DHA (omega-3) fortified foods – Worth the price?

dha omega 3 fortified foodsEvery time I pick up a half gallon of non-organic, low fat milk (whichever brand is on sale) I have to reach over the more expensive product—the organic, DHA-fortified cartons of milk.

I first noticed this trend to fortify milk with DHA, a form of omega-3 fatty acid, a couple of years ago. You can also buy DHA-fortified eggs, breakfast cereals, orange juice, or DHA-fortified baby formula and baby foods.

DHA is marketed as “supporting” brain health, so what parent wouldn’t want to pay a premium price to fortify their child’s brain? What adult doesn’t want to avoid the dreaded … Continue reading

Dr. Oz – Pitchman for profit

Called before the Senate

Over a year ago I wrote a post dissing Dr. Mehmet Oz for his overuse of the word “miracle” on his TV show. As I said, there are no miracles when it comes to getting and staying healthy—just common sense, hard work and perseverance.

But those things are boring and don’t make good television, do they? Talk shows (and that’s really all the Dr. Oz show is) need to keep ratings high. They need to excite viewers and encourage them to buy the advertised products, or ratings fall and advertisers pull their support.

Fortunately for those … Continue reading

Do you have AFib?

Or have you seen the commercials?

Not too long ago I posted about Big Pharma’s approach to marketing a new drug:

  1. Give the condition (disease) a catchy nickname
  2. Create a website as a credible sounding organization or foundation
  3. “Increase awareness” of this “new” disease through radio and TV ads
  4. Provide “helpful” self diagnosis quizzes to encourage “talk to your doctor” visits

Ever since direct-to-consumer marketing of prescription drugs was first allowed by the FTC almost 20 years ago, I’ve watched Big Pharma perfect this technique. They spend millions of dollars promoting each new drug.

The most recent condition/drug to … Continue reading

Patient satisfaction scores

They aren’t what they seem

When I buy a product on Amazon or Ebay, I like to read the reviews, see how many stars a product or seller rates. Did the product arrive on time and in good condition? Is the product as the seller described? Did the product work as expected?

A high rating, indicating customer satisfaction, should be a good thing, right?

Normally, yes. But not when it comes to judging physicians.

For example, a friend of mine is a surgeon, a really good surgeon. Last year he saw a morbidly obese woman to consult about an elective … Continue reading

The high cost of Non-24

hetlioz non24Another drug we can’t afford

A few weeks ago I posted about the recent slew of commercials to “increase public awareness” of the chronic sleep disorder Non-24.

As Non-24 (formerly known as circadian rhythm disorder) affects totally blind people and is rare otherwise, it wasn’t clear to me why we needed increased awareness until I realized a new drug was coming to market.

When I wrote that post, this new drug, Hetlioz (tasimelteon), was not yet available in pharmacies. I speculated that it would be costly, perhaps as much as $10 per tablet. If only!

A few days ago … Continue reading

Walgreens’ Balance Rewards – Healthy savings or not?

walgreens balance rewardsA loyalty card with a (seemingly) healthy twist

Walgreens’ catch phrase is, well, catchy. 

Walgreens—At the corner of Happy and Healthy®

Who wouldn’t want to live (or shop) at that address?

I normally don’t shop at Walgreens, but a friend mentioned the Balance Rewards card to me because it allows cardholders to track healthy behaviors and earn rewards points, and she thought I might like that.

Absolutely! So I decided to check it out.

I looked at the Walgreens’ website and argh! is it confusing! Still, after a concentrated effort I was able to determine the main points or “rewards” … Continue reading

What is Zohydro?

zohydroA bad drug deal

I’ve been following the release of the new pain drug Zohydro with some interest.

In October 2013 Zogenix, a pharmaceutical company, received FDA approval for its “new”* extended-release hydrocodone capsule, Zohydro (Zogenix + hydrocodone—get it?).

My first thought was, “I wonder what that will cost?” (Answer: A lot)

My second thought was, “Do we really need another highly addictive, deadly, opioid drug that will easily make it’s way into the wrong hands?” (Answer: No, we do not! These drugs are already responsible for more deaths every year than illegal drugs.)

So I was interested to see … Continue reading

Consumer Reports hospital ratings

Ratings for safety

Yesterday, Consumer Reports published its annual hospital ratings, and this year it focuses on hospital safety. Why? Because hospitals can be hazardous to your health.

Infections, surgical mistakes, and other medical harm contribute to the deaths of 180,000 hospital patients a year, according to projections based on a 2010 report from the Department of Health and Human Services. Another 1.4 million are seriously hurt by their hospital care. And those figures apply only to Medicare patients. What happens to other people is less clear because most hospital errors go unreported and hospitals report on only

Continue reading

Do you have Non-24?

Non-what?

My husband asked me the other day, “What’s Non-24?”

“Never heard of it,” I answered. “Why?”

“Oh, I just heard a commercial on the radio. Whatever it is, I think there’s a drug for it now.” He knows I like to keep track of all the new drugs being marketed to an unsuspecting public.

Interesting, I thought. I know the pharmaceutical industry’s trick of developing a drug for a condition, re-labeling the condition as a disease, giving it a catchy name, and then kicking off an ad campaign to “increase public awareness” of this horrible (and now treatable!) disease.… Continue reading

Use essential oils with caution

They are drugs, after all

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, How NOT to whiten your teeth, I enjoy Pinterest. What I don’t enjoy is the poor health advice that gets pinned and re-pinned hundreds of times over. Like putting acid (lemon juice) on your teeth and then brushing with an abrasive substance (baking soda). Bad idea if you like your enamel. But I see variations of this “recipe” pop up dozens of times every day.

Essential oils are another frequently-used ingredient on the home remedy boards. There are hundreds of home remedies using essential oils to treat … Continue reading

Know the difference between cold and flu

the difference between cold and fluTamiflu makers trolling for money

We are well into flu season, and in another egregious direct-to-consumer advertising campaign, the makers of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu (Roche) are broadcasting a commercial encouraging people to—what else?—“Ask your doctor about Tamiflu.”

The thing about Tamiflu is that to have any chance of being effective, it must be prescribed within, ideally, 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

And the commercial says this, more or less: “The flu comes on fast. Don’t wait! Call your doctor right away.”

No. Do wait.

When I first saw this commercial, I thought, “Yikes. How many people Continue reading

Obamacare–Poor value for young adults?

obamacare youngIf Pajama Boy can’t sell health insurance, who can?

Despite ads with Pajama Boykeggers and casual hook-ups (really?), the 18 to 35 crowd apparently isn’t rushing to buy health insurance.

Or maybe Creepy Uncle Sam is scaring them away. Or the lame technology.

Related news: Jimmy Kimmel Savages ObamaCare and Uninformed Young People Who Support It

Whatever the reason, this week it’s been reported that only about 25% of uninsured young adults have enrolled in Obamacare plans. The administration has said that at least 38% of this age group is necessary to prevent “adverse selection” (too many sick Continue reading

Healthy adults don’t need multivitamins

multivitaminsFor most, multivitamins are a waste of money

I’m always trying to do two things:

  1. Save my money
  2. Be healthy

It’s not easy when everything about health care costs so much.

So I really don’t want to throw money away on expensive drugstore products that are poorly regulated (if at all) by the FDA, and whose benefits are not supported by the latest scientific research.

Related post: The Quack Miranda Warning

I’ve written several posts about the lack of demonstrated benefit (and possible harm!) of several supplements:

And now the multivitamin is the latest Continue reading

Prescription drugs: Statins

prescription drugsThe blockbuster drug

My husband has had mildly elevated cholesterol for years. At several points in time, his doctor has recommended that he start taking one of the cholesterol-lowering drugs, like Lipitor (atorvastatin), the best-selling prescription drug of all time. In 2006, Lipitor sales peaked at $13.7 billion—that’s just one year!

Because my husband has no other risk factors for heart disease—he is not overweight, he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t have high blood pressure (if anything, it’s low), he has no family history of heart attacks, and he eats a low-saturated fat diet and exercises regularly—I have always … Continue reading

Need a new doctor?

Switching doctors will become more common

My family is one of those that has lost our current insurance plan. And in researching new plans, I’ve found that individual market plans, both on and off the health care exchange, have significantly smaller provider networks.

Our current doctors and hospitals are not “in network” for any of the new plans, so we will have to change.

I understand why the insurance companies need to do this. To keep premiums and out-of-pocket costs even remotely affordable (I still think they are way too high), more expensive doctors and medical centers have to be … Continue reading