New adult vaccination guidelines

The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have just released an updated vaccination schedule for adults.

I’ve included the schedule and accompanying information from the CDC’s website at the end of this post.

You can also print it out to take to your primary care provider.

Related post: Adults need vaccinations, too!

It’s color coded to make it easier to follow the recommendations, and I think it’s an improvement over last year’s chart.

A yellow row/column means the vaccine is recommended for everybody in that age group; purple indicates the vaccine is for … Continue reading

What is Brintellix?

I was doing a little research into the new depression screening guidelines issued by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) when I ran across an article about a newer, more expensive antidepressant called Brintellix (vortioxetine).

It costs about $300 for 30 tablets, and is apparently no better at treating depression than the plethora of other cheaper drugs already out there, so it hasn’t been a best seller for its manufacturer, Lundbeck, Inc.

But Lundbeck and its partner Takeda Pharmaceutical hope to change that by convincing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week that Brintellix is better than … Continue reading

A naturopath denounces naturopathy

I’ve never been supportive of alternative health care providers, such as chiropractors and naturopaths, and would never recommend one to friends or family members.

I believe their limited “medical” training is not grounded by evidence-based principles. Also, inconsistent accreditation standards and self-regulation allow for them to provide care well beyond the scope of their training.

That’s my opinion, anyway.

Even so I was rather stunned (but delighted) by a post I read in KevinMD in which a naturopath strikes out at her profession: The shocking confessions of a naturopathic doctor

I quit practicing naturopathic medicine after discovering my former boss,

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The “financial toxicity” of cancer

We’ve all heard the phrase “cancer kills.”

But guess what? So can the high cost of treatment.

I just read about a study that came out of the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center here in Seattle.

The results won’t surprise anyone familiar with how much cancer treatment costs (a lot!), but researchers found:

…cancer patients who go bankrupt are nearly 80 percent more likely to die than patients who don’t, and some cancers had significantly higher mortality rates. Prostate cancer patients who filed for bankruptcy were almost twice as likely to die; bankrupt colorectal cancer patients were 2.5 times more

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What is a death doula?

I subscribe to the belief that no one should die alone or afraid, and death is a natural part of the life cycle that can be—should be—a sacred, deeply meaningful experience.

Sadly, too often that’s not the case. Our current health care system doesn’t do death well at all. Unless they qualify for hospice, patients and their families are left feeling helpless, confused and afraid. Sometimes angry.

No one expects us to be experts at childbirth if we’ve never had a baby. Why should we be experts at death if we or a loved one has never died before?

I … Continue reading

Zika virus – Protect yourself from mosquito bites

I posted last week about getting vaccinations when you travel overseas. I briefly mentioned the recent outbreak of the Zika virus, for which there is no vaccine.

Since then, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a Level 2 (yellow) Travel Alert for several countries in Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

A Level 2 Alert means to “practice enhanced precautions.” The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes, so the best protection is to avoid mosquito bites.

Pregnant women are also being cautioned to consider postponing travel to the affected countries.

Although the virus just causes relatively … Continue reading

HPV and cancer

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month.

Following the recommended guidelines for Pap smears is a good way to find and treat cervical cancer early, when it’s basically curable.

A Pap smear is one of the few screening tests for which there is good evidence that it’s effective, plus it’s relatively cheap and painless.

The American Cancer Society, The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all recommend the following:

  • No screening before age 21.
  • Screening every 3 years between ages 21-29 with Pap smear only, no HPV testing. (The rate of
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First aid for choking

I read a post by a pediatrician last week that gave her opinion that while our government is throwing a lot of money at new nutritional guidelines in an attempt to “fight” childhood obesity, it’s ignoring another food-related danger: choking.

Childhood aspiration (or choking) on food is a major public health issue. Anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 kids visit emergency rooms each year in the U.S. alone, after having suffered a food-choking accident. Hundreds die each year, either in the hospital or before they make it in the door. Most of these kids are under the age of 5, and

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Protect yourself from new drugs

I just read two articles that offer different perspectives on the same topic—that 2015 was a record-breaking year for new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

From, Pharmaceutical Commerce, a BioPharma business journal comes FDA approved 45 new drugs in 2015—a new recent record

It’s a great way to start the New Year: FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) reports 45 “novel new drugs” were approved in 2015, up from 2014’s 41, and representing a new high not seen since the mid-1990s.

Yay! More drugs!

But then there’s an article from STAT, a … Continue reading

Traveling overseas? Get vaccinated!

In the dreary days of winter many people choose to travel overseas, especially to sunnier and warmer locations, such as Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

If you’re planning such a trip, take a moment to learn more about what health risks you might face in a particular country and if any vaccinations are recommended before you go. Some vaccines take several weeks to be most effective, so plan ahead.

Related story from Live Science: Many Americans don’t get recommended vaccines before travel

The most useful vaccine for everyone, I think, for is the Hepatitis A vaccine. … Continue reading

Tips for the doctor’s office

A pediatrician posted some useful advice to parents on KevinMD: 4 mistakes parents make in the pediatrician’s office

With office visit’s getting shorter, and co-pays getting costlier, it’s more important than ever to make sure each visit counts, and communication is efficient.

What struck me when reading her post was that these tips easily apply to patients of all ages, and any doctor in any specialty.

I encourage you to read the whole post, but in short her tips are:

1. Come prepared.

[W]e aren’t mind readers, and we have a limited amount of time. It’s frustrating when people don’t

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Do “brain games” prevent dementia?

I like playing the brain games of Lumosity online and on my phone.

I like puzzles and words games in general, and Lumosity offers a fun and convenient way to play and keep track of my improvement in a variety of challenges.

I’ve never paid the costly $15 a month subscription, because I’ve never bought into the idea that playing these “brain games”—Lumosity calls it “brain training”—by themselves is enough to prevent dementia as I age.

But many people, apparently, were influenced by Lumosity’s advertising.

Two weeks ago, the creators of Lumosity settled a $50 million lawsuit with the Federal Continue reading

In favor of childhood vaccines

zuckerbergIt was a nice surprise to see a celebrity use the power of social media to speak in favor of getting children vaccinated.

Well, not so much speak as show. And as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook fame, recently posted this cute photo of himself and his baby daughter at the pediatrician’s office. He simply wrote “time for vaccines”, but surely he realized that he was encouraging his millions of “friends” with kids to vaccinate, as well.

As you can imagine, he received both likes and dislikes for his post.

The Washington Continue reading

Overuse of CT scans is dangerous and expensive

I read two articles yesterday that complemented each other:

In Kaiser Health News (KHN) Heavy Use Of CT Scans Raises Concerns About Patients’ Exposure To Radiation

And on KevinMD two radiologists posted The financial costs of treating CT-induced cancer

Each underscores the fact that CT scans are significantly overused in American healthcare.

Although CT scans are an essential diagnostic tool, the Food and Drug Administration reports that an estimated 30 to 50 percent of imaging tests are believed to be medically unnecessary.

Considering we spend tens of billions of dollars every year on diagnostic imaging, that’s a lot of wasted … Continue reading

Kids and codeine cough syrup

Last month, a medical advisory group to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted “overwhelmingly” to limit the sale of codeine products without a prescription and advised drugs containing codeine should not be used to treat children or the majority of teens suffering from pain or a cough.” [my emphasis]

I knew you could buy codeine painkillers and cough syrups in Canada, but apparently you can in 28 states, as well. The FDA hasn’t acted on the advisory committee’s recommendation yet, so these products are still available over the counter.

Parents—be especially cautious when buying cough or cold medications … Continue reading