Top Pain Stories in 2020: COVID-19 Long Haulers, A Guilty Plea, and Artificial Pain.

COVID-19 Long Haulers, still fighting months later

In 2020, the pandemic of COVID-19 has affected the entire world. As more individuals are diagnosed COVID-19 positive, we, along with health care providers, researchers, and scientists are learning more about the virus. It was not until we were about six months into the pandemic that we began to hear about COVID-19 long haulers. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, long haulers have been self-reporting that they have been experiencing a variety of symptoms since their COVID-19 diagnosis that persist for months. Since COVID-19 is new, we do not have much research about the long term effects it has on individuals. Frankly, we are learning more and more about it every day. However, studies are now finding that 50% to 80% of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 experience persistent symptoms three months after their initial diagnosis, despite testing negative. 

What have long haulers been experiencing? 

Well, symptoms range from chest tightness, shortness of breath, debilitating fatigue, brain fog, GI distress, and headaches, among others. Some individuals have suffered far more severe effects from the virus, experiencing anywhere from permanent heart damage, lung damage, depression, brain damage, kidney damage, and an increased risk for blood clots. 

A physician treating COVID-19 patients, said, “I’ve seen a fair number of patients that come in with mostly post-viral fatigue, muscle aches, shortness of breath, chest pain. Tingling, a lot of neurologic symptoms. Brain fog as well. And these symptoms continue on.”

COVID-19 and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

It has been speculated by the medical community that long haulers may go on to develop long-term, chronic conditions, similar to myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, which features an overactive immune system, and is characterized by extreme fatigue, difficulty with concentration, and memory, headaches, and sore throat among a variety of other symptoms.

Hopefully, as we learn more about the virus, and the way that it attacks our body and immune system, we will learn more about various types of treatments and remedies for those who are diagnosed with COVID-19 and for those who experience post-viral syndrome.

Keep fighting, long-haulers, you got this. ? 

For more information about COVID-19 please visit the CDC’s website.

The Opioid Epidemic: Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges ?‍⚖️

Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical company, and producer of the pain management drug OxyContin recently pled guilty to criminal charges. The company, owned by the Sackler family was founded in 1892, and released the drug OxyContin in 1995. 

When OxyContin was released, the company took an aggressive approach to marketing, prioritizing the sale of the drug over patient safety. In internal company emails, sales representatives of the company were encouraged to aggressively sell and were rewarded with substantial bonuses. Included in the marketing tactics pursued by Purdue Pharma, were paid physician speaking engagements at nationwide conferences, advertorials, patient coupon programs, gifts, and branded promotional items. The treatment indications for the drug were also expanded to include patients who were experiencing non-cancer pain, targeting a much longer patient population. Physicians who were presented with information about OxyContin by trained sales agents were misled about the drug’s safety and were told that if patients took the drug as prescribed, “the risk of addiction when taking an opioid was one-half of 1 percent.” However, we now know that it is not true. 

In 2010, it was reported that 1 in 20 individuals reported abusing OxyContin. A staggering 65% percent growth in deaths by overdose between 1996 and 2017 have been attributed to the drug OxyContin. In 2015, it was estimated that roughly 2.4 million people in the United States were experiencing opioid addiction. The effects of the drug are wide-ranging, many patients who could no longer afford the medication or who could no longer get prescriptions from their physicians began to use heroin, many patients went on to contract Hepatitis A and/or Hepatitis B, and others were afflicted with an uncontrollable addiction only to be treated by costly rehabilitation programs and/or medication-assisted therapy.

Since 1999, over 760,000 Americans have died from a drug overdose.

In October 2020, Purdue Pharma pled guilty to three charges and reached an 8.3 billion dollar settlement. Purdue admitted to not effectively managing the prescription program to prevent the drugs being diverted to street sales, lying to the DEA, paying doctors for engagements and encouraging them to prescribe, and for paying EHR companies to send information to doctors on patients which encouraged them to prescribe. 

Currently, Purdue Pharma is the midst of developing new products that aim to reverse opioid overdoses.

If you or a loved one is facing mental and/or substance use disorders. SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

Feeling pain: the future of prosthetics and skin grafts  ? 

Now most of us who suffer from pain on a day to day basis would agree that if we could, we would edit pain out of our lives. However, researchers at RMIT University are working to introduce pain to individuals with prosthetics or skin grafts who can no longer feel pain. Although pain is unpleasant and uncomfortable, it is a vital part of the human experience and for our survival. Pain is our body’s way of warning and encouraging us to avoid painful stimuli. We also learn and adapt depending on our experiences with pain. 

The scientists who developed the artificial somatosensory, understood that “sensory feedback” is an important indicator of health when evaluating patients. Therefore, it made sense to them that the future of prosthetic advancement included creating an augmented response to pain in prosthetics. 

The team at RMIT University developed a pain-sensing prototype that senses and responds to pain, pressure and temperature. 

To break that down Md Ataur Rahman, PHD, explained, “While some existing technologies have used electrical signals to mimic different levels of pain, these new devices can react to real mechanical pressure, temperature and pain, and deliver the right electronic response. It means our artificial skin knows the difference between gently touching a pin with your finger or accidentally stabbing yourself with it – a critical distinction that has never been achieved before electronically.”

Perhaps the future of pain is an artificial one. ?