When I found out my daughter was allergic to peanuts, she was a year old. She couldn’t have cared less. She was smiling and happy, sitting on my lap in the allergist’s office, blissfully unaware of the big red mark on the side of her face. And I was crying and sad, crushed for that moment that the first challenge had been put in her path. I wasn’t sad that she was different, that ...

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Pharmaceutical companies are brilliant. They make profit off of chemicals that can be potentially life-saving. The list is quite impressive: antibiotics for somebody who would otherwise succumb to sepsis, insulin for someone whose pancreas loses the ability to function, antivirals for chronic viral suppression, antineoplastic agents for somebody whose cells have lost their regulatory mechanisms, just to name a few. The recipe seems to be quite simple: Charge as much money ...

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Recently, friends of ours had a frightening experience: They were on vacation, and ordered takeout from an unfamiliar restaurant. They specifically asked about peanuts: "Are the egg rolls fried in peanut oil? Our daughter has an allergy." The server replied: "No, no peanut oil." And so they ordered the egg rolls. Awhile after eating an egg roll, their school-aged child Anna (not her real name) complained of a tummy ache. Then, nausea. They ...

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We have a vaccine crisis in the this country. Not just the one caused by anti-vaxxers like Jenny McCarthy, scaring Americans away from life-saving childhood vaccines with pseudo-scientific claims about autism. Instead, I’m talking about a bigger crisis, one caused by a dangerously thin supply of vaccines. Wise parents who ignore the blatherings of people like McCarthy may soon arrive at their pediatricians’ offices prepared to vaccinate their children, only ...

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Say the words, "drug addiction," and most of us think of heroin, alcohol, cocaine, or opiates. However, lurking in the shadows is a less talked about epidemic: addiction to benzodiazepines, commonly known as "benzos." I should know because after taking a nighttime dose of lorazepam (Ativan) for about ten years; I finally weaned myself off this and all other prescription sleep medications. About twelve years ago, my father died and then ...

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Treating pain is a notoriously tricky business. But it’s even harder if the medications on which we rely are inappropriately marketed. Last month, a Los Angeles Times investigation of Purdue Pharma asserted that for years, the company falsely elevated the efficacy of its twice-daily OxyContin, a powerful opioid pain reliever. The Times’ review of evidence -- including three decades of court cases, investigations, patient and sales rep ...

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Recently, the CDC announced that its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to stop recommending the nasal spray flu vaccine, FluMist, for anyone. Bottom line: it doesn’t work. Though their recommendation against the use of FluMist still has to be approved by the CDC director to make it “official,” it’s pretty much a done deal. The AAP’s president has already endorsed the announcement, too. Bye, Flumist. We’ll ...

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I sometimes worry that my wife Paula won’t be able to see me grow old. Not that I expect to outlive her. She is four years my junior and has the blood pressure of a 17-year-old track star. It’s her eyesight I’m worried about, because she is at risk for a form of blindness called macular degeneration. Paula is the youngest in a long line of redheads, several of whom ...

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We’ve heard it before: Antibiotics just don’t work for viral infections. Docs know this, and I think most patients know this, but it’s an addiction we’ve had a hard time shaking. Docs overprescribe because it’s fast, it’s easy, and it (might) increase patient satisfaction and return visits. That’s led to a cycle of reinforcing expectations from patients -- who, after all, keep feeling better after the antibiotics. Of course, they do. ...

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In his recent article “Feed Me, Pharma,” ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein has been calling attention to studies showing that the prescribing decisions of doctors are linked to the amount of money that drug companies can bestow on them, usually in the form of meals, travel expenses, tuition support to attend courses, and so on. I find nothing surprising about that, and Ornstein need not be so scrupulous when he clarifies that “the ...

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