It’s happened at last: the epitome of ridiculousness in the already pretty ridiculous world of drug prior authorizations. I wish I could say that I made this up. I got a fax from a pharmacy requesting a prior authorization for a brand name drug called Protonix, one of a family of medications used to treat ulcers, acid reflux, and other forms of tummy ache. This happens. Because there are five different ...

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Hardly a day goes by when some news outlet does not report, often breathlessly, some new breakthrough in cancer research. We need to turn a skeptical eye on most of these reports, particularly those that contain information about very preliminary research findings. The always astute Gary Schweitzer gives a good perspective on this in his HealthNewsReview.org; it’s a good site to bookmark if you follow the medical news. News on cancer breakthroughs: Curb your enthusiasm
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Recently a patient of mine brought in a bottle given to her by her acupuncturist. She had turned to acupuncture with my encouragement after traditional medicine fell short at addressing her chronic pain. Indeed, there is data to support the efficacy of acupuncture in the management of chronic pain. I was encouraged to hear that this treatment, often labeled as "alternative," seemed to be helping her substantially. However, my patient’s ...

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If the soul of a free society is free speech, what role is the mind? Anyone and everyone has the right to express their opinion, but nowhere in our country’s founding documents does it say all opinions are based upon fact and reason, or equal in merit.  Recent observations regarding the high and rising hesitancy toward childhood immunizations in our country have me thinking tonight about the tension between personal ...

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The truth about guar gum It is increasingly difficult to find real ice cream.  When reading the ingredient list it is discouraging how many cheap fillers, consistency modifiers, and shelf life extenders are included.  One ingredient, namely guar gum, seems fairly ubiquitous.  So what is guar gum, and why is it found in so many products including ice cream?  Is it “bad” to eat? Guar gum ...

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Herbal medicines make most doctors cringe, laugh, or want to put blinders on and pretend they don’t exist. This is understandable. While allopathic medical education hammers pharmaceutical formulas and mechanisms of action into our brains, we learn little-to-nothing about herbs in medical school. Quite the opposite – we are most often told to uniformly discourage our patients from taking herbs out of concern for safety; a conversation stopper with little ...

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If you believe in vaccines, please speak up If you believe in vaccines, can you speak up? When we are unsure about decisions, we want to know what our friends and loved ones think. This is normal and understandable; after all, these are people who are important to us, people whose opinions we value and trust. We also turn to these people when making medical decisions--including ones about immunizations. While what ...

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Genomics and personalized medicine: Is it really different this time?Another year and another annual meeting for the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago. This is a meeting that regularly attracts many thousands of doctors, researchers, pharmaceutical folks and others interested in the science and business of cancer from around the globe to learn, to discuss, to persuade, to educate on the progress being made in clinical cancer ...

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Approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market a new drug is a critical waypoint along the path to profits for pharmaceutical manufacturers. Unfortunately, recent case studies have illustrated that FDA approval does not necessarily provide assurances of effectiveness and safety. In last month's Georgetown University Health Policy seminar, we discussed two examples, anemia drugs and the diabetes drug rosiglitazone (Avandia), which were ...

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The Food and Drug Administration was created in 1927 in order to carry out the mission of the Food and Drug Act put into effect by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. In the early 1900's and before, medicines killed and maimed people in gruesome ways and adding chemical substances to foods to mask the fact that they were rotten or substandard was felt to need some sort of legal response. The ...

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