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Latest Posts

Overmedicated Teenagers

Teen stressIt is summer camp season for kids and well-run camps require a medical history and record of prescription medications that the child is taking. One prestigious camp for teens (ages 11 to 19 — average camper is 16) in Southern California recently had 153 residential teenagers. These kids come from California and other states across the U.S. Fifty percent come from out of state and a number of campers each week are international.

Okay, so far so good. Healthy teens getting together for a week of learning and fun. Here is the shocker! I was amazed to learn that almost 25 percent of these kids are on prescription medication. Can it be that we are overmedicating teens?

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*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

The Improbable, Unsinkable Glucosamine

Glucosamine is widely used for osteoarthritis pain. It’s not as impossible as homeopathy, but its rationale is improbable. As I explained in a previous post:

Wallace Sampson, one of the other authors of this blog, has pointed out that the amount of glucosamine in the typical supplement dose is on the order of 1/1000th to 1/10,000th of the available glucosamine in the body, most of which is produced by the body itself. He says, “Glucosamine is not an essential nutrient like a vitamin or an essential amino acid, for which small amounts make a large difference. How much difference could that small additional amount make? If glucosamine or chondroitin worked, this would be a medical first and worthy of a Nobel. It probably cannot work.”

Nevertheless, glucosamine (alone or with chondroitin) is widely used, and there are some supporting studies. But they are trumped by a number of well-designed studies that show it works no better than placebo, as well as a study showing that patients who had allegedly responded to glucosamine couldn’t tell the difference when their pills were replaced with placebos. Read more »

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

Which Five Drugs Would You Take On A Remote Desert Island?

This post follows a lengthy conversation I had with my wife, a physician-scientist, about this very topic.

Many of you who attended the ScienceOnline2010 conference here last January probably met Carmen Drahl, the Princeton-trained chemist who now writes for Chemical & Engineering News and their appropriately-named drug discovery blog, The Haystack, as well as their Newscripts feature.

For the latter, Dr. Drahl pointed us toward a recent “Crosstalks” paper in Chemistry & Biology by Thomas U. Mayer and Andreas Marx of the University of Konstanz (and her interview with the authors) who mused as follows from their abstract:

Which five molecules would you take to a remote island? If you imagine yourself as a castaway on an island you might pick water, glucose, penicillin, and ethanol in combination with aspirin. However, as a scientist, you may ask yourself which molecules impressed you most by their chemical or biological property, their impact on science, or the ingenuity and/or serendipity behind their discovery. Here, we present our personal short list comprising FK506, colchicine, imatinib, Quimi-Hib, and cidofovir. Obviously, our selection is highly subjective and, therefore, we apologize up front to our colleagues for not mentioning their favorite compounds.

The authors pose two different questions: a) Which molecules, drug or not, would you take as the sole occupant of a desert island? and b) Which drugs most impress you with their chemistry, biology, or impact on science? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

A Doctor’s Guilt About Healthcare Costs

Times are tight and we’re all looking to save money, be it our own or someone else’s. Many will say that when it comes to the skyrocketing costs of healthcare, doctors are responsible for part of the problem.

Doctors order too many tests, either to cover ourselves in the event of a malpractice suit, or because patients pressure us, or because we genuinely believe that the tests are necessary for patient care, but in many circumstances, a cheaper option is available. We order medications that are expensive when cheaper medications are available. And psychiatrists offer care — like psychotherapy — that could be done by clinicians who are cheaper to educate and willing to work for less money. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

An Important Tip For Men Who Use Viagra

The medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings recently contained some clinical pearls that I wanted to pass on to my men readers who take medication for erectile dysfunction (ED). They reported on a healthy 67-year-old male who took two 25mg doses of Viagra (sildenafil) but still did not get erections. He was frustrated and inquired about other treatments for ED.

The article reported that patients often take Viagra and other phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (Cialis, Levitra) incorrectly. To be effective, Viagra must be taken on an empty stomach at least one hour before intercourse. Research has shown that approximately half of patients who don’t respond to Viagra will have success when they take it properly. The dose can go up to 100mg, but there is no need to increase the medication until the patient learns how to take it.

So there you have it. Take it on an empty stomach at least one hour before sex.

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

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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