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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pink Pills for Pale People

In my ongoing documentation of medical claims and treatments that are overly promoted despite not having scientific evidence to support that they work as advertised, today’s blog entry turns its focus on Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People. As you can see from the ad below (click to enlarge), this medication was not only said to improve pale complexion, but that it could also cure all nervous diseases, all female weaknesses, all diseases arising from mental worry, over-work, excess, early decay, etc., among many other conditions. Whenever any medical treatments claim to cure all of anything, it is a huge red flag that someone is over-promoting a product.


Other advertisements would describe someone (sometimes a child for maximal emotional impact) suffering from a severe medical condition who could not be saved by any other treatment except for these particular pills. Many advertisements contained the endorsement of a Reverend Enoch Hill, who claimed that the pills cured his headaches and gave him energy. The use of a holy man was not an accident because many people believed that such a person would not lie. Any testimonials or claims of miraculous recoveries were relied on heavily for advertising. Another trick that was used in the marketing was to create advertisements that were difficult to distinguish from genuine news articles.

In 1890, a Canadian physician, Dr. William Jackson, sold a Canadian businessman and politician named George Taylor Fulford the rights to Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People. The Name “Pink Pills for Pale People” was merely a marketing technique used to draw attention to the product (by having four words start with the letter “P”). The rights were sold for $53.01 and would make Fulford a millionaire.

Also in 1890, John Mackenzie, a successful Canadian business man with journalism experience began to work for Fulford and helped publicize the pink pills. Beginning in 1900, the medication was sold by Dr. Williams Medicine Company, which was part of G. T. Fulford & Company. The latter was a company created by Fulford in 1887 to manufacture and distribute similar medications with extensive claims yet little to no evidence to back them up. Despite the lack of scientific evidence, Pink Pills for Pale People became very popular due to what it was claimed to accomplish and was sold in over 80 countries.

In reality, the main ingredient in Pink Pills for Pale People was iron. While the pills could have made some people with anemia feel better due to the iron content, they were much more expensive and did not contain as much iron as the regular iron pills prescribed by physicians. These pills did not require a prescription from a physician as they could be purchased from a pharmacist much like an over the counter medication is purchased today.

As you have probably figured out, Pink Pills for Pale People were not the cure-all they were claimed to be in public advertising. Ironically, only when someone bought the pills and received the official instructions did it say that the pills were not a cure-all (despite still saying in the instructions that the pills cured all conditions in numerous categories). Of course, the instructions say the only way a cure can be obtained is by taking more and more of the medication. One of my favorite sets of instructions had to do with men, which said that in order for the pills to work they needed to avoid lascivious thoughts, conversation, and books, “live a pure and manly life,” and follow many other directives. If one followed all of the instructions, it was said that a cure was sure to follow.

The reason that medications such as these and many other sham medications and treatments today have been successful for a time was because they offered hope for people in hopeless situations. Unfortunately, there will always be many people in such situations, which is why there will continue to be victims of these money-making schemes. Pink Pales for People, however, are no longer sold today. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lucky Strike, Marlene Dietrich, and Suspicious Scientific Claims

If you read my article entitled Five Ways to Evaluate Suspicious Medical Claims, you will see that Step 1 is to search the peer-reviewed medical literature. These days, it is easy to do, with online tools such as PubMed. Decades ago, however, it was not so easy and consumers largely had to rely on the honesty of the company making the claim, which is always a risky proposition because the company has a conflict of interest. A good example is this Lucky Strike cigarette ad in 1950 from actress and singer, Marlene Dietrich (click to enlarge).


Note how the ad days “Scientific tests prove Lucky Strike milder than any other principal brand!” What scientific test? Oh, the one confirmed by an “independent consulting laboratory.” While this ad was used decades ago, similar advertising techniques are still used today. So, if you see claims such as this, here are a few reasons to be skeptical:

1)    It’s a sales ad.
2)    There is no citation for the scientific research study in the advertisement (current scientific literature search shows no published scientific research on whether Lucky Strikes are truly milder).
3)    The supposed independent research lab is not named.
4)    Think creatively about how words can be played with. For example, the company owning Lucky Strike (American Tobacco) could have easily hired an independent consulting company (they don’t work for free) and paid them to “independently” confirm their research interpretations. After all, it does not technically say that the consulting lab ran its own tests. It only says that scientific tests were confirmed by the independent lab. The way the sentence is written leads you with the impression that separate studies were done. But, for all we know, American Tobacco just sent them their own lab results, had them look it over, and paid them to say that their claims were true without actually doing separate research studies.

The other thing to keep in mind, related to point #1, is that American Tobacco, the company that owned Lucky Strike was paying actors and actress huge sums of money for these types of endorsements, particularly for Lucky Strikes. The relationship was mutually beneficial. While American Tobacco benefited from a Hollywood endorsement, cigarette smoking was an essential part of Dietrich’s screen image.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Did You Know that Bayer Marketted & Sold Heroin?

While everyone reading this likely associates the name Bayer with aspirin, most people will be shocked to know that Bayer actually independently created, marketed, and sold heroin (as shown in the bottle above). That’s right…heroin, the highly addictive drug that is now illegal throughout the world. Below is the story of how this came to be and why it was stopped.

To take a step back, heroin was originally invented in 1874 by C.R. Alder Wright, an English chemist and physics researcher. When I say invented, that is because heroin does not occur naturally (unlike, say, marijuana) but needs to be synthesized. It is derived from combining morphine (a strong pain relieving substance) from the poppy plant with two acetyl groups (combinations of methane, carbon, and oxygen). This is why heroin is also known as diacetylmorphine. Wright was trying to a non-addictive alternative to morphine, which was frequently abused at the time and had undesirable side effects. 

In 1897, a chemist (Felix Hoffman) working at Bayer independently re-synthesized heroin under the supervision of his boss, Heinrich Dreser, who was the head of Bayer drug development. They were actually trying to produce codeine but heroin was the result. Still, the end result that is heroin has proven to be just as potent. Dreser tried it on himself and staff and enjoyed the effects it produced. In developing a marketing campaign, Bayer realized that calling it diacetylmorphine was not going to work. They needed a marketing name (trade name) and decided to call it Heroin. That’s right, Bayer came up with the name Heroin. It was so named because it had heroic effects on the user.

Bayer decided to market heroin it as a morphine substitute (to cure addictions to morphine) and cough suppressant (as you can see on the ad above, click to enlarge) from 1898 to 1910. Cough suppressants were important back then due to the problems caused by tuberculosis and pneumonia. Free samples were sent to thousands of doctors and by 1899 Bayer produced a ton of heroin a year (literally) and exported it to 23 countries. Back in those days, heroin was widely accepted as a legitimate medicinal drug, forms of it were available in drug stores, and the American Medical Association approved it in 1906 or 1907.

Despite Bayer’s hopes, it turned out that heroin was highly addictive, up to 4 times stronger than morphine, and rapidly metabolized into morphine once it crossed the blood-brain barrier. Basically, in trying to create an alternative to morphine that was less addictive, they created a faster acting version or morphine that was more addicting and caused rapid onset euphoria. Ooops. There began to be a very high demand for heroin by patients even though they were not in respiratory distress. A new group of addicts was created and numerous hospitalizations resulted. It was a historic embarrassment for Bayer and they ceased production of heroin in 1913 and removed it from their official company history. In case you were curious, the U.S. banned the manufacturing, sale, and importation of heroin in 1924.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A 39-Year Obesity Treatment Fraud

In 1900, the curious little advertisement below appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine that was addressed “To Fat People” (click to enlarge).


If you read my article entitled Five Ways to Evaluate Suspicious Medical Claims, you will see that this ad definitely met the criteria of seeming too good to be true. For example, losing 2 to 8 pounds a week without any radical change in what you eat and without any significant side effects?  You will also see that the weight loss treatment is pitched by someone who claims expertise in causing weight loss, a Dr. H.C. Bradford. He made the extreme guarantee that you will never feel better in your life if you try his treatment. In addition to weight loss, he claimed that problems in organs such as the heart, kidney, and stomach will be remedied. All you have to do is send away for a booklet.

As you can below (click to enlarge), these ads would continue and become even more dramatic, with pictures of “Fat People” who appeared sad and ashamed of themselves or of a thin woman who appeared the desired weight advertised “To Fleshy People.” It was a direct appeal to the emotions and struggles of people with obesity, to compel them to write in for the booklet and get them hooked. The ads below say much of the same as the original Cosmopolitan ad but add that the five-week system is perfected and based on scientific principles and common sense. Really? Even though you can “eat as much and as often as you please.” The claims came down to a 3 to 5 pound of weight loss per week. Another claim was that all patients would receive careful and personal attention whether treated by mail of in person. The name of the place to send information to even sounds pretty legitimate…The United States Medical Dispensary.


Curious, I decided to investigate further. All attempts to find out anything about the “United Stated Medical Dispensary” came up empty, which indicates to me that it was likely just a made up fancy-sounding name to impress potential customers. So then I turned my attention to Dr. H.C. Bradford. At first, all I could find were references to his advertising and nothing about the man. In fact, I have yet to find a copy of his pamphlet that he sent out to patients. If anyone has a copy (or can tell me more about H.C. Bradford), please let me know.


Finally, after continued research, I was able to locate an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association that shed light on the entire scam. The article is called “Bureau of Investigations: Bradford, Brough, Doyle, and Davis: Various Doctors Connected with Promotion of Obesity Cure.” You can read the entire article here, but if you do not care to, here is the summary.

As it turns out, H.Clark Bradford passed away in 1915 and his business was taken over by Dr. F. Thompson Brough. However, the technique sold was still referred to as The Bradford Method. Brough had already been known in the medical community as a quack. He committed suicide in 1930. The business was carried on by a Dr. Frank J. Doyle. After he died in 1939, the business was carried on by Dr. William A. Davis.

Bradford, Brough, and his successors had been selling patients pills with ingredients (e.g., baking soda, oil of peppermint, powdered rhubarb) that had nothing at all to do with weight reduction, were not scientifically proven, and actually could lead to harmful results. While the company claimed that no chemical preparations were used in their pills lab tests showed this was not true.

The Bradford Method was primarily a mail order business and the Post Office and American Medical Association began to investigate it due to concerns of mail fraud. The company continued to claim the specialized medical expertise was being brought to bear to treat obese patients but investigations found that Drs. Doyle and Davis had no such experience. Expert medical testimony showed that these doctors did not have enough information about their patients to prescribed safe, sure, or permanent obesity cures. It was found that The Bradford Method could actually lead to fatal reactions if certain other medical comorbidities were present.

Treatment was actually not individualized to the patient since all patients received the same medications for the first five weeks. Also, five weeks was just the beginning of a process that lured people into 45 weeks of medication use, massage lotion application, and exercises. Medical testimony showed that claims that patients would not be left with wrinkles, flabbiness, or other undesirable residuals were false as was the claim that the treatment with cure problems in the other organ systems. In fact, the ingredients in the pills were known to significantly irritate the gastrointestinal tract. The exercises prescribed were potentially dangerous in certain cases, yet this did not stop them from trying to sell the product to pregnant women.

When questioned under oath. Dr. David admitted he did not know much about metabolism and did not even know the basis used to determine a calorie. He claimed to be an expert on medications but could not answer basic some basic medication questions asked of him. He was forced to admit that many of the claims made in the advertisements were untrue. On 12/1/39, a fraud order was issued against the company, banning them from further use of the mail. And thankfully, that was the end of that, but many fraudulent medical claims and activities persist to this day which people need to be continuously on the look out for.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Natural Ways to Treat Mild Depression

At some point in life, mild depression affects everyone. Life is full of ups and downs and a person’s mood can be just as bumpy. Instead of drowning sorrows in pain-numbing methods such as excessive drinking, drug use or over-indulgence in food, there are healthy ways to actually trick the brain into being happy.


Here are five ways to boost your brain into creating more endorphins and thus create a feeling of natural happiness:

1. Daily Exercise

The immediate benefit of exercise is a better mood. Breaking a sweat literally clears the body and mind of toxins. In addition, mild physical exertion causes the brain to cope with this exertion by producing endorphins. Endorphins make us feel happy for the entire day.

2. Small Doses of Daily Sunshine

Small doses of sun have been scientifically proven to replenish the body of vitamin D. Vitamin D is known to improve mood and to support emotional well-being. Furthermore, the warmth of the sun causes the body to sweat. This sweat clears the body of toxins. The sun also emits infrared rays that heal various ailments and skin conditions.

3. Give Up Fried Foods

You certainly don’t have to give up fried foods forever. Just give them up until your mood improves. Then, eat fried foods sparingly. Fried foods deposit high levels of fat and grease in your body. Since the body and mind are connected, the mind is unhappy when the body is fed junk.

4. Make a Phone Call

Reaching out and connecting with another human being is healing. If a good friend isn’t available, contact a depression help online such as Depression Connect. When we suffer with mild depression alone, we live in our head and feed our own negative thoughts. Reaching out to another person will force you to take your attention off yourself and focus on someone else for a bit.

5. Help Someone Else

Force yourself to see how the other side lives. That is, spend time volunteering at a soup kitchen or any other charity that is in need of help. Seeing how hard other people have it can snap you out of any sad feeling you are entertaining.

If you are experiencing bouts of melancholy, take comfort and know that you are not alone. If you are having suicidal thoughts or your depression is not lifted by any of the above-mentioned methods, seek the help of a medical professional right away. You may be suffering with clinical depression or another treatable condition.

Note: The above entry is a guest blog entry.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Nervine: A Vintage Medication Pitched to Stressed Out Moms

Funny how now matter how much time passes, some themes never seem to change, such as the image of the stay-at-home mom stressed out by taking care of her children. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, here is a vintage medical ad (click to enlarge) for Nervine, which was indicated for anxiety, sleeplessness, or restlessness, complete with a money back guarantee. Nervine was available in liquid or effervescent form and it had a large female following.

Nervine was not only sold as a treatment for anxiety, sleeplessness, and restlessness but also for exhaustion, epilepsy (seizure disorder), spasms, fits, pain (including backache, headache, and nerve pain), depression, and St. Vitus dance. St. Vitus dance is a disease characterized by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements mainly affecting the face, feet, and hands.

In the general sense, a “nervine” is a plant that has some type of positive effect on the nervous system. However, the active ingredient in Nervine was bromide (a form of bromine), which was once used as a sedative and an anti-convulsant (a medication used to treat seizures). While Nervine was claimed to be “…among the safest of effective medications to clam the nerves” this was not the case. The problem is that excess consumption of bromide can lead to bromism, which is a condition that leads to various psychiatric, neurological, gastrointenstinal, and dermatological symptoms.

Bromine and/or forms of bromine (e.g., bromides) are currently used in pesticides, disinfectants, flame retardants, as a gasoline additive, and for swimming pool maintenance. Its use has been limited in the U.S. but is still contained in some food products. Bromine has no known essential role in human health. The FDA does not currently approve bromine for the treatment of any disease and it was removed from all over the counter sedatives in 1975.

Nervine was the product of Dr. Franklin Miles, who started Dr. Miles Medical Company (which became Miles Laboratory in 1935) in Elkhart, Indiana. The company was in existence independently from 1885 to 1979, at which point it became a subsidiary of Bayer until 1995. The company achieved its initial success from Nervine, which led to a popular mail-order business and a free publication called Medical News which was really an advertising platform for the product. Nervine (which was often referred to as Dr. Miles Nervine) was taken off the market as a curative medication in the 1960s.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cocaine Tooth Drops

Many people are aware that Coca-Cola used to contain a small amount of cocaine in the product but what many people may not know is that cocaine was widely used in many mainstream medical products back in the day, even for children. A good example is a real advertisement shown here for Cocaine Toothache Drops (click to enhance image).

The product claimed to produce and instant cure from toothache, which is probably correct since it has known anesthetic properties. The problem is that it can cause significant restriction of blood vessels, heart damage, and other negative effects throughout the body.

Cocaine Toothache Drops cost 15 cents when they were available (first registered in 1885; last sold in 1914). They were prepared by the Lloyd Manufacturing Co. in Albany, N.Y. and sold by pharmacists (known as druggists back then). No prescription was needed. Prior to 1914, cocaine was legal in the U.S.

In the times these drops were sold, cocaine was not considered harmful in moderate doses, which is a reminder of how commonly accepted medical advice today may some day be provided incorrect.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Junior Seau did NOT suffer 1500 concussions

In one of the most eye-catching headlines regarding the death of Junior Seau related to the pre-mature speculation that concussions caused him to commit suicide was the unfounded claim by a former teammate (Gary Plummer) that he suffered 1500 concussions (mild traumatic brain injuries) in a story run by USA Today. In the article, it states the following regarding Seau:

“If a 'Grade 1' concussion means you see stars after a hit, Plummer says he's had 1,000 in his career, and his ex-teammate, Junior Seau, had 1,500.”


The problem with this line of reasoning is that the premise is incorrect. Concussion grading scales were popularized by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in 1997. AAN described three grades of concussion, with higher grades reflecting a more significant injury. Grade 1 criteria are described as follows:

1.    Transient confusion.
2.    No loss of consciousness
3.    Concussion symptoms or mental status abnormalities on examination resolve in less than 15 minutes.

Grade 1 concussion is the most common yet the most difficult form to recognize. The athlete is not rendered unconscious and suffers only momentary confusion (e.g., inattention, poor concentration, inability to process information or sequence tasks) or mental status alterations. Players commonly refer to this stat as having been “dinged” or having their bell rung.”

There is nothing mentioned at all about seeing stars which is why Plummer’s premise is incorrect as are all of the subsequent calculations that lead to the 1500 concussion number. Alteration of mental status can refer to disorientation (e.g., not knowing where you are or what happened), post-traumatic amnesia, or retrograde amnesia, but not seeing stars. It can also refer to loss of consciousness, but loss of consciousness is not counted in Grade 1.

Seeing stars (technically known as photopsia) can technically caused by an infarctive (lack of oxygen) stroke in the occipital lobe (the visual processing area of the brain) but that is far different from a concussion. Most often, seeing stars is caused by mechanical stimulation of the nerves of the eye, which can occur after forces are applied to the head after a hit, but again, this is not the same as a brain injury.

You can easily cause the experience of seeing stars for benign reasons as well right now. Just take your two index fingers, gently press your eyelids when your eyes are closed, and you can see stars when your eyes are closed and even more so when they are open. Did you just give yourself a brain injury? Of course not. Certain medications (e.g., quetiapine, voriconazole) are known to cause photopsia. Other causes include retinal damage, ocular melanoma (cancer), and migraine headaches. When the retina is irritated, electrical impulses are discharged, which are interpreted by the brain as flashes of light (e.g., stars). It’s that simple.

To be fair to Plummer, he stated that he received his information from a concussion seminar in the 1990s, but if his recall of what he was told is accurate, then he was provided incorrect information.

Related Article: Does Second Impact Syndrome Exist?

Reference: AAN (1997). Practice parameter: The management of concussion in sports (summary statement), 48, 581-585.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Acne 101: A Primer

Causes of Acne
Acne is a condition that affects 20% of adults in the United States, approximately 60 million Americans. It affects all ages, races, and genders and, unfortunately, is one of the more stigmatized medical conditions, causing many people to experience significant depression and social alienation.

Additionally, treating acne can be a difficult, time-consuming ordeal and can sometimes still leave behind scars. Some sufferers seek acne scar treatment to erase the lesions left behind from bad cases of acne.

Most people associate acne with the hormones released during adolescence. While this is certainly a common source, it is not the only one. There are in fact, multiple causes for acne and each one may require a different treatment. Here are the 5 main causes of acne:

Hormones

Again, the most commonly associated cause of acne is the hormones released during adolescence. During puberty, male sex hormones create more androgen, which enlarges follicle glands and increases production of sebum. Other hormonal causes of acne include menopause, pregnancy and menstrual cycles.

Genes

Acne is not always genetic, but a predisposition to it can run in families. This predisposition can also make children more susceptible to acne lesions and scars.

Stress

Medical experts are still debating the role of stress in acne, but most agree that it does contribute to and, in some cases, cause acne. Many clinical studies have shown that high levels of stress (which are know to create hormonal imbalances) contribute to worsening acne conditions.

Infection

An anaerobic bacterium known as P. acnes causes acne, as does Staphylococcus epidermis. What is still unclear is whether these strains arise pathogenically or in relation to other adverse factors.

Diet

People often think that high sugar levels are what cause acne when really it is a matter of the glycemic load (GL) someone is consuming. The GL index determines how much a person’s blood glucose will rise. To be sure, foods with high sugar levels dominate the top of this list. Most commercial sodas and pastries contribute to worsening acne.

Treatment

Treatments for acne run the gamut from first line medications, antiseptics, antibiotics, hormones, topical retinoids, and anti-inflammatories to cosmetic procedures like dermabrasion, phototherapy light exposure, laser treatment and even surgery. People also try alternative medicines like egg oil, tea tree oil, and aloe vera. Natural treatments include dietary changes and exercise. Consult a doctor before pursuing any acne treatment.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Top Medical News: Obesity Epidemic, Dementia and Depression, Breast Cancer Detection & More

Rather than navigating to a variety of websites to stay on top of the top daily medical news, try bookmarking the MedFriendly Blog and using this feature, where the day's top medical stories are compiled all in one place.

1. Forty-two percent of US may be obese by 2030: study: Forty-two percent of the US population could be obese by 2030, up from about one-third currently, and the associated rise in health woes would likely cost $550 billion over two decades, said a study on Monday.

2. Depression in middle age linked to dementia: People who have symptoms of depression in middle age may be at increased risk of dementia decades later, a new study suggests.

3. Eating Well Without the Flavor of Shame: In his new book, the veteran food writer Peter Kaminsky writes that by maximizing flavor, you can satisfy your food cravings with smaller portions.

4. Is Workout Supplement Ingredient DMAA Safe?: Researcher Calls on FDA to Ban Speed-Like Ingredient DMAA.

5. Zinc Pills May Shorten Colds, Analysis Suggests: Those suffering from the common cold will try almost anything to relieve their symptoms, but a cure has yet to be found.

6. Curry Ingredient May Have Cancer Treatment Benefits: New research reveals that curcumin, found in the curry ingredient turmeric, may significantly reduce side effects for bowel cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and help them to be able to go through treatment longer.

7. Idaho infant dies from whooping cough: Whooping cough took the life of a 9-week-old girl from Idaho this week, the first death from an outbreak of the highly contagious respiratory disease that has hit Idaho, Washington state and Montana, health officials said on Friday.

8. Mothers like chubby toddlers, study suggests: And nearly 70 percent unable to correctly assess their child's body size.

9. Range of brain diseases could be treated by single drug: The tantalising prospect of treating a range of brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, all with the same drug, has been raised by UK researchers.

10. Mammograms Beat Thermography for Breast Cancer Detection: Newer technology missed half of tumors and yielded many false positives, researchers say.

11. Greater Purpose in Life May Protect Against Harmful Changes in the Brain Associated With Alzheimer’s Disease: Greater purpose in life may help stave off the harmful effects of plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center.

12. Lab worker killed by rare bacteria was UC Berkeley grad who wanted to combat disease with science: A lab researcher apparently killed by the bacteria he was studying at the San Francisco VA Medical Center had dedicated himself to combating fatal diseases after a relative's death, said those who knew him.

13. Massive rise in Asian eye damage: Up to 90% of school leavers in major Asian cities are suffering from myopia - short-sightedness - a study suggests.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Top Medical News: Joggers Live Longer, Spouses and Dementia, Gym Mistakes, Meningitis Vaccine & More

Rather than navigating to a variety of websites to stay on top of the top daily medical news, try bookmarking the MedFriendly Blog and using this feature, where the day's top medical stories are compiled all in one place.

1. Joggers Live Much Longer: Results from the Copenhagen City Heart study reveals that regular jogging considerably increases life expectancy of men by 6.2 years and women by 5.6 years. In order to gain the optimum benefits for longevity the researchers recommend jogging at a slow or average pace for between one to two and half hours per week.

2. Bayer challenges India cancer drug ruling: German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG has challenged a ground-breaking Indian ruling that allowed a local firm to produce a vastly cheaper copy of its patented drug for kidney and liver cancer.

3. Five Common Mistakes You’re Making at the Gym: Hitting the gym every day is great — unless you're doing it wrong. We've asked fitness experts to help tweak your workout to make it more effective.

4. When Illness Makes a Spouse a Stranger:
Like many others, Ruth French finds herself grappling with her spouse’s frontotemporal dementia, a group of brain diseases that eat away at personality and language.

5. Multitasking Makes You Feel Good: Though Not Productive, Multitasking Fills Emotional Needs, Study Shows.

6. Germs Behind Urinary Tract Infections Becoming More Resistant to Drugs: E. coli bacteria’s resistance to ciprofloxacin (Cipro), the most widely prescribed antimicrobial for urinary tract infections in the United States, increased five-fold between 2000 and 2010, according to a new study.

7. Argentine 'miracle baby' tiny but stable a month on: An Argentine baby who was mistakenly declared dead and whose parents found her breathing in the morgue 12 hours later has survived her first month of life, weighing in at just under 1 kilo (2.2 pounds).

8. Early well-child check-ups can help identify children at risk of emotional, behavioral problems: A new study suggests clinicians might be able to identify children at risk of later emotional or behavioral problems by paying attention to a few key signs during early well-child check-ups.

9. Researchers closer to meningitis vaccine: Australian researchers say they are a step closer to developing a vaccine against the type of meningitis that mostly affects Europe and North America and kills hundreds every year.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Top Medical News: Can Email Kill You? Fertility Birth Defects, Breast Cancer Treatment, & More

Rather than navigating to a variety of websites to stay on top of the top daily medical news, try bookmarking the MedFriendly Blog and using this feature, where the day's top medical stories are compiled all in one place.
1. Taking E-Mail Vacations Can Reduce Stress, Study Says: You probably don’t need a doctor or scientist to tell you this, but your e-mail could be killing you.

2. Fertility treatment babies prone to 'serious defects': Children conceived with the aid of fertility treatments are more likely to be born with serious physical defects, according an Australian study published on Saturday.

3. Asthma an Often Unrecognized Risk for Older People: Study Shows That Older Adults With Asthma Often Face Serious Health Risks

4. Swaddling Infants Too Tightly May Cause Hip Problems: When swaddling an infant, make sure to leave the blankets loose enough to allow leg and hip movement, experts say.

5. Sports & Energy Drinks Damage Teeth: Sports drinks hit the wire today with a red light that their level of acidity is increasingly responsible for irreversible damage to teeth, especially amongst adolescents and younger adults, their predominant target market.

6. Recalled dog food tied to salmonella outbreak: At least 14 people in nine states have been sickened by a rare strain of salmonella linked to contaminated dry dog food, government health officials reported.

7. Squirrel tests positive for plague at California campsite: A ground squirrel trapped at a popular campground in southern California has tested positive for plague. 

8. Radiofrequency ablation during breast cancer surgery can provide effective alternative to XRT: Radiofrequency ablation of the lumpectomy site during breast cancer surgery can provide an effective alternative to post-operative external radiation therapy (XRT) and reduce repeat surgeries to achieve clear tumor margins, according to one of the first published long-term studies to examine this new treatment protocol.

9. Early Noninvasive Paternity Test Based on SNPs Is Accurate: A new test, based on single-nucleotide polymorphisms, that only requires a maternal blood sample can correctly identify paternity as early as 8 weeks' gestation, according to a letter published in the May 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Top Medical News: Cheese Lowers BP, Bees Treat Prostate Cancer, Black Pepper Fights Fat, & More

Rather than navigating to a variety of websites to stay on top of the top daily medical news, try bookmarking the MedFriendly Blog and using this feature, where the day's top medical stories are compiled all in one place.
   
1. Cheese, please: Could a little Grana Padano drop your BP?: Integrating a type of Italian cheese, Grana Padano, into the usual diet of mildly hypertensive patients not taking any ACE inhibitors or angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) resulted in a significant drop in mean blood pressure of 7 to 8 mm Hg compared with control patients, preliminary research shows.

2. Indian drug giant Cipla slashes cancer drug prices: Indian generic drug giant Cipla said Friday it had slashed by up to 76 percent prices of three anti-cancer medicines in what it called a "humanitarian" move and promised to cut the costs of more products.

3. Beastie Boy dead at 47: What is salivary gland cancer?: It's extremely rare for people to be diagnosed with salivary gland cancer. Most Americans who get it are older than 55.

4. Discrepancies on Medical Bills Can Leave a Credit Stain: As patients assume more of the responsibility for costs, complex billing and more aggressive collection by providers are resulting in negative credit report data that lingers for years.

5. Black Pepper May Help Fight Fat: Pungent Ingredient in Black Pepper Targets Fat Cells

6. Rising Obesity Rates Might Mean More Rheumatoid Arthritis: A new study suggests that severe weight gain might raise the risk for rheumatoid arthritis — a painful, chronic ailment — especially among obese women.

7. Nanotechnology In Medicine: Huge Potential, But What Are The Risks?: Nanotechnology promises to revolutionize drug delivery, gene therapy, diagnostics, and many areas of research, development and clinical application.

8. Amish farm kids remarkably immune to allergies-study: Amish children raised on rural farms in northern Indiana suffer from asthma and allergies less often even than Swiss farm kids, a group known to be relatively free from allergies, according to a new study.

9. Dental dilemma: Do kids need sealants?: Dental sealants are recommended for children when their permanent molars come in, but only a fraction of kids actually get them, say dentists who call the process one of the most under-used treatments to prevent decay in adult teeth.

10. Squirrel tests positive for plague at California campsite: A ground squirrel trapped at a popular campground in southern California has tested positive for plague.

11. Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice launched at EuroPRevent2012: The latest cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention guidelines have been overhauled to produce a user friendly document with concise messages that awards greater weight than ever before to evidence from clinical trials and observational population studies.

12. FDA says study overestimated non-compliance with data-reporting laws: US drug regulator finds no evident harm caused by sponsors failing to post drug-trial data.

13. Beehive Extract Shows Potential as Prostate Cancer Treatment: An over-the-counter natural remedy derived from honeybee hives arrests the growth of prostate cancer cells and tumors in mice, according to a new paper from researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine.

Friday, May 04, 2012

CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) and Suicide Link is Premature Speculation

With the recent suicide of Junior Seau from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, there is once again widespread speculation that the death was caused by possible chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a broad term used to refer to repetitive, often subclinical (e.g., asymptomatic), injury to the brain from a variety of contact sports and other causes. Whether or not Seau had this condition (his brain was just donated for scientific study to determine this), it is premature to speculate that he killed himself because of the condition.

Personally, I have never bought into the supposed link between CTE and suicide, as if people are mindlessly controlled to take their lives due to a distant history of concussions that may never have never been documented or known about. Are we to believe that Junior Seau seemed fine and jovial the week prior to his death and that CTE (which is a chronic condition) suddenly took control of his mind and caused him to shoot himself in the chest? That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Many of these player's had ample non-neurological explanations (e.g., business failings, federal indictments, depression about lack of post-career football success) for why they would commit suicide. I explain this more in an upcoming chapter on CTE that I wrote with Dr. Shane Bush:


Carone, D., Bush, S. (2012, in press). Dementia pugilistica and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. In R. Dean & C. Noggle (Eds.), Cortical Dementias.  New York:  Springer. 


In Seau’s case, we do not yet know what troubles he may have been experiencing in his life that led him to commit suicide and it is unclear if we will ever know since he did not leave a suicide note. But, the fact is that people kill themselves or try to kill themselves every day, even if they are perceived by others as successful in life. Many people put on a social mask to hide their inner distress from others and are unaware of the emotional distress that someone else may be experiencing. It is known Seau was divorced and was arrested in 2010 for history of domestic violence towards his ex-girlfriend. Hours later, he survived a 100-foot fall down a cliff in his SUV after he claimed he fell asleep. Perhaps, but it is also possible that this was an earlier suicide attempt in reaction to the events from hours earlier. The bottom line is that it is unclear if there was any family matters that could have contributed to his recent actions. 

For those who speculate that CTE caused Seau to commit suicide, it is important to note that suicide is an act that is completed or attempted by many professional and college athletes, including outside the NFL such as college basketball, professional basketball, college baseball, professional baseball, professional golf, and professional tennis players. Do all these athletes have CTE too? Are scientists hunting down their families to have them donate their brains for analysis? Not to my knowledge. Here is just a partial listing of many athletes who have killed themselves even if they didn't actually have a history of concussions or repetitive head trauma.

1. Thomas Emma (Duke basketball player)

http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/blog/the_dagger/post/ex-duke-basketball-captain-dies-in-apparent-suicide-attempt?urn=ncaab,wp3264

2.
Jim Dinwiddie (Kentucky basketball player)

http://www.kentucky.com/2012/02/07/2059865/former-uk-wildcat-basketball-player.html

3.
Mel Turpin (Kentucky basketball player)

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/417496-mel-turpin-80s-basketball-star-commits-suicide

4. Troy Raymond (NBA and college basketball player):

http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/08/16/former-nba-current-college-referee-commits-suicide/

5. Nine other basketball players:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Basketball_players_who_committed_suicide

6. Erica Blasberg (professional golfer)

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20014634-504083.html

7. Mike Flanagan (MLB player)

http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-08-25/sports/29951521_1_flanny-mike-flanagan-orioles-owner-peter-angelos

8. Hideki Irabu (MLB player)


http://keepingscore.blogs.time.com/2011/07/29/hideki-irabu-a-one-time-baseball-sensation-meets-a-sad-end/

9. Stephan Gant (top MLB prospect)

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/vanderbilt-baseball-signee-mlb-draft-prospect-stephen-gant-dies-apparent-suicide-040412

10. Jennifer Capriati (professional tennis player, attempted suicide)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1290590/Jennifer-Capriati-attempted-suicide-depression-failed-tennis-career.html


Also see the entries entitled, Junior Seau did NOT suffer 1500 concussions and Does Second Impact Syndrome Exist?  \

Top Medical News: Junior Seau, Myeloma, Avian Flu, Alzheimer's, Choline, & More

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1. Autopsy conducted on body of NFL star Junior Seau: Medical authorities conducted an autopsy on Thursday on the body of Junior Seau, a day after the former star San Diego Chargers linebacker died of an apparent suicide in his beachfront California home, a coroner's official said.

2. US health care spending highest, Japan lowest: study: A study of 13 industrialized countries released Thursday showed Japan spends the least on health care, while the United States spends the most without providing superior care for the money.

3. Ethicist: We need safer drugs for our kids: Today, four out of five children hospitalized in the U.S. are given medications that were never tested for them.

4. Fewer Teens Are Having Sex: Use of Highly Effective Birth Control Also Increasing.

5. Overly Long Pregnancies Linked to Behavioral Problems in Toddlers: Children born after a longer-than-normal pregnancy are at increased risk for behavioral and emotional problems, a new study suggests.

6. Avian Flu Study Finally And Fully Published: After endless toing and froing over whether two studies that demonstrated how bird flu, also known as avian H5N1 influenza, or avian flu, should be published, one of them has appeared in the latest issue of the journal Nature in its entirety.

7. How does the FDA monitor your medical implants? It doesn't, really: Each prescription drug you take has a unique code that the government can use to track problems. But artificial hips and pacemakers? They are implanted without identification, along with many other medical devices.

8. Study: Omega-3s may help lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease: Eating foods such as chicken, fish and nuts may help lower blood levels of a protein strongly associated with Alzheimer's disease and memory problems, according to new research.

9. Increased maternal intake of choline better for the baby: Pregnant women may have added incentive to bulk up on broccoli and eggs now that a Cornell University study has found increased maternal intake of the nutrient choline could decrease their children's chances of developing hypertension and diabetes later in life.

10. Multiple Myeloma Detection Better with CT Scans: A new study of finds low-dose, whole body CT scans are nearly four times better at detecting multiple myeloma than radiographic skeletal survey, which is currently the standard approach in the United States.

11. Low Oxygen Levels Could Drive Cancer Growth, Research Suggests: Low oxygen levels in cells may be a primary cause of uncontrollable tumor growth in some cancers, according to a new University of Georgia study. The authors' findings run counter to widely accepted beliefs that genetic mutations are responsible for cancer growth.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Top Medical News: Garlic Beats Antibiotics, Soy for Hotflashes, Infertility, Asthma and more

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1. Garlic Compound Fights Source of Food-Borne Illness Better Than Antibiotics: Researchers  have found that a compound in garlic is 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics at fighting the Campylobacter bacterium, one of the most common causes of intestinal illness.

2. Clinical trials often fall short: US study: Most clinical trials for cancer, heart disease and mental health are too small to offer adequate medical evidence, said a review of the US database of such studies released on Tuesday.

3. Facebook encouraging organ donations: On average, 18 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant. Billionaire Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg wants to change that.

4. Letting Families Stay in the Trauma Ward: Having family members and other loved ones present in the trauma ward when children are being treated has no detrimental effect on their care, a new study reports.

6.The Worst Cities in the U.S. for Asthma: Memphis, New Haven, and Knoxville Top List of 'Asthma Capitals'

7. Sleep Curbs Influence of Obesity Genes: If you’re genetically predisposed to be overweight, the amount of sleep you get each night could make a big difference in how influential those genes are, a new study suggests.

8. Touch And Hearing Impaired By Gene Mutation: Two of the 5 human senses - hearing and touch - have a common genetic basis.

9. ER visits after drinking may not be covered: Laws in more than half the states permit insurers to deny payment for medical services related to alcohol or drug use and that can derail hospitals’ best intentions, experts say. Faced with the prospect of not getting paid for care, some emergency department personnel may sidestep the problem by simply not testing patients’ blood or urine for alcohol.

10. New procedure drastically cuts tattoo removal time: Called the R-20 technique, patients can begin to see results in just one session. 

11. Couples with infertility and miscarriages offered detailed embryo screening with 99% accuracy: New research will soon enable couples with infertility and miscarriage and those carrying genetic disease and abnormalities to access advanced embryo screening.

12. Bariatric surgery maintains, doesn’t gain: Once a fast-growing procedure, its numbers have plateaued because of the deep recession and other societal forces.

13. Does soy help cool hot flashes after all?: Despite a good amount of evidence to the contrary, a new research review suggests that soy supplements can indeed help women find relief from menopausal hot flashes.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Top Medical News: Pesticides & Brain Damage, Breast Feeding, Migraines, Pancreatic Cancer, & More

Rather than navigating to a variety of websites to stay on top of the top daily medical news, try bookmarking the MedFriendly Blog and using this feature, where the day's top medical stories are compiled all in one place.

1. Pesticide exposure linked to brain changes, study: When pregnant women are exposed to moderate levels of a common pesticide, their children may experience lasting changes in brain structure linked to lower intelligence, a US study said Monday.

2. Technology Eases Migraine Pain in the Deep Brain: New brain stimulation technology can prevent debilitating migraine attacks from occurring, a new study suggests.

3. Research questions impact of pacifiers on disrupting breast-feeding: New research, however, casts doubt on the notion that pacifier use disrupts breast-feeding.

4. E.R. Doctors Face Quandary on Painkillers: Overuse of narcotics and addiction are an issue, but emergency physicians often lack the training and tools to effectively help patients complaining of tooth pain and seeking prescription painkillers.

5. One Baby per Hour Born Drug Dependent: Researchers Say It's a Growing Maternal and Child Health Problem in the U.S.

6. Having Kids Doesn’t Inspire Adults to Eat Healthier: Study: Starting a family does not lead young adults to eat healthier in order to set a good example for their children, a new study says.

7. Pancreatic Cancer - Drug May Target Faulty Gene In 15% Of Patients: A new class of cancer drug which targets a faulty gene might be effective in treating some aggressive pancreatic cancers

8. FDA advisers back HeartWare blood pump device: HeartWare International Inc won a U.S. advisory panel's support on Wednesday for its most important product -- a blood pump that helps people with severe heart failure.

9. Stressed moms more likely to overfeed their babies: Mothers under stress may be particularly prone to over-feeding their infants, a new study suggests.

10. As America's waistline expands, costs soar: The additional medical spending due to obesity is double previous estimates and exceeds even those of smoking, a new study shows.

11. 54% doctors support denying treatment to smokers and the obese until they quit or lose weight: Many doctors have come forth with their support of the measures to deny treatment to smokers and the obese, according to a survey.

12. Physicians fight “unworkable” Medicare overpayment rule: More than 100 physician organizations adamantly oppose a requirement that practices keep 10 years of records to identify possible excess pay.

13. Hospital Debt Collector Draws Scrutiny: A member of Congress is calling for a full-scale investigation into the reportedly questionable debt collection practices of a company accused of harassing patients in emergency rooms into paying their bills.

14. Health Insurers to Pay $1.3 Billion in Rebates: Health insurance companies' shares fell Thursday as independent study showed that health insurers will pay $1.3 billion in rebates.