Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Vitamin Labels May Be a Scam

The amounts of vitamin D present in supplements sold over the counter often bear little resemblance to the descriptions on the bottle labels, a new study concludes.

Researchers used high-performance liquid chromatography to analyze pills in 55 bottles of vitamin D bought at five stores in Portland, Ore. Their results were published online last week in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the potency of vitamin D supplements, but companies may choose to comply with the standards of the United States Pharmacopeial Convention, which requires that pills contain 90 percent to 110 percent of the listed potency.

In pills from bottles made by a single manufacturer, but in different lots, the researchers found potencies as low as 9 percent and as high as 140 percent of the listed dose.

Read more.

Monday, February 25, 2013

When Working Out, Is Less Really More?

A common concern about exercise is that if you don’t do it almost every day, you won’t achieve much health benefit. But a commendable new study suggests otherwise, showing that a fairly leisurely approach to scheduling workouts may actually be more beneficial than working out almost daily.

For the new study, published this month in Exercise & Science in Sports & Medicine, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham gathered 72 older, sedentary women, ages 60 to 74, and randomly assigned them to one of three exercise groups.

One group began lifting weights once a week and performing an endurance-style workout, like jogging or bike riding, on another day.

Read more.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fake Medication Scam Leads to Mandatory Tracking of Drugs

Fighting the problem of fake drugs will require putting medications through a chain of custody like U.S. courts require for evidence in a trial, the Institute of Medicine reported Wednesday.

The call for a national drug tracking system comes a week after the Food and Drug Administration warned doctors, for the third time in about a year, that it discovered a counterfeit batch of the cancer drug Avastin that lacked the real tumor-killing ingredient.

Fake and substandard drugs have become an increasing concern as U.S. pharmaceutical companies move more of their manufacturing overseas. The risk made headlines in 2008 when U.S. patients died from a contaminated blood thinner imported from China.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

New Drug Developments to Treat Myeloma

Pomalyst is the latest of a half-dozen myeloma drugs developed in the decade or so since Wright got diagnosed. Another, called Kyprolis, won FDA approval last summer.

Like many so-called "targeted" cancer therapies coming out these days, the new drugs are enormously expensive. Pomalyst will cost about $10,450 a month, or more than $125,000 a year.

Dr. Brian Durie of the International Myeloma Foundation says the availability of these new drugs has been transformative.

"It really has changed the whole landscape for both the doctor and the patient," he says. "Ten or 15 years ago, it was very depressing to see a new myeloma patient because you knew that the life was potentially short and it was difficult to be overly optimistic about what might transpire."

Read more.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Does Happiness Come With Age?

Wisdom may come with age, but does happiness follow suit?

Some studies show that the elderly may be more prone to depression and loneliness, which can lead to higher rates of unhappiness, not a surprise given the health and emotional challenges that tend to accompany aging. But increasing, more and more studies suggest that happiness may actually rise after middle age — at least when scientists take into account some of the non-biological factors that can influence reports of contentment.

In a new study, which was published in Psychological Science, researchers led by Angelina Sutin of Florida State University College of Medicine examined data from two large samples of people; one included nearly 2,300 primarily white and highly educated people with an average age of 69 living in a Baltimore community between 1979 and 2010. The second group included reports of well-being collected in the 1970s from a representative sample of some 3,000 adults from the U.S. population who were in their late 40s and 50s at the time of the study.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Drug Rehab Scam: What really goes on in treating addiction?

In a new book, author Anne Fletcher reveals the good and the bad state of care in drug rehab facilities.

Last summer, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University released a report detailing the devastating state of addiction treatment. The bottom line: counselors with little education and less oversight are using outdated and sometimes harmful techniques; there are no national standards for credentialing or training counselors and most treatment centers, even those with extensive financial resources, do not always use best practices. In her book Inside Rehab Fletcher investigates the erratic quality of care in some of these facilities and how some centesr are working to improve treatments.

Read the interview here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Wrong Priorities in Breast Cancer Research?

Too little of the money the federal government spends on breast cancer research goes toward finding environmental causes of the disease and ways to prevent it, according to a new report from a group of scientists, government officials and patient advocates established by Congress to examine the research.

The report, “Breast Cancer and the Environment — Prioritizing Prevention,” published on Tuesday, focuses on environmental factors, which it defines broadly to include behaviors, like alcohol intake and exercise; exposures to chemicals like pesticides, industrial pollutants, consumer products and drugs; radiation; and social and socioeconomic factors.

The 270-page report notes that scientists have long known that genetic and environmental factors contribute individually and also interact with one another to affect breast cancer risk. Studies of women who have moved from Japan to the United States, for instance, show that their breast cancer risk increases to match that of American women. Their genetics have not changed, so something in the environment must be having an effect. But what? Not much is known about exactly what the environmental factors are or how they affect the breast.

Read more.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Popular Painkiller Raises Heart Attack Risk

The painkiller diclofenac isn't very popular in the U.S., but it's by far the most widely used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, in the world.

A slew of studies, though, show diclofenac — sold under the brand names Voltaren, Cambia, Cataflam and Zipsor — is just as likely to cause a heart attack as the discredited painkiller Vioxx (rofecoxib), which was pulled from the U.S. market in 2004.

But evidence of the drug's cardiovascular risk hasn't translated to a reduction in use, apaper in the journal PLOS Medicine found. Diclofenac far outsells ibuprofen, naproxen, and other NSAIDs in 15 countries around the world.

"If you look at it internationally, diclofenac is the single most widely used NSAID," says study author David Henry of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto.

Henry tells Shots that diclofenac raises the risk of a cardiovascular "event" such as heart attack by about 40 percent, compared to taking no NSAID. Other NSAIDS are much safer, with naproxen being the least risky. Naproxen has a global market share of only 10 percent.

Read more.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Young Adults Are the Most Stressed Out Generation

The latest survey shows stress is on the decline overall but still hover above healthy levels, especially for young adults.

In the national Stress in America survey, an annual analysis by Harris Interactive for the American Psychological Association, 35% of adults polled since 2007 reported feeling more stress this year compared with last year, and 53% said they received little or no support from their health care providers in coping with that heightened stress. The survey involved more than 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who answered an online survey in August 2012.

The participants ranked their overall stress level on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being ”little or no stress” and 10 being “a great deal of stress.” Overall, stress in the U.S. has been declining since 2010, when 24% of Americans reported experiencing extreme stress compared with 20% in 2012. And on average, the participants reported a stress level of 4.9, compared with the 5.2 they reported in 2011.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Can Yoga Replace Psychotherapy?

Yoga does the body good, and according to a new study, it may ease the mind as well.

“Yoga has also become such a cultural phenomenon that it has become difficult for physicians and consumers to differentiate legitimate claims from hype,” researchers from Duke University Medical Center write in their study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry. In order to explore the widely held belief that practicing yoga can relieve mental stress, the team reviewed more than 100 studies on the effect of yoga and mental health.

“Most individuals already know that yoga produces some kind of a calming effect. Individually, people feel better after doing the physical exercise,” says lead study author Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center. “Mentally, people feel calmer, sharper, maybe more content. We thought it’s time to see if we could pull all [the literature] together … to see if there’s enough evidence that the benefits individual people notice can be used to help people with mental illness.”

Friday, February 8, 2013

Twitter to Track Flu Cases

An ordinary tweet about a case of the flu just might become a part of scientific research. Computer scientists at Johns Hopkins University are using Twitter to track the number of flu cases in the United States.

The researchers have developed a way to use machine learning to track flu cases in real time and categorize the tweets as either simply chatter about the flu or reports of actual infections.

"Our system learns that phrases like 'at home with the flu' indicate a real infection while 'tired of hearing about the flu' is irrelevant chatter," Michael Paul, a doctoral candidate in Johns Hopkins' computer science department and a member of the research team.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Flavor in Beer May Be Used in New Drugs

Age-old wisdom has suggested that a bit of beer might be good for you. Now, new information suggests that the bitter compounds in beer might aid in the development of new drugs for diabetes, some types of cancer and other health problems.
In the new study, researchers determined the precise configuration of humulones, substances derived from hops that give beer its unique flavor.
"Now that we have the right results, what happens to the bitter hops in the beer-brewing process makes a lot more sense," study lead author Werner Kaminsky, a University of Washington research associate professor of chemistry, said in a university news release.
The study was published in the Jan. 28 issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Glaxo Sued for Diabetes Drug Risks

GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) faces at least four U.K. lawsuits over its Avandia diabetes drug amid claims it’s linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and congestive heart failure.

The potential number of claims against the U.K.’s biggest drugmaker may increase, said Daniel Slade, a lawyer at Manchester firm Express Solicitors, who represents consumers in the four suits and has a further 15 clients.

“We expect the number of claims to increase as there are potentially thousands of people out there who took Avandia in the U.K.,” Slade said in a telephone interview today. “Hopefully these claims will lead to more careful studies and checks on drugs that are widely marketed.”

Glaxo has said it paid more than $3 billion to settle U.S. federal and state government claims that it illegally marketed Avandia, once the world’s best-selling diabetes pill, and other medications.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Virus Designed to Attack Itself

Leor Weinberger calls it hijacking the hijacker. In his lab at the Gladstone Institutes, he's developed a technique for harnessing stray bits of HIV - a virus that infects and ultimately kills immune cells - and using them to attack the virus itself.

His work, still preliminary and untested in animals or humans, is part of what some scientists are calling a "renaissance" in viral therapy. Giant advances in our understanding of how viruses work and how they can be manipulated have led to a growing field of research in using them to fight some of the world's deadliest diseases.

"We're building a therapy for HIV, because that's what we are experts in, but we believe this is not just HIV-specific," said Weinberger, an associate investigator at Gladstone.

Monday, February 4, 2013

When You Eat Matters

Timing is everything for losing weight .
In the latest collaborative study, researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Tufts University and the University of Murcia in Spain, found that the time of day you eat large meals may help to  predict how many pounds you drop.
In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, the scientists monitored 420 overweight participants on a 20-week weight loss program in Spain. The volunteers were split into two groups: early-eaters and late-eaters. Since lunch is considered the largest meal in Spain–about 40% of the day’s calories are consumed in the mid-day meal–half the participants ate lunch before 3 p.m. while the remainder ate lunch after 3 p.m.