Earlier this year, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) examination of death certificates in the U.S. showed a sharp rise in alcohol-related deaths between 1999 and 2017. Connecticut mirrored those numbers, and addiction organizations stepped up their efforts to reach those in need. Then came the pandemic. Treatment centers, support groups and the state were suddenly ordered to shut down. “We like to say the opposite of addiction is connection,” said Thomas Russo, spokesman for the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR).
After a white terrorist (can we just start calling these people what they are?) shot and killed at least 59 people and injured another 527 at an outdoor country music contest in Las Vegas this week, Nelba Márquez-Greene took to Twitter:
“Guess what folks? Gun violence and grief hurt in EVERY zip code. In every color. Grieving mothers need your help.”
Who can forget Márquez-Greene and her family? After her 6-year-old daughter Ana was shot and killed in the 2012 Newtown school massacre, Márquez-Greene and husband Jimmy Greene, the award-winning musician, have continually reminded this country that we can do more than offer thoughts-and-prayers over gun violence.
Connecticut’s shift next month from weekly to “real-time” reporting of prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances is an effective way to help stem opioid-related deaths, a new study suggests. Researchers from Vanderbilt University who analyzed states’ prescription drug monitoring programs – central databases that log controlled substances dispensed to patients — found that programs that were “updated with greater frequency” and that reported data for a broad range of drugs were associated with greater declines in opioid-related deaths. The study in the journal Health Affairs comes as Connecticut prepares to put a policy in place requiring that pharmacies report controlled substance (Schedule II to V) prescriptions “immediately,” or at least within 24 hours after they are dispensed, into the central database, known as the Connecticut Prescription Monitoring and Reporting System (CPMRS). The CPMRS, maintained by the Department of Consumer Protection, can be accessed by doctors and pharmacists to give them a complete picture of a patient’s medication use, including prescriptions by other providers. It also can be used by law enforcement officials to investigate physician prescribing.
More Connecticut doctors, therapists and psychologists are turning to the practice of mindfulness to help treat depression, anxiety, chronic pain and even addiction. The practice — which cultivates an awareness of the present moment and an acceptance of the feelings and emotions that come with it — has reached the mainstream and is being adopted by new fields. Veterans groups are using mindfulness and yoga as a healing tool. Teachers in some Connecticut elementary schools have incorporated it into their classrooms to help students focus. And universities are offering mindfulness training to help students deal with stress.
If you are a man and your ability to have sex is flagging, the market offers a host of prescription medications for treatment. If you are a woman and find yourself in a similar situation, you have no Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment available to you. Yet researchers say that up to a third of adult American women suffer from some kind of sexual dysfunction. One drug, flibanserin, was recently resubmitted for approval to the FDA, which has turned it down twice already. When that non-hormonal drug first entered the public consciousness, the press quickly labeled it “female Viagra,” but that’s not accurate.
Saying Connecticut has shouldered “more of the cuts than other states,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy has urged the head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to restore funding for cancer and other disease research at Yale University and other institutions. “This reduction in funding has had a profound effect at one of the nation’s premiere institutions at a time when researchers are on the cusp of major advances,” Murphy wrote in a Jan. 21 letter to Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director. Murphy’s letter was prompted by an October C-HIT story that found that Connecticut’s share of funding from the National Cancer Institute had dropped 19 percent since 2010 – a steeper decline than many other states. Federal cancer institute funding to Connecticut fell to $33.4 million in 2014 – down from $41.1 million in 2010.
Connecticut’s share of funding from the National Cancer Institute has dropped 19 percent since 2010 – a steeper decline than many other states, an analysis of National Institutes of Health (NIH) data show. Federal cancer institute funding to Connecticut fell to $33.4 million in 2014 – down from $41.1 million in 2010. The biggest grantee, Yale University, is receiving $7 million less from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), one of the NIH’s most prominent centers. Overall, NIH research grants to Connecticut fell to $461.3 million – down from $484.4 million in 2010, NIH reports show. Most of that decline was in research awards to Yale, which dropped $25 million.
Dr. Erin Hofstatter, a young research scientist and breast cancer specialist at Yale’s Smilow Cancer Hospital, often prescribes tamoxifen, raloxifene and similar drugs to her patients. The drugs “reduce your risk (of cancer recurring) by half … but they come with baggage,” she tells her patients, “hot flashes, night sweats, leg cramps, small risk of uterine cancer, small risk of blood clots, small risk of stroke, you have to get your liver tested.”
Hofstatter’s unease with standard treatments for breast cancer has spurred her to seek alternative, safer ways to treat breast cancer. To this end, she has begun a study of black cohosh, in the pill form of an herb from the buttercup family, used for thousands of years by Native Americans to treat menopausal symptoms.
“There’s data to suggest that [black cohosh] is protective,” she said, “both in breast cancer survivors and potentially preventive in women who’ve never had breast cancer, based on a few large observational trials.”
Just as practices like acupuncture and meditation – once considered, at best, nontraditional are now widely used to help patients cope with the side-effects of cancer treatments and other illnesses, natural products – foods (blueberries, walnuts, soy), herbs like black cohosh and plant-based anti-oxidants like capsaicin (which makes hot peppers hot) have become accepted subjects for research. But far from simply embracing these practices or foods, scientists now apply rigorous scientific methods to what are considered non-traditional medications to determine just how effective – or ineffective — they are. A similar scientific focus is being directed at exercise, diet, and meditation.
A move by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to eliminate a gender bias in basic research will lead to improvements in medical care for both men and women, says the director of Women’s Health Research at Yale. “The NIH plan to change the longstanding, inadequate representation of females in animal models and laboratory research with cell lines is essential to gaining an understanding of gender differences in human health and disease,” Carolyn M. Mazure, director of Yale’s center on women’s health, said in response to changes announced this week by the NIH. “Gender differences affect risk, onset, prevalence and/or response to treatment in numerous important areas, including cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, substance abuse and a host of other health conditions,” she said. Mazure was reacting to an NIH announcement this week that it is developing policies to require all medical researchers that it funds to use a balance of male and female cells and animals for all future preclinical research. The NIH already has pushed researchers to include adequate numbers of women in clinical trials.