psychological harm, but our data point to the potential psychological benefits from these drugs,” he says. Current research at Johns Hopkins and several other universities is examining the therapeutic potential of one of the psychedelics, psilocybin, when administered in carefully controlled, monitored medical studies.

Related article

No link between psychedelics and mental health problems

The use of psychedelics, such as LSD and magic mushrooms, does not increase a person’s risk of developing mental health problems, according to an analysis of information from more than 135,000 randomly chosen people, including 19,000 people who had used psychedelics. The results are published today in Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Nature and Lancet

Nature published a news item on this research yesterday, March 4: http://www.nature.com/news/no-link-found-between-psychedelics-and-psychosis-1.16968 Lancet Psychiatry will publish a companion letter to this study by Teri Krebs, “Protecting the human rights of people who use psychedelics.”

Few or no harms

Clinical psychologist Pål-&Ostroke;rjan Johansen (http://www.EmmaSofia.org) and neuroscientist Teri Krebs (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) used data from the US National Health Survey (2008-2011) to study the relationship between psychedelic drug use and psychological distress, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts. The researchers found no link.

Johansen and Krebs previous population study, which used data from 2001-2004, also failed to find evidence for a link between psychedelic use and mental health problems.

“Over 30 million US adults have tried psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of health problems,” says Johansen.

“Drug experts consistently rank LSD and psilocybin mushrooms as much less harmful to the individual user and to society compared to alcohol and other controlled substances,” adds Krebs. In contrast to alcohol, psychedelics are not addictive.

Possible benefits

Johansen and Krebs found that, on a number of measures, the use of psychedelic drugs is correlated with fewer mental health problems. “Many people report deeply meaningful experiences and lasting beneficial effects from using psychedelics,” says Krebs. However, “Given the design of our study, we cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others,” adds Johansen.

Psychedelics and human rights

“With these robust findings, it is difficult to see how prohibition of psychedelics can be justified as a public health measure,” Johansen argues. Krebs adds that the prohibition of psychedelics is also a human rights issue: “Concerns have been raised that the ban on use of psychedelics is a violation of the human rights to belief and spiritual practice, full development of the personalty, and free-time and play.”

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] A problem with precision medicine: It’s not quite precise – at least not yet

From the 20 February 2015 post by Joseph Burns at Covering Health (Association of Health Care Journalist)

geneinchromosome

At a conference last year, Michael Laposata, M.D., Ph.D., one of the nation’s best known pathologists, explained how clinical laboratories could deliver more value to patients, physicians, and health insurers. To do so, pathologists and laboratory scientists need to provide more detailed explanations about lab test results because even physicians who order genetic and molecular tests are often confused about the results, said Laposata, chairman of the Department of Pathology at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

When he explains test results to ordering physicians, he frequently refers to an “allele” which is one of two or more versions of a gene, he said. When he does, physicians sometimes ask, “What’s an allele?”

His anecdote is telling following President Obama’s announcement last month that he recommended spending $215 million on the precision medicine initiative. The announcement was correctly hailed as an important and needed investment in medical technology. “Precision medicine” is described by the National Institutes of Health as “an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.”

Given that there is and will continue to be a lot of hype about precision and personalized medicine, we may want to check our expectations, because the hurdles are daunting, as Tabitha M. Powledge wrote for the Genetic Literacy Project. “The plan embodies a wonderfully human let’s-climb-Everest-because-it’s-there aspiration. But you also have to wonder about the practicality of such a sweeping program,” she explained.

There is not much good, proven, scientific, medical uses for what we’re talking about as personalized or precision medicine,” Greely said. “And yet, we … sell and we hype as if there is much more.”

“Here’s the problem: because personalized medicine is in the realm of OMG-that’s-too-complicated science, the usual watchdogs don’t see it. Plus the big academic medical centers love the grants that it generates.”

Even health insurers are struggling to understand the full implications of genetic and molecular testing…

 

Related article

Precision medicine to prevent diabetes? Researchers develop personalized way to steer prevention efforts

February 22, 2015 Posted by | health care | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Precision Medicine Initiative: Some quick resources

 

1.29.15_precision_medicine

From the 30 January 2015 post BY PIA CHRISTENSEN  at Covering Health – Monitoring the Pulse of Healthcare Journalism 

 White House has announced its anticipated “Precision Medicine Initiative,” which it describes as an “emerging field of medicine that takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, microbiomes, environments, and lifestyles – making possible more effective, targeted treatments for diseases like cancer and diabetes. ”

….

The practice of medicine has always been personal regarding the treatment of individual patients, but science has fostered a new era of so-called personalized medicine that takes into account each person’s specific clinical, genetic, genomic and environmental information in designing tailored treatment plans

The White House released this fact sheet today.

This interview with the director of the program in personalized health at the University of Utah offers a good explanation of what personalized care is and examples of what it could do.

For Science magazine, Jocelyn Kaiser writes that the Obama precision medicine plan would create huge U.S. genetic biobank. She follows up with more details about the price tag and budget.

The White House released this fact sheet today.

This interview with the director of the program in personalized health at the University of Utah offers a good explanation of what personalized care is and examples of what it could do.

For Science magazine, Jocelyn Kaiser writes that the Obama precision medicine plan would create huge U.S. genetic biobank. She follows up with more details about the price tag and budget.

 

Related articles

“I have been thinking lately about the cultural and business phenomena that are currently shaping and accelerating the adoption of connected health and, in that context, came up with five accelerants.  The best part of the story is that four of the five are already going on and we can see their early-stage effects.

So, at the risk of ‘dumbing down’ adoption, here is my list of five accelerants.  If we could make these go faster, the adoption of connected health would accelerate too.”

1. Increase value-based reimbursement for providers.
2. Create more mechanisms for provider reimbursement for non face-to-face care (like the new CMS CPT code that just took effect).
3. Accelerate consumer choice in the marketplace as well as ‘consumer-driven health care’ (i.e., high deductible plans, health savings accounts (HSAs), etc.).
4. Make the consumer-facing technology truly frictionless.
5. Create a universal privacy/security technology and make it a public good.

  • Integrated approach to customer relationship management and patient relationship management (From the 28 January 2015 post at Health Care Conversation)

    A comprehensive consumer and patient engagement model should help providers attract and engage individuals in the key areas they value:

    • Help in understanding and navigating the health care system
    • Personalize information and care based on an individual’s needs
    • Easy access and communication with provider and care team
    • Support in managing an acute episode or a chronic illness
    • Secure access to personal health records

 

Read the entire article here

February 1, 2015 Posted by | health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3D printed personalized medicine, prescribed by the doctor and yourself | Meet the biomarker pioneers

3D printed personalized medicine, prescribed by the doctor and yourself | Meet the biomarker pioneers.

Excerpt from the 11 November 2014 post at MyCartis blog

“When I go to a doctor now, he will examine me, diagnose me, write a prescription which I will take to the pharmacist, who will then give me my medicines that are mass-produced. In the future, I will still consult a doctor, and together, we will decide about the treatment. Based on my genome sequence, the doctor can choose the right dose, design a blueprint, send that to the pharmacist who will 3D print my medicines.”

Will this be the future of healthcare? It will be, according to the medical futurist, Dr. Bertalan Meskó. In his book The Guide to the Future of Medicine: Technology and the Human Touch he discusses 22 trends that are going to shape the future of healthcare.

Personalized medicine is one of them. “We are at the verge of a truly meaningful use of personalized medicine”, Meskó said. “All around the world you see promising examples in the fields of lung cancer, breast cancer and many other research areas.”

– See more at: http://www.mycartis.net/blog/?p=59#sthash.opDwHiJW.dpuf

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Loyola website helping cancer researchers make sense of a deluge of genetic data

From the 12 December 2013 Loyola University press release

MAYWOOD, Ill. – A newly improved Internet research tool is helping cancer researchers and physicians make sense out of a deluge of genetic data from nearly 100,000 patients and more than 50,000 mice.

The tool, called the Gene Expression Barcode 3.0, is proving to be a vital resource in the new era of personalized medicine, in which cancer treatments are tailored to the genetic makeup of an individual patient’s tumor.

Significant new improvements in the Gene Expression Barcode 3.0 are reported in the January issue of the journal Nucleic Acids Research, published online ahead of print.

Senior author is Michael J. Zilliox of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Zilliox is co-inventor of the Gene Expression Barcode.

“The tool has two main advantages,” Zilliox said. “It’s fast and it’s free.”

The Gene Expression Barcode is available at a website designed and hosted by Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. The website is receiving  1,600 unique visitors per month.

Knowing how a patient’s cancer genes are expressed can help a physician devise an individualized treatment. In a tumor cell, for example, certain genes are turned on (expressed) while other genes are turned off (unexpressed). Also, different types of cancer cells have different patterns of gene expression. Genes are expressed through RNA, a nucleic acid that acts as a messenger to carry out instructions from DNA for making proteins.

Research institutions have made public the genetic data from nearly 100,000 patients, most of whom had cancer, and more than 50,000 laboratory mice. In raw form, however, these data are too unwieldy to be of much practical use for most researchers. The Gene Expression Barcode applies advanced statistical techniques to make this mass of data much more user-friendly to researchers.

The barcode algorithm is designed to estimate which genes are expressed and which are unexpressed. Like a supermarket barcode, the Gene Expression Barcode is binary, meaning it consists of ones and zeros – the expressed genes are ones and the unexpressed genes are zeros.

Zilliox co-invented the Gene Expression Barcode, along with Rafael Irizarry, PhD. (At the time, Zilliox and Irizarry were at Johns Hopkins University.) Zilliox joined Loyola in 2012, and Irizarry now is at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Zilliox and Irizarry first reported the Gene Expression Barcode in 2007. In 2011, they reported an improved 2.0 version. The Barcode already has been cited in more than 120 scientific papers, and the new 3.0 version will make it even easier and faster for researchers to use, Zilliox said.

The Gene Expression Barcode is supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health and Loyola institutional funds.

In addition to Zilliox and Irizarry, co-authors of the article describing the Barcode 3.0 version are Matthew McCall of the University of Rochester, Harris Jaffee of Johns Hopkins University, Susan Zelisko of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and Neeraj Sinha and Guido Hooiveld of Wageningen University.

In the paper, the authors thank Joseph Koral, Baimei Guo, Corey Sartin and Ron Price of Loyola’s Informatics and Systems Development for their computational support.

The article is titled “The Gene Expression Barcode 3.0: Improved Data Processing and Mining Tools.”

The Loyola University Chicago Health Sciences Division (HSD) advances interprofessional, multidisciplinary, and transformative education and research while promoting service to others through stewardship of scientific knowledge and preparation of tomorrow’s leaders. The HSD is located on the Health Sciences Campus in Maywood, Illinois. It includes the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, the Stritch School of Medicine, the biomedical research programs of the Graduate School, and several other institutes and centers encouraging new research and interprofessional education opportunities across all of Loyola University Chicago. The faculty and staff of the HSD bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and a strong commitment to seeing that Loyola’s health sciences continue to excel and exceed the standard for academic and research excellence. For more on the HSD, visit LUC.edu/hsd.

 

December 13, 2013 Posted by | health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

The Case for Personalized Medicine: Interview with Edward Abrahams of PMC

This article in the 25 November Science Roll blog has interview Q and A’s with Edward Abrahams, Ph.D. of the Personalized Medicine Coalition. Topics include RNA sequencing, gene sequencing economics, and gene sequencing statistics.

The third edition of The Case for Personalized Medicine (PDF) was released a week ago

Some quotes….

The power in tailored therapeutics is for us to say more clearly to payers, providers, and patients—‘this drug is not for everyone, but it is for you.’ That is exceedingly powerful.”

John C. Lechleiter, Ph.D.
President and Chief Executive Officer, Eli Lilly and Company

 

 

As the field advances, we expect to see more efficient clinical  trials based on a more thorough understanding of the genetic  basis of disease. We also anticipate that some previously  failed medications will be recognized as safe and effective  and will be approved for subgroups of patients with specific genetic markers.”

Margaret Hamburg, M.D.

Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Director, National Institutes of Health

November 25, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New and varied imaging techniques facilitate personalized medicine

A short axis view of the heart showing a cine ...

A short axis view of the heart

New and varied imaging techniques facilitate personalized medicine

‘Imaging is not about technology, but about finding the most appropriate way to assess heart disease’

From the 22 November Eureka News Alert

“The idea is that we’re using the most appropriate technology to address individual clinical questions rather than just focusing on one technique,” explains EAE President Dr Luigi Badano, from the University of Padua, Italy. In addition to echocardiography, he adds, magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography and nuclear imaging will all being covered at the meeting, offering delegates a unique opportunity for an in-depth education around non invasive imaging of cardiovascular disease.

In keeping with the patient-orientated approach a new track has been introduced, the Clinical Imaging Session, where lectures and discussions will deal with atrial fibrillation, heart failure, ischemic heart disease, pulmonary hypertension and atherosclerosis.

The main themes of the congress this year are valvular heart disease and left ventricular function, with new techniques available in each area to detect subclinical disease. “The advent of new echo modalities such as exercise, deformation imaging and 3D echo has changed the way to assess heart valves and improved our understanding of physiopathology and our ability to detect subtle, clinically silent impairments,” says Professor Patrizio Lancellotti, the President-elect of the EAE and Congress Programme Committee Chairperson of EUROECHO, from University of Liège, CHU Sart Tilman, Liège, Belgium.

In the assessment of left ventricular function, he adds, the new emphasis has been on myocardial deformation, deformation rate, and at left ventricular torsion to allow clinicians to detect subclinical myocardial dysfunction.

Both valves and left ventricular function are well represented in the 690 original posters and abstracts presented at the congress with other popular themes for submission including cardiomyopathies, tissue Doppler imaging, and speckle tracking. Abstract submissions have been up this year – with over 12 % more submissions in comparison with 2010, and 30% more for delegates aged under 35 years. This later figure is particularly gratifying for the organisers who have placed a special emphasis on attracting young investigators.

New awards have been created, together with opportunities that will allow them to critically discuss their findings with experts in the field who will be able to provide valuable feedback.

November 23, 2011 Posted by | health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Unrealistic Expectations By The Public Of Personalized Medicine

From the 19 July 2011 Medical News Today article

“Despite a few successes, patients would be foolhardy to expect anything more than a small number of additional tailored interventions,” write Dr. George Browman, University of British Columbia and member of CMAJ’s editorial board, and Dr. Paul Hébert, Editor-in-Chief, CMAJ, with the editorial advisory team. “They should not expect the cures for all common diseases.”

The authors write that a simple, targeted solution is unrealistic because of the complex interplay between genes, proteins, cell metabolism and environmental influences. Also, there is a significant time lag in getting new therapies into practice.

“For the public at large, the term ‘personalized medicine’ does not spark images of abstract science and technology,” they state. “The image it creates is just the opposite: most people would conceive personalized medicine to be what’s commonly called patient-centred or person-centred care – a more humane, empathetic approach to care focused on individuals and shaped by their needs and circumstances, rather than cell-level scientific manipulations.”

Click here to read the entire news article

July 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Dramatic Shift In Understanding Of Personalized Medicine Suggested By New Research

Dramatic Shift In Understanding Of Personalized Medicine Suggested By New Research

Summary..

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in collaboration with researchers at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, have made a critical discovery that may lead scientists to abandon the use of broad conventional ethnic labels – African-American, Hispanic, and Caucasian – to estimate a patient’s genetic risk for disease. This first-of-its kind study conducted with diverse patients receiving care at a single urban academic medical center, marks an important step in the clinical application of personalized medicine…

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

   

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