The Seven Year Rule

With prescription drugs, newer is not necessarily better

If you think the prescription drugs advertised on television are the best treatments medical science has to offer, think again.

They are the newest, certainly, and the most expensive. But are they the most effective and the most safe? Possibly not.

Remember Vioxx (rofecoxib)? A wildly popular—and extensively and expensively advertised—pain reliever, it made billions of dollars for Merck Pharmaceuticals.

It also, by conservative estimate, contributed to 60,000 deaths during the 5 years it was on the market. And it wasn’t even much better at relieving pain!

Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine

Overdosed America: The Broken

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The demise of competition

I read with concern yesterday that one of the victims of the recent fiscal cliff deal was the program funding the creation of new non-profit health insurance carriers. Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans, CO-OPs for short, were meant to provide some much-needed competition to the private carriers on the health insurance exchanges and keep premiums more affordable.

At least, that was the theory.

But now Congress has sliced the program’s budget from $6 billion to $2.4 billion. And the money is in the form of loans, not grants. Besides the many other challenges facing these start-ups, they have a very … Continue reading

How to use a neti pot

Wash your nose?

I wrote in a previous post that frequent hand washing is your best defense against a cold virus; but what about washing your nose? The inside of your nose, to be exact.

You just need a neti pot.

The neti pot is an inexpensive device for saline nasal irrigation, which is a fancy term for nose washing.

It’s easy!

How do I use a neti pot? It’s very simple. I fill the pot—which resembles a small tea pot or Aladdin’s lamp—with warm saline (salt) solution. Leaning over a sink, I place the spout in one nostril and … Continue reading

A touch of irony

I shook my head in wonder last night when I read this article: FDA requires lower doses for Ambien, other sleep meds

Doses for women, at least, will be cut in half.

Different bodies metabolize drugs at different rates. Apparently, studies have shown that the morning level of zolpidem (Ambien) remains high enough in some patients, especially women, that their driving skills are impaired.

According to the article, “the FDA has received a number of reports of car accidents connected to zolpidem over the years.”

I couldn’t help but think of the recent news, and my recent post, about… Continue reading

Don’t overdose on acetaminophen!

Warning: Liver failure may occur

The other day I watched in horror as a friend with mild cold symptoms swallowed two extra-strength Tylenol tablets with a large swig of NyQuil.

If he had followed with a double whisky, I would have suspected a suicide attempt.

“What are you doing?!” I shrieked, and grabbed both bottles from him. “You just swallowed a massive dose of acetaminophen!”

“Really?” he replied, without much interest. “Hmm.”

Does anyone read the labels on over-the-counter (OTC) medications?

“Look!” I stabbed a finger at the warning label on the back of the NyQuil bottle.

Liver warning: This

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Flu update

It appears that the 2012-13 flu season is especially severe and has not yet reached its peak, which is when the maximum number of cases have been reported and we start to see a downward trend.

In early November, I posted about the advantages, health-wise and financial, of getting a flu shot.

It’s still not too late, and there is ample vaccine available.

FYI, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to reach its full effectiveness.

FN

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First sleep, second sleep

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report that 1 in 24 drivers admits to falling asleep while driving, and up to 33% of fatal traffic accidents may involve a drowsy driver.

Although frightening, this statistic is hardly news to those of us, myself included, who suffer from chronic sleeplessness. We can just add “death by fiery car crash” to the ever-expanding list of risks related to sleep deprivation, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia and cancer.

Such stories invariably conclude with the advice “health officials recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.”Continue reading

How much does it hurt?

Okay, pain isn’t funny, but this woman’s blog is. She posted a hysterical re-drawing of the universal pain chart that doctors and nurses use to help patients, especially kids, quantify their pain on a scale of 1-10.

She apparently found the Mr.-Yuk-type faces woefully inadequate, and I have to say I agree with her. I just never looked at it that way before.

Her drawings and accompanying descriptions will leave you laughing, and laughter is the best medicine, isn’t it?

FN

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Beware that bonus!

Two days ago I wrote a post about the proposed health insurance exchanges and the federal premium subsidies.

Beginning in 2014, if you buy health insurance from a state-run exchange, your estimated 2014 income will determine if you qualify for a subsidy.

You will need to supply that information to the insurance exchange when you sign up for health insurance. If you qualify for a subsidy, the exchange will then apply to the federal government for the extra funds to cover your premiums.

When you prepare your 2014 tax return (in 2015), you will discover how accurately you guestimated.

The … Continue reading

Sticker shock

My family does not have an employer-provided health plan, and we live in a state that will set up a state-run health insurance exchange, so I wanted to learn more about the exchanges and proposed subsidies.

Several recent articles have warned of “sticker shock.” Beginning in 2014, state exchanges must offer plans that cover all “essential health benefits” as defined by the government. In other words, there will be no more “catastrophic” plans with low monthly premiums and high deductibles. (Except perhaps for young adults under 30, but information on this point remains unclear.)

To make such comprehensive … Continue reading

The healing power of mahjongg?

For more than five years, one of my best friends has been battling ovarian cancer. A fierce fighter (and fabulous friend!), she has endured surgeries and several rounds of chemotherapy to keep this grim disease at bay. Her oncologist monitors her condition with the blood test CA-125.

Early last summer, her CA-125 began creeping up into the “let’s watch it but not get too excited—yet” territory. She knew from past experience that she might be facing another round of chemo.

Then we began playing mahjongg. Or, more accurately, American mahjongg, which is a variant of the arcane Chinese game … Continue reading

Nightmare

Last night I dreamt that my husband was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma.

He was lying on an exam table for some reason when the nurse spied a large, red spot on his head (he’s not bald, but in my dream he was!) and said “Oh my, that doesn’t look too good.” The doctor then looked and said “It’s a melanoma. I’ll take it off.”

Immediately the doctor excised the melanoma as well as some cervical (neck) lymph nodes, which were also cancerous. The melanoma had spread.

As I watched the operation, I thought Oh, please let this be a dream. Continue reading

A picture worth a thousand words

Last week, the publication of three short health care reports caught my eye. Separately, each is a “bad-news-as-usual” snapshot of health concerns; spliced together, however, they create a bigger, grimmer picture of the health and financial future of our country.

First, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that between 1995 and 2010, the incidence of adults diagnosed with diabetes has almost doubled.

Part of the rate increase is explained by improved diagnosis and diabetics living longer, but the report’s authors concluded that the “major driver” is that “the increase in diabetes prevalence coincides with the increase in … Continue reading

Cure a cold with curry?

This morning as I scanned internet headlines, one caught my attention: How to beat a cold in just 24 hours.

Wouldn’t that be great if you could cure a cold in a day?

The information source for the article is a professor from the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff, Wales. I never knew such a place existed! I glanced at its website, and it appears to have links to some useful research, so I’ll definitely look there again.

But what does the article suggest and what do I think? Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Take a hot shower. Absolutely.
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How much does an MRI cost?

Sorry, wrong code

I read a story on Kaiser Health News this morning about the author’s struggle to be a responsible and informed health care consumer: How much for an MRI?

I can completely relate!

I had a similar experience with a heart ultrasound two years ago. It’s a cycle of frustration: You can’t get a price without a procedure code, but you can’t get the correct code until after the procedure is done. Classic.

Health care costs have long been kept hidden from the public—until after you get the bill.

And here’s a funny video put out by the … Continue reading