Posts tagged with "University of chicago"

Study calculates links between prescription medications and risk for suicide

November 6, 2019

There’s a saying that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger—but that shouldn’t be true of the FDA-approved drugs prescribed to us by our doctors.

Nevertheless, a review by the Center for Health Statistics at the University of Chicago of 922 medications that had been prescribed to nearly 150 million Americans over an 11-year period recently found that just 10 of these drugs were associated with an increased rate of suicide attempts, the university reported on November 5 in a press release.

Conversely, 44 drugs were linked to a decrease in suicide attempts, including many that carry a “black box” label from the FDA warning of their association with suicidal behavior.

The study findings, published in the Harvard Data Science Review, identifiy several drugs with the potential to prevent suicide attempts that are not currently used for that purpose, including folic acid, a simple vitamin often prescribed to pregnant women.

“There’s an antihistamine that’s associated with decreases in suicide. There’s a Parkinson’s drug associated with decreases,” said Robert Gibbons, PhD, the director of the center and lead author of the study. “If those test out in clinical trials to be real effects, we could be using more of these drugs to treat suicidal people.”

Suicide is now the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Most suicides occur in patients with a psychiatric disorder, such as depression. However, common antidepressant medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac) carry the FDA’s black box warnin— which has led to decreased use of these medications, despite the benefits they might provide.

For the new study, Gibbons and his team developed a statistical tool to measure the links between drugs and suicide attempts. They analyzed data on 922 drugs with more than 3,000 prescriptions in a database of medical claims from 2003 to 2014. The data contained records of 146 million unique patients from more than 100 health insurers in the United States. For each person taking each drug, they counted suicide attempts in the three months prior to filling the prescription and the three months after taking the drug. This approach allowed them to evaluate each drug individually within a single person and see its effect on suicide attempts.

“It’s actually a very simple model that answers the question, ‘Does a suicide attempt occur more frequently after taking the drug than before?'” Gibbons said.=

That analysis found 10 drugs that showed a statistically significant increase in suicide attempts-among them, the opioid painkiller hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen (Vicodin); anti-anxiety drugs alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium); and prednisone, a corticosteroid.

 A total of 44 drugs showed a decrease in suicide risk, including a large group of antidepressants with black box warnings like fluoxetine and escitalopram (Lexapro), gabapentin (Neurontin), an anti-convulsant used to treat seizures, and, interestingly, the vitamin folic acid.

Gibbons said the statistical model can be used to calculate the risk of any adverse events that happen before and after taking a medication. The Veterans Administration already has expressed interest in using the tool, and Gibbons hopes other large hospital systems and local health agencies will adopt it to help decide which drugs to prescribe, especially for patients at risk of suicide.

“What we’ve done is come up with an alternative approach to drug safety surveillance that could be used by any agency, country or formulary,” he said. ”

Research contact: @UChicago

Cold comfort: Incoming medical students should be tested for empathy, study says

August 5, 2019

We’ve all been there—especially the women among our readers: Sitting in a doctor’s office and explaining our symptoms to a medical professional who is completely dismissive, disinterested, and in disbelief.

Worse yet is the practitioner who blames the patient for the condition—and lets her (or him) know about it through insolent or disdainful body language and comments.

Heather Cianciolo says she can tell within minutes if she’s going to like a doctor. “Ten minutes into a doctor’s appointment and I know if it’s going to be a waste of my time,” she said. “It’s a warning sign if someone doesn’t come in and ask me about me—{but rather] just starts talking at me.

“And it happens a lot,” she told The Chicago Tribune for a recent story.

The 46-year-old Oak Park, Illinois, woman—who has long suffered from migraine headaches— said she had to “go through” several specialists who didn’t listen to her before finding one she loves who is now her primary care physician.

“She listens and then she will explain her thinking. She expresses an interest in what’s happening,” Cianciolo said. “If you’re not going to take the time to answer my questions, why would I entrust my health care to you?”

Experts say the ability for doctors to build a rapport with their patients helps build trust and, in turn, improves patient outcomes.

In fact, Mohammadreza Hojat—a research professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia who recently designed a questionnaire for  more than 16,000 students of osteopathic medicine—suggests that a norm-level of empathy could (and should) be required for all incoming medical students nationwide, according to the report by the Tribune.

Once a norm-level is established, Dr. Hojat suggests, medical schools should use the data to assess for empathy, alongside academic measures like college transcripts and MCAT scores, when considering medical school applicants.

 “There are two components of medicine. One component is the science of medicine and one component is the art of medicine,” Dr. Hojat told the Tribune. “When it comes to art of medicine, it is about interpersonal relationships and empathy, and we have no method in place” to measure that in medical students’ applicants.

Although empathy can be taught, Hojat said, students who already come to medical school with a strong sense of empathy will make better doctors. And he noted that, although the study focused on students of osteopathic medicine, the tool should be used by traditional medical schools.

Dr. John Prescott, chief academic officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges, said in a statement that “humanism and empathy are critical qualities required of tomorrow’s physicians.” But the statement also claimed that medical schools already look at a “holistic review of applicants … which looks beyond grades and test scores.”

And Jean Decety, a University of Chicago neuroscientist who studies empathy, told the news outlet that, although he hadn’t read the study, his work has shown that empathy only is important for “certain types of physicians.”

In fact, he said, some students will go into specialties that don’t require strong interpersonal skills—for example, radiologists who mostly read images, or surgeons who require excellent technical skills but not necessarily a lot of empathy.

“That’s what you want from your surgeon,” he said.

The study was published July 25 in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Free as a bird: Escaped pet parrots are thriving in the wild across 43 states

May 16, 2019

No matter how gilded the cage, sometimes a parrot—or a parakeet—just wants to spread its wings and fly. And although owners may worry when a bird goes out the window, it turns out that not only are parrots that have “liberated” themselves surviving alfresco; they’re thriving.

A new study conducted at the University of Chicago has found that 56 species of parrot— none of which is native to the United States—have been spotted in the wild in 43 states. And incredibly, of those species, nearly half have reportedly been breeding—in 23 states.

Indeed, when Stephen Pruett-Jones, PhD, an ecologist at the University of Chicago, first came to the Windy City in 1988, he stumbled on a unique piece of the city’s history—the monk parakeets of Hyde Park.

The squat, bright-green birds aren’t native to Illinois, or to the United States, at all. America. originally had two native parrot species: the Carolina parakeet and the thick-billed parrot. The Carolina parakeet is now extinct; the thick-billed parrot, a Mexican species that ranged into the southwestern states,is no longer seen north of the border.

Monk parakeets have been known to live and breed in a colony in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood since the 1960s, after a pet bird craze led to the import of thousands from South America. Many escaped their homes or were released by their owners into the concrete jungle, eventually breeding in at least 10 states by 1968.

Pruett-Jones decided to organize a lab project to count them and other parrot species nationwide. He teamed up with Jennifer Uehling, a former UChicago undergraduate student now working on a Ph,D, at Cornell University; and Jason Tallant of the University of Michigan to research data on bird sightings from 2002 to 2016..

“Many of them were escaped pets, or their owners released them because they couldn’t train them or they made too much noise — all the reasons people let pets go,” explains Pruett-Jones. “But many of these species are perfectly happy living here and they’ve established populations. Wild parrots are here to stay.”

Pruett-Jones and his team used two databases of bird sightings to track naturalized parrot species from 2002 through 2016. First, they turned to the Christmas Bird Count, an annual survey by the National Audubon Society that captures a snapshot of birds nationwide. during a two-week time period between December 14 and January 15. The second database, called eBird, is a spot where bird  watchers can log online all the bird sightings they come across.

The researchers found that the most common U.S. parrot species were the monk parakeets, the Red-crowned Amazon, and the Nanday Parakeet. Most of the birds are concentrated in the warmer climates of Florida, Texas, and California. There are significant populations also in and around large cities like New York and Chicago. The researchers estimate that there are more Red-crowned Amazons living in California now than in their original habitats in Mexico.

But there is some disturbing news: Although at one time there were about 400 monk parakeets living in the U.S., the number is believed to only be around 30 today, with the largest colony found under the Skyway bridge connecting Illinois to Indiana. Researchers say there appears to be a decline in the overall bird population in the United States., giving bird fanatics and animal advocates even more reason to protect these “escapees” from harm.

“Because of human activity transporting these birds for our own pleasure, we have inadvertently created populations elsewhere,” says Pruett-Jones. “Now for some of these parrots, they may become critical to the survival of the species.”

The study is published in the April edition of Journal of Ornithology.

Research contact: pruett-jones@uchicago.edu

Most Americans think Trump is obstructing justice

December 19, 2017

The majority of Americans believe U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to obstruct the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller—which already has brought charges against four of his campaign advisers and increasingly appears to be focused on the POTUS’s inner circle.

Indeed, 40% of Americans think the president has done something illegal when it comes to Russia, while an additional 30% say he’s at least done something unethical.

What’s more, 68% disapprove of his response to the investigations, based on poll results released by The Associated PressNORC Center for Public Affairs Research on December 15.

It is no surprise that Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to be concerned about Trump’s actions, or to feel invested in what the probes uncover, the poll, covered by Georgia radio station WDUN, noted. Overall, the poll found, 62% of Democrats say they think Trump has done something illegal, while just 5% of Republicans think the same. Among Republicans, 33% think he’s done something unethical, while 60% think he’s done nothing wrong at all.

But, specifically, did Trump obstruct the investigations into whether his campaign had Russian ties? According to the survey, 86% of Democrats, 67% of Independents and 24% of Republicans say he did.

But, Americans also are unsure of how fair and impartial Mueller’s investigation is turning out to be. Of the special counsel’s investigation, just 26%t say they’re very or extremely confident that it will be fair and impartial, while an additional 31% are moderately confident.

Opinions about the possibility of a fair and impartial congressional investigation are even lower, with just 13% saying they’re very or extremely confident in that happening and 32 % saying they are moderately confident.

The AP-NORC poll surveyed 1,020 adults in early December using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population.

Research contact: gentile-claudia@norc.org

Millennials want a third political party

December 1, 2017

Most Millennials — 71 percent — say the Republican and Democratic parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed, according to the results of an NBC News/GenForward poll released on November 29.

Conducted by the University of Chicago on behalf of the television network from October 26 through November 10 among 1,876 adults age 18-34, the poll found that 60% disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job; while 59% have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party and 42% have an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party. On the whole, Millennials overwhelmingly do not think either party cares about people like them.

What’s more, 63% of respondents disapprove of the way in which President Donald Trump is handling his job. Only 6% strongly approve of his job performance and 16% approve.

These views may help explain why a large majority of young adults — across racial subgroups, genders and partisan affiliations — say a third major party is needed.

White Millennials, at 75%, are most likely to express a desire for a third party, with strong majorities of African-Americans (69%), Asian-Americans (69%) and Latinos (64%) agreeing.

Three quarters of men(74%) said that a third major party is needed and only 23% said the Republican and Democratic parties do an adequate job representing the American people. Women were more likely to say that the parties do an adequate job (29%)—but a sizeable majority (69%) still said a third party is needed.

Independent Millennials who do not lean toward either party and Millennials who identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaners were more likely to say a third party is needed (74% and 75%, respectively) than Millennials who identify as Republicans or Republican-leaners (67%). Three in 10 Republicans said the parties do an adequate job, compared to one-quarter of Democrats and only 22% of Independents.

Research contact: stephanie.perry@nbcuni.com