Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

It is possible to both have and not have Alzheimer’s disease

English: PET scan of a human brain with Alzhei...

English: PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer’s disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Along the lines of what I’ve been thinking for a few years..symptoms and tests can “point”, but not always
indicate with 100% accuracy. Signs of disease are not always “proof” of disease.




From the 24 November 2012 article at


It is possible to both have and not have Alzheimer’s disease. Contradictory as this statement is, a study reported from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) supports it.

In a paper published in the October issue of the Annals of Neurology investigators reported the results of biomarker studies of 53 patients with dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. They found a notable proportion of these patients lacked one of the signature pathologies: brain amyloid. This result has notable scientific and policy implications…..




December 15, 2012 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources, health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

4 reasons why doctors should be outraged

From the 7 December 2012 article at

4 reasons why doctors should be outraged

Outrage #1: Wasting time of skilled caregivers. Everyday skilled nurses and physicians’ assistants waste hours of time on the telephone either getting approval for medications that we prescribe for our patients or trying to fight a rejection for a medication we requested.

Outrage #2: Choosing a medication for cost, not effectiveness. A child cannot breathe because the acid and other nasty stomach contents come up from the stomach and inflame the airways without the right treatment. Although many of them might respond to one “preferred” drug, not all of them do. And, guess what? There is another “non-preferred” drug to which more of them will respond, but it is not allowed as a first line treatment, even in this critical airway situation. When there is an airway problem and the infant is choking, coughing, turning blue and not sleeping, or the airway is becoming progressively narrower, wouldn’t you want your child to have the medication that works more often? I know I would. The insurance companies call their approach “best practices” because most, but not more, might respond.

Outrage #3: Pretending we are giving care when we are not. So the one “preferred” (i.e. less expensive) medication also tastes really nasty. Many kids won’t take it at all no matter what flavor is used. So then families are told to mix it with their formula or juice or some other food and this dilutes its effects because it won’t work in that preparation.

Outrage #4: Pretending that patient diversity doesn’t exist. Different people respond to medication differently (? pharmaco-genetics). You know that’s true just from the way some of us fall asleep after one dose of Benadryl and others of us don’t get knocked out even with a whopping dose of morphine. We are in a real quandary when we have to fight (sometimes for weeks or months) to try another medication because the one we are allowed (first tier) doesn’t work. And then on the second or third tier, the family cannot afford it, doesn’t get the medication, and the child might go untreated. We have wasted money, time and have put the child in harm’s way….


Yes, I am angry about this. Very angry and very frustrated. I am tired of being told what medications to use, what tests I can order and even what surgeries to perform. I am “appealing” to one insurance company to be paid for an operation they said was not proven effective in children. Were they faced with the anatomy that I encountered and knew was the cause of the problem and required a different operation than planned? Another has denied payment for an assistant surgeon which I needed because we performed a difficult airway case!….

December 15, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , | Leave a comment

Why you should avoid the temptation of drug coupons


From the 10 December 2012 article by Kevin Pho at

Why you should avoid the temptation of drug coupons

A version of this column was published on October 24th, 2012 in USA Today.

As the cost of prescription drugs soar, more patients are turning to online coupons or discount cards from drug companies or promotional offers in magazines. In the past year, it is estimated that 19 million Americans whom took prescription drugs used such incentives to save money. The healthcare industry has witnessed a five-fold increase since 2009, with 395 medications today offering a promotional savings program.

In most cases, drug coupons can expose patients to potentially higher long-term costs, increase health spending, and mainly exist to protect the profits of drug companies….

….“An individual patient who receives a coupon might not realize that, although that particular prescription may cost less that month, overall what it does is to raise costs for everyone, including themselves,” according to Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for the industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans.

It is also important to consider that the terms of drug coupon programs are completely at the whim of drug manufacturers. Some limit how many times the coupons may be used. Others require patients to jump through hoops and regularly visit drug company websites in order to renew. Most patients are unaware of the potential privacy concerns, as they are usually required to divulge their personal information—sometimes including their home address and even part of their medical history—before receiving coupons or discount cards.

Worst of all, drug coupon programs can end abruptly. When this happens, patients whose chronic diseases are managed by expensive brand name drugs are left to financially fend for themselves. If they don’t proactively change their medication regimen to generic alternatives with their doctors, their annual drug costs can easily rise by several hundred dollars or more.  I’ve seen patients simply stop taking their drugs once their costs rise suddenly, which in the case of diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol, can lead to severe, and more expensive medical complications….

……Patients should collaborate with their doctors and do the math. Most conditions can be treated just as effectively with less expensive generic medications. Even with drug coupons, co-pays for brand name drugs generally exceed those of generics.

For a very small minority of patients, drug coupons may make sense. It may make sense in the few diseases where only brand name drugs are effective or in cases of extreme financial hardship where even generic medications are unaffordable.

The majority of patients should avoid the temptation of exploring drug coupons.

 is an internal medicine physician and on the Board of Contributors at USA Today.  He is founder and editor of, also on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.




December 15, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , | 1 Comment

Got Food Allergies? You Can Now Test Your Meal On the Spot Using a Cell Phone

Looking for a good place that reviews medical apps? Try iMedicalApps. The reviews are largely for health care professionals, but patient centered apps are also included.  The forums section includes a section for medical librarians (which often includes discussions on apps for all of us).


From the 12 December 2012 article at Science News Daily

Left: The iTube platform, which utilizes colorimetric assays and a smart phone-based digital reader. Right: A screen capture of the iTube App. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California – Los Angeles)

Are you allergic to peanuts and worried there might be some in that cookie? Now you can find out using a rather unlikely source: your cell phone.

A team of researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has developed a lightweight device called the iTube, which attaches to a common cell phone to detect allergens in food samples. The iTube attachment uses the cell phone’s built-in camera, along with an accompanying smart-phone application that runs a test with the same high level of sensitivity a laboratory would….

To test for allergens, food samples are initially ground up and mixed in a test tube with hot water and an extraction solvent; this mixture is allowed to set for several minutes. Then, following a step-by-step procedure, the prepared sample is mixed with a series of other reactive testing liquids. The entire preparation takes roughly 20 minutes. When the sample is ready, it is measured optically for allergen concentration through the iTube platform, using the cell phone’s camera and a smart application running on the phone.

The kit digitally converts raw images from the cell-phone camera into concentration measurements detected in the food samples. And beyond just a “yes” or “no” answer as to whether allergens are present, the test can also quantify how much of an allergen is in a sample, in parts per million.

The iTube platform can test for a variety of allergens, including peanuts, almonds, eggs, gluten and hazelnuts, Ozcan said.

The UCLA team successfully tested the iTube using commercially available cookies, analyzing the samples to determine if they had any harmful amount of peanuts, a potential allergen. Their research was recently published online in the peer-reviewed journal Lab on a Chip and will be featured in a forthcoming print issue of the journal….



December 15, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Safety | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Connecticut Shootings: Now is the Time for a Debate over Gun Control

In my humble opinion, this tragedy is also a call to each of us to do what we can to improve access to good mental health care, and also for us as individuals to build community and reach out (as personally as possible) to those in need.

From the 14 December 2012 post by Darrell West  at the Brookings Blog Up Front

I understand and share President Obama’s concerns for the victims of today’s tragic school shootings in Connecticut and their families. But I am troubled byWhite House spokesman Jay Carney’s contentionthat today should not be a day to discuss the issue of gun control.

If not now, when?

It is no disservice to the victims to explore public policies that could mitigate the terrible, senseless carnage we have seen again and again across America. Movie-goers in Aurora. A congresswoman in Tucson. High school students in Columbine. And today, elementary school children in Sandy Hook. Innocents all.

Something is terribly wrong when our children are not safe in schools, when none of us is safe in a shopping mall, a cinema, a restaurant, the workplace. I don’t pretend to know the answers, but if ever it was time for a president, especially one fresh from a resounding election victory, to raise the issue for a somber, inclusive and nonpartisan public debate, this should be it. These tragedies cry out for political leadership. They should bring us closer together in resolve, not drive us further apart.

So, Mr. Carney and President Obama, we will take this day to mourn with the victims. Perhaps tomorrow, we can take action.

Editor’s Note: After the July 2012 shootings in Aurora, Colorado, Daniel Kauffman examined the connection between stronger gun control laws and decreases in gun violence. Read his analysis here »


December 15, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Safety | , , , | Leave a comment


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