Monday, January 19, 2009

Another day, Another drug

Recently the FDA approved a new drug that will be used to treat hypotrichosis.  This condition is not deadly, it's not going to cause pain, and it's not even a reason to see a doctor, until now.  Hypotrichosis is another word for having inadequate or not enough eye lashes.

Apparently, this is considered a medical problem and scientists even sought out a drug to improve this "condition."  LATISSE is the new drug that has been shown to increase the length, thickness, and darkness of eyelashes.  Originally, it was used to treat glaucoma and hypertension within the eye.  Now it has taken on a more cosmetic purpose.  In my opinion, drug companies should be focusing on real medical issues than natural imperfections on a person's body.  I'm sure millions of woman will flock to the doctor to get a prescription because it'll enhance their look.  I'll be curious to see how many men go to buy it.

However, I could see the drug being legitimate for patients who have undergone chemotherapy.  For those who are trying to grow their hair back I could see this drug really helping people to get back their eye lashes at all.

I don't really understand how the process works in deciding whether something is an actual medical issue.  I think that drug companies and the FDA need to distinguish between what's considered a natural imperfection on a person's body and a drug that will be used to improve health.  Apparently, drug companies have the funds to be able to create some of the most unnecessary "cures or treatment's" for people.  Meanwhile, a huge percent of Americans can't even afford health insurance, but that's a whole other issue.

Drug companies today in the U.S. kind of lead me to question their role in the big scheme of things.  It seems that many times new drugs are implemented just to make a giant profit and the actual patient is a second priority .  Unfortunately, it seems like patients are treated like consumers for these drugs but there's no room for "faulty" products when it comes to people's health.  Sometimes I think doctors and drug companies work together to sell a product to patients who come in.  I wouldn't be surprised if perhaps companies pay off doctors to sell their products to patients.  But than again, that could just be me thinking that things are a conspiracy when they actually might be legitimate.  In addition, there is always a hurry to get certain drugs out on the market before it's been tested thoroughly over a long period of time.  This shows us that the priority is not the affect the drug has on people but the priority is set on getting a product out there to sell for money.

It would be nice if drug companies could use more of their profits to concentrate on real medical issues like cancer or heart disease.  They know a lot of money comes from cosmetic consumers.  People will try and buy anything to look a certain way and often times drug companies will take advantage of that opportunity.  There are a lot of loopholes within our healthcare system.  The U.S. uses a supply and demand mentality for people's health when I feel that that should be left to other everyday products that are not used for health.  What's your health input? 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can blood expire?

Recent research in the New England Journal of Medicine found that heart surgery patients who received blood that was more than two weeks old were more likely to have potentially serious post-operative complications.  Another study done at Cooper University Hospital found that intensive-care patients transfused with blood that had been stored for 29 days had a greater chance of infection including pneumonia, urinary tract, or other life threatening infections than when given blood stored for 28 days or less (Carr, 2008).  With this in mind is it alright that the U.S Food and Drug Administration uses donated blood on patients for up to six weeks after it's been collected?  

If giving older blood does pose health risks than perhaps the FDA should rethink it's blood storage policies.  However, in order for any policy changes to occur more studies would have to be conducted in order to have any substantial credibility.  For now, I think there should be no reason for people to panic if they are receiving older blood but there's always going to be that thought in the back of my mind if I ever do go into a hospital to receive blood.  I wonder if it's alright to ask hospitals how old the blood is before they put it in me.  This question alone just reveals the panic and worry I have of this topic.  It's stories like this that come out in the news that just freak out the public when it's just a theory and not a substantial finding or fact.

Perhaps for those patients who did get infection or problems after receiving the blood they just naturally rejected the foreign liquid in their body even though it's the same blood type.  Every person is different and I wouldn't be surprised if some people are more hypersensitive to new things going into their body.  Standard practices of blood storage have been going on for several years now and the percentage of related fatalities is extremely low. (8 million transfusions/year, only 75 related fatalities/year).  Maybe those 75 fatalities per year were because their bodies were unique for receiving blood because they were hypersensitive.  But what do I know, I'm not a doctor in the field.
As of right now the newest blood brought in is used on newborns.  The fact that this is a standard practice suggests that newer blood is better for you because it's used on an important specific age group.  So then what happens to the blood after a certain amount of time?  These recent findings have only been observations in the outcomes of certain patients.  In no way, biologically, does anyone know why the blood would expire in terms of red blood cells or white blood cells, etc.  This is why it's crucial that there should be more research done to come up with any sort of answers. 
Let's just say that there was some truth to this theory.  If
 blood storage practices were changed to the FDA only carrying blood for 28 days or less than the blood supply would diminish extremely fast not having enough to care for the patients in the U.S.  Basically, we have a choice.  We could use older blood and take the risk of having a small amount of people reject it or we could shorten the amount of time that blood is held in storage and run out of our supply extremely fast.  If we decrease the amount of time that blood is good than A LOT more people would have to give blood way more regularly, especially the more rare types of blood.  Also, if they found this to be true of expired blood than there would be a lot of ethical issues as far as deciding who gets the "best" blood.  We would have to categorize patients based on age and type of condition to see who gets what.  This will be incredibly tough for hospitals to have a limited amount of blood and have to decide which patients are more deserving of it.  
Currently, there are a number of new studies being tested to see if this is actually true.  I think this is the best, necessary next step in seeing if this is legitimate or not.  All we can do is wait.  In the meantime, we must trust the FDA's stand that the blood is just as good after 28 days.  I hope this blog post has not freaked out anyone too much incase you are going into the hospital anytime soon.  I'd like to know people's reactions.  What's your health input?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Obesity Update

The National Center for Health Statistics recently revealed that the number of obese American adults now outweighs the number of those who are merely overweight.  In a 2006 study of 4,356 adults over the age of 20, the NCHS found that more than 34 percent of Americans are obese compared to 32.7 who are overweight.  With this in mind it's apparent that the efforts made to help with obesity in recent years in the U.S. have not been very effective.  The obesity numbers do not seem to be leveling off, but are still increasing every year.  It was found that since 1980, the amount of people overweight has stayed constant while the rate of people who are obese has increased fairly rapidly.  Because we all know that obesity raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, arthritis, and other conditions we should consider this a threat to public health.  

I feel that this recession is just going to put Americans in an even worse position for their health.  You'd think with less money and more expensive prices that Americans would just eat less in general because they'd have less to spend on food.  However, in our country, people will be able to feed themselves just as much as they used to, but now, I predict that they will resort to buying cheaper, unhealthier options.  Fresh foods will become too expensive for families during this recession.  People will substitute fresh fruits and veggies, fish, and whole grains for foods high in sugar and saturated fat.  This is a step in the wrong direction.  How can we make healthier foods less expensive?

Just yesterday I saw the most outrageous commercial that promoted the corn industry (believed to be the cause of obesity in the U.S.).  You have to watch it, I would love to hear your reactions. (Pro-high fructose corn syrup commercial) A Female offered a popsicle to her male friend and he said "no thanks" at first because it had contents of high fructose corn syrup in it.  Good right?  The female went on to tell him that there is nothing wrong with high fructose corn syrup because it's just made from corn, has the same calories as sugar and honey, and that it is fine in moderation.  There's actually a commercial out there telling obese Americans that it's ok to eat high fructose corn syrup.   In my opinion, this commercial is a step in the wrong direction in regards to eating.  Of course the commercial was sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association in efforts to keep their products selling, ultimately making them more money.  It's all about money, not the health and wellness of our citizens.  Also, there is no way that people are going to eat high fructose corn syrup in moderation because it's in practically everything that's offered to us in our environment.  I would be curious to hear the percentage of products in Wegmans or Tops that include this ingredient.  In any event, this new obesity scare since the 1980's has been theorized by many that it's cause is due to our focus on growing corn in bulk amounts for cheap.  High fructose corn syrup is thought to be part of the reason for the increase in body
weight and health problems in our country.   In my opinion this commercial should be taken off the air, however, it is our right as citizens for freedom of speech.  It just makes me a little more aware of how industry's (corn industry) brought on by government have a way of controlling society through media.  The meat industry is the same way.

It's instances like this that make me look toward other places in the world that don't have these problems.  Why aren't other developed nations as obese as us?  What are they doing differently?  Well, for one, they don't specialize in high fructose corn syrup and tend to use more natural ingredients in their products.  America has a lot more damaging chemicals in our food.  Perhaps if we fixed this corn problem than that would show some changes and results. 
In addition, countries that have the highest levels of active transportation (walking, biking to work) generally have the lowest obesity rates.  According to a recent issue in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, only 12 percent of Americans use active transportation in the United States.  9 percent walk, 1 percent ride a bike, and 2 percent take a bus or train. In the meantime, one quarter to a third of Americans are obese.  62 percent in Sweden and 52 percent in the Netherlands either walk, bike, or use mass transit and their obesity rates are 9 and 11 percent.  Can you believe the huge difference?  This trend is not entirely the citizens faults however.  Our country does not always make it easy for us to get around physically.  Many cities and towns are set up so everything is spread out and far away from each other.  We also do not have a very good mass transit system compared to Europe.  I do believe Europeans are forced to walk and ride bikes more because their gas prices are much higher.  There are many factors that go into it, but the overall message is that we need to be moving our bodies more in our everyday lives to get around in addition to eating healthier foods.
  I feel that our country needs to set up more opportunities for people to get around instead of just using their cars.  People that do not vigorously exercise will at least get some sort of movement in their day by getting to and from places.  I propose that more biking paths and walkways be made as well as implementing more recycling bike programs like certain cities have.  In bike programs, you pay a small amount to rent a bike at one station and leave it in another bike station when you're done.  College campuses could implement them as well.  Some colleges already have bike programs setup.  Basically, anything that can be done to promote active transportation in the U.S. is a step in the right direction.  I would like to know other suggestions people have in addition to everyones stand on the issues presented.  What's your health input? 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

HPV immunization not covered?

My health insurance does NOT cover any of the costs for getting Gardasil, the shot to prevent Human Papillomavirus (HPV).  For those of you who do not know about HPV, certain types of HPV cause genital warts or cervical cancer.  Every year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost 4,000 women die from this disease in the U.S. (CDC, 2008).  This is why it's a great idea to protect yourself just like any other vaccination.  Currently, the series of three shots to become protected costs around $375 total ($125/dose).  Right now, I am covered by my mothers insurance because she is a NYS school teacher.  Apparently, BlueCross Blue Shield insurance (very common) does not cover ANY of this large expense.  In my opinion, this vaccination should become as ordinary and common as the Meningitis shot or Hep. B shot.  Considering the amount of males and females who are sexually active before marriage it seems fairly reasonable to have it as a protective measure.  My suggestion is that all insurance companies should cover Gardasil for men and women (if they opt to get it) just like all of the other required shots in the U.S.

Ironically to me, most, if not all insurance companies, cover the costs for Viagra (the drug used to help with erectile dysfunction for men).  4,000 women are dying every year from this virus yet our government feels that it's more necessary to help pay for men who are unable to get erect for intercourse.  I do understand that every man should have the right to be able to procreate and if there's a drug available for them than more power to them.  However, I don't believe our priority is in the right place for all of those men to be covered for erectile dysfunction when all of these women are dying from cervical cancer caused by HPV. Therefore, in my situation, because it was too much money to get the series of shots at any health center I heard about a way of getting it cheaper through Planned Parenthood.  I was forced to lie to Planned Parenthood and say I had no insurance in order to take advantage of their plan meant for people who cannot afford it.  I had to resort to taking the funds from Planned Parenthood, a great organization, in order to become protected from this virus because I did not want to pay the high amount of $375.  I am thankful for this option but it should not be abused by people like me who actually have insurance.  In this case, Gardasil should be at least partially covered, if not all the way covered, by all insurance companies.

Not too long ago this immunization required for all girls in the state of Texas.  This shows the importance of getting the vaccinations.  However, I feel that this should not be a requirement.  People should have the right to decide what goes in their body.  Eventually, Texas decided to change it's mind and not make it a requirement.  I'm glad they revoked it.  I do believe that for those people who are interested in getting it they should be able to get it with their insurance, considering how common cervical cancer is because of HPV.
There seems to be a lot of loopholes in this healthcare system.  The Gardasil immunization should be included in all plans just like all of those other shots.  What's your health input?