Medicine and Pharmaceuticals

Last week, the global news outlets reported a case of a baby boy born in India with two penises and four legs. The patient was successfully operated on to remove the anomalous duplications (aka polymelia, extra limbs) and is doing well by all accounts.

Fortunately, these types of abnormal or accessory appendages are a rarity. But, they occur more often than you would imagine. Fetal and embryologic development is a dynamic process with cells migrating in multiple directions along innumerable planes to form organ systems, in particular, in early pregnancy. As a result, varying influences can alter their trajectory albeit of chromosomal, genetic or environmental (e.g. medications,...

With the current wave of states legalizing marijuana, advocates championing the cause and the presence of greater societal acceptance, there is a growing perception that dispensary-supplied “medical marijuana”—not distinct from “recreational marijuana”— is as safe as any medical product obtained at a pharmacy. This is not so as there are no quality control measures or thorough federally-regulated vetting procedures in place to ensure safety.

It seems the medical and health research aspects of the issue are many steps behind the legal and political advances contributing to a false sense of security. The reality is much is not known about the science—good, bad or indifferent. Partly to blame is public universities’ very restricted ability to study the substance in the first place...

Ask yourself how often you ever think about your ability to hear? How much you value it? How much you—and your loved ones—would be impacted if it were gone or profoundly diminished?

How much you would intervene early and often if you knew it would best protect this precious sense? 

Well, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes our natural tendency not to appreciate things as much as we should until we don’t have them any more, so they recently studied the extent of adult hearing loss and modifiable ways to prevent it. The most significant finding was that much hearing damage and loss is occurring from loud sounds experienced in our daily lives, homes and community environments. (1) 

These noise-induced deficits are permanent and appear with...

 

 

Just another day at the office.

1. Go to Long Island off the coast of the Bahamas. Coordinates (23°41.12′ N, 75°22.18′ W) are included, in case you happen to be still using Apple Maps, because you are just as likely to end up here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple Maps: Still not all that reliable

 

 

 

2. Get into one of these things.

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This story has it all. Donald Trump's hair, drug prices, enlarged prostates, and a way for you follically-challenged guys to save a ton of money by sticking it to Merck.

Last week, there were a number of stories about some of President Trump's medications. Nothing all that captivating. But, if you scratch the surface, there's some interesting biochemistry going on with one of them—Propecia, the drug that keeps men from losing their hair. 

There are a total of two approved hair loss drugs available for men (1). One of them doesn't suck. Let's look:

The generic name for Propecia is finasteride. It works rather well....

There are many good reasons not to take drugs. Other than addiction and the possibility of overdose, the next best reason is that, Walter White notwithstanding, neighborhood chemists aren't terribly trustworthy. It is common for drugs to be mixed with other chemicals, some of which are far more dangerous than the drug itself. 

The heroin epidemic sweeping the nation -- which has quadrupled heroin overdose deaths among people aged 25 to 34 and contributed to an increase in the overall mortality rate of young, white Americans -- serves as...

Red Yeast Rice

If you have high cholesterol, you are probably familiar with a group of cholesterol lowering medications called “statins” commonly known by brand names like Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor etc.  Statins are the most effective medicines for lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) which causes atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in blood vessels) leading to heart attack and stroke.   But not all persons who can benefit from statins are taking them.  Some people have to stop taking statins because of adverse reactions (ARs).  As such, they often turn to alternatives like Red Yeast Rice (RYR) – an over the counter (OTC) supplement which has cholesterol-lowering action.  In some cases, people opt to take RYR instead of prescription cholesterol medicines because products labeled “natural” appear safer than...

If the issue of drug pricing weren't a big enough issue before the election, it sure is now. Hardly a day goes by without a statement or two from the new administration regarding drug prices. Sometimes the message is even the same on two consecutive days. Or not.

This is a very good time to be asking hard questions about both the price and the value of drugs, something that Dr. Robert Popovian, the vice president of Pfizer US Government Relations has frequently discussed in that past, and continues to do so quite thoroughly. In his most recent piece, "How to Achieve Value-Based Reimbursement" Popovian specifically focuses on specialty drugs because they are quite pricey, but are increasingly important in patient care. He asks a critical question: How can you value a drug that is...

Let’s be honest. It is the rare few of us who don’t start empathetic itching when we even read stories about skin mite infestations or head lice, for example, let alone experience them first hand.  

According to the Dayton Daily News, things got all too real for 86 hospital employees at Kettering Hospital when spokesperson, Elizabeth Long, confirmed an outbreak of scabies among the staff. The hospital representative maintains the spread can be traced to a patient and the proper precautions are in place to prevent further issues—maintaining no other patients have been affected.

What better time to clarify some misperceptions about scabies and a few...

Alternative medicine is like an "alternative fact." If it was real, then the word "alternative" wouldn't be necessary. 

Yet, occasionally, alternative medicine gets something right. Though uncommon, investigations sometimes demonstrate that an herbal remedy used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a legitimate biological or chemical basis. A fungus harvested from termite nests, for instance, has been traditionally used to treat depression and insomnia. Now, Taiwanese scientists think they have discovered a plausible scientific rationale for this practice.

The team cultured the fungus Xylaria nigripes (also called Wu Ling Shen) in the laboratory and then performed a chemical extraction to obtain biologically active compounds. (This...