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Latest Posts

NSAIDs Might Be Risky For People With Heart Problems

As if people with the combination of high blood pressure and heart disease don’t already have enough to worry about, a new study suggests that common painkillers called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) pose special problems for them.

Among participants of an international trial called INVEST, those who often used NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn, and others), or celecoxib (Celebrex) were 47% more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke or to have died for any reason over three years of follow-up than those who used the drugs less, or not at all. The results were published in the July issue of the American Journal of Medicine.

Millions of people take NSAIDs to relieve pain and inflammation. They are generally safe and effective. The main worry with NSAIDs has always been upset stomach or gastrointestinal bleeding. During the last few years, researchers have raised concerns that Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Do You Know What Metabolic Syndrome Is?

People with metabolic syndrome are twice as likely to develop heart disease, and five times as likely to develop diabetes, as those who don’t have metabolic syndrome. But many people are not yet familiar with this relatively new term. Do you know what metabolic syndrome is?

OECD Country Populations with a BMI > 30 (1996-200

OECD Country Populations with a BMI > 30 (1996-2003)

Metabolic syndrome is the combination of several medical problems associated with morbid obesity. In addition to obesity, these conditions include: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Columbia University Department of Surgery Blog*

Are The Low Prices Of Generic Drugs Enough To Make You Switch?

Generic medications appear to be far more cost-effective than previously reported, concluded a team of Harvard professors. But, physicians and patients aren’t adopting them wholeheartedly.

Patents of 20 drugs with annual sales of more than $1 billion expired or will do so between 2010 and 2013, including Lipitor and Plavix, the highest- and second-highest revenue producing drugs in the U.S. While highly effective generics provide low-cost options for chronic disease management, they are not always factored into cost analyses, and are sometimes viewed with concerns about their safety and efficacy.

The Harvard team revisited a 2008 study that used brand-name medication costs in an analysis of the cost-effectiveness of strategies to prevent adverse outcomes associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The study found that up to 244 million quality-adjusted life-years could be gained over 30 years with appropriate preventive care. But, the study authors wrote, that “most prevention activities are expensive when considering direct medical costs.”

The Harvard team recalculated figures from the 2008 research, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Meta-Analyses And A Capricious Drug Approval Process: The Actos And Avandia Stories

Both Germany and France have now suspended the marketing of Actos (pioglitazone) due to concerns of a link between Actos and bladder cancer. Though we have known about bladder cancer concerns for some time, these recent concerns about the bladder cancer link stem from a recent report analyzing the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS), which found that 93 cases of cancer were recorded between 2004 and 2009 in patients treated with antidiabetic drugs, of which 31 patients were treated with pioglitazone, representing a statistically significant increased risk of bladder cancer (ROR 4.30, 95% confidence interval, 2.82-6.52; P less than 0.0001).

Interestingly, the FDA announced that it was going to look into the link between Actos and bladder cancer only a few days before it made its final decision on what to do with Avandia (as if they didn’t know about the Actos cancer risk before the July 2010 advisory board).

Despite the many things you have heard about Avandia, back in July 2010, the FDA decided to severely restrict the use of Avandia for three reasons: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Statins Reduce Heart Disease Risk, But Probably Not Because They Lower Cholesterol

When cyclists find out that I am a heart doctor, they most frequently ask about cholesterol numbers.

“…My cholesterol is this…What do you think?”

“…My doctor wants me to take a statin…But I read that these drugs might lower my functional threshold power 2.014 watts/40km.”

All this focus on numbers saddens me. Remember, I am a forest guy, not a tree guy. What’s more, as a doctor that revels in the adrenaline rush of ablating rogue circuits with technology that would impress even a twenty-something, I find questions about biochemistry dreary–like eating quinoa.

I wish folks would ask me about how to terminate AF with a catheter, or how an (evidenced-based) ICD saved a mom’s life, or perhaps even this: “Do you do heart surgery?”

But more often than not people want to know about cholesterol.

Okay. It just so happens that this week brought some very interesting news concerning the treatment of abnormal cholesterol lab values. News that big-picture docs have to like. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

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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