Increased risk of birth defects from opioid use

Although potential risks to a developing fetus remain largely unknown, doctors are prescribing opioid painkillers to pregnant women in startling numbers. A recent study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology shows a staggering 23 percent of 1.1 million pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid nationally filled an opioid, or narcotic, prescription in 2007—up from 18.5 percent in 2000. That is the largest usage rate of opioid prescriptions among pregnant women to date.

Read more at:

Depression linked to asthma onset in African American women

Depression and asthma—two of the most vexing public health issues in the United States—were once thought to have no connection.

But a new study by School of Public Health researchers at the Slone Epidemiology Center has found evidence that depressive symptoms may be linked to the development of adult-onset asthma in African American women. The likely pathway: stress.

Read more at Bostonia

Why medical research often ignores women

The picture remains tacked to Julie Palmer’s office wall: a female doctor and colleague from UCLA who died last year, age only 50, from lung cancer.

“I was so sad when I learned about it,” says Palmer (SPH’85), a School of Public Health professor of epidemiology. “She was a Renaissance woman. She played varsity basketball at Northwestern—she was six feet tall or something like that. She wrote poetry” in between medicine and research. “A wonderful woman doing groundbreaking work out there in LA. Never smoked.”

The photo serves as a stark reminder to Palmer of a troubling fact: nonsmoking women are far more likely to get lung cancer than nonsmoking men, she says, yet lung cancer research frequently doesn’t break down data according to gender-specific factors, as evidenced by a recent study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and George Washington University. In fact, the study found medical research in many areas, including cardiovascular disease (which kills more women than men), often includes few women subjects, or else doesn’t report results by gender. Among the report’s findings: only one third of subjects in cardiovascular clinical trials are female, and while depression is more prevalent in women than men, brain studies in male animals outnumber those in female animals five to one.

Read more at BU Today

Internet-based study aims to help infertile couples

February 10th, 2014in PRESTO News

Infertility is among the most painful problems a couple can face, with emotional repercussions that can last for years—or a lifetime. The causes are often hard to pinpoint and it can be hard to treat.

Do women who take antidepressants have a harder time getting pregnant? Do men who carry their cell phones in their pants’ pockets have an increased risk of infertility?

Those are among the questions that researchers from the School of Public Health and the Slone Epidemiology Center are probing in the recently launched PRESTO (Pregnancy Study Online) project—the largest internet-based study of fertility in the United States.

Read more at:

Study finds decreased life expectancy for multiple sclerosis patients

January 24th, 2014

The first large scale study in the U.S. on the mortality of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) has been published and provides new information about the life expectancy of people with the disease. The study appears in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.

Read more at Medical Xpress

Researchers from the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University took the first large scale study in the United States regarding mortality and a chronic disease of the central nervous system, multiple sclerosis (MS).  At this time, there are roughly 250,000 to 350,000 patients living with MS in the United States. That's approximately one in 1,000, according to background information from the study.  As the degenerative phase affects the majority of patients, despite disease modifying-agents to reduce the activity of the health issue, many must face the possibility of a decreased life span due to the health problem.

Read more at Science World Report

PRESTO (Pregnancy Study Online)

December 20th, 2013in PRESTO News

Over the last few decades, fertility rates in MA have been trending downwards. Fertility rates in MA are 16% lower than the national average. But why?

Lexi Kriss, Study Coordinator for PRESTO, has more on fertility and what PRESTO is doing to gather information in MA.

Listen at SoundCloud

Given risks of statins, guidelines need to be on target

November 25th, 2013

The new guidelines for use of statins could result in millions more users (“Panel recommends far wider use of cholesterol drugs,” Page A1, Nov. 13). However, thanks to Dr. Paul Ridker, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Nancy Cook, a biostatistician at Brigham, the public has learned that the risk calculator for cardiovascular disease suggested by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology overestimates risk (“Heart doctors at odds on risk formula,” Page A1, Nov. 19). This would result in millions being wrongly considered to meet the new guideline for statin use.

Read more at The Boston Globe