It is well accepted among health economics wonks that the lion’s share of pharmaceutical company profits come when these companies hold exclusive rights to their products. Once their blockbuster pills go “generic,” competitors enter the marketplace and profits plummet. Consider captopril, a groundbreaking heart failure medication introduced in the early 80s by Bristol-Myers Squibb under the trade name Capoten. After making a fortune for the company, captopril went generic in 1996. ...

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I’ve written before about various forms of complementary and alternative medicine -- most recently about the use of essential oils for serious medical conditions. I’m planning to dive deeper into that topic in an upcoming post. But before I do, I want to take some time to reframe how we think about alternative therapies. And I want to make it clear from the beginning that doctors don’t get paid for prescribing ...

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shutterstock_226013521 Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician who blogs at the Incidental Economist, had a piece published a few weeks ago in the New York Times concluding that adolescents and college kids would be better off -- given a choice of illicit substances -- opting for marijuana over alcohol.  Of course, he would prefer that his kids chose neither.  But he is a ...

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I learned recently that the antipsychotic Abilify is the biggest selling prescription drug in the U.S.  To be a top seller, a drug has to be expensive and also widely used.  Abilify is both.  It’s the 14th most prescribed brand-name medication, and it retails for about $30 a pill.  Annual sales are over $7 billion, nearly a billion more than the next runner-up. Yes, you read that right: $30 a pill.  A little more ...

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The American Heart Association (AHA) recently proposed new guidelines for all doctors to screen and treat for high cholesterol. For doctors and patients to follow, this would result in a large increase in the number of Americans taking statins. One of the things I like about the new proposal is that there is no more chasing a number. This was frustrating for doctors and patients to keep having lab draws and medication ...

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Myth #1: Vaccines work by preventing disease in individuals who are vaccinated. Nope, that’s not actually true -- it’s quite wrong, but in a subtle way. And a misunderstanding of this concept, I think, has led to a lot of mischief. If people understood how vaccines really work, how they can best protect us from disease, it might help overcome some skepticism. Vaccines do indeed prevent diseases in individuals, but that’s ...

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Let’s talk about vaccine ingredients. I am reading less about vaccines causing autism (we all know that theory is utter nonsense, right?) and more about vague concerns regarding the chemicals in vaccines. To begin with, we are surrounded by chemicals. Water (H2O), caffeine (C8H10N4O2), sugar (C12H22O11) are all chemicals.  But perhaps it is the unfamiliar ingredients that people find intimidating. Let’s tackle the ingredients in the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccine ...

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Three years ago I received some of the best news of my life -- that I have dopa-responsive dystonia. (Yes, a neuromuscular disorder was welcome news.) Painful, life-interrupting muscle contractions had made the dystonia diagnosis likely several years before, despite poor response to standard treatments, and I was fighting through graduate school: trying to compensate for medication-induced memory problems, increasing need to work from bed, and a disappearing social life. ...

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Cholesterol pills are one of the great medical advances I’ve witnessed during my professional career. I am talking specifically about a category of medications called statins, drugs like Lipitor and Pravachol. These drugs have prevented probably hundreds of thousands of heart attacks and strokes. Only one problem with these drugs, however: statins won’t help people who don’t take them. And according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, when ...

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There has been an outbreak of measles, a vaccine preventable disease, along with an outbreak of people yelling at each other. There have been angry exchanges between people who would like all children vaccinated according to the recommended guidelines and people who support the rights of parents to choose which vaccines to give their children, if any, and when to give them. There has been much focus on the assertion, ...

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