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Dr. Oz Talks The Dangers Of Apple Juice: Fear-Mongering At Its Worst

MedPage Today reports:

Mehmet Oz, MD, the Columbia University thoracic surgeon who gained fame first in books and more recently with his syndicated television show, has run afoul of the Food and Drug Administration with his report about levels of arsenic in popular brands of apple juice.

The FDA called the report “irresponsible and misleading” and another TV doc, ABC’s Richard Besser, MD, accused Oz of fear-mongering.

Fox News’ Dr. Manny Alvarez rushes to Oz’s defense, though:

“I’m very proud of Dr. Oz for his report today on potentially dangerous levels of arsenic found in certain brands of apple juice, which may classify some of them as unsuitable for consumption. He’s sounding the alarm for an issue that I believe needs to be brought to attention.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to Read more »

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

Misleading Medical Tweets Could Cause Harm

This is not a lesson about the limitations of 140-character messages on Twitter.

Rather, it is a warning about careless Tweets that mischaracterize the real meat of the message in longer stories linked to in the Twitter message. As I wrote on Twitter in response to these two episodes, “Better not to Tweet on complex health care topics than to mischaracterize your own story with a misleading 140 characters.”

First, my friend Andrew Holtz caught the fact earlier this week that Men’s Health Magazine tweeted:

If you’re a smoker, you NEED to get a CT scan. Here’s why:

That “here’s why” link took you to a Men’s Health Magazine story, that despite being headlined “The Medical Test Every Smoker Needs,” went on to explain:

Don’t run out and ask for a CT scan, though. More than 96 percent of the positive screens in the study were false positives, which could subject you to unnecessary surgery, cancer treatments, and the complications that come with them. They’re also expensive: A chest CT scan can cost up to several thousands of dollars.

So look at how silly Men’s Health looked on this confusing back-and-forth message:

1. You NEED to get a CT scan.
2. It’s a test “every smoker needs”
3. But don’t run out and ask for one.

Then this morning I caught AARP doing the same thing. They tweeted:

Are you a smoker? CT scan those lungs – they’re proven to cut risk of lung cancer death for 55-plus:

That links takes you to a story that includes caveats such as the following: Read more »

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

The Art Of Misleading Statistics: Redefining Psychotherapy

This month’s Psychiatric Times continues the discussion [registration required :-( ] about the NY Times article on psychotherapy that Dinah and readers discussed on April 9. This time, our colleague, Ron Pies MD, authored this article which deconstructs the myths perpetrated in the NYT article, which interviewed a med check doctor who found it “sad” that his patients found him to be important to them in their lives (read the article for the full flavor).

I’m glad that Ron pointed out (as we have) that the 2008 Mojtabai and Olfson article — which implied that only 11% of US outpatient psychiatrists provide psychotherapy — was a misleading statistic. Why? Because they did not consider brief psychotherapy sessions (30 minutes or less) to be classified as “psychotherapy” for their session. Thus, a 90807 (45-50 min) is considered psychotherapy, but a 90805 (20-30 min) would not be considered so, even though the AMA’s CPT manual defines it as psychotherapy. Also, brief and supportive forms of psychotherapy are often given even when only a “med check” is billed. Nonetheless, the sound bite from that article has been: “Only 11% of psychiatrists do psychotherapy”. It just ain’t true. As Mark Twain said, ”There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.“—–

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Industry-Sponsored Medical Education: Should Big Pharma Buy Doctors Lunch?

Big Pharma Free Lunch WagonAppetite for Instruction: Why Big Pharma should buy your doctor lunch sometimes” is the headline of an article on that has upset many readers. I’m not terribly upset about it because it just seems too naive and misinformed to get upset about. The final line of the piece tells you all you need to know about the tone of the column:

“Ousting commercial support is creating a huge chasm in medical education, leaving doctors not only hungry but also starved for knowledge.”

A number of online comments were posted in reaction to the piece. Read more »

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

Nutraceuticals, False Advertising, And Misuse Of M.D. Anderson’s Name

Thumbnail image for dontmesswithtexas.jpgThe premier US cancer hospital and research center in Houston released a statement today distancing themselves from a Dallas company claiming an endorsement of their water product by The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center:

Recently, you may have heard or read about a company that sells Evolv, a “nutraceutical beverage,” which is being promoted in part based upon testing done at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, but also is being mistakenly viewed as endorsed by M. D. Anderson. M. D. Anderson conducted limited chemical analysis of the product to evaluate its anti-inflammatory activity for a fee at the request of the manufacturer. No efficacy or toxicity data were generated at M. D. Anderson nor was the product tested on humans. Moreover, M. D. Anderson does not have any involvement with the company, the product is not produced by M. D. Anderson, and M. D. Anderson does not endorse the product or recommend its use.

The current text on Evolv’s website an Evolv fan site is that:

Evolv’s nutraceutical beverage with Archaea Active is tested by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

The statement as listed is not exactly wrong; it’s just not complete. Nothing there about what the product was tested for, but the implication is that it gained some healing power by passing through the hallowed halls of M.D. Anderson. I also have no clue as to whether it was tested for archaea (formerly archaebacteria) or if it has the capacity to amplify DNA.

Of course, my blogging about this is going to give the company publicity (a very, very small amount). Evolv is not just water but it is sold by a multi-level marketing company. I already knew to put one hand on my wallet when I dialed up their website. The header has the quote from Mary Kay Ash, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something,” which rotates with others from her and Zig Ziglar who, no doubt, did not authorize their association with the company.

But water? The next multi-level marketing craze?

I don’t think this holds water.

Now if we could only get M.D. Anderson to address this other misuse of their name.

Note added 10 September 2009: This comment from EvolvHealth’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mr Jonathan Gilliam, brought to my attention that I had the incorrect website for the company (as corrected above). The actual website should be Currently, their product page lists the M.D. Anderson claim as follows:

Our active ingredient has been tested by the MD Anderson Cancer Center of the University of Texas. Evolv will be released in Fall 2009

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

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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