Pharmacology

Human milk is obviously baby food, but for sick, hospitalized infants, it's also medicine, according to a series of articles in Advances in Neonatal Care devoted to best practices in providing human milk to hospitalized infants. 

"The immunological and anti-inflammatory properties of human milk are especially important for the critically ill infants in our intensive care units," said Diane L. Spatz, Ph.D., R.N.-B.C., FAAN, nurse researcher and director of the Lactation Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and the invited guest editor of the August 2014 issue of the journal, published by the National Association of Neonatal Nurses.


Aspirin has been linked to a significant reduction in the risk of developing – and dying from – the major cancers of the digestive tract, i.e. bowel, stomach and esophageal cancer in a recent Annals of Oncology paper. Some have been concerned about side effects, such as instances of bleeding, due to aspirin.

The review of the available evidence assessed both the benefits and harms of preventive use of aspirin. The researchers, led by Professor Jack Cuzick, Head of  Queen Mary University of London's Centre for Cancer Prevention, found taking aspirin for 10 years could cut bowel cancer cases by around 35% and deaths by 40%. Rates of esophageal and stomach cancers were cut by 30% and deaths from these cancers by 35-50%.


Artesunate, a common herbal-based anti-malarial drug, can be used to control asthma, with better treatment outcomes than other drugs currently available, according to a paper by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The authors write that artesunate is able to suppress airway inflammation and produce an array of anti-inflammatory effects similar to those by dexamethasone, the most potent steroid currently available, and with less side effects. 

Asthma is an incurable lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, causing recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, coughing and shortness of breath. It is a chronic condition that affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood.

Dietary capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, produces chronic activation of a receptor on cells lining the intestines of mice, triggering a reaction that ultimately reduces the risk of colorectal tumors, finds a study in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.


Resistance to artemisinin, the main drug to treat malaria, has become widespread throughout Southeast Asia.

Resistance among the Plasmodium falciparum (P. falciparum) parasites that cause the disease is likely caused by a genetic mutation in the parasites, but a six-day course of artemisinin-based combination therapy, as opposed to a standard three-day course, has proved highly effective in treating drug-resistant malaria cases, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. DDT has also been effective for the last 70 years.


The pesticide methoxychlor has been linked to adult onset kidney disease, ovarian disease and obesity - generations after rats were exposed.  

Methoxychlor, also known as Chemform, Methoxo, Metox or Moxie, was invented in 1948 and became popular in the 1970s after DDT was banned. It was used on crops, ornamental plants, livestock and pets. It is still used in many countries around the world it was banned in the U.S. in 2003 due to concerns about toxicity and disruption of endocrine systems. Methoxychlor was found to behave like the hormone estrogen and affect the reproductive system.


For two decades, women at risk of developing placental blood clots have been prescribed the anticoagulant low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) but it's ineffective, according to a clinical trial published today in The Lancet.

As many as one in 10 pregnant women have a tendency to develop  thrombophilia
- blood clots in their vein. These women have been injected with LMWH daily, which means hundreds of needles over the course of their pregnancy. 


Pharmaceutical companies are in a tough position; they are highly regulated, trials are expensive, new products fail most of the time, and if they are successful, everyone complains the cost is too high while the company tries to make money before it goes generic.

In the UK, the company with the best antibiotic pipeline in the world, AstraZeneca, is trying to sell that business, because they don't think they will ever make money at it given current restrictions.


Ketamine has been used by emergency departments for analgesia, sedation and amnesia for rapid, life-saving intubation in critically ill patients but decades-old studies suggested it raised intracranial pressure.

 A systematic review of 10 recent studies comparing ketamine to sufentanil, fentanyl and other pharmacological agents (vasopressors, neuromuscular blocking agents, sedatives) found no differences in intracranial and cerebral pressures of patients who had been treated with them.


Once marijuana is legalized at the federal level in 2021,following the presidential election of Chelsea Clinton and her surprising vice-presidential pick of one of the Bush twins (Mitt Romney will only serve 1 term), it will be important that people are informed about the long-term use of marijuana since all of America will need drugs to get through another terrible presidential choice (like the past 217 years wasn’t enough to drive everyone to weed).  The good news is that marijuana is not lethal like acetaminophen or opiates because activation of cannabinoid receptors does not cause either liver toxicity or respiratory depression.