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Medical News, July 10, 2015

Welcome back to the Medical News Summary Blog. This post will cover the main news stories relating to health and medical research from the 4th July until the 10rd July 2015.

A study published this week in the British Medical Journal has shown a link between taking Prozac while pregnant and a small risk of birth defects. The antidepressant, Prozac, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Researchers based in both America and Canada examined data on almost 18,000 women whose children were born with birth defects ranging from brain and skull malformations to heart defects. They then compared this data to 10,000 women whose babies were born with no birth defects. The data suggested that there is a link between certain antidepressants and the risk of birth defects however, the risk was seen to be small.

Another study published this week has found that it may be possible to predict which patients with arthritis will not respond to drug treatment. Currently, around a fifth of patients who receive treatment for arthritis find that the medication stops being effective after a few months. Dr Meghna Jani, the lead author of the paper published suggests that detecting low drug levels of adalimumab (one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for arthritis) was the strongest associated factor for non-response to treatment over the period of a year. This test is hoped to provide useful information to clinicians, especially relating to how to manage a patient whose arthritis is not sensitive to the drug adalimumab.

A recent finding has shown that more than a third of overweight teenagers in the UK do not regard themselves as too heavy. The study funded by Cancer Research has raised concerns that teenagers may underestimate the need for healthier diets and exercise. Scientists have speculated that the increasing levels of obesity across the population may have “normalised” being overweight or obese. A cohort of teenagers were asked “given your age and height, would you say that you are about the right weight, too heavy or too light?” In conjunction with this the teenagers BMIs were recorded. In teenagers whose BMI was in the overweight category, 39% said that they were about the right weight.

New data presented shows that the average Briton is issued with 20 prescriptions a year. Figures show a 55% rise in prescriptions since 2004. Statistics have shown a steep increase in anti-depressants, Viagra and heart disease medication. The report looked at prescriptions dispensed by pharmacists and dispensing doctors’ practices. This covers mainly primary care prescriptions and not those dispensed by hospital pharmacies. However, the report did show that the average cost of one prescription item has fallen by 29.4% since 2004.

A research group at King’s College London have published a study suggesting that smokers are more likely to develop schizophrenia and at a younger age than non-smokers. The study looked at 14,555 smokers and compared them to 273,162 non-smokers. The final statistics showed that 57% of people experiencing psychosis were already smokers at the time of their first psychotic episode. People who smoked daily were twice as likely to develop the condition, and those that smoked developed schizophrenia a year earlier on average than those who did not smoke. Although the study is highly suggestive of a link, experts have highlighted that further research needs to be completed. Researchers have suggested that the link could be caused by nicotine altering levels of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter which has already been linked to psychosis.

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