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.

Two years ago, a researcher who specializes in the safety of breast milk was in the midst of breastfeeding her own child when she experienced a serious bout of postpartum depression. She had a televisit with her doctor, who refused to write her a prescription for antidepressant medications as long as she was still breastfeeding, even though the drugs are considered safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  “A lot of times, [the] health [of the new mother] isn’t prioritized as much as that of the infant. And that’s something that we really worry about,” says Kaytlin Krutsch, PharmD, a…

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The “morning-after pill” is available to a second generation at Jennifer’s home. “I have three teenagers, two boys and a girl, in the house,” she says, explaining that she keeps My Way (levonorgestrel) on hand. “Anyone who needs it can take it or give it to anyone else who does, including their friends.” Jennifer, now 41, benefited from having the pill when she was in her twenties and early thirties to avoid pregnancy after unprotected sex or potential failure of regular birth control. She took the pill first at 22, when her partner’s condom broke during intercourse, and then at…

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Two recently authorized antiviral drugs designed to protect against the most severe outcomes of COVID-19 may be game-changers during the ongoing pandemic. Those benefits may come at a cost, however. It’s crucial that you and your healthcare providers understand these drugs’ potential side effects, so you use them as safely as possible. “Obviously, if you’ve got a serious case of COVID, you need to be treated,” despite the risk of side effects says Katherine Seley-Radtke, PhD, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. How Effective Are They? Both drugs, Lagevrio (molnupiravir) and Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir and…

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Shalamar suffered from chronic insomnia. She couldn’t fall asleep after her late-night shifts as a server at a New York City bar. To address the insomnia, she sought advice from a psychiatrist who prescribed pills and told her to take them both at night and in the morning. She thought it was odd that she would need to take a pill to help her sleep during the day, but her doctor said that is how the medicine worked. She followed the doctor’s recommendations, though. “It did help me to sleep. I slept like a rock,” she says.  What her doctor…

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Taking too many medications raises your risk of adverse events. Deprescribing—the thoughtful process of identifying problematic medications and reducing the dose or stopping those medications in a safe, effective manner that  helps people maximize their well-being—is often easier said than done, explains Cynthia Boyd, MD, MPH, director of geriatric medicine and gerontology at Johns Hopkins University.  This is especially critical, if you have dementia or multiple chronic conditions. “There is relatively little research about how we actually deprescribe,” she says. “That speaks to the issue of how people end up on a whole bunch of medicines. It often is much…

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In 2018, two young men were found dead in their respective bathrooms in Texas after using a concentrated powder form of tianeptine.  Tianeptine is an antidepressant prescribed in Europe, Asia and South America. It’s banned in the US, but it’s found its way here. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about the drug’s risks in 2018. Then in February 2022, the agency put out a new warning after scientists found a large increase in calls to poison control centers related to tianeptine poisoning. What is Tianeptine? Tianeptine, sold under the brand names of Coaxil and Stablon, is…

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Missing out on sleep can dampen your mood and make you less focused and more prone to overeating. It can increase your risk of both depression and cancer and leave your body more vulnerable to infections. Still, some of the drugs you are prescribed can make it harder to get the all-important shut-eye you need. Below are the four types of drugs that can cause insomnia as a side effect as well as tips to help you get to sleep. 1 Oxycontin and Other Opioids A 2019 meta-analysis suggested that while opioids may reduce activity and restlessness while sleeping, they…

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FDA

If you watch television, you’ve likely seen the commercials for the JAK (Janus kinase) inhibitors Xeljanz and Rinvoq that make bold claims. Those ads depict men and women ziplining, moving large amounts of heavy soil, hauling furniture and riding ATVs. “The [misleading] message is that you don’t have to be limited in any way,” explains Terry Graedon, PhD, a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy. “I would say that the likelihood [is pretty slim] that this is a realistic goal for most people, much less women with rheumatoid arthritis,  especially if they are people whose condition has not…

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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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Samantha Welch spent about 11 months avoiding the direct sunlight as best she could. She had been prescribed isotretinoin, an oral medication that treats cystic acne. A few weeks after she started taking it, she discovered that “my skin was extremely sensitized,” she says. “My face and lips were dry and visibly flaking. Direct sunlight during midday would slightly sting, even with sunscreen on. I’ve had to avoid the sun altogether.” While Welch’s prescription was intended to affect her skin, many drugs that seem to have nothing to do with your skin can cause sensitivity to sunlight. For example, over…

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