June 2009

FDA Takes Steps Against Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen - best known as the over the counter medication Tylenol - took a big hit today.  An FDA advisory panel advised that acetaminophen be removed from popular pain control drugs like Vicodin and Percocet, where it appears along with an opiate.  They also advised that the FDA issue a "black box warning," which is the last step the FDA takes before outright banning the sales of a drug.

This story has so many things which surprise me.  First of all, I didn't realize that Vicodin and Percocet include acetaminophen.  Is the hydrocodone not enough?  I looked around, but I couldn't find an answer as to why these prescription pain medications also include some Tylenol.

Do You Take Premarin?

 Premarin (pre-pregnant, mare – horse) is a mixture of “natural” estrogens used to treat menopausal symptoms, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, and certain cancers.  Did you know that Premarin comes from the urine of pregnant mares (female horse)?  Did you know that there are such things as “Pee Farms” where they lock up these pregnant horses practically starving them, giving them no where to move and only allowing them water a few times a day, making sure that their urine remains strong?  If you knew all of this, would you stop taking Premarin?  I am curious as to why PETA is not all over this.

Are we Attracted to Our Opposites?

Love is not in the air as you may have been led to believe. It is also not in Hallmark greeting cards, a bouquet of expensive and fragile roses. Nope, the researchers have the answer (yet again) and Love is in your genes. Not your Calvin Kleins , True Religions, or Not Your Daughters Jeans, but in your heredity. Basically, we are attracted to our opposites, particularly those with opposite immunities and we find them with our noses.

ADHD Medications Do Not Cause Genetic Damage in Children

In contrast to recent findings, two of the most common medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) do not appear to cause genetic damage in children who take them as prescribed, according to a new study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Duke University Medical Center.

The study published online this month in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) provides new evidence that therapeutic doses of stimulant medications, such as methylphenidate and amphetamine, do not cause cytogenetic (chromosomal) damage in humans. The researchers looked at three measures of cytogenetic damage in white blood cells of each child participating in the study and found no evidence of any changes after three months of continuous treatment.

Teenage Suicide Attempts Tied to Weight Worries

Even those who only consider themselves fat are at an increased risk, study shows

Teenage kids who are overweight, or even those who think they are, have greater tendencies of attempting suicide than other teenagers, a new U.S. study reports.

For the study, the research team examined more than 14,000 high school students to find if there exists a connection between suicide tries and body mass index (BMI). The study further sought a possible link between suicide attempts and a teenager’s self-perception of being overweight – be it the truth or not.

The findings of the study revealed that teenagers who were overweight those who considered themselves to be overweight had higher tendencies of attempting suicide than teenagers who did not think they were overweight. For both girls and boys, the results were equally significant.

The study is published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Children Watching Their Parents Fight Usually Emerge With Ill Effects

Witnessing violence in their parents’ relationship may result in poor mental health, study says

Adult individuals who were able to witness violence in their parents’ relationship during childhood are at greater risk of developing problems with regards to mental health, according to a group of researchers who analyzed data from 3,023 adult people in Paris.

For the study, the researchers examined the present depression of the participants, as well as their experiences with violence committed against children, violence in an intimate relationship, suicide attempts throughout their lives, and dependence to alcohol. The report which was published recently in the online issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health said that the study participants were further asked about their growing-up experiences with violence when their parents fought.

A Novel Sickness of the Wired Generation: Cell Phone Elbow

Cubital tunnel syndrome stems from flexing of the elbow over an extended period, experts say

Nintendo thumb arrived first; followed by the Guitar Hero wrist. And now, the most recent illness afflicting the wired generation, is known as the cell phone elbow.

Known in the medical field as cubital tunnel syndrome, cell phone elbow is a condition characterized by numbness, tingling and pain felt in the forearm and hand. This condition occurs as a result of compression of the ulnar nerve, which stretches along the bony prominence of the elbow.

And according to experts, one of the culprits that apply pressure on the ulnar nerve is excessive chatting over the cell phone, which is made possible by those cell phone plans offering unlimited talk time.

Zicam Finally Pulled From Shelves

Zicam users have been complaining to the FDA and to Zicam's manufacturer since 1999, but their complaints were only validated yesterday, when the Federal Drug Administration issued a consumer alert regarding Zicam use and the possibility of anosmia.

I read about the link between Zicam and anosmia several years ago, and have been avoiding the product ever since.  Years ago I had a friend who suffered from anosmia, and believe me, that is nothing that you want.  When you were a kid, did you ever do that science experiment where you plug your nose and take a bite of a potato and a bite of an apple?  With your nose plugged, you can't tell the difference between them.  That's what life is like, for anosmia sufferers.  Losing your sense of smell has a subtle but profound impact on your quality of life.  Frankly, risking anosmia in order to lessen cold symptoms failed the cost benefit analysis for me.

Let Them Eat Cake

Marie Antoinette is famous for her line: Well, let them eat cake. When an elderly person is in the twilight of their life, I definitely believe we should let them eat cake and perhaps even allow them the occasional beer. 

Not only should we question the role of medicine as suggested in my colleague's interesting article about her recent and unfortunate injury, I think we should reconsider our responsibility to the elderly. Often we are so focused on the health of an elderly family member that we forget the little things (some of them not so healthy) that can affect the quality of their lives.

Is Moderate Drinking Good or Bad for You?

Is Moderate Drinking now bad for you again?

I honestly think scientists have nothing better to do than debate the merits of what's healthy and what's not healthy. Has common sense gone out the window or are Medical Researchers now so deeply in the pockets of whoever is paying for a particular study that objectivity in medical studies has been lost for good? Everyday, it seems like a new food or drink or supplement is either declared beneficial or the worst possible thing that you could ever consume, only to be refuted by another competing study the very next day.

The Limits of Medicine

I've been thinking a lot about the limitations of medicine, ever since I broke my wrist last week.  It was a chicken related injury; I was towing my chicken pen across the yard, and the tow rope broke.  I stupidly did not have a leg out behind me, and I fell straight back and caught myself on my wrist. 

I broke my scaphoid bone, which is one of those tiny bones inside your wrist.  It turns out that breaks of the scaphoid bone are very common.  This seems very unfair, because there are so many little tiny bones inside your wrist, and do we really need all of them?  But it turns out that even the little tiny bones can hurt an awful lot.

Alzheimer's Rogue Protein Creates Plaque in Brain

In tests with lab mice, researchers think that they may have isolated the specific protein that causes the formation of unnatural "clumps" of protein inside of nerve cells, resulting in the neurofibrillary tangles thought to be one of the causes of Alzheimer's disease. The protein, named Tau by researchers, is normally a key protein found in all healthy nerve cells, but a rogue form of the protein misbehaves, and triggers the cells to form neurofibrillary tangles, an abnormal behavior.