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Chinese Study Compares Flu Treatments: Prescription Drug Vs. Herbal Remedy

During the early days of the 2009 H1N1 influenza A pandemic, the popular herbal formula maxingshigan–yinqiaosan was used widely by TCM practitioners to reduce symptoms. (It’s hard to pronounce and spell, so I’ll refer to it as M-Y.) A new study was done to test whether M-Y worked and to compare it to the prescription drug oseltamivir. It showed that M-Y did not work for the purpose it was being used for: it did not reduce symptoms, although it did reduce the duration of one sign, fever, allowing researchers to claim they had proved that it works as well as oseltamivir.

“Oseltamivir Compared With the Chinese Traditional Therapy: Maxingshigan–Yinqiaosan in the Treatment of H1N1 Influenza” by Wang et al. was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine earlier this month. The study was done in China, which is notorious for only publishing positive studies. Even if it were an impeccable study, we would have to wonder if other studies with unfavorable results had been “file-drawered.” It’s not impeccable; it’s seriously peccable.

It was randomized, prospective, and controlled; but not placebo controlled, because they couldn’t figure out how to prepare an adequate placebo control. They considered that including Read more »

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

FluPhone Tracks “Super Spreaders” Of Disease

“Are you a super-spreader?” That’s the catchphrase for a new study out of the University of Cambridge. However, if you answered “yes”, you may want to stay home and cover your mouth, because the study was designed to track the spread of influenza using cellular phone technology.

The study (and accompanying app) is called FluPhone, and it uses cell phones to collect information on social encounters within the study sample of participants in Cambridge. A phone’s Bluetooth antenna detects encounters with other participants and also records the proximity to each other. The built-in GPS chip tracks each user’s location, but this feature was disabled due to recent ethical concerns. Finally, the phone’s 3G/GPRS antenna sends all the proximity data automatically back to researchers for analysis. Other features include the ability to program a specific disease model by introducing a virtual “pathogen” which can be transmitted via Bluetooth when at least two users are near each other.

In addition to revealing useful data about the spread of disease and how to minimize its effects, the study could also be helpful for creating more effective public health messages.

More from the University of Cambridge: FluPhone: disease tracking by app…

Research project page…

FluPhone participant website…

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

The Flu Vaccine: A Break Up Letter

Dear Influenza Vaccine:

I am sorry to be so formal, but using your pet name, “flu shot”, doesn’t seem appropriate in a letter like this.  I am also sorry to be writing this letter; I don’t want you to be hurt and I don’t want others to think bad of you.

I just don’t love you any more and want out of our relationship.

Don’t get me wrong; I still think you save lives.  You are strong, noble, and deserving of appreciation.  You give to my patients what I seek to give them: a longer life with less sickness, and you do so without much cost.  I will never think badly of you in that way.  I even want to continue meeting with you every year.  I don’t want to lose touch.

But things have gotten hard for me.  You give so much to others, yet you make my life so very hard.  I never know how many people will want you, and yet I have to order you six months or more in advance.   Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

Ask Kathleen Sebelius & Anne Schuchat Your H1N1 Flu Questions

kathleen-sebelius-anne-schuchat-2009-9-15-15-10-37Do you have any nagging questions about the H1N1 flu? Then please join me at a special blogger briefing at HHS on Monday at 3:30pm ET. In a Better Health/MedPage Today exclusive, I’ll be live-blogging the event from inside the HHS studio in DC, and the conversation will be available via live webcast. Please send in your questions in advance (press release and instructions are below) or feel free to forward developing questions to me via Twitter: @drval during the event. Hope to chat with you soon!

***

Please join the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for a special briefing on H1N1 flu.  As your readers turn to you for accurate and timely information about the ongoing H1N1 pandemic, we want to arm you with the most current information and take your questions on H1N1 and seasonal flu.  Send us the questions that you or your readers want to know and our communication experts will answer them during the webcast. Send questions to hhsstudio@hhs.gov by Sunday, November 22th at 3 pm (EST). Read more »

When A Second Opinion Saves A Child’s Life

Your child seems half dead to you, but you’re frozen with uncertainty.  Are they just being whiny?  Is that fever going to pass quickly?  When do I know if my child needs an emergency assessment?  When do I know if they need emergency medical care?

I recently got involved in just a situation with one of Mrs. Happy’s friends.  She has a young child, about four years old who came down with a fever a week ago.  The child has a history of asthma and a history of supraventricular tachycardia.  The child was meandering along doing fine when one day his condition changed. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

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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