Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Reblog] SurroundHealth – 2015 Top 10 Predictions in Public Health

SurroundHealth – 2015 Top 10 Predictions in Public Health.

Excerpt from the 6 January 2015 post

Ready or not, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is once again heading to the Supreme Court. At stake is whether the law allows consumers purchasing insurance through the Federal portal to extend the same discounts that states provide. Eliminating the discount could gut the exchange’s value to federal consumers. In the meantime, it’s enrollment as usual for 2015. Share this this updated ACA enrollment guide from the IOM.

2. Defending Safety Net and Programs and Regulations

  • Medicare Private voucher program proposal. With a new GOP majority, I expect to revisit proposals to privatize Medicare. The American Public Health Association (APHA) is on record opposing such a policy move as undermining the foundation of Medicare’s guaranteed coverage. Brace yourselves for some ideological power-plays over health care access for seniors.
  • Access to Abortion Services. APHA supports Access to abortion and ensuring the availability of qualified practitioners. The access to safe and legal abortion services at the state level has narrowed rapidly across the majority of US states since 2013. Now, this sharply partisan issue is likely provoke both Congressional challenges and more states to seeking to restrict these services, especially for low-income women.
  • Environmental Protections. Expect attacks on environmental regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Republicans are candid that their goal is to end the EPA. Clean air standards and more may be threatened.

3. New Vaccines

  • Ebola Vaccine. Likely the most fast-tracked vaccine trials ever, I’m not the only one predicting that we’ll see an ebola vaccine in 2015. Together with infection control protocols established for the affected West African countries, this will hasten the end to what had seemed an intractable crisis—though we’re not likely to snuff out ebola completely within the year.
  • HPV Nonavalent Vaccine. Merck’s nine-valent HPV vaccine received FDA approval in 2014. It’s very likely that this will replace, or partially replace, their current quadrivalent (4-valent) version. The newer vaccine will increase the percentage of cancer-causing HPV types prevented from 70% to 90% and potentially prevent tens of thousands of cancers per year. It may only need 2 doses instead of the current 3. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) should make a recommendation in the first half of 2015 with rollout later in the year.

4. National Policy on Police Violence in Communities of Color

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Doctors Don’t Tell You” magazine – reviewed in BMJ and Quackometer

From the blog item by Gary Schwitzer at HealthNewsReview.org

Dr. Margaret McCartney, who helped launch the PrivateHealthScreening.org site we wrote about yesterday, has a piece in the BMJ this week, “What a new consumer health magazine doesn’t tell you.”  (Subscription required for full access.) Excerpts:

“It looks just like any other magazine on the shelves of the newsagent aimed at middle aged women: glossy, 100 pages, with a smiling, confident looking woman on the cover. What Doctors Don’t Tell You, a monthly magazine that launched in September 2012, claims to explain how to “discover treatments that are safer and more effective.” …

In the October issue’s news section the article “Thyme is better for acne than creams” starts, “Thyme is more effective than prescription creams for treating acne . . .The herb outperformed pharmaceuticals in a series of laboratory tests, killing the actual bacteria that cause acne . . . Not only is thyme more effective, but it’s kinder on the skin too, say the researchers. Most pharmaceuticals cause a burning sensation and irritation to the skin, whereas thyme and other herbal preparations have none of these side effects.” The article references the Society for General Microbiology’s spring conference in Dublin this year. This research was reported through a press release; it was an in-vitro model; and the researchers did not compare side effects with current prescription creams.

Another article says, “Army personnel with noise deafness and tinnitus are commonly deficient in B12, but enjoy an improvement in symptoms after taking B12 vitamins.” The study referred to contained 12 patients receiving vitamin B12 and was not a randomised controlled trial.

The editorial on Gardasil, headed “Lock up your daughters,” warned that “your doctor and your daughter’s school nurse are not likely to tell you about the 100-plus American girls who suddenly died after receiving an HPV [human papillomavirus] vaccine.” Although there are valid concerns about the long term efficacy of HPV, to suggest that it has led to death is alarmist and does not reflect or explain the evidence collated by the Food and Drug Administration. Informed choice has to be about fair information, not scaremongering; we should hardly wish for a repeat of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine debacle.

Although medical journals carry advertisements for drugs, the ones in this magazine are an extraordinary shrine to non-evidenced based medicine. …

It is right to criticise medicine, but the same standards must be applied to all interventions, “alternative” or not. We now realise how important it is to ensure that fair evidence, free of bias, is used in making medical decisions. There is no point in substituting bad medicine for bad science, and it is not clear from this magazine where the hierarchies of evidence stand, and the limitations and uncertainties that arise in research are not consistently explained. The magazine’s liability statement—“the publishers cannot accept any responsibility for any damage or harm caused by any treatment, advice or information contained in this publication”—should perhaps be better printed on the cover, in an unmissable font.”

She’s not the only one giving What Doctors Don’t Tell You a critical eye. The Quackometer blog refers to “Fifty Shades of Quackery.”

I’ll show you a screenshot from that blog that should be titillating enough to send you there to see more.

“It looks just like any other magazine on the shelves of the newsagent aimed at middle aged women: glossy, 100 pages, with a smiling, confident looking woman on the cover. What Doctors Don’t Tell You, a monthly magazine that launched in September 2012, claims to explain how to “discover treatments that are safer and more effective.” …

In the October issue’s news section the article “Thyme is better for acne than creams” starts, “Thyme is more effective than prescription creams for treating acne . . .The herb outperformed pharmaceuticals in a series of laboratory tests, killing the actual bacteria that cause acne . . . Not only is thyme more effective, but it’s kinder on the skin too, say the researchers. Most pharmaceuticals cause a burning sensation and irritation to the skin, whereas thyme and other herbal preparations have none of these side effects.” The article references the Society for General Microbiology’s spring conference in Dublin this year. This research was reported through a press release; it was an in-vitro model; and the researchers did not compare side effects with current prescription creams.

Another article says, “Army personnel with noise deafness and tinnitus are commonly deficient in B12, but enjoy an improvement in symptoms after taking B12 vitamins.” The study referred to contained 12 patients receiving vitamin B12 and was not a randomised controlled trial.

The editorial on Gardasil, headed “Lock up your daughters,” warned that “your doctor and your daughter’s school nurse are not likely to tell you about the 100-plus American girls who suddenly died after receiving an HPV [human papillomavirus] vaccine.” Although there are valid concerns about the long term efficacy of HPV, to suggest that it has led to death is alarmist and does not reflect or explain the evidence collated by the Food and Drug Administration. Informed choice has to be about fair information, not scaremongering; we should hardly wish for a repeat of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine debacle.

Although medical journals carry advertisements for drugs, the ones in this magazine are an extraordinary shrine to non-evidenced based medicine. …

It is right to criticise medicine, but the same standards must be applied to all interventions, “alternative” or not. We now realise how important it is to ensure that fair evidence, free of bias, is used in making medical decisions. There is no point in substituting bad medicine for bad science, and it is not clear from this magazine where the hierarchies of evidence stand, and the limitations and uncertainties that arise in research are not consistently explained. The magazine’s liability statement—“the publishers cannot accept any responsibility for any damage or harm caused by any treatment, advice or information contained in this publication”—should perhaps be better printed on the cover, in an unmissable font.”

She’s not the only one giving What Doctors Don’t Tell You a critical eye. The Quackometer blog refers to “Fifty Shades of Quackery.”

October 13, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Infection Causes 1 in 6 Cancers Worldwide: Study

From the 9 May 2012 Medical News Today article

WEDNESDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) — One in six cancers worldwide is caused by preventable or treatable infections, a new study finds.

Infections cause about 2 million cancer cases a year, and 80 percent of those cases occur in less developed areas of the world, according to the study, which was published online May 8 in The Lancet Oncology. Of the 7.5 million cancer deaths worldwide in 2008, about 1.5 million were due to potentially preventable or treatable infections.

“Infections with certain viruses, bacteria and parasites are one of the biggest and most preventable causes of cancer worldwide,” lead authors Catherine de Martel and Martyn Plummer, from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, said in a journal news release. “Application of existing public-health methods for infection prevention — such as vaccination, safer injection practice or antimicrobial treatments — could have a substantial effect on future burden of cancer worldwide.”…

May 12, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

HPV vaccine myths put health, lives at risk, say health leaders: Airing the facts

HPV vaccine myths put health, lives at risk, say health leaders: Airing the facts.

Excerpts from this blog item from the American Public Health Association

HPV vaccine myths put health, lives at risk, say health leaders: Airing the facts

Vaccination rates for human papillomavirus are lagging for teens, and a complicated web of confusion and misinformation may be to blame, according to public health leaders.

Several strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer, and two vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, have been shown conclusively to defend against those strains. The Food and Drug Administration recommended in 2006 that girls receive the vaccine before they become sexually active so that they are protected at the outset. In 2009, FDA approved the use of the vaccine for boys as well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 6 million people in the U.S. become infected with HPV each year and each year about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, leading to about 4,000 deaths.

Studies have shown the vaccine to be overwhelmingly safe, CDC said. As of June 2011, about 35 million doses of Gardasil had been distributed in the United States. CDC’s adverse event tracking mechanisms reported about 18,000 adverse events, 92 percent of which were nonserious events, such as fainting, swelling at the injection site and headache. Sixty-eight deaths were reported, but there is “no unusual pattern or clustering to the deaths that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine, and some reports indicated a cause of death unrelated to vaccination,” CDC said.

And yet, fed perhaps by misinformation or squeamishness about the idea of their children becoming sexually active, some parents are opting not to vaccinate, and the vaccination rates are lagging, according to CDC.

Figure

Lauren Fant receives an HPV vaccination from nurse Stephanie Pearson at a doctor’s office in Marietta, Ga., in 2007.

Photo by John Amis, courtesy AP Images

November 20, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health Education (General Public) | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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