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The Lede, Opioid Questions, and Could Virtual Reality Be the Answer to Pain?

The Lede, Tuesday, May 8, 2018
By David Royse

Hello. Google’s developer conference in Mountain View, Ca. starts today, as does the Elevate Summit on “the future of urban aviation,” put on by Uber in LA. Disney reports earnings.The Cannes Film Festival is beginning – but won’t show Netflix movies.

Opioids of the masses

Members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee today brought in witnesses from big pharmaceutical distributors to answer the panel’s questions about “astonishing” levels of opioids being distributed to several very small towns in West Virginia, the state with the nation’s highest overdose rate.

“The Save Right Pharmacy in Kermit, West Virginia, population around 400, received nearly 9 million opioids in a two-year period,” said Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which brought in the companies.  He cited several other examples of tiny towns in the state where huge numbers of hydrocodone and oxycodone pills were being sent – and nobody questioned why, or whether the companies might be just feeding destructive addictions.

While it maybe doesn’t answer the question – the companies were contrite, and acknowledged they may have made mistakes. Cardinal Health Chairman George Barrett apologized, and another drug company official said he believed his company, Miami-Luken, did contribute to the overall opioid crisis.

More from the Washington Post here.

The committee meeting was streamed – and you can watch the video here.

Statements of the witnesses can be read here.

A Virtual World Without Pain

What if people in intense pain could be transported to a “place” where they don’t feel that pain, at least not as much? What if they could do it without drugs like opioids, which very well might become an addiction?

You know the old joke about treating someone’s pain by punching them in another part of the body – to make them forget about their original pain? There may be something to the idea that pain is, to some degree, a bit of a construct in the mind – and if your brain is distracted from the pain signals, you don’t “feel” the pain.

This is the idea behind the use of virtual reality to “treat” patients with pain – something they’re working on at the University of Washington’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory. 

They actually call it “pain distraction.” Doctors have used VR to control burn pain and one of the doctors who started working on this at UW, has now formed a company, Firsthand Technology, that is further testing the idea – and finding it works.

The company points to several studies that have found VR reduces pain and says in some cases it is more effective than narcotics. Opioid problem solved?

A story on the idea from NBC News last year:

More on the Future of Healthcare

BioLife4D Wants to Print Hearts

Another startup interested in the printing of human organs. More from Chicago Mag

Listen Up! 

USC May Have a Simple Way to Reverse Hearing Loss from Exposure to Noise. More from USC’s Keck School of Medicine


Dreams of a day when you’d never leave your stadium seat to order a beer. Its FIFA World Cup ad (which won’t be seen in the US) depicts drones traveling across the world to deliver beers to fans at this summer’s soccer WC. AdAge

Foster + Partners
Envisions hyperloop as a freight delivery tool. Curbed

Las Vegas Hotels
Are winning with visitor-useful tech. SF Chron


Offshore Solar Industry
California companies are trying to work things out with the Navy. SD Union-Tribune

Wall Street is warming to Bitcoin NYT

Edge Computing
OK, what is edge computing? The Verge

STATES OF DISRUPTION: What’s going on in public policy in the states?

California is about to become the first state to require solar panels on new homes. OC Register

California is also considering whether state workers can use gig economy companies like Uber and Airbnb and be reimbursed by taxpayers. Ledetree

Illinois may soon allow police drones at large events. The state Senate has approved the idea. Chicago Tribune


Detroit: Yesterday announced a big $130 million plan to invest in city neighborhoods. Freep

St. Petersburg, Fla.: Is trying to poach some companies from pricey San Francisco. TB Business Journal.

And several medium-sized cities are drawing millennials. Ledetree

About David Royse

David Royse
David Royse is the Editor-in-Chief of Ledetree.com. He has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, including stints with The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida. He enjoys writing about health and medical science, and hopeful stories about scientific breakthroughs and new technology.

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