Top news of the day from across the healthcare landscape.
The FDA issued its strongest warning labels on taking opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines prescribed for anxiety, insomnia, and seizures together, reported The New York Times. Although these classes of drugs already carry cautions against combining these medications, the agency made those warnings exceedingly tougher to try and help reduce deaths from drug overdoses. From 2002 to 2014 the amount of patients who are prescribed both drugs grew by 41%, approximately 2.5 million people, according to the article. Furthermore, after the FDA reviewed emergency room data in the United States, they found that the overdose death rate that involved both drugs tripled from 2004 to 2011, and about one-third of opioid overdose deaths in 2011 involved benzodiazepine, reported the Times. The combination of these drugs can result in extreme sleepiness, coma, and death.
Following the recent Zika virus outbreaks in 7 countries, new analysis also found a sharp increase in the amount of individuals with a form of temporary paralysis. According to The New York Times, the analysis contributes substantial evidence that Zika infections may bring on paralysis called Guillain-Barré syndrome. Researchers studying the epidemic in French Polynesia estimate that around 1 in 4000 people with Zika could develop the syndrome. New data findings have shown that there were unusual increases in the syndrome that coincided with peaks in the Zika virus, showing an association between them. Overall, the results of the study showed that the increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome was 2 to 10 times the normal expectations, and since about 500 million people in the Caribbean and Latin America are at risk of the virus, even the most modest increases in the incidence of this syndrome is a cause for concern, according to the article.
The experimental Alzheimer’s disease drug aducanumab dramatically reduced toxic plaques in the brain, and shows signs of potentially slowing down memory loss. According to NPR, research hints at additional areas where the drug may succeed where other therapies have not. Aducanumab appears to ignore benign forms of amyloid protein, while attacking the toxic forms believed to cause damage to brain cells. The drug also seems to enhance the ability of existing immune cells in the brain to devour toxins, which includes amyloid, reported NPR. However, removing plaque does come with a downside, since it can cause fluid buildup in the brain and, in rare cases, bleeding.