All Sauce from Weekly Gravy:

For nearly a week, prescription drug orders have been disrupted at thousands of pharmacies as the largest health insurer in the United States tries to fully restore services following a cyberattack. The security breach was first detected last Wednesday at Change Healthcare, a division of UnitedHealth Group, and two senior federal law enforcement officials told the New York Times that the hackers appear to be from another country. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, UnitedHealth Group said it had been forced to disconnect some of Change Healthcare’s vast digital network from its clients, and it hasn’t yet been able to restore all of those services. Change Healthcare handles roughly 15 billion transactions a year, representing nearly one in three U.S. patient records, the Times reported. This latest cyberattack underscores the vulnerability of health care data, particularly the privacy of patients’ personal information. Change Healthcare helps pharmacies verify a patient’s insurance coverage for their prescriptions, and some reports indicate that some people have been forced to pay for their prescriptions in cash, the Times reported. Shortly after UnitedHealth discovered the security breach, the company shut down several services, including those allowing pharmacies to quickly check what a patient owes for a medication, the Times reported While national drug store chains like Walgreens report limited effects, smaller pharmacies tell a different story. “For…  read on >  read on >

Eye ointment products made in India and sold in the United States at Walmart, CVS and other retailers are being recalled due to a danger of infection. Brassica Pharma Pvt. Ltd., of Maharastra, India, said it is recalling various eye lubricant products labeled Equate, CVS Health and AACE. Recalled products will have expiration dates ranging from February 2024 to September 2025. “For those patients who use these products, there is a potential risk of eye infections or related harm. These products are intended to be sterile,” the company said in a statement posted Monday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Ophthalmic drug products pose a potential heightened risk of harm to users because drugs applied to the eyes bypass some of the body’s natural defenses.” A full list of the recalled products, including photos, can be found here. The recall comes on the heels of a large recall in 2023 of tainted eye drops tied to serious infections, vision loss and even deaths. Brassica Pharma says that, so far, no reports of “adverse events” tied to the ointments have been reported. “These products were distributed nationwide to wholesalers, retailers and via the product distributor, Walmart, CVS and AACE Pharmaceuticals Inc.,” Brassica Pharma said. “Consumers, distributors and retailers that have any product which is being recalled should cease distribution of the product,” the company added.…  read on >  read on >

Living close to a pub, bar or fast-food restaurant doesn’t do your heart any favors, a new study finds. Folks who live in close proximity to such establishments have a higher risk of heart failure, compared to those who live farther away, researchers report in the Feb. 27 issue of the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.  These findings weren’t a complete surprise, said senior researcher Dr. Lu Qi, a professor of epidemiology at Tulane University in New Orleans. “Previous studies have suggested that exposure to ready-to-eat food environments is associated with risks of other disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, which may also increase the risk of heart failure,” Qi noted in a journal news release. For the study, researchers analyzed data from the U.K. Biobank, a database containing health information for more than 500,000 adults in the United Kingdom. The team measured study participants’ exposure to three different types of food environments — pubs or bars, restaurants or cafeterias, and fast-food joints. These kinds of ready-to-eat establishments typically provide unhealthy foods and drinks, Qi said. The researchers specifically looked at whether people lived within a 15-minute walk of these eateries, as well as the number of such places located within such an easy walking distance. The study tracked nearly 13,000 heart failure cases during a 12-year follow-up period, and found that close proximity…  read on >  read on >

One out of every five adults who attempt suicide never met the criteria for a mental illness by the time the attempt happened, new research shows. “This finding challenges clinical notions of who is at risk for suicidal behavior and raises questions about the safety of limiting suicide risk screening to psychiatric populations,” concluded a team led by Dr. Maria Oquendo. She’s past president of the American Psychiatric Association and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. The study, published Feb. 21 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, focused on data from nearly 2,000 Americans ages 20 to 65 who had all had a history of suicide attempt. The study found that 6.2% had no history of a mental illness prior to or after their attempted suicide. Another 13.4% had made a first attempt at suicide prior to the onset of any mental illness diagnosis. Some did not meet the criteria for a mental illness until years after the attempt, the study found. That means that a total of 19.6% of adults with a lifetime history of attempted suicide had no prior evidence of mental illness beforehand. For doctors, this means that they may need to be ask patients questions regarding any prior attempt at suicide, because it may have happened in the absence of a diagnosed mental illness. According to the researchers, a…  read on >  read on >

Regular standing and walking activities in the classroom can aid in the fight against childhood obesity, a new study shows. Children who took part in the Active Movement program experienced an 8% reduction in their waist-to-height ratio, according to results from British primary schools. Participation in sports also increased by 10% at schools with the program, researchers report. The Active Movement program aims to integrate motion into classrooms, which can tend to be a very sedentary experience for deskbound students. “By introducing movement into teaching in creative ways, such as standing up to answer questions or walking around the classroom as part of a learning exercise, we can significantly reduce [students’] sedentary time,” said lead researcher Flaminia Ronca, an associate professor with the University of College London’s Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health. The program focuses on low-level physical activity, and doesn’t require extra equipment or staff to implement, researchers said. “Our study shows that this can lead to a recognizable improvement in their waist-to-height ratio,” Ronca added in a university news release. Nearly 21% of U.S. children ages 6 to 11 are obese, comparable to an obesity rate of nearly 23% among U.K. fifth graders, according to stats from the researchers and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the study, researchers trained teachers at 26 U.K. primary schools to incorporate standing…  read on >  read on >

Weather disasters driven by climate change are stressing out U.S. teenagers, a new study warns. Teens with the most firsthand experience of events like hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, droughts and wildfires were more likely to show signs of mental distress than peers who hadn’t been confronted with the effects of climate change, researchers report. “We know that climate change has and will have catastrophic impacts across the globe, but we were alarmed to find that climate-related disasters already were affecting so many teens in the U.S.,” said lead researcher Amy Auchincloss, an associate professor of epidemiology in Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health in Philadelphia.  “For example, within the past two years, many school districts in our study were subject to climate disasters for over 20 days,” Auchincloss added in a university news release. Researchers said this was the first large-scale attempt to look at the mental health of adolescents following multiple disaster events. For their study, researchers drew on federal survey data for more than 38,600 high school students from 22 public school districts in 14 states. The largest share of the districts were located in the southern and western regions of the country. The districts had been affected by 83 federally declared climate disasters within the past 10 years, researchers said. These included 24 hurricanes, 23 severe storms, 20 wildfires, 10 floods, four…  read on >  read on >

Data from dozens of studies supports the notion that mental health crises are a big factor behind rising rates of maternal deaths during and around pregnancy in the United States. “We need to bring this to the attention of the public and policymakers to demand action to address the mental health crisis that is contributing to the demise of mothers in America,” said Dr. Katherine Wisner, who led the review. She’s associate chief of perinatal mental health at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. “The rate of maternal mortality in the United States is 2-fold to 3-fold greater than that in other high-income countries,” her team noted in the study, which was published Feb. 21 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. Could mental health issues play a role in many of these tragedies? To find out, Wisner and her colleagues looked at data from 30 recent studies and 15 historical references. They found that: Mental health risks rise during pregnancy. The period in and around a pregnancy is “associated with elevated risk for new-onset or relapse of maternal psychiatric disorders,” the researchers reported. For example, 14.5% of pregnant mothers develop depression while pregnant, and another 14.5% battle the illness during the three months after delivery Many pregnant women face risks for suicide, opioid overdose. The data showed that suicide or opioid overdose together account for nearly…  read on >  read on >

Of course grief can ravage your mind, but science shows it can also weaken your body, leaving you open to illness. “As humans, we are strongly motivated to seek out social bonds that are warm, dependable, friendly and supportive,” explained George Slavich. He directs the Laboratory for Stress Assessment and Research at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.  “Losing someone close to us terminates that bond and the social and physical protection they provided, which historically could have put the body at an increased risk of physical danger,” he added in a UCLA article. Much of that danger comes from a hypervigilant, but in some ways weakened, immune system. As Slavich explained, after the loss of a loved one, your brain and body react as if they’ve lost a key line of defense. The immune system escalates its would-healing capabilities (priming for potential threats) but at the same time lowers its guard against viruses. That’s why folks are vulnerable to colds and flu when they’re hit by grief or other stressors, Slavich noted. Bodily inflammatory responses also rise, he added, and that can lead to “feelings of sickness, fatigue, loss of pleasure and social and behavioral withdrawal.” Physical pain might also result from grief. One study found that heightened production of immune system proteins could make grieving people more sensitive to…  read on >  read on >

Comedian Amy Schumer has disclosed that she has been diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome, a condition that arises when there is too much cortisol in the body. In an interview published Friday in the News Not Noise newsletter, Schumer revealed she has exogenous Cushing syndrome, brought on by getting steroid injections. The condition can trigger weight gain, fatigue, “moon face,” headaches and other symptoms. Schumer said she felt “reborn” after finally getting a diagnosis. “While I was doing press on camera for my Hulu show, I was also in MRI machines four hours at a time, having my veins shut down from the amount of blood drawn and thinking I may not be around to see my son grow up,” Schumer recalled. “So, finding out I have the kind of Cushing that will just work itself out and I’m healthy was the greatest news imaginable. It has been a crazy couple weeks for me and my family.” Schumer said she shared her diagnosis to encourage women’s health and body positivity. “The shaming and criticism of our ever-changing bodies is something I have dealt with and witnessed for a long time,” Schumer explained. ”I want so much for women to love themselves and be relentless when fighting for their own health in a system that usually doesn’t believe them.” Schumer, who had faced criticism for her puffy appearance on social media,…  read on >  read on >

The asthma medication Xolair has proved its prowess against food allergies, with new research showing the medication substantially lowers the chances of severe reactions in patients. Data published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented simultaneously at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting in Washington, D.C., showed that multiple injections of Xolair (omalizumab) given over a period of several weeks slashed the severity of allergic reactions in some adults and children as young as 1 who are allergic to peanuts and other foods such as milk, eggs and wheat. Just last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded its approval of Xolair to include people with food allergies, based on an interim analysis of the study. “I’m excited that we have a promising new treatment for multi-food allergic patients. This new approach showed really great responses for many of the foods that trigger their allergies,” said study senior author Dr. Sharon Chinthrajah. She’s acting director of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford Medicine. “Patients impacted by food allergies face a daily threat of life-threatening reactions due to accidental exposures,” added study lead author Dr. Robert Wood, director of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. “The study showed that omalizumab can be a layer of protection against small, accidental exposures.” Chinthrajah and…  read on >  read on >