Wednesday, October 27, 2010

GlaxoSmithKline Fine

How can I resist mentioning that GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to pay a $750 million fine to settle their civil and criminal cases resulting from a whistle-blower who exposed their quality problems in Puerto Rico.

The cases involved 20 drugs with questionable safety or effectiveness. The list includes the drug Paxil, an ineffective antidepressant, Bactroban, an ointment and Avandia, a diabetes drug with a troubled history. The United States Justice Department said the $150 million payment to settle criminal charges was the largest ever paid by a drug manufacturer in this situation.

The only good news in the deal? The whistle-blower, a quality manager fired by Glaxo for raising the quality issues, will receive $96 million.

The bad news? Following Pfizer's four whistle-blower lawsuits since 2002 and record $2.4 billion fine last year, these cases don't even raise an eyebrow on Wall Street any more.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Failure of Scientific Research

There is a fascinating article in the November edition of The Atlantic magazine about the work of Dr. John Ioannidis. His research was originally published PLoS Medicine in 2005 (I'm surprised I haven't run across it sooner). The title of the current article about his work should give you an idea of what it's about: Lies, Damned Lies and Medical Research.

The bottom line? Dr. Ioannidis's research and analysis found that 80% of the most common type of medical research, the non-randomized trial, turns out to be wrong. The so-called gold standard of research, randomized trials, are in error up to 25% of the time. Even large, randomized trials (often called the platinum standard of medical research) was found to be wrong up to 10% of the time.

What was especially interesting was how many years incorrect medical information continued to be accepted by doctors as normal medical treatment, frequently a dozen years or more.

And doctors wonder why patients are confused? Is anyone surprised that medical research involving prescription drugs was the worst for credibility? Is it any wonder that patients are more interested in therapies that have been used for decades, hundreds or even thousands of years instead of the best of "modern" medicine?

Here's a link to: Lies, Damned Lies and Medical Research.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Radiation Danger

Next time you check into a hotel, or sit next to someone on a bus or plane, you may need to ask yourself if it's safe. Folks being treated for cancer with radioactive iodine or iodine-131 are sometimes kept in the hospital for a few days for safety but many are simply sent home right away. There are reports of hotel room contamination and radioactivity alarms being set off on public transportation according to a congressional investigation.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering adopting new rules to protect the public. Their main concern is exposure to children and pregnant women who are most susceptible to radiation.

The treatment is usually used to treat thyroid cancer. In the U.S. about 40,000 people each year develop the disease.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More Radio Shows

I love doing radio interviews! My conversation with Mary Treacy O'Keefe in now available on her Hope, Health & WellBeing Show. If you miss it this week it'll be archived on the WebTalk Radio website.

Next week (Oct. 28th) I'll be on the air with Dr. Freidman on his To Your Good Health show.

Stay tuned, there are lots more interviews coming up!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Antibiotics Increase Breast Cancer Risk

It may sound strange but there is a new mega-study showing that antibiotics may cause an increased risk of breast cancer. This wasn't a small, isolated situation either, it involved studies with over 13,000 cases from several major medical databases. The bottom line: those who used antibiotics had a 17%+ greater chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

The research was published in last month's Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety. One of the possible explanations for the effect is that antibiotics reduce the body's immune system and compromise its ability to fight off cancer.

It's probably no surprise that the medical industry is telling everyone not to overreact to this study, even after cautioning against the overuse of antibiotics for many years.

If anyone needed another reason to begin using complementary and alternative medicine, here it is.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

American Medical System Is The Problem

During the health care debate there was a lot of information brought to the attention of the American public that was shocking. Most did not realize that we spend more on health care than any other nation on earth (almost 17% of GDP) but with poor results. Americans assumed that we had the best health care in the world so it came as a shock to learn that we rank so far below other industrialized countries.

A new study published recently sheds light on the situation. It turns out that our health care system is the problem, not our smoking, obesity, homicide rate or other excuse. Our current fee-for-service system combined with a focus on specialty health care has produced an upside-down system that while highly profitable for some, is not effective for patients.

Examining health records from 1975 - 2005 the study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health found that even though there were improvements in our lifestyles relative to other countries, our health declined. This despite the fact that America spends up to twice as much on health care as other industrialized countries. For example, 15-year survival rates for men and women ages 45 and 65 has fallen to the bottom of the list compared to 12 other industrialized countries in the study.

As the cost of our health care system continues to rise in both financial and human terms it's time for change.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Same Old Song, Different Verse

It happens over and over again. A drug approved by the FDA is later pulled from the market because it has serious health risks ... like death. The latest drug to fall into this growing category is Meridia, a diet pill manufactured by by Abbott Laboratories.

First of all, the drug really wasn't very effective since average weight loss was only 5 pounds. European government officials had pulled the drug off their market last January due to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Last week Abbott Labs agreed to pull the drug off the market at the request of the FDA in America and national health regulator Health Canada.

With each story of another dangerous drug Americans are beginning to realize the risks involved with taking prescription drugs. FDA approval is no guarantee of safety in the long run. Which is why the popularity of complementary and alternative medicine continues to grow. People are looking for more safe and natural methods for better health.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Old Ways May Be Better

It turns out old fashioned handwriting may be better for your brain than all of those new techno-gadgets. Studies show that learning the shape of letters helps the brain develop cognitive skills and expression. It's suggested that it may even be a good cognitive exercise for seniors to help them maintain mental awareness. Learning a new language with handwriting may have even more benefits for seniors.

There are new computer programs to help kids learn to write by hand (does anyone else see the irony in this?). The act of learning to write helps develop their brains and the games make it seem like they're playing, not learning.

For those parents who think that learning handwriting is a waste of time in this digital age, remember, handwriting does still matter. Not only is it a more intimate way of communicating but in the essay portion of the SAT college-entrance test poor handwriting can still earn a score of 0 if it's illegible.