According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the use of dietary supplements sends an estimated 23,000 Americans to the emergency department each year. Approximately 25 percent of the ER visits that were supplement related were by adults who were using herbal weight loss products. Another 10 percent were caused by adults consuming “energy products” (although people using energy drinks were excluded from the ...

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An August, 2015 study in Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine is being touted as evidence that homeopathy is as effective as antibiotics for respiratory infections in children. It doesn’t show that at all -- in fact, it doesn’t show anything, except that crappy studies in crappy journals can nonetheless be used to manipulate opinion. Beware. First, the study itself. Researchers in Italy looked at about 90 children with ordinary colds. All ...

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A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that two-thirds of cancer drugs considered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the past five years were approved without evidence that they improve health outcomes or length of life. (This study closely corroborates and acknowledges the findings published last year by John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Elbert Chu of MedPage Today.) Follow-up studies showed ...

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Most of my patients think about pain medicines in terms of the symptoms they treat. “This is my headache medicine, and this is my arthritis medicine,” they often say. Health care providers are more likely to categorize pain medicines by the way they work: some are anti-inflammatory, some affect nerve endings, and others influence how the brain perceives pain. But the truth is that no matter how you classify pain ...

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Recently, the clinically positive results from the CLEOPATRA oncology trial were released, showing that pertuzumab, when added to docetaxel and trastuzumab as first-line chemotherapy, produces an average survival benefit of 15.7 months in HER2 positive breast cancer patients. That good news notwithstanding, the authors calculated that Genentech’s price for adding pertuzumab to gain one quality adjusted life year is a breathtaking $713,219. In dry academic language, the ...

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The shaming campaign that followed the news of two generic drug prices somersaulting into the stratosphere after being acquired by private companies is not too surprising.  The idea that a drug that cost $13.50 one day can cost $750 the next, seemingly on the whim of greedy Wall Street investors and pharma start-ups, is fodder for the outrage machine. But what the outrage machine does not realize is the ...

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Cancer drugs have become increasingly expensive in recent years. No one blinks anymore when a new lung cancer or colon cancer treatment comes to market priced at more than $100,000 per patient. In part, we don’t blink because we have simply gotten used to such prices -- the shock has worn off. Moreover, many of these new treatments are targeted therapies that only work for patients whose cancers express specific mutations, ...

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Daraprim is a drug that no one ever heard of unless they are taking it. It is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection, has been around for decades, and is prescribed typically in patients with weakened immune systems, such as those with AIDS. Daraprim has been newsworthy because a small company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, recently purchased the drug from Impax Laboratories for $55 million, and promptly raised ...

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Recently, public outrage over Daraprim’s price hike from $13.50 to $750 was loud and clear -- so loud that its CEO Martin Shkreli had to rescind it. In the business world, he might be praised as a savvy investor. He saw a product that was drastically undervalued and priced it at a level that the market was willing to bear, reaping huge profits. This type of mentality is a trait many ...

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Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that causes opportunistic infection in helpless people. It may have met its match. The cost of treating toxoplasmosis, a rare but extant infection, just shot up exponentially. Drug-resistant strain, you ask? Have physicians in infectious disease gone mercenary, you wonder? No. A change in ownership. Daraprim (pyrimethamine) is a nifty drug that kills parasites. It’s been around for eons. I still recall its name from my ...

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