Who’s Passing The Pills?

Despite warnings about borrowing medication prescribed to other people, many Americans say they have used someone else’s medication at least once in the past year. Stereotypically this practice was thought to be most widespread among low income, urban populations, due to a number of factors including a perceived lack of access to health care and higher rates of crime and drug abuse.  However, as with many stereotypes, it seems this just isn’t true.  A new study by researchers from Temple University Medical School has blown this urban myth wide open. Lead author, Lawrence Ward says “The perception was that those from a lower socioeconomic background would be more apt to use ill-gotten drugs, and we found that to not be the case.” Ward and his team surveyed patterns of borrowing prescription drugs among patients seeking outpatient, emergency or inpatient care. Most were African-American (75%), were high-school educated or less (71%) and lacked full-time employment (68%). However, the vast majority of this group (90%) reported having health insurance and about 75% had recently seen their primary health care provider.  Overall, only 18% reported ever taking a prescription medication originally meant for use by someone else. This rate is on par with the results of studies in other populations across the country. “I think this helps to break some stereotypes, particularly in the way doctors view their patients,” said Ward. “Just because patients are from a less affluent area, they are not more apt to borrow prescription medications than their more educated or more affluent counterparts.” The researchers also found that the most common reason for borrowing medicines was convenience. Most commonly they were obtained from a friend or family member, rather than via more illicit routes such as theft or from a dealer.  The most common drugs borrowed from others were:

Ward cautions that anyone borrowing medications from someone else can open themselves up to a host of health risks, including a delay in proper medical treatment, an increase in medication resistance and adverse drug to drug interactions. “We need to work towards better awareness of the problem,” said Ward. “Many patients might not realize the risk they take when using someone else’s medication. Doctors must recognize that at least 20 percent of their patients may be using another person’s medications, and should regularly inquire about medication use and stress the dangers of medication borrowing.” As someone who has been known to “share” medications (antibiotics, anti-inflammatories) with my dogs, I consider myself warned. Have you ever “borrowed” meds?  Share your stories with us and our readers.

Breathing your way to Brain Health?

A drug commonly used to treat asthma could help control or treat Alzheimer’s disease. The tablet which is used to prevent chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing due to asthma has now been shown to help reduce the formation of amyloid beta – a brain peptide implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers from Temple University’s School of Medicine just published their findings in the American Journal of Pathology. The study, led by Domenico Praticò, associate professor of pharmacology, tested  Zyflo® (Zileuton), which is currently approved for the prophylaxis and chronic treatment of asthma in adults and children 12 years of age and older.

Using a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease they found that Zyflo, reduced production of amyloid beta and the subsequent build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain by more than 50%.

In previous studies, Temple University researchers discovered that 5-lipoxygenase, a brain enzyme, controls the activation of gamma secretase, another enzyme responsible for the production of amyloid beta.  Gamma secretase is present throughout the body and, despite its role in the development of amyloid plaques, plays a significant role in numerous important functions. Direct inhibitors of gamma secretase are already known, but blocking the enzyme completely may cause problems such as the development of cancer.

Unlike classical gamma secretase inhibitors, Zileuton only modulates the protein expression levels, which keeps some of its vital functions intact while blocking many of its bad effects – in this case, the development of the amyloid plaques.

Because Zileuton is already FDA approved, it should be able to advance to clinical trials for the Alzheimer’s indication relatively easily.

SRxA’s Word on Health will keep you informed of all developments.