Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Drug Information Product DailyMed Mobile Version Launched

DailyMed Mobile Version Launched

From the National Library of Medicine (NLM)  March 4 announcement

NLM® released DailyMed® Mobile on January 31, 2011. DailyMed provides access to over 20,000 structured product labels (SPL) from the Food and Drug Administration. DailyMed mobile features a simplified design enabling easy search, retrieval and display of SPLs from any Web-enabled mobile device (see Figure 1). Users can also e-mail SPLs to themselves or colleagues for later viewing on other platforms.

Editor Flahiff’s note:  You also cannot go wrong with these nonmobile(at least for now!)  resources (via a Consumer Health Library Guide

Dietary Supplements Labels Database

Information about ingredients in more than three thousand selected brands of dietary supplements. It enables users to determine what ingredients are in specific brands and to compare ingredients in different brands. Information is also provided on the health benefits claimed by manufacturers. These claims by manufacturers have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Check out the Help section for tips on how to browse and search this site.

Drug Digest

This noncommercial consumer health and drug information site provides information about drugs and treatment options to be discussed with your primary health care provider or a pharmacist.  Information about over 1,500 drugsas well as common herbs and supplements. The check interactions tab (potential interactions between drugs)  and conditions/treatments area provide easy-to-read overviews. Information provided by Drawing pharmacy experts, licensed doctors of pharmacy, and physicians. From ExpressScripts.

Drugs and Supplements (sponsored by the Mayo Clinic)

Somewhat lengthy drug and over-the-counter medicationinformation with these sections: description, before using, proper use, precautions and side effects. From Micromedex, a trusted source of healthcare information for health professionals. 

Herb and supplement information includes information on uses based on scientific evidence as well as safety and potential interactions with drugs, herbs, and supplements. From Natural Standard, an independent group of researchers and clinicians.

Drug Information Portal

A good central source of drug information by the US government (the National Institutes of Health). It links you to information on over 12,000 drugs from trusted consumer drug information sources, the US Food and Drug Information, and LactMed*** (summary of effects on breastfeeding i), It also gives any summaries from medical and toxicological articles (however, some whole articles may not be for free on the Internet).

PillBox Beta

Aids  in the identification of unknown solid dosage pharmaceuticals using images to identify pills (color, shape, etc) as well as a separate advanced search (imprint, drug manufacture, ingredients, etc)

HMO Collaboratory Videocast

Announcements

Beware of Fraudulent Weight Loss “Dietary Supplements”

The Food and Drug Administration warns that false claims and tainted products can cause serious harm to consumers.
http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm246742.htm

Consumer Update: Dietary Supplements

The Food and Drug Administration has found nearly 300 fraudulent products—promoted mainly for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding—that contain hidden or deceptively labeled ingredients.
http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm246744.htm

***As of July 2011…The National Library of Medicine Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed)
has added complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) products. CAM
products generally consist of dietary supplements derived from botanicals
(herbals), “nutraceuticals” (natural and synthetic nonherbals, such as
coenzyme Q10), and related products.
http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/htmlgen?LACT

March 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Evidence lacking for widespread use of costly antipsychotic drugs, says Stanford researcher

Evidence lacking for widespread use of costly antipsychotic drugs, says Stanford researcher
[This editor blogged a related item on December 6, 2010, Nursing homes are seeking to end the stupor]

From a January 7, 2011 Eureka news alert

STANFORD, Calif. — Many prescriptions for the top-selling class of drugs, known as atypical antipsychotic medications, lack strong evidence that the drugs will actually help, a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and University of Chicago has found. Yet, drugs in this class may cause such serious effects as weight gain, diabetes and heart disease, and cost Americans billions of dollars.

“Because these drugs have safety issues, physicians should prescribe them only when they are sure patients will get substantial benefits,” said Randall Stafford, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who is senior author of the study to be published online Jan. 7 in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.*** “These are commonly used and very expensive drugs.”

Prescriptions for these drugs have risen steadily since they first came on the U.S. market in 1989, largely replacing the first generation of antipsychotics, which were mainly used to treat schizophrenia. The U.S. government’s original stamp of approval for the new drugs was for treating schizophrenia, but they’re used more today for other conditions, including other psychoses, autism, bipolar disorder, delirium, dementia, depression and personality disorders. And while some of these uses have recently been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, many have not….

…These new drugs accounted for more than $10 billion in retail pharmacy U.S. prescription drug costs in 2008, representing the largest expenditure for any single drug class — nearly 5 percent of all drug spending, surpassing even blockbusters like statin cholesterol medications. According to a 2004 study, a quarter of all residents of U.S. nursing homes had taken them. Among the drugs are quetiapine, aripoprazole (brand name, Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa) and risperidone (Risperdal), each with annual U.S. sales exceeding $1 billion.

Stafford’s new study adds to concerns about the drugs, which have been the focus of thousands of lawsuits, and as a class make up the single largest target of litigation filed under the federal False Claims Act. All major companies selling new-generation antipsychotics have either recently settled cases for hundreds of millions of dollars or are currently under investigation for skewing results or using questionable marketing tactics.

In 2005, the FDA issued its strongest type of caution, the “black box” warning, for use of new-generation antipsychotics, because of increased risk of death for dementia patients.

“Most people think, ‘If my doctor prescribed this, the FDA must have evaluated whether this drug was safe and effective for this use.’ That’s not true,” said Stafford. When doctors prescribe drugs for purposes other than those approved by the FDA, it’s called “off-label” use. Though it’s riskier for patients, there’s nothing illegal about it, and can make sense medically in some instances, Stafford said, especially if there are no approved treatments or if a patient has not responded to approved drugs.

Previous studies had shown that antipsychotic drug use is ballooning. Stafford’s new study not only corroborated and updated these findings but also identified the fraction of off-label use that is based on uncertain evidence.

The researchers’ first step was to analyze the results of a physicians’ survey conducted by health-care information company IMS Health. The IMS Health National Disease and Therapeutic Index survey gives a snapshot of the conditions doctors treated and drugs they prescribed. About 1,800 physicians participate each calendar quarter and each is randomly assigned two days per quarter to provide data.

After identifying which antipsychotics were being used, and for what, the researchers assessed the strength of the evidence supporting those that lacked FDA approval, using efficacy ratings from the widely used drug compendium, Drugdex.

Lead author Caleb Alexander, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, and colleagues conducted the analysis. Stafford supervised the project and with Alexander interpreted the data. Stanford clinical assistant professor of psychiatry Anthony Mascola, MD, provided expertise on the treatment of psychiatric conditions.

Among their findings:

Antipsychotic treatment prescribed during the surveyed doctors’ visits nearly tripled from 6.2 million in 1995 to 16.7 million in 2008, the most recent year for which they had data. During this period, prescriptions for first-generation antipsychotics decreased from 5.2 million to 1 million.
Antipsychotic use for indications that lacked FDA approval by the end of 2008 increased from 4.4 million prescriptions during surveyed doctors’ visits in 1995 to 9 million in 2008.
In 2008, more than half — 54 percent — of the surveyed prescriptions for the new-generation antipsychotics had uncertain evidence.
An estimated $6 billion was spent in 2008 on off-label use of antipsychotic medication nationwide, of which $5.4 billion was for uses with uncertain evidence.
Prescriptions for antipsychotics began dropping slightly in 2006, shortly after the FDA issued a warning about their safety.
Stafford suggests the upswing in prescriptions for antipsychotics despite the absence of good evidence for their value in many instances is the result of marketing — whether legal or illegal — and ingrained cultural tendencies. “Physicians want to prescribe and use the latest therapies — and even when those latest therapies doesn’t necessarily offer a big advantage, there’s still a tendency to think that the newest drugs must be better,” he said.

Physicians could benefit from more feedback on what percentage of their prescriptions is for off-label uses, said Stafford. “In many cases, physicians don’t realize they’re prescribing off-label,” he said.

In fact, in a previous survey of physicians, Alexander found that the average respondent accurately identified the FDA-approval status of drugs for a given condition just over half the time.

***Click here for suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost

Related news article

Short Time on Antipsychotics May Up Heart Disease

January 7, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Using the nutrition facts label – A FDA guide for older adults

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a nutrition facts label guide in PDF format.

It includes information on how to read the labels and also provides guidance in other nutrition areas as calories, daily values of nutrients, and importance of select nutrients as fat, fiber, cholesterol, and calcium.

The FDA Website has a Web page devoted to food safety, regulations, and other FDA related topics. It includes links to recall information, information on dietary supplements, food ingredients, and more.

Related Web Sites of Note

Nutrition (MedlinePlus) provides links to overviews, health check tools, videos, patient handouts, and related issues

Diet and Nutrition (Netwellness) gives links to general nutrition information, symptoms & tests, how to stay healthy tips, and treatment (as the DASH diet)

One may Ask-An-Expert, and receive a reply within a few days. There is a link to previously answered questions.

Food and Nutrition (FamilyDoctor.org) has links to general nutrition Web pages, nutrition for weight loss, kids & nutrition, and special diets (as the Mediterranean diet)

 

December 29, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Herbs at a Glance: A Quick Guide to Herbal Supplements

 

 

Herbs at a glance: a quick guide to herbal supplements is a 100 page indexed PDF document which gives the basics on the most common herbs in dietary supplements – historical uses, what they are used for now, scientific evidence on effectiveness, and potential side effects.

It is published by the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCAAM).
The NCAAM Web site includes links to information under titles as

A few related Web sites

and a related news item…

From the December 16, 2010 Health Day news item U.S. Spending Millions to See if Herbs Truly Work

THURSDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) — People have been using herbal supplements for centuries to cure all manner of ills and improve their health. But for all the folk wisdom promoting the use of such plants as St. John’s wort and black cohosh, much about their effect on human health remains unknown.

But the federal government is spending millions of dollars to support research dedicated to separating the wheat from the chaff when it comes to herbal supplements.

“A lot of these products are widely used by the consumer, and we don’t have evidence one way or the other whether they are safe and effective,” said Marguerite Klein, director of the Botanical Research Centers Program at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. “We have a long way to go. It’s a big job.”

In August, the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the Office of Dietary Supplements awarded about $37 million in grants to five interdisciplinary and collaborative dietary supplement centers across the nation. The grants were part of a decade-long initiative that so far has awarded more than $250 million toward research to look into the safety and efficacy of health products made from the stems, seeds, leaves, bark and flowers of plants.

Reliance on botanical supplements faded in the mid-20th century as doctors began to rely more and more on scientifically tested pharmaceutical drugs to treat their patients, said William Obermeyer, vice president of research for ConsumerLab.com, which tests supplement brands for quality.

But today, herbal remedies and supplements are coming back in a big way. People in the United States spent more than $5 billion on herbal and botanical dietary supplements in 2009, up 22 percent from a decade before, according to the American Botanical Council, a nonprofit research and education organization.

The increase has prompted some concern from doctors and health researchers. There are worries regarding the purity and consistency of supplements, which are not regulated as strictly as pharmaceutical drugs.

“One out of four of the dietary supplements we’ve quality-tested over the last 11 years failed,” Obermeyer said. The failure rate increases to 55 percent, he said, when considering botanical products alone.

Some products contain less than the promoted amount of the supplement in question — such as a 400-milligram capsule of echinacea containing just 250 milligrams of the herb. Other products are tainted by pesticides or heavy metals.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned supplement makers on Dec. 15 that any company marketing tainted products could face criminal prosecution. The agency was specifically targeting products to promote weight loss, enhance sexual prowess or aid in body building, which it said were “masquerading as dietary supplements” and in some cases were laced with the same active ingredients as approved drugs or were close copies of those drugs or contained synthetic synthetic steroids that don’t qualify as dietary ingredients.

But even when someone takes a valid herbal supplement, it may not be as effective when taken as a pill or capsule rather than used in the manner of a folk remedy. For example, an herb normally ground into paste as part of a ceremony might lose its effectiveness if prepared using modern manufacturing methods, Obermeyer said.

“You move away from the traditional use out of convenience, and you may not have the same effect,” he said.

Researchers also are concerned that there just isn’t a lot of evidence to support the health benefits said to be gained from herbal supplements. People may be misusing them, which can lead to poor health and potential interactions with prescription drugs.

“Consumers often are taking them without telling their doctor, or taking them in lieu of going to the doctor,” Klein said……

 

 

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Finding Aids/Directories, Health Education (General Public), Librarian Resources, Medical and Health Research News, Professional Health Care Resources | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Generic Drug Roundup: December 2010

FDA, U S Food and Drug Administration

From the US Food and Drug Administration Web Page

Each year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves many generic drugs that treat a wide variety of conditions and help consumers save money.

Significant FDA approvals of generic medications are listed below.

Be aware that the notes included with the description of each drug listed below do not include all warnings, side effects, or use instructions associated with these products. You should read the medication guide, when available, and speak with a health care professional regarding any medication you are taking, have been prescribed, or are considering taking

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-
regulated products.

For More Information

 

 

 

December 21, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FDA Tobbaco Products : Information Resources

FDA Tobacco Products provides information resources on tobacco products for consumers and healthcare professionals.

Resources include

The Tools and Alerts section on the home page includes options for email alerts and Twitter. Contact information by phone and fax is also provided.

December 21, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public) | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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