Family Medicine in the News

An article about the singer Demi Lovato, who was hospitalized recently for an apparent drug overdose, and the enduring struggle of addiction and relapse, interviews Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine, who said a number of risk factors make relapses perilous, but the major culprit is often losing tolerance. “When a relapse occurs, someone may take a dose that they think is going to be effective — and it may even be half of what they were taking before — but because they’ve lost their tolerance, those tend to be lethal,” he said.
A story reports UB has received a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help doctors translate proven medical research into patient care, and interviews Ranjit Singh, MB BChir, MBA, associate professor of family medicine. “Clinical trials demonstrate that the drug works,” he said. “Our job once they have discovered that it can work under ideal conditions with specific types of patients, is to figure out how to get practicing physicians out in the real world to use this drug to help their patients.”
A new UB study has shown that an at-home cognitive therapy that requires little contact with a medical specialist appears to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome as well or better than traditional therapy. “Our research shows that patients can learn ways to recalibrate these brain-gut interactions in a way that brings them significant symptom improvement that has eluded them through medical treatments,” said Jeffrey M. Lackner, PsyD, professor of medicine in the Division of Behavioral Medicine and director of the Behavioral Medicine Clinic.
“12 Voices in 12 Hours,” a daylong broadcast on WBEN-AM focusing on the opioid epidemic, interviews Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine. “I think the crisis has been getting worse. It’s not getting as bad as quickly, but I don’t think we’ve turned the corner at all,” he said.
A story about a new study that analyzes the costs of treating torture victims and the economic advantages of helping suffering refugees recover interviews Kim Griswold, MD, MPH, associate professor of family medicine and medical director of the Center for Survivors of Torture, who said the value of hosting refugees is supported by hard data. “Rehab after torture often allows individuals to enter the workforce, contribute to local economies and incur less health care costs over time,” she said.
Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine talks about the availability of medication-assisted treatment for people dealing with opioid and other chemical dependency issues and whether there are enough qualified physicians to treat them. “Right now, the physician workforce is the limiting step,” he said. “It’s relatively easy to build buildings and make more beds, and relatively easy to hire nurses to staff them. But a lot of agencies in Western New York are hamstrung in their ability to provide enhanced services by the lack of physician resources.”
A section called “Meet Your Doctor” in the magazine In Good Health interviews David M. Holmes, MD, clinical associate professor of family medicine and director of global health education, about the relationship between spirituality and health. He discussed the sensitive nature of bringing faith up with patients. “I mean, we’re trained to ask all kinds of personal questions about a person’s sexual history, but for some reason when it comes to someone’s spiritual history, it’s kind of taboo. But now there’s some movement in medical schools to train physicians to take a student’s spiritual history. It’s just a few simple questions that can give you a quick idea of where the patient is at.”
Torin J. Finver, MD, clinical instructor of family medicine, questioned a study that showed that states with legal marijuana prescribe fewer opioids for pain management “(To say medicinal marijuana laws could help solve the opioid crisis) is overly simplistic. This data is based on a population that hasn’t teased out that people have underlying addictive disorders. The data is making a leap,” says Finver, who is also program director of the addiction medicine fellowship.
A report on research by Jessica A. Kulak, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Primary Care Research Institute housed in the Department of Family Medicine, shows that public health officials may need to consider broadening their tobacco prevention efforts beyond traditional cigarettes to include hookah use. “It may be the case that hookah appeals to youths and young adults who really do not experiment with nicotine products overall because of the perception that hookah is ‘safer’ or that it does not contain nicotine,” Kulak said.
An article about the opioid crisis and the rising number of people who are dying from overdoses interviews Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine, who said the opioid crisis is an epidemic of our own making and that prescription rates have skyrocketed, fueled in part by hospitals and doctors trying to treat chronic pain rather than the underlying symptoms. “Long-term, it’s going to be 20 years before we dig ourselves out of the hole that we made,” he said. “Some aspects of [the crisis] are getting worse.”
A story about a report by the New York State Department of Health that shows three counties in Western New York have some of the highest rates of pain pill distribution in the state interviews Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine. "You can put a treatment center at every street corner in Buffalo and that's never going to address the problem as long as the health care system is continuing to prescribe new patients into addiction," he said.
Cities across the U.S. have filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies that make opioids for their role in the epidemic of addiction that has caused an extraordinary number of fatalities. “I was practicing at that period of time and I do remember getting visits from reps from pharmaceutical companies, and they were saying that if somebody has ‘real pain’ they’re not going to get addicted,” said Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine
“The Opioid Epidemic,” a one-hour PBS documentary that traces the causes behind the unprecedented growth in the use of prescription opioids and the devastating impact these drugs are having in virtually every part of the nation, interviews Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine  and vice chair of addiction medicine. “I think some physicians don’t appreciate how potent these drugs are,” he said, “and don’t necessarily appreciate how many problems they can create.” 
Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine, is interviewed for an article about the Total Freedom program in Darien Center that combines structure, healthier guidance and religion to help people overcome addiction. Blondell called the program one of several reasonable models. “I don’t pass judgment on any program if it’s working for the individual,” Blondell said.
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences faculty members weighed in on how to stay healthy in the new year in an article on resolutions. Anne B. Curtis, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Charles and Mary Bauer Professor and Chair of Medicine, said: “If you find you have been too sedentary, figure out when you can fit in 10 minutes of walking to start.” Priyanka Patnaik, MD, medical director at UBMD Family Medicine at Conventus and a clinical assistant professor of family medicine, suggested taking an hour a day “to relax and let go of all the stress of work, maybe spend some time meditating or doing yoga.”