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Homebirth Risks: Babies Three Times More Likely To Die

By Amy Tuteur, MD

More than 10,000 American women each year choose planned homebirth with a homebirth midwife in the mistaken belief that it is a safe choice. In fact, homebirth with a homebirth midwife is the most dangerous form of planned birth in the US.

In 2003 the US standard birth certificate form was revised to include place of birth and attendant at birth. In both the 2003 and 2004 Linked Birth Infant Death Statistics, mention was made of this data, but it was not included in the reports. Now the CDC has made the entire dataset available for review and the statistics for homebirth are quite remarkable. Homebirth increases the risk of neonatal death to double or triple the neonatal death rate at hospital birth. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Pregnant Women: 1 in 25 With H1N1 Flu Will Die Of It

by Amy Tuteur, MD

Doctors are often compelled to make quick decisions in life threatening cases with only limited information. Unfortunately, pregnant women are now going to be put in the same situation.

The H1N1 flu has taken an extraordinary toll among pregnant women. A new vaccine is now available. Because of the nature of the emergency, there has not been time to do any long term studies of the vaccine. Yet pregnant women will need to make a decision as soon as possible on whether to be vaccinated. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*

The Dangers Of Delayed Vaccine Schedules

by Steve Perry, MD

I recently read a post by Dr. Bob Sears which listed several “Vaccine Friendly Doctors” in Colorado and across the nation.

As a pediatrician and vaccine advocate, I thought I’d be on this list. I am “vaccine-friendly doctor” who works with moms and dads to find the best health care plan for their babies. I read the information on both sides of the issue and weighed the science against the emotional worry that so many parents feel about vaccines. While I always recommend vaccination by the CDC schedule, I always listen to parents concerns.

But, much to my surprise, I was not on this list. After a looking closer, I found that those on the list are a small population of physicians that are “friendly” to the “alternative” or delayed vaccine schedule outlined in Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book. The delayed vaccine schedule calls for a drawn-out vaccine plan based on Dr. Sears’ beliefs on calming parental vaccine fears. This delayed schedule has no research or science backing it, it is simply one pediatrician’s opinion.

The biggest medical problem with the delayed schedule is that it leaves babies open to disease for a longer period of time. If a baby is vaccinated by the CDC’s tried, tested and true vaccine schedule, that baby will have immunity to over 14 diseases by the age of two! With the CDC recommended schedule, babies visit their doctor five times in the first 15 months and receive protection against up to 14 diseases in as little as 18 shots if using combination vaccines, or as many as 26 shots if using individual antigens.

We immunize children so young against these diseases because infancy is the time period that kids are MOST vulnerable to life-threatening diseases. The people at greatest risk of dying from vaccine-preventable disease are the very young and the very old. We vaccinate to save lives.

On the delayed schedule, by 15 months of age children will have only received immunity against eight diseases. They miss out on measles, rubella, chickenpox, Hep A, and Hep B. By 15 months, children on this delayed schedule are given 17 shots and visit the doctor’s office 9 times – almost twice as many visits to the doctor as the CDC schedule.

Beyond Dr. Sears advocating for a medically untested vaccine schedule, I was dismayed at his classification of physicians like myself who vaccinate according to the CDC schedule. Because we follow the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC’s vaccine guidelines we are “unfriendly” doctors? Because I am following the science of my colleagues I am an “unfriendly” doctor?

This type of misinformation is damaging to families and physicians. It is the power of words that plant seeds of doubt in the minds of parents to fear vaccines. It’s this misleading information that manipulates parents into feeling that they are bad parents if they don’t question the safety and validity of vaccines.

As a pediatrician, I know it can be confusing for parents who get so much information about vaccines every day online and on TV. We all want to be informed advocates for our children’s health. Reading a balance of both sides allows parents to make an informed choice.

The best place to start the conversation about vaccines is with your pediatrician or by reading reputable sites like the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition at www.childrensimmunization.org. This non-profit does not accept donations from pharmaceutical companies and works to improve childhood vaccination rates across Colorado.

The reason I became a pediatrician was to protect children from illness and disease. Dr. Bob may only define “vaccine-friendly doctors” as those who promote his book, but the overwhelming data on the effectiveness and safety of vaccination makes it easy for us all to become a vaccine-friendly community. I hope that parents take time to read information on both sides of the issue, brings their questions to their physician and makes fully informed decisions about their child’s health.

Steve Perry is a pediatrician at Cherry Creek Pediatrics in Denver, Colorado and co-chair of the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition’s Policy Committee.

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*

Government Insurance & Running Naked Through Storm Risks

There has been a lot of talk about the way in which a public health insurer would compete against private ones.  As the President put it recently:

People say, well, how can a private company compete against the government?  And my answer is that if the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining — meaning taxpayers aren’t subsidizing it, but it has to run on charging premiums and providing good services and a good network of doctors, just like any other private insurer would do — then I think private insurers should be able to compete.  They do it all the time.

He makes a good point.  But we don’t have to talk about this in theory – we can look at existing state insurance programs to see how they operate.

In states prone to natural disasters like hurricanes, the market for private insurance has become increasingly uncompetitive.  Several state governments have responded by setting up public insurance programs to sell coverage to property owners in their states.  They operate something like private insurance companies – collecting premiums, maintaining reserves, and, importantly, buying reinsurance in the event of a catastrophe that exceeds what they can pay for themselves.

The New York Times reports that a number of the state insurers are thinking of doing something that a private insurer would likely never do: dropping their reinsurance coverage.  It could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  But it would expose them to billions of dollars in risk – that they likely would be unable to pay.  The Times calls it “running naked through storm risks.”

Why can they do this?

I suspect that in the event of a bad hurricane that depleted their reserves, these insurers believe they can turn to the state or federal government to cover their losses.  They are acting as if they already have a sort of “free” reinsurance from the government.  Or, to use a modern expression, they are assuming they will get a bail out if something bad happens.

What it means is that these companies aren’t running anything like a private insurer.  By not accounting for the cost of a catastrophe, they aren’t dealing with the real insurance risk they are taking.  As long as a disaster doesn’t happen they save money.  But when (not if) a major hurricane hits, they will be swept away in the storm, leaving the state and federal government – and the rest of us – with the bill.

“It’s typical of governments today to not be willing to make the hard decisions that are necessary to face up to the true risks and the true costs of the policies that they’ve undertaken,” said Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group.

The Times says there are some efforts underway to formalize this sort of “implicit guarantee” from the government.  That might be a step in the right direction if it forces everyone to grapple with the extent of this risk.

But what we see with these kinds of insurers is one of the important ways in which public insurers really aren’t the same as private ones.

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Fluroquinolone Antibiotics and Tendon Rupture

Outdoor enthusiasts are often stricken with infections for which they might be prescribed antibiotics in the class known as fluoroquinolones, one common member of which is ciprofloxacin (Cipro). They should be aware that a fairly well accepted complication of taking a fluoroquinolone for more than a few days is development of tendinitis leading to tendon rupture, notably of the Achilles tendon. The risk is such that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the makers of such drugs as ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin (Levaquin) to publish a black box warning on the packages alerting users to potentially serious side effects. The full list of drugs affected by the warning include ciprofloxacin (marketed as Cipro and generic ciprofloxacin); ciprofloxacin extended release (marketed as Cipro XR and Proquin XR); gemifloxacin (marketed as Factive); levofloxacin (marketed as Levaquin); moxifloxacin (marketed as Avelox); norfloxacin (marketed as Noroxin); and ofloxacin (marketed as Floxin and generic ofloxacin). As new fluoroquinolones appear on the market, they will undoubtedly be included in the warning program. The warning does not apply to eye and ear drops – only to medications taken orally or by injection.

Many patients and health care professionals are not aware of this risk, which is very real, having been officially reported in literally hundreds of patients. Although the drugs are phenomenal in terms of their ability to fight certain bacterial infections, users should be aware of this possible side effect, so that they can discontinue taking the culprit medication and switch to an alternative antibiotic(s) if need be. If tendon pain develops (typically about a week after initiation of therapy) when a person is taking a fluoroquinolone antibiotic, that is the time to make the switch. Simultaneously, anyone affected should diminish or avoid exercise and cease stressing the affected area until such time as the situation is resolved, as would be determined by decreased pain and other signs of inflammation. Most patients can be expected to recover within 10 weeks after discontinuing the antibiotic, but it may take longer.

Fluoroquinolones are widely used to treat infections in adults. They are not commonly prescribed for children because of a risk for eroding cartilage; however, if the medical necessity is important, they can be used in young individuals. The tendon rupture problem is therefore largely a problem of adults, and typically affects the Achilles tendon, with onset of symptoms within the first few weeks after the initiation of antibiotic therapy. Other tendons, including those of the upper extremity, may be involved. It is perhaps the large forces placed upon the Achilles tendon that makes it so prominent in this particular medical situation. Furthermore, the risk of fluoroquinolone-associated tendinitis and tendon rupture appears to be greater in persons older than 60 years of age, in those taking corticosteroid drugs (“steroids”), and in kidney, heart, and lung transplant recipients.

This post, Fluroquinolone Antibiotics and Tendon Rupture, was originally published on Healthine.com by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

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