Harvoni, Solvadi and hepatitis C screening

harvoni hepatitis c treatmentNew treatments for hepatitis C

I read an article online the other day in which the author practically shouted at her readers to “Run as fast as you can to your doctor’s office and get screened for hepatitis C!”

OK, what she actually wrote was:

Overall, the outlook for patients with hepatitis C is much better than it was just a couple of years ago. So if you’re a baby boomer who hasn’t been screened for hepatitis C yet, don’t wait. 

Still, let’s step back and look at the big picture.

Hepatitis C screening has been in the news a … Continue reading

The Placebo Effect

placebo effectThe power of positive thinking

I’ve been meaning for some time to write a post about the placebo effect.

A placebo (from the Latin “I shall please”) is a fake treatment—such as a sugar pill—that is intended to deceive the patient. If that patient improves, or at least thinks so, that is known as the placebo effect.

Before a new drug can be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the drug maker must have studies to prove that it is more effective than a placebo. If neither the patients nor the researchers know who is getting the … Continue reading

Abilify – The best selling drug in the US

American psycho

I was troubled but not surprised to read the other day that the anti-psychotic medication, Abilify, is now so popular that it is the best-selling drug in the US.

Two years ago, Abilify was only the 5th best-selling drug, with its competitor, Seroquel, coming in 6th.

At that time, a psychiatrist warned in the New York Times:

The original target population for these drugs, patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, is actually quite small: The lifetime prevalence of schizophrenia is 1 percent, and that of bipolar disorder is around 1.5 percent. Drug companies have had a

Continue reading

The Open Payments database

Lots of data, but not user friendly

Have you ever wondered if your physician receives a substantial amount of money from a pharmaceutical or medical device company?

Is your physician’s decision to write you a prescription for the newest brand-name drug, or replace your knee with a state-of-the-art joint, based on corporate influences? Conflicts of interest run rampant in health care, and it would be nice to know, wouldn’t it?

Earlier this fall, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a new website called Open Payments. It’s part of the Sunshine Act, which in turn … Continue reading

Be informed – Number Needed to Treat

number needed to treatHow many are helped; how many are hurt

My son sent me a great link to an article in Wired magazine about a physician and his colleagues who have started a website called TheNNT.com.

What is the NNT? It stands for “the number needed to treat” and it’s a pretty common measurement talked about in health care. Simply put, it quantifies how many people need to be treated for one person to be helped.

The best therapies have a low NNT:

If your kid is throwing up and you take her to the hospital, she might get a drug

Continue reading

Patients being nickle and dimed

Another industry starts unbundling its fees

If you’ve bought an airline ticket in the last couple of years, you’ve no doubt noticed the airline industry’s wildly successful profit-generating trick of à la carte pricing, or unbundling. On top of the base ticket price are charges for things that used to be inclusive: baggage, leg room, meals, movies, etc. Some budget airlines are even considering pay toilets on board. Oh, joy.

The health care industry is following the airlines’ lead as insurance companies continue to negotiate lower and lower reimbursement rates. Hospitals and other providers are finding new ways to break … Continue reading

The problem with for-profit health care

for profit health careOr whose best interests are being served?

It’s no secret that our health care system is filled with conflicts of interest.

That’s because, for the most part, the doctors, hospitals and insurance companies that are the framework of the system are for-profit businesses. Like any other for-profit industry, health care sells a product and encourages you (or your insurance company) to buy it.

A friend of mine had a recent experience with for-profit health care that she wanted to share:

In my opinion, anyone who has been told they “must” replace their orthotic inserts every year or every few years Continue reading

Death with Dignity – “How to Die in Oregon”

death with dignity Facing end-of-life choices

There have been a lot of news stories in recent weeks about a young woman, Brittany Maynard, and her choice to end her life with support from Oregon’s Death with Dignity law.

Diagnosed with advanced brain cancer, Ms. Maynard actually moved with her husband to Oregon so she could establish residency and take advantage of the law.

She originally planned her death for last Saturday, November 1. Last I heard she was thinking of rescheduling, because she was still finding joy in living. I don’t know if she ended her life or not on Saturday, but when … Continue reading

Kids’ health – Avoid medication errors

The right medication at the right dose

A few days ago I posted about medication errors made at the pharmacy. Then I watched this short video from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio talking about medication errors made by parents or other caregivers.

Since it’s the beginning of cold and flu season, and parents will no doubt be stocking up on over-the-counter remedies for their kids, I thought it would be useful to share this video.

 

Using over 10 years of data from the National Poison Center, researchers found that children under the age of 6 are exposed to a … Continue reading

Watch out for pharmacy errors

pharmacy errorsTwo things happened last week that reminded me you can never be too careful in our health care system, especially when medications are involved.

Large pharmacies oversee hundreds of prescriptions every day. Add that to numerous phone calls, glitchy computers and impatient customers, and mistakes are bound to happen.

Protect yourself with a few simple steps at the counter:

Check the name on your prescription

Or, a tale of two patients (with the same last name)

My 84-year-old mother called me on Friday afternoon in a bit of a panic. She had just returned from visiting my brother on the … Continue reading

Avoid unnecessary medical tests

This is a guest post from a dear friend. As a cancer survivor, she has a lot of experience dealing with doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. She does not work in the health care industry, but is very savvy and not afraid to ask questions. She has been a huge supporter of Frugal Nurse as she, too, sees a need for patients to be more aware and wary of the health care they receive.

After a recent trip to her doctor’s office, she called me with the following story and asked if I would be interested in sharing it with

Continue reading

Brain health – Play EyeWire

brain health eyewireUse it or lose it

There are several pieces of advice for helping prevent or delay age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s.

  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat healthy, heart-friendly foods
  • Exercise
  • Socialize
  • Challenge your brain

Keeping your brain active and fit can be especially fun and rewarding, as it usually involves learning something new. Examples of good brain-stretchers are:

  • Learning a foreign language
  • Learning to play an instrument
  • Learning to dance, especially a complicated dance such as ballroom or folk dancing
  • Playing games

I love to play games. Board games, card games, word games or video games. You can play with others, which also … Continue reading

Probiotic busted for false advertising

probioticsPhillips’ Colon Health probiotic—”bloated” claims?

One of my favorite websites to look at on occasion is Truth in Advertising.

From their website:

Each year, American consumers lose billions of dollars as a result of deceptive marketing and false ads. These run the gamut from blatant lies and fraudulent scams to subtle ploys intended to confuse and mislead. Not only do these tactics impact us as consumers, but a mind-boggling amount of money is misdirected in our economy as a result of deceptive marketing. All too often, companies with quality goods and services lose out to businesses premised on false

Continue reading

Ebola in the US

Ebola 24/7!

Two months ago I posted that I was not concerned about an outbreak of Ebola in an American city. By “outbreak” I mean a rapid spread of the virus resulting in many people becoming ill and dying, as is happening in West Africa.

I stand by that belief.

However, listening to and reading the non-stop media coverage of Ebola in the US, I can understand why so many are verging on panic. Mainstream media is designed to “sell” news rather than inform the public, and fear is a powerful motivator when it comes to selling something. I’m … Continue reading