The federal government has declared, through its major health policy agencies, that the number of pain patients on opioids and the dosages they are on should be severely restricted.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC), Veteran’s Administration (VA) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have all issued new guidelines within the past year to that effect.  Private insurers are following suit, in many cases refusing to pay for ...

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asco-logo One of the questions that I face (and which I am certain many of us do) concerns the use of alternative therapies. Iron chelation therapy, high-dose vitamin C infusions, Chinese herbs — interest in these therapies and others like them are driven by word-of-mouth (“a friend of a friend”), claims on websites and patients curiosity. Cancer is ...

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Sometimes medicine offers us wonderful, almost unimaginable gifts. Heart attacks that were devastating, life-altering events a few decades ago are now treated with expediency and skill that our grandparents couldn’t imagine. A couple of days pass, and the victim is home with stents in occluded arteries and directions to modify activity and diet. Pneumonia, once the "old person’s friend" (so called because it took the aged to eternity), is far less ...

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Early in our careers, few of us imagined a vaccine could one day prevent cancer. Now there is a vaccine that keeps the risk of developing six Human Papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers at bay, but adoption of it has been slow and surprising low. Although it’s been available for more than a decade, as of 2014 only 40 percent of girls had received the full three doses of the vaccine, ...

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The amount of prescribed medications and the number of individuals taking them are increasing rapidly. The share of Americans taking one or more prescription drugs has risen among all age groups. According to the IMS Health Study, the total spending on prescription drugs in the U.S.  reached $310 billion in 2015. This is almost three times more than total drug expenditures in the year 2000. It is forecasted that the ...

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The Mylan EpiPen debacle may have inadvertently weakened the grip of big pharma on U.S. lawmakers.  Recently, a bill proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders was narrowly rejected by a vote of 52 to 46.  Unexpectedly, 12 Republicans and 1 Independent voted with Senator Sanders in favor of allowing pharmacists and distributors to import cheaper prescription drugs from foreign countries.  The winds of change may finally blow in a bipartisan direction.  ...

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Years ago, after I suffered a deep personal loss, my doctor prescribed Prozac, and I joined the millions of Americans who have taken an antidepressant. A few weeks later, I had my first panic attack — heart racing, sweating profusely, gasping for breath — sensations of terror normally reserved for life-threatening events. Attacks continued every half-hour and were so incapacitating that I could not even leave my house. My doctors ...

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In the United States, the patent protection process — as it relates to the drug industry — has been distorted by the political system, intense lobbying and large campaign contributions. The result has been pricing contrary to the greater good of the nation. Patents originated in ancient Greece. This legal protection assumed greater importance in 15th-Century Venice as a means to protect the nation-state’s glassblowing industry. The first patent granted in ...

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My daughter and I were talking the other day and saying we would like to ask a doctor what his thoughts are about all these ‘natural’ remedies that are available. Recently a friend made the remark, ‘I do everything I can to avoid a doctor.’ I lean more toward the medical system and the knowledge they have acquired over the years rather than relying on these home remedies. What are ...

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“Our son doesn’t get the flu shot, no one in our family does,” she said, with some emphasis on the "no one," inviting me to take a swing. Anticipating futility, I reminded myself that our pediatrics clinic was already forty-five minutes late. This was a scrap better deferred. “Alright,” I said flatly as I moved on with the encounter. This was of course not explicitly, but indeed, implicitly, approving the mother’s ...

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