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These Prescription Drugs May Reduce Efficacy of COVID-19 Vaccines

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Share on PinterestMillions of Americans are taking drugs that suppress the immune system, and research suggests that this could reduce the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Rec Visual / Getty Images

  • Nearly 3 percent of insured adults under the age of 65 in the United States are taking drugs that suppress the immune system.
  • The prevalence of these drugs is an issue as they can make COVID-19 vaccinations less effective.
  • Experts suggest that we may be able to work around this problem by changing the timing of medication or by giving these patients booster vaccinations.
  • However, it is a good idea to get vaccinated as the vaccine may still provide some protection.
  • Patients with compromised immune systems are advised to continue to observe precautions such as hand washing and physical distancing even after vaccination.

Michigan Medicine researchers found that nearly 3 percent of US insured adults under the age of 65 are taking drugs that weaken the immune system.

This is important because taking these drugs can increase a person’s risk for COVID-19 symptoms and hospitalization if they contract the virus.

There is also growing evidence that these drugs may reduce the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The main author Dr. Beth Wallace, a rheumatologist at Michigan Medicine, said immunosuppressive drugs are usually used to treat conditions where there is an inappropriate immune response that can potentially harm certain parts of the patient’s body.

Examples of this type of disease include autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, in which the immune system sees certain parts of the patient’s body, such as the joints, as a threat.

When the patient’s immune system starts attacking these parts of the body, damage can result.

Immunosuppressants can be used to contain this attack on the patient’s own tissues.

Wallace said another case where people could use immunosuppressive drugs would be in organ transplantation. In this case, the drugs are used to prevent the immune system from seeing the transplanted organ as an invader and attacking it.

In addition, certain types of chemotherapy used to kill cancer cells can have a side effect on suppressing the immune system.

Wallace said most of these immunosuppressants are not used outside of people with these chronic conditions. However, one type of immunosuppressant that is very commonly used is steroids.

Steroids include drugs like prednisone and dexamethasone.

These drugs can be given short-term for conditions such as allergic rashes, bronchitis, and sinus infections.

“This is a problem,” said Wallace, “because steroids are very immunosuppressive. We are learning more and more that even short courses and low doses of steroids can increase people’s risk of infection and reduce their response to vaccines like the COVID vaccine.”

“Vaccines teach your immune system to recognize a particular threat so that it can respond appropriately if it ever sees that threat again,” Wallace said.

However, according to Wallace, immunosuppressive drugs work by reducing your immune system’s ability to identify and fight off threats.

This suppression is useful in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis in which an undesirable immune response occurs.

“But immunosuppression also decreases the immune system’s ability to respond to things it should respond to, like infections and vaccines,” she said.

“We are beginning to realize that people who take immunosuppressants may have a slower and weaker response to the COVID vaccination.”

Experts say there may be strategies that we can use to circumvent the problem of immunosuppression.

Wallace suggested that some might be able to pause their medication once they’ve been vaccinated, or delay an IV infusion until they’ve had time to develop an immune response to the injection.

Dr. Meghan Baker, a hospitalized epidemiologist who works with immunocompromised patients at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, added that experts often recommend completing the COVID-19 vaccine series at when the timing of immunosuppressive therapies is flexible is at least 2 weeks before starting the medication.

However, if this is not possible, they recommend that patients speak to their personal doctor about the risks and benefits of delaying therapy.

Wallace went on to explain that specific recommendations regarding the timing of immunosuppressive drugs would need to be tailored to the needs of the individual.

“For example, if someone is on chemotherapy to treat an active cancer, the risk of temporarily stopping that treatment is much different than the risk of stopping a drug someone has been taking for stable rheumatoid arthritis for 10 years,” Wallace said.

She also pointed out that different immunosuppressants can affect the vaccination response differently.

“Guidelines that are useful for certain medical conditions or medications may not be appropriate for others,” she said.

In addition to changing the timing of the drugs, Wallace said, “There are also some studies looking at the effects of a booster shot in this population, an extra dose given several months after the person was first vaccinated. “

Baker said that people on immunosuppressive therapies can and should generally be vaccinated.

“Although the level of protection may vary depending on the underlying disease or immunosuppressive therapy, most people receive some protection from the vaccine,” said Baker. “It can make them less likely to become infected or develop serious illness if they become infected.”

“Since the vaccine may be less effective,” she added, “it is recommended that those with compromised immune systems continue to take precautions to minimize exposure to SARS-CoV-2.”

Precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include such measures as wearing masks, hand washing, physical distancing, and limiting contact with other people as much as possible.

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Women’s Health

Hair straightening products associated with higher risk of cancer

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HOW. A RECENT STUDY BY THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH FOUND THAT THE CONSISTENT USE OF HAIR STRAIGHTENING PRODUCTS CAN HAVE A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON A WOMAN’S HEALTH. WXII CHARLES JOSHUA DAVIS SPOKE WITH AN EXPERTS FROM NOVANT HEALTH ABOUT THE RESULTS OF THE STUDY AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR EVERYONE. THE STUDY PUBLISHED BY THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH DRAWS A CONNECTION BETWEEN HAIR STRAIGHTENING PRODUCTS AND RELAXERS TO, AN INCREASED CHANCE IN DEVELOPING UTERINE CANCER. DR. JUDITH HOPKINS OF NOVANT HEALTH SAYS THE STUDY. 33,000 AFRICAN-AMERICANS AND SOMETHING RESEARCHERS TO ADDRESS WHAT WHAT LIFESTYLE OR ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS MIGHT INCREASE THE RISK OF HORMONE SENSITIVE CANCERS. SO THE AVERAGE INDIVIDUAL IN THE UNITED STATES HAS ABOUT. 1.6% INCIDENCE OF GETTING UTERINE CANCER. AND IF THEY USE A HAIR STRAIGHTENING PRODUCT, THEY HAVE A LITTLE OVER A 4% CHANCE. SO ALMOST DOUBLING. RESEARCHERS FOR THE STUDY ALSO NOTED BLACK WOMEN MAY BE MORE AT RISK BECAUSE THEY’RE MORE LIKELY TO USE HAIR STRAIGHTENING PRODUCTS. BUT DR. HOPKINS OF NOVANT SAYS THE RESEARCH DIDN’T IDENTIFY NAME BRANDS. WHEN WE DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF DETAIL, I THINK THAT UNFORTUNATELY, MOST STRAIGHTENERS HAVE ESTROGENIC AGENTS AND THEY ALMOST ALL HAVE FORMALDEHYDE. AND WE KNOW FOR A FACT THAT FORMALDEHYDE IS A POTENT CARCINOGEN. SHE SAYS WHILE THERE IS AN INCREASED RISK, THE RISK IS SMALL, BUT PEOPLE WILL HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WHAT WORKS FOR THEM. AND SO SOME PEOPLE MAY CHOOSE TO ACCEPT THAT RISK. AND FOR OTHER PEOPLE, THIS INFORMATION MAY BE IMPORTANT AND THEY MAY CHOOSE NOT TO USE. THAT RISK, PARTICULARLY IF THEY HAVE RISK FACTORS LIKE A FAMILY HISTORY FOR BREAST CANCER OR A FAMILY HISTORY FOR UTERINE CANCER. DR. HOPKINS ALSO SAYS THERE’S MORE RESEARCH TO BE DONE ON HOW WOMEN ARE AFFECTED. LONG. JOSHUA DAVIS

Hair straightening products associated with higher risk of hormone-sensitive cancers

Updated: 8:30 PM EST Dec 2, 2022

A recent study by the National Institute of Health has found the consistent use of hair straightening products can have negative effects on women’s health. The study draws a connection between hair straightening products and relaxers to an increased chance of developing hormone-sensitive cancers, such as uterine, breast, and ovarian cancer. The study involved 33,000 African Americans. dr Judith Hopkins, an oncologist with Novant Health Cancer Institute says, researchers tried to address what lifestyle and environmental factors might increase the risk of hormone-sensitive cancers. “So the average individual in the United States has about a 1.6% incidence of getting uterine cancer,” she said. “And if they use a hair straightening product, they have a little over a 4% chance, so almost a doubling.”Researchers for the study also noted that Black women may be more at risk, because they’re more likely to use hair straightening products more frequently. However, Hopkins says the research didn’t identify name brands.”We don’t have that kind of detail,” she said. “I think that unfortunately, most straighteners have estrogenic agents and they almost all have formaldehyde and we know for a fact that formaldehyde is a potent carcinogen.”She also says while there is an increased risk, the risk is small. But she says people will have to figure out what works for them.”Some people may choose to accept that risk,” she said. “And for other people, this information may be important, and they may choose not to use that risk. Especially if they have other risk factors like a family history for breast cancer, or a family history for uterine cancer.” Hopkins says more research still needs to be done on how women are affected in the long term.

A recent study by the National Institute of Health has found the consistent use of hair straightening products can have negative effects on women’s health.

The study draws a connection between hair straightening products and relaxers to an increased chance of developing hormone-sensitive cancers, such as uterine, breast, and ovarian cancer.

The study involved 33,000 African Americans. dr Judith Hopkins, an oncologist with Novant Health Cancer Institute says, researchers tried to address what lifestyle and environmental factors might increase the risk of hormone-sensitive cancers.

“So the average individual in the United States has about a 1.6% incidence of getting uterine cancer,” she said. “And if they use a hair straightening product, they have a little over a 4% chance, so almost a doubling.”

Researchers for the study also noted that Black women may be more at risk because they’re more likely to use hair straightening products more frequently. However, Hopkins says the research didn’t identify name brands.

“We don’t have that kind of detail,” she said. “I think that unfortunately, most straighteners have estrogenic agents and they almost all have formaldehyde and we know for a fact that formaldehyde is a potent carcinogen.”

She also says while there is an increased risk, the risk is small. But she says people will have to figure out what works for them.

“Some people may choose to accept that risk,” she said. “And for other people, this information may be important, and they may choose not to use that risk. Especially if they have other risk factors like a family history for breast cancer, or a family history for uterine cancer.”

Hopkins says more research still needs to be done on how women are affected in the long term.

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Women’s Health

Saving women’s lives: the time is now to defeat Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and cervical cancer together (By Sergio Carmona & Princess Nono Simelela)

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By Dr Sergio Carmona, Chief Medical Officer of FIND (https://www.FINDdx.org), the global alliance for diagnostics and Dr Princess Nono Simelela, Special Advisor to the World Health Organization’s DG on Strategic Priorities, including Cervical Cancer Elimination.

Women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa accounted for two out of every three (https://bit.ly/2xN4hOv) new HIV infections in 2021. Women living with HIV are six times more likely (https://bit.ly/ 3Fjcbms) to develop cervical cancer than those living without.

These are powerful, distressing statistics, showing very clearly that to meet the 2030 targets of ending the AIDS epidemic as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) ambition to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem, we must urgently prioritize women’s health across our continent.

Why are these two diseases so closely linked? Weakened immune systems mean women with HIV are less likely to be able to clear infections of HPV, which is the virus that causes cervical cancer. Indeed, HIV infection halves the time (https://bit.ly/3isvyjY) it takes for pre-cancerous cells to develop into cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is both preventable and curable (https://bit.ly/3it5RQq) if detected early, through highly effective HPV vaccines and high-performing tests or screening tools, leading WHO to suggest that it could be the first cancer ever in the world to be eliminated.

But while awareness of the impact of vaccination and value of screening has improved, disruption to health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed aside many women’s health programs, including HPV vaccination campaigns and screening initiatives. Today, cervical cancer remains the deadliest cancer (https://bit.ly/3XLsgsh) among women in low-income countries – because women in these countries simply do not have access to these life-saving measures.

Increasingly, communities and organizations are identifying opportunities to address both cervical cancer and HIV/AIDS together. Last year WHO updated their guidelines (https://bit.ly/3VtiuJN) on cervical cancer screening and treatment to include recommendations that are specific for women living with HIV. As Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, recently acknowledged (https://bit.ly/3isCCNJ), “It is unacceptable to claim that we have saved a woman’s life by enabling access to antiretroviral therapy for HIV alone, if we then leave her to die from cervical cancer… [we are] building bridges between HIV and cervical cancer programs, and bringing the two communities together because we know that linkages save lives.”

Such linkages include integrated control strategies, research and access programs, joint case management and awareness raising, and cooperation between the two disease communities to make the most of the resources we have available.

In HIV, the introduction of self-testing has been a major step in the fight against the disease. Lessons from that experience, coupled with an explosion in diagnostic technology prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, mean that for cervical cancer we are now much closer to new approaches for early detection and cervical screening services, including self-sampling (https:// bit.ly/3FdTVtF) that can be conducted more privately and conveniently (at home, for example). Through monitoring the testing landscape for COVID-19, FIND has identified at least 27 molecular point-of-care tests with potential for HPV testing – many of which are already in use for HIV diagnosis.

Indeed, to meet the WHO goal of screening over 70% of all eligible women for cervical cancer in LMICs at least twice in their lifetime, there are significant opportunities for collaborations with HIV programmes. Scaling up this “twice-lifetime” screening alongside HPV vaccination could enable 100% of countries to reach elimination (https://bit.ly/3uhhgpe) – reducing cervical cancer cases by 97%, saving countless lives as well as health system costs .

First, we need to integrate cervical cancer into community-led approaches to advocacy, and education, to break down barriers around stigma for both diseases and increase demand for screening and testing. Second, we need to prioritize and accelerate the adoption of new, women-centric technologies that are coming through the pipeline, especially those that can enable self-sampling. And third, we need to increase access to affordable diagnostics so that everyone who needs a test can get one – for both HIV and cervical cancer.

To be successful, these measures require committed leadership from heads of governments, who must prioritize the control and elimination of cervical cancer alongside HIV, seeing this not as a cost but an investment in the future of their nations.

In addition, community leaders, policy makers, donors, civil society and the private sector must provide solid support to scale up cervical cancer programs and integrate them into health systems alongside HIV services.

On World AIDS Day this year we were called on to ‘equalize’ (https://bit.ly/3B0eKYe) to address the inequalities that are holding back progress in ending AIDS. We must heed that call and come together with urgency to free women from the burden of both diseases.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FIND.

This Press Release has been issued by APO. The content is not monitored by the editorial team of African Business and not of the content has been checked or validated by our editorial teams, proof readers or fact checkers. The issuer is solely responsible for the content of this announcement.

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5 Important Questions to Ask Before Taking Antidepressants, According to a Pharmacist

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Most people can relate to having a bad day or the occasional case of the blues, but depression—which can be caused by numerous factors, including the medication you take—is something else entirely. A mood disorder characterized by “constant sadness or lack of interest in life” that lasts “for many days to weeks and keeps you from living your life,” according to WebMD, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression.

Fortunately, there are various and effective treatments that can help address depression. “Although antidepressants may not cure depression, they can reduce symptoms,” says WebMD. “Many kinds of antidepressants are available, and chances are you’ll be able to find one that works well for you.”

However, as with any drug, antidepressants carry the potential for risks, side effects, and other problems. Kashmira GovindPharmD, a pharmacist for the Farr Institute, recommends asking your healthcare provider these five questions before you start taking antidepressants.

READ THIS NEXT: Don’t Use Mouthwash If You’re Taking These 2 Medications, Experts Warn.

1

“What are the possible side effects?”

Govind recommends not just asking about potential side effects, but how you can manage them.

“For many people, these improve within weeks of starting an antidepressant,” notes the Mayo Clinic, which explains that some of these side effects will not go away. “For some antidepressants, monitoring blood levels may help determine the range of effectiveness and to what extent dosage can be adjusted to help reduce side effects.”

2

“Can I stop taking the medication on my own?”

You may feel that the antidepressants you’re taking aren’t working, or maybe the side effects are causing you too much discomfort. On the other hand, your symptoms may have improved to the point where you don’t feel you need medication anymore. Whatever your concern, don’t stop taking antidepressants without talking to your medical provider.

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“The decision to go off antidepressants should be considered thoughtfully and made with the support of your physician or therapist to make sure you’re not stopping prematurely, risking a recurrence of depression,” warns Harvard Health. “Once you decide to quit, you and your physician should take steps to minimize or avoid the discontinuation symptoms that can occur if such medications are withdrawn too quickly.”

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3

How long do I have to take the medication?”

Michelle Tricamo, MD, tells Women’s Health that people should be symptom-free for approximately one year before they discuss stopping their antidepressants. “Just like you want someone to finish the whole course of antibiotics to prevent relapse, we don’t want anyone to prematurely discontinue antidepressants, either,” she says. However, some providers may recommend taking the medication indefinitely.

4

“What foods or other meds should I avoid while taking antidepressants?”

Whenever you’re on any drugs, Govind advises speaking to your doctor about possible prescription interactions with other medications, including over-the-counter drugs. “Some antidepressants can interfere with the effectiveness of other medications, and some can cause dangerous reactions when combined with certain medications or herbal supplements,” says the Mayo Clinic.

5

“Can I drink alcohol while taking this medication?”

Antidepressants and alcohol can be a risky combination.”It’s best to avoid combining antidepressants and alcohol,” Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, MD tells the Mayo Clinic. “It may worsen your symptoms, and it can be dangerous.” Hall-Flavin notes that worsening of symptoms, side effects, or changes in blood pressure are all possible consequences.

In addition, “Don’t stop taking an antidepressant or other medication just so that you can drink,” he says. “Most antidepressants require taking a consistent, daily dose to maintain a constant level in your system and work as intended.”

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you’re taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

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