Ulcerative colitis: Does drinking alcohol make it worse?

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that can cause the lining of the large intestine and rectum to become inflamed. There may be a connection between the condition and alcohol, which also affects the gut.

Some studies have appeared to show both harmful and beneficial effects of alcoholic drinks in someone who has ulcerative colitis (UC). However, newer studies mainly illustrate the detrimental effects of alcohol.

The recommendation is to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages, as a general rule. Alcohol irritates the digestive tract in similar ways to UC, and combining the two may make symptoms worse.

While some people with UC may be able to consume alcohol, others should avoid it altogether.

Full story at Medical News Today

Legal marijuana reduces chronic pain, but increases injuries and car accidents

The legalization of recreational marijuana is associated with an increase in its abuse, injury due to overdoses, and car accidents, but does not significantly change health care use overall, according to a study by researchers at UC San Francisco.

In a review of more than 28 million hospital records from the two years before and after cannabis was legalized in Colorado, UCSF researchers found that Colorado hospital admissions for cannabis abuse increased after legalization, in comparison to other states. But taking the totality of all hospital admissions and time spent in hospitals into account, there was not an appreciable increase after recreational cannabis was legalized.

The study, appearing online May 15, 2019, in BMJ Open, also found fewer diagnoses of chronic pain after legalization, consistent with a 2017 National Academy of Sciences report that concluded substantial evidence exists that cannabis can reduce chronic pain.

Full story at Science Daily

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

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