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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Recently, as I juggled work, family and shoveling, I prepared a lecture on promoting equity in health delivery. My first slide is a picture of the Ebola virus, and as of this morning, my last slide is a map of the ongoing measles outbreak. That’s because this week, we’ve heard a clear public health message from both President Obama and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy: Vaccines are safe and effective. Why is this ...

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shutterstock_140803288 gomerblog A local hospital is trying a new, controversial but more efficient approach to medical care. “We have changed our guidelines, if you want Dilaudid you get Dilaudid, if you want Valium, you get Valium. No questions asked,” CEO Michael Shoemaker told reporters Wednesday. In what experts are calling pure genius, emergency ...

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Many of my patients are taking herbal supplements, or so they think.  This herbal and health supplements industry likely is envied by traditional pharmaceutical companies.  The latter has to spend zillions of dollars proving safety and efficacy to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Many of these drugs are cast aside during the approval process or afterwards when serious side effects become known, or a new medicine is proved safer ...

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As a medical student, I strongly support vaccination.  It works, it's safe, and it doesn't cause autism.  But I also understand why many parents don't believe me and the medical community when we beg them to vaccinate their kids. Medicine has come a long way from "do no harm."  Now we talk about risks and benefits: and none of our tests, medicines, or procedures are without risks.  Increasingly, pharmaceutical companies have ...

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I grew up most of my life avoiding doctors and hospital visits. I never fancied getting shots or blood draws as a child, and without health insurance; I didn’t have much of a choice.  This lack of access is what drew me to volunteer at the county hospital I was born at. Every Wednesday morning, I would report to the pediatric asthma allergy clinic at San Francisco General Hospital. Most ...

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The letters are usually four pages long and begin by saying that my patient has received a temporary supply of the medication I prescribed. Next, there are general paragraphs about how the drug either isn’t on their formulary or the quantity exceeds the plan limits. None of these letters contains a reference to an online formulary physicians can access to compare covered alternatives. Then there are several cumbersome explanations about the appeal ...

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The flu season has really gotten into gear now with 46 of our 50 states reporting widespread influenza activity as of January 3, 2015. Influenza is a virus that infects the respiratory tract, causing sore throat, runny nose, fever, and cough. Rarely people with the flu will have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, but this is not "stomach flu" which is a term some of us use to describe any one ...

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