Why We Are Hoarding Our Opioid Pills

To curb the ongoing tidal wave of opioid addiction and overdose deaths, state and federal governments have put in place policies that restrict doctors’ ability to prescribe opioids such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet. Although well-meaning, these policies are unleashing several unintended — yet entirely predictable — consequences. Read the rest at Stat News.

Replace Annual Physicals with Real-Time Biomarker Monitoring

The annual physical exam is under fire. Increasingly, physicians believe that the yearly ritual of having our bodies poked and prodded is completely useless, save for the fraction of patients who have a chronic illness or predisposition to disease. Worse, the annual physical is estimated to cost our healthcare system approximately $8 billion for arguably little benefit. Read the rest at Scientific American.

To Your Health: Is Wine Good for You or Is It Not?

FEW things arouse such warm adulation and sharp denunciation as alcohol. It is beloved by some and despised by others, and its consumption is governed by legal and religious rules. Wine is central to Christian rites but is widely considered by Muslims to be forbidden by the Quran. It is also the subject of debate within the scientific community: some researchers contend that alcohol, particularly wine, has health benefits, but others disagree. Read the rest at The Economist.

Macaque Experiment Shows Vaccine Schedule Not Linked to Autism

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

During the most recent Republican presidential debate, frontrunner Donald Trump once again dragged out the still widespread myth that vaccines cause autism. This dangerous fiction was debunked as early as 2002 by the New England Journal of Medicine and has been consistently contradicted by research ever since. As a result, anti-vaxxers changed strategy: Instead of blaming thimerosal for causing autism, they now focus on the vaccine schedule itself, essentially claiming that too many shots in too short of a timespan overwhelms a child’s immune system. Continue reading

Could Antibodies Treat Migraines?

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Migraines are just awful. It is very difficult to express in words to non-sufferers what a migraine is like. However, if you could imagine a vice rhythmically squeezing your brain every second for several hours (or days), that is roughly what a migraine feels like. For some migraine sufferers, such as your humble correspondent, it is even possible to feel your heartbeat in your brain, with each pulse bringing a throbbing pain. Continue reading

Americans Hate Fruits and Vegetables

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Americans think fruits and veggies suck. That, essentially, is the conclusion of a new CDC report which finds that the average American simply does not eat enough of the healthy stuff. And it’s not like the federal dietary recommendations are particularly burdensome; merely 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables per day are considered adequate for a healthy diet. Despite this, the vast majority of Americans fall short, preferring instead to lick donuts like Ariana Grande. Continue reading

Your Viral History in a Drop of Blood

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Viruses are pernicious beasts. Some of them can sneakily hide inside the body, long after the initial infection has been cleared. For instance, varicella zoster virus (VZV), a type of herpesvirus that causes chickenpox, survives in an inactive state inside nerve cells for the remainder of a person’s life. Then, for unknown reasons, it can reactivate, causing shingles in old people or even healthy 30-year-olds. Other viruses may play a role in chronic conditions such as asthma or inflammatory bowel disease. Continue reading

Unscientific Nonsense on ‘Shark Tank’

This article was originally published on RealClearScience.

Shark Tank is one of my favorite television shows. Though its depiction of the angel investor/venture capital world is a bit skewed, it provides an amazing insight into the heart of American capitalism. Indeed, the show easily disproves the myth oft-repeated by certain politicians that “rich people don’t create jobs.” Yes, they do. Start-ups, which directly create jobs, often rely on the beneficence of monumentally rich investors to get their businesses off the ground. Shark Tank, therefore, provides Americans with a basic, 101-level course in entrepreneurialism.

Unfortunately, one of the lessons of entrepreneurialism is that “money matters more than science.” If a buck can be made, few business owners care if their products make a mockery of science. Businesses that peddle unscientific organic food regularly appear on Shark Tank. The owners proudly proclaim that their product has been selling well at Whole Foods — a business that blatantly lies to its customers — after which they often walk away with a sizable investment from the sharks. As a scientist, I am appalled by this. Continue reading