Tips to cut back on medications

cut back on medicationsI don’t think anyone would be surprised to know that Americans are popping more pills than ever.

About 60% take at least one prescription medication. Even more take daily dietary supplements, herbal remedies or other over-the-counter drugs.

And the more drugs you take, the higher the risk of dangerous drug interactions.

A new study published this month in JAMA reports that close to 88% of older Americans over the age of 62 take at least one drug. Of those, the report estimates, 15% are at high risk of suffering from a major drug-drug interaction.

I read Dr. Richard Lehman’s response Continue reading

Addyi – Will a new ad campaign really help?

A few months ago I wrote a post about Addyi (flibanserin), the new drug that supposedly boosts the female libido. It’s also referred to as “pink Viagra” or “female Viagra” although it doesn’t work like Viagra.

In fact, it’s debatable whether it works as advertised at all.

Addyi was supposed to a blockbuster drug for Valeant Pharmaceuticals, but it’s had lousy sales since it appeared on the market in August.

More than half a million men got prescriptions for Viagra in its first month on the market in 1998. The number of prescriptions for Addyi, the women’s libido-boosting

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Be informed – Informulary

I love finding websites that provide people with evidence-based health care guidance that is also easy to understand.

Like the law, medicine is full of jargon and tortured language that can leave the most intelligent patient confused about risks and benefits.

Clear communication is especially necessary when talking about prescription medications.

I just ran across a new website called Informulary, which was started with the goal of providing easy-to-use and understand DrugFactsBoxes, similar to nutrition labels on foods.

Since 2009, the Food and Drug Administration has required facts labels on all over-the-counter medications, but so far they have ignored … Continue reading

The high cost of dying with dignity

I just read about another case where a pharmaceutical company bought the rights to an old, been-around-forever drug and then drastically increased the price. Argh.

A few months ago I posted about the drug Daraprim, which was bought by Turing Pharmaceuticals. Its CEO, the now infamous Martin Shkreli, raised the price from $13 a pill to over $700.

Last February, Valeant Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to Seconal (secobarbital), an 80-year-old sleeping pill. Ten years ago 90 Seconal tablets cost about 30 dollars. Now it’s closer to $3,000.

It’s believed Valeant did this in response to California’s new End Continue reading

FDA warns about imported supplements

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just released this consumer education video about supplements and dietary aids:

I’ve written many, many posts on the dangers of trusting supplement manufacturers to tell you the truth about their products. Not to mention buying supplements (aka nutriceuticals or herbal remedies) is often just a waste of money.

Although the video focuses on imported supplements, the same warning can apply to domestically-manufactured products.

Related posts:

The FDA consumer safety webpage on this topic is an … Continue reading

Vitamin D doesn’t help knee arthritis

A few years ago vitamin D was being touted as the latest and greatest miracle supplement. Low vitamin D levels were linked to all kinds of conditions—autoimmune diseases, heart disease, chronic pain, osteoporosis, some cancers, and more—so doctors started prescribing high-dose supplements.

Or people just bought vitamin D supplements at the store and dosed themselves. Sometimes way over the recommended upper limit of 4,000 IU/day.

Multiple research studies, however, have found little help from vitamin D supplements in treating or preventing most of these conditions.

Most recently is a well-done study out of Australia, published in last week’s Journal of Continue reading

Are Health Care Loans a good idea?

Not in my humble opinion.

I just read about this idea proposed by health financing researchers out of MIT and Harvard: Financing health care with consumer loans.

They begin their article with what we all know—health care, specifically prescription drugs in this case, costs too much.

We propose a practical way to increase drug affordability through health care loans (HCLs)—the equivalent of mortgages for large health care expenses. HCLs allow patients in both multipayer and single-payer markets to access a broader set of therapeutics, including expensive short-duration treatments that are curative.

When they talk about “curative” drug treatments, they … Continue reading

5 tips to save money on prescription drugs

save money on prescription drugsOne of the driving forces behind rising health care costs is the increasingly high cost of prescription drugs.

And because 60% of Americans take at least one prescription drug, that adds up to a lot of money.

Insurance companies are trying to rein in costs by having tiered copayments (higher for brand names) or limiting the selection of drugs on their formularies (the list of drugs your insurance will cover).

This post gives you some suggestions to save money, and some resources that might be helpful.

But first, ask yourself and your physician if a prescription drug is really … Continue reading

Will Congress fight the high cost of prescription drugs?

Last November, with much media coverage, several members of Congress announced the formation of The Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force, promising to “take action to combat the skyrocketing costs of pharmaceuticals.”

Finally! I thought.

Related post: Prices continue to increase for generics

But I haven’t heard much since then.

There was a little noise earlier this month when the House Oversight Committee (of which the task force is a subcommittee, I believe) attempted to grill the now infamous Martin Shkreli about why he thought it was okay to jack up the price of Daraprim from $13 a pill to … Continue reading

Nexium and increased dementia risk

nexiumI’ve previously posted that Nexium and similar acid-reducing drugs, the PPIs (proton pump inhibitors), have been linked to an increased risk of heart attack .

Now, a new study has confirmed a connection between PPIs and dementia.

The patients receiving regular PPI medication…had a significantly increased risk of incident dementia compared with the patients not receiving PPI medication…

The avoidance of PPI medication may prevent the development of dementia.

The study specifically looked at PPI use in patients age 75 and older, who are frequently taking several prescription medications.

This is an important study, because as the health news Continue reading

Decreasing the overuse of antibiotics

Finally some good news!

I’ve posted many times about the problems of over prescribing antibiotics. Not only does it increase health care costs, but patients are at risk of side effects from the antibiotics, and overuse of antibiotics leads to drug-resistant bacteria—a big concern for everybody.

Many times the patient insists on an antibiotic and the doctor complies; sometimes doctors just over prescribe out of habit.

But I just looked at the results of a study that revealed a relatively easy way to encourage physicians to prescribe fewer antibiotics—and it works!

For 18 months, 248 clinicians from 47

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Smoking pot hurts your brain

A couple years ago my state, Washington, legalized pot.

It’s been a boon for tax revenue, for sure (almost $83 million in the first year). And the state reports that it has saved millions of dollars by freeing up law enforcement resources.

Judging from the lines in front of the pot stores (green crosses are everywhere!), pot is really popular here, across a wide range of ages.

But apart from its commercial success, and the fact that it’s given us more stoned drivers, the law concerns me because it seems to promote the idea that smoking pot … 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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