Friday, October 31, 2008

Self-Assembling Hydrogel - A New Drug Delivery System

Hydrogels have been around for for quite some time now. And despite their utility, their toxic components, and use as drug carriers have been their popular shortcomings. However, recently a self-assembling version of the pharmaceutical raw material has been developed, which is claimed to be biocompatible.

If you are new to hydrogels, then simply put, it's a gel in which water is the continuous phase and it has a myriad medical and industrial applications.

During the course of their study, instead to reinventing the wheel, researchers went about exploring means by which medically approved drugs can be converted into amphiphilic molecules which can self assemble. Finding new uses of the already approved pharmaceutical excipients seems to be a slick way to tackle the issue of the time it takes to get a new molecule of pharmaceutical ingredients approved.

And now the researchers' efforts have led them to develop structures capable of delivering high concentrations of pharmaceutical drugs minus the negative side effects. It still the beginning, an important one though, because this method can be a stepping stone for making drug-based delivery carriers which can release a number of drugs e.g. anti-inflammatory drugs.

This research conducted by scientists from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology (HST) will be published in the journal, Biomaterials.

Hydrogels have seen a number of developments over the years and the new research is the most recent advancement for using them as controlled drug delivery vehicles. This research is also important as it might even help eliminate the need for an external carrier for as a means of drug delivery.

On the lines of innovation healthcare, Video Game Surgery and Sick (Man)nequins seem to be intriguing as well.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why Are Personal Care Products Harmful?

We use thousands of personal care products today, which are nothing but a compilation of thousands of chemical substances. And research suggests some of these may cause ecological harm.

Personal care product and toiletries (viz. fragrances, soaps) refers to the manufacturers of consumer products used for beautification and in personal hygiene.

If the EPA is to be believed, then the waterbodies in the US have pharmaceuticals present in them. And many of these land up in the environment form medicated cosmetics products that are used. While scientists haven't yet found proof of adverse human health effects from in the environment, it doesn't mean that it's not happening. But it's still good news because rigorous inquiry is the bedrock of science.

Personal care products and pharmaceuticals have in all probability been present in water and the environment since they were invented. Today it's a big industry (US $40 billion) with many major players and numerous who deal in wholesale cosmetics trading. The problem arises when the products we consume are not completely absorbed by our bodies, and are then excreted and flow into wastewater and surface water.

Some common personal care items that contribute to the phenomenon are fragrances, cosmetics, and sun-screen skin care products. However, not all products end up like this, rather it varies. For instance, some are easily disintegrated and broken down by the human body or yield to environmental conditions, other which are difficult to break down enter domestic sewers, etc.

Recently, some personal care products were certified under the new natural seal and standard program. These products which must be made up of at least 95% truly natural ingredients make up for good candidates to break down easily.

Perhaps, when a majority of products comprise substances that can be easily disintegrated, or better ways to process them before they're discarded are discovered, the concerns would be alleviated.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vitamin D - Why Kids Need Double Dose Now?

A couple of days back the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) decided to double the amount of vitamin D it recommended for infants, children and adolescents. And the new guidelines suggest an intake of 400 IU of vitamin D per day, as against 200 IU per day, recommended earlier, which may be met by an appropriate dietary supplement.

The Endocrine Society had earlier raised doubts about the previous Vitamin D recommendations not being sufficient even to the extent of ensuring essential levels needed by children.

Apparently, the new guidelines are a fallout of a realization that there was a wide ranging deficiency of Vitamin D in infants, children, and adolescents, leading to a large number of cases or Rickets in the US. The new recommendations to provide health supplements to children applies from the first few days of an infant's life.

Recent studies have shown that 400 units of vitamin D a day will benefit the kids two-fold. One is by preventing rickets, and two by treating it.

Also, since it's difficult to assess a safe level of sunlight exposure to an individual to help vitamin D production, making up for it with health supplements of the vitamin is a easy way meet the body's requirements.

Rickets in children and adolescents is the primary reason why kids should take sufficient amounts of the vitamin. Aside from nutritional supplements, Vitamin D is also found in dairy products (viz. cheese, butter, cream, fortified milk), fish, oysters, fortified cereals and margarine. But the diet supplements are always an option, effective enough.

Kids aside, consuming the needed amounts of vitamin D may prevent adults from developing osteoporosis. And staying in line with keeping ourselves healthy, check out the 10 tips for preserving health.

Friday, October 24, 2008

When Doctors Prescribe Sham Medicines

If you believe that a doctor's prescription has real pharmaceutical drugs written on it, think again, because recent studies have pointed to the fact that doctors frequently prescribe placebo pills to achieve a psychological effect.

The findings supporting the practice were reported in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ). But at the same time the "placebos" that doctors sampled in the survey used were not completely inactive like the substances used in clinical trials. Rather, these were substances that may have some effects, but not any direct effect on the patient's condition other than what can be termed as a placebo effect. Generally, people think of a placebo as something similar to a sugar pill.

Placebo effect is any benefit experienced by patients when they are by assured that whatever is being prescribed to them will benefit them, irrespective of the problem. It's like cashing in on optimism and confidence to help someone.

You may be wondering why do doctors need to prescribe placebos rather than real prescription drugs to combat the symptoms a patient reports.

Well the reason lies in the fact that a lot of sensations such as pain we feel are also governed by how we think about our sickness. Further, over the years the effectiveness of "The placebo effect" has been validated in a number of studies.

Experts believe that prescribing placebos is a common in the practice of medicine. And the study revealed that only 3 percent doctors doled out sugar pills, 13 percent prescribed antibiotics, 41 percent used over-the-counter painkillers, 38 percent used vitamins, and 13 percent used sedatives as placebos.

So the next time your doctor prescribes you may be compelled to think more about the prescription, somewhat.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Report: Now Less American Infants Are Dying

The United States ranked 29th in the world in infant mortality in 2004, compared to 27th in 2000, 23rd in 1990 and 12th in 1960, according to a new report from CDC′s National Center for Health Statistics.
It's good news, because infant mortality is considered as the most important indicators of the health of a nation, as it is associated with quality and access to medical care, maternal health, socioeconomic conditions, and public health practices. The U.S. infant mortality rate has generally declined throughout. The rates are worse than some other industrialized nation though. The medical industry needs to do a lot more to make the rates better still.

Here are the key Findings:
  • The U.S. infant mortality rate was 6.78 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004.
  • Infant mortality rates were generally lowest (below 3.5 per 1,000) in selected Scandinavian (Sweden, Norway, Finland) and East Asian (Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore) countries.
  • Twenty-two countries had infant mortality rates below 5.0 in 2004.
  • The current U.S. infant mortality rate is about 50 percent higher than the national goal of 4.5 infant deaths per 1,000 births.
  • The report shows the U.S. infant mortality rate did not decline from 2000 to 2005. However, preliminary data for 2006 show a significant 2 percent decline between 2005 and 2006
  • The infant mortality rate for non-Hispanic black women was 2.4 times the rate for non-Hispanic white women. Rates were also higher for Puerto Rican and American Indian women, 8.30 and 8.06 respectively.
While infant mortality rates are now more desirable, American kids may be at risk, reason free pharmaceutical drug Samples.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Top 11 Tips To A Healthy Brain

In this fast paced world our mental capabilities are constantly challenged and it's almost a necessity now that we keep our brains sharp as a razor.

People are increasingly preferring products that claim to boost brain power. Intriguingly, even pharmaceutical drugs for narcolepsy aren't an exception. A BBC report highlighted it.

But unlike using prescription drugs to charge the brain, which may raise safety concerns too, the following tips should help boost up your mental prowess.

1. Get more physical exercise: Engage yourself in physically active leisure activities, play a sport, etc.

2. The mental muscle needs workout too: Getting six pack abs requires specific physical workouts. Similarly, solving a puzzle, reading challenging material, learning a new skill, etc. strengthen your mental muscle.

3. Socialize: Socially engaging with friends, family, colleagues and just about anyone human to keep your brains neurons up and running.

4. Eat a nutritious diet: What you eat also feeds the cells of your brain, and you can't expect starved brain to work well. Brain boosters include foods with a good supply of vitamins, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, or take a supplement if need be.

5. Excess weight is bad for brain: Try getting a healthy weight.

6. Manage your health problems well: If you suffer from hypertension, diabetes, or any other abnormal medical condition get proper treatment. See: 10 Tips To Stay Healthy

7. You brain needs rest too: After a day's work your body needs rest and so does your brain, make sure that you get ample sleep before you start off for the next day. See: 11 Tips To Sleep Better

8. Try to maintain a positive outlook: Life is a challenge for sure, but a positive outlook will encourage your brain to find solutions to your problems.

9. Consume alcohol in moderation: Also avoid smoking, or doping. See: 12 Smoking Myths

10. Manage your stress levels: Aside from ruining your mental abilities, it can be a cause of diseases. Keep them under check, try meditation and other advice on busting stress. Here are some nice ways to relax yourself.

11. Your brain needs variety: Change your daily schedule a bit by engaging into a hobby and having fun.

No matter what your age is, you're never too old to perk up your brain. Maintain a sense of purpose in life and keep working at it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

How CDC Will Defeat Disasters

A new low-cost, high-resolution imaging system to create a comprehensive picture of an area devastated by a hurricane or other natural disaster has been developed. The information will be used assess the number of people affected by a disaster and also the need for humanitarian services from the health care industry .

Developed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) as part of a project funded by the CDC, the device has been christened as Mini ModPOD, which stands for “Miniature Modular Photographic Observation Device. The gadget will be attached to a helicopter to gather the visual information.

“Without a real-time map, it’s very hard to do population estimates and demographic estimates to figure out where people are, how they’re moving, how they’re spaced out and even how many people you have on the ground,” said a project officer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “This technology does not exist currently, so GTRI’s imaging system is really an innovative project.”

For now aid organizations distributing pharma drugs and other essential supplies don’t have fast and accurate means of finding out how many people need assistance. This technology should sort out the nagging issues. At the same time a cloud cover over the affected region could stifle the image gathering efforts. Similarly there will also be dissemination restrictions.

GTRI technologists plan to install the system on Coast Guard UH-60J Black Hawk helicopters. These are the same choppers that were among the first to fly over Haiti following Hurricane Hanna’s devastation.

The system incorporates an off-the-shelf Canon Digital Rebel XTi digital camera, a global positioning system receiver, a small circuit board that uploads mission parameters, and an inertial measurement unit. The inertial measurement unit is supposed to measure the aircraft’s rate of acceleration and changes in rotational attributes, including pitch, roll and yaw. The images gathered can later be put together to create a complete picture of the affected area.

Aside from the GTRI's innovation, see how an award winning device can aid Hands Free Surgery

Friday, October 10, 2008

Coming Soon: 12 Plagues Of The World!

At a time when the world's economy struggling, here comes another report of how the climate is just ripe for 12 deadly contagions to spread their tentacles around the world. The medical industry better watch out!

A report released by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), in Spain forecasts the threats. Serving as a stark reminder of the biblical, 10 Plagues of Egypt, it's titled “The Deadly Dozen: Wildlife Diseases in the Age of Climate Change.” For now the best defense against the scare appears to be wildlife monitoring to detect how these diseases are moving and then act to minimize their impact, experts suggest. Changes in climate (temperatures and precipitation) are being cited as the culprits for the varying distribution and spread.

The Prophesied Plagues Follow:

1. Plague: Yes, one of the plagues is plague itself, highly infective and deadly, the disease is easily spread by rodents and fleas to humans and animals.

2. Avian influenza or Bird Flu: Caused by viruses adapted to birds, increases in stormy weather can force infected wild birds to new regions and bring them into greater contact with domestic birds , spreading the disease further.

3. Babesiosis: Caused by parasites, it seems to be spreading fast. Reportedly, tick population is booming among the wild life in East Africa .

4. Cholera: An infectious gastroenteritis, it's common in warm weather regions. The bacteria behind the disease thrives in warm water. It's treated with anti-infective medicines.

5. Ebola: Ebola viruses are adept at killing apes and humans. It's spread has been associated with changing levels of rainfall.

6. Intestinal & external parasites: Higher temperatures and rainfall aid them to flourish. Many such species can spread between animals and humans.

7. Lyme disease: This bacterial disease is spread through tick-bites. As tick population gets distributed due to climate change, the disease will debut in new areas.

8. Red tides: This term refers to blooms of algae, which can form dense visible patches near water's surface. They are deadly because of the toxic substances they produce, e.g. saxitoxins.

9. Rift Valley fever: The virus causing the disease mostly spreads through the bites of infected mosquitoes. And is already a well-known disaster in Africa.

10. Sleeping sickness or human African trypanosomiasis: Transmitted by the tsetse fly, an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 people are presently infected with the disease.

11. Tuberculosis: It is a common and often deadly infectious disease affecting different systems and parts of the body, mostly lungs (about 75% cases).

12. Yellow fever: Yellow fever is an acute viral disease, and is commonly spread by mosquito bites. The infection is a major cause of hemorrhagic illness in many African and South American countries.

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce," said Karl Marx, I can't make sense of the “farce” part though. Find more info about climatic change and disease at WHO Climate Change.

Btw, poor economy won't cause most people spend less on health care, but we can always ensure to spend wisely and minimize wasteful expenditure. See: Do Dietary Supplements Make Economic Sense?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Do Dietary Supplements Make Economic Sense?

Bad economic times may negatively impact our health, or they may not. A recent survey by CRN shows that many have chosen health as a priority and won't compromise spending on dietary supplements to keep themselves healthy.

It's not always easy though, a poor economy can cause you to drink, drive, eat, work too much or may not get enough sleep because you're stressed. While an economic downturn my affect our lifestyle somewhat, there's no clear-cut evidence about the bad times being absolutely unhealthy, explores an NYT piece.

The CRN survey found that 51 percent of consumers don't intend to cut back their supplement routine and 13 percent of dietary supplement consumers considered supplements as an essential part of their wellness routine that they couldn't do without. Experts think it's encouraging, that despite a bad economy a majority of adults want to invest in their health by using dietary supplements.

So Is It Really Worth Spending On Dietary Supplements?

Investment in health is good, but consumers also need to invest wisely. More so, because dietary supplements aren't regulated the way pharmaceutical drugs are. And there are no provisions in the law for the FDA “to 'approve' dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness before they reach the consumer." The FDA only has the "responsibility for showing that a dietary supplement is 'unsafe,' before it can take action to restrict the product's use or removal from the marketplace."

Much of the responsibility for making claims is that of manufacturers, and for accepting those rests with consumers. While there are guidelines for manufacturers on labeling of products, verifying promotional statements for validity is a consumer's prerogative. Not all dietary supplements are the same and there are enough examples where supplements may be harmful, e.g. adverse events, inefficacy, contraindication, etc.

I think while investing in dietary supplements makes health sense, spending on the right ones makes economic sense too. Especially during tough times such as now.

Btw, 10 Tips To Stay Healthy should also help in keeping us sturdy during the economic recession.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Free Drug Samples – Kids At Risk!

Children are the future of any nation but if a new published research is to be believed, free prescription drug samples distributed to children may actually be unsafe for them.

The study published in the October 2008 issue of the journal Pediatrics reveals that children commonly received free drug samples from their doctors. For instance in 2004, one in 20 American kids got drug samples. And out of all those who took at least one prescription drug in that year, about one in 10 received free samples.

But here's why the samples are risky
  • The USFDA has identified significant new safety concerns for four of the top 15 most frequently distributed samples in 2004.

  • These four freely distributed drugs got new black box warnings or had significant revisions to existing black box warnings issued since 2004.

  • 2 out of the 15 drugs carry substances monitored by the Drug Enforcement Agency due to their high potential for abuse, e.g atomoxetine, amphetamine/dextroamphetamine.
Free drugs and samples are a commonplace within the medical industry and many a times prescribed to patients and kids from indigent populations to make drugs accessible. But this actually doesn't make them more vulnerable because poor kids are less likely to visit doctors.

However, most of the free sample drugs are new releases, and often their safety profiles aren't well-known. Experts feel that free samples might even lead to their casual consumption before their safety record is known, which could harm. In fact the NYT reports that Dr. Cutrona, the study's lead author went on to say “We need to discuss it more, and maybe consider stopping the use of free samples entirely, if there are such potential harms.”

Considered a marketing tool of choice, free drug samples while promoting drug use and accessibility, their potential to harm children's health can't simply be overlooked. On somewhat similar lines, safety concerns also exist about the increasing pharmaceutical outsourcing from Asian nations.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Top 10 Tips To Keep Allergies Away

Usually not life threatening, allergies can be quite a pain when they cause a runny nose, sneezing, itching, rashes, swelling or asthma. And while they can be managed with prescription drugs, you too can do a lot to defend yourself against them.

With the help of the following tips you could do away with allergens before they get on to you.

1. Bathe Before Bedtime: Taking a shower before you doze off would ensure to wash away pollens and other allergens caught in your hair and on your skin.

2. Clean House Objects: Remove houseplants and frequently clean shower curtains, damp walls, bathroom windows, indoor trashcans and areas with dry rot. This would reduce the amount of mold in your home.

3. Murder The Mold: Killing the culprit mold is also important. To carry out the slaughter, mix water and chlorine bleach and clean it. And this treatment doesn't even interact with your anti allergic medication!

4. Remove Mold Havens: All the carpets need to be removed from bathrooms or other rooms that are damp. Furthermore, use mold-proof paint instead of wallpaper.

5. Increase Air Ventilation: Open doors and windows and use fans to increase air flow into the house as this would prevent the growth of mold by decreasing humidity.

6. Perform Dehumidification: Reducing the humidity in your home even by half the amount or less can aid curtail mold growth. You can make use of a dehumidifier to improve air quality in addition to cleaning and replacing small-particle filters in your central air system.

7. Stay Away From Pets: Sometimes, proteins found in the skin and saliva of furry animals such as cats and dogs can trigger an allergic reaction. Or you could even get it from the house dust if it contains animal dander. When you’re experiencing allergies, it’s best to keep pets out of the house. Just bathing the pet with shampoos won't suffice.

8. Remove House Objects: Dust mites are often the culpable offenders for allergies and they find safe haven in drapes, non-washable comforters, feather pillows, upholstered furniture and soft toys. You’re are better off removing them from your surroundings, lest they bother you during bad times.

9. Use The Right Flooring: Carpets are considered bad for allergies, not only in damp places but generally too. Replacing carpets with wood or linoleum is a good option, however the best is to have polished floors. Moreover, mop the floor often with a damp mop and wipe the surfaces with a damp cloth.

10. Stay Indoors During Dusty Days: When the whether is dry and windy outside, the greater are the chances of you breathing in lots of allergen ridden air, so you might want to spend time indoors during such whether. Additionally, don’t let any of the dust get into the house by closing doors and windows. And while driving use air conditioners instead of opening windows.

So much for shielding yourself from allergies, in case you’re struck with an allergy, don’t forget the entities that can make it worse. Allergies have been found to become worse from wooden smoke, cold temperatures, air pollution, aerosol sprays, humidity, tobacco smoke, irritating fumes and wind.

Btw, for tips about maintaining your health in the long run, see: Top 10 Tips To Stay Healthy , and if sleeplessness has been bothering you, get some ideas to help you through: Top 11 Tips To Sleep Better! - I

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pharma Outsourcing: China On Top

China is emerging as the leading destination for outsourcing in Asia, the big pharmaceutical companies agree. The trends came to light with the release of a PWC report which rates Asian nations on cost, risk and market opportunity of the industry.

China is followed by India and the Asian tigers Korea and Taiwan. And what's driving them forward guessed it. It's primarily the cost factor. The report outlines 3 prominent trends.

The trend towards high end innovation - intellectual property (IP) concerns have previously inhibited this trend in pharma but, increasingly, such concerns are being overcome and major moves are being made by big pharma companies to step up their drug discovery investment in Asia.

Rapid expansion of clinical trials in Asia's medical industry - the volume of clinical trials being conducted in countries outside of Europe, North America and Japan has been growing rapidly in recent years with Asian countries leading much of the growth. China has overtaken India as one of the fastest-growing locations. By June 2008, China had 428 clinical trials registered on the website as under way and a cumulative total of 870 completed or ongoing trials compared with 737 in India.

A scaling up of pharma manufacturing in Asia – with an increased commitment to international standards, Asian CMOs are securing more outsourcing orders from big pharmaceutical companies. In India, for example, there are more than 100 FDA-approved pharmaceutical facilities – the largest number in any country outside the US.

As against the earlier scenario, factors such as the presence of educated and qualified scientists, improved intellectual property (IP) legislation and a good market growth seems to have overridden the negatives surrounding development in the region.
At the same time, concerns about outsourced pharma products still remain at large. Whether it's the tainted heparin products or the reports of contaminated milk powder from China ensuring safety should be a big challenge. Even the proposed FDA Globalization Act of 2008 has met with criticism on account of feasibility, for the most part due to the present FDA funding, which is far too less to meet the goals in time. Companies need to be profitable but not at the cost of harming those they are supposed to heal.

Outsourcing aside, recently it was revealed that News Articles are Lax In Disclosing Drug Trial Funding.