Category: Health

Shop like a pharmacist — don’t buy brand names!

If you’re looking to save a few dollars — who isn’t, really? — here is some fail-safe advice: stop buying Advil.

Stop buying Tylenol, Aleve, Motrin or any other brand-name painkiller while you’re at it. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t buy any painkillers at all — just that you should pick up the generic version — the acetaminophen and ibuprofen and naproxen that your local drugstore chain markets for about one third of the price.

This is something that Tylenol sales data suggests a lot of us aren’t doing. Fewer than half of painkiller sales in the United States are for the generic, private label brands that pharmacy chains manufacture

CVS sells 100 Advil tablets for $9.99. It sells a bottle of 100 generic ibuprofen tablets for $4. They are, aside from their shape and color, the exact same pill. Each has 200 milligrams of ibuprofen, a compound discovered by a British scientist in 1961 and first used to treat arthritis.

Pharmacists, whose whole job it is to know about drugs and how they work, have caught onto this. While regular shoppers choose brand-name painkillers 26 percent of the time, according to research published last year by Dutch economist Bart Bronnenberg, pharmacists pick brand-name products in 9 percent of their purchases.

Learn what is the active ingredient in the OTC medication you need. Look for that – not the brand name.

Save yourself a few bucks, folks.

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Congress ends federal ban on medical marijuana

The federal spending bill passed last week is full of buried provisions, allocations and defunding in its more than 1,600 pages. One of the quieter add-ins was a measure that essentially ends the federal ban on medical marijuana.

The provision prohibits federal law enforcement from raiding medical marijuana plants or dispensaries or otherwise interfering in matters of state law involving the growth, distribution and use of medical marijuana. This has been the de facto legal philosophy of the feds under the direction of the Obama administration, but the provision will make it written law.

The provision also signals the shifting of tides in the politics of America’s drug policy, as both Republicans and Democrats have increasingly voiced support for states that defy the federal prohibition on marijuana use.

This is a victory for so many,” the provision’s co-author, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said in a statement released this week. “The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree.”

Rohrabacher added that the new law will benefit a range patients, “including scores of our wounded veterans, who have found marijuana to be an important medicine for some of the ailments they suffer, such as PTSD, epilepsy, and MS.”

The language finds its way into federal law via the same spending omnibus that nixed a D.C. amendment, passed by District voters, to legalize marijuana in the nation’s capital.

You gotta love Republican stoners. They find some way to get weed halfway legalized. Just not for a city with lots of Black folks.

Everyone forgets Washington, DC, is still a Southern town.

Death from malaria has been diminished by half

Global efforts have halved the number of people dying from malaria – a tremendous achievement, the World Health Organization says…It says between 2001 and 2013, 4.3 million deaths were averted, 3.9 million of which were children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa.

Each year, more people are being reached with life-saving malaria interventions, the WHO says.

In 2004, 3% of those at risk had access to mosquito nets, but now 50% do.

There has been a scaling up of diagnostic testing, and more people now are able to receive medicines to treat the parasitic infection, which is spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes.

An increasing number of countries are moving towards malaria elimination.

In 2013, two countries – Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka – reported zero indigenous cases for the first time, and 11 others (Argentina, Armenia, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) succeeded in maintaining zero cases.

In Africa, where 90% of all malaria deaths occur, infections have decreased significantly.

Here, the number of people infected has fallen by a quarter – from 173 million in 2000 to 128 million in 2013. This is despite a 43% increase in the African population living in malaria transmission areas.

WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan said: “These tremendous achievements are the result of improved tools, increased political commitment, the burgeoning of regional initiatives, and a major increase in international and domestic financing.”

But she added: “We must not be complacent. Most malaria-endemic countries are still far from achieving universal coverage with life-saving malaria interventions.”

Based on current trends, 64 countries are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of reversing the incidence of malaria by the end of this year.

One portion of my personal efforts to get Americans to think beyond their family, their community, is the larger community that is our world. Just as we are affected by the loss of young people who may have grown up in the poverty and illness afflicting life that we see around us – there is an even larger community outside the comparative wealth of this nation that fights the same negatives to stay alive – times 10 or 100.

As a species we all lose every time we suffer a young death from disease or war. Someone who might have grown up to discover a way to a better, longer life for us all – never had a chance to achieve any contribution to humanity. We’re all moved to a new place of potential achievement by the simple opportunity of life extended to those who would have missed that chance a decade ago, a century ago.

We have to realize the human family really is a global family.

Everyone farts — Surprising facts you may not know

Navy jet fart

Whether you try to hide it or not, you fart. Everybody does.

But even though it’s such a routine activity — the average person farts between 10 and 20 times per day — there’s a lot about farting that you might not know…

1) You produce about 500 to 1500 milliliters of gas per day, and expel it in 10 to 20 farts

This might be more than you’d expect, but it’s been measured in controlled studies. The surprisingly hefty amount is the result of bacteria that live in your colon and feed on most of the food you eat…

A huge variety of foods contain these complex carbs that we can’t fully digest: virtually all beans, most vegetables, and anything with whole grains. For most people, this leads to somewhere between 500 to 1500 milliliters of gas daily — the equivalent of half a two-liter bottle of soda, every single day.

2) 99 percent of the gas you produce does not smell

One of the reasons that we produce so much more gas than we realize is that nearly all of it is odorless…

4) Farting is the result of a healthy, complex ecosystem in your intestines

Modern society views flatulence as a negative. This is unfortunate, because in most cases, it’s the byproduct of a beautiful thing — the intricate ecosystem of bacteria living in your intestines…

6) Yes, you can light a fart on fire

Because flatulence is partly composed of flammable gases like methane and hydrogen, it can be briefly set on fire.

We don’t recommend it…a backfire can be very dangerous!

RTFA for more facts. It’s good to learn. Farting is good, too.

Thanks, Mike

Go ahead! Keep texting and your head will fall off

“It is an epidemic. Or, at least, it’s very common,” New York-based spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj told The Washington Post last week. He was referring to something that is being called “text neck,” a purported condition of the spine related to the posture of bending forward to look at a phone…

…It was an interesting account of the suggestions of one private-practice neurosurgeon. But the post and the illustration spread widely around the Internet, and the stakes elevated quickly.

In the past week, the study and the diagram have been published by hundreds of outlets, including The Chicago Tribune, Slate, NPR, Business Insider, The Sydney Morning Herald, NBC News, The Globe and Mail, Today, Time, Yahoo, Shape, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and many others. New York’s headline, for example, was “Look at How Texting Is Warping Your Spine.” At several publications, the story was the most popular post on the site. With claims of epidemic and implications of serious spinal damage, the story has elevated to something that maybe warrants a closer look.

Hunching over isn’t ideal, and it’s worth thinking about sitting or standing up straight when possible. But our necks are made to bend forward, and it’s not something that’s new to humans. Texting invokes the same posture as holding a book.

Or a baby.

Or a rock…

The reality is that an axial load, one applied from the top down onto the spine, at the weights in question is not dangerous. “People can carry a lot more than 60 pounds on top of their head if it’s actually an axial load,” neurosurgeon Ian Dorward said, noting that people have evolved to have their heads flexed in a variety of different angles and postures without issue…

For most people, though, the point remains that good posture is generally good when possible, but texting is not an imminent threat to spinal health.

RTFA for all the details of an unnecessary flap over a non-problem.

Gynecologists think IUDs are the best contraceptive

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are amazingly, fantastically good at preventing pregnancy — better than pretty much any other available contraceptive.

Birth control pills, which have to be taken regularly — are susceptible to human error. The pill has a 6 percent failure rate. So out of 1,000 women taking birth control pills, 60 will become pregnant in a typical year. Among women who use an IUD, that number will be between 2 and 8 (depending on the type of IUD they use).

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends IUDs and the contraceptive implant (the one other long-acting, reversible contraceptive) as a “first-line” contraceptive that should be “encouraged as an option for most women.”

But despite IUDs’ incredible efficacy, few American women — just 8.5 percent of contraceptive-users — choose this method. The devices tend to get an especially bad rap in the United States because of the Dalkon Shield, an early IUD from the 1970s. It was hard to insert…sometimes failed to prevent pregnancy, injured as many as 200,000 women, and sometimes led to infertility or even death. All in all, it was a terrible contraceptive that was subsequently pulled from the market.

Today’s IUDs are different: they’re safer, easier to insert, and they work incredibly well. That probably explains why 40 percent of gynecologists using a contraceptive are using IUDs — way more than the general population…

RTFA. It’s long and really detailed. Lots of questions are answered – factually, reasonably, in human-speak.

Pretty useful article.

Denton, Texas won Round One of the fight against fracking


Denton folks Michael Hennen and Susan Vaughan campaign to ban fracking

The fracking ban that came into effect on Tuesday in the heart of Texas might never have happened at all, if industry had not insisted on fracking beside a local hospital, a children’s playground, and the 100-year-old farmhouse that was Cathy McMullen’s retirement dream.

That brought fracking a step too far. McMullen believes such overreach – typical under the Texas regulatory framework – helped turn a ruby-red Republican town against fracking.

Despite industry objections – and death threats for McMullen and other activists, Denton voted by 60% to ban fracking last month. The victorious activists like to call their fight David v Godzilla, because the oil industry is so powerful in Texas. That fight is not over yet.

George P Bush, the nephew and grandson of the former presidents, will soon take charge of the General Land Office – one of two Texas state agencies that have joined an industry lawsuit to overturn the ban.

But McMullen and the small group of mainly female activists behind the ban are already inspiring towns in Texas and elsewhere that are looking for ways to rein in an industry that so far has enjoyed supreme rights to frack.

The oil and gas companies probably would be fracking still in Denton if they had not completely dismissed McMullen’s concerns, she said.

They underestimated us completely,” she said. “I think they all just thought: ‘Oh, it’s just Cathy.’ I don’t think they saw the storm clouds on the horizon, and that industry was creating this storm, and that it was going to blow into town, and everybody was just sick of it.”

RTFA. It’s a great tale of ordinary folks not especially political in their daily life – until they asked questions, tried as citizens of the United States and that supersized state of Texas to bring back the quality of life they had – before fracking started in the city limits of Denton, Texas.

Their victory has inspired others. Something the Godzillas of fossil fuel hate as much as an individual like Cathy McMullen winning her fight in Denton. Now, Reno, Texas, is cranking up the alarm of opposition to fracking in their small Texas town.

And they have to get things done on their own – just like in Denton. If there’s anything that the Oil Patch Boys own in Texas – it’s politicians.

Thanks, Mike — GMTA

Prez of NM Medical Society suspended — drinking on job, sex with patients, WTF?

A New Mexico doctor posed a “clear and immediate danger to the public” for numerous infractions including having sex with patients, drinking on the job and leaving some women to give birth while unattended, the state medical board ruled.

Dr. Christopher Driskill was suspended by the New Mexico Medical Board on Friday for allegedly committing several incidents of misconduct…

The board ruled the obstetrician and gynecologist kept a personal stash of alcohol in his office.

Other inappropriate behavior includes prescribing drugs to a sexual partner, being under the influence while at work, writing lewd personal notes in medical charts, delaying a c-section and leaving a patient to give birth unattended because he was having sex with another patient…

Driskill, 42, was the incoming president of the New Mexico Medical Society

The board is now considering whether to revoke Driskill’s license. A hearing date has not been set. Dr. Driskill can challenge his suspension but at this point has not.

What is there to say? I glad the dude wasn’t my doctor.

How did he get to be elected/appointed by his peers to be the new head of the New Mexico Medical Society?

Thanks, Mike

Compare Brazil’s dietary guidelines to the USDA’s

As anyone who has read Marion Nestle’s Food Politics or Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food knows, the US Department of Agriculture’s attempts to issue dietary advice have always been haunted by industry influence and a reductionist vision of nutrition science. The department finally ditched its silly pyramids a few years ago, but its guidelines remain vague and arbitrary (for example, how does dairy merit inclusion as one of five food groups?).

In Brazil, a hotbed of sound progressive nutritional thinking, the Ministry of Health has proven that governmental dietary advice need not be delivered in timid, industry-palatable bureaucratese. Check out its plain-spoken, unimpeachable, and down-right industry-hostile new guidelines (hat tip Marion Nestle):

1. Make natural or minimally processed foods the basis of your diet

2. Use oils, fats, salt, and sugar in small amounts when seasoning and cooking natural or minimally processed foods and to create culinary preparations

3. Limit consumption of processed foods

4. Avoid consumption of ultra-processed products

5. Eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments and, whenever possible, in company

6. Shop in places that offer a variety of natural or minimally processed foods

7. Develop, exercise and share culinary skills

8. Plan your time to make food and eating important in your life

9. Out of home, prefer places that serve freshly made meals

10. Be wary of food advertising and marketing

I’ve survived several generations of the USDA Food Pyramid-scheme mostly by ignoring it. Fortunately, half my cultural heritage is Italian and what folks call the Mediterranean Diet, nowadays is what I was brought up with. Only we called it cooking like Grandma.

Whether it’s Mario Batali or Lidia Bastianich, examples of the real deal are available from these and many other exponents of Mediterranean food. Try it. And as ever – in moderation.

FANTASTIC VOYAGE is closer to reality — with scallop microbots

In the 1960s science fiction film Fantastic Voyage, audiences thrilled to the idea of shrinking a submarine and the people inside it to microscopic dimensions and injecting it into a person’s bloodstream. At the time it was just fantasy and as fantastic an idea as its title suggested. Today, however, micro-miniature travelers in your body have come one step closer to reality. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute have been experimenting with real micro-sized robots that literally swim through your bodily fluids and could be used to deliver drugs or other medical relief in a highly-targeted way…

The microrobots being designed by the team literally are swimmers; they are scallop-like devices designed to paddle through non-Newtonian fluids like blood and plasma (even water behaves in this way at a microscopic level). This means that, unlike swimming in water at a macro-level, these microbots need to move through fluid that has a changing viscosity depending on how much force is exerted upon it.

To do this, the microbots need a method of propulsion that can fit in their tiny bodies as well as take advantage of the non-Newtonian fluid in which they are moving. Importantly, the team is using a reciprocal method of movement to propel their microscallops; but generally this doesn’t work in such fluids, which is why organisms that move around in a biological system use non-reciprocating devices like flagella or cilia to get about.

However these robotic microswimmers actually take advantage of this property and use a scallop swimming motion to move around. The researchers call this process “modulation of the fluid viscosity upon varying the shear rate.” In simple terms, the micro scallops open and close their “shells” to compress the fluid and force it out behind them, which then propels them along.

The fact that the microrobot scallop has no motor to drag around contributes to its exceptionally small size – around 800 microns. This makes it miniscule enough to make its way through your bloodstream, around your lymphatic system, or across the slippery goo on the surface of your eyeballs…

The first and most obvious use would be delivery of medication. The authors are otherwise laid back about suggestions for the future. They’re confident today’s medical researchers are technically hip enough that there will be more potential uses for these microbots than any one team might ever invent.