Analyzing Street Drugs Can Provide Early Warning of Potential For Fatal Overdoses

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“MEXICO-DRUGS/” by Claudio Toledo is licensed under CC BY 2.0Kathleen Creppage, M.P.H., C.P.H.
Doctoral candidate Graduate School of Public Health
University of Pittsburgh

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In the U.S., fatal heroin overdoses have increased in the past decade by 300 percent, with fentanyl – a substance that is 20 to 50 times more potent than heroin – and its analogs increasingly contributing to overdoses. The drug often is implicated in clusters of overdose deaths when it is mixed with heroin and users do not realize what they are taking is more powerful than usual.

We analyzed the test results of 16,594 stamp bags seized as evidence by law enforcement authorities in Allegheny County that were submitted to the county’s Office of the Medical Examiner for laboratory testing from 2010 through 2016. Stamp bags are small wax packets that contain mixtures of illicit drugs, most commonly heroin, packaged for sale and sometimes stamped with a graphical logo by drug dealers to market their contents.

Before 2014, none of the tested bags contained fentanyl. By 2016 it was found in 15.5 percent of the tested stamp bags, with 4.1 percent containing fentanyl as the only controlled substance present.

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Children with ADHD Found To Abuse Drugs and Alcohol At Early Age

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Brooke S. G. S Molina, PhD Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology and Pediatrics University of Pittsburgh 

Dr. Molina

Brooke S. G. S Molina, PhD
Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology and Pediatrics
University of Pittsburgh 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: There has been inconsistency across previous studies of children with ADHD and their risk of substance use in adolescence and in adulthood. This study closely examined substance use by children with and without ADHD over a long period of time, considering that experimenting with some substances, such as alcohol and cigarettes, is typical after teens reach high-school age.

This study found that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) engaged in substance use at a younger age than those without ADHD and had a significantly higher prevalence of regular marijuana and cigarette use into adulthood.

We also found that children diagnosed with ADHD had a faster progression of substance use during childhood and adolescence.

We confirmed a finding for the ADHD group that is widely replicated in the general population – that early substance use strongly predicts adult substance use.  However, more of the children with ADHD were found to be early substance users, such as having a drink of alcohol before the age of 15.

We did not find higher rates of binge alcohol consumption among young adults with ADHD.  However, alcohol use is still an important part of the bigger picture.

The amount of alcohol consumption was self-reported in a questionnaire where the average age of all participants was 25. Binge drinking is very common in early adulthood, but given our findings of children with ADHD starting to drink at younger ages, it’s important to continue this research so we know how many young drinkers with ADHD continue to have serious, chronic problems with drinking as they age.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: It’s very important to understand from our findings that substance abuse begins at a young age – often before high school.  Parents and providers need to understand this and continually assess risk.

We are concerned about the long-term consequences of these substance use patterns.  We do not know how many of these individuals will experience painful and expensive middle age outcomes of chronic substance abuse and associated problems such as divorce, employment problems, injuries, poor health and shortened life expectancy.  Some will be resilient and decrease their substance use.  We need to learn what predicts these outcomes. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: The marijuana use finding is also concerning given the increasing availability of cannabis in the United States and the risk and consequences for children with ADHD needs further study. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: These results suggest a crucial need for routine clinical practice to include early screening and interventions to prevent early substance use, including cigarette smoking, among children with ADHD.

Many children with ADHD end up being cared for in primary care settings, so pediatricians are the front-line treatment care providers and conversations about substance use need to begin early. When children with ADHD are being treated, we need to start monitoring their potential risk for substance use at a young age, and not only treating with medication, but considering the range of factors that increase their risk for becoming dependent on nicotine and for developing substance use disorders. 

Citations:

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2018 Jan 8. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12855. [Epub ahead of print]

Substance use through adolescence into early adulthood after childhood-diagnosed ADHD: findings from the MTA longitudinal study.

Molina BSG1, Howard AL2, Swanson JM3, Stehli A3, Mitchell JT4, Kennedy TM5, Epstein JN6, Arnold LE7, Hechtman L8, Vitiello B9, Hoza B10. 

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Viral Vector Delivered Gene Therapy That Reversed Diabetes in Mice

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Xiangwei Xiao, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Department of Surgery,
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine,
Pittsburgh, PA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Diabetes is a prevalent chronic disease characterized by persistently high blood glucose. Diabetes has two main subtypes, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, resulting in high blood levels of glucose. In type 2 diabetes, the beta cells do not produce enough insulin or the body is not able to use insulin effectively.

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Medicaid Patients Who Overdose Likely To Get More Opioids

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Julie M. Donohue, Ph.D. Associate professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and  Management and Director of the Medicaid Research Center Pitt’s Health Policy Institute University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Donohue

Julie M. Donohue, Ph.D.
Associate professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and
Management and Director of the Medicaid Research Center
Pitt’s Health Policy Institute
University of Pittsburgh 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Medicaid enrollees have three times higher risk of opioid overdose than non-enrollees, and for every fatal opioid overdose, there are about 30 nonfatal overdoses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). My colleagues and I analyzed claims data from 2008 to 2013 for all Pennsylvania Medicaid enrollees aged 12 to 64 years with a medical record of a heroin or prescription opioid overdose and who had six months of continuous enrollment in Medicaid before and after the overdose claim. The 6,013 patients identified were divided into two groups—3,945 who overdosed on prescription opioids and 2,068 who overdosed on heroin, all of whom received treatment for overdose in a hospital or emergency department setting.

We found that Pennsylvania Medicaid recipients who suffer an opioid or heroin overdose continue to be prescribed opioids at high rates, with little change in their use of medication-assisted treatment programs after the overdose. Opioid prescriptions were filled after overdose by 39.7 percent of the patients who overdosed on heroin, a decrease of 3.5 percentage points from before the overdose; and by 59.6 percent of the patients who overdosed on prescription opioids, a decrease of 6.5 percentage points.

Medication-assisted treatment includes coupling prescriptions for buprenorphine, methadone or naltrexone—medications that can reduce opioid cravings—with behavioral therapy in an effort to treat the opioid use disorder. Our team found that such treatment increased modestly among the patients using heroin by 3.6 percentage points to 33 percent after the overdose, and by 1.6 percentage points to 15.1 percent for the prescription opioid overdose patients.

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Even After Rebates, Use of PCSK9 Inhibitor Would Still Cost Over $5 Million To Prevent One Stroke

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Inmaculada Hernandez, PharmD, PhD Assistant Professor of Pharmacy and Therapeutics University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy Pittsburgh, PA 1526

Dr. Hernandez

Inmaculada Hernandez, PharmD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Pharmacy and Therapeutics
University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy
Pittsburgh, PA 1526

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: A few months ago, the results of the FOURIER trial were published. This trial was the first one to evaluate the efficacy of PCSK9 inhibitors in the prevention of cardiovascular events, since the approval of these agents was based on trials that evaluated their efficacy in reducing levels of LDL-C. The results of the FOURIER trial did not meet the expectations generated by prior studies that had simulated how much the risk of cardiovascular events should decrease based on the observed reduction in LDL-C levels. A few hours after the publication of the results of the FOURIER trial, Amgen (evolocumab´s manufacturer) announced that it would be willing to engage in contracts where the cost of evolocumab would be refunded for those patients who suffer a heart attack or a stroke while using the drug.

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Cardiovascular Fat in Women at Midlife Varies By Race and Body Shape

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Samar R. El Khoudary, PhD, MPH, BPharm, FAHA Associate Professor, Epidemiology PITT Public Health Epidemiology Data Center University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA 15260 

Dr. El Khoudary

Samar REl KhoudaryPhDMPH, BPharm, FAHA
Associate Professor, Epidemiology
PITT Public Health
Epidemiology Data Center
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA 15260  

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Heart fat is associated with greater coronary heart disease risk. Postmenopausal women have greater heart fat volumes than premenopausal women, and the association between specific heart fat depots and calcification in the coronary arteries is more pronounced after menopause. Race, central adiposity, and visceral adiposity are important factors that could impact heart fat volumes.

We evaluated whether racial differences in heart fat volumes and in their associations with central (abdominal visceral fat) and general adiposity (as measured by body mass index [BMI]) exist in midlife women. Our study included 524 women from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) (mean age: 51 years; 62% White and 38% Black) who had data on heart fat volumes, abdominal visceral fat and BMI.

After accounting for the potential health effects of lifestyle and socioeconomic factors we found that midlife Black women had less heart fat volumes than white women and not surprisingly, the more fat a women carries overall, the higher her risk for a fatty heart. However, white women with higher BMI had significantly more heart fat, as measured by a CT scan, than black women with the same BMI. For black women, the levels of heart fat were greater if they carried more fat in their midsection, as measured by a cross-sectional CT scan, compared with white women with the same volume of fat in their midsection. The results echo the findings we have reported previously in midlife men and published at the International Journal of Obesity (2015) 39, 488–494.
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Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners Are Increasingly Providing Specialty Care

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Kristin Ray, MD, MS</strong> Assistant Professor Health Policy Institute University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Dr. Ray

Kristin Ray, MD, MS
Assistant Professor
Health Policy Institute
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We were interested in understanding how nurse practitioners and physician assistants are working with specialist physicians to provide specialty care. Much has been described and studied about nurse practitioners and physician assistants providing primary care, but the literature about their role in specialty care is more sparse. There have been many concerns over time about the supply of specialist physicians, heightening our interest in the role of nurse practitioners and physician assistants in working with specialist physicians.

We focused on examining whether care to physician specialist’s patients by nurse practitioners and physician assistants has increased over time as well as examining characteristics of patients seen by nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

We found that visits with NPs and PAs for specialty care have increased over time, but remains a small fraction of specialty care overall.

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Rory’s Regulations: Faster Is Better When It Comes To Sepsis Care

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Christopher W. Seymour, M.D., M.Sc. Assistant professor of Critical Care Medicine and Emergency Medicine, and member of Clinical Research Investigation and Systems Modeling of Acute Illness University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Seymour

Christopher W. Seymour, M.D., M.Sc.
Assistant professor of Critical Care Medicine and Emergency Medicine, and member of Clinical Research Investigation and Systems Modeling of Acute Illness
University of Pittsburgh

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Following the tragic and widely publicized death of Rory Staunton, 12, from undiagnosed sepsis in 2012, New York became the first state to require that hospitals follow a protocol to quickly identify and treat the condition. The mandate led to widespread controversy in the medical community as to whether such steps would have saved Rory or anyone else’s life.

Rory’s Regulations require hospitals to follow protocols for early identification and treatment of sepsis, and submit data on compliance and outcomes. The hospitals can tailor how they implement the protocols, but must include a blood culture to test for infection, measurement of blood lactate (a sign of tissue stress) and administration of antibiotics within three hours of diagnosis—collectively known as the “three-hour bundle.”

We analyzed data from nearly 50,000 patients from 149 New York hospitals to scientifically determine if  Rory’s Regulations worked. We found that they did – 83 percent of the hospitals completed the bundle within the required three hours, overall averaging 1.3 hours for completion. For every hour that it took clinicians to complete the bundle, the odds of the patient dying increased by 4 percent.

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Paracardial Fat Linked To Postmenopausal Coronary Artery Calcification

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Samar R. El Khoudary, Ph.D., M.P.H. Assistant professor Department of Epidemiology University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

Dr. El Khoudary,

Samar R. El Khoudary, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Assistant professor
Department of Epidemiology
University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Our study revealed a previously unknown, menopause-specific indicator of heart disease risk. For the first time, we’ve pinpointed the type of heart fat, linked it to a risk factor for heart disease and shown that menopausal status and estrogen levels are critical modifying factors of its associated risk in women.

My team evaluated clinical data, including blood samples and heart CT scans, on 478 women from Pittsburgh and Chicago enrolled in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). The women were in varying stages of menopause, averaged 51 years old and were not on hormone replacement therapy.

In a previous study, we showed that a greater volume of paracardial fat, but not epicardial fat, after menopause is associated with a decline in the sex hormone estradiol—the most potent estrogen—in women. The higher volume of epicardial fat was tied to other risk factors, such as obesity.

In the new study, we built on those findings to discover that not only is a greater paracardial fat volume specific to menopause, but—in postmenopausal women and women with lower levels of estradiol—it’s also associated with a greater risk of coronary artery calcification, an early sign of heart disease that is measured with a heart CT scan.

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Poor Kids More Likely To Have More Than One Chronic Health Condition

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Christian D. Pulcini, MD, MEd, MPH Pediatric Resident, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Chair, Section on Pediatric Trainees (SOPT) American Academy of Pediatrics

Dr. Christian Pulcini

Christian D. Pulcini, MD, MEd, MPH
Pediatric Resident
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
Chair, Section on Pediatric Trainees (SOPT)
American Academy of Pediatrics

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Poverty influences the well-being of children and adolescents in a negative way. Poor children are often exposed to toxic health stressors, including violence, environmental toxins, and inadequate nutrition. Children in poverty with chronic health conditions also are more likely to have higher rates of secondary disorders and worse outcomes. We studied children with asthma, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), to describe the how much disease and if the children had multiple (comorbid) conditons and how these vary by poverty status.

Parents reported through the National Survey of Children’s Health that asthma and ADHD rose 18% and 44% from 2003-2011/2012, respectively, whereas the lifetime prevalence of ASD rose 32% from 2007-2011/2012 in all income levels. For asthma, the rise was most among the poor at 25.8%. For ADHD, the percent change among the poor was similar, however the rise in autism spectrum disorder was associated with being non-poor. Publicly insured children with asthma, ADHD, and ASD also had a significant higher chance (1.9×, 1.6×, 3.0×, respectively) of having higher more than one chronic condition. In addition, kids who were poor with asthma and ADHD.
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