News and Views

In certain areas of the country, "tick checks" are an everyday activity - especially for the kind of ticks that carry diseases like Lyme disease. However, even if ticks are found and removed, it is not simple or easy to recognize if that tick left Lyme disease behind. 

Now, new research published in Science Translational Medicine may lead to a new test that takes the guessing game out of diagnosing Lyme disease. Even better, it could distinguish Lyme disease from other tick-borne illnesses that share many of the same symptoms. 

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection with Borrelia burgdorferi, which is passed through the bite of the deer tick. The tick must be attached for 36-48 hours or more...

When is it time to put the scalpel (or stethoscope) down? In an era of rising life expectancies and changing attitudes towards the when and if of retirement; when 23% of physicians are over 65, and there are physician shortages, are there guidelines for what a doctor can or should do? Much about the current state of the ‘aging’ physician is discussed in an article The Aging Physician and the Medical Profession A Review in JAMA Surgery by Dellinger, Pelligrini, and Gallagher.

The two graphs, taken from the article, effectively summarize the science. 1002 physicians and 581 age matched controls were given a...

The Center for Medicare Services (CMS) unveiled their latest consumer tool, a comparison of Hospice care, aptly titled Hospice Compare. For those of you unfamiliar with hospice programs, they are designed to provide comfort to patients felt to be in their last six months of life. Within a few moments of CMS’s press conference announcing the consumer website, the critics emerged. As MedPage reported,

“Hospice experts have raised two complaints about the system. One is that the measures chosen for reporting may not fully reflect care quality. The other may seem odd: it's that, while the chosen measures aren't inappropriate for evaluating hospice care, nearly all hospices perform very well on them, and thus the data...

Given the political morass consuming all of the oxygen in the room on social media and it seems every news outlet, I must admit writing another in-depth thought piece on current health policy or innovation seems a bit disconnected from the events of the day and week.

So, I was glad to discover a development that could catapult me out of this transient paralysis-- or writer's block. The unlikely source for this spurt of creativity? A Kansas zoo. Entitled "Constipated gorilla in Kansas zoo recovering after surgery," the Associated Press piece delivers an apropos topic that affects humans too.

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Pharma companies are not doing well keeping their unscrupulous behavior quiet.

Martin Shkreli's high profile trial for increasing the price of the drug Daraprim from $13.5 to $750 per pill, and the complicated jury selection process, is making headlines. 

Now, the company Mylan - known for jacking up the price of the Epi Pen - came to a settlement with the US Justice Department to the tune of $465 million dollars. 

The settlement was in response to the controversy from last year that the company violated the False Claims Act by misclassifying the EpiPen as a generic drug. Why would a company knowingly do that? To save a lot of money by...

Merritt Hawkins, a company that specializes in recruitment and placement of physicians, released a survey of 1,033 physicians (a 1.5% response rate) asking whether they supported a ‘single payer’ health care system.  They point out that support for such a system has grown from 42% in 2008 to 56% today (measured by both somewhat and strong support) while opposition has decreased from 58% in 2008 to today’s 41%. The company goes on to suggest four reasons why physician attitude is changing.

  • “Many of them believe that a single payer health care system will reduce the distractions and allow...

In 'Drugged Driving' Not Just Tiger Woods' Issue, I discussed the hazards and general status of intoxicated driving in the United States along with the May events surrounding the DUI arrest of the embattled golfer who at the time publicly apologized for his actions and attributed what happened to “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.”

As I stated then, many preconceptions exist that substances must be illicit in nature to cause problems. Whether legally prescribed, over-the-counter (OTC) or illegally obtained, certain medicines or drugs whether used properly or abused can impair a person. The combinations, dosages, chemical make-up of ingredients, underlying medical...

Every year, The Economist Intelligence Unit publishes a ranking of world cities based on their livability.

Obviously, that's an inherently subjective ranking. I've lived in Seattle for 13 years precisely because my wife and I think it is the most beautiful city we have ever seen. That doesn't seem to matter too much to the folks over at The Economist, however.

Their livability index is weighted as follows: 25% for stability (e.g., crime, terrorism, war); 20% for healthcare (availability and quality); 25% for culture and environment (which includes a grab-bag of various metrics, such as temperature, level of corruption, and cultural attractions); 10% for education (availability and quality); and 20% for infrastructure quality. Using this algorithm, the...

Misinformation lingers in memory: Failures of three pro-vaccination strategies were recently published in PLoS. The article attempts to assess three communication strategies designed to promote vaccinations and decrease “vaccination hesitancy.” The study was small; 120 university students in Italy and Scotland given one of three informational messages about vaccines. The first restated a vaccine myth alongside the corresponding vaccine fact; the second presented the same information in a graphic format; the third presented vaccine information in a more fear driven mode e.g. showing children who had suffered from diseases because they had not been vaccinated. The student participants were tested on a...

A new online game is designed to trace neurons in the brain. It is designed to clarify the types of neurons found in the brain and the connections between them. It is, at the same time, blurring the lines between gaming and scientific discovery. 

The game is called "Mozak" - the word for the brain in Serbo-Croatian. It is an online game where the task is to follow a neuron with your computer mouse, tracing it as you go. That may not sound appealing, but, tracing a line to soft music is both enjoyable and slightly addictive. 

The game was created by the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the ...