Many of my patients are taking herbal supplements, or so they think.  This herbal and health supplements industry likely is envied by traditional pharmaceutical companies.  The latter has to spend zillions of dollars proving safety and efficacy to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Many of these drugs are cast aside during the approval process or afterwards when serious side effects become known, or a new medicine is proved safer ...

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How many times each week do we hear the phrase, "If you're not completely satisfied, we'll refund the purchase price -- no questions asked." This is more often a marketing ploy than a true money-back guarantee.  I have a sense that trying to obtain a promised refund on an item that dissatisfied us is about as easy and carefree as changing an airline ticket reservation or reaching a live human when ...

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I just deposited a check into my bank account by photographing the check with my iPhone and zapping it through cyberspace.  I realize this is ho hum to the under 35 crowd.  Soon, there won’t be any paper checks as the entire transaction will occur electronically.  As a member of the over 35 crowd (plus 20 years), I am wowed by this process.  I remember being astonished when my kids ...

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I see patients with abdominal pain every day. Over my career, I’ve sat across the desk facing thousands of folks with every variety of stomach ache imaginable. I’ve listened to them, palpated them, scanned them, scoped them and at times referred them elsewhere for another opinion. With this level of experience, one would suspect that I have become a virtual sleuth at determining the obvious and stealth causes of abdominal ...

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Most of us reject the rational argument that better medical quality costs more money.   Conversely, I have argued that spending less money could improve medical outcomes.  Developing incentives to reduce unnecessary medical tests and treatments should be our fundamental strategy.  Not a day passes that I don’t confront excessive and unnecessary medical care -- some of it mine -- being foisted on patients. At one point in my career, I would ...

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shutterstock_155857724 We’ve all heard or used the phrase, "Leave it to the professionals." It certainly applies to me as the only tools that I can use with competence are the scopes that I pass through either end of the digestive tunnel. Yeah, I have a toolbox at home, but it is stocked similarly to the first aid kit that your new car ...

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A few days before I wrote this, a patient had a complication in my office. I have discussed previously the distinction between a complication, which is a blameless event, and a negligent act. In my experience, most lawsuits are initiated against complications or adverse medical outcomes, neither of which are the result of medical negligence. This is the basis for my strong belief that the current medical malpractice system ...

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One catch phrase in health care reform is cost-effectiveness.  To paraphrase, this label means that a medical treatment is worth the price.  For example, influenza vaccine, or flu shot, is effective in reducing the risk of influenza infection.  If the price of each vaccine were $1,000, it would still be medically effective, but it would no longer be cost-effective considering that over 100 million Americans need the vaccine. Society could not ...

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Giving prescription refills is not quite as fun as it used to be. Years ago, we doctors would whip out our prescription pads -- often sooner than we should have -- and we’d scribble some coded language that pharmacists were trained to decipher. I’m surprised there were not more errors owing to doctors’ horrendous penmanship. On occasion, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would require a pharmaceutical company to change ...

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A medical student recently asked my advice on her decision to pursue a career in dermatology. It was about 25 years ago when my own parents encouraged me to pursue this specialty. What was their deal? Perhaps, they anticipated future developments in the field and were hoping for free Botox treatments? As readers know, I rejected the rarefied world of pustules and itchy skin rashes for the glamor of hemorrhoids, ...

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