Meds

Is the doctor or patient responsible for celebrity drug overdoses?

When it came to Michael Jackson, I argued recently that the singer himself had to share some of the blame.

An op-ed in the Houston Chronicle places more blame, however, on a celebrity’s enablers, be it a personal physician or part of their entourage with access to a doctor.

By enabling a celebrity’s dependence to drugs, the piece, citing the case of Anna Nicole Smith, says, “facilitation of Smith’s prescription drug …

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Are generic drugs truly equivalent to brand name medications?

In an effort to cut prescription drug costs, there is constant pressure to switch from brand name medications to their generic equivalents.

But in this special report from MedPage Today, there may be some variability between generic medications that can lead to clinical symptoms. However, most of the data is anecdotal, and at best, based on retrospective data.

For instance, when it comes to anti-seizure medications, some neurologists are cautioning about …

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Do drug companies and the pharma industry deserve to be villains?

by Michael Kirsch, MD

Demonizing the pharmaceutical industry has become a parlor game for many who enjoy the challenge of shooting at an oversized target. Scapegoating Big Pharma? Now, that takes guts.

Never mind the gazillions they spend on research and development to create tomorrow’s treatments for cancer, arthritis, depression, infectious diseases, heart attacks and strokes. I know that drug industry executives are not all eagle scouts whose mission …

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Should consumer prescription drug ads be reined in?

I’ve previously written that direct to consumer drug advertising should be banned, similar to the rest of the world, except for New Zealand.

The main reason reason is that many of the advertised products are for expensive, brand name drugs that have little advantage over their generic counterparts.

In a New York Times’ Room for Debate post on the issue, various viewpoints are presented. I find myself agreeing with internist …

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Should Singulair be sold over the counter?

The WSJ Health Blog wrote that Merck is considering selling their asthma medication Singulair over the counter.

It’s Merck’s best-selling drug, with revenues in excess of $1.3 billion. But internist Matthew Mintz has some reservations about the proposal.

His issue is that Singulair merely treats the symptoms, rather than the problem that can exacerbate asthma:

Singulair works in the same way that antihistamines work: by treating the symptoms. Inhaled corticosteroids …

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Did Michael Jackson’s doctor give propofol, a possible cause of death for the King of Pop?

Things are looking increasingly bleak for Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s personal physician.

Reports are circulating that the powerful anesthetic propofol, also known by its trade name Diprivan, was found in the singer’s body. According to ABCNews, “the autopsy of Michael Jackson found the powerful anesthetic propofol, as well as several prescription drugs, in his system, and law enforcement sources say …

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Are doctors pressured to prescribe opiate drugs?

When it comes to opiate drugs, like morphine, there is a bitter debate between patients who are in chronic pain, and the doctors who are vilified for under or over-prescribing these medications.

But there are some other subtle influences that push doctors to prescribe these drugs, in some cases inappropriately. An ER physician talks about the issue, saying, “when dealing with a patient who is in pain, or appears to …

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Did the Avandia scare harm patients, and is Steven Nissen to blame?

The recent RECORD trial did not associate the diabetes drug Avandia with cardiovascular events.

Internist Matthew Mintz, a staunch defender of the drug, argues that because of the scare, “over 100,000 type 2 diabetic patients [needed] insulin, which could have been avoided.”

Who’s to blame? Dr. Mintz blames cardiologist Steven Nissen, whose questionable meta-analysis started the debacle, and The New England Journal of Medicine for fanning the flames. He …

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The games drug seekers play

Patients who are addicted to narcotic painkillers reveal methods to try and receive more drugs from an emergency room.

In the interview, the patient admits calling 911 and feigning chest pain. Why?

What the caller, and only the caller, knows is that his chest is not throbbing in pain. Actually, his chest is fine. What he has done is just reserve his personal medical limousine for transport to the head of …

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How zinc-containing Zicam can harm patients and damage their sense of smell

Zicam is becoming an example of the dangers of mass-marketing unproven homeopathic remedies.

As MedPage Today reports, the FDA has warned patients to stop using Zicam, as the product can lead to anosmia, or loss of the sense of smell.

This isn’t a new claim, since, “In 2006, the company paid $12 million to settle 340 lawsuits brought by consumers who claimed the zinc nasal gel adversely affected their sense of smell.”

Amy …

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Is Chantix safe, and why Zyban, or bupropion, also received a black box warning

Popular smoking cessation drugs Chantix and Zyban received black box warnings from the FDA, the strongest of its kind.

Chantix, in particular, is quite effective in helping patients to quit smoking, but has been dogged by instances of increased suicidality, especially in those already having a psychiatric diagnosis.

As this report in MedPage Today states, “Reports of behavioral changes, depressed mood, agitation, …

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Did propofol, or Diprivan, kill Michael Jackson?

As predicted, the details surrounding the singer’s death continue to get more bizarre.

Recent reports have stated that the powerful anesthetic Diprivan, generically known as propofol, was found in the singer’s house. Apparently, according to a nurse, Jackson “was begging for the powerful sedative to help him get over insomnia.”

There are zero circumstances where propofol should ever be used for insomnia. …

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Vicodin and Percocet banned and taken off the market, or is a black box warning more likely?

The FDA has declared war on acetaminophen, with Vicodin and Percocet being collateral damage.  You can bet Dr. Gregory House is sweatin’ pretty hard over this news.

In the last few days, acetaminophen, otherwise known as the brand name Tylenol, has been squarely in the FDA advisory panel’s crosshairs. In general, it’s a very safe medication, but there is …

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Does insulin cause cancer, and should you stop taking Lantus?

The potential link between a specific form of long-acting insulin, known as insulin glargine and branded as Lantus, and cancer, could be gaining momentum.

First off, let me say that both human and porcine insulin are safe, and have no association with cancer. The report specifically relates only to a synthetic, long acting form of insulin.

lantus According to a series of …

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The biggest threat to President Obama’s healthcare reform efforts comes from his own party

I wrote back in February that one of the biggest threats to health reform was not from conservatives and the right, but from within President Obama’s own party.

Today, some four months later, the Washington Post reports that that’s pretty much what’s happening. In its report, the Post writes:

In the high-stakes battle over health care, a growing cadre of liberal activists is aiming its sharpest firepower against Democratic senators …

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Why don’t drug companies use Twitter?

It seems that most industries are rushing to jump aboard the Twitter bandwagon.

That’s true for most cases, with the pharmaceutical industry being the exception.

David Williams points out the lack of Twitter activity from the major pharmaceutical companies, where many of the Pharma-related keywords being owned by those not affiliated with the company.

Worse, when he looks at the Twitter names for the top 10 prescribed drugs, they’re owned by …

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Lose your fingerprints from chemotherapy

Interesting case of a man detained at an airport because authorities couldn’t fingerprint him.

According to MedPage Today, he was taking the chemotherapy drug capecitabine which causes so-called hand-foot syndrome, or palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia. The chronic inflammation causes the skin on the hands to peel and blister, which can eventually eradicate a patient’s fingerprints.

In a study looking at the drug, this type of inflammation occurs in about 65 percent of …

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Should patients be paid to promote drugs?

The story of Andy Behrman made the news a few weeks ago, most notably in The Wall Street Journal.

Apparently, he was a bipolar “celebrity patient,” and was paid $400,000 by Bristol-Myers Squibb for promoting their drug, Abilify.

Things quickly went sour, as Mr. Behrman was afflicted with the drug’s side effects, which included “dazed spells and agitation in his legs.”

Merrill Goozner comments on the case, casting the light on patient advocates, …

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