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The Morning Report provides a quick look at today’s medical news, research and features.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.11.15 

Senate Bill Would Legalize Medical Marijuana Federally and for Veterans
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday introduced an historic bill that would end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) presented the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which would reclassify marijuana and reduce the government’s ability to regulate the drug, increase research efforts, and allow VA physicians to legally prescribe the drug to veterans.

“Doctors and patients deserve federal laws that are fair and compassionate, and states should be able to set their own medical marijuana policies without federal interference,” said Sen. Booker at the bill’s unveiling. “Right now, our veterans are prohibited from getting the medical treatment they so desperately need to relieve their pain and suffering.”

Doctors at the VA currently are prohibited from prescribing medical marijuana to their patients.  While 23 states currently permit medical marijuana, the VA is controlled by the federal government and those docs must abide by federal law regardless of where they practice. Should this bill pass, military veterans will be permitted to receive prescriptions for medical marijuana.

The CARERS Act would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug, which the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency defines as drugs with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” such as heroin or LSD, to the “less abuse potential” Schedule II classification like oxycodone or Ritalin. (More on the bill at Physicians News)

The Lower His IQ, the More a Guy Drinks
Caricatures of the not-too-swift, drunken fratboy may have some basis in science, with a new study finding that the lower a young man’s IQ, the more likely he is to get drunk. Researchers in Sweden found that as men’s IQ scores dropped, their risk of both heavy drinking and binge drinking rose.

“Intelligence, along with many other factors, might be a part of the complex picture that influences alcohol consumption,” said lead author Sara Sjolund, a doctoral student at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Previous studies have been mixed regarding how IQ might affect drinking habits, with some finding a link between high IQ and heavier drinking, the study authors pointed out in background information in their report. But according to the new study’s results, a young adult male’s risk of heavy drinking increases 20 percent for every rung down an IQ ladder established by the researchers. Likewise, their risk of binge drinking increases by 9 percent for every drop down the IQ scale.

The findings may not pertain to females, however. “We must be very careful in making any attempt to generalize our results to women,” Sjolund said, “since their level of consumption and patterns of drinking likely differ in comparison with men.” (PND)

Apple’s ResearchKit is a ‘Game-Changer’ for Medical Research
Apple introduced new software that will turn every iPhone into a sophisticated medical diagnostic tool.  ResearchKit will allow researchers to greatly expand every medical trial by immediately reaching potential study participants directly through their iPhone.

“One of the biggest challenges researchers have is in recruiting,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of Operations. “With hundreds of millions of iPhones in use around the world, we saw an opportunity for Apple to have an even greater impact by empowering people to participate in and contribute to medical research.”

The traditional model for medical studies includes advertising for potential qualified participants; traveling to a hospital; completing a series of questionnaires; and repeating these activities weekly, monthly, quarterly or however (in)frequently schedules permit.  But the iPhone immediately can perform all of the necessary data generating activities of a medical trial and from an extremely large pool of candidates.

“We have sent out over 60,000 letters,” said Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, University of Pennsylvania, in regard to the difficulties in finding candidates for a recent medical trial. “Those 60,000 letters have netted 305 women” qualified to participate in the project.

Beginning today, ResearchKit will offer apps for projects targeting asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. During his presentation at Apple’s event, Williams described one feature of a ResearchKit app using the iPhone: “Say ‘Ahhh’ into the microphone and the processor will detect minute vocal chord variations that assesses the level of Parkinson’s [disease].” (More at Physicians News)

 

 

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