In the News 2023 - Sandweg & Ager PC

In the News 2023


Here we address interesting and important issues affecting the delivery of medical care and related topics from 2023.

We cover additional, related issues and discuss them in more depth on our blog.

In The News: 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

February 3, 2023

Another story of greedy doctors and opiod pill mills.  Two brothers in Florida set up pill mills and hired doctors to prescribe pills to their “patients.”  The doctors were paid by the number of “patients” they saw and the ones who prescribed the most pills received bonuses.  Lots of lives ruined.  Many lives lost.  When the operation came crashing down, thirteen doctors were charged with various racketeering counts.  All but two ended up pleading guilty to lesser charges of money laundering and fraud.  Hopefully, they all lost their licenses, but don’t count on it.

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February 2, 2023

Machine learning is coming.  Machine learning is coming – and that may not be a bad thing.  Researchers have given computers thousands and thousands of x-ray images of patients with and without lung cancer to study.  Lung cancer is deadly and the earlier it can be recognized and treatment begun, the better the patient’s chances for long-term survival.  Lung cancer on chest x-rays is often difficult for human radiologists to recognize, especially when it is early in the process and the signs of lung cancer are so subtle.  Enter the computers.  After studying all these images, the computers were able to go back and look at early chest x-rays of lung cancer patients and identify the presence of the cancer as much as 6 years before the human radiologists were.  Lots of work yet to do but this development is encouraging.

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January 31, 2023

You are what you eat.  It seems as though every day there are more research findings to support that old adage.  Today’s news reports on the ever stronger links between the health of our gut biomes and our mental health, particularly depression.  The researchers have found that people with depression do not have the same levels of some healthy gut bacteria and, at the same time, have higher levels of some other bacteria, which may be associated with depression.  Our gut biomes are driven by what we eat.  Lots of fruits, nuts and fiber is good for our biomes.  Lots of processed foods is not.  Take note.

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January 30, 2023

As part of the infrastructure bill, Congress finally gave Medicare the power to negotiate prices on the most expensive drugs.  The change was long overdue.  Even now it is only baby steps.  Medicare cannot begin to negotiate until 2026 and then only on prices for the ten most expensive drugs.  Fifteen more drugs will be added to the list of drugs eligible for negotiation in 2027, fifteen more in 2028 and 20 more in every year after that.  It is expected that this power will save the taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year.  It will also provide substantial savings to seniors who have to pay drug co-pays or deductibles.  Keep an eye out for drug companies, which will continue to lobby heavily to overturn or blunt this grant of authority.

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January 27, 2023

A large Chinese study published in the BMJ and reported in the Washington Post makes some not-so-surprising findings about how to avoid dementia and slow memory decline.  According to the researchers, there were six things you could and should do:  1) Eat a balanced diet; 2) Exercise your body; 3) Exercise your mind; 4) Socialize with others; 5) Don’t drink alcohol; and 6) Don’t smoke.  Nothing new here but getting people to follow this advice is not easy.  The high levels of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, dementia and early death in this country show that, while we know how to slow or stop these things, we have a long way to go to actually make it happen.

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January 26, 2023

Here is a research finding that should not be that surprising, I guess.  Japanese researchers studied 4,400 older adults for over four years to determine the extent to which exercise produced cognitive benefits.  It was not clear from the summary I read the ages of the participants.  In any event, those subjects who exercised at least twice a week reduced their risk of developing impaired thinking or a decrease in learning skills by more than 15%.  Knowing that socializing also had a beneficial effect on brain health, the researchers examined its effects with the same group and found that those who exercised at least twice a week with a partner or in a group almost doubled the benefit to a 29% risk reduction.  The moral of the story is to get up off that couch and get moving and, when you do, call a friend to go with you.

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January 17, 2023

With the increasing legal availability of marijuana has come its increasing use by seniors to deal with pain, insomnia, anxiety, the effects of chemotherapy, and other issues.  Some seniors used marijuana in their younger days and believe they are familiar with it as a result.  Professional tip:  This is not the same marijuana they used back in the day.  Today’s weed is more potent than the weed they bought back in the 60’s or 70’s.  Furthermore, their bodies cannot handle the active ingredients in marijuana they way they could when they were in their 20’s.  As a result, doctors are seeing more patients over 65 in the emergency department after ingesting marijuana either the traditional way by smoking it or by eating it.  Since 2005, emergency department visits by seniors have increased by over 1,800%.  If you are going to use marijuana and you are a senior, be careful.

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January 16, 2023

We are making progress in the battle against cancer.  According to the American Cancer Society, the rate of cancer deaths has dropped by 33% since peak cancer deaths in 1991.  Among the reasons cited for the improvement is a 65% drop in the rate of cervical cancer in young women who were vaccinated against HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer.  Other factors identified as leading to the improvement were early screening, better treatment and a drop in the rate of smoking.

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January 13, 2023

The State of California is going after the big drug companies over the outrageous price of insulin.  Over the last ten years, the price of insulin, a necessary, life-saving drug for Type 1 diabetics, has gone up dramatically for no apparent reason.  It is a huge moneymaker for the big three drug companies that sell most of the insulin in this country.  Recently, Congress passed and the President signed legislation that will begin to force the companies to reduce the price, but that is not immediate.  This suit by the California may not only force the companies to reduce prices, but may also force them to disgorge some of their past profits.

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January 9, 2023

Like many of you, I saw Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapse on the field following a cardiac arrest.  The cause was thought to be a condition called commotio cordis, in which the heart stops beating normally when struck at a vulnerable moment during the heartbeat cycle.  I had never heard of this condition before, but have since learned it is not that uncommon in certain sports, such as hockey, baseball and lacrosse.  It has led to a number of deaths on the field of play.  It most often happens to young teen males and young men whose musculature over the heart is not fully developed.  Organizations in charge of these sports have addressed the issue with changes in style of play and development of better protective equipment to prevent blows to this specific area.  They have also attempted to develop a greater awareness of the condition, called for the presence of defibrillators on the sideline and more CPR training for coaches and officials.  With a prompt CPR response and the prompt use of a defibrillator to return the heart to its normal rhythm, most athletes experiencing this event can survive with little, if any, impairment.

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January 5, 2023

More news on the exercise front.  If you have a sedentary job that involves sitting for most of the day, that stretch of relative inactivity during the work day can undo the effects of a daily exercise program.  Here is a quote from a longer article that appeared today in the Washington Post.

“New research shows exercise ‘snacks,’ which consist of brief spurts of exertion spread throughout the day, can improve metabolic health, raise endurance and stave off some of the undesirable changes in our muscles that otherwise occur when we sit too long.”

Just because you have a daily exercise routine, don’t get complacent and think that you have accounted for sitting for long periods while at your day job.  Get up and move around there too.

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