December 2009

Generic Drugs Not As Good?

The push towards usage of generic drugs has been strong in the last few years.  On one side you have frugal people who resist the pushy advertising and marketing advances of pharmaceutical companies.  On the other side, you have health insurance companies who are desperate to cut costs wherever possible, several of which have begun to demand that their customers choose generics whenever they are available.

Unfortunately, new data suggests that generic drugs, while they contain the exact same medicine as their "name brand" counterparts, may not work as well.  The problem lies with the inert ingredients, that other stuff that makes a pill a pill.  This binder is often made of a cheaper chemical in generic drugs (it's not just marketing that keeps prices high) and it may not dissolve or disperse into the patient's blood stream as well as the name brand version.

Your Pets Can Catch Swine Flu

I always took it for granted that the flu virus was species specific, barring a major mutation like the one that let H1N1 jump from pigs to humans.  However, it turns out that the latest round of swine flu is being picked up in our furrier family members.  A case of swine flu was just confirmed in a dog in the suburbs of New York.  Swine flu has previously been confirmed in cats and ferrets.

In both cases, experts say the disease is not likely to spread from animal to human.  In other words, you don't have to disinfect your dog's feet and nose with Purell every time you come back from a walk.  Or fret that your cat might be spending too much time near the neighborhood preschool.  

Tamiflu Doesn't Work

Many of us - including the World Health Organization (WHO) - have been relying on the idea of Tamiflu to get us through this treacherous swine flu season.  Make no mistake, swine flu is serious - a friend of mine's three year old son had to spend several days in the ICU thanks to swine flu.  Pretty scary stuff, if you're a parent.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Tamiflu does not actually work, and according to The Atlantic, it may actually cause more harm than good.  The British Medical Journal periodically reviews the effectiveness of various medicines, in order to update its own readership on the latest statistics.  When they went digging into the effectiveness statistics for Tamiflu, they found that, as The Atlantic puts it, "The dog ate my homework."

Chapping and Mild Frostbite, the Winter Scourge

Frostibite can be a dangerous and life threatening condition, but it can also be simply an annoyance.  Although most frostbite resources focus on the serious, "I got lost in the woods for a week" kind of frostbite, there are milder forms as well, similar to the spectrum of sunburn damage.

The mildest form of frostbite is a significant contributor to chapped hands.  Chapping occurs when the skin becomes cold, and less able to flex easily.  If you then happen to flex the skin, it can cause microscopic cracks in the surface, which can be exacerbated by further movement.