Sunday, January 19, 2014

Weapons in Doctors Offices

Attached a link to an article titled " Two dead, third person in hospital after shooting in suburban West Palm" reporting a fatal shooting which took place in the waiting room of a doctors office in West Palm Beach. The shooting occurred during what has been a particularly violent week in Palm Beach County. It was the county’s fifth homicide since Monday and the sixth overall in 2014. It was also the second time this week that local authorities have investigated a murder-suicide, and the third time in seven days that gunmen shot at other people, then killed themselves. As a physician and owner of a busy family medicine clinic I have encountered several patients who carried concealed weapons (handguns, knives) in my office which I discovered during a routine physical exam. I am a gun owner and concealed weapon permit holder myself, but I consider carrying a weapon in a doctors office as inappropriate and potentially dangerous. The fact remains that most healthcare professionals are unarmed and feel intimidated by a patient carrying a loaded weapon. According to Florida firearms regulations a carry license is valid everywhere other than in a few specially-defined areas which include airports, schools, universities, courthouses, establishments licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises,career centers, any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality, or special district and any meeting of the Legislature or a committee thereof Why should doctors office not be included in the long list of specially-defined prohibited areas"? Why should legislators enjoy the freedom of not being killed by gunfire but doctors should continue working under the threat of guns? Why do neither representatives of organized medicine nor legislators have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and denounce the NRA which blocks all reasonable gun safety measures? Meanwhile, I informed my patients that I do not permit the carrying of any kind of weapons in my office and do not care if my decision backfires. Yours Bernd

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Medical Marijuana

Attached a link to an article titled "Florida lawmaker agrees to work to legalize medical marijuana high in cannabidiol" published in yesterday's Tampa Bay Times reporting that Florida legislators agreed to file a bill to legalize the medical use of marijuana that has a high content of the chemical compound cannabidiol to "treat" severe epileptic seizures in children. The families pleaded with lawmakers to legalize strains of marijuana such as "Charlotte's Web" saying it is their last, best hope of relieving the uncontrollable seizures in their medically fragile children. The strain is high in cannabidiol or CBD, the ingredient that controls seizures, but is low in tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, the compound that creates a high. Their emotional pleas convinced the chairman of the legislative committee of the Florida House to support such a bill. Naturally, any opponent of such a move will be considered a heartless and uncaring individual. Most probably, the medical ethics of of physicians opposing such a decision will be questioned, too. But lets consider the facts: Charlotte's Web is a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado by the Stanley brothers and featured in the 2013 CNN documentary "Weed", hosted by Sanjay Gupta. It is named after Charlotte Figi, who experienced an immediate and remarkable reduction of her epileptic seizures after her first dose of medical marijuana at five years of age. The sudden publicity of this specific strain of medical marijuana is based on anecdotal evidence only but is now being used to justify the use of medical marijuana in general. Well meaning proponents of clinical research point out that such clinical research is blocked by strict Federal laws. Therefore, they call for reclassification of marijuana to facilitate the kind of rigorous evaluation that’s needed to determine the appropriate, physician-supervised doses and uses of medical marijuana. But before we join the chorus singing the praise of medical marijuana we should step back and analyze the facts. I recommend reading an article published in the Epilepsy Curr. 2013 Mar-Apr; 13(2): 81–82 titled " Slim Evidence for Cannabinoids for Epilepsy" which concluded that no reliable conclusions can be drawn at present regarding the efficacy of cannabinoids as a treatment for epilepsy. The dose of 200 to 300 mg daily of cannabidiol was safely administered to small numbers of patients, for generally short periods of time, and so the safety of long term cannabidiol treatment cannot be reliably assessed. The authors base their assessment of the efficacy of marijuana, or one of marijuana's constituents in the treatment of people with epilepsy on an exhaustive search of the Cochrane Epilepsy Group Specialized Register (May 15, 2012), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL issue 4 of 12, and the Cochrane Library 2012),MEDLINE (PubMed, searched on May 15, 2012), ISI Web of Knowledge. This Cochrane review searched for direct evidence that cannabinoids can prevent human seizures in studies using the only acceptable standard, the randomized controlled trial. The researchers identified four studies, with a total of 48 patients randomized to placebo or to 200–300 mg of cannabidiol per day. This particular cannabinoid has few psychotropic effects and is not a controlled substance. Overall, these studies demonstrate the short-term tolerability of this treatment, with the only noted adverse effect being drowsiness in one study. Except for one study that reported two of four treated patients becoming seizure free for 3 months, the studies either reported no benefit, or the effect was not clearly stated. Methods of randomization or determining outcome were inadequate or not clearly detailed.Marijuana itself has major shortcomings as an epilepsy treatment. Its psychotropic action can only be regarded as an adverse effect. It is a biological product containing multiple compounds with unclear, possible, anti- or pro-convulsant effects, delivered in varying amounts from dose to dose. Long-term safety has not been adequately investigated. The authors correctly stated that new treatments for epilepsy are sorely needed. Cannabidiol or other individual cannabinoids with minimal adverse effects could be extracted and given in precise doses in rigorously designed, blinded, randomized clinical trials to test efficacy and safety. In my opinion this is the only reasonable route for development of new antiepileptic drugs. Legislative efforts, as well intended they may be, cannot substitute for the gold standards of scientific evidence. Unfortunately, nobody seems to have the fortitude to stand up and to defend those principles in public. I am afraid that medical science will have to succumb to populism and the efforts to create quick fixes and miracle cures. But at what price? Looking forward to your comments. Yours Bernd

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Judge Strikes Down Drug Testing Law

The U.S. District Court handed Gov. Rick Scott a defeat on Dec. 31 when it struck down a law requiring drug screening of welfare recipients unconstitutional.The Miami Herald reported in a article titled "Scott vows to fight drug-test ruling" that federal judge Mary Scriven granted summary judgment on behalf of Luis Lebron, who at the outset of the 2011 case was a 35-year-old Navy veteran, college student and single father from Orlando. Lebron refused to submit to a drug test arguing that requiring him to pay for and submit to one is unreasonable when there is no reason to believe he uses drugs. Lebron was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida The judge rules that the mandatory urine drug test violate the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches.In her ruling judge Scriven relied heavily on the 11th Circuit of Appeals opinion which cited previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings that restricted mandatory urine drug tests by government agencies to employees working at dangerous jobs or in jobs where school children were involved. Scott signed a law in 2011 to drug test recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. But the court issued a preliminary injunction a few months later. While the law was in effect from July through October 2011, about 2.6 percent -- or 108 of 4,046 people -- tested positive for drugs, the most common being marijuana. In my opinion an appeal will be an exercise in futility and a waste of precious tax payers money.