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Study Shows How Doctors GET PAID to Fuel the Opioid Crisis

opioidsMost doctors are wonderful people and consummate professionals who truly want the best for their patients. But a recent study suggests much of the blame for the opioid crisis lies squarely on the shoulders of doctors who write prescriptions for hard-hitting opioids when other simpler pain-relieving methods would suffice.

The study shows that as recently as 2015, doctors were still prescribing the addictive and potentially deadly painkillers even for minor injuries in great numbers.

Researchers wrote in the Annals of Emergency Medicine that 1/4 of patients treated for ankle sprains between 2011 and 2015 were prescribed an opioid to deal with the pain.

For the study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania analyzed private insurance claims filed by nearly 31,000 patients who had been treated in the emergency room for a sprained ankle. The patients were over the age of 18 and had not been prescribed an opioid in the 6 months prior to their injury.

Researchers looked at prescriber habits shortly before 2016, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelinesurging doctors to only prescribe opioids in dire situations and the federal government announced it would limit the length of first-time opioid prescriptions. [2]

Read: The DEA Will Slash Opioid Production 25% in 2017

Study leader Kit Delgado, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said:

“There was this leap to opioids, either in perception of patient expectations or to meet patient expectations.”

The team found that:

  • Overall, 25.1% of the patients studied received an opioid prescription.
  • Most of the opioid prescriptions were for short-term use – about 15 pills (enough for 3 days) and low-dose. However, a small number of patients received a prescription equivalent to more than 30 tablets of medium-strength oxycodone – a drug with “high potential for abuse,” according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
  • Nearly 5% of patients who received a mid-strength opioid prescription progressed to prolonged opioid use, compared to about 1% of patients who were given a more moderate prescription, and 0.5% of patients who did not receive an opioid prescription.

Where a patient lived played a significant role in whether or not they would be prescribed one of the powerful analgesics. In Arkansas, 40% of patients left the ER with an opioid prescription, compared to just 3% of patients in North Dakota. All but 1 of the 9 states that recorded above-average opioid prescribing is in the South or Southwest. [1] [2]

Above-average prescribing was documented in North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arizona. [2]

Fortunately, during the study period, overall prescription rates fell from 28% of patients in 2011 to 20.4% in 2015. [1]

Read: Opioid Prescriptions Down for 1st Time in 20 Years

Most opioid prescriptions are written by primary care physicians; emergency room doctors are a blip on the entire map. Overall, there were about 215 million prescriptions for the painkillers in 2016, according to the CDC. [2]

In light of the opioid epidemic that wipes out thousands of lives a year in the U.S., why did doctors prescribe such addictive drugs in such large amounts and doses to so many people? There are 4 possible explanations.

Read: This NJ Hospital Will Do Anything to Avoid Prescribing Opioids

Freebies and Financial Perks

Click for larger version.

No one likes to think their doctor is prescribing them a drug because he or she stands to gain from it, but the disturbing reality is that it happens all the time.

In 2014 and 2015, opioid makers had no problem paying doctors 6-figure sums for speaking, consulting, and other services. The companies paid thousands of other dollars $25,000 sums during that time. [3]

Click for larger version.

Doctors who hocked the most pain pills to their patients were the most likely to bring in big bucks. It’s not hard to imagine how tempting a 6-figure sum could be to someone with a prescription pad. It’s also not hard to imagine how a doctor would feel beholden to a pharmaceutical company after being paid such exorbitant amounts.

You could almost say the drug companies were the drug kingpins, the doctors were the dealers, and in tragically too many cases, the patients became – unwittingly – the junkies. And if the dealers wanted to get paid, they had to keep moving the kingpins’ product.

Click for larger version.


It’s possible that some of those doctors during the study period offered more opioids because they lacked the medical training to know the full addictive nature of the drugs. [2]

It is a doctor’s job to ease suffering, after all, and physicians have been taught to aggressively treat pain.

In 1980, a 101-word letter written by Boston University Medical Center researchers published in the New England Journal of Medicineserved as the foundation for doctors’ opioid prescribing habitsfor decades.

In the letter, the scientists claimed that “despite widespread use of narcotic drugs in hospitals, the development of addiction is rare in medical patients with no history of addiction.”

Based on these promises of safety, opioid prescriptions exploded.

The scientists went on to say in the letter that in a review of 11,882 hospitalized patients treated with narcotics, they found “only four cases of reasonably well-documented addiction.”

That letter went on to be cited in hundreds of reputable medical journals.

Clueless Prescribing


Doctors don’t always know how many pills to prescribe in individual cases. [2]

Yale University study found that hospitals were able to successfully decrease opioid prescriptions by going into electronic medical records and lowering default settings for pill limits.

Previous studies show that when surgeons have specific guidelines for how many pills they should prescribe after common procedures, opioid use decreased sharply.

Yet other studies show that long-time use may partly depend on whether an individual was treated by a “low-intensity” or a “high-intensity” prescriber in the ER.


Anyone can go online and give a doctor a positive or negative review. Delgado and his colleagues believe that in some cases, doctors prescribe more opioids in pursuit of glowing reviews.


[1] Time

[2] The Washington Post

[3] CNN

Author: Julie Fidler
Originally posted: http://naturalsociety.com/study-shows-doctors-fueled-opioid-epidemic-9413/

Breastfeeding: A Natural Way to Prevent Endometrial Cancer

breastfeedingEndometrial cancer, otherwise known as uterine cancer, is the fourth most common cancer in women in high-income countries, including the United States, Canada, and Australia. There’s no shortage of things you shouldn’t do if you want to avoid cancer, such as using tobacco or drinking alcohol. As some research points out, another thing women can do to lower their risk of endometrial cancer is to breastfeed their babies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of their child’s life and then continue to do so after introducing solid food to their baby. The United Nations also notes how ‘breastfeeding is directly linked to reducing the death toll of children under five,’ encouraging women around the world to breastfeed.

Susan Jordan of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Australia, told Reuters:

“Cancer of the uterus is becoming more common and we need to try to prevent it. The more women know about the things they can do to reduce their risks of future cancer diagnosis, the better.” [1]

Jordan and her colleagues teamed up to investigate possible correlations between breastfeeding and endometrial cancer. They analyzed data from 17 studies participating in the Epidemiology of Endometrial Cancer Consortium. Ten of the studies were from the U.S., and the others were from Canada, Europe, China, and Australia. Data were available from over 26,000 mothers, including 9,000 with endometrial cancer. The team searched for whether the women breastfed and, if so, for how long. [1]

The researchers found that breastfeeding for any period of time lowered the risk of endometrial cancer and that mothers who breastfed for the recommended six months decreased their risk even further. Breastfeeding beyond nine months appeared to offer no additional benefit. However, women who breastfed their children for any length of time lowered their risk of endometrial cancer by 11% compared to those who had children but didn’t nurse them at all.

Said Jordan:

“Although this piece of evidence by itself may not convince women to breast-feed, it contributes to the overall picture of health gains that can come from breast-feeding.” [1]

Jordan explained:

“Breast-feeding has consistently been found to be associated with reduced risk of breast cancer. This provides evidence of another long-term health benefit for women who breast-feed for more than six months.” [2]

The protective effects of breastfeeding remained, even after the researchers accounted for age, race, education, oral contraceptive use, menopausal status, years since last pregnancy, and body mass index.

Source: The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

In women born after 1950, breastfeeding reduced the risk of endometrial cancer by 28%, but the risk reduction was negligible among women born before then, possibly reflecting differences in breastfeeding practices. For example, in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s, breastfeeding rates were considerably lower than in recent decades. [2]

The study does not prove cause and effect, the researchers wrote. But it would make sense that breastfeeding would lower the risk of endometrial cancer, as this type of the disease is fueled by estrogen. Breastfeeding suppresses the hormone.

Jordan said:

“The message is not only relevant for women making decisions about breast-feeding but also for society to understand the benefits so we can support women to breast-feed for reasonably long periods of time.

However, it’s not always possible for women to breast-feed, so it should also be noted that just because a woman chooses not to or can’t breast-feed, it doesn’t mean she’ll go on to develop cancer.” [2]

Jordan and her colleagues have also teamed up with international collaborators to study the effects of breastfeeding on ovarian cancer risk. In addition, the scientists are investigating other factors that may influence endometrial cancer risks, including specific medications. [2]

Breastfeeding has also been linked to numerous other health benefits, including prevention of heart disease.


[1] Reuters/Fox News

[2] The Washington Post

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Author: Julie Fidler
Read more: http://naturalsociety.com/breastfeeding-natural-way-prevent-endometrial-cancer-1938/#ixzz4vlkEaj3Z
Follow us: @naturalsociety on Twitter | NaturalSociety on Facebook

Heartburn Drugs Linked To Up To 94% Increased Risk Of Ischemic Stroke

heart burnAds for heartburn medication are everywhere, with media being littered with ads for “the big guns” like Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, and Protonix. They must be safe, right? Well, it’s still important to know the risks – as one study shows that people who take proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) have a higher risk of stroke.

Lead study author Dr. Thomas Sehested says that, overall, taking PPI’s increase your stroke risk by 21%. [1]

What Are PPI’s?

This popular class of drugs works by reducing the amount of acid produced in the stomach, which cuts the amount of stomach acid that backs up into the esophagus, producing that all-too-familiar burning sensation.

Everyone has heartburn from time to time, but a person who experiences heartburn twice a week may have a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Over time, if GERD is not treated, it can cause serious illness and injury to the esophagus, including ulcers, scarring, and even cancer.

These drugs are supposed to help with that.

Mapping The PPI-Stroke Link

In the study, Sehested and colleagues analyzed data from 244,679 adults from Denmark (average age 57) who underwent endoscopy to determine the cause of their stomach pain or indigestion.

During the average of 6 years of follow-up, 9,489 patients experienced a first-time ischemic stroke.

The researchers looked at the patients’ use of 1 of 4 PPI’s – omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Protonix), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and esomeprazole (Nexium) – to see if use of the medications was associated with ischemic stroke risk, which occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain.

Overall, the researchers found that individuals were at 21% greater risk of ischemic stroke when they were using PPI’s compared to when they were not using the drugs.

The team found that there was little or no greater risk of stroke with low doses of PPI’s. What’s more, another group of medications used to treat heartburn – called H2 blockers – were not linked to increased stroke risk.

People taking lansoprazole (Prevacid) had the greatest increased risk of ischemic stroke – 94%. Lansoprazole (Prevacid) fared the best, increasing the risk of ischemic stroke 30%. [2]

In previous studies, PPI use has been associated with heart disease, heart attacks, and dementia. [1]

Cause-And-Effect Not Proven

Because the study was observational, the researchers could not prove cause and effect between PPI use and increased stroke risk. However, the increased risk remained after the team accounted for possible confounding factors, including age, gender, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, and use of medications that have been linked to poorer cardiovascular health.

The scientists said that people should be cautious about taking PPI medications, which are now available over the counter.

Sehested said that doctors, too, should be cautious when deciding to prescribe PPI medications to patients, and for how long. He added:

“We know that from prior studies that a lot of individuals are using PPIs for a much longer time than indicated, which is especially true for elderly patients.”

Sehested said it’s not clear why PPI’s may be harmful to cardiovascular health. He did point out that the medications might reduce levels of biochemicals which are vital to the maintenance of blood vessels. A lack of these biochemicals in the body could cause hardening of the arteries. [2]

PPI’s have also been linked to increased risks of bone fractures and malabsorption, as well as Clostridum difficile (C. diff)a bacteria known to cause severe, sometimes fatal, diarrhea and inflammation of the colon.

Source: SteadyHealth

If you’re a heartburn sufferer, there are natural ways to get rid of your pain. A 2007 study in Molecular Research and Food Nutrition, researchers found that ginger got rid of heartburn 8 times better than Prevacid. Other people have had success with drinking apple cider vinegar, or consuming a mixture of 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 4 ounces of water.


[1] Medical News Today

[2] Chicago Tribune

Steady Health

Originally posted: http://naturalsociety.com/heartburn-drug-prevacid-linked-94-increased-risk-ischemic-stroke/


Italian Farmers Turn To Cannabis To Fight Soil Contamination

An environmentally-friendly positive for cannabis

Farmers in a region of Italy have a unique use for cannabis, and it has nothing to do with getting high. It seems that the low-THC hemp helps decontaminate polluted soil.

Vincenzo Fornaro says:

“For generations, our family produced ricotta and meat.”

He points to an empty farm that once housed more than 600 sheep. In 2008, Italy’s government found dioxin, a toxic chemical, in Fornaro’s herd and slaughtered them all. The contaminants had traveled to the farm from Europe’s largest steel plant, which sits just a mile from Fornaro’s property.

He was told he could never have grazing animals again, but Fornaro couldn’t be deterred. Instead of giving up, Fornaro planted industrial hemp in the hopes it would suck the contaminants out of the soil. The science is known as phytoremediation.

During phytoremediation, contaminants are absorbed by the fast-growing roots of the cannabis plant, which store and sometimes transform the toxins into a harmless substance. Fornaro believes this is what will save his farm. Fortunately for him, the science is proven. It’s even reported that phytoremediation was used after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to remove radioactive strontium and cesium. [1]

Source: CBS News

Hemp is giving Fornaro’s livelihood a future and helping to change the world’s perception of marijuana.


[1] CBS News

[2] Merry Jane

Images Source:

CBS News

Originally Posted: http://naturalsociety.com/italian-farmers-turn-cannabis-fight-soil-contamination-1939/
Author: Julie Fidler

Investigation Reveals Subway Chicken Is Only About 50% Chicken DNA

subwayAs far as fast-food joints go, Subway is considered to be one of the healthier ones. The chain offers many low-calories menu items, and it agreed to ditch a harmful bread additive found in yoga mats after concerned citizens inked a petition demanding the chemical’s removal. But an investigation by the CDC Marketplace reveals what some are calling a disturbing and disgusting secret about Subway’s chicken strips: they’re not 100% chicken. [1]

It might be time for another petition.

Marketplace DNA analysis of the chicken, found in Subway’s grilled sandwiches and wraps, found that in the case of 2 popular Subway sandwiches, the strips only contained about 50% chicken DNA.


The investigatory team tested 6 popular fast-food sandwiches:

  • McDonald’s Country Chicken (grilled)
  • Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich
  • A&W Chicken Grill Deluxe
  • Tim Hortons Chipotle Chicken Grilled Wrap
  • Subway Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich
  • Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki (chicken strips)

An unadulterated piece of chicken should come in at 100% chicken DNA. Seasoning, processing, and marinating can drop that number, so fast-food chicken seasoned for taste shouldn’t be expected to reach 100%. But out of all the sandwiches tested, Subway had the lowest percentage of chicken DNA:

  • A&W Chicken Grill Deluxe – 89.4%
  • McDonald’s Country Chicken – 84.9%
  • Tim Hortons Chipotle Chicken Grilled Wrap – 86.5%
  • Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich – 88.5%

Subway’s oven-roasted chicken scored a mere 53.6% chicken DNA, while the chain’s chicken strips scored only 42.8% chicken DNA. So, what else comprises most of Subway’s chicken?


In other words, you’re not just being fooled when you bite into a Subway chicken sandwich or wrap, you’re also consuming a major potential allergen.

Other Unnecessary Ingredients

The Marketplace investigation found that once the other (read: non-chicken) ingredients are factored in, the fast-food chicken contained about 1/4 less protein than you would get in a home-cooked piece of the poultry. Do you like a side of salt with your healthy chicken wrap? I hope so, because the sodium levels tested proved to be 7-10 times what they would be in a piece of unadulterated chicken.

Subway’s chicken is hardly fresh from the farm, as the company’s ads would have you believe.

Read: 4 Huge Reasons why Soy Should be Avoided

Ben Bohrer, a food scientist at the University of Guelph, says the fast-food industry is well-known for its “restructured products” – smaller pieces of meat or ground meat held together by other ingredients to make them last longer and taste better. It’s a way for fast-food restaurants to make money off unknowing peoples.

If you’re a heart patient who eats at Subway thinking it’s a healthier, lower-salt alternative to McDonald’s, Burger King, or Wendy’s, it’s time to start packing your lunch instead.


Not Great for Diabetes, Either

Subway isn’t a great choice for people with diabetes, either. Nutritionist and registered dietitian Christy Brissette says that most of the added ingredients in fast-food meats are variants on salt and sugar, and the added sugar in these products can crank the carbohydrate level of a chicken breast to well above the 0% it should be.

In a statement, Subway said:

“Our recipe calls for one per cent or less of soy protein in our chicken products. We will look into this again with our supplier to ensure that the chicken is meeting the high standard we set for all of our menu items and ingredients.”

Subway Canada said:

“SUBWAY Canada cannot confirm the veracity of the results of the lab testing you had conducted. However, we are concerned by the alleged findings you cite with respect to the proportion of soy content. Our chicken strips and oven roasted chicken contain 1% or less of soy protein. We use this ingredient in these products as a means to help stabilize the texture and moisture. All of our chicken items are made from 100% white meat chicken which is marinated, oven roasted and grilled.”

Additional Sources:

[1] CBC News

[2] IFLScience!

Originally Posted: http://naturalsociety.com/investigation-reveals-subway-chicken-50-dna-1343/

Author: Julie Fidler

Study: Even “100% Safe Listening” Headphones May Cause Hearing Problems

If your little ones regularly plug a set of children’s headphones into a smartphone or tablet (probably for your own sanity rather than for any other reason), you should know that even brands that claim to be “safe for young ears” or to deliver “100% safe listening” may still put your kids’ hearing at risk. [1]

When The Wirecutter, a product recommendations website, tested 30 sets of children’s headphones, it found that half of them did not restrict volume to the promised limit. The worst headphones produced sound so loud that it could damage kids’ hearing in just minutes.

Cory Portnuff, a pediatric audiologist at the University of Colorado Hospital who was not involved in the analysis, called the findings “terribly important,” and added that “Manufacturers are making claims that aren’t accurate.” [1]


Dr. Blake Papsin, the chief otolaryngologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, said The Wirecutter’s findings should be a wake-up call to parents, who need to understand one thing:

“Headphone manufacturers aren’t interested in the health of your child’s ears. They are interested in selling products, and some of them are not good for you.” [1]

The Scope Of The Problem

According to a 2015 report by Common Sense Media, half of 8- to 12-year-olds listen to music daily, and nearly 2/3 of teenagers do. It’s not just the volume that can be dangerous to hearing; the longer you listen to something at a high volume, the more damage you can do to your ears.

And while 80 decibels doesn’t sound much louder than 70 decibels, it’s actually twice as loud. That means 90 decibels is 4 times as loud as 70 decibels. You get the idea. The sound of a lawn mower is about 100 decibels, and is safe for only about 15 minutes; noise at 108 decibels, however, is safe for less than 3 minutes.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s workplace safety limit for adults is 85 decibels for no more than 8 hours. But that limit was set in 1998, and there is no mandatory standard that restricts the maximum sound output for listening devices or headphones sold in the U.S.

The Study

A team at The Wirecutter used two types of sound to test 30 sets of headphones and earbuds with an iPod Touch. First, they played 21 seconds of the Major Lazer hit “Cold Water,” since it’s the type of thumping music kids generally listen to.

Then, they played pink noise, usually used to test the output levels of equipment, to determine whether the headphones actually limited the volume to 85 decibels.

Source: TechHive

Playing the “Cold Water” snippet at maximum volume, half of the headphones exceeded 85 decibels. The loudest headphones reached 114 decibels.

With pink noise, approximately 1/3 exceeded 85 decibels; the loudest was recorded at 108 decibels.

The team was advised on how to compare its results to data on the 85-decibel work limit by Brian Fligor, an audiologist and member of the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) working group on safe listening devices. This was important because headphones and earbuds sit much closer to the ear, and the workplace limit was intended for open areas.

The Wirecutter team gave the highest (best) rating for kids’ headphones to the Puro BT2200, Bluetooth wireless headphones that retail for about $100 online. When they’re used in Bluetooth mode, it’s impossible to make them loud.


The lowest-rated listening device was a pair of wired headphones made by Kidz Gear. The volume limiter on the Kidz Gear headphones could be easily removed by children. With the volume limiter, the headphones are perfectly safe for youngers; without it, the audio can reach as loud as 110 decibels. [2]

In a statement, Kidz Gear said that in over 15 years, the company has “never had a customer complaint on using a limiter when needed.” It went on to say:

“Parents and children alike love the fact that the headphones can be happily used in any sound environment. We believe when a volume limiter is used, safe sound is achieved and any issues with volume is a user or configuration issue.”

Source: Audio Xpress

According to a recent report in the Journal of American Medical Association1 in 5 teens now suffers some form of hearing loss. Some doctors direct the blame at headphones.

Dr. Scott Rickert, an otolaryngologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, said:

“I’ve seen kids as young as seven who’ve had noise-induced hearing loss. They’re listening to their headphones at full blast. We’re really talking about listening to a rock concert on a daily basis.”

But even 85 decibels and below can be damaging, so audiologists have some tips for parents:

  • Keep the volume at 60%.
  • Encourage your child to take a break every hour to allow the hair cells in the inner ear to rest, since nonstop listening can damage them.
  • If you’re sitting an arm’s length away from your child while he or she is wearing headphones, your child should still be able to hear you if you ask a question. [1]


[1] The New York Times

[2] ABC News


Audio Xpress

Originally Published: http://naturalsociety.com/study-kids-headphones-cause-hearing-problems-1938/

First Human Injected with Controversial Genetically Modified Genes

dna-genes-science-medical-735-270For the first time in history, a human has been injected with genes edited using the CRISPR-Cas9 method. [1]

The experiment took place on 28 October 2016, when a team of Chinese scientists, led by oncologist Lu You at Sichuan University in Chengdu, delivered the genetically modified (GM) cells into a patient with aggressive lung cancer as part of a clinical trial at the West China Hospital in Chengdu. [2]

To protect the patient’s privacy, the details of the trial have not been released; but Lu said the trial “went smoothly.”


CRISPR is a tool that allows scientists to edit genomes “with unprecedented precision, efficiency, and flexibility,” according to Gizmodo. Dr. Marco Herold, laboratory head of the CRISPR facility at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia, explains it this way:

“The CRISPR technology relies on two components — an enzyme and a guide molecule. The guide molecule takes its enzyme to a gene which you want to modify, the enzyme cuts the gene, and then it can be repaired in many different ways. You can either change the function of the gene, take away the gene completely, or make the gene more active.”

Mad Science

The method is highly controversial. While CRISPR holds potential for new developments in medicine, agriculture, and other fields, there are deep concerns over the ethics of altering the human genome. For the Chinese trial, researchers had to gain approval from an ethics board at the West China Hospital. [1]

The cells involved in this particular trial are considered less of an ethical gray area because they won’t be passed down to offspring. But eventually, CRISPR could be used to edit embryo and sperm cells, which would usher in the age of “designer babies.” [3]

Source: Metro News

British researcher Kathy Niakin was given approval in February to edit human embryos, but only for basic research. The embryos will not be implanted, and must be destroyed after 14 days.

The Chinese experiment involved modifying the patient’s own immune cells to make them more effective at combating cancer cells, and then injecting them back into the patient.

The patient will receive a second injection; and the team plans to treat a total of 10 people, who will receive either 2, 3, or 4 injections. The primary purpose of the trial was to test the safety of the procedure. All the participants will be monitored for six months to determine whether the injections are causing serious adverse effects. The team will also be watching beyond the six-month mark to see whether the patients are benefiting from the treatment.

However, Naiyer Rizvi of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City doesn’t have much confidence that the trial will be successful in attacking the participants’ cancer. He said the process of extracting, genetically modifying, and multiplying cells is “a huge undertaking and not very scalable.” He added:

“Unless it shows a large gain in efficacy, it will be hard to justify moving forward.”

“Biomedical Sputnik”

Nature reports that the breakthrough could be a “biomedical sputnik,” referring to the Soviet Sputnik satellite that is believed to have sparked the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. [4]

Back in June, the first U.S. human trial involving CRISPR-Cas9 was approved by a federal biosafety and ethics panel. The gene-editing method will be used to alter immune cells to attack three types of cancer. [3]


The first U.S. CRISPR trial was supposed to be conducted by Editas Medicine to try to treat a rare form of blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis. The condition affects only a few hundred people in the United States. The fact that the trial will occur in cancer patients instead suggests that CRISPR might be used against common diseases sooner than originally thought.

News of the Chinese trial could signal the beginning of an international race to implement CRISPR gene-editing techniques in clinics around the world. Carl June, who specializes in immunotherapy at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said:

“I think this is going to trigger ‘Sputnik 2.0′, a biomedical duel on progress between China and the United States, which is important since competition usually improves the end product.” [4]

June is the scientific adviser for the impending U.S. trial, which is expected to take place in early 2017.

In March 2017, a group at Peking University in Beijing hopes to launch three clinical trials using CRISPR against bladder, prostate, and renal-cell cancers. However, those trials currently lack approval and funding.


[1] CNBC

[2] ABC

[3] PBS

[4] Nature

Metro News

Originally Published: http://naturalsociety.com/first-human-patient-injected-genetically-altered-genes-6264/
Author: Julie Fidler

FDA Approves Phase 3 Clinical Trial Of Ecstasy For PTSD Sufferers

The FDA gave permission on November 29 for large-scale, Phase 3 clinical trials of Ecstasy for people suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Many people swear the currently-illicit street drug has saved their lives, and if the trial is successful, it would establish Ecstasy as a legitimate prescription drug. [1]

Preliminary trials of Ecstasy, also called MDMA, for PTSD have been successful, but a large-scale trial is necessary before the FDA can approve it. [2]

Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the organization funding the trial involving 230 participants, has in the past studied Ecstasy’s effects on veterans, sexual assault victims, police, and firefighters suffering from PTSD. Said researcher Michael Mithoefer:


“We can sometimes see this kind of remarkable improvement in traditional psychotherapy, but it can take years, if it happens at all. We think it works as a catalyst that speeds the natural healing process.”

Dr. Charles Marmar, the head of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine, agrees that PTSD is tough to beat, so more treatments are needed. He said:

“I’m cautious but hopeful. If they can keep getting good results, it will be of great use. PTSD can be very hard to treat. Our best therapies right now don’t help 30% to 40% of people. We need more options.” [2]

Early Phase 2 Trials

Created in 1985, MAPS is a small nonprofit that advocates for the legal medicinal use of MDMA, LSD, marijuana, and other banned drugs. The organization sponsored 6 Phase 2 studies involving 130 PTSD patients with the stimulant.

Patients, on average, struggled with symptoms for 17 years.

In at least 2 of the trials, participants reported a 56% decrease in severity of symptoms after being administered 3 doses of MDMA under a psychiatrist’s guidance. By the end of the trial, 2/3 of the participants no longer met the criteria for having PTSD. When researchers conducted follow-up exams, they discovered that the participants’ improvements lasted more than a year after therapy.

Source: PTSD Update

The researchers, led by Mithoefer, have applied for breakthrough therapy status with the FDA to speed the approval process. If approved, MDMA could be available by 2021.

The Unfortunate History Of Ecstasy

Ecstasy didn’t start out as a party drug.

Its euphoria-inducing effects were first discovered by chemist Alexander Shulgin in the 1970’s. Shulgin distributed the drug – nicknamed Adam – to psychologists he knew who, in turn, started using it in their psychotherapy sessions. MDMA appeared to be useful in treating anxiety disorders, including PTSD, but before a clinical trial could be launched, Adam hit college campuses and dance clubs under the name Ecstasy.

In 1985, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classified it as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has no medicinal purpose, barring its legal use.

Reservations And Reassurance

The team has proposed to the FDA that MDMA would be used a limited number of times under the guidance of trained psychotherapists as part of a broader course of therapy. This proposal has some in the scientific community worried about the habit-forming nature of the drug.


Andrew Parrott, a psychologist at Swansea University in Wales who has studied the brains of chronic Ecstasy users, said:

“It sends the message that this drug will help you solve your problems, when it often just creates problems. This is a messy drug we know can do damage.”

He warned that giving psychotherapists the authority to administer MDMA could trigger a wave of abuse similar to the opioid crisis.

Research into the effects of Ecstasy on the brain has shown that the drug causes the brain to release a flood of “feel-good” hormones and neurotransmitters that trigger feelings of trust, love, and well-being. MDMA has also been shown in studies to quash fear and negative emotional memories that can rob PTSD sufferers of a good quality of life. Patients say MDMA helped them view past traumas with greater clarity and address their problems.

Ann Mithoefer, Dr. Mithoefer’s wife and a psychiatric nurse, said:

“The medicine allows them to look at things from a different place and reclassify them. Honestly, we don’t have to do much. Each person has an innate ability to heal. We just create the right conditions.”

Those conditions include a comfy futon surrounded by candles, fresh flowers, and soothing music.

Could some PTSD suffers wind up hooked on Molly? Nothing is beyond the realm of possibility, but it seems like a small risk compared to the many stories from former firefighters and servicemen and servicewomen who lost their families, became heavily addicted to opiates, or nearly committed suicide, only to be saved by MDMA.

There are only 2 drugs on the market that are approved to treat PTSD, both of which barely worked better than the placebos in trials. The drugs did nothing for fireman Edward Thompson, who was deeply traumatized by repeatedly having to respond to gory accidents on the job. He turned to benzodiazepines, alcohol, and opioids to cope, but his symptoms only got worse. [3]

The New York Times – Edward Thompson

Thompson said he was in a constant state of panic that no amount of booze or drugs could numb. In 2015, after therapy failed, his wife took his children and left, and he was contemplating jumping in front of a bus. But it only took 3 sessions of MDMA and psychotherapy to help him gain clarity and work through his problems.

He said he has no plans to ever use the drug again. He got what he needed from it and won’t use it “for fun.”

“It gave me my life back, but it wasn’t a party drug. It was a lot of work.”

His wife came back with his kids and said that without MDMA therapy for her husband, “He’d be dead.” [2]


[1] The New York Times

[2] New York Post

[3] Gizmodo


PTSD Update

Originally Posted: http://naturalsociety.com/fda-approves-phase-3-clinical-trial-ecstasy-ptsd-sufferers-1938/


The Shocking Reason Many Teenage Girls Are Prescribed Antidepressants

birth controlA striking new study published in JAMA Psychiatry links hormonal contraceptives to depression, especially in teenage girls.

The findings aren’t surprising to many women.

A professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and lead supervisor of the study, Dr. Øjvind Lidegaard said:


“We have known for decades that women’s sex hormones estrogen and progesterone have an influence on many women’s mood. Therefore, it is not very surprising that also external artificial hormones acting in the same way and on the same centers as the natural hormones might also influence women’s mood or even be responsible for depression development.” [1]

Here Is What The Study Found

For the study, Lidegaard and his team tracked the health of more than 1 million Danish women between the ages of 15 and 34 over the course of 14 years, using data from the National Prescription Register and the Psychiatric Central Research Register in Denmark.

Women who were diagnosed with depression before age 15 were excluded from the study.

The researchers uncovered the following:

  • Women who used birth control pills with a combination of estrogen and progestin were 23% more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than non-users.
  • Women who took progestin-only oral contraceptives had a 34% greater likelihood of being prescribed antidepressants.
  • In women who used a contraceptive patch, antidepressant use doubled.
  • The likelihood of being prescribed antidepressants increased 60% for women who used vaginal rings.
  • Women implanted with hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs) had a 40% increased risk of being prescribed antidepressants.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation was that teens age 15 to 19 who took estrogen-progestin oral contraceptives were 80% more likely to be prescribed antidepressants.

Among women who did not use hormonal birth control, an average of 1.7 out of 100 began taking antidepressants in a given year. That rate increased to 2.2 out of 100 if the women took birth control.

While mood swings are often listed as a known side effect on the labels of contraceptives, Lidegaard’s study is the first to directly tie the products to clinical depression.

In the study, Lidegaard and his team theorized the difference in rates among women taking non-oral and oral contraceptives might be attributable to a difference in dose rather than how the contraceptives are administered.

They also noted that this association doesn’t imply that birth control alone causes depression. More research is needed to find out if there’s more to the story.

The team wrote:

“Adolescents seemed more vulnerable to this risk than women 20 to 34 years old. Further studies are warranted to examine depression as a potential adverse effect of hormonal contraceptive use.”



cause and effect

Some experts take exception to the notion that birth control causes depression. The study did not show that depression is a direct result of contraception. [2]

They’re not surprised, though – many experts have suspected a link between the 2 for years.

Chelsea Polis, a senior research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health, explained:

“This is really resonating with a lot of women.

Part of that has to do with women’s individual experiences. Women do feel that clinicians aren’t taking their concerns seriously sometimes. And part of this reaction is this scientific literacy gap.”

Remember this?

Among women who did not use hormonal birth control, an average of 1.7 out of 100 began taking antidepressants in a given year. That rate increased to 2.2 out of 100 if the women took birth control.

These numbers show that, yes, the risk is higher, but it’s a relatively small risk to begin with.

The rates are even closer for women being diagnosed with depression at a psychiatric hospital. According to the study, 0.3 out of every 100 birth control users were diagnosed with depression versus 0.28 percent of non-birth-control users.

This does not add up to very many more cases in the birth control group, critics of the study argue.

Keyes said:

“You can have something that is twice the risk, but it can be a very rare outcome.”


“This was a very well-conducted study. I think it’s an important piece of information. It lowers my confidence in my hypothesis, which is that hormonal contraception sort of regulates mood.”

Other Problems With Birth Control

birth control pill

Birth control has been linked to other serious health problems, as well. For example, combined estrogen-progestin birth control pills have long been tied to fatal blood clots.

Additionally, the permanent contraceptive device Essure, made by Bayer AG, has been blamed for injuring thousands of women.

Essure is inserted into a woman’s fallopian tubes, where it causes scar tissue to form and block a woman’s egg from becoming fertilized. Thousands of patients complained of adverse events, such as persistent pain, perforation of the uterus and/or fallopian tubes, internal abdominal bleeding, abnormal and irregular bleeding, and allergic or hypersensitivity reactions.

The device can also migrate outside of the fallopian tubes and become lodged in the uterus and other parts of the body.

In February 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed a “black box” warning on the Essure device’s packaging, but did not ban it, as many women had requested.


[1] CNN

[2] Today

Originally Published:  http://naturalsociety.com/hormonal-birth-control-linked-to-depression-in-new-study-5756/
Author: Julie Fidler

The Alcohol Industry Is Funding Anti-Marijuana Efforts

marijuana-plant-alcoholEarlier this month, I wrote about how Insys Therapeutics, a drug company that sells only fentanyl, a powerful and often deadly opioid, has been fighting marijuana legalization efforts in Arizona. Well, it’s not just the pharmaceutical industry that is bankrolling anti-marijuana campaigns; the alcohol industry is in on it, too.

Insys donated $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, an anti-legalization organization. As it turns out, the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association also gave $10,000 to the group.

However, Arizona isn’t the only state where the alcohol industry is trying to stop marijuana from becoming legalized. The Massachusetts-based Beer Distributors PAC contributed $25,000 to Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, another anti-legalization group. In fact, the PAC is one of the campaign’s top three donors, and represents 16 of the state’s beer distributors. [1]

On top of that, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also revealed that major alcohol companies have told their investors that marijuana legalization poses a “threat” to the industry.

One of those companies is the Brown-Forman Company, which makes Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Finlandia Vodka. CEO Paul Varga told investors he wasn’t “losing sleep over the legalization of marijuana. But I’m paying attention to it.”

The company warned in a 10-K filing that:

“[C]onsumer preferences and purchases may shift due to a host of factors, many of which are difficult to predict, including … the potential legalization of marijuana use on a more widespread basis within the United States, and changes in travel, leisure, dining, gifting, entertaining, and beverage consumption trends.” [2]

Another group, Boston Beer Company, the fine folks who make Sam Adams, are also concerned about marijuana legalization. In a 10-K filing of its own, the company told investors that laws allowing the “sale and distribution of marijuana” could “adversely impact the demand” for beer.

There are differing opinions on how decriminalization might impact the alcohol industry. According to Daniel Rees, a professor of economics at the University of Colorado, Denver, individuals will swap alcohol for marijuana when given the opportunity.

However, in Colorado, beer and alcohol sales have increased since cannabis was legalized in the state in 2012. [3]

Finally, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors donated $10,000 to the Public Safety First lobbying committee. Both the Sierra Nevada and Stone Brewing Company said they were against the group’s donation. [4]

How Ironic

Statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism show that approximately88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year, making alcohol the 4th leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

As of 2014, no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. Unless I missed it in the news, the number remains at 0.

And consider this: For years, marijuana was implicated as the gateway drug that led people to abuse harder substances, but not anymore. It was revealed in early 2016 that the first drug that the majority of high school seniors try is alcohol. And, as the Washington Post reported, alcohol is “also the first substance most commonly used in the progression of substance use.”

Source: The Washington Post


[1] The Influence

[2] The Intercept

[3] Business Insider

[4] Vinepair

The Washington Post

Originally Posted: http://naturalsociety.com/alcohol-industry-funding-anti-marijuana-efforts-4827/