Issue 33: Parkinsons, Trump and Pfizer, $10 cough drops, don't let dogs do drugs, VR for fear of heights, Apple Health API

Rethink Parkinson's
Stages of Parkinson's research.

Alpha-synuclein is a word medical students are drilled to associate with Parkinson's disease. And Parkinson's sucks by the way. The rigidity and tremors become debilitating and there's no cure. It has been theorized that the alpha-synuclein protein starts clumping and forming fibrils called Lewy Bodies in a particular part of our brain that leads to loss of dopamine production. But now you gunners might want to go argue with your professors. According to new research, these little sh*t proteins might not be the culprit. Alpha-synuclein's 3D structure is apparently resistant to turn into a fibril, and it actually prevents the formation of Lewy Bodies. So what now? We're basically back to square one regarding the pathophysiology behind Parkinson's disease. Also, it's not like we had preexisting drugs to treat the wrong mechanism either. 

Trump and Pfizer
POTUS pointing his finger at someone. Image: Gage Skidmore

Pfizer is a huuuuge drug company, and it got into a little altercation with POTUS this week. Trump has been talking about decreasing the cost of medications, and he called Pfizer out on increasing drug prices two weeks ago. What happened was that Trump first scared all the pharmaceutical companies about his price reduction agenda, Pfizer then increased prices on 10% of their products, and then Trump basically yelled at them via tweeter and etc. The end result is that Pfizer is not going to raise the price on drugs but that it will wait for the elusive White House blueprint to pass. Did Trump just help people afford their Norvasc and Lyrica?

$10 Cough Drops

The homies at CB Insights reported this week to their followers that hospitals are now charging $10 per cough drop. For comparison you can buy a bag of 30 Halls cough drops for less than $2 from most drug stores. The cough drops which one user posted on his twitter are packaged and distributed by SAFECOR which is based out of Columbus OH. So basically for some shit*y packaging, drug companies and hospitals are jacking up the price of a single cough drop by 150x.

Don't let your pet eat your pot brownies 
Obligatory dank meme

With more and more states legalizing marijuana, a lot more people have been able to benefit from its therapeutic effects. But there’s also been a spike in the amount of cats and dogs being poisoned from it. In fact, over the past six years the Veterinary Services Poison Helpline has seen an increase of 448% regarding calls about pets ingesting marijuana. Dogs in particular are susceptible since they’re often out and about with their owners to go for walks, when their extremely curious natures might lead them to nibble on a used joint, an edible, or marijuana flowers. Even consuming a little bit can be very dangerous for dogs because they have a lot more cannabinoid receptors than people do.  Some veterinarians have likened symptoms of marijuana toxicity in dogs to having a really bad trip. The idea of our canine friends having a trip on weed sounds pretty funny, but it can result in serious consequences for them. Accidental ingestion can lead to seizures, low blood pressure, incontinence and even comas. Fortunately, marijuana toxicity is treatable as long as dog owners act fast and contact their vet as soon as they can!

Have a fear of heights? Try VR.

Even Obama is on the VR train

Let's be real VR is hella hyped here in the Bay Area, but it turns out there are actually some pretty legit applications for VR in healthcare. One promising application is to treat acrophobia aka the fear of heights. A recent randomized study published online in the Lancet Psychiatry showed that VR was a safe, effective, and inexpensive way of treating acrophobia. The treatment group in the study did not require a human behavioral specialist and instead were coached by a virtual avatar who guided participants through various tasks such as rescuing a kitten from a tree. The control group received no treatment. Further trials are needed to compare the VR treatment against the gold standard of human behavioral intervention with a specialist but for now VR seems like a good way to get really high without shit*ing your pants.

Apple Health Records API

Image from Apple

Earlier this year in January, Apple announced an exciting new platform called Apple Health Records. Basically it would take all the data from multiple EHR vendors across different hospitals and put that data into your Iphone. For example if John goes to multiple different hospitals and has prescriptions filled at those various institutions he can have a list of all his meds in a simply yet elegantly designed format (this is Steve Job's baby after all). Since going live they have signed up close to 40 different hospitals to use the platform including John Hopkins and Penn Medicine. Last month Apple announced one more thing - an API. Now developers can leverage all that healthcare data to make apps for patients. To get around the HIPPA issue Apple gives patients the choice to have their information distributed for development. In other words patients have to opt in. A mobile app startup called MediSafe, which helps keep track of patient's medications, will be the first to leverage the API.