Do The Drugs You Take Really Work? And Are They Safe?

A picture of a variety of loose pillsWhen one visits the doctor and drugs are prescribed – one rightfully assumes those drugs are both effective and safe.

After all – we trust the physicians in our lives to make good choices for us.

Did you know that in 1997, Congress passed a law creating a website called clinicaltrials.gov overseen by the National Institutes of Health? The website was established to provide physicians and consumers easy access to information on public and private clinical trials.

In 2007, Congress also passed legislation that required medical researchers to release study findings to this website within one year of a study’s completion.

Soon thereafter, editors at many of the most prestigious medical journals decided to publish only study results that appeared on that website.

Well, in 2008, an FDA medical officer by the name of Turner led a research review looking to determine which research studies on antidepressants actually got published in medical journals.

To his surprise, Turner found that of all studies published on the topic, 94% of the time they reported positive results.

So that’s what all the research must have revealed – correct?

Continue reading “Do The Drugs You Take Really Work? And Are They Safe?” »

New Diabetes Drug Warning…

A picture of a bottle of pillsDiabetes is a problem affecting almost 30 million Americans each year – with Type II diabetes being the most common form of the disease.

The most common forms of treatment – exercise, improving one’s diet, and medication.

Invokana, made by Janssen Pharmaceuticals for Johnson & Johnson, is a popular drug used to treat Type II diabetes. J&J claims the drug works by encouraging the kidneys to dump excess circulating sugar from the body through the process of urination.

Researchers have been monitoring adverse side effects of the drug since it was first introduced. Known side effects include:

Continue reading “New Diabetes Drug Warning…” »

Death from Medicine Back in the News…

Death from Medicine is way too common.For decades, medical researchers have been publishing data showing that conventional medicine is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. A paper recently published in the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ) reconfirms this fact.

There are a number of very curious things about this issue.   First – why was this latest article not published in a prominent U.S. medical journal? Well – the author approached the NEJM (the New England Journal of Medicine) and was told “the study was not relevant to practicing physicians”. JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) also said no thanks.

Really?

No interest???

What’s more – how is it possible the medical community has made so little progress addressing these issues, particularly given that researchers have been reporting this data since the middle of the 20th century – over 50 years.

How can it be that the richest nation on earth, a nation that spends more on healthcare than any other major industrial nation, is now witnessing a dramatic increase in chronic disease and a drop in life expectancy compared to other industrialized nations?

Is it possible that business interests are trumping consumer interests?

Robert Kennedy Jr. (the son of the late Senator Robert Kennedy) recently had this to say about medicine in America…

“The pharmaceutical industry is one of the biggest industries in the world. It is a trillion dollar industry. It is the number-one lobbyist in Washington D.C., and at state capitals around America. It gives $2.6 billion – twice what oil and gas give – to our elected officials. The pharmaceutical industry gives four-times to our politicians what defense and aeronautical contractors do. This is an industry that has complete control of our politicians on Capitol Hill.”

Our question is why would an industry so confident about the benefits of their system of therapy feel the need to buy state and federal legislative bodies? It’s a curious question isn’t it?

Continue reading “Death from Medicine Back in the News…” »

Ever Shortening Hospital Stays…

You probably know someone who had a major hospital procedure who returned home just a day or two later. It’s a story that’s becoming more and more common.
Did you know length of stay is tied at least in part to how hospitals are paid?

As recently as 1980 – the average hospital stay lasted 7.3 days. Now it’s approximately half that amount of time.

What happened?

For one – Medicare stopped paying hospitals for the cost of a stay and started paying tied to a patient’s individual diagnosis.   Under this new “system”, hospitals are paid the same for a given diagnosis whether a patient stays one day – or four. In other words – actuaries (people who compile and analyze statistics – using them to calculate payments) began deciding for doctors and patients when a patient was healthy enough to be discharged – all without seeing the individual patient involved. This change effectively shifted financial “risk” from the government to hospitals – making it more profitable for hospitals to limit time of care – often regardless of patient needs.

Put simply – shorter stays mean greater profit for hospitals.

What has all this meant for patients and their families?

New challenges for caring for loved ones and readmission rates on the rise.

Why are rates rising?

Continue reading “Ever Shortening Hospital Stays…” »

Could the Error Rate during Surgery Really be This High?

Photo credit: thinkpanama / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: thinkpanama / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

A new research study has just been published on what really happens during surgery. The study was done at one of America’s better hospitals and the report is disturbing.

Researchers at Harvard were anxious to understand how many medical mistakes are actually made just before, during and immediately after surgery.

What did they find?

Not what they expected.

Half of all surgeries involve medical errors and medical malpractice.

Fifty-percent.

Another chilling fact… The study was conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital – considered by leading health authorities to be a U.S. leader in patient safety.

Not only did the Harvard team find a high error rate – mostly tied to medication errors – 30% of the errors resulted in significant patient harm.   Another 69% of the errors were defined as serious.

News of these results led one leading researcher at Yale to proclaim that “awareness of problems is where all solutions begin.”

So is the medical community just learning of the high rates of medical error (sometimes referred to as iatrogenesis) and medical malpractice for the first time?

Continue reading “Could the Error Rate during Surgery Really be This High?” »

The Scary Truth About Modern Medicine

modern_medicine_and_medical_errors

Photo credit: Best In Plastics / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

As shocking as it is remarkable…

We just received a copy of an interview conducted by the Editor (Dr. Eric Topol) of the very popular medical website, Medscape, with internationally renowned author and physician Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD. (recorded 10.12.15).

Here is an excerpt from that interview:

Dr. Eric Topol: We are facing some very important issues today that suggest how bad things are still in 2015. One is that we (physicians) make 12 million serious diagnostic medical errors a year, and that is unchanged, as best we know, since To Err is Human was published in 1999. It seems that without any changes, this will continue, and it has become inhumane to have all of these errors. To the top 20 drugs that are prescribed, by sales, at least, 80% of people are nonresponders. We give these drugs. We have hope, but the fact is that the plurality of patients don’t respond.

Then we have the issues of false-positive results in screening (mammography, PSA levels) at rates that are greater than 60%. Yet these tests are done widely in millions of people every year.

Continue reading “The Scary Truth About Modern Medicine” »

When Patient Safety Takes a Back Seat

One of the great challenges in health care is finding ways to limit the power and influence of money in the system.

What do we mean?

Profit is a great motivator. The desire for profit is also a great corrupter. In fact, where there are massive profits to be made – there is often corruption.

We have written recently of the influence of money on drug choices in America. The big drug companies spend more to influence members of Congress, state legislatures and federal and state regulators than any other business lobby on earth… Even more than big oil. To make matters worse, all major news organizations are heavily reliant on drug ad dollars to turn a profit.

It’s an industry that falsifies research results to promote new drugs while paying physicians to promote and prescribe those drugs despite an absence of evidence of efficacy.

Certainly there are safety watchdogs – right? Yes – and no…

The U.S. Justice Department has just announced they’ve settled a case with former “voice of patient safety”, Dr. Chuck Denham, for accepting kickbacks to promote a company’s antiseptic product while serving as co-chairman of a Nonprofit Quality Forum committee in 2009 and 2010. “The Nonprofit Quality Forum, based in Washington, D.C., reviews evidence and makes recommendations on best practices that are considered the gold-standard by health care providers nationwide”.

Sounds like a group we can trust – right? Apparently not…even “consumer advocates” are for sale. Continue reading “When Patient Safety Takes a Back Seat” »

Is Your Doctor Guilty of This?

Iatrogenesis.

Any idea what that is?

It’s defined in the Merriam – Webster Dictionary as the “inadvertent and preventable induction of disease or complications by the medical treatment or procedures of a physician or surgeon.”

We’ve talked a lot about it in past posts – it’s another term for medical malpractice and it’s the third leading killer in America.

So is it something new?

Nope.

Contemporary medical scholars have been writing about it for years.

Continue reading “Is Your Doctor Guilty of This?” »