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Weekly Health Digest: Opioid Crisis Ruling, Lyme Disease, Secondhand E-Cigarette Vapors

A summary of important health news from the past week.

Opioid crisis: Johnson & Johnson hit by landmark ruling

By Russell Hotten

The multinational corporation Johnson & Johnson must pay $572m to Oklahoma for its role in the state’s opioid crisis. According to Oklahoma State, Johnson & Johnson marketed their addictive painkillers by downplaying the risks and highlighting the benefits, which led to the overprescription of drugs and an increase in overdose deaths. Following the ruling, the company said it would appeal, claiming that the public nuisance law was interpreted and used radically by the state. The money received by the state will be used to treat opioid addicts. Nonetheless, the company’s share price actually increased after the ruling as investors viewed the negligible fine favorably. 

This New Approach May Reduce The Spread Of Lyme Disease

By: Robert Glatter, MD

Traditionally, the major ways to protect against ticks (and the diseases they carry) have been largely physical: wearing long sleeves, avoiding grassy areas, or using window screens. But new research from Louisiana State University suggests that it might be possible to develop an anti-tick chemical that could be incorporated into a pesticide or oral medication. The researchers found two compounds, including a drug currently used to treat high blood pressure, that can interfere with the tick’s salivary glands, impairing not only their ability to feed, but their ability to survive. In the study, the ticks exposed to the drug had their saliva levels reduced by 95% and died within 12 hours. Both of these effects reduce a tick’s likelihood of spreading Lyme disease and other infections.

They Got Estimates Before Surgery — And A Bill After That Was 50% More

By: Rachel Bluth

This article tells the story of The Balzer family, who, despite securing quotes from their insurer, had a dramatically higher bill after a hernia operation. Estimates provided by insurers are not as determinative as estimates are in other professions. Although it is a good idea to get an estimate, the insurer is not legally bound by it in any way. Efforts to increase transparency in hospital costs has not yet had an impact on the price of services.

1 in 3 teens breathe secondhand e-cigarette vapors, new research says

By: Jacqueline Howard

According to the medical journal JAMA Network Open, about 1 in 3 students in 2018 said they had breathed secondhand aerosol from e-cigarettes, an increase from the 1 in 4 students statistic from previous years. The increasing proportion contrasts the fact that 16 states and more than 800 municipalities have new laws restricting e-cigarette use. Findings in JAMA Network Open were based on the National Youth Tobacco Survey where exposure is defined as “breathing secondhand smoke or secondhand vapor in indoor or outdoor public places at least one day in the past 30 days.” With evidence of more exposure, potential health impacts of increasing exposure to secondhand e-cigarette vapor is new area of study.