Today’s Headlines: New Diabetes Gene, Gender Gaps and Prescription Abuse

Rare mutation kills off gene responsible for diabetes: “A new study based on genetic testing of 150,000 people has found a rare mutation that protects even fat people from getting Type 2 diabetes. The effect is so pronounced – the mutation reduces risk by two-thirds – that it provides a promising new target for developing a drug to mimic the mutation’s effect. The mutation destroys a gene used by pancreas cells where insulin is made. Those with the mutation seem to make slightly more insulin and have slightly lower blood glucose levels for their entire lives. Already Pfizer, which helped finance the study, and Amgen, which owns a company whose data played a key role in the research, are starting programs aimed at developing drugs that act like the mutation, the companies said.” (The New York Times)

Women’s health harmed as medical studies miss gender differences: “Scientists continue to neglect gender in medical research, endangering women’s health by focusing on males in studies that shape the treatment of disease,” according to a new report. Animal and human studies tend to use male subjects and when female subjects are included, results are infrequently reported or analyzed by sex. “For example, more women than men die of cardiovascular disease, while only one-third of cardiovascular clinical trial subjects are female and less than one-third of clinical trials that include women report outcomes by sex, according to the report.” Researchers said this pattern is “putting women’s health at risk.” (Chicago Tribune)

Friends common source of abused prescription meds: “Most people who abuse addictive prescription painkillers get them for free from friends or relatives, while drug dealers are a relatively uncommon source for those at highest risk for deadly overdoses, a government study found.” The researchers, who analyzed four years of health surveys on nonmedical pain reliever use, found that “two-thirds of abusers said they used the drugs infrequently and well over half of these users said they got them free from friends or relatives.” Over one in four people who used the drugs daily got them using a prescription from their doctors, and only 15% of the most frequent abusers bought the drugs from dealers or strangers. On average, about one in 20 people over age 12 use prescription opioid painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin for nonmedical purposes. (The Washington Post)