Saturday, January 31, 2009

Military Progress on CAM

The Air Force runs the military's only acupuncture clinic but beginning in March they'll begin a pilot program to prepare 44 Air Force, Navy and Army doctors to use acupuncture as part of emergency care in frontline hospitals. They will not be using traditional Chinese acupuncture but a modified form called battlefield acupuncture which uses shorter needles to allow personnel to wear helmets. The needles are applied just to the outer ear, not the entire body, so it's a simplified auricular therapy.

The real benefit is that if the military benefits from using this modified acupuncture for pain in war zones like Iraq and Afganistan then its benefits will likely be more accepted back home by civilians.

If found it interesting that the article in today's Dallas Morning News sat next to an article on how the FDA's medical advisors are urging a ban on the prescription drug Darvon that's been used to treat pain for 50 years. It continues to be one of the 25 most commonly prescribed drugs today but in 2007 there were 503 deaths from the drug. It's an interesting contrast to acupuncture which has been used safely for 5,000 years.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Cold Medicine

I continue to be surprised (even though I shouldn't be) at how cold and indifferent mainstream medicine can be. You would think that at some point when someone is brought into the emergency room by ambulance with a head injury they would ask the patient how they feel. No, the questions were all strictly medical. For 3 hours no one, not doctor, nurse, PA, no one asked the patient how they felt or if there was anything they could do to make them more comfortable.

The patient had to ask for nausea medication before being discharged because sitting up from examination table to wheelchair was going to be extremely difficult. For the entire ordeal the hospital never offered so much as an ice pack or an aspirin.

Medical personnel are trained to not get involved with patients to protect themselves, but at what point do they pass basic human compassion? Treating patients as if they were an animal, a slab of meat without any feelings, may protect the staff but it has a direct and harmful impact on the patient.

It's been said many times that one of the major reasons so many Americans are turning to complementary and alternative medicine is the caring attention they receive from practitioners. Based on personal experience, I'd certainly have to agree.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Medicare's Cancer Drug Expansion

Last November Medicare expanded "off label" drug uses to treat cancer by expanding from one to four guides that can be used to authorize coverage. Critics say the drug guides aren't always supported by research and could be influenced by ties to the companies manufacturing the drugs.

As an example, one of the four designated guides is published by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a group of hospitals. The guide relies on panels of experts to review drugs, half of whom have financial ties with a cancer drug maker.

While it's compassionate to try and help cancer patients afford drug treatments the profit motive of the drug companies would seem to be the real reason behind this change and yet the latest illustration of their influence in Washington.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hospital Errors

A World Health Organization study shows that hospitals can reduce the number of deaths from surgery by more than 40% simply by using a checklist according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. The 19-point checklist has nothing to do with high-tech but focuses on human error and basic medical procedures.

The study shows that hospitals using the checklist reduced their rate of death after surgery from 1.5% to 0.8% and reduced the number of complications following surgery from 11% to 7%.

It usually takes 17 years for a medical advance to become standard practice but the Institute for Healthcare Improvement is pushing for faster adoption. According to vice president Joe McCannon "Patients deserve it, and they deserve it now."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More Drug Safety Issues

People taking the newest antipsychotic drugs are twice as likely to suffer heart attacks and death as non-users according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In other words they're no more safe than the older drugs they're replacing.

Sales of atypical antipsychotic drugs were up 12% in 2007 to $13.23 billion.

And the pharmaceutical industry calls this progress.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Laughter For Health

I've written about Humor Therapy before so here's your chance to enjoy laughter for your health, and it's free! On Wednesday this week PBS is starting a new comedy series hosted by Billy Crystal called "Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America" at 7 p.m. here in Dallas.

In these stressful times we need to laugh more than ever to return our bodies and minds to a healthy balance. Take the time and enjoy yourself!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Wall Street Journal Opinion Article

Today's Wall Street Journal (Friday, Jan. 9, 2009) has a response by Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Dean Ornish titled "Alternative Medicine Is Mainstream" which is filled with facts and common sense. I highly recommend you read it so you can better respond to the anti-CAM hysteria in the country.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Drug Industry Shift

According to the Washington Post the drug industry is adopting an "if you can't beat them, join them" attitude towards health care reform. With Democrats taking control of White House and Congress the pharmaceutical industry is about to begin a $10 million advertising campaign supporting universal health coverage.

First they give up the ability to give out free pens and office supplies to doctors, now supporting universal health coverage ... where will all of these changes end?

Hopefully they'll end with Americans consuming less than 48% of the world's prescription drugs! With only 4.3% of the world's population it's absolutely crazy we spend so much on drugs only to rank #40 in the world for longevity.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Health Care Costs Grow Slowly

The figures are out for health care costs in 2007 and spending grew only 6.1% to $2.2 trillion or $7,421 per person. Health care now consumes 16.2% of our country's Gross Domestic Product. The good news is thanks to slower growth in prescription drug spending the rate of increase was down from the 6.7% rate in 2006.

The new administration has its work cut out to restrain the growing costs of health care in this country. Every family knows how the cost of health care is growing faster than their paychecks.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Wall Street Journal Draws Battle Lines

The war between complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and mainstream medicine and its ally the pharmaceutical industry has taken a new turn against the people in America. On December 25th the Wall Street Journal gave a gift of support to the forces of business and the status quo with a one-sided article by an author hawking a book claiming that all CAM is a scam. I won't even dignify the article by using its name because it is such a biased article it should have been on the op-ed page.

To give you an idea of how ridiculous this piece was it called Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Deepak Chopra "veteran hucksters" and basically called them stupid and charlatans because they promote health without prescription drugs. The author also denigrated the NCCAM for being a waste of taxpayer money. The author's qualifications are far less accomplished to say the least.

The reason for this article and the timing is easy to understand. With the incoming administration there are going to be major changes to America's health care system and early indications are that the current gravy train of profits is going to come to a screeching halt. We can't forget that the Wall Street Journal is all about business. It's unfortunate that the paper has chosen to promote profits over the health of its subscribers. They prefer to see healthy stock prices than healthy people. This lack of common decency and morality is the Achilles Heel of capitalism.

I am here to say the Emperor has no clothes and that in the war between money and health the people of this country are increasingly turning towards common sense and away from a drug-dominated health care system that places itself on a pedestal of profit. People are waking up to the facts that have been hidden for too long and recognizing the current health care system for what it really is, a very profitable sick-care system.

I can only applaud the efforts of Tom Daschle and the incoming administration to put the health of Americans above the profit margins of the drug companies and medical institutions. I hope they continue to have the courage to ignore the army of lobbyists who are deathly afraid for their jobs.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 Is New Year For Medical Marketing

Welcome to 2009 and a new year for medical marketing! Today the pharmaceutical industry begins its voluntary moratorium on their branded gifts like pens, mugs, soap dispensers, bandages and everything else that can have a brand slapped on it. Many people feel it's a superficial gesture since it does nothing to reduce the millions of dollars spent to influence doctors (and millions more to influence patients).

There is an interesting nonprofit organization started by a doctor called No Free Lunch that encourages doctors to reject drug company giveaways. Our poor doctors still don't have to worry about going hungry because drug companies can still provide "free" lunches and dinners.

Let's hope that 2009 begins a year of real change in the medical community and they begin to reject the influence peddling from the pharmaceutical industry.