What should you do during a psychiatric medication shortage?

You have finally found a medication to treat your depression that your body tolerates well. It has taken your psychiatrist months to find the optimal dose (after two failed medication trials). The COVID-19 pandemic hit, but in spite of your new daily stressors, you seem to be doing relatively well. That is, until you hear that your antidepressant medication is now in short supply. What can you do?

Mental health treatment during COVID-19

With the increased stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, prescriptions for medications to treat mental illnesses have increased more than 20% between February and March 2020. Sertraline, or Zoloft, one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants in the United States, is now on the list of drugs in shortage. This will affect many people living with mental illness, as Zoloft treats depression, in addition to obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and … Read more

Hollowed-Out Public Health System Faces More Cuts Amid Virus

The U.S. public health system has been starved for decades and lacks the resources to confront the worst health crisis in a century.

Marshaled against a virus that has sickened at least 2.6 million in the U.S., killed more than 126,000 people and cost tens of millions of jobs and $3 trillion in federal rescue money, state and local government health workers on the ground are sometimes paid so little that they qualify for public aid.

They track the coronavirus on paper records shared via fax. Working seven-day weeks for months on end, they fear pay freezes, public backlash and even losing their jobs.

Since 2010, spending for state public health departments has dropped by 16% per capita and spending for local health departments has fallen by 18%, according to a KHN and Associated Press analysis of government spending on public health. At least 38,000 state and local public health … Read more

Making telemedicine more inclusive

As a primary care physician at an academic community health care system in Massachusetts, I received a rapid introduction to telehealth this year. Within days after Massachusetts declared a state of emergency in response to the spread of COVID-19, almost all of our patient visits became telemedicine visits. Our staff reached out to patients to inform them of different ways they could get in touch with their doctor. Many would be able to gain access to health care through a health app connected to their healthcare web portal, or through a phone call or video call. The enormous potential of telehealth was apparent to me within weeks. Yet I also came to understand the need to overcome certain barriers to widespread telehealth access and provide additional support, as some of my stories below illustrate.

Chronic conditions and COVID-19: How did telemedicine help?

Healthcare providers like myself had to quickly adapt … Read more

Un sistema de salud pública devastado enfrenta más recortes en medio del virus

El sistema de salud pública de los Estados Unidos ha subsistido en la precariedad durante décadas y carece de los recursos necesarios para enfrentar la peor crisis de salud en un siglo.

Mientras enfrentan juntos una pandemia que ha enfermado al menos a 2.3 millones de personas en el país, y matado a más de 120,000, y que ha costado millones de empleos y $3 mil millones en dinero de rescate federal, a los trabajadores de salud de los gobiernos estatales y locales a veces se les paga tan poco que califican para ayuda pública. Rastrean al coronavirus en registros compartidos por fax. Trabajando los siete días de la semana por meses, temiendo que se congelen sus salarios, que los despidan, e incluso la reacción negativa del … Read more

Marijuana may be risky for your heart

Now that marijuana is legal for medical or recreational use in many states, growing numbers of Americans — including older people — are imbibing this popular drug. In fact, the percentage of people ages 65 and older who said they used some form of marijuana almost doubled between 2015 and 2018, a recent study reports.

Compared with prescription drugs, the health consequences of using marijuana are not nearly as well studied. But converging evidence suggests that the drug may be harmful for the heart, according to a review article in JACC: Journal of the American College of Cardiology. More than two million Americans with heart disease currently use or have used marijuana, the authors estimate.

Puffing pot vs. cigarettes

Derived from Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants, marijuana is most often smoked in joints or in a pipe. People also vape the drug in electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), or consume … Read more