New 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 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
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
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
How 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
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
Or 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
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
Two 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