KHN Morning Briefing

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Research Roundup: Boards Overlooking Sexual Misconduct; Caregivers’ Own Health Suffers

Here is a selection of news coverage of recent health research.

Medscape: Boards Often Overlook Physician Sexual Misconduct, Study Says
Most physicians reported by hospitals, medical societies, and malpractice insurers to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) for sexual misconduct have never been disciplined by their state medical board for that behavior, according to a new study by the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen. To be sure, medical boards frequently discipline such physicians and report them to the NPDB. However, the Public Citizen study suggests that many hospitals and other groups that are required to report sexual misconduct to the database do not share that information with their state medical board, as required by federal law, as well as the laws of most states. (Lowes, 2/18)

Reuters: Family Caregivers May Be Sacrificing Their Own Health To Help Loved Ones
Many family caregivers in the U.S. provide unpaid medical aid and other services to loved ones at the expense of their own financial, physical and mental health, a study suggests. Nationwide, an estimated 14.7 million family caregivers assist 7.7 million older adults who live in the community rather than in institutions like nursing homes. These family members often help with daily activities like eating, bathing and dressing. Many also provide medical support such as scheduling physician checkups, managing medications, cleaning wounds and giving injections. (Rapaport, 2/15)

HealthDay: Helping With Health Care Takes Heavy Toll On Caregivers
Millions of family and friends who help older, disabled adults manage medications and navigate the health system may be sacrificing their own well-being, a new study suggests. Caregivers who provided "substantial help" with health care in these settings were roughly twice as likely to experience physical, financial and emotional difficulties as those who did not provide that help, the study found. (Pallarito, 2/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Viruses Might Offer New Help In Treating Cancer
In the war on cancer, we may have a strange new ally: the viruses that infected our distant ancestors. New research suggests that hidden stretches of viral DNA in the human genome could help fight cancer by setting off an alert to the immune system. ... This is a potentially powerful weapon because it would undermine one of cancer’s main survival tactics: disguising itself as healthy tissue. (Roland, 2/18)

Reuters: More Young Breast Cancer Patients Having Genetic Tests
In recent years, more than 95 percent of U.S. women diagnosed with cancer at age 40 or younger got tested for mutations that raise their risk of future cancers, according to a new study. The rate of genetic testing has steadily risen from about 70 percent in 2007, and that’s a positive trend, researchers say, because the test results can influence women’s decisions about treatment. (Doyle, 2/17)

Medscape: A Sense Of Meaning Key To Curbing Late-Life Suicide
A sense of meaning in life may be a critical factor in curbing suicidal thoughts in older adults, new research shows. It is important for healthcare providers to ask older adults about positive psychological factors, said lead investigator Marnin Heisel, PhD, of the Lawson Health Research Institute, London, Ontario, Canada. "We should not exclusively be looking at the negative side of things ― depression, hopelessness, psychopathology. Of course, all of those things need to be evaluated, especially in older adults. But even for older adults who are struggling with these sorts of issues, we found that people who were able to identify some sort of meaning in life or particular things that give them a reason for living were significantly less likely to feel depressed, lonely, or suicidal," Dr Heisel told Medscape Medical News. (Brooks, 2/17)

Reuters: Study Suggests Zika Can Cross Placenta, Adds To Microcephaly Link
In what experts describe as another piece of evidence linking Zika with the risk of birth defects, researchers on Wednesday reported finding the virus in the amniotic fluid of two pregnant women whose foetuses were diagnosed with microcephaly. In a study in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, the scientists said their finding suggests Zika virus can cross the placental barrier, but does not prove it causes microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads. More research is needed to understand the link, they said. (Kelland, 2/17)

Reuters: Eating Lots Of Fish In Pregnancy Linked To Obesity Risk For Kids
Pregnant women who eat more than three servings of fish a week – that is, more than the maximum recommended by U.S. health regulators – may face an increased risk of having babies who grow rapidly and become obese in childhood, a research review suggests. Previous research has linked one pollutant in fish – mercury – to damage of the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes. Because of this, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency encourage pregnant women to limit consumption to no more than three servings a week. (Rapaport, 2/15)

Medscape: IRIS: Diabetes Drug Reduces Recurrent Stroke, MI In Patients With Insulin Resistance
New randomized trial results show that in patients with insulin resistance, no frank diabetes, and a history of stroke or transient ischemic attack, treatment with diabetes drug pioglitazone (Actos, Takeda Pharmaceuticals) reduced the risk for recurrent stroke or myocardial infarction (MI) vs placebo. While treatment was associated with a lower risk for diabetes, patients receiving pioglitazone also had higher rates of weight gain, edema, and bone fracture requiring surgery or hospitalization. (Jeffrey, 2/17)

Reuters: Elderly Risk More Complications After Major Cancer Surgery
Elderly patients hospitalized for cancer surgery are more likely to have complications afterward compared to the middle-aged, particularly when they have several other health problems, a U.S. study suggests. Overall, almost one in 10 adults age 55 and older had at least one post-operative issue like delirium, dehydration, falls, fractures, pressure ulcers or unusual weight loss, the study of nearly 1 million cancer surgery patients found. (Rapaport, 2/17)

Reuters: Prostate Cancer Treated More Aggressively In The City
Urban men with localized prostate cancer may be more likely to get surgery or radiation than their rural peers, a U.S. study suggests. Men had 23 percent higher odds of getting these aggressive treatments when they lived in densely populated U.S. counties than if they resided in rural counties, according to the analysis of cancer registry data for about 138,000 men. The conservative alternatives – watchful waiting or hormone therapy to shrink tumors without surgery or radiation – were more common in less populated areas, with 22 percent of rural men receiving this type of care compared with 19 percent of their urban counterparts. (Rapaport, 2/18)

The Seattle Times: Academic Medical Centers Do Poor Job Reporting Results Of Medical Trials
Leading academic medical centers across the U.S. have a poor record of reporting results from clinical trials, leaving patients and doctors with a potentially skewed view of the safety and benefits of treatments, a new study finds. Nationwide, only about two-thirds of results from more than 4,300 studies completed between 2007 and 2010 were published or reported and only about one-third were released to the public within two years of completion. (Aleccia, 2/18)

Reuters: Tailored Acupuncture Might Offer Some Fibromyalgia Relief
Individualized acupuncture treatments were tied to greater pain relief for people with fibromyalgia, according to results from a small trial in Spain that compared the approach to sham acupuncture. Researchers found the benefits of tailored acupuncture seemed to persist even a year after treatment. But an expert not involved in the research thinks the evidence for acupuncture is still limited. (Doyle, 2/17)

Reuters: Kids Born Small And Targeted By Bullies Face Lasting Effects
Children born at extremely low birth weight may face greater risk of bullying than their normal-sized peers and be more prone to suffer lasting effects from victimization, a Canadian study suggests. Among adult survivors of childhood bullying, people who had been tiny infants appeared more likely than those born weighing 2,500 grams (5.5 pounds) or more to be depressed, anxious, antisocial, avoidant, and hyperactive or experience obsessive-compulsive or panic disorders, researchers report in Pediatrics. (Rapaport, 2/17)

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