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Surprising facts behind Ga.’s kidney transplant rate

The Southeast has the lowest rates of kidney transplantation by region, and Georgia is at the bottom among states.

That dismal ranking led a group of researchers to study how often kidney dialysis patients in Georgia are referred to transplant centers.

Rachel Patzer

Rachel Patzer

Their study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that just 28 percent of Georgia patients are referred to transplant facilities within the first year of dialysis treatment.

The low number of referrals came even though a transplant is considered the best treatment for most patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), which occurs when the kidneys stop working well enough for a person to live without dialysis or a transplant.

The study also found a big variation in the percentage of referrals among Georgia dialysis facilities – from zero to 75 percent. full story

Personal Blog: When heroin hits close to home

A member of my extended family died recently from a heroin overdose.

“P” lived in the Northeast, and had struggled with drugs before. But he turned to heroin toward the end, according to a family member. He was 33.

heroin220x220Heroin, a highly addictive drug derived from opium, is known by a lot of slang names, including “smack” and “horse,” that reflect its potency.

I always thought it was the drug that was hardest to control, where people literally took their lives into their hands, consigning themselves to a mad game of chance in which there are no winners.

The drug is often associated in the public mind either with impoverished street people or with famous entertainers. Some big names in show business (e.g., Ray Charles, Robert Downey Jr.) have survived heroin, but others (Janis Joplin, John Belushi) have lost their lives to the drug.

Yet a recent CDC report said use of heroin has surged over the past decade. And astonishingly, some of the greatest increases occurred in groups with historically low rates of heroin use: women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes. full story

Georgia trails other states in home health ratings

Just 12 percent of Georgia home health agencies received a superior 4-star or 5-star rating in a new Medicare quality ranking system for that industry.

home-health-stars-570The only states worse than Georgia in percentage of top-rated home health agencies were Alaska, with 0 percent, Washington state, with 3 percent,  Wyoming, with 4 percent, and Oregon, with 9 percent.

Most Georgia home health agencies (63 percent) received a 3-star or 3.5-star rating, while 25 percent got 2.5 stars or lower, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis.

The rankings for home health agencies, released last week, are the latest quality-based star ratings of medical providers from Medicare.

Such measures help provide more transparency for consumers to assess the care delivered by an organization. full story

Young patients prominent in med cannabis registry

Children with seizure disorders have led the initial wave of patients registered for medical marijuana use in Georgia, state officials said Tuesday.

State Department of Public Health officials said cancer was the second-leading diagnosis for registrants.

The agency last month launched its Web portal and registration cards for medical cannabis oil. A law passed earlier this year made it legal for some people to possess the oil for medical purposes. Physicians can apply for a card on behalf of a patient with one of eight medical conditions.

Low THC Registry Card - FRONT-1

The program is strictly regulated, and possession of marijuana products remains illegal for the general public in Georgia.

Two-thirds of the Georgians newly registered for medical marijuana are under age 17. And the most prevalent diagnosis for the cannabis oil is seizure disorder, Donna Moore, state registrar overseeing the agency’s vital records section, told a Public Health board meeting.

She said 54 patients have been registered so far. full story

Study reveals patterns of prescription drug abuse

People who have recently used illicit drugs have a higher likelihood of misusing prescription painkillers as well, a University of Georgia study has found.

The nationwide study, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, also revealed a significant age difference in how people obtain these pain medications.

Prescription painkiller Vicodin

Prescription painkiller Vicodin

Older adults were more likely to report acquiring these drugs by going to multiple physicians, while younger people were more likely to get the painkillers from friends, relatives or drug dealers.

Abuse of opioid painkillers is a major national problem.

From 1999 to 2013, the amount of opioid painkillers prescribed and sold in this country nearly quadrupled. In 2013 alone, more than 16,000 people died in the United States from opioid painkillers, which include hydrocodone, oxycodone and codeine. full story

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