Medicine and Pharmaceuticals

Honey and other bee products have a life-giving, almost mystical quality according to alternative medicine practitioners and "back to nature" enthusiasts. In truth, they don't. Bee colonies aren't tiny pharmaceutical companies. Sure, honey tastes good, but from a chemistry standpoint, honey isn't all that different from high-fructose corn syrup.

That doesn't stop supplement makers from marketing all sorts of bee products as superfoods. Particularly popular ones are bee pollen and royal jelly, a secreted substance that worker bees feed to larvae. There is nothing magical about either of those. On...

There are tons of mommy forums and mommy blogs that are influential and followed by a great many women. Some provide really great advice, some are humorous and some share stories of triumphs and tribulations.  I think that is great.  I, personally, belong to a group of physician moms.  What I don't think is great is when someone with zero training to do so, imparts medical advice to their readers. 

I am not entirely sure why this is so, but I have a sneaking suspicion many people feel that what they read on the internet is equivalent to "doing their research."  I cannot stand hearing this because inevitably it is followed up with a statement where you end up either offending the individual or drawing blood from having to bite your tongue.   

One of these sore points, for...

Pseudoscience is sexy and it sells – big time.  Fraudsters, hucksters, and snake oil salesmen will always be a plague to our society as long as there is a susceptible public. Let's be honest. In the age of information (and misinformation) it can be very difficult to determine what is real and what is not, allowing potentially dangerous medical products and procedures to become fads.  

When it comes to making a buck, the utter lack of supportive data has not hampered charlatans.  While there is a legitimate medical use for chelation therapy – a treatment for toxic acute metal poisonings from mercury, iron, arsenic, lead, uranium, and plutonium, to name a few. But some people are misusing this therapy claiming that it treats problems other than toxic metal poisoning. 

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A paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research entitled, “Addressing the Opioid Epidemic: Is there a role for physician education?” by Schnell and Curry begins with this the question of how initial medical training varies with opioid prescriptions written and finds this provocative finding:

  • “…physicians trained at the lowest ranked US medical schools prescribe nearly three times as many opioids per year as physicians trained at the top medical school. This striking inverse relationship reflects two factors: (1) physicians from lower ranked medical schools are more likely to write any opioid prescriptions; and (2) conditional on being an opioid prescriber, physicians for lower ranked medical schools write more opioid...

The myth that "natural is better" is widespread and pernicious. Though it can manifest in relatively harmless ways (e.g., consuming overpriced organic food), the relentless pursuit of all-things natural can be dangerous or even deadly. It is not an exaggeration to say that society's obsession with natural remedies is itself an illness.

The latest weirdness comes from Germany, which according to New Scientist, is considering approval of parasite eggs as a food additive. After eating the eggs, little worms hatch, and people believe that these worms will cure them of their maladies. Most likely, they won't.

Helminth...

Acid reflux is an unpleasant condition. Not only is it uncomfortable, but experiencing chronic acid reflux (known as GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease) may cause esophageal cancer.

Thankfully, there is medication to treat it. One of the most famous is a little purple pill called Nexium that, as Dr. Josh Bloom describes in one of the best articles ever written for ACSH, was a $48 billion rip-off orchestrated by AstraZeneca. Still, the pill really does work due to a mechanism called proton pump inhibition.

Acids are made of protons (i.e., hydrogen atoms with their lone electrons removed). A rather...

When a patient enters a hospital or doctor's office with a cough, difficulty breathing, and chest discomfort/pain - physicians may be able to easily diagnose a lung infection. But, what is causing the infection is a different story. In fact, a physician may not be able to know - so, he or she is left to make their best guess. In this case, an antibiotic will most likely be prescribed (which is only effective against bacteria) regardless of what the cause of the infection really is.

That may not seem like a bad idea, but, prescribing an antibiotic for a viral infection is not only unnecessary - the over-prescription of antibiotics is one of the leading causes of antibiotic resistance....

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. Despite continued campaigns to raise awareness that it is responsible for roughly 1 out of 4 female deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates nearly half of women do not identify it as such a risk. 

Here, I will elucidate why, along with how best to prevent it, clarify any misperceptions and demonstrate the dynamic nature of the cardiovascular system throughout a woman’s life cycle from childhood to pregnancy to menopause and beyond.

Nearly two-thirds of women who die suddenly from cardiac events had no prior symptoms....

One of the common misconceptions about hospitals, and perhaps corporations in general, is the term "non-profit." People assume it means they don't care about making money, but they sure do. Non-profit does not refer to their bottom line, after all, you cannot be in business and continue to lose money. Non-profit is instead simply a tax status, and specifically, it exempts hospitals from paying real estate and other taxes in exchange for contributing a fixed portion of their revenues to ‘community benefit’ rather than paying dividends to shareholders. As always, the devil is in the details. Unsurprisingly, Cleveland Clinic, one of the largest health systems in the country, was held up as an example of a wildly profitable non-profit in...

Medication mistakes outside of a health care facility are on the rise and resulting in serious outcomes—with home locations leading the pack. According to a new study that tracked unintentional therapeutic pharmaceutical errors and focused on those causing profound impairment, disability and death, there was a 100% rate increase from 2000 to 2012.

All age groups reflected such an increase, except those under six years of age—this trajectory most likely is attributed to the FDA’s 2007 restriction of cold and cough suppressant sales to children under six due to their lack of proven efficacy and their ability to do harm. Shortly, I will address the respective, unique challenges to...