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Medical cannabis to reduce the use of opioids

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The researchers at the University of Georgia have come up with a new study which states that legalized medical cannabis reduces the use of opioids. It says that states that have approved medical cannabis laws saw a dramatic reduction in opioid use. The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine.

The researchers of the study examined the number of all opioid prescriptions filled between 2010 and 2015 under Medicare Part D. It is the prescription drug assistance plan accessible to Medicare enrollees. They observed a 14.4 percent reduction in the use of prescription opioids in the states with medical cannabis dispensaries. Moreover, the researchers found nearly a 7 percent reduction in opiate prescriptions filled in states with home-cultivation-only medical cannabis laws.

Some of the states under observation had medical cannabis laws throughout the five-year study period. On the other hand, some never had medical cannabis, and some enacted medical cannabis laws during those five years. So the researchers asked what happens to physician behavior in terms of their opiate prescribing if and when medical cannabis becomes available.

Also, 29 US states and the district of Colombia approved medical cannabis law with California being the first to approve medical cannabis law in 1996.

As per the researchers, physicians cannot prescribe cannabis because it is still a Schedule I drug. The study doesn’t aim at observing that prescriptions for cannabis go up and prescriptions for opioids go down. It only intends to evaluate the changes when medical cannabis laws are in action. Interestingly, the study reveals big reductions in the use of opioids.

Legal status of Marijuana deserves a consideration

The researchers examined all the commonly prescribed opiates including,

  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Fentanyl

Heroin, being an illegal drug, was not included as part of the study. In the previous year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a public health emergency with respect to the abuse of opiates. Opioid overdoses caused more than 42,000 deaths in 2016. Surprisingly, more than 40 percent of opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid, according to HHS.

Between 2005 and 2011 the opioid prescription rates increased from about 148 million to 206 million. This added dramatically to the number of opioid-related deaths.

The major reason behind the lower use of opiates is the growing body of literature that suggests cannabis may help to manage pain in patients. Note that the researchers didn’t see any notable decline in the number of non-opioid drugs prescribed during the study period. These non-opioid drugs included blood thinners, flu medications, and phosphorus stimulants.

The researches admit that there is still much work to do if medical cannabis is to become an effective treatment. Research scientists are just beginning to understand the effects of cannabis and its derivatives. They believe that an effective “dose” of cannabis needs a clear definition so that each patient receives a consistent dose.

Regardless of their findings, the researchers of the study suggest quite clearly that medical cannabis and its legalization worth serious consideration. It could be one useful tool in the policy arsenal that can help to diminish the harm of prescription opioids.

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Cannabis

Why New Jersey’s Telemedicine For Prescription Cannabis Is A Big Deal

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Telemedicine now available for prescription medicine in New Jersey

Earlier this month, legislation in New Jersey seems like it may take a turn in favor of medicinal cannabis using ‘telemedicine’. In a world, and nation, devastated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, even visiting a physician may prove deadly. After all, hospitals, now overrun with emergent coronavirus cases, may become cesspools of airborne pathogens. Even healthcare providers still face significant risk of infection in their line of work. And this despite them donned in full protective gear and thoroughly disinfected regularly. As a matter of fact, going out anywhere public unnecessary remains inadvisable by the WHO and health authorities.

Recently, the members of the New Jersey state assembly convened to talk about various concerning issues. One of the biggest and most immediate issues, the plight of millions of patients needing prescription drugs at home, needing resolving. This especially held true of those requiring medicinal cannabis treatments, a drug not available at every nearby pharmacy. Therefore the members ruled to permit the use of telemedicine, a game-changing new service in the United States.

Telemedicine holds the key to quality healthcare in the middle of a dangerous pandemic

Not many outside of the medical field would immediately know what the concept refers to. Broadly speaking, telemedicine refers to any healthcare practice done without the patient and physician needing to interact in person. Looking at the etymology (the origin of the word), it’s all in the name (translating to long distance medicine). Therefore, video conferencing consultations between the patient at home and the doctor is an example of telemedicine. In addition, the purchase and delivery of prescription drugs from and to home online also counts as such.

So while it may not seem like anything more than ‘Zoom/Amazon but for medicine’, this is a gross understatement. Regular meetings, related to business, casual chatting and interviews, already occurred online before COVID-19. That classes and work began conducting over video conferences wasn’t anything unforeseeable as the pandemic grew. However, in traditional medical schools, few students receive training for how to treat patients online. After all, a good diagnosis usually comes with thorough rapport, careful inspection of the body and various examinations. So now the COVID-19 pandemic has doctors scrambling to learn an entirely new modality of work. And the concept of sitting safe at home while your lifesaving drugs come to you, risk-free is incredible.

The move comes unexpectedly, as cannabis legislation in New Jersey still holds some previous prejudices

The truth of the matter is that the United States is still a nation where recreational cannabis usage is federally illegal. And medicinal cannabis, despite modern scientific studies extolling its proven health benefits as a therapeutic agent in many conditions, as well. That means that the ‘default’ law for any state is that the drug is banned, with even possession resulting in criminal offence. The only state exceptions to this practice worked hard to exempt themselves. Even in New Jersey, recreational cannabis remains off the table, but medicinally it gained allowance.

As a result, the cannabis industry, which makes everything cannabis related (from hemp to CBD oils), doesn’t do well here. There simply isn’t a big enough market for products in states where cannabis is literally banned. In the case of New Jersey, only specially licensed dispensaries can legally sell prescription marijuana. Law makers historically have shown very little care to make medicinal weed more accessible, in addition. Furthermore, even healthcare providers may show hesitance to prescribe cannabis due to the amount of legal work required by state laws.

All in all, this move signals a step in the right direction. Hopefully, patients will receive their medications soon and safely.

 

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Health

COVID-19 And Influenza May Have Twin Pandemics This Year

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COVID-19 and influenza may have twin pandemics

Many times, just when a doctor congratulates themself on making a tricky diagnosis, disaster happens. Although most doctors maintain meticulous details and effort, even the best sometimes must face facts. And that sad truth is that often at times multiple diseases manifest with similar symptoms. A patient running in with chest pains may suffer from acid reflux (GERD) or a serious heart attack. Similarly, experts now agree that COVID-19 and influenza symptoms can be very difficult to distinguish.

Up until the start of the COVID-19 global pandemic this year, the leading respiratory virus was influenza. Ancient, commonplace, well-understood it was, and thus predictable in its outcomes. In fact, since the great flu pandemic in 1918, that eviscerated most of Europe and America, nothing came close. Experts since then, with new understandings of epidemiology and virology, were able to accurately map the influenza rise and falls over the years.

This year’s expected influenza patterns vary by hemisphere, and experts notice an interesting finding

Influenza, commonly called the “flu”, has a seasonal pattern. In the northern hemisphere, it tends to occur during the winter months. In the US, it generally starts mid-November and peters out by April. Despite its regular and predictable occurrence, the disease still claims thousands of lives every year. Flu cases often result in hospitalizations and disruptions to schools and workplaces.

In the southern hemisphere, nations like Australia experience peaks in the months of June till September. This inverse pattern is because of the reversed weather patterns; influenza generally thrives in colder climates. However, what astonished scientists this year is how the rise of COVID-19 seemingly led to a drop in influenza cases. In South America at the moment, the expected influenza cases appear missing, while COVID-19 cases increase daily.

Epidemiologists caution that influenza peaks and COVID-19 peaks could coincide, to catastrophic outcomes

In the northern hemisphere, where influenza awaits its winter season, COVID-19 already reigns supreme. Many nations, from the US to Italy experience its effects even now. However, so far influenza world wide had been flattened out due to what is suspected to be due to precautions towards COVID-19. The bans on travel, social distancing, mask wearing, disinfectants all contribute to curbing influenza spread too. However, despite this, as restrictions loosen and people tire of obeying WHO guidelines, and winter approaches, so should influenza. When that happens, both diseases may attack together.

What also bears mentioning is the statistical proof that COVID-19 indeed is at least thrice as infectious as influenza. In cases where both diseases coexist in the population, the number of new influenza cases pales in comparison to new COVID-19 cases. Furthermore, experts still can’t be sure what will happen when both epidemics coincide globally. Some patients in St. Joseph’s Hospital, New Jersey, already tested positive for both viruses. Whether both viruses will act together and worsen symptoms, or compete till one wins remains unclear.

It is imperative that both diseases be controlled before their twin pandemic occurs

Experts agree that nothing more than waiting will curb COVID-19. The vaccines, drugs and herd immunity for this disease all need time to work. Until then the best any individual can do is socially distance, wash hands frequently and try to quarantine at home. Likewise, for influenza, all that can be done is wait for vaccinations and build up one’s immune system.

For more news on the upcoming twin pandemics, stay tuned. Also, click here to read about China’s new vaccine that may one day inoculate for COVID-19, influenza and swine flu together.

 

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General News

Russian COVID-19 Antiviral Drug To Be Released Next Week

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russia covid-19 drug

The USSR often makes headlines for all the wrong reasons. This may just attribute itself to its controversial leader, aggressive foreign policy and remarkably cold climate. After all, the nation is no stranger to strife, turmoil and resilience in its rich history. However, one thing that Russia often gets overlooked for is its advancements in medicine. More specifically, the fact that it has a COVID-19 antiviral drug on the horizon.

The COVID-19 pandemic, as known by the world, started off as a poorly contained outbreak in Wuhan, China. From there, the situation escalated as the coronavirus spread across the globe. Now, entire global economies lay shattered and decrepit. COVID-19 also incurred hundreds of thousands of casualties. Schools, businesses and social settings remain indefinitely on hold in most parts of the world.

Russia aims to release its new antiviral medication by next week

Yes, you didn’t read that wrong. The Russian company behind the new drug, based in the town of Yaroslavl, claimed to be on shelves as early as next week. R-Pharm, the name of the company, announced its completion of Stage III trial status recently. The Stage III clinical trial refers to the comparison of viability compared to the usual standard drug of choice. In this case, the drug, coronavir, will compare and contrast with dexamethasone. Dexamethasone became the standard drug therapy in the UK recently after clearing Phase IV and works to reduce inflammation.

Coronavir, the drug in question, also gets to share the spotlight with its cousin, avifavir. Both coronavir and avifavir come from the same precursor drug, favipiravir. Favipiravir comes from Japan, where it initially gained approval as an anti-influenza drug. This drug can produce coronavir and afivavir depending on requirements.

 The drug underwent stringent inspections and trials to gain approval

Coronavir, named after the very virus it combats, seems an exceptionally good drug. It, considered tried and tested with good patient outcomes, works well. While originally approved for uses in hospital settings back in July, it quickly gained support for domestic cases. To investigate any side effects or patient distress, a study was conducted to check. This check means to verify the extensive testing on volunteers that federal regulations require.

Out of 168 COVID-19 patients in the study, most responded well to treatment. Thus, if it passes Stage III trials, then Stage IV, coronavir would check all the boxes. Thus, it very well could be able to hit shelves as soon as next week. Research shows that coronavir is most effective in minor or moderately serious cases of COVID-19.

Russia may yet make a reputation for itself as a medically progressive nation

In recent times, the country truly stepped forward to help battle the ongoing coronavirus situation. The upcoming Sputnik-V vaccine, also expected to release soon, garnered praise and skepticism alike. This vaccine holds the potential to be a true game changer. It is easy enough to administer, has few toxic interactions and will not be prohibitively expensive. However, recent lab findings for Sputnik-V  showed that around one in seven of the volunteers developed minor side effects. So while it may not be totally innocuous, the hope will certainly involve ironing out some wrinkles.

Therefore, the advent of coronavir or Sputnik-V simply means that the pandemic may finally die down. There definitely is no need to panic or doubt the system. With any luck, only the most authentic get published.

 

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