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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*

The Simple Truth About Cholesterol

The New York Times recently ran a piece that wondered if doctors were treating patients with cholesterol-lowering medication unnecessarily because a web-based calculator over estimated a person’s risk. The program was proudly sponsored by the pharmaceutical roundtable and was available at the American Heart Association.

The implication was obvious. Simple tool determines an individual’s risk for heart attack or death from heart attack. It over estimates risk. Patients treated unnecessarily. To be also clear, the program did underestimate risk as well.

Unfortunately, the article missed an important point. While the simplified calculator may not be as accurate as the more complex algorithm used by the National Cholesterol Education Program, the truth is doctors are likely to be overtreating patients not because the former program is presented by the pharmaceutical roundtable, but for another reason. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

Video Interview: Roche’s Social Media Code Of Conduct

Last month I reported about the Social Media Code of Conduct released by Roche and I also shared my opinion on the issue. Now Sabine Kostevc, Head of Corporate Internet and Social Media at F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, gave an interview to Silja Chouquet:

*This blog post was originally published at ScienceRoll*

Do Drug Companies Pay Attention To Herbal Medicine?

I’m only a monthly contributor here, but between being a Science Based Medicine (SBM) reader and having my own blogs, I often grow weary of the blind criticism that researchers and drug companies couldn’t care less about traditional folk medicines as drug products. My laboratory spends every single day working on natural product extracts in the search for compounds that may have selective effectiveness against cancer. So this is a bit of a sore spot for me.

Two [recent] papers from Cancer Prevention Research on the potential anticancer effects of a diabetes drug (see Nathan Seppa’s story here) remind me to tell the story of a Middle Ages European herbal medicine used to treat polyuria that gave rise to one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, metformin (Glucophage in the U.S.). Metformin, known chemically as a biguanide, dimethylguanide to be precise, traces its roots to the plant Galega officinalis. Known as goat’s rue, French lilac, or professor weed, this plant was shown to be a rich source of guanidine and a less toxic compound later called galegin or galegine (isoamyline guanidine). Read more »

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

Depression In Preschoolers?

Preschooler depressionThe New York Times Magazine recently featured an article on preschooler depression. Pamela Paul wrote:

Diagnosis of any mental disorder at this young age is subject to debate. No one wants to pathologize a typical preschooler’s tantrums, mood swings and torrent of developmental stages. Grandparents are highly suspicious; parents often don’t want to know. “How many times have you heard, ‘They’ll grow out of it’ or ‘That’s just how he is’?” says Melissa Nishawala, a child psychiatrist at the New York University Child Study Center.

And some in the field have reservations, too. Classifying preschool depression as a medical disorder carries a risk of disease-mongering. “Given the influence of Big Pharma, we have to be sure that every time a child’s ice cream falls off the cone and he cries, we don’t label him depressed,” cautions Rahil Briggs, an infant-toddler psychologist at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York. Though research does not support the use of antidepressants in children this young, medication of preschoolers, often off label, is on the rise. One child psychologist told me about a conference he attended where he met frustrated drug-industry representatives. “They want to give these kids medicines, but we can’t figure out the diagnoses.” As Daniel Klein warns, “Right now the problem may be underdiagnosis, but these things can flip completely.”

Reference: “Can Preschoolers Be Depressed?” (The New York Times Magazine, August 25, 2010).

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

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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