Shining a light on the physician-Big Pharma relationship
One of the little-known laws buried in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which takes effect today.
I understand the impetus of this law, but I am less sure of its positive effect.
The Sunshine Act (the drafters no doubt had a mental image of exposing something slimy to the light) seeks to illuminate the financial relationships between doctors/teaching hospitals and drug companies/medical device manufacturers.
Conflicts of interest and questionable ethics have been problems for years as public funding has decreased and private industry money has … Continue reading
US News & World Report publishes hospital rankings for 2013
And the winner is…Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore! Great, but what does that mean?
Every July US News & World Report publishes a list of what it considers to be the best hospitals in America.
The rankings are mostly based on an analysis of death rates for certain complicated procedures, patient safety statistics acquired from Medicare data, and a physician survey (which hospital do you think is best?)
Because the analysis requires enough patient data to make a judgement, the list is dominated by large, urban, university-affiliated medical centers. Like … Continue reading
The “sleep supplement”
I am a chronically poor sleeper, and I have tried melatonin, the sleep supplement, in the past. I have friends that swear by it, but it never worked for me.
Plus, I could never get a straight answer from any source about the therapeutic dosage – 1 mg, 3 mg, 5 mg, 10 mg? Should I only take it as needed, or is melatonin safe to take every night, forever?
As a supplement (it’s actually a hormone), melatonin falls under the extremely loose guidelines of the Dietary Supplement Health And Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. It … Continue reading
It seems to have been a busy week in health care news, and I found it difficult to settle on what interested me the most. But here are my picks:
Coke for breakfast?
Apparently that is one of the marketing strategies Coca-Cola is considering to increase its sales in the United Kingdom. It is not clear whether they mean to actually pitch the idea that a Coke would be a great accompaniment to a bowl of oatmeal (maybe an Egg McMuffin) or they mean to develop a new line of beverages to compete with tea and coffee. But sales of … Continue reading
Being a responsible consumer
There is a growing trend in health care for patients – consumers – to take more control of their own health care.
This trend is not really new. Ever since drug companies have been allowed to advertise their products on TV (1997), they have urged consumers to “talk to your doctor about [whatever the latest and greatest drug is].” They have been able to continue this practice because the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) actually believes them when they say their only goal is to empower “consumers to interact with physicians more effectively.”
Of course the Food … Continue reading
Beware false advertising
As often happens on the internet, while looking for information about one thing, I stumbled across something else I found interesting.
In 2011, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Procter & Gamble for “false labels” on one of their toothpastes. The toothpaste, Crest Sensitivity Treatment & Protection, advertised “relief within minutes” from sensitive tooth pain.
The label promised that users did not “have to wait to enjoy all [their] favorite hot and cold foods.”
Who filed the claim against Procter & Gamble? Colgate-Palmolive, the makers of the line of Colgate toothpastes, including Colgate Sensitive.
The lawsuit … Continue reading
The other day I was in Target shopping for toothpaste, and I thought, “Wow, do Americans really need this many toothpastes?”
At first glance I couldn’t even find the toothpaste I normally use, no doubt because the packaging had changed. It’s probably “new and improved.” Aren’t they all?
Ignoring the hyperbole of “advanced”, “intense” and “extreme”, I started looking at the ingredient lists on the backs of the boxes. I know exactly which ingredients I want to see to get the most effective toothpaste at the lowest price.
For me, the most important ingredient in a toothpaste is fluoride. … Continue reading
The sunshine supplement
Last week I learned that my vitamin D level is slightly below normal. My physician recommended that I take a daily vitamin D supplement of 1000 to 2000 IU.
I didn’t want the test, but what’s done is done. Now I need to decide what the test result means to me, and if I should follow my doctor’s recommendation.
A few years ago, vitamin D was the new wonder supplement. Various studies associated a low vitamin D level with an increased incidence of all kinds of diseases, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, prostate cancer, breast cancer, … Continue reading
The news media recently picked up a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that stated: “…11 percent of school-age children…have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” Boys are diagnosed twice as often as girls.
Some experts in pediatric psychology and psychiatry are concerned that ADHD is being diagnosed too hastily and treated too recklessly with prescription medications, specifically Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta. Sales of these drugs reached $9 billion in 2012. Overall health care costs related to ADHD are in the tens of billions of dollars—and will increase right along with the diagnoses.
Are there … Continue reading
Several years ago, when my son was in middle school, he developed a nasty sinus infection. He didn’t have a fever, and I suspected it was a viral infection that would run its course unaided. I told him this, but he was unimpressed.
Partly to make him feel better, and partly because I wanted my diagnosis confirmed, I made an appointment for him to see our pediatrician.
I had a good relationship with our pediatrician. We shared the same philosophy of watchful waiting and not rushing to order unnecessary tests and prescribe unnecessary drugs.
Unfortunately, it was his day off. … Continue reading
|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
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
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
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