Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Medical News Stories: Beware Of Insufficient Evidence

After seeing the NBC Nightly News last night, a physician urged me to write about what he saw: a story about a “simple blood test that could save women’s lives.”

Readers – and maybe especially TV viewers – beware whenever you hear a story about “a simple blood test.”

And this is a good case in point.

Brian Williams led into the story stating:

“Two of three women who die suddenly of cardiac heart disease have no previous symptoms which is all the more reason women may want to ask their doctors about a blood test that can be a lifesaver.”

Then NBC News chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman said:

“It’s not a new test, it’s not an experimental test but nonetheless it’s a test not a lot of people know about and that’s a problem because this simple blood test could save your life.”

The test in question is Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

Integrating Major Health Systems Could Make Things Worse

Health reformers propose the proliferation of integrated health systems, like the Mayo Clinic or Kaiser Permanente, which, according to the Dartmouth Atlas, lead to better patient care and improved cost control.

To that end, accountable care organizations (ACOs) have been a major part of health reform, changing the way healthcare is delivered. Never mind that patients may not be receptive to the new model, but the creation of these large, integrated physician-hospital entities that progressive policy experts espouse comes with repercussions. Monopoly power.

To prepare for the new model of healthcare delivery, physician practices have been consolidating. In many cases, they’re being bought by hospitals. Last year, I wrote how this is leading to the death of the private practice physician.

But with consolidation comes a tilt in market power. Health insurers, desperate to control costs, are finding it more difficult to negotiate with hospital-physician practices that dominate a market. And patients are going to side with the hospital — insurers that leave out popular doctors and medical facilities face a backlash from patients. Witness the power that Partners Healthcare has in the Boston market that’s mostly driven by patient demand for big-reputation, high-cost Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Remembering Gene Goldwasser: Discoverer Of EPO, A Cure For Anemia In Dialysis Patients

balloon illustration

Gene Goldwasser died last week. He was 88, and he was my friend.

I wrote previously about a series of conversations I conducted with Gene and Rabbi A.J. Wolf a few years ago. I met Gene one spring day after calling to invite him to sit in on a class I was teaching to a small group of medical students about social issues in healthcare.

I’d read about him in a book called “The $800 Million Pill,” by Merrill Goozner. In the book, Goozner writes the story of Gene’s two-decade hunt to isolate the hormone erythropoietin (EPO).

Part of the story relates how Gene tried to interest traditional big pharma companies in his discovery, only to be brushed aside. Instead, Gene wound up sharing his discovery with what became Amgen. The company went on to make a windfall from recombinant production of the hormone and licensing it as a drug for patients with anemia and kidney failure. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Industry Influence Is “An infection”: International Criticism Of Pfizer-Funded Journalism Workshops

Next week, the National Press Foundation offers an “all-expenses-paid, educational program on cancer issues” for journalists, with all expenses paid by Pfizer. I’ve written several times about my criticism of this approach.

The National Press Foundation has offered to let me speak at next week’s event or at a subsequent all-expenses-paid program for journalists on Alzheimer’s disease also underwritten by Pfizer.

I’m unable to attend either event because of prior commitments, but suggested to NPF that they ask Merrill Goozner to speak instead. He’s right in Washington, has written and lectured about conflicts of interest in healthcare, and was available. Goozner told me he has not been contacted. So, since I can’t attend and since critical voices probably won’t be represented at the first workshop, I have posted some video clips of what others might have said if given the opportunity. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

Flibanserin: Another Pre-FDA Approval Drug Hype

Money-happy pillThis week the FDA will vote on flibanserin, the much-talked-about drug for women with the condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder or — because everything in sexual health needs an acronym like ED or PE — HSDD.

On the eve of the FDA vote, CBS last week ran still another story about flibanserin. This drug has received so much news coverage, you’d think it cures cancer.

And CBS did little more than promote the hype even more, saying FDA approval “could translate into a $2 billion market in this country alone” and then failing to challenge the disease-mongering estimate of “10 percent to 30 percent of women” with this condition. It all just goes along with the drug company’s efforts to build a demand before the drug is even approved. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all book reviews »