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Colombian Guerrilla group releases Spanish Journalist after week-long captivity

Both ELN and FARC are currently negotiating with government over a peace agreement mediated by Cuba

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Salud Hernandez, correspondent at El mundo . Image Source: elspanol.com
  • Hernandez went missing on May 21 in a remote region near border with Venezuela
  • Salud Hernandez and Two other journalist were released by the Leftist Guerrilla group
  • The spanish Journalist was delivered to a Catholic priest in the town of Torrán (Bogota, Colombia)

Salud Hernandez , a Spanish journalist disappeared on May 21 was released on Friday by Marxist guerrilla group in Colombia with 2 other journalist after almost a week in captivity.

It seems that she disappeared while covering a story in remote region near the border with Venezuela and was inhabited by the guerrilla group.

Salud Hernandez, correspondent of a Spanish newspaper El Mundo said, “Thank you to everyone who prayed for me,” on Friday in her first interview upon  being freed.

The guerrilla group identify themselves as ELN or National Liberation Army. They delivered Hernandez to a Catholic priest in the town of Torrán. Hernandez confirmed that the other two journalist’s are with them and after  2 hours Correspondent Diego D’Pablos and cameraman Carlos Melo, who work for the RCN Colombian TV network, were also released.

Members of the Colombian National Liberation Army(ELN) guerrilla group stand in the mountains of Perija near the border town of Cucuta 06 December 1999 during a meeting with reporters. The Colombian government has begun a track of talks with the ELN, Colombia's second largest leftists rebel group but has not bowed to their demands for a demilitarized zone in the northern Colombia. Image source: Getty Images
Members of the Colombian National Liberation Army(ELN) guerrilla group stand in the mountains of Perija near the border town of Cucuta 06 December 1999 during a meeting with reporters. The Colombian government has begun a track of talks with the ELN, Colombia’s second largest leftists rebel group but has not bowed to their demands for a demilitarized zone in the northern Colombia. Image source: Getty Images

ELN is the second largest rebel group just after Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The ELN  has an estimated 1,200 fighters. It is said that Catatumbo area is filled with ELN people and illegal crops are means of earning in that area. Catatumbo is also home for drung selling.

Both ELN and FARC are currently negotiating with government over a peace agreement mediated by Cuba.

Farc’s leader Rodrigo Londoño, better known as Timochenko, on Friday in an unusual tweet criticised ELN for kidnapping Salud .” Today it’s Salud Hernández, tomorrow it could be any Colombian. Those practices must end for ever in Colombia. Peace demands her freedom.”

Columbian president Juan Manuel Santos has said that peace talks will not begin until ELN releases all the hostages. But the group has not agreed to this and their leader Nicolás Bautista, known as Gabino said “We are not willing to accept impositions,” in an interview which aired before the journalist was kidnapped.

-by Bhaskar Raghavendran

Bhaskar is a graduate in Journalism and mass communication and a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter handle: bhaskar_ragha

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Patients With Hard-To-Treat Depression, A New Drug ‘Special K’ At Rescue

Depression is among the leading causes of disability in the U.S. and is being closely monitored by health authorities amid rising suicides nationwide.

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Depression
A vial of ketamine, which is normally stored in a locked cabinet, is seen in Chicago, July 25, 2018. VOA

A mind-altering medication related to the club drug Special K won U.S. approval Tuesday for patients with hard-to-treat depression, the first in a series of long-overlooked substances being reconsidered for severe forms of mental illness.

The nasal spray from Johnson & Johnson is a chemical cousin of ketamine, which has been used for decades as a powerful anesthetic to prepare patients for surgery. In the 1990s, the medication was adopted as a party drug by the underground rave culture due to its ability to produce psychedelic, out-of-body experiences. More recently, some doctors have given ketamine to people with depression without formal FDA approval.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Spravato as a fast-acting treatment for patients who have failed to find relief with at least two antidepressants. Up to 7.4 million American adults suffer from so-called treatment-resistant depression, which heightens the risk of suicide, hospitalization and other serious harm, according to the FDA.

The drug will cost between $590 and $885 depending on the dosage and before various insurance discounts and rebates.

There have been no major pharmaceutical innovations for depression since the launch of Prozac and related antidepressants in the late 1980s. Those drugs target the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, and can take weeks or months to kick in.

Ketamine and J&J’s version work differently than those drugs, targeting a chemical called glutamate that is thought to restore brain connections that help relieve depression.

When the drug works, its effect is almost immediate. That speed “is a huge thing because depressed patients are very disabled and suffer enormously,” said Dr. John Mann, a psychiatrist and researcher at Columbia University. If the drug doesn’t work, physicians can quickly switch to other options, he noted.

The FDA approved Spravato, known chemically as esketamine, based on study results that showed patients taking the drug experienced a bigger improvement in their depression levels than patients taking a sham treatment, when measured with a psychiatric questionnaire.

The drug is designed to be lower-dose and easier to use than ketamine, which is normally given as an intravenous infusion.

Robin Prothro, 60, began taking antidepressants more than 20 years ago. But she says none of the five medications she tried relieved the depression that has stymied her personal and professional life.

Since enrolling in a Spravato trial two years ago, Prothro says her depression has lifted and she’s returned to hobbies she abandoned years ago, like gardening.

She takes the drug every two weeks at her psychiatrist’s office while reclining in a comfortable chair.

“You can feel it coming on, it’s a strong drug,” she said, describing colors and shapes that drift before her eyes. “I just let the drug work. I close my eyes and my mind is amazingly quiet.”

Psychedelics reconsidered

The ketamine-like drug is the first of several psychoactive substances making their way through the U.S. regulatory process as physicians search further afield for new therapies. Researchers are conducting late-stage trials of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, and MDMA, a euphoria-inducing club drug, as potential treatments for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lauren Pestikas sits as she receives an infusion of the drug ketamine during a 45-minute session at an outpatient clinic in Chicago, July 25, 2018.
Lauren Pestikas sits as she receives an infusion of the drug ketamine during a 45-minute session at an outpatient clinic in Chicago, July 25, 2018. VOA

“Substantially different agents are only rarely appearing from pharmaceutical companies or other laboratories,” said Dr. Paul Summergrad, a psychiatrist at Tufts University. “That’s prompting people to investigate other compounds.”

Unlike ketamine, psilocybin and MDMA have no legal medical use. Classified in the same category as heroin and LSD, they are tightly restricted by the federal government. But the FDA’s approval of esketamine could smooth their path.

Burden of depression

Depression is among the leading causes of disability in the U.S. and is being closely monitored by health authorities amid rising suicides nationwide. In 2017, the U.S. suicide rate rose to 14 deaths per 100,000 people, the highest rate in at least 50 years, according to federal records.

Government officials haven’t suggested an explanation for the trend, though academic researchers point to the nation’s widening income gap, financial struggles and divisive politics.

J&J’s drug will be subject to a number of restrictions due to its abuse potential, side effects and lingering safety questions.

The drug will only be given by accredited specialists who must monitor patients for at least two hours after administration, due to its trippy, disorienting effects. Additionally, all patients will be tracked in a registry to monitor long-term safety and effectiveness.

The immediate impact of ketamine is thought to last just four to seven days and there’s no consensus yet on how long patients can benefit from ongoing treatment.

sad
Depression is among the leading causes of disability in the U.S. and is being closely monitored by health authorities amid rising suicides nationwide. Pixabay

Still, there are few other options for patients who fail to respond to antidepressants. The most effective treatment in such cases, electroshock therapy, requires patients to be fully sedated and can cause persistent memory loss.

Wall Street has high expectations for J&J’s medication, with analysts predicting more than $600 million in annual sales by 2022. But J&J will face competition in the marketplace.

A decades-old drug, ketamine is already used off-label to treat depression by some doctors. At least 150 clinics around the U.S. provide treatment with various forms of the drug, which is available as a low-cost generic. Patients often pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for intravenous infusions of the drug over several weeks or months. Such therapies are generally not covered by insurance because they haven’t been approved as safe and effective by FDA regulators.

Also Read: Hospital in Jordan Gives War Victims New Hope, Develops 3D-printed Prosthetics for War Victims

Some doctors plan to offer both ketamine and the new J&J drug.

Dr. Steve Levine says having FDA-approved standards for dosing and administering the new drug should raise standards in the field and drive out some of the bad actors who are not qualified to treat depression.

“This is going to bring in some standards, regulation and it’s going to make it safer and more accessible to patients,” said Levine, who serves as vice president of the American Society of Ketamine Physicians, a group representing doctors, nurses and others using ketamine for treating depression or other non-approved uses. (VOA)