Featured Commentary: The Opioid Epidemic’s Untold Story

Last year, more Americans died of opioid overdoses than of many cancers, gunshot wounds, or even car crashes. In fact, by at least one metric, the epidemic is more dire for Americans than was the Vietnam War: while an average of 11 Americans died per day during the 14 years the U.S. was involved in Vietnam, nearly 120 Americans died per day of opioid overdoses in 2018 alone.

As families write obituaries, death notices are printed, and flowers are delivered to grieving loved ones, an important part of the story has gone largely untold. At some point, if they survive, most opioid abusers end up in court. Perhaps they have been arrested for stealing to feed their habits or perhaps an agency has deemed them unfit parents. Whatever the reason, one fact remains: the state court justice system is now the primary referral source for addiction treatment in the country.

Full story at drugfree.org

Michael Pollan: Not So Fast on Psychedelic Mushrooms

Only a few days ago, millions of American probably had never heard of psilocybin, the active agent in psychedelic mushrooms, but thanks to Denver, it is about to get its moment in the political sun. On Tuesday, the city’s voters surprised everyone by narrowly approving a ballot initiative that effectively decriminalizes psilocybin, making its possession, use or personal cultivation a low-priority crime.

The move is largely symbolic — only 11 psilocybin cases have been prosecuted in Denver in the last three years, and state and federal police may still make arrests — but it is not without significance. Psilocybin decriminalization will be on the ballot in Oregon in 2020 and a petition drive is underway in California to put it on the ballot there. For the first time since psychedelics were broadly banned under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, we’re about to have a national debate about the place of psilocybin in our society. Debate is always a good thing, but I worry that we’re not quite ready for this one.

Full story at The New York Times

Is it safe to drink alcohol while taking prednisone?

Prednisone is a synthetic form of adrenocortical steroid that doctors can prescribe to treat several different conditions.

Prednisone can help balance hormones in people whose adrenal glands do not produce enough corticosteroids.

It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and can help treat diseases that cause inflammation, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis. Prednisone can also alter the function of the immune system.

Whether they are taking a short course of the medication or need to use it long-term, people often wonder if they can drink alcohol while taking prednisone.

Full story at Medical News Today

What is dermatophagia?

Dermatophagia is a psychological condition in which a person compulsively bites, chews, gnaws, or eats their skin. It often affects the skin around people’s fingers.

Dermatophagia is an emerging concept in mental health research. For this reason, there have been few studies into precisely what it is and how it differs from other conditions.

According to the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, mental health specialists sometimes classify dermatophagia as an “obsessive-compulsive and related disorder.”

Full story at Medical News Today

External reference drug pricing could save medicare tens of billions

A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that prices for brand-name prescription drugs averaged 3.2 to 4.1 times higher in the U.S. when compared with prices in the United Kingdom, Japan and the Canadian province of Ontario. The study also found that the longer the brand-name prescription drug was on the market, the greater the price differential.

If the Medicare program used the same prices as these other countries, the estimated savings to Medicare Part D would have been almost $73 billion in 2018 alone, the study found. Medicare Part D is an optional prescription drug benefit, available to Medicare beneficiaries for a premium and administered by private insurance companies.

The findings will be published in the May issue of Health Affairs.

U.S. prescription drug prices for brand-name drugs are the highest in the world. One approach to lower U.S. prescription drug prices is to benchmark drug prices to those paid in other countries using a pricing model known as external reference pricing. An estimated 29 European countries as well as Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and South Africa use this approach for the purposes of setting and negotiating the price of a drug.

Full story at Science Daily