Archive for health issues

As children suffer, meningitis cases confirm need for FDA reform

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meningitis

You may have read about meningitis outbreaks at college campuses, in some instances resulting in deaths . Today's guest post is by someone whose name you may very well recognize, Dr. Julianne Malveaux. She makes a good case for urgent FDA reform:

Meningitis Cases Confirm Need for FDA Reform
by Dr. Julianne Malveaux

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

It is virtually impossible to get Democrats and Republicans to agree on anything healthcare related these days. Even issues that everyone can agree on - like covering Americans with pre-existing conditions and keeping young adults on their parents' health plan - become political footballs.

But while Congress continues to debate healthcare policies, they are missing opportunities to genuinely effect Americans' health. There is common ground to be found, including ensuring our nation is properly expediting life-saving vaccines for a deadly disease.

Recent scares at Princeton University and the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) have highlighted a sluggish, reactive approach to disease prevention and that the consequences of this leadership vacuum, particularly at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, could be deadly.

Last spring, a Princeton University student was diagnosed with Meningitis type B (MenB), a highly contagious and life-threatening bacterial infection known to strike college campuses. By November, officials made national headlines by confirming an eighth case.

Just as Princeton was taking steps to protect its students against this deadly disease, UCSB confirmed that MenB had stricken four of its students. One young man – a lacrosse player, Aaron Loy – had to have the lower portion of both legs amputated.

As a former college president, I can assure you that no university is prepared for this kind of crisis. This is particularly true because many college administrators believed they had protected their campuses by requiring incoming freshmen to be vaccinated against meningitis. But it turns out that immunizations cover every meningitis type except for MenB, which accounted for more than 30 percent of meningococcal cases last year.

Because FDA has not approved a MenB vaccine for use in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been scrambling to respond to public health crises like those at Princeton and UCSB. Rather than proactively immunizing susceptible college students before or immediately after a meningitis outbreak occurs, the CDC can only administer “Bexsero” – a MenB vaccine that is currently in use for all ages in European Union, Australia, and Canada – weeks after students have already fallen ill.

FDA’s ad hoc approval for Bexsero means that it takes months for the vaccine to reach college students, rather than days. In the case of Princeton, CDC and FDA launched a vaccination program more than two months after university officials requested special permission to administer the vaccine. Just last week UCSB began immunizing students, some three months after the first case of MenB was confirmed. As one CDC official told CNN, “You don't go online and order 10,000 doses and get next-day delivery of this vaccine. It takes time.”

That statement underscores the need for full U.S. approval of Bexsero -- quickly. A country that has long been the world leader in developing and deploying life-saving medicines should not have to depend on partners in the EU or Canada.

Moreover, other college campuses should be afforded the opportunity to vaccinate their students proactively, well before a disease like MenB strikes their campus. But this option for college administrators, state health officials, and parents is not possible so long as Bexsero remains unapproved in the U.S.

If Congress isn’t yet convinced that there is an urgent problem, perhaps they should listen to the parents of affected students.

"It's absolutely devastating to have Aaron, in the prime of his life, be stricken,” Mike Loy said. “We hope that Aaron's horrific illness brings increased awareness and rapid approval by the FDA of the vaccine.”

I've also heard one mother whose healthy daughter contracted MenB at college and she died within 30 hours of entering the hospital with a headache. She said the FDA would be moving a lot faster if they had to watch their children suffer the way she did.

Improving efficiency at FDA is an issue that should find bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Our system’s continued failure on the MenB vaccine is just one example that illustrates that there’s too much at stake for FDA reform to turn into the partisan fight du jour, or worse yet, be ignored by Congress altogether.

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Third Marlboro Man Icon Dies A Smoking Related Death

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MarlboroManw392h244

As a boy growing up and through my early adulthood, there were billboards galore that expounded the manliness of smoking. During later years, TV advertisements for cigarettes ultimately were banned, but the iconic images and slogans related to the smoking industry stayed with me. There was the Lucky Strike anagram on the bottom of each pack: LSMFT (Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco). And in trying to reach a female demographic, there was Virginia Slims campaign, "You've Come a Long Way, Baby."

When it came to cigarette slogans, the airwaves were filled with ads for Winston Cigarettes: "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should;" Camel Cigarettes:  "I'd walk a mile for a Camel;" or L&M: "Just what the doctor ordered."

But none of them were as iconic or enticing to men AND women as the lure of becoming or being or being made love to by the Marlboro Man. He was macho personified. Their commercials, their billboards, their slogan appealed to all: "Come to where the flavor is. Come to Marlboro country." It was the benchmark by which smoking itself was measured.

Over the years there have been a number of "cowboys" chosen to be the iconic face of this brand. During the 1970's it was Eric Lawson. He appeared in print and TV ads as “The Malboro Man.” In case you are too young or can't put his name to his face, here's one of his memorable commercials:

Eric Lawson, died yesterday from respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), at the age of 72. In case you weren't aware, that's a most common smoking related cause of death, often reported as lung cancer. You might say his passing from smoking, which his wife claims he did heavily until his death, was coincidental.

I call it ironic. Especially when you factor in that two other Marlboro Men, Wayne McLaren, who appeared in Marlboro print ads, died of lung cancer in 1992, and David McLean, who appeared in print and television spots, died of lung cancer in 1995.

Make no mistake about it. cigarettes kill. Yet to draw an analogy from the NRA who claim guns don't kill, people do, we might be able to make the same argument that cigarettes don't kill, people do. But that's wrong. And even if you buy that, doesn't it make you wonder why cigarettes are so heavily regulated while guns aren't?

Come on. It does make you think, doesn't it?

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Coming Soon, Epidemic of Lettuce Smokers -- Congressman Buyer

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insane asylum

Oh, boy, where to start? When the nuts in the crazy house start bringing up analogies, you're sure to have some outrageous statements that only serve to reinforce why we need to clean house in Congress. For too long, we've been committing the insane to the big domed building on Capitol Hill and not the institutions for the mentally challenged or handicapped in their own state. And they shouldn't mind. With the ACA, pre-existing conditions will now be covered.

Take Rep.Steve Buyer, R-Ind. With a name like Buyer, you might think this guy was a dope dealer. Only half right. The first half. He's a dope.

Steve Buyer

In debating whether or not eCigs, the tobacco-less smoking vaporizing devices are harmful and should be regulated as tobacco, Buyer goes off on a tangent that only someone high on Marijuana could make sense of. I'm not saying he's a pot head -- I'm just saying his logic is about as sound as someone who's been on a non-stop Kush smoking binge for a few days --  if not since college.

I'm neither for nor against eCigs. But when you take to the floor of Congress to fight for one side of the other, don't some unprepared. It shows.

Buyer's argument harkens ineffectively to guns don't kill people, people do. In his argument cigarettes don't kill, only people who smoke them do. Of course he forgets the thousands, if not millions who've died from second hand smoke. But Dealer isn't all that bright and his arguments would give an aged Swiss Cheese a run for it's money in the content holes department.

So he goes on -- not quitting when he had half a valid argument to go on. His amped up argument reaches to smoking lettuce.

smoking lettuce

LETTUCE. That green, leafy stuff you make a salad with. He's proposing that drying and smoking lettuce is analogous to smoking marijuana or tobacco.

See for yourself. This real Congressional moment wouldn't need a bit of punch-up to become a classic SNL sketch. It's right up there with the Sarah Palin parodies and the "more cowbell" sketch with Christopher Walken.

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"Have you felt my husband's pain, Senator? If you had you would legalize his relief." #medicalmarijuana

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medical marijuana

This is a sequel to my previous post, "They feel it. You know it! Meet four Op-Ed poets." To recap, the Los Angeles Times invited readers to submit Op-Ed poetry and ended up receiving more than 1,500 submissions. They printed some of them today, and they are a must-read, but a few of them were indisputable home runs that I feel compelled to share.

This one deserved its own post. I was in tears by the time I got to the end:

Relief Within Reach

Have you felt my husband's pain Senator?

Have you watched your cancer-stricken spouse go from being an avid backpacker to not being able to walk across a room?

Have you seen your husband vomit everything he tried to eat for a five-day period? Including water.

Have you heard your loved one wither with exhaustion after talking to his best friend because he only had the energy to say hello.

And, then Senator,

Have you seen what immediate relief marijuana brings?

Have you seen the surge smoking a joint can bring to one whose energy can now be directed into walking around the block instead of trying to block a million pain receptors?

Have you watched your husband eat a meal that the cancer had denied him before?

Senator

Why is my husband's suffering so unimportant to you?

Why do you allow alcohol poisoning to cause vomiting, but you won't allow marijuana to thwart it?

Why are you spending millions upon millions to deny people the relief marijuana brings when you could be reaping millions upon millions from it's legalization?

Have you felt my husband's pain, Senator? If you had you would legalize his relief.

Judy Silk is a writer and stand-up comedian.

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VIDEO: Safety of alternative meds vs. conventional meds reminiscent of George Carlin's "Baseball vs. Football"

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george carlin baseball v football

Maybe it's because I've been feeling like a truck ran over me for the past week or so, or maybe it's because I was raised by a superb internist who regularly gave me insight into this very subject, but a Sunday L.A. Times op-ed stuck out like a sore thumb... a sore thumb that shouldn't be treated with unregulated meds.

It starts out with a comparison to one of my all time favorite George Carlin routines, "Baseball vs. Football" (a must-watch video if you've never seen it before) in which he says, "Football has hitting … and unnecessary roughness and personal fouls. Baseball has the sacrifice... in baseball, the object is to go home! And to be safe!"

These days, at least as it relates to the political priorities of all too many lawmakers, safety is vastly underrated:

Some might say the same can be said for conventional and alternative remedies. Conventional medicine has chemotherapy; alternative medicine has aromatherapy... Orthopedists operate; chiropractors adjust.

Then it gets to the heart (literally) of the matter. Please take a moment to read the entire piece, because too many people don't seem to be aware of many of the dangers associated with remedies that are not subject to government oversight. For example:

Unfortunately, because of the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act, dietary supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so companies are under little obligation to support their claims or admit their harms.

For example, blue cohosh can cause heart failure; nutmeg can cause hallucinations; comfrey, kava, chaparral and valerian can cause inflammation of the liver; monkshood and plantain can cause heart arrhythmia; wormwood can cause seizures; stevia leaves can decrease fertility; concentrated green tea extracts can damage the liver; milkweed seed oil and bitter orange can cause heart damage; thujone can cause neurological damage; and concentrated garlic can cause bleeding.

In 1992, one of the worst dietary supplement disasters in history occurred when about 100 people developed kidney failure from a "slimming" mixture that contained the plant Aristolochia. At least 70 people required kidney transplants or dialysis; many later developed bladder cancers.

Memo to GOP: Regulation exists for a reason, and that reason is to keep us safe in any number of ways. "Big government" isn't always a bad thing (forced trans-vaginal ultrasounds being one major exception), and the insistence by some conservatives that corporate profit should trump the health and welfare of Americans is as absurd as it is dangerous.

More from George Carlin (with whom I had a few awesome personal encounters):

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
Football begins in the fall, when everything's dying. [...]

Baseball has no time limit: we don't know when it's gonna end - We might have extra innings.
Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we've got to go to sudden death.

In the world of medicine, it should be obvious to our elected officials that sudden death is something we should go out of our way to avoid, not encourage via willful negligence.

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What I will not write about today

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frustrated27

Sometimes I get so frustrated and/or disheartened and/or annoyed by some of the news stories of the day that I can’t bring myself to write about them. Here are a few recent reports that made my blood pressure hit the roof. I am avoiding delving into them at length out of concern for my physical and mental health.

  • Killing Obamacare by Making it Fail-- When failed attempts at repeal just won't cut it: Now the GOP is trying to prevent the insurance exchanges from working. USA! USA! See how they care about the health and welfare of all Americans?

See what I mean? So who’s up for a couple of Margs or a trough of wine?

drunk wine lady glasses

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Chris Christie secretly underwent lap-band weight loss surgery

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Chris Christie's family and friends wanted him to start improving his health. So he decided to go with having lap-band surgery, saying that knows this is just the beginning of a longer weight loss process. He insists that this isn't about a run for president, but strictly for his family.

Honest.

I've known a few people that have gone through this, and it helped... to an extent. They never got "thin," but there was noticeable weight loss, which can reduce the risk of heart problems, diabetes, and more.

Washington (CNN) - A few months after turning 50 years old, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie secretly underwent lap-band surgery in February for the sake of his wife and kids, a source close to the governor confirmed to CNN. [...]

"I've struggled with this issue for 20 years," he said. "For me, this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there for them."

Christie had the 40 minute long surgery on Saturday, February 16, a source close to Christie tells CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper, and was back to work by the following Tuesday. [...]

Lap-band surgery entails a doctor fitting a band around the stomach in order to make the organ smaller. It helps people lose weight because as someone eats, the smaller stomach feels fuller faster, thereby cutting down on the amount of food someone consumes. As the lap-band recipient loses weight, doctors can add saline to the band to shrink the stomach even more.

The surgery is considered a less dangerous alternative to gastric bypass, where a doctor shrinks the size of a stomach by dividing the stomach into two using staples.

Back in the summer of 2012, Christie said gastric bypass surgery was "too risky" for him.

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