What is the Quack Miranda Warning?

This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

You have probably seen this warning many times, but perhaps never paused to consider what it meant. Or, maybe you haven’t seen it, because it usually appears in very fine print and is only obvious if you are looking for it.

What is it, what does it mean, and why is it important?

In 1994 congress enacted the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), effectively allowing any product under the broad classification of … Continue reading

Boning up on calcium

Out of sight, out of mind

The other day I was cleaning out a kitchen cupboard and unearthed an economy-sized bottle of calcium tablets. Oops! I should be taking one or two of those every day.

Or should I?

Everyone knows calcium is necessary for bone health. Most women have been told by their doctors that they need extra calcium after menopause because without estrogen’s help, bones do not absorb it well. Low calcium leads to osteoporosis, which leads to broken bones, which lead to huge health care costs. Oh no!

Too much of a good thing—or the wrong thing

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The probiotics con

Probiotics are of limited use

As a nurse, I often give patients the advice to eat yogurt when taking antibiotics to decrease the risk of developing diarrhea or, in women, vaginal yeast infections.

Why yogurt? Because it contains live, beneficial micro-organisms—now called probiotics—that are thought to replenish the “good” bacteria incidentally killed when taking antibiotics. In theory, eating yogurt makes sense. At best, it helps; at worse, you get a tasty snack with some extra calcium.

In the last few years, however, I have seen probiotic-laced products (fortified yogurt, snack bars, capsules) account for an increasingly large part of the … Continue reading

Pucker up

Did you ever stop to wonder how the skin of your lips differs from the skin on the rest of your face?

The skin over your lips is very thin and highly vascular, hence their typical “vermilion” or red color. Your lips also have more nerve endings, making them very tactile and sensitive.

These anatomical differences make our lips attractive and nice for kissing, but they also make our lips vulnerable to dryness, sunburn and chemical sensitivities.

Painful and unattractive, chapped lips are especially common in the winter because of the dry, cold air outside, the dry, warm air inside, … Continue reading

“The Drugs I Need”

Several years ago, Consumers Union (the publishers of Consumer Reports) released a hilarious animated music video—The Drugs I Need—satirizing both the pharmaceutical industry and the unending American quest for the perfect “cure all” drug.

I recently watched the video again on YouTube and found the song’s humorous message just as fitting as it was almost 10 years ago. Be sure to check out the fine print “disclaimer” at the bottom of the screen.  😆

FN

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Good health – No miracle required

nomiracleI laughed the other day when I read a post on the blog Science-Based Medicine. The author denounced the all powerful Dr. Mehmet Oz for his frequent promotion of “miracle” products on his eponymous show, and commented that:

This constant drive for miracles must keep the producers in a perpetual panic. They need at least five miracles per week.

Which episode incited the author’s scorn? “Dr. Oz’s 13 Miracles for 2013.” Wow, that’s a lot of miracles.

Related post from Science-Based Medicine: Dr. Mehmet Oz completes his journey to the Dark Side

Like snake oil salesmen of old, the … Continue reading

Avoidable risk?

Last fall saw a frightening outbreak of fungal meningitis that resulted in the severe illness of almost 700 people and, tragically, the deaths of 45 others. Contaminated steroid injections were found to be the cause.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices now reports that 13% of pharmacists found contamination in their supposedly sterile, compounded (made in the pharmacy) drugs last year, and almost 75% fear that such a horrific outbreak could happen again.

Several agencies are swaming the compounding pharmacies in a belated attempt to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But will their efforts be enough?

Maybe, but there … Continue reading

The eyes have it

Do you suffer from chronically dry, red, itchy eyes? The eye drops you use might actually be making your eyes look and feel worse.

Like so many over-the-counter (OTC) products, there are dozens of eye drops from which to choose. How do you know which is best?

As always, ignore the front of the package and read the ingredients.

Oxymetazoline HCl and naphazoline HCl are decongestants. Drops that advertise “decreased redness”, such as Visine, contain a decongestant that constricts the small blood vessels in the eye. It works temporarily, but has a “rebound” effect; that is, the redness gets worse … Continue reading

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

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

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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Save money – vitamin C vs. zinc

Vitamin C…

It’s cold season and products that claim to prevent or significantly shorten colds are flying off the drugstore shelves.

As I emphasized in an earlier post, frequent hand washing is your best strategy to avoid a cold altogether.

Still, the advertisements for such products are both pervasive and persuasive  But are they worth buying?

Vitamin C (1000mg) is the major ingredient of Airborne and Emergen-C. Both are made into fizzy drinks. Airborne also claims to have a “proprietary blend” of minerals and herbs, but it’s really about the vitamin C. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will not … Continue reading