Quantum computing will (eventually) help us discover vaccines in days

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The coronavirus is proving that we have to move faster in identifying and mitigating epidemics before they become pandemics because, in today’s global world, viruses spread much faster, further, and more frequently than ever before.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that while our ability to identify and treat pandemics has improved greatly since the outbreak of the Spanish Flu in 1918, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Over the past few decades, we’ve taken huge strides to improve quick detection capabilities. It took a mere 12 days to map the outer “spike” protein of the COVID-19 virus using new techniques. In the 1980s, a similar structural analysis for HIV took four years.

But developing a cure or vaccine still takes a long time and involves such high costs that big pharma doesn’t always have incentive to try.

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76 billion opioid pills: Newly released federal data unmasks the epidemic

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 The data in the DEA database tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States, including oxycodone, above.

America’s largest drug companies saturated the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills from 2006 through 2012 as the nation’s deadliest drug epidemic spun out of control, according to previously undisclosed company data released as part of the largest civil action in U.S. history.

The information comes from a database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States — from manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies in every town and city. The data provides an unprecedented look at the surge of legal pain pills that fueled the prescription opioid epidemic, which has resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths from 2006 through 2012.

Just six companies distributed 75 percent of the pills during this period: McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart, according to an analysis of the database by The Washington Post. Three companies manufactured 88 percent of the opioids: SpecGx, a subsidiary of Mallinckrodt; ­Actavis Pharma; and Par Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals.

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Everyone is on drugs

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The Psychopharmacology of everyday life.

Everyone is on drugs. I don’t mean the old-fashioned, illegal kind, but the kind made by pharmaceutical companies that come in the form of pills. As a psychoanalyst, I’ve listened to people through the screen of their daily doses; and I’ve listened to them without it. Their natural rhythms certainly change, sometimes very dramatically—I guess that’s the point, isn’t it? I have a great many questions about what happens when a mind—a mind that uniquely structures emotion, interest, excitement, defense, association, memory, and rest—is undercut by medication. In this Faustian bargain, what are we gaining? And what are we sacrificing?

There is new resistance to the easy solution of medicating away psychological problems, because of revelations about addiction and abuse, a better understanding of placebo effects, or, for example, the startling realization that antidepressants, far from saving some teenagers from committing suicide, can sometimes push them to do it, which means that these pills should not be a first line of defense. Perhaps the time is right to return to the conundrum of mind and medicine.

The story of psychopharmacology stretches from the advent of barbiturates at the turn of the century to the discovery in the early 1950s of the first antipsychotic, based on a powerful sedative used for surgical purposes that was described as a “non-permanent pharmacological lobotomy.” This drug, Chlorpromazine, led to the development of most of the drugs used today for psychiatric management. The proliferation of psychiatric medications, ones with supposedly less overt dangers, began in the late 1980s—at the same time, a watershed lawsuit was filed in the UK against the makers of benzodiazepines, a class of drugs used for treating anxiety and other disorders, for knowingly downplaying knowledge of their potential for causing harm. Today, psychopharmacology is a multibillion-dollar industry and an estimated one in six adults in America is on some form of psychiatric medication (a statistic that doesn’t even include the use of sleeping pills, or pain pills, or the off-label use of other medications for psychological purposes).

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This is why Xanax is blowing up in America

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From the explosion of ADHD meds to the economic crisis to the Trump presidency, this dangerous trend didn’t come out of nowhere.

It’s not exactly breaking news that Xanax has been having something of a moment. Famous musicians, at least until prominent voices like Lil Xan (yes, even him!) and Chance the Rapper began swearing off the stuff, have long been inclined to hype it. And Xanny bars have been touted across social media and even in old-school graffiti for some time now. The number of adults prescribed drugs in the class that includes Xanax (alprazolam)—known as benzodiazepines—rose by 67 percent between 1996 and 2013. Over the same period, the amount of these drugs that was actually dispensed more than tripled, according to a 2016 study.

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