At risk: Unbiased medical research

On March 1, if Congress and the president do not reach some kind of fiscal accord, mandatory cuts to federal programs—sequestration—will take effect.

One of the many victims of such massive spending cuts will be the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the medical research arm of the Department of Health and Human Services. According to its director, Francis Collins, MD, the NIH, in a “profound and devastating blow,” will lose 6.4% of its budget.

Their loss, however, could be the drug industry’s gain.

Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine

In his book Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine, John Abramson, MD, … Continue reading

The CPAP machine – An American success story?

Have you ever heard of a company called ResMed? If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and have been prescribed a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, you probably have.

Or, if you follow the stock market, you might recognize ResMed as one of its rising stars. Rising because, according to its website, ResMed ‘s revenues and profits have grown every quarter since it was formed in 1989. In 2012, ResMed reported revenues of approximately $1.4 billion.

What is the secret to ResMed’s amazing success? Our country’s poor health.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the common condition in which … Continue reading

Obamacare’s Y2K: Coverage for pre-existing conditions

Starting in 2014, one of the signature features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be implemented: No adult with a pre-existing condition can be denied health insurance.

But it seems from recent news reports that both the administration and the nation’s health insurance carriers are getting a little nervous about exactly how much that will cost and whether sufficient funds will be available.

In theory, the individual mandate ensures that enough healthy young people buy insurance to keep premiums affordable and provide enough money to cover the care of the already sick. But no one knows with any certainty … Continue reading

Tincture of time

Flu season hit hard this year, and the normal, if unwelcome, after effect of many viral upper respiratory infections is a lingering cough.

A recent review of the medical literature found that, on average, a cough will last 17.8 days! Fortunately, most coughs are self limiting; that is, they will get better without special treatment, such as antibiotics.

If you have a question about when to seek medical attention for a cough, visit FamilyDoctor.org ‘Check Your Symptoms’. 

For home treatment, however, the drugstore shelves are filled with a dizzying array of cough products. Which one, if any, is best?

Before … Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmailContinue reading

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmailContinue reading

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