Prevent the overdose of OTC pain medications Recently in the emergency room, I saw a 35-year-old patient -- we’ll call her Jane -- who was vomiting blood. The source of the vomiting turned out to be a bleeding ulcer caused by unintentionally overdosing on ibuprofen. Jane was in pain -- she was taking prescription ibuprofen for her chronic knee pain -- but she was also taking over-the-counter (OTC) ...

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Since 1996, 21 states have approved the legalization of marijuana for medical use. More recently, Washington and Colorado have legalized the use of recreational marijuana, with California and Oregon not far behind. The health risks associated with marijuana have been well documented in a number of studies, but these are secondary to the much greater mortality risk associated with an increased prevalence of the drug: driving under the influence. As is ...

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Twenty-five years ago, the New England Journal of Medicine issued a report on a stunning new medical discovery: Aspirin helps prevent heart attacks. Yes, good ol’ aspirin. Known since the time of Hippocrates for its magical abilities to quell fever and pain, it took only 2,000 years for us to understand the science of it well enough to design a ‘sufficiently powered’ double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial on aspirin’s efficacy in preventing heart attacks. The Physicians’ ...

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that between January 1 and May 23 of this year, there were 288 cases of measles reported in the US. That's more than the total number of cases in any year since 2000, when measles was eliminated in the U.S.. We have got to get more people immunized. Essentially all of the cases were linked to "importations," cases brought in from other countries ...

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Respiratory syncytial virus infection, aka RSV, is a common infection in children. A key aspect of RSV is how poor a job our immune systems do in fighting it off. Virtually all children are infected with RSV during the first few years of life. Not only that, all of us are reinfected multiple times during our lives. Attempts at devising a vaccine for RSV have all been unsuccessful. In fact, ...

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Few medical interventions have been as successful as vaccines in improving public health. Whether they are childhood vaccinations, vaccines to prevent healthy adults from contracting influenza or the more recent HPV vaccine for adolescents, these preventive methods have resulted in dramatic benefits for individuals and the public. We have only to think of the eradication of smallpox and the virtual eradication of poliomyelitis to see the enormous benefits vaccines can bring. ...

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What is going on with generic drug prices? Fran Barker called today. She was in a panic because the cost of her monthly prescription of 150 mg amitriptyline tablets had gone up to $130 from $13 the month before. Amitriptyline has been available in this country since 1961, and the 100 mg strength was on Walmart’s list of $4/month drugs the last time I looked at it a few months ...

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Estrogen therapy and breast cancer: The pharmacist said no It’s not often that I find myself speechless. I have heard all sorts of stories in my office -- as a sexuality counselor, I am often humbled by the trust that people place in me and how much they disclose about their private lives. But one conversation I had with a patient literally made my jaw drop. The patient is a ...

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One thousand dollars per pill? A single treatment course for hepatitis C virus to cost $83,000? How can those prices be justified? The drug-discovery process is a long one, fraught with disappointments and massive investment, no matter what the outcome. Some pharmaceutical companies argue that the high prices charged for their rare “blockbuster” drugs help them recover research and development costs. While drug pricing and drug access are contentious and controversial issues -- ones ...

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“Doctor, what do you think of alternative medicine?” a patient with chronic fatigue syndrome asked me the other day. She was interested in doing something more for her severe fatigue. “Would acupuncture help me?” I paused and, as I have done many times before, answered that my training and most of my clinical experience has been in Western, allopathic medicine. (Ironically, the word “allopathic” was first used as a derogatory term ...

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