Despite representing only 4% of the world’s population, the United States accounted for almost 35% ($326 billion) of the global market for pharmaceutical drugs in 2012. Not surprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry’s business practices, considerable marketing budgets, and substantial profits are hotly debated as part of virtually every health policy discussion. But before addressing the possibility of transcendent evil in that industry, we should pose a more mundane yet critical question: ...

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Now that medical marijuana is legal in Massachusetts and licenses have been awarded for the first twenty dispensaries across the state, you'd guess that my practice is busily preparing to meet the demands of patients seeking marijuana prescriptions for several debilitating conditions including chemotherapy-related nausea and AIDS-related weight loss. You'd guess wrong. Since Massachusetts voters approved legalization of marijuana in 2012 I've received no special training (required for physicians to certify patients as ...

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The death penalty has been in the news lately, what with a "botched" execution in Ohio, using a 2 drug method that Louisiana has also recently adopted for it's administration of the death penalty. These changes come on the heels of a new tactic by death penalty opponents: getting European countries to ban their pharmaceutical manufacturers from exporting drugs that may be used to execute people.  These bans were partially responsible for ...

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At least 12 college students have been diagnosed with Meningitis type B (MenB) this year, and cases like this may spread to other campuses unless the Food and Drug Administration intervenes.  While people of any age can contract the infection that affects the brain and spinal cord, children and people over 60 are more likely to contract the infection.  So, too, are college students because of their close contacts in dormitories and ...

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Kayla wrote in:

Hello!  I am curious what you think about essential oils.  They have recently become incredibly popular in my community, but I am pretty skeptical because so much of the enthusiasm is coming from those who have signed up as ‘distributors’ with doTerra or Young Living (2 essential oil multi-level marketing companies.). The biggest concern I have is that these companies (and all these new distributors) recommend taking many ...

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“I used to be strong, I wrestled the bull,” Sumner Ball said, “but now I can’t even wrestle the rooster.” On the far side of eighty-years-old, he looked lively and trim, and his weathered face hinted at a smile as his blue eyes peered straight into mine. “I think these cholesterol pills are hurting my muscles,” he declared. “I don’t think they’re good for me.” “Is it your back?” I scanned through his last ...

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Drug shortages can jeopardize patient safetyWhen doctors don’t have access to medications that are necessary to successfully perform procedures, patient safety is at risk. Over the past several years, drug shortages have significantly impacted the health care industry, making it not only difficult for physicians to do their jobs, but for patients to receive optimal care. For some reason, though, this issue hasn’t ...

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Every once in a while a brilliant investigative journalist can get us back on track when we have been led badly astray. I hope that a recent New York Times front page story, "The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder," by Alan Schwarz will have that kind of special societal impact. Schwartz has previously written a series of accurate and hard-hitting articles exposing the over-diagnosis of ADHD and the consequent careless and excessive ...

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I rather doubt you need me to bring the roiling statin debate to your attention, given its prominence in scientific circles and mass media alike. In essence, a new set of guidelines for the use of lipid-lowering drugs to prevent heart disease was issued with considerable fanfare and then set off a firestorm of controversy. The old approach relied heavily on levels of LDL cholesterol, while the new approach ...

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Part of Katie Couric’s controversy on her show about the HPV vaccine was the claim by her expert, Dr. Diane Harper, that the vaccine only lasts for 5 years. I mean, why promote a 5 year vaccine to adolescent girls that will wear off and leave them at risk during their 20s? The problem with this controversy over the duration of vaccine effectiveness is that it is entirely manufactured. Dr. ...

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