The 10 Best Health Stories from December

The MD Magazine editors rounded up the 10 best stories from December—did you read them all?

It seemed like every other day in December the US Food and Drug Administration was either approving a new disease treatment or red-flagging potential issues with a doctor's office staple like exam gloves. MD Magazine covered these stories, along with additional condition-specific news. Some other highlights from this month included: phase 3 trial results for a potential irritable bowel syndrome drug, an (unexpected?) problem with extended over-the-counter painkiller use, and the Department of Veterans Affairs made a controversial decision on using advanced practice nurses in place of doctors.

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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has finalized its proposed ban on powdered surgeon's gloves, powdered patient exam gloves, and absorbable powder for lubricating surgical gloves.

The measure will take effect on January 19, 2017. The ban also applies to similar gloves used in dentistry.

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A medicine cabinet staple could help gonorrhea infection and assist in reducing the antibiotic resistance rate.

Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States, just behind chlamydia. In 2015, there were a total of 395,216 cases—an increase of 12.8% from 2014. While gonorrhea is curable with the right medication followed as directed, it can lead to permanent health complications if left untreated.

Researchers from Australia studied Listerine, a popular mouthwash, and its impact on Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacteria that causes gonorrhea. They conducted the research both in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) and in vitro study.

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Skin conditions are more than just physically debilitating — they can cause psychological and financial duress. Research published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology reported that atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema, could cost up to 35% of their discretionary income. Since the condition in infants is often linked with asthma, allergies, hay fever, sleep problems, and weight issues; the total cost of eczema treatment could scale $3.8 billion annually.

While there are many treatment methods on the market, experts have suggested an option under $10 that could provide relief while saving one’s wallet: moisturizing newborns with petroleum jelly until they are six months old.

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The notion of a link between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is far from novel. It has been theorized, speculated upon, and studied for decades, with new investigations coming out each year. No matter the confidence that researchers may have held in that link, it was hard to prove without pinpointing the exact mechanism at play.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins believe they may have changed that.

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Over-the-counter painkillers may not have the addictive properties that prescription versions do, but that doesn’t mean potential harm is absent. In a new analysis conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, findings indicated that extended use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen is linked to a higher risk of hearing loss.

“Hearing loss is extremely common in the United States and can have a profound impact on quality of life,” Gary Curhan, MD, SCD, from the Channing Division of Network Medicine at the hospital, said in a news release. “Finding modifiable risk factors could help us identify ways to lower risk before hearing loss begins and slow progression in those with hearing loss.”

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A turf war between physician organizations and nursing groups over the scope of practice of nurses at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities ended in a partial victory for both sides.

At issue was whether the VA could save money and extend services to veterans by making greater use of advanced practice nurses.

In a final rule announced on December 13, the VA said it would…

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Asthma’s effects on both lives and the healthcare economy are well-documented, costing billions of dollars annually and manifesting in patients as anything from an occasional disturbance to a constant and potentially fatal condition. Insomnia is also socially expensive, and can wreak havoc on one’s functionality-a study out of Harvard last year estimated the average worker loses over 11 days’ worth of productivity per year due to it.

A new study out of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) now finds that insomnia and asthma are commonly related, with the uncomfortable breathing condition contributing to an inability to sleep, and the sleeplessness perhaps feeding right back into the severity of the asthma.

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The good news is that many hepatitis C treatments have at least a 90% cure rate. But the bad news is that people who had hepatitis C still have higher mortality rates than the general population.

Despite being curable, hepatitis C kills more people in the United States than any other infection disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But what happens after it’s cured? Hamish Innes, PhD, of Glasgow Caledonian University, and colleagues in the United Kingdom looked at a national database to identified people who were cured of the virus and have secured a sustained viral response (SVR) in 1996 to 2011.

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Patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) may benefit from a new drug making its way through the approval pipeline.

Synergy Pharmaceuticals reported positive top-line results on the first phase 3 trial investigating the efficacy and safety of the orally administered compound, plecanatide.

The plecanatide phase 3 trial IBS-C program included two randomized, 12-week, double-blind, placebo controlled trials assessing 3mg and 6mg doses in 1,135 patients.

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Patients who take pioglitazone (Actos/Takeda) to control their diabetes have long been warned the drug comes with an apparent risk of bladder cancer.

Pioglitazone, also sold as a generic, has been the focus of a 10-year prospective cohort study in diabetic patients who are in the Kaiser Permanente of Northern California (KPNC) database.

Updating its initial September 2010 warning, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a labeling change to include the results of more recent data that confirm that danger.

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