Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Little Progress

The report from the Health Reform Dialogue, a collection of groups usually at odds over health care, is a small step in the right direction. Consumers, insurers, doctors, employers and others reached a broad agreement the may act as a starting point for the reform process.

One critical point that I'd like to highlight was their recommendation that the priority of America's health care system be changed. In fact, they want it totally reversed. Over the last few decades the health care system has figured out it's much more profitable to treat sick people than to keep them healthy and prevent illness and disease. Great for them, bad for us. It's one of the major reasons that America spends more on health care than any other nation on earth, more than twice as much as many other industrialized countries. The report now calls for prevention to become the foundation for medical care.

It's a small step, but at least it's a start.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Big Medicine's Insider Game

Can you imagine being called a "nobody and a nothing" by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)? Can you imagine just a week later being called "somebody doing something very important" by the same publication? The flap shines a spotlight on the games being played by Big Medicine today which hurt every American.

You see the problem is Leo, a professor of neuro-anatomy at Lincoln Memorial University, had the audacity to send a letter to the medical journal BMJ in which he pointed out an unreported conflict of interest in a JAMA study. As usual, a little sunshine scares the established medical interests so they reflex by calling him names.

The tide is slowly turning in America towards fairness and transparency though and less than a week later JAMA had to reverse course. They claim they're correcting their policy on conflicts of interest, but they've said that many times before. It's sad that Leo would have to send a letter out of the country in order to get it published, but that's a reflection of medicine in America today.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wall Street Journal Article on Stress

Nice article in today's Wall Street Journal about the health effects of stress. It's sad that mainstream medicine has taken so long to figure it out, but I guess better late than never. Unfortunately there are still too many doctors out there that think "in your head" is synonymous with "psychosomatic" and make believe.

I particularly liked the information on the "gut brain" as they called it. The digestive tract is loaded with its own little nervous system that is incredibly tuned in to our thoughts and emotions. That's why you get butterflies there when you're nervous. Even greater or prolonged anxiety can trigger heartburn, indigestion and irritable-bowel syndrome, in which the normal movement of the colon gets out of rhythm, traps painful gas and alternates between diarrhea and constipation. Been there, done that, it wasn't any fun.

The article didn't really cover the hundreds of different CAM therapies that have been proven to help with stress and the damaging effects on our health. At least it's a start.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Supreme Court: Drug Makers Can Be Sued

The pharmaceutical industry received bad news from the Supreme Court this week - they can be sued after all, even if their drug is FDA approved. Reversing a Bush Administratio policy the court ruled 6-3 to uphold the rights of Americans to sue manufacturers if they're harmed by a defective product.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that lawsuits "uncover drug hazards and provide incentives for drug manufacturers to disclose safety risks promptly."

Monday, March 2, 2009

Crossroads of History

Last Thursday (February 26, 2009) was an important day in the history of health care in America. Four of the nation’s most highly respected proponents of natural and integrative medicine argued before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee about how Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) must be incorporated into our current conventional health care system if we're to have any hope of fixing the system. To learn more about the testimony of Drs. Mehmet Oz, Dean Ornish, Andrew Weil, and Mark Hyman you can go to Senate Hearings.

Sen. Tom Harkin had some wonderful opening remarks at the hearing. "It is fashionable, these days, to quote Abraham Lincoln. So I would like to quote form his 1862 address to Congress - words that should inspire us as we craft health care reform legislation. Lincoln said, 'The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty ... As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.'" Later he put the situation more succinctly: "It is time to end the discrimination against alternative health care practices."

The process of changing health care in America is not going to be a quick and easy situation but rather a long, bloody and difficult process to give birth to a better health care system.