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Osteoporosis Treatment With Bisphosphonates: Is Exercise Good Or Dangerous?

X-ray of a fractured femur boneMy 86 year-old mother, who is generally in good health, slipped and fell recently and suffered a fractured femur. She was unfortunate to have suffered the accident, but had the good fortune to be discovered quickly, treated promptly and well by the paramedics who responded to her, and then to have a swift and skillful operation by an orthopedic surgeon to repair the fracture. Almost miraculously, she was standing upright (with a considerable amount of pain) the next day and had begun the rehabilitation process.

At her age—indeed at any age—a fractured femur is a very significant injury. This past year, I have learned of friends and others who have suffered falls and broken their legs, ankles, or backs, as well as others who suffered “pathological fractures.” The latter group had the bones break from normal daily stresses, without a traumatic incident, because the bones were weak and/or osteoporotic. More than a few of these injuries occurred outdoors, associated with stumbles on the trail or falls.

All of this highlights features of an excellent review article that was published this past year in the New England Journal of Medicine. Authored by Murray Favus, MD, it is entitled “Biphosphonates for Osteoporosis” (New England Journal of Medicine 2010;363:2027-35). Anyone who is contemplating taking or administering this therapy would benefit from reading this article. Read more »

This post, Osteoporosis Treatment With Bisphosphonates: Is Exercise Good Or Dangerous?, was originally published on Healthine.com by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

Top 10 Health Stories Of 2010

1. Health care reform

How could the health care reform legislation that President Barack Obama signed into law on March 23, 2010, not be the #1 story of the year?  Whether you are for or against it, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is nothing if not ambitious, and if implemented, it will fundamentally alter how American health care is financed and perhaps delivered.  The law is designed to patch holes in the health insurance system and extend coverage to 32 million Americans by 2019 while also reining in health care spending, which now accounts for more than 17% of the country’s gross domestic product. The biggest changes aren’t scheduled to occur until 2014, when most people will be required to have health insurance or pay a penalty (the so-called individual mandate) and when state-level health insurance exchanges should be in place. The Medicaid program is also scheduled to be expanded that year so that it covers more people, and subsidized insurance will be available through the exchanges for people in lower- and middle-income brackets. But plenty is happening before 2014. The 1,000-page law contains hundreds of provisions, and they’re being rolled out in phases. This year, for example, the  law created  high-risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions,  required health plans to extend coverage to adult children up to age 26, and imposed a 10% tax on indoor tanning salons. Next year, about 20 different provisions are scheduled to take effect, including the elimination of copayments for many preventive services for Medicare enrollees, the imposition of limits on non-medical spending  by health plans, and the creation of a voluntary insurance that will help pay for home health care and other long-term care services received outside a nursing home. Getting a handle on the complicated law is difficult. If you’re looking for a short course, the Kaiser Family Foundation has created an excellent timeline of the law’s implementation (we depended on it for this post) and a short (nine minutes) animated video that’s one of the best (and most amusing) overviews available. The big question now is whether the sweeping health care law can survive various legal and political challenges. In December, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional. Meanwhile, congressional Republicans have vowed to thwart the legislation, and if the party were to win the White House and control of the Senate in the 2012 election, Republicans would be in a position to follow through on their threats to repeal it.   

2. Smartphones, medical apps, and remote monitoring 

Smartphones and tablet computers are making it easier to get  health care information, advice, and reminders on an anywhere-and-anytime basis. Hundreds of health and medical apps for smartphones like the iPhone  became available this year. Some are just for fun. Others provide useful information (calorie counters, first aid and CPR instructions) or perform calculations. Even the federal government is getting into the act: the app store it opened this summer has several free health-related apps, including one called My Dietary Supplements for keeping track of vitamins and supplements and another one from the Environmental Protection Agency that allows you to check the UV index and air quality wherever you are. Smartphones are also being used with at-home monitoring devices; for example, glucose meters have been developed that send blood sugar readings wirelessly to an app on a smartphone. The number of doctors using apps and mobile devices is increasing, a trend that is likely to accelerate as electronic health records become more common. Check out  iMedicalapps if you want to see the apps your doctor might be using or talking about. It has  become a popular Web site for commentary and critiques of medical apps for doctors and medical students. Meanwhile, the FDA is wrestling with the issue of how tightly it should regulate medical apps. Some adverse events resulting from programming errors have been reported to the agency.  Medical apps are part of  a larger “e-health” trend toward delivering health care reminders and advice remotely with the help of computers and phones of all types. These phone services are being used in combination with increasingly sophisticated at-home monitoring devices. Research results have been mixed. Simple, low-cost text messages have been shown to be effective in getting people wear sunscreen. But one study published this year found that regular telephone contact and at-home monitoring of heart failure patients had no effect on hospitalizations of death from any cause over a six-month period. Another study found that remote monitoring did lower hospital readmission rates among heart failure patients, although the difference between remote monitoring and regular care didn’t reach statistical significance. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Are Claims-Based Alerts A Waste Of Time?

I got a letter from an insurer the other day, warning me that my patient, who had just refilled a prescription for a bisphosphonate I had prescribed almost a year ago for severe osteoporosis (yes, I do still prescribe dugs, despite how I feel about Big Pharma marketing), also had a claims diagnosis in their system for a bleeding peptic ulcer, and was I really sure she should be taking this medication, which could worsen her ulcer?

So do what any conscientious physician would do – I call her. (Of course, no one is ever home when I call these days, so it’s another few days of phone tag before I get her.) No, she has not been diagnosed with anything of the kind. Feels great, in fact. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog that Ate Manhattan*

A Fracture Risk Calculator (FRAX) May Reduce Need For Osteoporosis Prescriptions

This post is in response to Jane Brody’s recent NY Times article on the FRAX fracture risk calculator. FRAX is a clinical decision tool devised by the World Health Organization that allows physicians to account for the myriad of risk factors, including bone density, to determine a patient’s risk for osteoporotic fracture.

Now about 20 years into the practice of medicine, I have evolved from what they call an “early adopter” of new drugs, through a time of cautious use of new drugs, to what I am now – highly skeptical of most new medications and suspicious of Big Pharma, medical thought leaders and anyone else trying to “educate” me about a disease. I am also disappointed in my medical societies for failing to cut the ties between themselves and industry, but hopeful that we are slowly but finally starting to emerge from of an era of industry-dominated health care and into a time of patient-centered medicine. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog that Ate Manhattan*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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