Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Caution: News Articles Lax In Disclosing Drug Trial Funding

The mainstream media do not report potential sources of bias in medical research, informs a study in the latest issue of JAMA.

The study analyzed news media coverage of medical studies and found that, more often than not the news articles fail to report pharmaceutical company funding. In addition they frequently refer to medications by their brand names, rather than their generic names. Both of which can be possible sources of bias, the researchers suggest.

The trend is critical because medical news articles in the media make up for an important source of medical information for many patients, and even some physicians. So the audience may already be reading commercially inclined information, especially the physicians.

For the purpose of the study the authors identified 306 news articles, of which 175 were from newspapers and 131 were from online sources. Of the 306 news articles about company-funded medication studies, the funding source for the studies was not reported in 42 percent of the articles! That's pretty close to half the medical news in the media.

Aside from the sources of funding, news articles, especially short ones may be skipping other vital information such as the side effects. Experts, believe that news agencies should have explicit guidelines on reporting of medical studies.

However another startling find came to light during the study. Many editors of the 100 most popular publications when surveyed indicated that they identified the funding sources, had drafted polices on medical reporting, etc, a reality check however, revealed a divergence between their perceptions and practice. For instance, of the editors who reported always identifying company funding, failed to cite company funding in about 45 percent cases.

When it's about referring to generic names, one of the problems with many drug names seems to be that they are tongue twisters, but this justification isn't sufficient if accurate reporting is to be achieved. Perhaps firm steps need to be taken, and with time the audience, especially the patient population will get accustomed.

How Acupuncture Helps Women

Today, acupuncture finds wholesome visibility in the media. One of the most popular alternative medicine treatments, acupuncture has been used by 8.2 million U.S. adults according to a 2002 health survey. And quite a few possible benefits of acupuncture too have been reported off late.

It's hard to imagine how tiny needles, the only 'medical instrument' used in acupuncture to stimulate anatomical points on the body could have wide ranging health effects?

Nevertheless, the following illustrations show how acupuncture may help in managing women's health problems.

Acupuncture and IVF Outcomes

Earlier this year, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that the chances of pregnancy were increased by 65% when acupuncture given to patients in addition to the embryo transfer process as compared to when it's not given. However, a later study from the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found little evidence of any benefits. And that more work was needed to establish solid links between Acupuncture and IVF administration. But a spark has been lit.

Acupuncture and Hormone Disorder

Polycystic ovary syndrome or (PCOS) is considered to cause a hormonal imbalance, an interference with ovulation and eventually leading to infertility. Now there's a study being conducted at the University of Virginia Health System to see the effectiveness of the acupuncture on the syndrome. Though the final verdict is still not out, the researcher have expressed promise. And there have been some happy endings.

Acupuncture and Hot Flushes

The evidence about the treatment's effect is not about hot flushes in general though, it's about relief from hot flushes in women on breast cancer treatment. It pertains to women who are being treated with anti-estrogen tamoxifen after breast cancer surgery. The findings came to light at the 6th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-6) held in Berlin.

Acupuncture and Back Pain (Pregnancy)

An estimated two-thirds or 66 percent of pregnant women get back pain and about 20% get pelvic pain. This is supposed to occur for the most part due to the distribution of weight during pregnancy. But according to a publication from the organization Cochrane Collaboration, stretching exercises, customized pillows when coupled with acupuncture can relieve such back pain.

Acupuncture and Labor Pain

A review published in the Cochrane Library, published by Cochrane Collaboration, suggests that acupuncture along with hypnosis may relieve labor pain. However, the researchers had also expressed that before putting the findings into practice with confidence, better-designed trials on the subject were needed.

An African quote reads, “When a needle falls into a deep well, many people will look into the well, but few will be ready to go down after it.” I don't know how long ago someone said that, but today it seems many people will accept the dare.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Innovative Robot = Hands Free Surgery

Bagging this year's award for “Innovation of the Year,” this new medical device is sure to bring a smile to laparoendoscopic surgeons around the world. Because it sets their hands free!

Prosurgics’ FreeHand robotic camera holder has been garnering attention since its launch in Stockholm this year. Backed by the international technology company Sagentia as a prime development partner, the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons in the USA awarded the robot the “2008 Innovation of the Year” title.

FreeHand, Prosurgics’, a second generation robotic camera holder, brings to the medical industry an inexpensive robotic aid for use in minimally invasive abdominal surgery.

It's now known that surgeons around the world often struggle to find skilled assistants to hold the camera during laparoscopic or key-hole procedures. While, eventually they find dependable aides, it's still an onerous task because it's tiring, and leads to a camera shake, poor visualization, and make the surgery even longer.

How It Works?

Attach It

FreeHand cleverly addresses these problems. The device can be quickly attached to the side of the operating table and because it only takes moments attach, its position can be changed fast during the surgery.

Regulate its movements

The device is controlled using a gadget worn by the surgeon on the forehead. The surgeon using only natural head movements selects the direction in which she wants to “steer” the robot, or tilt, pan and zoom. Then with a foot pedal she can actuate the movement. An option to preselect the speed and other adjustments, enable precise control over the robots movements.

In a nutshell the benefits are threefold:
  • It enables quick and precise control of scope position
  • Unmatched stability
  • Ease of use and efficiency
After, Video Game Surgery To Train Surgeons , the new device seems to be a quite a helpful creation for medics.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Top 11 Tips To Sleep Better! - II

As promised, the following are the remaining tips to help you sleep better. The tips #1 through 5 can be found in the post: Top 11 Tips To Sleep Better! - I.

6. Don't be a bat or an owl: Nighttime is exclusively meant for vampires to prowl about, but for humans it's natural to sleep at night and medical industry experts suggest that too. If you sleep in the day as well, it might eat into the time of your nighttime sleep, so preferably sleep at night. However, if you can't avoid it sleep in a dark bedroom to simulate nighttime.

7. Schedule relaxing activities before bedtime: This could include activities viz. reading, listening to relaxing music etc. And if you do these things everyday, overtime your body will associate these activities with sleep and trigger it. Also if you don't fall asleep withing 20 minuets of lying down, get up and engage your self in some slow, relaxing activity and get back to bed when you feel sleepy. This is a much more natural way to induce sleep compared to pharmaceutical drugs meant for the same job.

8. Ensure you've a comfortable, bed, mattress and pillow: Based on your needs make a wise choice to purchase the right sized bed and good mattresses.

9. Throw all your worries into a trash can: Bundle all of them up and pack them off to a dustbin before bedtime, whether they be issues from your workplace or from anywhere else. Sleep is a very personal time, and you'd only be able to deal with your worries if you get good sleep and wake up fresh the next day.

10. Get into comfortable sleep wear before bedtime: If you don't, you do it at your own risk as your body might not feel relaxed while you sleep. A comfortable sleep wear is as important as making your bedroom comfortable.

11. Put mental stress to sleep as well: Being mentally stressed and worried can play havoc with sleep. You'd need to unwind yourself from all the stress. To achieve this, try relaxing by watching comedy when you get back home, forgive, forget & let go, learn and practice meditation and relaxation exercises.

You might also want to see the post: 10 tips to stay healthy and Top 12 Smoking Myths

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Top 11 Tips To Sleep Better! - I

Many people visit doctors and other health care industry experts because they can't sleep well. The effects of a bad night's sleep could range from mental, emotional and physical fatigue to irritability and feeling sleepy during the day, which can sometimes be serious, like feeling sleepy while driving.

The following are the first 5 tips that can help you to a sound sleep so that you wake up refreshed and stay fresh all day long.

1. Fix up a time to sleep and to wake up and stick to it: Doing this would set your body's internal clock and it would know when it's time for sleep and for waking up. Ensure that you don't disturb the schedule even on weekends.

2. Don't feast just before it's time to sleep: Have your meals at least 2 hours in advance of your bedtime and avoid rich meals. Also going to bed on a hungry stomach is harmful.

3. Don't consume coffee, cigarettes or drinks before bedtime: It's best that you avoid these completely in the evening because their effect lingers on for some time after consumption, depending upon the quantity you've consumed. Just like some pharmaceutical drugs, these beverages have side-effects which hamper sleep.

4. Physical exercise helps you get better sleep: Aside from many other benefits, regular exercise can get you a more restful sleep. But avoid exercise or vigorous physical activity before bedtime.

5. Make your bedroom a sleep haven: To make it comfortable you'd need to make it quiet, dark and regulate the temperature and humidity to you comfort. Also shift the TV away to another room as it can be a distraction.

You might also want to see the post: 10 tips to stay healthy and Top 12 Smoking Myths

Watch out for the next part for the remaining tips to sleep better.

Monday, September 15, 2008

HealthEvent: PHARMATEX 2008

PHARMATEX is Ireland's largest pharmaceutical industry conference and exhibition. Although still in its second year, the trade event serves as a multi-disciplined event offering insights into the future of business and technology of both the pharmaceutical as well as the bio-pharmaceutical industry.

Ireland being a knowledge-based economy is slated to remain a major contributor to the Pharmaceutical and (bio) pharmaceutical sectors which thrive on education innovation and technology transfer.

To take a stock of Ireland's leadership position. Consider the following facts:
  • At present 13 of the top 15 companies in the world have significant operations in Ireland.
  • There are 83 facilities employing more than 17,000 people in Ireland.
  • 12 out of 25 of the world’s top selling drugs are produced in Ireland.
The Exhibition

The companies present at the exhibition include those supplying technologies, services or equipment to both pipeline and existing manufacturing facilities. The event is a perfect venue to meet with new and existing customers. If you're interested in building or expanding your Irish and European customer base then this is the event to make it happen.

The Conference

The conference is an informative and and insightful event delving into and contemplating about the future of innovation, technology and corporate strategy of the bio-pharmaceutical and pharmaceutical industries. For this it banks upon the opinions and experiences of international as well as local business leaders and advisors to chart a decade's roadmap.

This year's three day program has been divided into eight tracks including Training and Re-Skilling Workshop, the Heads of Industry Day on Operational Excellence, Disposables in Bio Manufacturing, Industrial Communications, Lean, MES, Manufacturing and ISA S95:The Next Step in Automation.

Profile of attendees at Pharmatex 2007
  • International Pharmaceutical industry leaders
  • Directors and managers from Irish based facilities
  • State and Government representatives
  • Representatives from the key academic institutions
  • Directors and senior managers from the engineering consultancies
  • Representatives from the supplier and industry support base
The Show's Key Details are:

Exhibition Name: PHARMATEX 2008

Dates: September 16 – 18, 2008

Tuesday: September 16 (09.00 – 18.00)
Wednesday: September 17 (09.00 – 18.00)
Thursday: September 18 (09.00 – 18.00)

Venue: Radisson SAS Hotel, Ditchley House, Little Island, Cork, Ireland

Official Website: Pharmatex

Insights are always useful. And an intriguing insight about Pharmaceutical Advertising recently came to light, see: Pharma Advertising Not Effective

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Osteoarthritis (OA): Knee Surgery No Panacea!

Each year thousands of medics utilize their surgical instruments to perform surgery for treating osteoarthritis, however, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found that surgery wasn't any better than conventional treatments for treating the disorder.

Arthroscopic surgery is a widely accepted minimally invasive surgical procedure, wherein surgeons insert medical instruments including an arthroscope in the knee to remove cartilage fragments, thus smoothening the joint surface to provide relief.

However, the recent study by scientists at the Robarts Clinical Trials at the University of Western Ontario in London concluded that patients with arthritic knees benefited equally well with non-surgical treatments viz. pharma drugs and physical therapy.

The research lasting 8 years, from 1999 to 2007 is based on the observation of 178 osteoarthritis (OA) patients. Of which 86 were treated with medicines and physical therapy. And at the end no additional benefits of surgery were found.

Despite the results, the authors suggest that knee arthroscopy is beneficial in the treatment of many abnormal medical conditions affecting the knee, viz meniscal repair, resection.

Osteoarthritis (OA), or degenerative arthritis, is a clinical syndrome in which low-grade inflammation results in swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joints. The disorder is a consequence of wear and tear within the joint. It's also the most common type of arthritis that affects 27 million Americans and 10% of the Canadians.

Although simple arthroscopic procedures might not have proven to be better than conventional treatments in this study, experts believe that for patients with severe arthritis, “knee replacement surgery” serves as an option.

Aside from the study, see how there can be Better Outcome for OA Through Technology and also find out: Osteoarthritis (OA): Can Chinese Therapy Qigong Treat it?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Top 12 Smoking Myths - II

Even though, quitting smoking may me harder for some than other, the health care industry has invented several effective aids to help you quit.

The post Top 12 Smoking Myths - I of this had covered the first six common myths about smoking. Now as promised, find below the remaining myths associated with smoking.

Myth #7: “Many smokers don't get Lung cancer.” Many smokers who smoke do get lung cancer! Further, that's not the only thing that cigarettes cause. There are a number of disorders and maladies linked to smoking . eg. Digestive disorders, cancers of the mouth, etc. As a consequence of smoking you may have to pop in pharm drugs to treat the abnormal medical conditions caused by smoking.

Myth #8: Smoking is Chic: It could have been, if it didn't lead to bad breadth, wrinkles on the face, stained teeth and repulsive smoke and smell that envelopes a smoker.

Myth #9: Low-tar or menthol cigarettes are safe: Users of these cigarettes automatically make up for low nicotine content in them by smoking more cigarettes when their bodies crave. And they might even inhale deeply to compensate, thus inhaling the more toxins including carbon monoxide.

Myth #10: I'll gain weight if I quit: Not necessary, you're likely to gain weight if you eat more than you need to. Some people may compensate the craving for cigarettes with overeating. However, with proper exercise and healthy diets you may never gain weight, or get back to normal in a short time.

Myth #11: Cigarettes won't harm me: Why? What makes you any different from others? This is one of the commonest forms of irrational reasoning that causes us to be reckless. Whether it's about driving or safe sex, or smoking you're about as susceptible as anyone.

Myth #12: Quitting won't help if you've smoked for years: Though it sounds appealing, it's not true. Think of smoking as a slow acting poison, as soon as you stop taking it, your body will heal itself and prevent you from disease.

In addition smoking has been linked to infertility in women and impotence in men. If you've tried to quit yourself but have failed, try seeking professional help. Start off with the following resources:

In the US

American Lung Association

In the UK

Go smoke free
British Heart Foundation

Also, “If I'd known I was going to live so long, I'd have taken better care of myself.” Thus spake Leon Eldred.

You might want to see the post: 10 tips to stay healthy

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Top 12 Smoking Myths - I

About 2.4 million cases of tobacco-related cancers were diagnosed in the United States from 1999 to 2004, finds a recent study by the CDC. Lung and bronchial cancer make up for about half of these cases. Just as the harmful effects of smoking persist, so do the myths surrounding smoking, which often prevent smokers to quit.

Though there exist treatments and drugs for cancer, but it is a tough disease after all.

The following are the first 6 of the 12 most common myths about smoking.

Also find resources to help you quit at the end of the post.

Myth #1: Smoking is harmful only to the smoker: It's fallacious because inhaling second hand smoke is just as harmful if not more. And often it's tender kids who are the recipients of such smoke, which is even worse.

Myth #2: Smoking/chewing tobacco lowers blood pressure: This one's perhaps the biggest joke about smoking. The fact is the blood pressure can increase, and doctors often advise patients with high blood pressure to quit smoking.

Myth #3: Tobacco smoke uplifts your mood: (This myth is true!) Since, nicotine is a stimulant you might feel alert and relaxed (and happier, because of: see VJ Sleight's comment) but in fact as the effect wears off it can put you in a worse mood than you previously were in. In the long-run however, it might hurt you more because it can potentially wreck your health.

Myth #4: Tobacco chewing and Cigars are safer, because the smoke's not inhaled. Tobacco smoke is harmful, whether from a cigarette or a cigar. Chewing tobacco isn't safe either as those who chew, often get afflicted with oral cancers, etc.

Myth #5: "I can quit, whenever I want to:" This one presumes that it might be difficult for others, but not for the person herself. The fact is that it's tough for any one because Nicotine, the principal component is one of the most addictive substances around. However, the medical industry has devised many treatments that do make it easy for you get rid of the addiction.

Myth #6: Just a few cigarettes a day are fine: No they're not because only a couple of cigarettes have enough nicotine to harm you. And the addictive power of cigarettes makes it more likely that you'd crave for more of them.

Start off with the following resources:

In the US

In the UK
You might also want to browse through the Top 10 Tips To Stay Healthy

Watch out for the next post for the remaining myths...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pharma Advertising Not Effective - Aw Shucks!

At a time when pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars on advertising drugs to consumers directly, a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), finds that such advertising doesn't garner enough returns.

The magnitude direct-to-consumer advertising is huge, for instance in 2005 itself the pharmaceutical industry spent over US$ 4 billion on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising. However, the results of the study by Harvard Medical School raises serious questions about its efficacy.

“There wasn't an ounce of effect for a drug for arthritis, and a drug for allergies,” felt the Harvard Medical School professor Stephen Soumerai and one of the authors of the study. Oops! If you thought advertising was easy for the medical industry think again.

They carried out this study on three well advertised drugs Etanercept (meant for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Mometasone furoate (an anti-allergic drug) and Tegaserod used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Lasting a good five years, the research compared the prescription habits of French Canadians, 95% of whom don't watch US Television, with the prescription habits Canadians residing in English dominant regions, who do watch TV programs aired from the US.

So does it mean that pharmaceutical companies shouldn't advertise direct to consumers? Perhaps it depends on what they advertise, because when it comes to arthritis and allergy medications, consumers have a lot of options. And when there are so many competitors trying to out pace each other, then there's a higher probability of an advertiser's pitch getting lost in the noise.

However, experts also feel that direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertising does fare well when it's about new and innovative drug treatments.

There's also a funny aspect to drug advertising, and that's recounting of the side effects. By the time the main pitch has moved the audience, the narration of side effects causes the persuasive message to lose steam.

On another front, it seems that Heart Surgery is a big risk for doctors too.