Medical marijuana: State just says no to buds for vaping

Well, that didn’t take long.

In Florida’s quest to keep people from smoking medical marijuana, the state Department of Health ordered an operator to stop selling “whole-flower” products to be used in vaporizers, according to the News Service of Florida.

The Health Department sent a cease-and-desist letter to Trulieve after news reports in the last few days about the sales of the whole flower marijuana in pre-made cups to be used in its volcano vaporizing device.

Whole-flower is the natural form of the marijuana plant, the buds that recreational smokers traditionally have used for decades.

The fear among some was that the cups could easily be dismantled and the whole-flower marijuana smoked in pipes, bongs, or joints — not allowed for patients under Florida’s current medical-marijuana laws.

Only those with a doctor’s approval and on the state’s list can buy from Trulieve, which sells other cannabis products for vaping that is not whole-flower marijuana. It has five stores throughout the state and is one of a handful operating medical marijuana dispensaries currently.

“Licensed dispensing organizations have a responsibility to ensure their product is not one that can easily be transitioned into a smokable form. Therefore, whole flower products are not permitted,” state Office of Compassionate Use Director Christian Bax wrote to Trulieve on Monday.

“Given the above facts, Trulieve is hereby ordered to immediately cease and desist sale of its Entourage product,” Bax wrote.

 

This all comes in front of the backdrop of the Legislature’s failure the last session to come up with a law to implement a constitutional amendment establishing medical marijuana in Florida approved by 72 percent of the voters last year.

The Health Department has to come up with rules governing new medical marijuana dispensaries by mid-summer and implemented by October.

Lawmakers have come up against smoking medical marijuana, saying it is unhealthy but John Morgan — the Orlando trial lawyer who largely bankrolled what was known as Amendment 2 — has pledged to sue the state over the smoking issue.

Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers, in a statement, said the company was surprised by the letter but is “immediately and completely complying with the department’s wishes while evaluating our options.”

Rivers told the News Service last week she believed the product was legal and that her company had been selling whole-flower products for nearly a year.

Advocates, including Rivers, says vaping whole-flower marijuana creates an “entourage” effect that is better medicinally.

The benefits of medical cannabis include relief for chronic pain and muscle spasm. It relieves nausea during chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients. It also has been used for the treatment of Tourette’s syndrome, anorexia, arthritis, migraines, and glaucoma.

Other states, of course, allow the sale of whole-flower medical marijuana.

Whole-flower medical marijuana sold at a dispensary in California. Florida lawmakers don’t want such shops here, saying smoking medical cannabis is unhealthy. Photo: Jeff Ostrowski.

To read the whole News Service of Florida story click here.

 

Smoking: Cost of a pack-a-day habit? $10,000 over five years

When it comes to getting cigarette smokers to give up the habit, just about everything has been tried.

There are ghosts of smokers past, talking in public service announcements after their deaths from lung cancer. There are those disgusting pictures of autopsied lungs replete with the disease.  And there is the old standby of shame.

Now the Florida Department of Health wants smokers to consider their pocketbook and how much their habit is costing them.

Gov. Rick Scott proclaimed this week Tobacco Free Florida Week and his Health Department says a pack-a-day smoker in Florida can spend more than $2,000 in just one year and more than $10,000 in five years.

“We often discuss the physical and health consequences of tobacco. This Tobacco Free Florida Week, we also recognize the emotional and financial toll that addiction can take on tobacco users and their loved ones,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip.

“Pack-a-day smokers in Florida can save more than $2,000 per year if they quit. They can also live longer and more fulfilling lives.”

The costs go beyond just that for a pack of smokes. Sick smokers incur significant costs of course through treatment and hospitalization.

The Health Departments says the reduction in adult smoking rates from 2007 to 2015 resulted in approximately $17.7 billion in savings in cumulative smoking-related health care costs.

About 30 percent of cancer deaths in Florida are caused by cigarette smoking.

(Featured image by Mark Sebastian, Creative Commons)

Medical marijuana: Health Department must pick up Legislature’s fumble

So much for the Florida Legislature carrying out the will of people when it comes to medical marijuana.

Among the many “up in smoke” headlines was the news the Legislature failed to come up with a law to implement a constitutional amendment establishing medical marijuana in Florida approved by 72 percent of the voters last year.

In the wake of the massive failure, Republican leaders were pointing fingers at each other, marijuana advocates were doing the same and a gubernatorial candidate was calling for a special session.

The lawmakers were not able to compromise on how many dispensaries would be allowed. Now, it is up to the Department of Health to implement the law. It created placeholder rules it published in January into a thriving medical marijuana market that could grow to hundreds of thousands of patients.

The amendment specifies that key regulations be laid out by July 3. The first patients are supposed to get their IDs by Sept. 3 to obtain the drug.

But the department’s proposed rules in January got an earful from critics at town hall meetings who said the state aimed to block patients from timely and affordable access to the medication.

The rules would also restrict physicians in treating their patients and undercut the quality of the product, these critics contend.

The Department of Health issued a statement Monday saying that it took the public comments at five workshops held earlier this year seriously.

“The department is committed to quickly moving through the rulemaking process to create a regulatory structure for Amendment 2,” it said.

The benefits of medical cannabis include relief for chronic pain and muscle spasm. It relieves nausea during chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients. It also has been used for the treatment of Tourette’s syndrome, anorexia, arthritis, migraines, and glaucoma.

But while patients with these ailments wait, Republicans in Tallahassee finger-pointed at each other on Monday.

In an interview with The News Service of Florida, Senate President Joe Negron put the onus on the House for the bill’s demise, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran rejected the blame.

Photo: Creative Commons.

“If I were a voter I would be very disappointed,” said Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, who sponsored the House bill to legalize the drug told the Tampa Bay Times. “They had a legitimate expectation that we would pass an implementing bill.”

Meanwhile, former U.S. Rep. turned gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is calling for a special session to enact the medical marijuana legalization amendment.

“I watched my husband battle cancer and the sickening effects of chemotherapy. So many patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases could use medical marijuana as a way to treat their pain,” Graham, Democrat, said in a story by CBS Miami.

“Floridians spent years begging the legislature to take action before taking their case to the voters, but once again, the legislature is ignoring them. If the people of Florida give me the honor of serving as governor, their voices will be heard.”

The two two advocates for medical marijuana in Florida — financial backer John Morgan and United for Care campaign consultant Ben Pollara also turned bitter.

Morgan, an attorney, said Pollara sold out by backing dispensary limits, according to New Times.

Pollara offered his own analysis of the Legislature’s failure in a statement Monday and tried to mend fences with Morgan. He said the House bill was partially drafted by Drug-Free America that banned smokable, edible and vapable forms of marijuana and required a 90-day waiting period.

He said he understands Morgan is angry, but the choices faced were “bad,” “worse” and “the worst.”

Want to save a life? Gardens man needs Hispanic bone marrow donor

The dearth of Hispanic bone marrow donors has a Palm Beach Gardens man with a rare blood cancer in the unenviable position of begging for someone who can save his life.

Manny Valdes says if willing Hispanics donors could just get their mouths swabbed, then he can possibly find a bone marrow match.  The test is free for the potential donor.

Manny Valdes with his two children. Valdes is fighting a rare form of leukemia but is having trouble finding a Hispanic donor.

The 42-year-old  husband and father of two was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in February. It is a rare form of blood and bone marrow cancer.

Currently, in the second round of chemotherapy, Valdes is in need of a  bone marrow transplant, but so far no match has been found for him yet.  Valdes works as director Florida IT Operations at Minto Communities.

The Gift of Life Marrow Registry, a national non-profit organization based in Boca Raton, operates a public registry dedicated to curing blood cancer through marrow and stem cell donation. They are appealing nationwide to increase Hispanic representation in the donor pool.

The Palm Beach Post reported in April 2015 how minorities fighting leukemia and other cancers have an additional hurdle in finding an outside donor to save their lives. Nicole Rivera, a young Jupiter mother,  spoke to The Post about the dilemma Hispanics have in finding suitable donors for a bone marrow transplants.

The mother of two ended up losing her battle with cancer after having to wait to find a donor for her second transplant.

Before her death from leukemia in September 2016, Nicole Rivera got the word out of the need for Hispanic bone marrow donors.

And now Valdes is playing the same waiting game.

Gift of Life says bone marrow is inherited like eye or hair color which makes ethnic and racial diversity crucial to finding donor matches for a greater number of patients in need of marrow transplants.

Because of the under-representation, 55 percent of Hispanic cancer patients and 75 percent of multi-racial patients are never matched with donors who can save their lives.

All it takes to become a bone marrow donor is a simple check swab. Once the tissue is typed, volunteers will then be entered into a registry for a patient currently or in the future.

People can request their FREE swab kit to become a potential donor at https://www.giftoflife.org/register.

There is also a Facebook page for Valdes: https://www.facebook.com/MANNYVSTRONG/

New report says 1 in 5 Americans have cancer-causing HPV

The human papillomavirus  – or HPV – is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.  There are 150 distinct types, two of them are responsible – according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – for 70 percent of cervical cancer

The CDC announced last week that nearly half of U.S. adults have caught HPV. That is nearly 80 million Americans and about 20 percent of them — or 1 in 5 — have the kind the causes cancer. Other types of HPV cause genital warts.

 

 

About 45 percent of Americans ages 18 to 59 had some form of genital human papillomavirus. The report released last Thursday is the most complete look at how common HPV is among adults.

More concerning, about 25 percent of men and 20 percent of women had certain strains that carry a higher risk of cancer.

Vaccinations against HPV first became available in 2006, aimed at protecting kids before they become sexually active.

Geraldine McQuillan, a senior infectious disease epidemiologist with the CDC and the lead author of the report, said researchers were surprised to see the number of adults who had high-risk genital HPV.

Previous data estimated that 15 percent of adult females had high-risk HPV.

“The next step is to increase awareness of the high prevalence of high-risk genital and oral HPV in our general US population so individuals will realize that this is a serious problem and they will get their children vaccinated in early adolescence before they become sexually active,” McQuillan told CNN.

Chewing gum that detects cancer in development

Who needs fancy scanners, blood tests and X-rays to tell us if we have cancer. Soon, if an Alabama company has its way, all we will need is to chew a stick of gum.

Volatile Analysis is developing the product that can determine if a person has cancer. The gum works by having the wad absorb what are called “volatiles” in the saliva as it is chewed, according to a story on Fox News Health.

The gum then will be analyzed to see if it contains certain chemicals that are produced when a person has the deadly disease.

And last year there were 1.5 million new cases of cancer.

“Over the last 15 years there have been a lot of attempts with different products and processes for early detection of cancer,” Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said.

Breath samples, urine samples and even dogs that might be able to smell cancer have been tried recently. “None of these efforts are proven to detect cancer early,” Lichetenfeld said.

The gum is in the testing stage but Volatile Analysis plans to have the gum available to doctors and patients sometime in 2018.

Read the whole Fox News Health story by clicking here.

No word if the cancer detecting gum will be available with baseball cards.

Study: Florida cancer hot spots higher hazardous waste sites

Florida has the sixth highest number of hazardous waste sites in the U.S. The Sunshine States is also projected to have the second largest number of new cancer cases in the country.

A new study says there just may be a connection.

Researchers from the University of Florida and the University of Missouri School of Medicine studied cancer incidence rates in relation to Superfund hazardous waste sites and found a possible correlation, according to an article in Science Daily 

“We reviewed adult cancer rates in Florida from 1986 to 2010,” said Emily Leary, assistant professor at the MU School of Medicine and co-author of the study. “We found the rate of cancer incidence increased by more than 6 percent in counties with Superfund sites.”

Florida is home to 77 sites that currently are or have been classified as Superfund sites by the Environmental Protection Agency. Adults cancers were the only one studied since pediatric cancers tend to be genetic.

“This work is novel because it is another piece of evidence to support an environmental cause of cancer,” Leary said.

“While it would be premature to say these differences are attributed to Superfund sites, there does appear to be an association. ”

Alexander Kirpich, a post-doctoral associate at the University of Florida and co-author of the study, said the hope is that the findings will help public health agencies dedicate more efforts to areas with cancer hot spots.”

The study, “Superfund Locations and Potential Associations with Cancer Incidence in Florida,” recently was published online in Statistics and Public Policy.

State: Boca doc failed to properly treat cancer of FAU student

The Florida Health Department is seeking to revoke the medical license of a Boca Raton doctor who failed to properly treat the cancer of a Florida Atlantic University student, according to a story by Health News Florida.

Dr. Kenneth Woliner – an integrative medicine specialist with Holistic Family Medicine – repeatedly analyzed Stephanie Sofronsky’s blood and ordered iron shots, herbal supplements, and antibiotics while failing to treat her cancer with chemotherapy, the state claims.

Medical experts had already told Sofronsky that she had an 80 percent chance of beating Hodgkin lymphoma with chemotherapy.

Health Department prosecutors proved by “clear and convincing evidence” that Woliner committed medical malpractice and financially exploited his patient, Administrative Law Judge Mary Li Creasy wrote in April.

According to testimony from the patient’s mother, Martha Sofronsky, Woliner said he didn’t think Stephanie had cancer despite it being diagnosed by three different hospitals.

Woliner seemed more inclined to think Sofronsky’s symptoms came from allergies to mold and other substances, she said.

Sofronsky died in February 2013, two years after seeking Woliner’s help. An autopsy by a Palm Beach County medical examiner attributed her death to untreated Hodgkin lymphoma. She was one year from graduation at FAU.

Woliner’s attorneys argue that Sofronsky was an adult who chose her course of treatment. They say Woliner wasn’t even her primary care physician.

“Dr. Woliner was engaged to investigate Sofronsky’s thyroid issues, not to diagnose or treat her cancer,” wrote George Indest III and Lance Leider of The Health Law Firm in Altamonte Springs.

To read the complete Health News Florida story click here.

woliner
Dr. Kenneth Woliner

 

Jupiter mother fought rare leukemia in public eye

Nicole Rivera, a young Jupiter mother, made the struggle with a rare form a leukemia a platform to help others battling the deadly blood cancer.

By going public, Rivera gave a face to the financial hardship the disease causes families and the struggle minorities face to find suitable donors for a bone marrow transplants.

Rivera lost her own battle Saturday with the disease after a bone marrow transplant on Aug. 23 from her mother failed because it wasn’t a perfect match.

She was 28 and leaves behind her two sons, Liam, 4, and Logan, 2.

“She fought a hard battle for 10 years ,” her mother, Wanda Laracuente, said on Monday. “Ten years is long time to fight this disease, but she left me a piece of her. I have her boys, her two precious miracles.”

nicolerivera
Nicole Rivera, kisses her son Logan Nguyen, at their home in Jupiter. Rivera died on Saturday after a very public fight with leukemia. (Madeline Gray / The Palm Beach Post)

Barbara Abernathy, the CEO of Pediatric Oncology Support Team (POST) on the campus of St. Mary’s Medical Center, called Rivera a “brave ambassador” who showed keen interest in others battling with leukemia.

“By telling Nicole’s story, we were able to get that message out there about the impact this disease has on the family, both financially and emotionally,” she said.

In April 2015, as Rivera struggled to find a donor, she urged Hispanics to get tested.  Hispanics make up just 10 percent of the U.S. bone marrow donor list, compared to 61 percent of caucasian donors.

“They are afraid to get tested or they don’t have the knowledge that Hispanics donors are rare or that Hispanics do get sick like this,” she said.

Laracuente said that increasing bone marrow donors among Hispanics is difficult because of socioeconomic reasons. “A lot of them are misinformed, thinking if they are here illegally and joining the donor registry that is going to put them at risk at being deported,” she said.

POST will hold a bone marrow donor drive in Rivera’s name on Oct. 1 at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. All is needed is a cheek swab to join the donor list. A blood test is not necessary.

Rivera came to the public eye in 2007 when The Palm Beach Post featured her in its “Season to Share” annual holiday campaign, which rallies assistance for struggling individuals and families.

When she was a teenager, Rivera was diagnosed with the Philadelphia chromosone associated with chronic myelogenous leukemia, a difficult  form of the disease to disease

102507-sts-nrivera-020-jpg
Nicole Rivera fought back leukemia when she was a teenager, but the lack of a suitable donor ended up costing her life.

Still, she beat back the cancer through chemotherapy and proved predictions wrong by giving birth to her two boys.

Her family, though, knew even after she was cancer free for five years, that without a full bone marrow transplant, the disease could always return for Rivera.

And it did in early 2015. At first her mother didn’t believe her daughter’s complaints of lethargy until blood tests confirmed that indeed the leukemia was back.

“I don’t know how many times a person has to be tested to prove that they should be here,” Laracuente said at the time.

“I don’t know how I’m going to help her fight. I told her, ‘You have two boys you have to fight for. You have to come back to them.’

Her mother did help her fight in the most personal way possible. After a public outreach to find a suitable donor for Rivera failed, it was Laracuente in August who became a donor but she was only a half-match.

“Because she was Hispanic she was not able to find a perfect match,” Abernathy said.

And the toll of the disease continues. Rivera’s family is struggling to bury her. “Her family is financially depleted from caring for her,” Abernathy said. “They don’t have the money for a proper service.”

She said people who want to donate to offset funeral costs can contact POST,  at 561-882-6336.

Services are set at 6 p.m. on Saturday Aycock-Riverside Funeral and Cremation Center in Jupiter.

Besides her children and mother, Rivera is survived by her grandmother Carmen Laracuente, five brothers and her longtime boyfriend and father of  her children, Ha Nguyen.

To join the national bone marrow donor register contact bethematch.org.

 

 

No doubt: obsesity linked with cancer, study says.

There seems little debate in the scientific community that obesity is linked to cancer, according to a scientific review by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Kaiser Health News reports that the organization based in France 14 yrs ago reported finding sufficient evidence that excess body fat increases the risk of certain cancers.

fat guy

The group published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine not only to reaffirm those findings but adding eight more cancers to the list.

Reducing one’s weight can reduce the risk of several cancers, including colon, rectum, stomach, esophagus, and numerous others, the evaluation concluded.

The report also found that an estimated 4.5 million deaths in 2013 were related to overweight and obesity.