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The Cancer Drug Shortage Is A Serious Problem

Last Sunday’s New York Times featured an op-ed by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, on the oncology drug shortage. It’s a serious problem that’s had too-little attention in the press:

Of the 34 generic cancer drugs on the market, as of this month, 14 were in short supply. They include drugs that are the mainstay of treatment regimens used to cure leukemia, lymphoma and testicular cancer.

Emanuel considers that these cancer drug shortages have led to what amounts to an accidental rationing of cancer meds. Some desperate and/or influential patients (or doctors or hospitals) get their planned chemo and the rest, well, don’t.

Unfortunately, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*

New York Times Piece About Plastic Surgery Gets People Talking

Monday’s New York Times tweeted a headline – “Never Too Old for Plastic Surgery” – about this story.

While I’m very happy for the 83-year old woman in the piece for her happiness over her “new” $8,000 breasts, the piece was framed like an expensive billboard for plastic surgeons – only it didn’t cost them anything. The Times gave away the advertising space.

The story states:

“There are as many reasons for getting plastic surgery as there are older patients, experts say”…and…”some are simply sick of slackened jowls, jiggly underarms and saggy eyelids.”

There are a few other perspectives in the middle of the piece:

“Some critics question whether the benefits are worth the risks, which may be underestimated.”

But it is often how you END a piece that determines readers’ takeaway messages – and it is often also a sign of the message the journalist really wanted to convey. And this one concludes with a Harvard prof’s comment: Read more »

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

New York Times Reports On Very Atypical Case Of Schizophrenia

Benedict Carey is a New York Times mental health reporter.  In last Sunday’s Times, he wrote about Joe Holt, a man with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  Mr. Holt was dealt a particularly tough deck of cards: in addition to a diagnosis of schizophrenia, he had a horrible and traumatic childhood with much loss, placement in a facility where he was physically abused, and periods of homelessness as a teenager.  He now has a stable marriage, has adopted children and keeps numerous foster children, and holds two jobs, one as a computer consultant and another as a therapist (if I read that correctly).  He struggles with his emotional life, but my take on this was that this is one extremely resilient man who has waged a successful battle against many demons and his story is inspirational.

So Benedict Carey often writes stories that are skeptical, if not outright critical, of the mental health field.  This story did not have that tone.  I found it interesting, though, that he chose a person with a diagnosis of schizophrenia who’s life was not “typical.”  What did I find not typical? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Expensive Medications: Is The Benefit Worth The Cost?

The concept of cost-effectiveness in medicine is elastic. One’s view on this issue depends upon who is paying the cost. Of course, this is true in all spheres of life. When you’re in a fine restaurant, you order differently when the meal will be charged to someone else. Under these circumstances, the foie gras appetizer and the jumbo shrimp cocktail are no longer luxuries, but are considered as essential amino acids that are necessary to maintain life.

In the marketplace, except in the medical universe, goods and services are priced according to what the market will bear. If an item is priced too high, then the seller will have fewer sales and a bloated inventory. Consumers will not pay absurd prices for common items, regardless of supernatural claims of quality.

  • Would you pay $100 for an ice cream sundae that boasted it was the best in the world?
  • Would you pay $1000 for a tennis racket that promised performance beyond your ability?
  • Would you pay $500 for a box of paper clips that never lose their tension? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

NYT Reports On Research That Links Height To Cancer Risk

Female models may be tall and beautiful, but they are also at markedly increased risk of developing cancer. The New York Times reported on a fascinating research article regarding height of a women and risk of cancer.

Specifically, for every four-inch increase in height over 5 feet 1 inch, the risk that a woman would develop cancer increased by about 16 percent, especially for:

• Colon Cancer (RR per 10 cm increase in height 1.25, 95% CI 1.19—1.30)
• Rectal Cancer (1.14, 1.07—1.22)
• Malignant Melanoma Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Fauquier ENT Blog*

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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