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Medical Marijuana, The Hazy Future: Los Angeles to Ban Dispensaries

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California Ban Medical Marijuana

Events from around the country have made the future of legal medical marijuana use in America unclear at best. Medical marijuana dispensaries are facing pressure from federal agencies and even local governments that are forcing them out of business.

The federal government’s view of pot has not changed much since the first states started passing medical marijuana laws. Though states may pass laws allowing the use of pot for medical reasons, the federal law is clear in banning all marijuana use.

“Marijuana’s illegal under federal law and there are many things I could do as a result of that,” said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in an interview on NPR about possible legal action against large dispensaries. “I could bring a criminal action. I can bring a forfeiture action or both.”

“A marijuana industry is not off limits. And, if we have significant grow operations, if we have for-profit operations, certainly if those operations are having other impacts, negative impacts on their communities, that it isn’t something that we’re able to ignore.”

Two San Francisco dispensaries, the decade-old HopeNet and the 8-year-old Lower Haight, closed their doors at the end of July after receiving warnings from Haag that threatened the owners with property seizure and stiff prison terms if they did not seize operations.

“The Justice Department sent our landlord one of those nasty letters,” said HopeNet co-founder Catherine Smith in an interview with a local news station. “So this is our D-Day, we have to leave.”

There have been federal raids high-profile sellers like Richard Lee of Oakland and Harborside Health Center, known from its role on the Discovery Channel series, “Weed Wars”. The feds have shut down dispensaries throughout California.

The federal government’s renewed focus may worry many advocates of medical marijuana, but U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesmen Bill Solomon gave a statement to The Arizona Republic that suggested the feds are seeking a targeted approach.

“Specifically, the Department of Justice is focusing its limited resources on significant drug traffickers, not seriously ill individuals and their caregivers who are in compliance with applicable state medical-marijuana statutes,” Solomon said.

However, the federal threat is not the only one faced by medical marijuana advocates, users and suppliers. Local governments have taken steps to try to curb the use of medical marijuana.

The city council of Los Angeles voted unanimously to ban pot shops at the end of July 2012, which meant receiving a vote from an admitted medical marijuana user. The city made the move in response to an explosion in the number of dispensaries and reports of public and illicit use of the drug. There are more than 760 registered dispensaries in the city with another estimated 200 without proper registration.

The ban on dispensaries doesn’t ban access to marijuana. Medical patients and caregivers will be able to grow and share pot in groups of three or less. Patients can also go to dispensaries in other cities. The ban may be overturned depending on the results of a pending court case.

Other cities in the country have tried to undercut their state’s medical marijuana laws by enacting local laws that recriminalize use of the drugs. In Michigan, three cities in the Detroit Metropolitan area had anti-medical marijuana laws blocked by the State appeals court.

On Oct. 16, a federal court will hear oral arguments in a decade old rescheduling petition filed by a marijuana advocacy group. The group, Americans for Safe Access, want the DEA to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I (meaning highly addictive with no medical value) to a classification that would reflect the drug’s medical benefits. It will be the first time the medical merits of pot will be examined in a federal courtroom since 1994.

Despite the setbacks in America, there is evidence that the medicinal marijuana use will continue to grow on the international scene. Use of pot as a treatment option has begun to spread worldwide.

Isreal has become the world leader in the use of cannabis for medical treatment. What first began in the bone marrow transplant cancer ward in Isreal is now used by more than 10,000 patients who have government licenses to consume the drug.

“It’s not like we’re kids and we’re getting high and going out and partying. You take it, you’re by yourself usually, you just do it because you want to be in a better place. You don’t want to sit and stew in the pain,” says the whelelchair-bound Susan Malkah, who has been using cannabis for about two years. “It’s natural, it helps, you don’t have to fill your body full of chemicals. It’s terrific.”

The American company, Medical Marijuana Inc., plans to bring cannabis-based medical products to the 27 members of the European Union over the next two years. The company has establish the Canipa Holdings firm in Romania to handle the approval and marketing process.

Califoria Medical-Marijuana Dispensaries Close

L.A. City Council Ban Medical Marijuana Shops

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  1. James Delaney

    August 7, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Come now, we need to have our outdated drug laws changed. We have a product that’s been around for ever, mankind has been using it well before any other medication was invented. Mother Nature created it. Mankind created alcohol, which kills more?

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Drug-Resistant Malaria Spread Across Southeast Asia

Researchers found that malaria-causing parasites have spread across Southeast Asia but the threat is potentially worse if it spreads to Africa.

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Photo by Егор Камелев on Unsplash

A new study discovered that multidrug-resistant forms of malaria parasites are rapidly spreading across Southeast Asia, leading to “alarmingly high” treatment failure rates of widely used frontline medication. Furthermore, researchers fear that the parasites may travel across to other regions.

In a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal revealed that the parasites have moved from Cambodia to Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, where first-choice drugs are not curing half of the patients. Additionally, the study noted that 80% of the most prevalent malaria parasite were now resistant to the two most common anti-malarial drugs.

The Plasmodium falciparum parasites have also acquired resistance linked to the failure of treatment in half of the cases to one of the newest and most potent frontline drug combinations, they said.

There are about 219 million cases of malaria around the world each year. The disease kills about 435,000 people every year – most of them are children under the age of five.

Symptoms include cycles of feeling cold and shivering followed by high temperature with severe sweating. Without treatment, the parasite can lead to breathing problems and organ failure.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told in a 2018 report that the development of resistance to drugs poses one of the greatest threats to malaria control and results in increased malaria morbidity and mortality.

Furthermore, resistance to currently available antimalarial drugs has been confirmed in only two of the four human malaria parasite species, Plasmodium falciparum, and P. vivax. While the agency also noted that it is unknown if P. malariae or P. ovale has developed resistance to any antimalarial drugs. 

P. knowlesi, zoonotic monkey malaria that infects humans in forest fringe areas of Southeast Asia, is fully susceptible to chloroquine and other currently used drugs.

Initially, malaria was treated with a combination of two drugs – artemisinin and piperaquine, which was introduced in Cambodia in 2008.

By 2013, the first cases of the parasite mutating and developing resistance to both drugs were detected, in western parts of the country.

The latest study analyzed blood samples from patients across South East Asia to inspect the parasite’s DNA showed resistance had spread across Cambodia and was also in Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

It had also picked up further mutations, making it even more problematic.

Though the study showed that malaria parasites had developed resistance to the two primary drugs used to combat its symptoms, there are alternative drugs that can be used instead.

“With the spread and intensification of resistance, our findings highlight the urgent need to adopt alternative first-line treatments,” Prof Tran Tinh Hien, from the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, in Vietnam, said.

That could include using different drugs alongside artemisinin or using a combination of three drugs to overcome resistance.

However, what researchers fear more is that the findings raise the “terrifying prospect” that drug-resistance could spread to Africa, where more than nine in 10 cases of the disease are.

“This highly successful resistant parasite strain is capable of invading new territories and acquiring new genetic properties, raising the terrifying prospect that it could spread to Africa, where most malaria cases occur, as resistance to chloroquine did in the 1980s, contributing to millions of deaths,” Prof Olivo Miotto, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and University of Oxford, said.

Specifically, researchers are wary of the fact that drug-resistant malaria would yield similar results as P. falciparum, a malaria strain that has developed resistance to nearly all of the other currently available antimalarial drugs, such as sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine, mefloquine, halofantrine, and quinine. 

Chloroquine-resistant P. falciparum first developed independently in three to four areas in Southeast Asia, Oceania, and South America in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Since then, chloroquine resistance has spread to nearly all areas of the world where falciparum malaria is transmitted.

More than 200 million people are infected with the P falciparum parasite, which is responsible for nine out of ten malaria deaths globally.

Despite the current news, researchers say that this is not something that people should panic or worry about.

“These parasites are scary beasts, there’s no doubt,” Prof Colin Sutherland, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said.

“However, I wonder if these parasites are not very fit because the population as a whole is crashing.”

Notably, the number of cases in Cambodia was 262,000 in 2008 and dropped to 36,900 cases in 2018.

“The implications are not as severe as we might think,” Sutherland said. Furthermore, he added the even though drug-resistant malaria has spread; it’s unlike for it to be considered as a global health threat.

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Stop Taking Daily Aspirin To Prevent A Heart Attack, Doctors Warn

Doctors warn against people taking daily aspirin therapy without a physician’s recommendation

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Source: Marco Verch | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Daily aspirin therapy may lower the risk of a heart attack, but new research shows that the treatment isn’t right for everyone. Furthermore, the study found that millions of people are popping the pill daily without a doctor’s recommendation—a habit that health providers are warning against.

If a patient has had a heart attack or stroke, doctors will likely recommend they take a daily aspirin, unless there are other complicating situations such as having a severe allergy to the drug or history of bleeding.

In other circumstances, if patients have a high risk of having a first heart attack, their doctor will likely recommend aspirin after weighing the risks and benefits.

More or less, aspirin medications are that needs to be prescribed by a physician and not by people themselves who are following a dated concept.

In a new study conducted by Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, it was found that about 29 million people aged 40 and older were taking an aspirin a day despite having no known heart disease in 2017, the latest data available.

Meanwhile, nearly half of people over 70 who don’t have heart disease — estimated at 10 million — were taking daily aspirin for prevention, the researchers reported in Annals of Internal Medicine.

About 6.6 million of that statistic claimed that they were doing so on their own, an act that doctors warn to stop doing.

“Many patients are confused about this,” said Dr. Colin O’Brien, a senior internal medicine resident at Beth Israel who led the study.

While taking an occasional aspirin or two is safe for most adults to use for headaches, body aches or fever, daily use of aspirin can have serious side effects. Notably, doctors recommend that people shouldn’t start regular aspirin therapy on their own because the drug can cause serious complications such as internal bleeding that could ironically result in more cardia-related problems.

Aspirin interferes with your blood’s clotting action. When you bleed, your blood’s clotting cells, called platelets, build up at the site of your wound. The platelets help form a plug that seals the opening in your blood vessel to stop bleeding.

But this clotting can also happen within the vessels that supply your heart with blood. If your blood vessels are already narrowed from atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries — a fatty deposit in your vessel lining can burst.

Then, a blood clot can quickly form and block the artery. This prevents blood flow to the heart and causes a heart attack. Aspirin therapy reduces the clumping action of platelets — possibly preventing a heart attack.

However, the blood-thinning drug can also result in unwanted scenarios, specifically for people who shouldn’t be taking the medication daily.

Primarily, aspirin can increase the chances for strokes that are caused by a burst a blood vessel. While daily aspirin can help prevent a clot-related stroke, it may increase your risk of a bleeding stroke (hemorrhagic stroke).

Furthermore, there are also Gastrointestinal bleeding to watch out for. Daily aspirin use increases your risk of developing a stomach ulcer. And, if you have a bleeding ulcer or bleeding anywhere else in your gastrointestinal tract, taking aspirin will cause it to flow more, which can lead to a life-threatening extent.

In some cases, people are allergic to the drug. If a person is allergic to aspirin, taking any amount of aspirin can trigger a severe allergic reaction.

“What we were somewhat surprised at is the high numbers of older adults that were taking aspirin who don’t actually have existing heart disease or stroke, and that’s because it’s been known that the older that you are, the higher the risk of bleeding from aspirin,” said Dr. Christina Wee, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the obesity research program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who was senior author of the new research.

“Our understanding of the benefits and harms of aspirin used to prevent heart disease is evolving and there have been recent changes in the evidence as well as a change in guidelines,” she said. The general public “really should talk to their doctor to see whether they should or should not be on aspirin to prevent heart disease.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends daily aspirin therapy if you’re age 50 to 59, you’re not at increased bleeding risk, and you have an increased risk of heart attack or stroke of 10 percent or higher over the next ten years.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t recommend aspirin therapy for the prevention of heart attacks in people who haven’t already had a heart attack, stroke, or another cardiovascular condition.

In March, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology set out new guidelines for people who should be taking a daily aspirin.

In the release, it states that people over 70 or young and doesn’t have heart disease should avoid daily aspirin for prevention. Only certain people aged 40 to 70 years who don’t already have heart disease are at high enough risk to warrant 75 to 100 milligrams of aspirin daily, and that’s for a doctor to decide.

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Textured Breast Implants Linked To Cancer, Doctors Warn

A UK agency issued an alert that textured breast implants may be linked to human-made cancer.

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Docteur Spitalier Philippe | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

The Australian Department of Health’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has issued an alert that proposes a regulatory action — which includes canceling, suspending or recalling textured — regarding breast implants after a review on its link with cancer.

The agency says that women with textured breast implants may be prone to breast implant-associated cancer, which is also known as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

Mainly, BIA ALCL is a rare cancer of the immune system. It is not like breast cancer that forms from cells in the breast, but instead, cancer that grows in the fluid and scar tissue that forms around a breast implant. Less commonly, BIA-ALCL can take the form of a lump in the breast or the armpit.

In cases of BIA-ALCL, it occurs as soon as one year after the operation and as late as 37 years after the surgery. The average time to diagnosis is within eight years of the procedure.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons stated that BIA-ALCL occurs most frequently in patients who have breast implants with textured surfaces. To date, there are not any confirmed BIA-ALCL cases that involve only a smooth implant. BIA-ALCL patients seem to have an allergic reaction to textured devices over many years.

As of April, the TGA had received 76 reports of anaplastic large cell lymphoma associated with breast implants in Australian women. Additionally, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) states it received 1,586 Adverse Incident Reports for breast implants between 2014 and May 2019.

Meanwhile, there have been 457 cases in the U.S. linked between textured breast implants and the disease since 2011. The US Food and Drug Administration confirms that out of the 457 reported cases, nine women have died.

The latest FDA statement says the risk of developing BIA-ALCL in women with textured breast implants ranges from 1 in 3,817 to 1 in 30,000.

In line with latest TGA report, countries such as France and Canada acted in April to remove individual textured implants from their markets.

In March, the FDA recognized that textured breast implants most likely cause BIA-ALCL, but the agency did not proceed on ultimately banning the product, noting it wanted to continue studying the disease and tracking cases.

“The FDA is increasingly concerned about the potential BIA-ALCL risk for women with certain textured breast implants. Our experts have been reviewing new information presented since the public advisory committee meeting in March. We intend to update the public shortly with the findings of our analysis,” the agency said.

But an NBC News investigation in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists last fall reported that BIA-ALCL could be much more common and can be as high as one case out of every 1,000 women with breast implants.

The FDA said the implants available in Australia are different from those sold in the U.S., which complicates efforts to figure out the actual risks.

Breast implants are gel or fluid-filled pouches inserted in the breast area. Furthermore, they differ in their size, shape, filling, and surface characteristics. Most implants are either round or teardrop-shaped. They may be filled with saline (sterile saltwater) or with silicone gel. The surface of the implant may be smooth or rough (textured), and different implants may vary in the amount of irregularity of the texture.

Notably, breast implants are not lifetime devices and need to be replaced after 10 to 15 years.

Contrary to popular belief, people may get breast implants for many reasons apart from cosmetic enhancement. The procedure is also popular for reconstruction purposes for people who underwent breast surgery for breast cancer.

It’s estimated that of the 400,000 women who get breast implants each year, about one in 10 has textured implants.

As of the moment, the Australian agency has “no decision to suspend or cancel the relevant products at this time.” Adding that “the next steps are for the sponsors to respond to the TGA’s notification and invitation to comment by 24 July 2019. The TGA will, as a matter of priority, consider the sponsor’s submissions before reaching any decision on whether to proceed to the proposed regulatory action.”

The TGA has also detailed the list of products and information on textured implants on its website.

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