According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the leading cause of deaths at work is opioid overdoses. The report showed that 220 deaths occurred at a workplace in 2017. Of those, one-fourth were from accidental overdoses of opioids.
The most common industries to see this issue was in food service, accommodation construction and real estate. The number of deaths from opioid overdose has tripled from 2011 to 2016. The average age of those who died was 39.
Next to overdoses, falls, car crashes and suicide were the most common causes of death in the workplace. Workers being hit by a vehicle was also on the list. Almost all of the victims are male at an astonishing 90 percent. Almost 80 percent were non-Hispanic whites.
The rate of deaths in the workplace has increased in general. It went from 1.9 per 100,000 from 2013 to 3.3 in 2017. This only includes full-time workers and not part-time or temporary hires.
Understanding Opioid Overdose
Opioids are often prescribed as painkillers for an injury or medical condition. They are generally meant to be short-term, but some people continue taking them for longer. The risk for dependency goes up with long-term use.
The most common way for a person to overdose on opioids is by mixing them with other drugs or taking them for longer than what is necessary. This situation can happen at work if the person is hurting from the job and takes more pills or a different pain pill after taking their opioid prescription. Sometimes, a person can give one of their prescription medications to someone who has been hurt or is complaining of pain. They may think it will help, not realizing the risk that comes from taking a prescription that isn’t yours.
What an Overdose Looks Like
An overdose can cause a seizure. A person may aspirate on their vomit when they have taken too much of the medication. The medication can slow down breathing to the point that they aren’t getting enough oxygen, which causes respiratory depression. If it continues, the person will die because the brain and other organs didn’t get enough oxygen to function.
If someone is overdosing on opioid medication, time is critical. Emergency help needs to be contacted right away. They may have a medication called Narcan that will stop the effects of the opioid until the person reaches the hospital.
Employers need to be aware of the risk for overdose with their employees. A person doesn’t need to be a drug addict to be more likely to overdose on opioids. If they mix their prescription medication with other medicines or take more than the prescribed amount, they could become the victim of an overdose. Employers can teach their workers about the dangers of overdose in employee training. It’s also helpful to teach them what an overdose looks like, so they are better equipped to respond in an emergency if it should happen in the workplace.
New Vaccine for Cancer May Be a Breakthrough
Researchers at the University of Queensland say they have a vaccine ready for human trials which may be used to treat certain types of cancers. According to the research team, this could be a major breakthrough for cancer patients in the future.
Hope for Cancer Patients
The vaccine is made up of antibodies from humans, which are fused with a protein that is specific to the tumor. Researchers are attempting to find out if it can target cells in humans with the memory of the tumor cells. If the vaccine works, it could be used on blood cancers, such as various types of leukemia, along with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It may also work for solid tumors, such as cancers of the lung, breast, ovaries, renal glands, and pancreas as well as for glioblastoma. These are some of the most common cancers diagnosed each year.
There are several benefits to the vaccine. One of the major advantages is that it would be a clinical grade formula, which means it is less costly to develop than vaccines that are patient specific. It would be more affordable for the average patient.
Another benefit is that the vaccine targets specific cells, which are necessary for immune responses to tumors. It would maximize the effectiveness of the vaccine while minimizing possible side effects.
Cancer Rates and Fatalities
The most commonly diagnosed cancer for 2019 was breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. For 2019, there were 271,270 expected new cases. Lung and prostate cancer follow next in line.
Lung, liver and pancreatic cancers have some of the highest death rates for diagnoses. With pancreatic cancer, almost all cases are fatal. At the other end of the spectrum, melanoma, thyroid cancer, and prostate cancer have a higher survival rate. The timeline for progression can vary based on the type of cancer. For example, some cancers can be more aggressive with a fast progression. Others progress slowly and can linger for years before causing death.
Many of these cancers are genetic with family history playing a significant part in the likelihood of a person developing the cancer. Others, like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, may be caused by other factors, including exposure to chemicals. For instance, with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, some studies like the cancer to exposure from glyphosate, the chemical found in weed killers like Roundup.
Some agencies have labeled glyphosate as a possible carcinogen. Many countries have banned the use of Roundup because of the possible link between it and cancer. More research is being done to determine if there is a link and how significant of a role it plays in the development of cancer.
With the possibility of a cancer vaccine on the horizon, it gives hope to those who are diagnosed with cancer as well as those who are at a higher risk due to genetics or exposure. Even with clinical trials ready to begin, it is likely to be some time before the vaccine will be ready for public use.
Study Indicates Steroid Use Even Short-term May Be Risky to Patients
Doctors prescribe steroids known as corticosteroids for chronic conditions, sometimes for an extended period or for just a few days to get inflammation under control. While it has been known that long-term use of these drugs may increase risk to patients for certain serious problems, new research suggests even short-term use can also cause harm.
Dangers of Prescription Steroid Use
Damage from extended use includes cataracts, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. New information from a study also indicates that short-term use may increase risk for gastrointestinal bleeding as well as sepsis and heart failure.
The study conducted in Taiwan had a median of three days for treatment using these steroids. Researchers suggest that medical providers should consider the risks when determining if the benefits are worth it. While the risks are somewhat rare, they can have serious consequences. It is also advised that doctors monitor their patients within the first 30 days of starting steroid therapy.
The study included nearly 16 million adults with over 2.5 million between the ages of 20 to 64 who received steroids for 14 days or less. The majority of prescriptions were for various skin disorders and for respiratory tract infections. According to the researchers, short-term use of steroids is common among patients.
This study follows similar findings of an earlier one which was conducted at the University of Michigan. In that prior study, data was collected on adults with many of them taking prescribed steroids for up to 30 days. It was reported that there was a five-time greater risk for developing sepsis as well as almost double the risk for fractures within the first 30 days of beginning the drug therapy. There was also a threefold risk for developing a condition known as venous thromboembolism.
One of the things these studies reveal is that the increase in risk is to young and healthy patients and not just those with pre-existing conditions or other health problems. In light of this information, some doctors are recommending finding other treatment plans rather than using steroids even for short bursts.
How Steroids Work
These medications work by mimicking the natural hormones in a person’s system but at levels higher than what the body can produce. They can lower the symptoms that come with inflammatory conditions. The steroids can also suppress the immune system, which may be important when it attacks the body by mistake.
Doctors prescribe this type of treatment for a wide range of conditions, such as eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, lupus and more. They may be taken by mouth in pill form, by inhaler or spray, topically or through an injection.
Corticosteroids come with a host of health risks. Side effects often depend on the dosage and length of time of use, but they may include swelling in the legs, high blood pressure, pressure in the eyes, weight gain, mood swings, altered memory and more. Anyone who is prescribed these medications should discuss with the doctor the benefits versus the risks to determine if it is the best option for treatment.
New Pill May Save Lives from Allergic Reactions
A group of medications which are used to treat blood cancers may also help those who suffer from life-threatening allergic reactions. These medications are known as BTK inhibitors, and they may help people with known drug and food allergies.
Hope for Allergy Sufferers
Researchers have been testing these drugs in lab experiments. They have determined that they may stop anaphylaxis. This is a condition which occurs when someone is exposed to a trigger food or other substance and develops a severe reaction. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include rapid heart rate, inability to breathe and dropping blood pressure. Insect stings, especially with bees, can also cause this condition.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, at least one in 50 suffer from this condition in America. It may be as high as one in 20. Currently, the main method of treatment for these people is avoidance. It can be a bit tricky for those with certain types of allergies, such as an allergy to peanuts. Palforzia is a medication which as recently been approved by the FDA to help children avoid severe reactions from peanuts.
Allergy shots are also given to prevent anaphylaxis from allergy triggers, especially insect stings. While these treatments can be quite effective, they are limited to a specific type of allergy.
BTK inhibitors would cover a broad spectrum of allergies. If they work for these situations, they wouldn’t depend on the type of allergy. BTK inhibitors block the enzyme which sets off the reactions to allergens.
Studies on BTK Inhibitors and Allergies
The tests used lab mice and showed that three different inhibitors blocked the responses to allergens. These tests follow two other small studies that were conducted on humans. One study focused on cancer patients. It found that those who were taking Imbruvica had less of a response to pollen and cat dander when they were exposed.
The second study showed that people who were given this medication had a lower reactivity when given standard allergy skin tests after just a few days of taking Imbruvica or ibrutinib.
While these results are promising, doctors recommend caution. There is concern for side effects with the medications. Some of these side effects which are currently known are a drop in white blood cell counts and pneumonia. The drugs haven’t been approved for use in children.
If the medications are effective against food allergies, they would have to be taken on a regular basis. It’s often difficult to predict or detect exposure to certain foods, which can be accidental.
Another concern is with the cost of the medication, which is currently at $15,000 for a single month’s supply. This steep price tag puts them out of reach for most people who suffer from allergies.
Even though test results are promising, critics remain cautious. However, they do agree that more testing is worthwhile. Allergic reactions are common and those that are life-threatening can happen quickly with no notice. Until a drug is determined to be effective, patients must remain diligent about exposure to allergy triggers.
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