<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Health News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/health http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Sun, 05 Jul 2015 16:34:58 -0700 Sun, 05 Jul 2015 16:34:58 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Sugary Drinks May Kill 184,000 People Each Year: Study]]> Tue, 30 Jun 2015 11:11:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/soda+fountain.jpg

Consumption of soda, energy beverages, and other sugary drinks may be linked to 184,000 adult deaths each year worldwide, according to research published Tuesday in the journal Circulation.

“Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages," said study coauthor Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University. "It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet."

The researchers looked at 62 dietary surveys conducted across 51 countries, along with data on national availability of sugar in 187 countries as well as other information. The surveys included data collected from 611,971 individuals between 1980 and 2010.

In the report, sugar sweetened beverages were defined as any sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks, sweetened iced teas, or homemade sugary drinks such as frescas, that contained at least 50 kcal per 8oz serving. Drinks that were 100 percent fruit juice was excluded.

According to the report, the researchers estimated that in 2010 sugary drinks may have been responsible for 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease, and 6, 450 deaths from cancer.

Researchers found the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages varied widely between populations. In Japan, an estimated percentage of deaths linked to such beverages was less than 1 percent in people over 65 years old, but it stood at 30 percent in Mexican adults younger than 45.

Mexico had the highest death rate attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages with an estimated 405 deaths per million adults (24,000 total deaths) and the U.S. ranked second with an estimated 125 deaths per million adults (25,000 total deaths).

In a statement, the American Beverage Association, a trade group representing soft drink manufacturers, said “This study does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases and the authors themselves acknowledge that they are at best estimating effects of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption."

“America’s beverage companies are doing their part to offer consumers the fact-based information and the beverage options they need to make the right choices for themselves and their families," the statement added.

Liz Ruder, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told NBC News it's not certain it was the sugar-sweetened beverages that caused the deaths since the study is not a randomized controlled trial.
"But because the authors have employed sophisticated statistical techniques and they have rich food consumption data I believe that these data are likely to be accurate," Ruder said. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Stroke Procedure Can Save Thousands of Lives]]> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 20:26:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/stroke+procedure.JPG

The American Stroke Association released new guidelines Monday and for the first time, a clot removal procedure is now on that list of standard care.

Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in this country. And for the type of stroke caused by a blood clot in a major artery, the announcement is huge.

Tens of thousands of lives could be saved every year in this country thanks to a medical procedure that’s already saved one man's life here in San Diego.

On August 27, Stefan Reisch was on his way to work, driving west on Interstate 8, when he started losing feeling on the left side of his body.

"Basically immediately I felt like I was going to pass out, and I thought, you can't pass out, you're on the freeway,” he recalled.

He drove his car off the road.

When police arrived, they asked if he'd been drinking or was on drugs.

Then they asked him to smile.

Medics recognized he was having a stroke, got him to UCSD Medical Center where a clot removal procedure saved his life.

When a powerful blood thinning medication could not dissolve the blood clot in his brain, doctors used something called a stent retriever.

A catheter is put into an artery in the leg. It can travel all the way up to the brain where it can actually grab onto and remove a blood clot while someone is still having a stroke. It should be done within six hours of stroke symptoms, the AHM

Retrievers have been around for years but haven’t been used regularly.

UC San Diego Medical Center is one of 90 comprehensive stroke centers offering mechanical

"Unfortunately, only about 10,000 are performed every year in the United states,” said Alexander Khalessi, M.D., Reisch’s surgeon.

He says that's only a fraction of the 75,000 patients that could benefit from this procedure.

By adding the stent retriever to the list of standard care for stroke patients, the American Stroke Association gives its support behind a procedure that could help thousands which could lead to its use in more medical centers.

"Knowing that the procedure is standard of care, that people are going to have this, it's awesome, that my story is going to be the norm in many cases is super exciting," Reisch said. 

Khalessi was in the American Stroke Association’s guidelines writing group and author of the paper that appeared in Stroke.

The stent retriever SolitaireTM, was produced by the California-based company Medtronic.

<![CDATA[Whole Foods Recalls Macadamia Nuts for Possible Salmonella]]> Fri, 26 Jun 2015 16:28:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/whole+foods+macadamia+nuts.jpg

Whole Foods Market is voluntarily pulling macadamia nuts from its shelves in 12 states after a possible Salmonella contamination, the FDA announced this week.

Salmonella was detected as the nuts underwent routine testing, though no illnesses have been reported in connection with the food.

The product, labeled “Whole Foods Market Raw Macadamia Nuts,” was sold in 11-ounce plastic tubs with best-by dates between March 19, 2016, and June 21, 2016.

They were placed in Whole Food stores in California, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.

If you bought the potentially contaminated container, throw it away and bring in your receipt for a full refund, the FDA says.

Salmonella is a bacterium that causes diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal cramps in those who are infected.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the illness usually lasts between four and seven days, and it can be potentially deadly in infants, seniors and those with impaired immune systems.

For more on the recall and how to contact Whole Foods, click here.

Photo Credit: FDA]]>
<![CDATA[Covered California to Cap Costs of Specialty Drugs]]> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 13:40:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/prescription+drugs+medicine.jpg

Covered California will become the first health exchange in the nation to cap the cost of specialty prescription drugs, a move that may help consumers avoid choosing between buying food or paying for their medicine.

Some patients can spend their entire maximum out-of-pocket costs in just a few months on prescription drugs that cost thousands of dollars.

Michael Barefoot is one of those consumers who couldn’t afford the high price of his prescription medicine.

The 29-year-old recently moved to San Diego from North Carolina for work and school.

When he suffered a back injury and required medicine for six months, he was surprised to find out it would cost him $300 per month.

He said he needed to go without groceries and other household items just to pay for the medicine.

“The high price of prescription medications is just ridiculous,” Barefoot said. “I think it should be capped.”

In May, Covered California announced it will do just that - cap the cost of specialty drugs at $250 per month, per prescription, for most of its consumers. It’s the first state health exchange in the U.S. to do so.

Prescription caps will range from $150 to $500 and must be offered by every health plan in the individual market as well as by all plans offered by the exchange, according to a Covered California’s website.

“The consumer is going to benefit from this,” said Eric Lundy, an insurance broker based in El Cajon, Calif.

He believes the rate changes set to take effect in 2016 for Covered California participants will set policy for all insurance carriers over the next year or two.

Because pharmaceutical companies are constantly developing new drugs, the cost of that technology and testing is phenomenal, Lundy said.

“Consumers are demanding better therapies and they’re willing to pay for those therapies,” he added.

Whether at the pharmacy counter or through their insurance premiums, under the current system, the consumers pick up the tab.

By putting a cap on expenses, Covered California is trying to benefit consumers, however everyone paying a premium is going to bear that difference in cost, Lundy said.

“Everybody’s premiums are going to ultimately rise because they’re covering that cost instead of the individual who needs that medication covering that cost,” he said.

In a written statement, Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said more needs to be done to control the costs of new prescriptions.

“While Covered California is doing its part to protect consumers against these rising costs, a broader solution is needed to curtail the explosion in specialty drug costs so that consumers get the care they need without driving up insurance costs so much that consumers can no longer afford coverage,” Lee said.

<![CDATA[Will More Employers Use Psychiatric Fitness Tests?]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 13:14:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Brain-Generic.jpg NBC 7's Elena Gomez looks at whether employers will soon require mental health checks as well as background checks.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Man Wins $500K After Phone Records Doctors Mocking Him]]> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 03:30:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-117009763.jpg

A Vienna, Virginia, man was awarded $500,000 after he unintentionally recorded his doctors mocking and insulting him while he was under anesthesia.

The plaintiff, who chose to remain anonymous, sued anesthesiologist Dr. Tiffany Ingham and three other medical professionals, who were released from the case. Ingham, 42, and her practice were ordered by a Reston, Virginia, jury to pay the plaintiff, The Washington Post reported.

The plaintiff used his phone to record post-procedure advice and aftercare instructions from his doctors during the April 2013 colonoscopy procedure.

While checking his phone on his way home, the plaintiff found he had recorded the entire examination and heard his doctors insulting him when he was under anesthesia.

Ingham was recorded mocking the amount of medicine needed to anesthetize the plaintiff.

"After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op, I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit," Ingham is heard saying.

Ingham and others mocked the plaintiff for taking many medications. One of the plaintiff’s medications, Gabapentin, was prescribed to treat an irritation in his genital area. A medical assistant touched the man's genitals and commented she might have contracted a sexually transmitted infection.

Ingham is recorded saying the medical assistant might get "some syphilis on your arm or something," then added, "It's probably tuberculosis in the penis, so you’ll be all right."

The genital area is typically not involved in a colonoscopy.

Ingham signed a post-operative note indicating the plaintiff had hemorrhoids. According to the lawsuit, Ingham stated she planned to note hemorrhoids even though she found none.

The plaintiff claimed he experienced mental anguish, lack of focus and anxiety after the incident. He said has had to see other healthcare professionals and be placed on anti-anxiety medications.

The plaintiff sued for defamation, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, violation of Virginia health codes and medical malpractice. The Washington Post reported the jury awarded the man $100,000 for defamation and $200,000 for medical malpractice, as well as the $200,000 in punitive damages.

Ingham had worked out of the Aisthesis anesthesia practice. An Aisthesis employee told The Associated Press Ingham no longer works there.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nearly 10K Cases of Ranch Salad Dressing Recalled]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 08:41:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pinnacle-foods-recall.jpg

A New Jersey-based company is voluntarily recalling nearly 10,000 cases of Wish-Bone Ranch salad dressing sold in 24-ounce bottles after a customer alerted representatives the product was accidentally mixed with Wish-Bone Blue Cheese dressing, which contains eggs -- a potential life-threatening allergen, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday. 

The product was produced on April 23 by a contract manufacturer. In total, 8,678 cases of Wish-Bone Ranch dressing, distributed nationwide, are involved in the voluntary recall, the FDA said. The product is safe to consume for anyone who is not allergic to eggs.

 All affected distributors and retail customers, as well as the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, are being notified and the affected product is being removed from store shelves.

Consumers who may have purchased the recalled product can return it for a full refund at the place of purchase. Look for a best used by date on the bottle of Feb. 17, 2016.

Consumers with questions should call (888) 299-7646 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. 

Photo Credit: Food and Drug Administration Handout]]>
<![CDATA[Public Weighs in on Escondido Hospital Closure]]> Tue, 23 Jun 2015 08:08:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Palomar+Health+Downtown400x300.jpg

A North County hospital that is losing more than $20 million a year may soon close its doors after six decades of treating patients.

The board of directors for Palomar Health’s Downtown Escondido campus is expected to vote Wednesday on shutting down the facility, which has been on E. Valley Parkway since 1950. However, residents got a chance to weigh in on the decision Monday night at a public forum.

"The right thing to do and the right decision at the right time is to make the recommendation to the board of directors they should close the downtown campus," said Bob Hemker, the president and CEO of Palomar Health.

More than 8,000 patients were treated at the hospital last year, but it wasn’t enough to stop the operation from hemorrhaging money.

If closed, patients would be diverted to either the Pomerado Hospital in Poway – about 12 miles away -- or to the new Palomar Health Center on Citricado Parkway – roughly 11 miles away.

At the one and a half hour public meeting, several vocal nurses led the opposition, worried about staff layoffs and reduced services.

"I don't like the secrecy; I don't like the suddeness of it," said registered nurse Joyce Punton. "I think it's something that should've been announced earlier or we should've been given more time to think on it."

The downtown Escondido location was built to increase the availability of hospital beds in the North County, among other reasons. However, a Palomar Health spokesperson told NBC 7 that none of their hospitals are operating at capacity right now, so closing the downtown campus would help increase efficiency.

However, the nurses said that if you cut beds, you could have longer emergency room wait times. The plan calls for increased use of urgent care facilities to make up for the loss of the downtown emergency room, as construction on the new Palomar Health Center is completed.

The move is expected to have an impact on businesses surrounding it.

“My business is insurance services, so I was planning on being close to the hospital,” said Ricardo Vazquez. “But thanks to this, if they close the hospital, I’m probably going to have to close before opening.

The Palomar spokesperson said keeping the facility open would cost more than $270 million over the next five years, which would include much needed structural upgrades.

“Well, I am not happy about that because the building is going to be empty, but at the same time, I can understand where the hospital is coming from,” said neighbor Mary Kluff.

Photo Credit: PalomarHealth.org]]>
<![CDATA[Several Brands of Bottled Water Recalled]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 07:39:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bottles+of+water.jpg

Niagara Bottling has recalled its bottled water products after one of its spring sources was contaminated with E. coli.

The company urged customers to avoid drinking the water without boiling it first. The water should be boiled for one minute and then cooled.

While it was not immediately clear how widely the products were distributed, several major supermarket chains with stores across the northeast issued releases saying they had carried the water. 

E. coli can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches and other symptoms. Niagara says it has not received any complaints of injury or illness.

The company says the contamination was discovered in the water supply on June 10, but the spring source did not notify it in a timely manner, so they have stopped using the source.

The contaminated water was sold under the following brand names:

  • 7-Eleven
  • Acadia
  • Acme
  • Big Y
  • Best Yet
  • Morning Fresh
  • Niagara
  • Nature’s Place
  • Pricerite
  • Shaw’s
  • Shoprite
  • Superchill
  • Western Beef Blue
  • Wegman’s

All spring water products produced at the company’s facilities in Hamburg and Allentown, Pennsylvania between 3 a.m. June 10 to 8 p.m. June 18 were recalled. 

Niagara Bottling did not immediately respond to media inquiries, but several supermarkets sent out press releases addressing the recall. Bottled water products were recalled at ACME Markets in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; at Shaw’s grocery stores in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont; and at Wegmans grocery stores, which operate in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Affected products have codes that start with the letter F or A. The first digit after the letter indicates the number of the production line. The next two numbers indicate the day, then the month in letters, the year, and then the time, based on a 24-hour clock.

To download the full list of codes for affected products, click here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[U.S. Officials Preparing for MERS Outbreak Following S. Korea]]> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 09:19:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-476401196.jpg

A deadly outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Virus in South Korea is prompting health officials and experts to prepare for the possibility of more cases in the United States. 

MERS has infected 500 people worldwide since it first surfaced in Saudi Arabia in 2010, killing roughly a third of those affected, according to the CDC. Now, the virus has spread across South Korea, infecting more than 150 people and killing 11. 

That outbreak, the largest outside the Middle East, has sparked concerns about the potential for the virus to pop up in other countries, including America. The United States, one of at least 16 to report cases since 2010, has previously handled two MERS patients. Some experts are preparing for that number to rise.

“In South Korea more people will get infected, and eventually they go on a plane and travel,” said Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist and member of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University. “The U.S. is consistently in one of the top 5 countries (to travel to); we are likely to have MERS to come to the U.S.”

MERS, part of the same family of viruses as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and the common cold, is believed to have originated in camels, officials say. The virus has since spread from human to human, particularly among people in close contact with an infected patient. The recent outbreak in South Korea, for example, has been traced to hospitals in the area that did not follow proper protocol when dealing with infections.

While officials say there is not an urgent threat of MERS to the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is taking extra precautions given the situation in South Korea and the potential that one sick traveler could bring the virus back to the U.S.

Officials are changing the way they collect data and detect cases on MERS, as well as working with the World Health Organization to better understand the virus. The CDC recommends that Americans traveling outside the U.S. take basic precautions such as frequently washing their hands and avoiding contact with people who appear ill. The CDC is also urging health professionals to be on the lookout for potential cases, taking extra care to examine patients who have traveled recently to countries affected by the outbreaks or had contact with someone exposed to the virus. 

Because the international cases have been traced to patients who traveled after contacting the virus — all the infections so far have been linked back to countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula — the CDC has been working with airports specifically to help them identify ill passengers and report them properly to the organization. Officials caution that the virus' flu-like symptoms, such as coughing, fever and shortness of breath, can make it difficult to diagnose. 

There is currently no travel ban to South Korea or any of the Middle Eastern countries affected by MERS. In fact, travel has more than doubled from 2000 to 2010 in the Middle Eastern region, according to the United Nations World Travel Organization. 

And despite concerns about travelers carrying the virus to new places, officials in at least one major U.S.  airport are currently not taking additional precautions. Nancy Suey Castles, public relations director at Los Angeles International Airport, said while the airport has six daily flights entering and exiting the Incheon/Seoul International Airport, it has not made any changes to patrons’ arrivals or departures.

Castles said that if they did come in contact with a passenger who was infected with MERS, the protocol would be the same as any other sick passenger: separating them from the public, examining them and possibly transporting the patient to a hospital.

Despite its potentially deadly effects, treating MERS as any other virus is the ticket for best possible treatment, says Marie Forszt, director of marketing for Indianapolis' Community Hospital, which handled the first U.S. MERS case in 2014.

“Because it was the first case, no one had a specific process but it was an infectious disease,” Forszt said. “It wasn’t specific to MERS, but we just did what we do with every single case.”

She said the key to dealing with any infectious disease is to remain on high alert and keeping up with the CDC protocols.

“Shortly after MERS happened, Ebola ramped up,” she said. “There’s always some type of infectious disease, the process is the same no matter what the name is. We muddy the message when we have specific processes for MERS or a specific virus.” 

Being prepared to start that process of treating and containing cases is key, experts say, cautioning that as long as the virus spreads overseas, the U.S. will remain at risk.

“I don’t think anything in the Middle East will change quickly, specifically in Saudi Arabia,” Daszak, who is also president of the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance,  said. “It will continue to spill into Saudi Arabia and around the world… people think South Korea is so far away, but it’s only one flight away.”

<![CDATA[West-Nile Infected Mosquitoes Don't Bode Well: County]]> Thu, 18 Jun 2015 20:27:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/llegada-de-mosquitos-a-Arizona.jpg

Three new batches of mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile virus, a bad sign for the year to come, according to San Diego County health officials.

The latest sampling was taken in and around Jamacha, near its border with Lemon Grove. Because many dead birds with West Nile were also found in the area, county vector control employees have placed mosquito traps there to try to stop the virus’ spread.

Since the beginning of the year, vector control inspectors have picked up six infected batches of mosquitoes – the same amount collected for the whole of 2014.

The rise in mosquitoes with West Nile accompanies a May spike in the number of infected dead birds, which continues to grow.

“Mosquitoes are the main way people get exposed to West Nile virus,” said Department of Environmental Health Director Elizabeth Pozzebon in a statement, “so remember to get rid of standing water around your homes so mosquitoes can’t breed, wear insect repellent and report dead birds.”

In May, the number of dead infected birds through the county jumped from five to 29, according to county officials. Now, the total is 33 – the largest found in any California county this year. Last year, San Diego County did not reach 33 dead birds until November.

So far, there have been no reported cases of West Nile in humans. Last year, 11 people in San Diego were diagnosed with the virus, which is the largest number since 2009. Two people were killed by the illness.

The county recommends doing three things when you want to avoid West Nile: Prevent, protect and report.

Officials say you should prevent mosquito breeding by dumping out anything around your home that can hold water. If you have ponds, the county offers free mosquito fish to help get rid of the pests.

Protect yourself from mosquito bites by using insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. You could also wear long sleeves and pants, and make sure your doors and windows are secure enough to keep the insects out.

Finally, report any dead birds or green swimming pools you see to the vector control program by calling 858-694-2888, emailing vector@sdcounty.ca.gov or downloading the county’s app “Fight the Bite.”

<![CDATA[Teen Dies After Wisdom Teeth Extraction]]> Thu, 18 Jun 2015 15:09:18 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/teeth2.jpg

A Minnesota teen who had her wisdom teeth extracted died after complications from the procedure, KARE, NBC's affiliate in Minneapolis reported.

Sydney Galleger, 17, had just finished her junior year in high school. A captain of the dive team, the swimmer was considered healthy.

However, last Tuesday, when she got her wisdom teeth removed, complications occurred. At the end of the surgery, Galleger's blood pressure rose and her heart rate dropped, her mother wrote, according to KARE. Galleger was given CPR and transferred to a hospital, where she experienced seizures and brain swelling. On Monday, she passed away.

It's not clear what caused Galleger's death.

According to a 2007 article in the American Journal of Public Health, each year about 5 million people get their wisdom teeth pulled out. Experts say the procedure requires anesthesia, which comes with inherent risks.

Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Trans Fat Linked to Worse Memory: Study]]> Thu, 18 Jun 2015 07:50:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TLMD-grasas-trans-trans-fat-shutterstock_162622850.jpg

Men who have more dietary trans fat in their meals may have worse memory, according to a newly released study by the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said they would begin to phase the acid, which they previously called unsafe, out of foods.

Dietary trans fatty acids (dTFA), which are used in foods to improve taste, texture and durability, were linked by researchers to worse memory in men aged 45 and younger.

The study looked at 1,018 men and women who completed a dietary survey and a memory test. Men that consumed trans fat aged 45 and younger saw their performance drop 0.76 words for every additional gram of trans fat consumed.

“Trans fats were most strongly linked to worse memory in men during their high productivity years,” said Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD, lead author and professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine said in a statement. “Trans fat consumption has previously shown adverse associations to behavior and mood—other pillars of brain function. However, to our knowledge a relation to memory or cognition had not been shown.”

Men with the highest observed trans fat levels in the study recalled an expected 12 fewer words, compared to men that consumed no trans fats.

The results were consistent when adjusting for age, exercise, ethnicity and mood.

The acids have previously been linked to negative effects on general health and are no longer recognized as safe by the FDA.

“As I tell patients, while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people,” said Golomb.

Alexis K. Bui of UC San Diego was a co-author of the study.

<![CDATA[Adverse Health Effects from Synthetic Marijuana on the Rise: CDC]]> Thu, 11 Jun 2015 13:45:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/061015_synthetic_marijuana.jpg

Adverse health effects as a result of increased synthetic marijuana use are on the rise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.

According to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, monthly calls related to the use of the substances from January to May 2015 were up 229 percent over the same period in 2014. A total of 15 deaths was reported.

Synthetic cannabinoids include various psychoactive chemicals or a mixture of such chemicals that are sprayed onto plant material, which is then often smoked or ingested to achieve a "high." The most commonly reported negative health effects were agitation, tachycardia, drowsiness or lethargy, vomiting and confusion. About four out of five of those who used synthetic marijuana inhaled it through smoking, and the remaining one in five consumed it.

These products are sold under a variety of names, such as synthetic marijuana, spice, K2, black mamba and crazy clown, and can be sold in retail outlets as herbal products. Law enforcement agencies have regulated a number of the substances, but manufacturers of synthetic cannabinoids frequently change the formulation to avoid detection and regulation.

CDC officials have expressed concern about the rapid increase in poison center calls about synthetic cannabinoids and detrimental health effects reported, and they stressed a need for enhanced efforts to remove these products from the marketplace. The CDC has urged those who have these products in their home to dispose of them in a trash can that is not accessible to pets.

Recreational marijuana use is currently legal in four states, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia. While marijuana is legal for medical purposes and decriminalized in multiple additional states, it remains illegal under federal law.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Study Shows Drop in Underage Drinking]]> Fri, 12 Jun 2015 13:54:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-56909748.jpg

Underage drinking rates are dropping steadily, a new study reveals.

The report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also showed a decline in underage binge drinking.

While alcohol remains more widely used than tobacco or illicit drugs, the report indicates that the level of underage drinking of those aged 12 to 20 dropped from 28.2 percent in 2002 to 22.7 percent in 2013. Binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks within a couple of hours of each other, has also declined from 19.3 percent in 2002 to 14.2 percent in 2013.

Both locally and nationally, community coalitions, law enforcement, and organizations like SAMHSA have focused on preventing underage drinking through media campaigns and even apps. SAMHSA’s “Talk. They Hear You” mobile app, for example, prepares parents for conversations with children about the risks involved with alcohol consumption.

“When parents communicate clear expectations and they are supported by community efforts to prevent underage drinking, we can make a difference,” said Frances M. Harding, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, in a press release. 

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Pill That Reverses Abortion Causes a Stir]]> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 16:39:18 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-495798155_AbortionPillIlustration.jpg An Arizona law forces doctors to notify patients of pill that can reverse the effects of the abortion pill RU46. Many are not happy with the law. ]]> <![CDATA[Some Hospitals Charge 10 Times Medicare Rates: Study]]> Mon, 08 Jun 2015 13:51:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hospital+price+hikes1.jpg

Dozens of U.S. hospitals are hiking up healthcare costs more than 1,000 percent – over 10 times the costs allowed by Medicare – and for the same medical services, new findings indicate.

New research out of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Washington & Lee University revealed that the 50 U.S. hospitals with the highest price markups are inflating health care costs far above actual prices by charging uninsured and out-of-network patients over 10 times the amount permitted by Medicare. The report was published in the June issue of Health Affairs.

“We as consumers are paying for this when hospitals charge 10 times what they should,” Gerard F. Anderson, professor at the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins and coauthor of the study said, according to a press release. “What other industry can you think of that marks up the price of their product by 1,000 percent and remains in business?” he said.

Forty-nine of the 50 hospitals with the highest price markups are for-profit. Twenty of the hospitals in the report are located in Florida.

The report indicated that on the whole, hospitals with high markups are not exclusively located in high-cost cities. The priciest hospital, the study says, is North Okaloosa Medical Center, about an hour outside of Pensacola, Florida, where patients are charged 12.6 times more than costs allowed by Medicare.

In the report, Anderson and Ge Bai of Washington & Lee University, revealed that poor oversight of hospital charges as well as a lack of market competition are causing the severe price gouging. Consumers both with and without insurance are bearing the exorbitant costs.

“There is no justification for these outrageous rates but no one tells hospitals they can’t charge them,” said Anderson. “For the most part, there is no regulation of hospital rates and there are no market forces that force hospitals to lower their rates. They charge these prices simply because they can,” he said.

Anderson said price transparency could help to an extent, but currently most hospitals are not required to publicly share costs for procedures.

“This system has the effect of charging the highest prices to the most vulnerable patients and those with the least market power,” Anderson says. “The result is a market failure.” 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Heart Transplant Survivor Helps Others in Need]]> Mon, 08 Jun 2015 13:09:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/knbc-life-connected-avas-heart-ava-kaufman.jpg

As a backup dancer for Gloria Gaynor and Donna Sumer, Ava Kaufman toured the world. She was the picture of health until 2009 when an autoimmune disease damaged her heart.

One day she collapsed and woke up in a hospital bed at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Her doctors gave her startling news.

"They woke me up and told me I had a heart transplant," Kaufman said.

Kaufman found that she could no longer walk or talk. She thought about giving up. But one thing kept her going: her 11-year-old daughter, Jade.

Ava made a deal with God.

"I said, ‘If you let me be Jade's mom and go back to who I was before, I would spend the rest of my life giving back,’" Kaufman said.

Within months, she was back on her feet. She decided to start a non-profit organization called Ava's Heart. The foundation helps transplant patients pay for housing and other living expenses while they're getting treatment.

Kaufman's cardiologist, Dr. Juan Alejos, says transplant patients desperately need the assistance.

"Usually in the first three months we require that patients stay locally. That's an expense in California, renting an apartment if you don't have family. Ava has made it possible for our patients who don't have that support," Alejos said.

Kaufman's foundation is helping pay for housing for Marty Vece. The 45 year old is on the transplant list for a new heart. He had to quit his teaching job in Las Vegas and move his family to Southern California so he can be near UCLA Medical Center when a heart comes through.

"Emotionally, it's an incredible weight off our shoulders," Vece said.

Kaufman makes a personal connection with every patient she helps. She's become a mentor to 11-year-old Jessica Ostrand. The Temecula girl has had two heart transplants.

"People just don't know what I've been through and I just kind of want to talk to someone. She's been the one I've been talking to a lot," Jessica said.

Kaufman says making a difference in the lives of others like Jessica and Vece makes all the hard work of running a foundation worthwhile.

"As hard as it is sometimes, I just know this is what I'm supposed to do with the rest of my life, so I'm going to do it," Kaufman said.

Jessica and Vece are grateful for the help they've received. They plan to volunteer with Ava's Heart to help others.

If you'd like to help or donate, visit Kaufman's website at www.avasheart.org.

Photo Credit: KNBC]]>
<![CDATA[New Docs Told What They Know Will Soon Be "Just Plain Wrong"]]> Mon, 08 Jun 2015 07:52:49 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/J-Craig-Venter-060715.jpg

One of the world’s leading experts in biochemistry and genetics told graduating medical students that medicine is changing so rapidly, most of what they had just learned will soon be viewed as “just plain wrong.”

J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., one of the first scientists to map the human genome, addressed 115 graduates of UC San Diego School of Medicine Sunday.

It is the first of several commencements over the next two weekends at the university.

Venter told the graduates this may be the most dynamic period in medicine.

“There's going to be such a major transformation over the next 40 years, that most of what you just learned will be viewed historically as naive, overly simplistic and just plain wrong," Venter said.

He then turned and apologized for that remark to school administrators.

He predicted that, within a decade, these new doctors will find it hard to believe they practiced medicine without knowing the genome of their patient first.

He also said the cost of identifying a patient's genome could drop from its current price tag of $1,000 per genome to a few hundred dollars within 10 years.

Venter earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and a Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of California at San Diego.

<![CDATA[Companies Partner to Boost Pediatric Research]]> Tue, 02 Jun 2015 08:17:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/generic+child+measuring+measured+weighed+weighing+doctor%27s+office+pediatrician+shutterstock_101882305.jpg

San Diego-based Benefunder announced a partnership with Washington D.C.-based Children’s National Health System to boost funding for pediatric research.

Benefunder connects wealth management firms and high-net worth individuals with research causes. Under the collaboration, select Children’s National Health researchers will be profiled on Benefunder’s funding platform, including faculty from the Children’s Research Institute and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation.

Researchers at the Children’s Research Institute are investigating a wide range of diseases, including brain and spinal cord injuries and protection, obesity, type 2 diabetes, renal disease, and autism. The Sheikh Zayed Institute’s goal is to make pediatric surgery more precise, less invasive, and pain-free.

By joining Benefunder, top researchers can gain access to discretionary funds to further advance important treatments, therapies, devices and other innovative solutions that otherwise would not make it to the market.

“We are excited about the partnership with Children’s National,” said Christian Braemer, Benefunder’s cofounder and CEO. “Our goal is to connect these important causes with the resources they need to create better solutions for children’s health problems.”

Children’s National is Benefunder’s first pediatric partnership. The top ranked health organization joins other leading institutions, such as UC San Diego, Syracuse University, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, Calif., that have partnered with Benefunder to give philanthropists direct access to today’s top researchers.

Photo Credit: CandyBox Images, Shutterstock
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<![CDATA[Docs Give Baby Thumb With Surgery]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 05:09:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/toddler+thumb+photo.jpg

A 1-year-old baby born without a thumb will soon be able to grab things with his right hand for the first time thanks to a procedure Long Island doctors say was no small feat. 

A tiny cast was taken off of Brandon Torres' newly created thumb on Tuesday, nearly a month after doctors at the Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park performed a surgical procedure to create the crucial appendage. 

Torres, of Queens, was born without a right thumb due to a rare disorder known as Duane-radial ray syndrome, which the National Institutes for Health says affects the eyes and causes abnormalities to the bones in a person's arms and hands. Only a few families worldwide carry the genetic mutation that causes the syndrome.

In order to give Torres a thumb, doctors say they performed a procedure known as pollicization. Dr. Nick Bastidas, the pediatric plastic surgeon who performed the procedure, said he shortened Torres' index finger, then rotated it to the position of a thumb.

While he was doing that, he and other surgeons also lengthened Torres' blood vessels and transferred muscles to create a functional hand.

The April 27 procedure took about 2 1/2 hours to complete.

Bastidas said that the thumb is the most important finger on the hand because it allows humans to grasp and pinch.

Photo Credit: Handout]]>
<![CDATA[Deepak Chopra at Corporate Wellness Symposium]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 08:12:26 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Deepak-Chopra-Getty.jpg

Deepak Chopra, the well-known alternative medicine practitioner, is launching the 2015 Corporate Wellness Symposium, a day-long seminar for HR executives and wellness practitioners in Carlsbad on May 27 at the LaCosta Resort and Spa. In its fourth year, the event is hosted by San Diego-based Intercare Insurance Solutions and HUB International.

Chopra will address the group on "The Future of Wellbeing," a roadmap for health based on the latest findings in both mainstream and alternative medicine. He is founder of The Chopra Foundation, and co-founder and board chairman of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing.

“The symposium, now in its fourth year, is designed for HR executives, chief financial officers and finance VPs, benefit managers and wellness committee members,” said Maggie Osburn, Intercare’s general manager. “Whether your company is launching its first wellness initiative, or your program has been in place for a decade, this day is full of cutting-edge solutions matched with practical application — so everyone will leave with a few ideas they can put into place right away.”

The full-day, multisession symposium features wellness experts and local employers whose wellness programs and initiatives have met with significant success. Registration and breakfast begin at 7 a.m., with Chopra’s keynote address at 8 a.m. The day concludes with a 4:45-5:30 "Healthy Hour."

The day-long schedule features diverse topics such as financial wellness, brain fuel (nutrition and lifestyle strategies) and how to measure well-being in the workplace. In addition, experts will discuss the mechanics of wellness initiatives and programs — from legal updates and communication solutions to outcomes-based wellness programs — and wellness solutions inside a private exchange.

The group will also hear from several companies whose wellness programs are continuing to meet with resounding success, including L.L. Bean; local employers GreatCall and CUSO Financial Services on Building a Culture of Wellness – Taking a Culture-First Mentality in Workplace Wellness; plus a local employers’ panel on "The Engagement Equation."

Additional information and registration can be found at http://intercaresolutions.com/cws/.

Photo Credit: Getty Images for UNICEF
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<![CDATA[Ecstasy Used to Treat Patients]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 07:45:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ecstasy+pills.jpg

The Federal Drug Administration is allowing a team of Bay Area psychotherapists to experiment with ecstasy to treat patients.

Dr. Phil Wolfson, who has offices in San Francisco and Marin County, is in charge of the 15-month experiment approved the FDA and Drug Enforcement Administration.

Wolfson said he knows firsthand that ecstasy, or MDMA, is effective in easing extreme anxiety because he used it to get through the worst time of his life when his son way dying from leukemia.

"It tends to bring on a mood change," Wolfson said. "It gives you a feeling of loving and caring. You're more accepting of your own failure and difficulties and being able to own them better."

Ecstasy, also known as Molly, is a drug commonly used at raves. The drug is currently considered by the federal government to have no therapeutic value.

Wolfson, however, received the government's blessing to conduct a clinical trial of 18 patients using the drug in conjunction with a number of intense therapeutic sessions.

"If a drug works for a disabling condition and can be labeled to be used in a safe way in that population, then we think we have an obligation to evaluate the data and do what the data support, such as allow a trial to proceed," an FDA spokeswoman said.

If the current trial goes as Wolfson believes it will, MDMA will then be used to treat large numbers of people over a two-year period.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>