Betel nuts are an immensely popular, addictive, and deadly snack in Taiwan, India, Myanmar and other regions of Asia. Chewed by nearly 10% of the world’s population, betel nuts are the 4th most commonly used psychoactive substances (behind tobacco, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks). These nuts, known as Taiwan’s chewing gum, yield a buzz akin to several shots of espresso, or amphetamine.
Alarmingly, this snack gives more than a buzz, being associated with a high incidence of grotesque flesh-eating tumors. In Taiwan, 90% of the 5,700 oral cancers diagnosed each year are in patients with a betel nut chewing habit. Statistically, the cancer will kill 40% of these patients.
As with many addictive substances, kicking the habit is not easy, and faces economically driven pushback from producers and vendors dependent on the significant betel nut industry. Despite these challenges, Taiwan is working to confront this deadly public health threat with new regulations and education efforts on the dangers of betel nuts.
Article: Hard times for ‘betel nut beauties’ as Taiwan tries to kick deadly addiction
Amidst a growing furor over the skyrocketing price of the EpiPen (an auto-injecting epinephrine administrator used by people with life-threatening allergies), Mylan (the manufacturer of the device) has expanded its financial assistance program. Many question whether these coupons will be enough to counteract the backlash Mylan is currently receiving, online and in Congress.
Although prices for the device have been steadily and steeply climbing for years, these increased prices have recently come to the forefront with higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for users of the device. Many link the drug’s price hike to the imminent arrival of a generic version.
Article: Mylan to Offer Some Patients Aid on Cost of EpiPens
In less than two weeks, the NFL season opener kicks-off and the physicians at Rothman Institute are busy preparing the Philadelphia Eagles for the new season: helping players recover from multiple injuries including one hairline rib fracture and ACL, hamstring, and quadriceps injuries. Additionally, this past month, the US Woman’s Gymnastics Team, also cared for by the Rothman Institute, took home the gold medal at the Rio Olympics. Beyond being a leader in sports medicine, physicians at Rothman Institute are leaders in orthopedics clinical research and innovators in advanced modalities—no small feat considering orthopedics is a competitive and inventive field. One article describes new, trans-disciplinary work published in orthopedics this July, covering diverse and exciting topics including: bariatric patient care, use of magnetic resonance imaging to predict postoperative injury, opioid addiction risks in adolescent athletes, and progress towards lab-grown cartilage for patients with hip injuries (to name a few). As SKMC students, we are extremely fortunate to have the chance to learn from the internationally recognized Rothman Institute.
The leader of this orthopedics powerhouse, Dr. Alex Vaccaro, is speaking this Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. in Forderer Auditorium (snacks will be provided)! Dr. Vaccaro will discuss the foundational strategies and skills that it takes to run an accomplished practice as a physician leader. He is extremely successful inside and outside of the operating room, having authored over 500 peer-reviewed articles, served as President of the American Spinal Injury Association, and led the largest orthopedic center in Philadelphia since 2014. The Rothman Institute is consistently ranked as the finest orthopedic practice in the Delaware Valley. Come to this event and learn about being a physician leader, running a practice, and the intersection of clinical medicine, research, and business!
Article: July 2016 Briefing- Orthopedics
Thousands of medical students, at over 100 medical schools, are currently campaigning to have the Step 2 licensing exam (a standardized test administered in the 4th year of medical school) eliminated. The exam, which has been required for over a decade (after previously being required only for graduates of non-US medical schools), recreates clinical encounters to evaluate students’ interaction with patients and problem-solving abilities. The problem? It is administered in only 5 cities, which students must travel to, and costs $1,275. A student movement and petition to end the exam, citing needless expense to students, began at Harvard Medical School this spring, and has gained national prominence and support, including from the American Medical Association.
Have an opinion? Feel free to leave your comments below.
Article: $1,300 to take one test? Med students are fed up.
Cupping, an Eastern medicine technique from the 18th century, has been widely used in this year’s Summer Olympics, including by swimmer Michael Phelps. Cupping consists of applying negative pressure to skin to separate tissues and increase blood flow to the area. The technique leaves characteristically round bruises on the skin due to the rupture of capillaries during the process.
Cupping is becoming increasingly popular not only amongst Olympians, but also in the general population. Physical therapists, athletic trainers, and massage therapists provide cupping, along with other alternative medicine techniques (such as acupuncture and massage). A cupping device can even be found online for at-home-use (the safety of which is undetermined).
While cupping is popular, there is little scientific evidence it confers actual physiological benefit. According to studies, such as one study investigating the effect of cupping on knee arthritis, the benefits perceived after cupping— such as reduced swelling and increased healing rate— are likely due to the placebo effect. Further studies separating physiological and placebo effects are required to better understand the cupping technique.
Article: What Are the Purple Dots on Michael Phelps? Cupping Has an Olympic Moment
In 2014, former college baseball player Pete Frates turned the “ice bucket challenge” into an internet phenomenon. To complete the challenge, participants agreed to have ice water dumped on their heads or donate to ALS research, and then challenged others to do the same publicly via social media. Although the challenge raised awareness for the rare disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), some derided it as slacktivism, providing more Facebook fodder than funds. The ALS association, however, reported that research donations increased by millions of dollars, with over $100 million resulting from the ice bucket challenge campaign directly. Now, researchers can point to an even greater result: the discovery of a new gene linked to ALS.
Article: The “Ice Bucket Challenge” Helped Scientists Discover a New Gene Tied to A.L.S
A growing number of children have been born in the United States with Zika-related birth defects, including microcephaly, seizures, vision and hearing loss, and intellectual disability. Of the more than 1,500 children born with birth defects due to the virus to date, about a dozen of these children have been born in the US. In all of the US cases, mothers had been infected while traveling to one of the 50 or so countries with endemic Zika. Zika virus is spread through mosquitoes or sexual transmission. Last week, the first documented case of female to male sexual transmission occurred. Recently, there has also been a reported case of transmission through caregiving duties, demonstrating that we have a lot to learn about the virus. Given that pregnant women who become infected have between a 1 and 29% chance of giving birth to a child with microcephaly, expecting mothers should avoid travel to countries with Zika and direct contact with others who have recently traveled to these countries.
Article: A Grim First: New York City Reports Baby Born with a Zika-Related Defect