Emma Yasinski

I am a freelance science and medical journalist, fascinated by how the scientific process leads to incredible discoveries, but also can lead to publication bias leaning toward positive findings and minimizing negatives. With a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Lafayette College and a Master’s in Science and Medical Journalism from Boston University, I’ve written about clinical trial transparency, organ donation, and basic molecular biology for publications like The Scientist, The Atlantic, Undark.org, Kaiser Health News, and more. At MedShadow, I research and write about the sometimes unexpected ways that medicines can affect us, and what we can do if and when it does.

Over the past decade, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has initiated or supported recalls on a handful of drugs, including metformin, ranitidine (Zantac), angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB) (valsartan, losartan and irbesartan), varenicline (Chantix), rifampin (Rifadin) and rifapentine (Priftin) — which treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other conditions, such as heart disease and high blood pressure and aid in smoking cessation. These drugs that treat a variety of conditions have been found to contain the same chemical contaminant: N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which may cause cancer. MedShadow answers frequently asked questions about the chemical itself and the drugs that contain…

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Less than 40% of senior adults report adverse events they experience with a medication to their doctor. A retrospective study looked at 860 people 70 and older who were living in their community and had multiple health issues. They were asked if they had experienced a list of symptoms, whether a symptom bothered them, if they thought it was related to a medication and if they had talked about it with their doctor. Results showed that the main reasons patients didn’t tell their doctor about adverse events was that they thought it was related to their old age and they…

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The leukemia drug Mylotarg (gemtuzumab ozogamicin), which was voluntarily withdrawn from the market in 2010 over safety concerns and questions about its efficacy, is available again. The FDA has approved the biologic for adults with newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia and for patients at least 2 years old who have had a relapse or didn’t respond to prior treatment. Mylotarg originally received accelerated approval in 2000 for older adults who had experienced a relapse. But it was removed from the market after patient deaths and a lack of clinical benefit were observed in confirmatory trials. With the new approval, Mylotarg…

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Synthroid (levothyroxine) had no impact on improving quality of life or reducing tiredness in older adults with subclinical hypothyroidism, a slightly underactive thyroid, according to a new study. For at least a year, researchers examined patients with an average age of 74who had higher-than-normal thyroid-stimulating hormone levels by administering levothyroxine to one group and placebo to the other. The drug failed to bring about any improvement. Patients did not become physically stronger or mentally faster after taking the drug. Furthermore, they didn’t lose weight or feel more energetic. Posted April 21, 2017. Via The New England Journal of Medicine. Fourteen…

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A class of biologic drugs that are among the newest and most potent in fighting various types of cancer in rare cases may cause severe heart damage. The medications currently on the market, Yervoy (ipilimumab), Opdivo (nivolumab), Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Tecentriq (atezolizumab) are known as checkpoint inhibitors and are a form of immunotherapy. They work by stimulating the body’s immune system – in particular, a type of white blood cells known as T-cells — to fight cancer cells. An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine describes two patients who both had one treatment of Opdivo and Yervoy,…

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A controversial new study claims healthy people — who have no prior history of mental illness — that are given antidepressants are twice as likely to become violent and suicidal as those not on the drugs. While for years antidepressants have had a strong “black box” warning on the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children, adolescents and young people taking the drugs, the study is the first to examine this risk in healthy adults. Researchers examined 13 trials involving antidepressants that enrolled a total of 612 patients. They found that health volunteers treated with antidepressants had a 1.85…

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There are no drugs that cure Alzheimer’s disease, but there are some that help delay the onset. Sadly, these drugs have been called “high risk, low benefit” by some experts. Common Names Aricept (donepezil), Razadyne (galantamine), Exelon (rivastigmine), Namenda (memantine), Namzaric (memantine and donepezil) Side Effects and What to Do About Them Aricept is a medication to reduce symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Some side effects of Aricept include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, fatigue, and weight loss. An individual should stop using Aricept if he or she experiences black, bloody, or tarry stools, coughing up blood or vomit that…

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People who take an opioid medication for pain are at a higher risk for heart problems. Patients prescribed an opioid painkiller had a 64% higher risk of early death compared to patients given an another type of pain med, researchers reported in JAMA. Much of the increased risk was connected to difficulty breathing during sleep, as well as abnormal heartbeat and other cardiovascular complications. Some of the alternatives meds examined in the study were Neurontin (gabapentin), Lyrica (pregabalin) and Tegretol (carbamazepine), and some low doses of antidepressants. The authors concluded that long-acting opioids should be in favor of other meds,…

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MedShadow is introducing a weekly news feature called Quick Hits: brief summaries of recent news items related to our mission. Light therapy is under investigation as a way to ease the fatigue and depression that people with cancer often suffer from. Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City conducted a series of clinical trials examining whether regular exposure to bright white light from a light box could improve their symptoms. In the latest trial, cancer patients exposed to the bright white light saw their depression symptoms subside much more than a control group…

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