Week in Review: March 31

The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories news, and upcoming events.


Industry News

Heroin Use Is Spiking among White Americans

The U.S. is in the throes of an opioid epidemic, with 91 people dying every day from an overdose on opioids like prescription painkillers or heroin. A new study reports that heroin use across the country has increased substantially since 2001, and the largest spikes have been among white Americans. Prescription painkiller abuse may be playing a role in heroin's growing popularity. In the report, researchers looked at national surveys taken from 2001–2002 and 2012–2013 and found that heroin use increased five-fold during that time. The number of people with a heroin use disorder tripled. They also found that the use of heroin among white Americans increased from 0.34% in the earlier years to 1.90% in the later years. It increased among non-whites, too, but to a lesser extent: 0.32% in 2001–2002 and 1.05% in 2012–2013. (The researchers say the real numbers may not be exact, since the surveys did not include people who are homeless or incarcerated.) Via TIME.

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FDA Approves New Drug to Treat Multiple Sclerosis

On March 28, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) to treat adult patients with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS). This is the first drug approved by the FDA for PPMS. Ocrevus is an intravenous infusion given by a health care professional. “Multiple sclerosis can have a profound impact on a person’s life,” said Billy Dunn, M.D., director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “This therapy not only provides another treatment option for those with relapsing MS, but for the first time provides an approved therapy for those with primary progressive MS.” Via FDA.gov.

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Addiction Specialists Ponder a Potential Aid: Pot

In almost any other rehab setting in the country, smoking pot would be a major infraction and a likely cause for being booted out. But here at High Sobriety—the clinic with a name that sounds like the title of a Cheech and Chong comeback movie—it is not just permitted but part of the treatment. The new clinic is experimenting with a concept made possible by the growing legalization of marijuana: that pot, rather than being a gateway into drugs, could be a gateway out. A small but growing number of pain doctors and addiction specialists are overseeing the use of marijuana as a substitute for more potent and dangerous drugs. Via NY Times.

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Breast-Fed Kids May Be Less Hyper, but Not Necessarily Smarter, Study Finds

Breast-feeding has many known health benefits, but there's still debate about how it may influence kids' behavior and intelligence. Now, a new study published in Pediatrics finds that children who are breast-fed for at least six months as babies have less hyperactive behavior by age 3 compared with kids who weren't breast-fed. But the study also finds that breast-feeding doesn't necessarily lead to a cognitive boost. Via NPR.

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Scientists Convert Spinach Leaves into Human Heart Tissue—That Beats

If an overhyped vegetable existed before marketers coined the term superfood—and long before Oprah Winfrey chatted up acai berries with Dr. Oz—look no further than spinach. (Here’s to Popeye, eating the stuff by the can to inflate his biceps.) Spinach alone, of course, won’t pump anyone up. But it does have a few physical properties of the type that excite biomedical engineers. Spinach grows a network of veins, for instance, that thread through its leaves in a way similar to blood vessels through a human heart. Via Washington Post.

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Mayo Clinic News

How to Safely Remove Ticks from Skin

Some have grown up learning that the best way to remove a tick found on one’s skin is with matches, nail polish, or tape. But in fact the only tool needed to safely remove a tick is a clean pair of fine-tip tweezers. If you find a tick on your skin, it is first important not to panic, according to Dr. Bobbi Pritt, Director of the Clinical Parasitology Laboratory at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “You want to grasp the tick as close as you can to the skin and then pull it out in a single, continuous motion,” said Dr. Pritt. Via AccuWeather.com.

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Universal Celiac Testing Lacks Evidence

In an editorial, Rok Seon Choung, M.D., Ph.D., and Joseph Murray, M.D., from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, agree there is a lack of evidence supporting universal testing for celiac disease in people without symptoms. "Recognizing that most celiac disease is undetected and may present with diverse symptoms, it is reasonable that clinicians should have a low threshold for testing for celiac disease, especially in high-risk populations such as those with an affected family member or type 1 diabetes mellitus," they add. Via Reuters.

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Gastric Acid Suppressants Increase Risk for Recurrent C. difficile

“In our study, we found that use of gastric acid suppression medications are associated with a statistically significant increased risk of development of recurrent CDI in patients with a prior episode of CDI,” Sahil Khanna, M.B.B.S., coauthor of the study from Mayo Clinic, said in a press release. While patients with gastric acid suppression may be at an increased risk for CDI recurrence, he emphasized that these data should be interpreted with caution because of factors that were not considered in the analysis, including why gastric suppression was needed. “It may be reasonable to reevaluate the need for these medications in patients with CDI,” Dr. Khanna concluded. Via Healio.

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After Raising Nearly $300M in Private Funds, Mayo Clinic to Begin Receiving Public Money for Destination Medical Center

Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic's plan to expand its campus and enhance its standing as a world-class destination medical center is gaining momentum. The state legislature pledged public dollars to support the DMC project in 2013 with the stipulation that the clinic had to first raise its own money. With $297.7 million in private investment, Mayo Clinic will begin receiving public funds this fall, according to the Star Tribune. Of the total private funds raised, about $145.3 million were made last year alone, with much of it from Mayo Clinic. Via Becker's Hospital Review.

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Mayo Clinic Researchers Identify Interaction among Proteins That Cause Cancer Cells to Metastasize

Researchers at Mayo Clinic have identified an interaction among proteins that allows cancer cells to grow and metastasize. They say the discovery may play a role in developing a better understanding of how tumors grow in a variety of malignancies, including breast, prostate, pancreatic, colon, lung, and skin cancers. Their work is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Via Mayo Clinic News Network.

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Gina Chiri-Osmond

Gina Chiri-Osmond is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She manages public relations and media outreach. Gina has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2011. Outside of work, Gina is going for gold in volleyball at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo . . . or at small-town summer festivals.