The week in brief

August 7th – 11th

A small survey of family clinics found that more than 4 in 5 patients over 65 were on more than five meds. Potentially 1 in 3 patients were on an “inappropriate medication”.

In terms of probabilities, doctors who prescribed fewer meds were more likely to consider the benefits and risks of de-prescription and the number of meds their patients were on, vs their peers who prescribed more often.


A group from Belgium surveyed about 3,600 PhD students and found wide-spread signs of mental health issues across major disciplines. Overall, 51% of PhD students had psychological distress and 32% had a common psychiatric disorder. Issues were more prevalent in women than men, and may depend on the supervisor’s management style.

A silver lining: The study did find that compared to students who just started their PhD program, those who are already on their way had lower odds of experiencing mental health problems. In other words, once the ball gets rolling it just may get better with time.


A study found that in-step with the rising rate of opioid addiction among US youths, proper treatment is being used more as well. Encouraging news. But the study found concerning disparities for who’s getting treatment.

Looking closely at the youths who got treated, the study found that 17% fewer girls got treated than boys. Put another way, while nearly 1 in 4 boys received treatment, only 1 in 5 girls did. Similarly, significantly fewer non-Hispanic black and Hispanic youths received treatment vs non-Hispanic white youths.


The CDC reports that e-cigs are now more popular than cigarettes among US high school students. A study of kids who smoke e-cigs found that the odds of an e-cig user were still more than 3-times higher vs someone who’s never used an e-cig.


Gabapentinoids like pregabalin (Lyrica) may be being used as a substitute for opioids in the US. A study found that in 2016, 64m scripts for Neurontin were handed out, up from 39M in 2012. At the same time, Lyrica pulled in $4.4bn in sales, behind only three other patented drugs used by family physicians to treat diabetes and COPD – two of the most common chronic conditions.

The authors pointed to the risk of abuse with drugs like Lyrica. Sure enough, Lyrica is already being abused in Northern Ireland.


Physical exercise can effectively help manage cancer-related fatigue. In fact, a meta-analysis of randomized trials found that physical exercise was about 3x more effective than meds at reducing fatigue. Key findings were that exercise was more beneficial for patients on therapy, whereas psych therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy was more effective after the treatment course is over.


A study recently demonstrated that focused ultrasound surgery may be a feasible option for some men with prostate cancer. The study wasn’t able to give a definitive picture of whether ultrasound surgery would work for all patients, but did find promising signs that it may benefit some men with low-risk disease.


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