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

Protect yourself from new drugs

I just read two articles that offer different perspectives on the same topic—that 2015 was a record-breaking year for new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

From, Pharmaceutical Commerce, a BioPharma business journal comes FDA approved 45 new drugs in 2015—a new recent record

It’s a great way to start the New Year: FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) reports 45 “novel new drugs” were approved in 2015, up from 2014’s 41, and representing a new high not seen since the mid-1990s.

Yay! More drugs!

But then there’s an article from STAT, a … Continue reading

Do “brain games” prevent dementia?

I like playing the brain games of Lumosity online and on my phone.

I like puzzles and words games in general, and Lumosity offers a fun and convenient way to play and keep track of my improvement in a variety of challenges.

I’ve never paid the costly $15 a month subscription, because I’ve never bought into the idea that playing these “brain games”—Lumosity calls it “brain training”—by themselves is enough to prevent dementia as I age.

But many people, apparently, were influenced by Lumosity’s advertising.

Two weeks ago, the creators of Lumosity settled a $50 million lawsuit with the Federal Continue reading

In favor of childhood vaccines

zuckerbergIt was a nice surprise to see a celebrity use the power of social media to speak in favor of getting children vaccinated.

Well, not so much speak as show. And as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook fame, recently posted this cute photo of himself and his baby daughter at the pediatrician’s office. He simply wrote “time for vaccines”, but surely he realized that he was encouraging his millions of “friends” with kids to vaccinate, as well.

As you can imagine, he received both likes and dislikes for his post.

The Washington Continue reading

“That Sugar Film”

that sugar filmIt probably wasn’t the best idea to watch this documentary just a few days before one of the most sugar-laden holidays of the year.

On the other hand, I will definitely be more conscious about how much sugar I eat and will hopefully avoid a huge sugar hangover—that slightly sick, tired, yucky feeling I get after eating too many sweet foods.

That Sugar Film is one of several sugar documentaries that have come out recently that attempt to show us just how bad sugar is for our health.

Related story from Time: Sugar is definitely toxic, a new study saysContinue reading

Health insurance literacy – It’s not easy

Health insurance literacy is a term that has been used a lot in the media since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rolled out a few years ago.

It basically means how fully a person understands how his or her health insurance works, as well as the lexicon of insurance-speak: words and acronyms like coinsurance, copay, deductible, premium, subsidy, provider, allowed amount, out-of-pocket maximum, balance billing, HSA, FSA, HMO, PPO, EPO, PCP, and so on.

If only people understood their health insurance, the experts moan, they would make better health choices and protect themselves financially.

I’m sure that’s true, but … Continue reading

Save money on eye drops

Do you suffer from dry, red, or itchy eyes?

Dry eyes are really common, especially in the late fall and winter when we spend more time in the dry indoor air.

But did you know 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? You can save money and get a more helpful product by understanding what you really need from an eye drop.

As always, ignore the marketing claims on … Continue reading

Direct-to-consumer advertising

I was watching Game 5 of the World Series this weekend (go Royals!) and I couldn’t help but notice all the ads for prescription meds—Belsomra, Cialis, Lyrica, Cymbalta and Symbicort to name but a few.

Direct-to-consumer advertising has been legal since 1997. There is no doubt in my mind it has contributed to the over-prescribing of medications in this country, as well as our skyrocketing health care costs.

Anyway, watching all those commercials made me want to repost this hilarious video from Consumers Union: The Drugs I Need. 

Did you check out the fine print … Continue reading

Sonicare toothbrushes and gum recession

So I finally got around to finding a new dentist.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my dentist of 20 years retired and, because I don’t have dental insurance, I was faced with the daunting task of researching local dentists to find one that 1) offered basic dental care and didn’t push teeth whitening, gum scaling or Botox; and 2) was willing to offer me a cash discount and work with me on keeping my dental costs down.

Now that I’ve found him, I hope he doesn’t retire soon!

I keep my teeth and gums very clean and … Continue reading

The overuse of antidepressants

I know so many people taking antidepressants. And they talk about it quite openly, with me and with each other.

“What are you taking? Zoloft? Oh, I tried that but didn’t like it. Celexa works better for me.”

I’m sure none of these people went to his or her (mostly her) doctor and got a prescription for no reason whatsoever. But it’s pretty hard to deny that antidepressant use in this country has skyrocketed over the last two decades, which begs the question: Is everyone really that depressed?

No. A recent study in The Journal of Clinical Psychology looked at Continue reading

Beware vinpocetine and picamilon

I’ve posted many times that consumers need to be cautious when buying and using supplements.

Supplements such as vitamins, minerals and herbal remedies are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); their usefulness and safety are debatable.

Related post: The Quack Miranda Warning

So I was disturbed to read that two drugs that are sold only by prescription in other countries are available as dietary supplements in the US.

These drugs are vinpocetine and picamilon.

Vinpocetine is prescribed in Russia, China, Germany, and other countries for acute stroke and cognitive impairment, but it has never been approved by

Continue reading

The shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine

shingles herpes zosterA painful but common condition in older adults is shingles or herpes zoster. I’ve known several elderly people afflicted with this, and I will absolutely get the vaccine as soon as I turn 60!

The vaccine, Zostavax, is FDA-approved for ages 50 and up, but the Cleveland Clinic recently advised that it’s not cost effective for anyone under 60 to get immunized.

Why? Because Zostavax is too expensive. On average, it costs about $200, and that doesn’t include the cost for the office visit or vaccine administration that some clinics charge.

The vaccine is effective for 10-12 years, so … Continue reading

Another drug skyrockets in price

A year ago I posted about the worrying trend of generic medications—a mainstay of affordable health care—rising in price by 100%, 200%, 1000% or more. My husband’s levothyroxine, for example, has increased in price by over 600% since 2013.

The common and used-to-be-dirt-cheap antibiotic, doxycycline, has gone up a whopping 6,000%!

Unfortunately, this trend has not stopped.

The latest old-drug, new-price story is that of Daraprim (pyrimethamine). Last month Turing Pharmaceuticals bought this drug and immediately jacked up the price from $13.50 per tablet to $750, an increase of over 5,000%.

The New York Times, I think, had the … Continue reading

A less expensive option for Diclegis

January 2017: Important update on Diclegis! A medical journal recently published a paper questioning the safety of Diclegis, or at least raising concerns about the quality of the research behind its FDA approval.

Although the components of Diclegis can be easily purchased over the counter, as my post shows, it’s very important that ANY drugs taken during pregnancy be OK’ed by your obstetrician first. FN

I don’t usually pay much attention to media’s almost 24/7 coverage of all things Kardashian, but it’s been hard to miss the news tidbits about Kim Kardashian’s second pregnancy.

And to those that follow her … Continue reading

Praluent – Treating cholesterol just got more expensive

Earlier this summer the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first of a new type of cholesterol-lowering medication, the PCSK9 inhibitors.

The drug companies Sanofi and Regeneron got that honor with their drug Praluent (alirocumab). But not too far behind will be Amgen with Repatha (evolocumab) and Pfizer with borocizumab. (Who names these drugs, anyway?)

Although Praluent is not yet available in pharmacies, its announced price tag has the medical community (and insurers) in an uproar. Pharmaceutical executives are doing their best to rationalize the expense—spend a lot of money up front and maybe save more money down … Continue reading