It was a huge relief to Carol Thompson in 2011 when her breast cancer drug Femara (letrozole) went off patent and became available in a generic version. With a high deductible in her private insurance plan, Thompson was forking over $450 for a month’s supply of the life-saving drug. After the generic hit the market she was thrilled to find letrozole available for just $11 a month at Costco. But ...

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Well, this isn’t good news. The CDC has compiled an extensive report of the top US health risks from infections. Called “Threat Report 2013,” their evaluation shows that the three most worrisome risks have all been created by our own indiscriminant overuse of antibiotics. The biggest baddies: Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae. The carbenapenem antibiotics were first developed in the 1970s and grew into wide use in the late 1980s. They had been the ...

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It seems to be trendy these days to say we’re all overmedicated. People say we  swallow a pill to try to escape any fleeting negative feeling, or that we throw them at our kids for any bad behavior. To be honest, there are times I agree. However, sometimes people take the anti-medication thing way, way too far. They say antidepressants are a conspiracy of the drug companies to make us all ...

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Recently, colleagues and I published what I consider a very important paper in the American Journal of Public Health, indicating that tens of thousands of relatively young women who have undergone hysterectomy are dying needlessly because of an over-generalized fear of hormone replacement. Publication in the the Journal of the American Medical Association of a rich compilation of findings from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) trial does nothing to change our ...

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Dr. Google, you’ve let a whole lot of people down. If you Google a vaccine question, and many parents have, you’re very likely to find a good, science-based answer -- but it will be buried among dozens of sites with anti-science, pro-disease propaganda. The mountain of misinformation is staggering, with multiple anti-vaccine sites repeating each other in a seemingly endless loop of worry and dread. Let neither facts nor truth nor ...

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To understand the Vicodin story we first have to understand how habit-forming medicines are currently prescribed in the U.S. The Drug Enforcement Agency divides potentially addictive substances into different schedules. Schedule II controlled substances are prescription medicines that have a high potential for abuse and severe dependence. They include all the opiate (narcotic) pain medicines, like morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl. These medications must be prescribed on a paper ...

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When I was in middle school, I went to Lake Tahoe with my best friend on a ski trip. I had only been skiing a few times before, and even though my friend was only twelve, she was already a talented and experienced skier. She was patient with me, but I became increasingly frustrated as I had trouble going down even the most basic runs without falling. At one point, after falling ...

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To almost every claim that the American healthcare system is overpriced, defenders of the United States can point to the comparison problem -- it is not fair to compare American surgeons, or hospitals, to our peers in Europe when American surgeons and hospitals are not the same as in those other countries.  Our surgeons are better trained, the defenders retort, and our hospitals offer higher quality care.  When quality measures ...

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The state of diabetes drugs has gotten to the point where it is good news that a drug does not produce worse outcomes than a placebo. I am not kidding. The New England Journal of Medicine published two trials, each testing whether a diabetes drug increased the risk of heart attacks and death from heart disease. The trials are a result of FDA guidance for companies to assess the cardiovascular safety of new ...

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Flu season has begun, which means that it’s flu shot time. I see lots of different responses when I talk to families at our clinic about the flu shot. Some are happy to get it. Others are unsure, worried about side effects. Others plain old refuse. Plain old refusal isn’t an option for me -- as a doctor and an employee of Boston Children’s. I need to get it -- and I ...

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