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Top news stories from AMA Morning Rounds®: Week of Aug. 28, 2023


Read AMA Morning Rounds®’ most popular stories in medicine and public health from the week of Aug. 28, 2023–Sept. 1, 2023.

NBC News (8/31, Edwards) reports, “The number of people who have overdosed and died from fake prescription pills has more than doubled in recent years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.” The report by the CDC, “released to coincide with International Overdose Awareness Day, found that from mid-2019 to the end of 2021, overdose deaths involving counterfeit drugs more than doubled, from 2% to 4.7%.” Among deaths involving fake pills, “illicit fentanyl was detected in 93%,” and “more than half of the deaths – 57.1% – occurred among people younger than 35.”

The Hill (8/31, Sforza) reports, “In total, there were more than 54,000 overdose deaths with evidence of counterfeit pill use.” The report “found that more than half of the deaths with evidence of fake pill use were related to counterfeit oxycodone or with counterfeit alprazolam, which is more commonly sold under the brand name Xanax.”

CNN (8/31, McPhillips) reports, “Methamphetamine was detected in about a quarter of deaths where counterfeit pills were involved, while cocaine and benzodiazepines were present in more than one in eight cases.”

Editor’s note: Ending the nation’s drug-related overdose and death epidemic requires continued physician leadership. Get resources from the AMA.

The New York Times (8/30, Hoffman, Weiland) reports, “Narcan, the first opioid overdose reversal medication approved for over-the-counter purchase, is being shipped to drugstore and grocery chains nationwide, its manufacturer said Wednesday.” Earlier this summer, the FDA “gave over-the-counter approval to RiVive, a naloxone spray expected in early 2024. RiVive, manufactured by Harm Reduction Therapeutics, is intended as a low-cost product largely for outreach groups.” Pharmacies at “Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and Rite Aid said they expected Narcan to be available online and on many store shelves early next week.”

NBC News (8/30, Lovelace) reports the FDA’s approval means the drug “can be sold in even more places, including...airports and even vending machines.” It “could also be available to buy online from some businesses this week.” However, its price tag of $44.99 for two doses “may put it out of reach for some.”

The AP (8/28, Johnson) reports, “Voice assistants often fall flat when asked how to perform CPR,” according to findings published online in a research letter in JAMA Network Open. After testing “Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana in February,” asking “questions such as ‘How do I perform CPR?,’ and ‘What do you do if someone does not have a pulse?,’” researchers found that just “nine of 32 responses suggested calling emergency services for help—an important step recommended by the American Heart Association.” Some of the “voice assistants sent users to web pages that explained CPR, but only 12% of the 32 responses included verbal instructions.”

CNN (8/28, Christensen) reports, “Most cancer screenings don’t ultimately give someone extra time beyond their regular lifespan, according to a new review of clinical trials involving more than 2.1 million people who had six kinds of common tests for cancer.” Investigators “found that of the six most common cancer screenings, only colorectal cancer screening with sigmoidoscopy...seemed to make a difference in extending someone’s life.” The investigators “looked at clinical trials that involved at least nine years of follow-up reporting and found no significant difference in lifetime gain with the other most common cancer screening tests: mammography for breast cancer, colonoscopy, fecal occult blood testing or endoscopy...prostate-specific antigen tests, and computed tomography for current or former smokers.” The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

According to HealthDay (8/25, Murez), four “gut conditions” could “be an early indicator of Parkinson’s disease,” investigators concluded in findings published online in the journal Gut. The study “used data from a U.S. nationwide medical record network (TriNetX) to compare more than 24,000 people who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease of unknown cause with those who had been diagnosed with other neurological conditions,” including “more than 19,000 with Alzheimer’s disease, more than 23,000 with cerebrovascular disease and more than 24,000 with none of these conditions.” The study revealed that gastroparesis, dysphagia, and “constipation were all associated with a more than doubled risk of Parkinson’s disease in the five years before the diagnosis,” while “irritable bowel syndrome...without diarrhea was associated with a 17% higher risk.”

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