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Study: Many Patients Don't Know How to Use Inhalers, Epi-Pens Properly


Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study found that many patients with inhalers or epi-pens do not use them correctly.

According to the study, published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, researchers at the University of Texas looked at a small sampling of patients and found that 84 percent of those with severe food and medication allergies are unable to use their epinephrine injector properly. They also determined that 93 percent of study participants were unable to use their asthma inhaler properly.

Researchers say that younger patients were more likely to use their device properly when compared to older patients, and men were more likely than women to use the devices correctly.

A larger study would be necessary to verify the percentages, but the researchers call the failure of many patients to properly use these devices problematic. They did note, however, that not all of the errors made in the study would have put a patient's life at risk.

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Clot Removal Linked to Improved Odds of Limiting Disability in Stroke Victims


Jochen Sands/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study shows that removing the blood clot that causes a stroke may improve odds of limiting disability caused by that stroke.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, notes that while intravenous alteplase -- used to break down blood clots -- within 4.5 hours of the onset of stroke symptoms is the only therapy with proof of efficacy, intraarterial therapy -- including the retrieval of the clot -- may be more effective at preventing disability.

Researchers at 16 facilities in the Netherlands looked at 500 participants whose average age was 65 years old with acute ischemic stroke. Approximately 90 percent were treated with clot-dissolving drugs, and half of the participants were also treated using a clot-removing device. Each patient was treated within six hours of the start of their symptoms.

Three months after treatment, nearly 33 percent of those given both the clot-busting drug and the clot-removing devices were functionally independent. Only about 19 percent of those treated only with the clot-busting drug met that same standard.

Researchers also said that there was no significant difference in the mortality rate of patients studied whether they received the clot-dissolving medication and had the clot removed, or only received the medication.

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Pilots Risk Significant UV Exposure


Digital Vision./Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Pilots should remember to pack their sunscreen, researchers said, after a study noted that flying at 30,000 feet exposes pilots to significant ultraviolet radiation.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Dermatology, found that pilots flying at 30,000 feet for 56 minutes receive the same amount of UV-A radiation as is received during a 20-minute session in a tanning bed. The windshields on planes block UV-B radiation, but not UV-A. The research was prompted by recent findings that pilots and cabin crew more commonly suffered from skin cancer.

Researchers measured the amount of UV radiation in airplane cockpits during flights and compared it to the amount released in tanning beds. Specifically, radiation was measured in the pilot seat. Researchers say that pilots and cabin crew should use sunscreen and undergo periodic skin checks.

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Despite Risks, Older Adults More Likely to Use Benzodiaepines for Help Sleeping


Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Older adults are more likely to use benzodiazepines for help sleeping, a new study says, which could put them at risk of injury.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, older adults are more likely to use benzodiazepines than young adults. While 5.2 percent of Americans aged 18 to 80 use the drugs, such as Xanax, Valium and Ativan, the percentage increased along with age. Among adults aged 18 to 35, just 2.6 percent used the drugs, while 8.7 percent between 65 and 80 years old used benzodiazepines.

Researchers also say that the proportion of long-term use of the drugs increased with age. Previous research suggested that older adults receiving the drugs may lead to increased risk of falls, fractures and motor vehicle crashes.

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Pharmacists Charged with Murder in 2012 Fungal Meningitis Outbreak


iStock/Thinkstock(FRAMINGHAM, Mass.) -- A Massachusetts pharmacy owner has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in connection with the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak tied to tainted steroid injections.

The outbreak killed 64 people and sickened 687 others who received the injections across 20 states. Prosecutors said the pharmacists' actions displayed "extreme and appalling disregard for human life.”

Barry Cadden, who owns the New England Compounding Center, and supervising pharmacist Glenn Chin were charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of 25 victims in six states who received tainted vials of methylprednisolone acetate.

Cadden and Chin were "acting in wanton and willful disregard of the likelihood that the natural tendency of their actions would cause death or great bodily harm," according to the indictment announced on Wednesday.

"The investigation uncovered widespread sustained and systematic unlawful conduct at NECC that was not only condoned but was expressly directed by management and senior partners," Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery said during a news conference Wednesday morning announcing the culmination of a two-year investigation involving state and federal officials.

In addition to Cadden and Chin, 14 people associated with NECC were indicted on a laundry list of charges including racketeering, conspiracy and mail fraud. The indictment details how cleaning logs were falsified, expired ingredients were used with fictitious labels, and drugs weren't recalled when microbes were found.

"Production and profit were prioritized over safety," said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz for the District of Massachusetts, adding that the clean room where drugs were compounded "failed to comply with the most basic health standards."

Eleven people, including Cadden and Chin, were arrested Wednesday morning, Delery said. Three others were not arrested but were named in the indictment.

"Every patient who receives medical treatment deserves peace of mind and know that the medicine they're receiving is safe," Delery said.

For victims such as Michigan mother Jona Angst, 46, news of the indictment and arrests was emotional. Angst received two tainted spinal injections in 2012 and developed a spinal abscess that forced her to spend two weeks in the hospital, she told ABC News at the time.

There, doctors administered intravenous antifungal treatments, which gave her powerful hallucinations and made her skin burn. Since then, Angst has undergone two back surgeries and has been diagnosed with PTSD in relation to the experience, she said.

"I am on cloud nine today," she told ABC News, adding that the first thing she did was thank God. "I have done nothing but cry all day. It's the best Christmas present that anybody could have given me."

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Pup Tries Out New 3-D-Printed Paws


Stephanie Portanova/Facebook(NEW YORK) -- One lucky dog is getting his stride back after being fitted with custom 3-D printed paws and legs.

Derby, a mutt believed to be mostly husky, was born without fully formed front legs. Instead, the dog had small “elbows” that left him pitched forwards as he tried to run and play with other dogs.

“He was scooting around on these nubs and chest,” said Melissa Hannon, who rescued Derby through her organization, Peace and Paws.

After taking in Derby from his original owners in Alabama, Hannon placed the pup with a foster owner, Tara Anderson, a director of product management at a company focused on developing 3-D products called 3-D systems.

From the first day that Hannon matched Derby with Anderson, she hoped they could figure out a way to get Derby fully on his feet.

“I think it was a vision,” Hannon said of the plan to create 3-D printed prosthetic legs for Derby. “No one knew if it would work or if it would take.”

As Anderson cared for Derby, she also started to work with people at her company to design prosthetics for Derby.

“We start him off very low so it wouldn’t be too drastic,” Anderson said of Derby’s first model on the 3D Systems website.

This summer, Derby was matched with his permanent owners, Sherry and Dom Portanova in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The couple said Derby could get around using a wheeled cart, but because it replaced his front legs it was hard for him to move around or interact with other dogs.

When Derby was given his first prosthetic caps, they were little more than “caps” to cover and protect his “elbows” as he scooted around.

“He took to those immediately,” Sherry Portanova told ABC News. “They have cushion inside. That meant he could go run on driveway and concrete.”

Anderson kept working with engineers at 3D Systems to fine tune the prosthetic limbs. One model looked like “peg legs” according to Portanova, and didn’t quite work when Derby tried to run around.

However the next model, Anderson designed -- a long looping prosthetic -- seemed to be just right for the energetic Derby.

As soon as Derby tried them on, Portanova said the dog just took off.

“The first time he was put on them and he took off running, he was so happy,” she said in a video for 3D Systems. “I was absolutely amazed at how well he did.”

Now, the dog runs every day with the couple, Portanova told ABC News. She hopes Derby's story encourages owners to adopt disabled pets.

"He’s such a good dog and he lives a full life," she said. "He’s very special. Everybody who sees him just loves him."

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Why You're Doing the Paleo Diet All Wrong


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Proponents of the so-called paleo diet believe that humans who probably went by names like Grok, Thog and Dorn knew more about nutrition than we do today. But a new analysis by two anthropology professors suggests otherwise.

Short for Paleolithic, the popular paleo diet goes heavy on meat, fish and vegetables while shunning grain products and processed food. It’s supposedly patterned after the way our ancestors dined between 10,000 and 2.5 million years ago before the advent of agriculture, fast-food or Cronuts.

Ken Sayers, an anthropologist at Georgia State University in Atlanta and one of the lead authors of the just-released Quarterly Review of Biology paper, said there is very little evidence to suggest early humans subsisted on a specialized diet or considered any one food group especially important.

“Whatever angle you chose to look at the diets of our early ancestors, it’s hard to pinpoint any one particular feeding strategy,” Sayers said.

The study examined anthological, biological and chemical clues that suggest hominids lived in a wide range of environments. They were probably not the best hunters and their large, flat teeth would have made it difficult to chew many common plants, Sayers explained. Their diet can be more accurately described as an opportunistic buffet than meat-lovers menu, he said.

And even if one assumes early humans had access to some of the foods still around today, they wouldn’t be the same, Sayers pointed out. For example, langur monkeys whose eating habits closely resemble our Paleolithic brethren won’t touch the wild strawberries that grow high in the mountains near Nepal. While attractive, they are very bitter. They taste nothing like the plump, juicy supermarket strawberries that have been selectively bred for sweetness, Sayers said.

Caine Credicott, the founder and editor in chief of Paleo Magazine, said he can’t speak to this latest study but he can say that the paleo lifestyle is “about nourishing our bodies with real food that is grown and raised as nature intended, not manufactured in a sterile facility.”

And, he insisted, it goes beyond what’s on the plate.

“Paleo encourages other aspects such as getting more sleep, reducing time in front of blue screens, consuming locally grown foods, supporting local farmers that follow sustainable farming practices, reducing stress, playing outside, and getting out in the sun,” Credicott said.

Perhaps there’s some truth to that, Georgia State anthropologist Sayers said. There is certainly nothing silly about someone trying to eat a healthier diet, he reasoned. But why bother emulating a civilization where the average lifespan was only about 18 years?

“They lived short, tough lives that were focused on survival and reproduction,” Sayers said. “Most people on diets today are generally affluent and not worried about going hungry.”

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Parents Unsure Whether Older Teens Can Make Good Medical Decisions


iStock/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) — Old enough to vote. Old enough to join the military. Not old enough to pick out a doctor?

Although seven in 10 parents believe that by the time a child reaches 18 they should move to an adult-focused primary care provider, just 30 percent say their kids are no longer being seen by their pediatrician.

Researchers at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital made this discovery in their national poll of parents with children ages 13 to 30.

The problem seems to be a lack of faith in a child’s ability to handle their own health care responsibilities.

For instance, many parents with kids’ between the ages of 16-19 didn’t think these teens were capable enough to make a doctor’s appointment or refill a prescription.

Of those with children 18-19, half of parents were unsure whether their kids could fill out a medical questionnaire while less than 30 percent were confident in their youngsters’ understanding of what their insurance covers.

The bottom line, according to study author Emily Fredericks, is for parents to teach their children to be self-sufficient by getting them involved in making appointments, refilling prescriptions and asking questions about their insurance and health care providers.

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Trying to Save on Gas Money May Lead to More Motorcycle Accidents


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Gasoline prices continue to fall with no bottom in sight, which puts more money in people’s pockets but could also hurt the economy in the long run if the supply of oil far exceeds demand.

However, when gasoline prices were way over three dollars a gallon, as they were for a number of years, it may have resulted in more people driving motorcycles and subsequently, more deaths and injuries from bike crashes.

A study in the journal Injury Prevention doesn’t provide a definitive cause-and-effect link. Yet, an analysis of California motorcycle registrations between 2002 and 2011 suggests that higher gas prices can be correlated to an increase in deaths and injuries as more inexperienced drivers took to the roads on bikes.

Most accidents occurred during the afternoon in urban areas. In 93 percent of the crashes, the cyclists were men with more than two-thirds white and almost half middle-aged.

Another big problem: 20 percent of those hurt in motorcycle crashes were uninsured.

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Repeating Algebra Can Make Things Worse


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Algebra has been the bane of many high school students going back in time. And yet, it appears that making some youngsters take algebra again because they didn't do well enough the first time seems to do more harm than good, according to a new California study.

Anthony B. Fong, the lead researcher for the study conducted for the U.S. Department of Education, says that about half the students who received at least a "C" and passed California's algebra assessment test actually saw their grades and tests scores decline when they repeated the course.

Fong's study didn't look into the reasons why this happened but he guesses that many of these students felt embarrassed about having to take algebra again and just did the minimum amount of work to get by.

He also questioned teachers' motivations for making students repeat algebra. His conclusion is, "If you have a kid who’s on the borderline of repeating algebra or moving on, if you’re in doubt, it seems like it’s better to move on."

In other cases, when a student flunked the course, repeating algebra tended to get their grade up to a "D" but there was really no indication that they mastered the material.

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More Deaths in Animated Children's Films than Dramatic Films for Adults


Flying Colours Ltd/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Animated films meant for children feature more on-screen deaths than ever before, a new study found.

In a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers analyzed the 45 animated films with the highest gross revenue from 1937 to 2013. Ranging from Snow White to Frozen, researchers compared, year-to-year, the films to the two highest-grossing non-children films.

Researchers then adjusted for run time and years since release, and found that children's animated films feature 2.5 times as many deaths as the non-children films.

Researchers also suggest that parents may want to watch movies with their children, "in the event that the children need emotional support after witnessing the inevitable horrors that will unfold."

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'Low Glycemic' Diets May Not Provide Significant Health Advantage


ASIFE/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Diets that focus on low impact on blood sugar may not have a significant impact on risk of heart disease or diabetes.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston looked at data from 163 healthy adults who were either overweight or obese at five-week intervals. Each participant ate either a "low glycemic diet" which focuses on foods that have low impact on blood sugar, or a "high glycemic diet."

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that those participants who ate a diet with low glycemic indexes did not have significant improvement in their cardiovascular risk factors and often had increased levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and decreased sensitivity to insulin.

The study was done over a short period of time, so researchers did not analyze medical outcomes, such as the development of diabetes or the rate of occurrence of heart attacks, but rather studied the risk factors associated with those outcomes.

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What Finally Cured a Woman's 18-Year Stuffy Nose


Nadia Campbell (NEW YORK) -- For more than 18 years, Nadia Campbell had no sense of taste or smell and lived with terrible sinus pain. Even after seeing five specialists and undergoing three surgeries, the 38-year-old said she was still left with a perpetually runny nose that kept her up all night.

“Every day there was a problem,” said Campbell, of Oaklawn, Illinois. “I had a dry mouth from breathing through my mouth and constant headaches.”

That all changed after doctors at Loyola University Health in Maywood, Illinois, diagnosed her with Samter’s triad, a newly recognized medical condition involving a combination of nasal polyps, asthma and a sensitivity to aspirin.

“My patients typically come in carrying a thick folder of medical records because they have tried for a long time to find a cure for their illness,” said Dr. Monica Patadia, the board-certified head and neck surgeon who treated Campbell at Loyola.

More than 37 million Americans have at least one sinus problem a year, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, making it one of the most common medical conditions the average person experiences.

Samter’s triad, also known as aspirin exacerbated respiratory disease, or AERD, affects an estimated 10 percent of people with asthma. About 40 percent of people with both asthma and nasal polyps and who are also sensitive to aspirin may have Samter’s, studies suggest.

The cause of the condition is not completely understood, though researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston believe it may be triggered in part by high levels of cells called eosinophils in the blood and sinuses, which leads to chronic inflammation of the airways. Patients often show elevated levels of another type of cell known as leukocytes, particularly after taking aspirin.

Once the problem was diagnosed, Campbell said the treatment itself was simple and painless. First Dr. Patadia performed outpatient surgery to remove the polyps and open up her sinus cavities. Next, she placed temporary spacers in Campbell’s nasal passages that were removed once the healing process was far enough along.

After surgery, Campbell spent several days undergoing a process to desensitize her to aspirin. This has enabled doctors to wean her off the strong steroid medications she took for almost two decades.

Patadia said the surgery was a success.

“When the sinuses light up like a pumpkin or jack o’ lantern you know the sinuses are wide open and that is a good thing,” she said of looking at Campbell’s sinuses with an endoscope.

Campbell said despite a few lingering allergies, she is thrilled with the results. When she first experienced the feeling of breathing freely again, she said she cried with relief.

“I now sleep through the night and I can taste food again,” she said. “No one can really understand what it’s like when you can’t do those things.”

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Movo Wave Aims to Shake Up Crowded Fitness Tracker Market


Movo Wave(NEW YORK) -- There's a new entry in the crowded fitness tracker market, and it's aiming low.

The Movo Wave is a bare bones tracker that stands out most for its price: $29.99.

The technology is smart but stripped down, meaning you won't get the extra features you may find on rival devices. There's no sleep quality tracking and customized alerts to get the user moving, which can be found on the Jawbone and Fitbit wearables, among a slew of other features.

The Movo Wave focuses on three metrics: Steps, distance traveled and calories burned, the three areas the company deems the most important to understanding your daily habits.

Putting the Movo Wave on, it feels like a hair tie. Weighing less than ounce, it's easy to forget you're wearing the bracelet.

Data can be synced to an app by plugging the device into the headphone jack of the user's smartphone.

One nice touch: Users also have the option of pairing their activity to photos of moments in their daily lives, creating what the company calls a "life log."

The device is water resistant, though it's not recommended users wear it while swimming or showering. It also boasts two weeks of operation on one charge and comes in a range of sizes so it won't fall off your wrist.

People who want to commit to a fitness wearable full time may be better served spending a little extra money to get the other features. One option: The $49.99 Misfit Flash, which takes all of your basic metrics, also measures sleep, and works off of a battery.

But the bottom line is that if you're curious about fitness trackers and don't want any extra bells and whistles, the Movo Wave is a great cost-effective buy to explore the world of wearables.

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Why Jahi McMath's Mom Is Sure Her Daughter Isn't Brain Dead


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Nailah Winkfield said she will never forget giving her teenage daughter permission to die as she lay motionless and on a ventilator.

Months earlier, Jahi McMath, then 13, had been declared brain dead and become a household name as a legal battle to take her off life support was splashed across headlines nationwide. Winkfield and her family won the battle and moved McMath from California to a long-term care facility in New Jersey, but on this particular day, Winkfield didn't think her daughter wanted to hold on any longer, she said.

"You have my permission to go. I don't want you here if you're suffering," Winkfield recalled telling McMath, her voice breaking. "If you can hear me and you want to live, move your right hand."

To Winkfield's shock, McMath obeyed, she said. So Winkfield asked her to move her left hand. She did that, too, Winkfield said.

"That was the first time I knew that she could hear me," Winkfield said. "It took me to cry for her to move."

Doctors at Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland, California, declared McMath brain dead after what was supposed to be a routine tonsil surgery led to cardiac arrest on Dec. 9, 2013. But Winkfield said she and her family didn't believe it. Attorney Christopher Dolan took on the case and helped them fight to keep her on a ventilator until she could be moved to New Jersey, where state law allows religious objection to brain death.

UCLA pediatric neurology professor Dr. Alan Shewmon wrote an official declaration this fall that although he hadn't personally examined McMath, the videos and what he understands from others who examined her "leave no doubt that Jahi is conscious, and can not only hear but can even understand simple verbal requests...and make appropriate motor responses."

He said the nursing records, her MRI brain scan results and other records indicate that she is "not currently brain dead," though he doesn't blame the doctors last winter for misdiagnosing her as such.

"She is an extremely disabled but very much alive teenage girl," Shewmon wrote in an Oct. 3 court document.

Shewmon has published studies examining and questioning brain death for more than a decade. In his declaration, he referenced speaking to two other experts who witnessed McMath's motor functions: Cuban neurologist Dr. Calixto Machado and Philip Defina, CEO of the International Brain Research Foundation, Inc.

Winkfield left her job in California and moved from across the country in the middle of winter last year with nothing but a knapsack, Dolan said. She even spent some time homeless.

Doctors had told Winkfield that McMath's brain would liquefy and she would start to look different as her body shut down, but none of that has happened, Winkfield said.

McMath has been out of the long-term care facility since August, and she has been moved to Winkfield's new New Jersey home, where she gets 24-hour nursing care.

But Winkfield said she makes sure to be the person who gives McMath a bath, talks to her, reads to her and plays her favorite music to her. Every two weeks, she does McMath hair. Every week, she gives her a manicure. This week it's a purple French manicure.

"I talk to her like I would talk to anybody," Winkfield said, adding that McMath can now respond by giving a thumbs up.

Winkfield said she's reached puberty over the last year, and has had two menstrual cycles -- something Dolan said can only happen to someone with a functioning brain.

The next step will be getting McMath's California death certificate reversed so she can move back home and get disability benefits in California, Dolan said. Experts have already testified on her behalf, he said.

The family has posted YouTube videos of McMath moving her hand and foot seemingly on command.

Dr. Wei Xiong, a neurologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Ohio who has not treated McMath, said it's not clear from the videos whether McMath is responding to instructions or whether she is "posturing" -- which happens to brain dead patients when their spinal cords prompt limb movement after their brains have relinquished control. He said the hand movement was especially interesting because it was a "complex" motion.

"That would make it somewhat unusual in someone who is brain dead," he said. However, a complex movement in someone who is brain dead is "not completely out of the question," he noted.

For Christmas, Winkfield won't be able to be with her husband or other children because she needs to stay where she is and can't afford to fly them across the country. But she said she'll still cook and buy McMath presents like a new night gown, lip gloss and some socks.

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