The Present and Future of Radiotherapy

The radiotherapy market is growing due to several factors, such as an increase in the number of new cancer cases and technological advancement in the hardware and software used in radiotherapy. The current international markets are underequipped to address new cases of cancer. In low- and middle-income countries, only 10% of the population has access to radiotherapy. Therefore, there exists a wide gap between the demand and the installed base of equipment, which offers a huge opportunity for the companies to grow in the radiotherapy market. Expansion of the radiotherapy market can be both lifesaving and profitable.

Effective planning for the treatment

It is necessary, and continuous technological developments are taking place to minimize the exposure to radiation of healthy tissue, in order to avoid any side effect. This goal is a driving force of R&D for radiotherapy. Software plays an increasingly significant role in cancer care. Population growth and increased life expectancy are adding to the incidences of cancer. The software & services segment includes software, which is used for treatment planning, analysis, and services, which are needed for the maintenance and efficient use of radiotherapy devices. The software & services segment of the companies are expected to grow, as software products help improve physician engagement and clinical knowledge-sharing, patient care management, and the management of cancer clinics, radiotherapy centers, and oncology practices for better performance. Companies like Varian are continuously increasing their software portfolio. Software plays an increasingly significant role in cancer care. At the same time, healthcare systems are subject to harsh budgetary constraints in nearly every country. As a result, healthcare providers face the challenge of achieving more while using fewer resources. To achieve this goal, hospitals have a strong need for software platforms that make radiotherapy treatment cost-effective. The development of effective software will improve the delivery of advanced radiotherapy in the future.

Introduction of new technology
Technology is another salient feature. Radiation therapy remains a significant modality for cancer treatment, which is the primary driving factor for the designing of new techniques to improve the survival rate of cancer patients. New technologies, like proton beam therapy, are available in developed countries like the United States, Germany, and United Kingdom, due to well-established reimbursement policies. Proton therapy can be used on tissues that are highly sensitive, like brain, spine, and eye tumors. It is more accurate, as compared to other X-ray radiation therapies.

Advancement in the technology is also helping to execute the planning of the radiation therapy.

Technological advancement in existing technologies, such as CT imaging, is making imaging more accurate and consistent. This can give a better representation of a tumor and help in better planning. Already-existing technology, such as IMRT, SBRT, IGRT, conformal 3D, VMAT, and others that are used for radiation therapy treatment is undergoing various advancements. For example, Varian is developing a software, which can be used to develop better planning tools, in which statistical models can be used to calculate the quality of an IMRT treatment for a patient. This is expected to increase the usage of IMRT for treating cancer. IGRT is the type of radiotherapy. Research is more focused on IGRT, in order to prove its fewer side-effects. IGRT may include electronic portal imaging, fluoroscopy, ultrasound, CT scan reconstruction, and respiratory gating technology. SBRT is also growing as an option for treating cancer. SBRT is used to escalate the dose to the targeted tumor, which can increase local control while limiting the dose to nearby critical structures and normal tissues. This will cause minimum damage to the surrounding tissues and hence, will experience strong growth in the forecast period.

Internal radiation therapy holds a low share in the radiotherapy market. Containing Yttrium 90, a radioactive substance, this is also an emerging technology. There are only two manufacturers that provide commercialized forms of SIRT, as of April 2015. SIRT is becoming more of a mainstream treatment; other manufacturers are actively looking toward its marketing, resulting in the growth of the internal radiation therapy segment. However, SIRT is not yet widely available in the United Kingdom.

Internal radiation therapy is more precise in targeting cancerous cells because it is placed near a tumor, which reduces the risk of damaging healthy tissues and organs, thereby contributing to the growth of the internal radiation therapy market segment.

To increase the market share, companies are constantly investing in R&D. The positive results of this extensive R&D and strategic partnerships can help the companies gain a significant boost in the emerging field of radiotherapy.

Over-The-Counter Drug – Need to Know Its Benefits and Detriment

The OTC drug market has grown rapidly over the past few years. Thanks to the major players in the market, such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, and GSK, focusing on OTC drug development and the conversion of prescription to OTC, the other market players have also been influenced. The diversity of pharmaceutical companies focusing on OTC has helped the market flourish with a faster growth rate.

Nevertheless, there are still many issues that hinder the market’s growth. Many safety problems are inherent to OTC drug purchase. With increasing safety issues, the government has tightened the rules to control purchase.

Time- and Money-saving
As of 2012, there are over 300,000 OTC drugs in the market, and according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), annually a total of 2.9 billion retail tips purchase OTC products. These drugs help the patients in saving time that is spent on doctor visits and diagnostics test for minor ailments. Also, this saves money for the consumers, which is needed to visit a physician and on prescription.

Cost-saving by Healthcare Systems
OTC medications reduce the necessity to visit the doctor/physician. This saves resources for the healthcare industry in particular, thereby allowing it to divert its resources to more pressing healthcare issues, which would require physician involvement, such as diagnosis and treatment procedures for serious conditions. OTC medicines provide access to safe medication for nearly 180 million patients, while, at the same time, saving capital for the healthcare industry. Self-care via these medications is estimated to contribute to savings as high as USD 5 billion to the taxpayers and consumers in the United States annually. As per CHPA, OTC medication saves around USD 102 billion for the US healthcare system annually.

Self-Control over Health
The OTC medications provide the liberty to patients to eliminate the need to visit a physician or other clinical setting for common ailments. Instead, they can easily procure medications to address their ailment by procuring drugs without a prescription. According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, around 81% of the adult population is using OTC medications. It is being helpful in providing symptomatic relief to around 60 million people. The statistics show that the consumers are aware of their health conditions and are paying attention to the treatment. OTC medication helps people meet healthcare needs and empower individuals about health management.

Product Innovation
OTC drugs that can treat multiple symptoms are another example of innovative products. Innovation is also resulting in improved performance, in terms of speed, strength, etc., thus improving the length of the effect. The diversification of the product is also achieved, as targeting different age groups – children, adults, woman, and old people with different products – are emerging and will drive the OTC drug market in future. The manufacturers of OTC target the women group, resorting to angles like pregnancy, weight loss, and even self-expression, which leads to new innovations. Similarly, OTC brands target children groups, with innovative offerings that consider two key drivers: enhancing the fun look and feel, and making it easier for parents to administer the dose to their kids.

Teen Drug Abuse
According to available statistics, around 12% of teenagers have admitted having abused OTC cough syrup. The major abuse of cough-and-cold medicines is seen among the teen population. Other medications include the usage of pseudoephedrine, marijuana, and diet pills. The major reason behind OTC abuse is the lack of education in teens about the dangers associated with OTC drugs. The parents are not well-educated about the adverse effects of OTC drugs, nor do they show interest to take the advice of physicians on this. This ultimately leads to hazardous casualties that can affect health or even lead to death.

Usage among the Geriatric Population
According to statistics, 40% of the OTC drugs are used by the geriatric population of age 65 and above. The geriatric population suffers from one or more diseases and are always on multiple medications. Sometimes, the OTC drugs purchased can cause the risk of drug interactions, leading to adverse drug effects. Other OTC medications, such as motion sickness pills and painkillers, that are commonly used by the elders cause hallucinations, stomach, and kidney problems, which can be considered as dangerous side effects for the geriatric population.

Usage in the Pregnant Population
Most of OTC drug labels carry the precaution about whether it can be used by pregnant women or not. However, due to negligence, people tend to use OTC drugs without proper knowledge, which may lead to life-threating situations. OTC drugs, such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen, should be avoided during the pregnancy, as they have shown adverse effects on unborn children or complications during delivery.

OTC Drugs through the Internet
With the development of the internet technology, medicines are now available at the doors. Sexual performance medicines are one of the products that are sold through the internet at a high rate. These medicines are used on over-dosages and are usually taken along with the alcohol. Research shows that sexual medicines have a reverse effect on sexual performance, when taken in combination with alcohol and can cause major heart problems.

Physical and Psychological Effects of Heroin Abuse

Every day, at least 115 people die from an opioid overdose in the United States of America and around 4-6 percent people dependent on opioids switch to heroin, abused as a cheaper substitute to the prescription drugs. It is an illegal opioid prepared from poppy plant and listed as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). People with dried out prescriptions of painkillers resort to heroin, which is cheaper and easily available. It is smoked, snorted or injected for its euphoric effects.

According to the United Nations, the number of heroin users in the U.S. is the highest in last 20 years. Many drug dealers mix it with fentanyl and other fatal drugs to reduce the cost and increase the potency. Gullible users buy it thinking it’s pure heroin and end up suffering from deadly consequences. Sold in a number of forms, such as solid black chunks, white or brown powder or sticky black substance, heroin is fast in delivering its potent effects. It blocks the brain’s ability to perceive pain by depressing the central nervous system.

As it imitates the brain’s natural process of seeking pleasure, its preliminary experience can lead to tolerance, which slowly transitions to dependence and addiction. With time, more and more quantity of the drug is required to produce the same effects. Eventually, all that users care about is drug acquisition by any means. They isolate themselves from social obligations and personal responsibilities, and prefer to stay alone.

Heroin causes changes in white and gray matter of brain

Recurrent exposure to heroin is not only habit forming; it also starts affecting the white and gray matter of the brain, which in turn, starts affecting the hormonal and neuronal functions of the body. These changes cannot be undone easily. According to the researchers, exposure to heroin might result in the disruption of the brain’s white matter, which connects different regions of the brain with each other and facilitates the transmission of chemical and electrical signals. In the same manner, gray matter located in the regions controlling muscle movements and emotions, hearing, speech, sight, behavior and decision making is also affected by recurrent drug use.

It leads to a disruption in the gray matter volume in the frontal cortex region. This is the area where complicated thinking takes place and information is processed for recollecting and understanding. The disruption in white and gray matter regions of the brain can lead to long-term incongruences in the hormonal and neuronal systems and with repeated intake, the ability to react to stressful situations, make decisions and control behavior decreases.

In addition to short-term physical symptoms, heroin abuse can also lead to long-term health consequences, like increased risk of HIV and other infections due to shared needles, mental health issues like depression and paranoia, reproductive issues like irregular menstrual cycle, and damage to nose tissues due to snorting. Heroin abuse can also lead to troubled relationships, financial problems, legal battles, unemployment and homelessness. Some of the behavioral signs indicating heroin abuse and addiction could be stealing or borrowing money, and hostile or deceptive behavior.

When used in excess and for a longer period, the risk of overdose increases. Some of the overdose effects are depressed heart rate, slowed breathing (condition known as respiratory depression), coma and even death. When the user tries to abruptly stop drug use, it can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms manifested in the form of muscle and bone pain, nausea, agitation, insomnia, and vomiting, drug cravings, cold sweat, diarrhea and fever.

Treatment for drug abuse and mental issues

As heroin withdrawal can be enormously painful, it is sensible to seek treatment under the supervision of a medical professional at a rehab center. Chronic use of any drug requires care from trained and experienced specialists who can diagnose the underlying problem and administer the right recovery plan. The treatment may include detox, medication and behavioral therapies. When a drug user also suffers from a mental illness, it’s called co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Both the conditions need to be treated simultaneously for complete recovery. Leaving one undiagnosed or untreated can worsen both the problems.