Medicine and Pharmaceuticals

Have you noticed that drug commercials always conclude with some ominous warning like, "This drug may cause headache, anxiety, vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and erectile dysfunction"?

There's a reason for that. To stay out of trouble, pharmaceutical companies list every possible thing that might ever go wrong with a patient. In reality, most people who take the drug will never experience those side effects. But if they do, it's probably not because of the drug. Instead, it's due to the nocebo effect.

The nocebo effect is the evil twin of the placebo effect. With the placebo effect, a treatment (even if ineffective) makes a person feel better simply...

Since its founding in 1978, the American Council on Science and Health has been vehemently anti-smoking. Cigarettes kill people, if not from cancer, then from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The bottom line is that lighting something -- anything -- on fire and inhaling the fumes is bad for you.

That includes marijuana. The wacky tobaccy has a health halo of sorts surrounding it, probably because of the proliferation of medical marijuana over the years. This proliferation was due, in part, to health benefits that were greatly exaggerated by its proponents. In reality, if marijuana has any upside, it is likely limited to managing pain.

According to a...

Without a doubt, almost all alternative medicine is junk science. That would include widespread practices like acupuncture, which the biomedical literature has shown convincingly confers no real medical benefits compared to placebo.

But the placebo effect is powerful. It is far more than the "power of positive thinking." Instead, the placebo effect has real, measurable effects on the human body. Therefore, even if a "treatment" is nothing more than a placebo, some people undoubtedly will benefit from using it.

However, that raises a serious ethical question: Should...

The legalization of marijuana across the U.S. is beginning to reveal a treasure trove of information. Before, it was difficult to do research on the usage of pot because it was illegal, and people tend not to admit to doing things that are illegal.

However, with both the law and the public's attitude relaxing toward marijuana, people are opening up about their wacky tobaccy habits. The CDC took advantage of this and surveyed people aged 18 and over in Colorado, which legalized recreational pot in 2014.

The study population included only those respondents who (1) answered (either positively or negatively) whether they had ever consumed marijuana and (2) were currently employed or had been unemployed for less than one year. This whittled the study down to 10,169 respondents...

Fake pot has a problem. Because people assume that pot is harmless, they also assume that synthetic pot is harmless. But that is a grave mistake.

Fake pot goes by several other names: Fake weed, synthetic marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids, K2, and spice. These drugs were created as a way for scientists to study the nervous system, but some people acquire them for recreational use. This is a terrible idea because their effect on the body is nothing at all like marijuana.

According to the CDC, a person who consumes fake pot could experience "rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations." Two years ago, a synthetic cannabinoid that was 85 times more potent than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient in marijuana) caused a "...

Increasingly, Americans are choosing alternate sites of care, specifically retail clinics, urgent care centers and telemedicine. Fair Health, an aggregator of private insurance health claims, has provided an analysis of the health claims of 150 million of us to provide a snapshot. 

The three alternatives quick care sites include retail clinics, those services areas staffed by pharmacists or nurse practitioners in your local pharmacy or Walmart; physician staffed urgent care centers, free-standing sites offering more than offices and less the emergency room, what we in the trade referred to as a “Doc in a Box;” and telemedicine. Here are some of the findings:

  • Emergency Department utilization grew by about 230%, taken as the baseline retail clinics had triple the...

 I have been writing for years (1) about the emergence and spread of bacteria that are resistant to virtually all antibiotics, and that it was only a matter of time until they reached the US. Time's up. They are here. 

Perhaps the scariest of the bunch is carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which will kill about half the people who contract it. The chemical structures of amoxicillin, a member of the penicillin class and imipenem. a member of the carbapenem class are shown in Figure 1. Both classes are naturally-...

There's no sign that the ongoing drug overdose epidemic is getting better. In fact, though it has been receiving widespread national attention for about two years, it seems to be getting worse.

The CDC just released two reports, the first of which gave an overview of drug-related mortality rates. For all Americans, the mortality rate for drug overdoses (be they accidental or intentional) in 2016 was 19.8 per 100,000, up from 16.3 per 100,000 the previous year. To put that into perspective, the mortality rate from car crashes is 11.7 per 100,000.

When stratified by race/ethnicity, the drug-related mortality rate (per 100,000) in 2016 for whites was 25.3, blacks 17.1, and Hispanics 9.5....

It may not seem like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has much interest in supplements, since by now they have gotten used to the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act signed by President Bill Clinton, which basically gave an entire class of products exemption from oversight unless people were poisoned provided they wrote a disclaimer that their claims were not tested by FDA.

The new administration of FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. has been much more proactive in protecting consumers from goods that have hid behind a political shield in the past, and that is why products containing the opiate kratom made by Triangle Pharmanaturals LLC have been pulled from shelves. Not because of the kratom, though FDA is understandably worried about that also, but because...

Dan Berger, Ph.D. is a former colleague of mine from Wyeth. When Wyeth went away so did we, albeit in different directions. Dan became a patent agent - a very specialized field in which a very high-stakes game is played - invalidation of drug company patents by other companies, usually generic manufacturers. This makes him uniquely qualified to explain the nuances in patents that can result in billions of dollars going to one company rather than another.

Generic drug companies have on staff patent agents and attorneys whose sole job is to scour the patent literature for weaknesses in patents that were filed (usually) by the inventing company (innovator), for example, that the drug was already covered in an older patent, which would void the new one. And innovator companies also...