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Latest News Around the Web

Insurers Restrict Pricey, Less Addictive Painkillers More Than Opioids

The New York Times (9/17, A1, Thomas, Ornstein, Subscription Publication) reports that the New York State Attorney General’s office sent letters last week to the state’s three largest pharmacy benefit managers requesting information on “how they were addressing the crisis” with opioids amid questions that insurers are “are limiting access to pain medications that carry a lower risk of addiction or dependence, even as they provide comparatively easy access to generic opioid medications.”

The Times and ProPublica analyzed Medicare prescription drug plans covering 35.7 million people and found access to less-risky or more expensive painkillers was limited, but “almost every plan covered common opioids and very few required any prior approval.”

Related Links:

— “Amid Opioid Crisis, Insurers Restrict Pricey, Less Addictive Painkillers,” KATIE THOMAS and CHARLES ORNSTEIN, New York Times, September 17, 2017.

Suicide Among Military Veterans Especially High In The Western US And Rural Areas

The AP (9/16, Yen) reported, “Suicide among military veterans is especially high in the western US and rural areas,” researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs found. The data reveal that “wide state-by-state disparities and suggest social isolation, gun ownership and access to health care may be factors.” The article also cited statistics on suicide rates for veterans versus non-veterans, and quotes a RAND epidemiologist who said the data begs “closer investigation into why suicide rates by veteran status are higher, including the role that opiates play.” The Hill (9/16, Delk) and the Fox News (9/17) website also covered the story.

Related Links:

— “Suicide among veterans highest in western US, rural areas,” HOPE YEN, AP via The Brunswick News, September 16, 2017.

Problem Drinking Rising Fast Among Older Americans

In the New York Times (9/14, Span, Subscription Publication) “The New Old Age” blog, Paula Span writes, “Epidemiologists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism…reported” that “problem drinking is rising fast among older Americans.”

Researchers arrived at that conclusion after comparing “data from a national survey taken in 2001 and 2002 and again in 2012 and 2013, each time with about 40,000 adults.” The findings were published in the September issue of JAMA Psychiatry. The author of an accompanying editorial observed, “The trajectory over time is remarkable.”

Lead study author and NIAAA epidemiologist Bridget Grant, PhD, and her “team didn’t investigate causes” for late-life drinking, “but she speculates that anxiety caused by the recession, which hit right between the two surveys, may have played a part.”

Related Links:

— “Alcohol Abuse Is Rising Among Older Adults,” Paula Span, New York Times, September 14, 2017.

Experts Offer Advice On Coping With Mental Stress Caused By Hurricanes Irma And Harvey

HealthDay (9/14, Preidt) reports, “Even after the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma disappears, survivors could still suffer from mental stress caused by the massive storms, experts” contend. In a news release, crisis psychiatrist Carol North, MD, of the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, “outlined some coping techniques for people with short-term symptoms of mental stress after a disaster.”

Meanwhile, pediatric psychiatrist James Norcross, MD, also of the UT Southwestern Medical Center, “said that parents can help children recover after a natural disaster by remaining calm and reassuring” and by limiting “children’s exposure to news reports on television or social media.”

Meanwhile, Healio (9/14, Oldt) reports that James M. Shultz, MS, PhD, of the University of Miami School of Medicine, and Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, of Boston University, who together authored a viewpoint published online Sept. 11 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “explored how mental health consequences of Hurricane Harvey can be mitigated.”

Related Links:

— “Hurricanes’ Toll on Mental Health Will Linger,” Robert Preidt, HealthDay, September 14, 2017.

Risk For Health Anxiety May Be Increased In Older Adults

MD Magazine (9/14, Warren) reports, “The risk for health anxiety…a disorder characterized by a preoccupation with physical health and/or somatic/body symptoms, is increased in older adults,” researchers found after assessing “538 primary care patients” ranging in age from 18 to 90. The findings were published online June 24 in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders.

Related Links:

— “Older Adults Have Increased Risk for Health Anxiety,” Amanda Warren, MD Magazine, September 14, 2017.

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