Last week, a series of clinical trial results were released showing complete eradication of the hepatitis C virus from 440 patients. The new drugs, sofosbuvir and ledipasvir, are being hailed as a “triumph of modern medical technology,” but the steep price tag means treatment will only reach a handful of patients who could benefit from the medication.
Hepatitis C is an infection that attacks the liver leading to inflammation. This chronic disease can be contracted through:
- Drug use with an IV needle – particularly if the needle is shared
- Unprotected sex with someone who has the disease
- Blood from infected person coming in contact with healthy blood of another (cut, or eyes/nose/mouth)
Results were published by the New England Journal of Medicine, reporting that the cocktail of sofosbuvir and lediapasvir, given once daily in tablet form, resulted in a, “high rate of sustained virologic response,” meaning the infection has permanently cleared. Long term monitoring of the patients involved in the study will be ongoing to determine if the disease will remain cured.
Welcome spring! Time for short sleeves, flip-flops, picnics, and afternoons spent soaking up our fair share of vitamin D. Revelers beware, those rays of sun may feel good on our pasty winter skin, but if you’re not using sun block, you’re putting yourself at risk for skin cancer.
For some of you on the East coast, I know it’s hard to believe spring is here since you’re still dodging mounds of snow delivered by a relentless winter but really and truly, it’s time to plan for those upcoming outdoor activities.
No one is immune to carcinoma, not even Wolverine
A few months ago, X-Men star and all around tough guy, Hugh Jackman, posted a picture to his Instagram account announcing that after a “spot” on his nose became worrisome, he consulted a dermatologist who confirmed the presence of basal cell carcinoma. The skin cancer was removed and because of early detection and treatment, is not expected to cause further damage.
As a nation of smartphone users, we’ve become reliant on our pocket PCs to check email on the go, look up recipe ingredients in the grocery store, help us locate directions, and a thousand other things we didn’t even know we needed to do. Unfortunately, our little digits were meant to text and scroll for hours at a time.
Now, doctors and orthopedic surgeons are seeing more patients than ever who are complaining of repetitive motion injuries associated with smartphone and other handheld device use.
A case of WhatsAppItis
In Mexico, a pregnant woman came in to see her doctor after she woke up with shooting pains in both wrists. While she was giving her medical history, the woman reported that a few days prior, she’d used her smartphone for six continuous hours sending text messages to family and friends using the WhatsApp messaging app. The patient was officially diagnosed with tenosynovitis (inflammation of the synovium surrounding the tendon), and told to stay off her cell phone. While giving an interview to The Lancet, Dr. Fernandez-Guerrero, of Granada’s General University hospital coined the injury, “WhatsAppItis.”
In an effort to look younger, brighter, fresh-faced, skinnier and boob-buoyant, Americans are spending big bucks on plastic surgery procedures. In a report released by The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAP), statistical data from 2013 shows a 12% jump in overall cosmetic procedures performed in the United States.
The study confirms more than 12 billion dollars was spent on surgical and nonsurgical procedures in 2013. That’s billion, with a “B.” Dear parents, plastic surgery is clearly a solid career path with lucrative dividends so stop whatever you’re doing and research top medical schools for your little ones. Well spent tuition, indeed.
For all the efforts made by social media campaigns to promote healthy body image and encourage people to be comfortable in their own skin, it seems that some would rather alter it instead. And when it comes to banishing those love handles, almost 400,000 people decided to go the suck-fat-through-tube route. In 2013, liposuction surpassed breast reduction by 16%, making it the most popular procedure in the nation.
In a surprising change of heart, Seattle pediatrician, Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, now says, iPads and other electronic devices may actually be valuable for little brains, as long as they’re used in moderation. Christakis, who is also a researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, concedes that children age two and under can benefit from 30 to 60 minutes of electronic activity, providing it’s interactive and not just passive viewing.
This is a surprising about-face, considering his direct language in the 2011 guideline he co-wrote for the American Academy of Pediatrics where he declared, “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”
Despite mounting concern over its potency and addictive properties, the new painkiller Zohydro ER was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is now available by prescription. The drug may be available, but that’s not stopping a large coalition from pleading with the FDA to rethink its decision. The coalition, made up of patients, addiction specialists, doctors and lawyers are predicting a, “major loss of life,” related to the drug.
Zohydro is a slow-release, hydrocodone-based drug created for the management of severe and chronic pain sufferers. The problem, some experts say, is with its high potency. The highest dose of Zohydro will contain 5 – 10 times more hydrocodone than Vicodin or Lortab, and that’s in a single pill. According to Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of the advocacy group Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, “It’s a whopping dose of hydrocodone packed in an easy-to-crush capsule. It will kill people as soon as it’s released.”
On Wednesday, actor Seth Rogen visited Capitol Hill to share his family’s personal struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. His six-minute plea for increased government funding and awareness initiatives was emotional and often funny with Rogen telling senators, “Thank you for the opportunity to be called an expert at something, ’cause that’s cool.” Rogen’s brief trip to Washington was inspired by his mother-in-law who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 55.
As a spokesperson for the National Alzheimer’s Association, Rogen is committed to calling attention to a devastating progressive disease that affects millions, and is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and the health care costs associated with it are staggering. Seth, along with his wife Lauren, started the fundraising effort, “Hilarity for Charity,” to raise money for families directly impacted by Alzheimer’s, and to help fund cutting edge research.
During his speech, Seth talked about the charity saying, “The situation is so dire it caused me, a lazy, self-involved, generally self-medicated man-child to start an entire charity organization.”
Heroin is cheap, highly accessible and it’s fast-becoming the go-to drug for teens and adults in every income bracket across the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2011, over 4.2 million Americans reported using heroin at least once in their life. Heroin overdose is at an all-time high despite the existence of a drug that can quickly reverse the effects – naloxone.
Heroin is an illegal, addictive form of morphine, and cheaper than its opioid cousins including Demerol, oxycodone, fentanyl and Percocet. Using the drug produces a feeling of euphoria, often within seconds if the drug is injected. It can also be snorted and smoked. Heroin can be cut (mixed) with a variety of different substances to reduce or increase the potency including natural ingredients like baking powder, starch, and sugar, but also with other drugs and even poison. Users are never completely sure about the strength, leading to thousands of overdose cases every year.
Last year, states like Kentucky, Wisconsin and Chicago reported a significant increase in deaths from heroin abuse and overdose, furthering the request by family members, friends, social workers and EMT personnel, for more states to make naloxone available to the public. Naloxone (Narcan) can be given via nasal spray or as an injection. If administered in time, the medication works within minutes to counteract heroin’s depression of the central nervous and respiratory symptoms by running blocker and adhering to brain receptors. It also creates immediate and sometimes painful withdrawal symptoms.
On Valentine’s Day, millions of women will give candy hearts to their sweeties and doodle hearts in cards, but won’t pay attention to their own tender tickers. Heart disease is the number one killer of adults in America. President Obama has already dubbed February – American Heart Month. In an effort to raise awareness, Clear Channel Communications is releasing a series of public service announcements (PSA) to educate the public about the risk factors of cardiovascular disease , and how to spot the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke.
Clear Channel, in collaboration with The American Heart Association, has committed one million dollars worth of on-air media to spread awareness. For the next two weeks, a portion of Clear Channel’s 840 radio stations across the country will air a humorous PSA voiced by actress, Elizabeth Banks that highlights the signs of a heart attack in women. Other stations will hear a PSA created by the Ad Council listing the warning signs of a stroke.
This isn’t the first time Banks has lent her talent for heart disease education. In 2011, she directed and starred in the short film, “Just a Little Heart Attack,” for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign. The video (below) quickly went viral because it spoke to busy women and mothers across the country who insist, “I just don’t have time for a heart attack.”
What if accessing, sharing and linking medical records between multiple physicians and patients could be made as easy as posting your status on social media? Melissa McCormack, a writer who reviews electronic health records for Software Advice, says she thinks patient information should be shared in a Facebook-like fashion, and she makes a pretty convincing case for it.
This week, Facebook celebrated a milestone birthday. For 10 years, users have been logging in to the uber-popular social media site to connect, discuss current events and post pictures of puppies, babies and what they had for breakfast. Facebook’s international reach has allowed adopted children find their birth parents and a multitude of other examples regarding the site’s vast connectivity options. If Grandma from London can view and “like” a video of her grandson winning the school spelling bee in Iowa, why can’t I look at an x-ray from my outpatient surgery in 2008 without having to make a phone call, sit on hold, sign a waiver and wait for a nurse to send an email or worse, require me to drive to the office?
McCormack suggests her Facebook model is a great way to, “unify single patient records.” Here’s a quick tutorial of how this, “cross-culture” record system would work: