Doctor Housecalls Blog

Healthcare related news and updates



There are some new methods of preventing and treating the flu, which could be available in the coming year. A company in Osaka, Japan called Shionogi & Co. Ltd. has announced that an experimental drug called baloxavir marboxil has been able to reduce the virus to undetectable levels, effectively killing it within 24 hours for half of the 414 individuals who were involved in their study.



Live Longer by Owning a Dog

A study that included more than 3.4 million people found that owning a dog is linked to living longer. The study was published in Scientific Reports and was conducted by researchers in Sweden at Uppsala University. The study included both men and women who were between 40 and 80 years old, and who did not have a history of cardiovascular disease. Researchers followed their health records and found whether or not they owned a dog from registries.

The study found that there was a lower risk of death by cardiovascular disease, as well as a lower risk of death from other causes. This was most prominent for people who lived alone. The design of the study was not to show a cause and effect relationship of owning a dog. However, they believe that those who owned dogs tended to be more active and in better health. They also believe that the dog’s effect on the owner’s microbiome could be a factor by providing immune benefits for adults. Other studies have shown that growing up with a dog can reduce allergies and asthma in children.



Synthetic Opioids Cause More Overdose Deaths Than Prescription Opioids

In 2016, opioid overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids surpassed those involving prescription opioids. The LA Times reported that there were a total of 42,249 overdose deaths from opioids. Over 19,000 of those were from synthetic opioids, over 17,000 were from prescription opioids, and over 15,000 were from heroin (some cases involved more than one type of drug). That means 46% of all opioid deaths were due to synthetic opioids, as opposed to 40% from prescription opioids. 

In 2015 there were more opioid overdose deaths from prescription opioids than synthetic. However, there was a shift and the overdose deaths from synthetic opioids doubled between 2015 and 2016. According to Emily Einstein, of the of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug enforcers have been hyper focused on prescription opioids, when in more recent years the biggest threat has been the rise in synthetic opioids.

The increase in drug overdose deaths in the United States is largely due synthetic opioids, like the most common synthetic opioid, illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF). “IMF is mixed into counterfeit opioid and benzodiazepine pills, heroin, and cocaine, likely contributing to increases in overdoses involving these other substances,” according to the CDC. Fentanyl is extremely dangerous because the effects are active at much lower doses.



Antibiotics – Are You Taking Them for Longer Than You Should?

According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, many doctors are prescribing antibiotics to patients who are suffering with sinus infections for durations that are too long. Infectious disease doctors recommend only taking acute sinus infection antibiotics for five to seven days, yet many people are taking them for ten or more days.

“Any time antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance,” Dr. Katherine Fleming-Dutra, deputy director of the Office of Antibiotic Stewardship at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, explained. The findings published recommend that people only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary and to only take them for the minimum effective duration.

Side effects for antibiotics include: rash, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, and yeast infections, as well as life threatening allergic reactions. They can also cause Clostridium difficile infection, which can lead to severe colon damage.

When antibiotics are over prescribed and used for longer time periods, bacteria develop the ability to beat the drug, causing the antibiotic to lose its effectiveness in the future. For acute sinus infections, patients typically  recover within 5-7 days. Therefore, there is no need to take an antibiotic for longer and risk becoming immune to it. The reason many people take antibiotics for too long is largely due to people firmly believing they should take their full prescription and many doctors have not yet switched to the new guidelines. Most doctors are still prescribing these antibiotics for 10 or more days.

“Older . . . acute bacterial sinusitis guidelines were written with the belief that if antibiotics were taken for shorter durations of time, that the bacteria would not be completely eradicated and that would risk persistent, recurrent and antibiotic resistant infections,” said Dr. Sharon Meropol, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, who wasn’t involved in the study. However, the recommendations for this have changed after several subsequent studies. The medical community learned that it not necessary to stay on antibiotics for acute sinus infections for 10 or more days, and doing so can make you resistant to the drug.


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