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Weekly News Round Up - March 14, 2012

Narcotic Use in Elderly After Outpatient Surgery Increases Risk of Extended Use

Elderly patients prescribed opioids after low-risk surgeries have higher chance of long-term narcotic use, possible addiction Read More...

A study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests new concerns with narcotic painkillers such as codeine or oxycodone. In the study, over 390,000 patients 66 years or older who were not receiving narcotic pain medication had outpatient, low-risk surgery, such as cataract or varicose vein stripping. Researchers found that 7.1 percent (27,636) of the patients were prescribed opioids within seven days after hospital discharge. Close to 8 percent of the elderly were prescribed opioids one year after surgery, including potent oxycodone, suggesting long-term use. Overall, those patients who received an opioid within 7 days of surgery were 44 percent more likely to be long-term users of opioids than patients who did not receive opioids.

Early Research Suggests Statins Might Ward Off Parkinson’s Disease

Cholesterol-lowering statins may have aan anti-inflammatory effect to help prevent Parkinson’s Disease, more studies needed Read More...

Over 1 million people in the U.S. have Parkinson’s disease, a debilitating neurological movement disorder. Research from the Archives of Neurology suggests that the cholesterol-lowering drugs of the “statin” class might have a protective effect in Parkinson’s disease. Data was analyzed in over 129,000 men and women, and of those 644 developed Parkinson’s disease over a 12-year period. People taking statins, especially those younger than 60, were less likely to develop the neurological disorder than those not taking statins. Statins may have potent neurological anti-inflammatory properties, but researchers cannot yet say how, or even if, statins will work to prevent Parkinson’s disease. Additional research is ongoing.

Study: Women Using Antidepressants Sixty Percent Less Likely to Breastfeed

Women who take antidepressants may need additional breast-feeding education and support Read More...

The benefits of breast-feeding are many - bonding between mother and baby, health benefits for both, and cost savings. Research confirms paroxetine and sertraline are the safest selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) of choice when breastfeeding. However, new research establishes that women who use SSRIs during pregnancy are 60 percent less likely to breastfeed their infants. Data from over 460 women were analyzed at the Connecticut Pregnancy Exposure Information Service, a state-funded service. The reasons for the lower rates of breastfeeding are not clear: it may be due to the mother’s fear of harming the baby during breastfeeding or related to the mother’s depression or post-partum depression itself.

FDA Advisors Say Osteoarthritis Pain Drug Studies Should Continue

Investigational studies of effective anti-nerve growth factors for arthritis pain can continue, but drugs cause joint damage Read More...

A potentially lucrative class of investigational non-narcotic painkillers known as anti-nerve growth factors (anti-NGFs) has been shown effective in treating osteoarthritis pain. However, in 2010 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted multiple studies of this potential blockbuster class due to hundreds of required joint replacements in anti-NGF studies. This week, an FDA advisory panel has reviewed the studies and unanimously recommended by a vote of 21-0 that the research should continue. The joint damage seen in studies may be due to patient overexertion, inhibition of growth proteins, or other causes. Anti-NGF drugs currently under development include Pfizer’s tanezumab and Johnson and Johnson’s fulranumab.

Boost of Human Immune System Aids in Advanced Melanoma Treatment

Woman has dramatic results from rare immune response after use of cancer treatment combined with radiation Read More...

As published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a rare immune response called the “abscopal effect” has occurred in a woman who was treated with ipilimumab (Yervoy) and radiation therapy targeted at her advanced skin cancer (melanoma) tumor. The treatments resulted in a dramatic disease regression that not only reduced the size of her tumors at the targeted site, but also those that had spread throughout her body. According to researchers, the woman had an immune response to an antigen called NY-ESO-1. Patients with this immune response tend to have better treatment outcomes with ipilimumab. Researchers warn this response was rare, but may stimulate further research on the NY-ESO-1 protein and the beneficial effects of harnessing the immune system for melanoma treatment.