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Dealing With Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome Given How Little Is Known About The Condition

I have been working as an ER doctor for over a decade, and in that time I have come to recognize that there are certain complaints, and certain patients who bear these complaints, that are very challenging to take care of. I’m trying to be diplomatic here. What I really mean is that there are certain presentations that just make you cringe, drain the life force out of you, and make you wish you’d listened to mother and gone into investment banking instead. Among these, perhaps most prominently, is that of the patient with cyclic vomiting syndrome.

The diagnosis of cyclic vomiting syndrome, or CVS, is something which is only in recent years applied to adult patients.  Previously, it was only described in the pediatric population. It has generally been defined as a disease in which patients will have intermittent severe and prolonged episodes of intractable vomiting separated by asymptomatic intervals, over a period of years, for which no other adequate medical explanation can be found, and for which other causes have been ruled out.

That is not much in the way of good literature about this disease entity, which is surprising, because it is something that I see in the emergency department fairly regularly, and something with which nearly all emergency providers are quite familiar. These patients are familiar to us in part because we see them again and again, in part because they are memorable because they are so challenging to take care of.

Some things about the cyclic vomiting patient that pose particular challenges: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*

Product Used For Poison Ivy Skin Reaction Undergoes Price Increases

I recently received a note mailed to health care providers from Steve Sisler, Vice President of Sales Development for Zanfel Laboratories, Inc. Zanfel is a product used to decrease the skin reaction attributable to poison ivy and similar plants (e.g., poison oak and sumac). Here is an edited part of the note that I received:

While attending the recent American Academy of Family Physicians trade show, numerous health care professionals stopped by the Zanfel Laboratories booth to ask questions and gain additional knowledge regarding the Zanfel product and the overall disease state of urushiol-induced allergic contact dermatitis. Additionally, a great many prescribers voiced concern over the recent price increases of Zanfel Poison Ivy Wash. The conversations were very specific in that the retail price for Zanfel had increased to $42.99, $44.99 and even as high as $48.99 plus tax. These prescribers are aware of the retail price increases because their patients are calling them back after visiting CVS and Walgreens pharmacies. Their patients are aware that Zanfel had previously been sold for approximately $39.99 plus tax. These patients are upset because they believe that Zanfel Laboratories has initiated a retail price increase.

Zanfel Poison Ivy Wash has not had a cost increase in over Read more »

This post, Product Used For Poison Ivy Skin Reaction Undergoes Price Increases, was originally published on Healthine.com by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

Should Pharmacies Limit Teen Access To Protein Supplements?

A strange thing happened to me at a CVS pharmacy two days ago. I was attempting to purchase a protein drink when the girl at the counter asked me to show her my I.D. card. I assumed she meant my CVS savings card and was sincerely confused when she rejected it, saying, “No, your picture I.D.”

I dug through my purse to find my driver’s license while the girl explained,

“You have to be 18 years old to buy this product. I need to type in your date of birth into the computer.”

I wondered if the girl was partially visually impaired – at age 39 I didn’t think anyone would confuse me for a teen (though of course, I would enjoy it if they did), but beyond the amusement of being carded for the first time in over a decade, I was taken aback by the age restriction placed on protein. “I must be really out of the loop,” I thought to myself. “How on earth are teens abusing whey protein? And how did this become so common that CVS instituted a policy against it?”

As it turns out, Read more »

Are The Low Prices Of Generic Drugs Enough To Make You Switch?

Generic medications appear to be far more cost-effective than previously reported, concluded a team of Harvard professors. But, physicians and patients aren’t adopting them wholeheartedly.

Patents of 20 drugs with annual sales of more than $1 billion expired or will do so between 2010 and 2013, including Lipitor and Plavix, the highest- and second-highest revenue producing drugs in the U.S. While highly effective generics provide low-cost options for chronic disease management, they are not always factored into cost analyses, and are sometimes viewed with concerns about their safety and efficacy.

The Harvard team revisited a 2008 study that used brand-name medication costs in an analysis of the cost-effectiveness of strategies to prevent adverse outcomes associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The study found that up to 244 million quality-adjusted life-years could be gained over 30 years with appropriate preventive care. But, the study authors wrote, that “most prevention activities are expensive when considering direct medical costs.”

The Harvard team recalculated figures from the 2008 research, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

A FICO Score For Medication Compliance?

In Keeping Score on How You Take Your Medicine, Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times, reports on a new initiative from the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) known previously for its credit score ratings.  FICO has developed a Medication Adherence Score, using publicly identifiable information (like employment status, age and gender) to determine a patient’s score, which it says “can predict which patients are at highest risk for skipping or incorrectly using prescription medications.”

Parker-Pope reports, “By the end of the year, an estimated two million to three million patients will have been given a FICO medication adherence score and a total of 10 million patients are expected to be scored during the next 12 months…FICO officials say insurance companies and other health care groups will use the score to identify those patients who could benefit the most from follow-up phone calls, letters and e-mails to encourage proper use of medication.”

The FICO medication adherence score has not received a universally warm reception: e-Patient Dave and Society for Participatory Medicine member Alexandra Albin point out that the score only accounts for whether prescriptions are purchased, not whether the pills have actually been taken.

In a related effort, Geisinger Health Systems and CVS Caremark are conducting a study to assess whether enhanced doctor-pharmacist communication can help with medication adherence.  Shefali S. Kukarni reports in Tracking Down Patients Who Skip Their Drugs that, “The 18-month investigation will track a prescription from the moment it is submitted electronically to the pharmacy until it reaches the patient. If the patient does not pick up the prescription a ‘red flag’ or some form of notification will be sent to the doctor.”

But as Jessie Gruman recently blogged, there is no magic pill to cure poor medication adherence.   Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

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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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