Articles Posted in Diabetes

10650-insulin-diabetes-300x169Just under a century ago, a team of Canadian scientists made the breakthrough that led to widely available insulin as an effective treatment for diabetes, which then was a deadly disease. The researchers, who won the Nobel Prize, also made a jaw-dropping gesture to ensure their discovery would benefit the afflicted: They handed over their lucrative patent on insulin to the University of Toronto to ensure the fearsome illness would be conquered.

The university, alas, turned quickly to commercial drug makers, licensing them to produce the life-saving medication. And flash forward to now, and, after years of rising anger, a group of diabetes patients has sued three drug makers, asserting they systematically and fraudulently price-gouged them for their must-have treatment.

Insulin has become a $24 billion global market, with myriad profit-grabbing hands of distributors and supposed cost-controllers moving it from makers to patients, each middleman taking his piece. Patients say they’re aggravated that the various Big Pharma players appear to work in concert to send insulin’s price, in lockstep, skyrocketing. One vendor’s product carried a sticker price of $21 per vial two decades ago. It now costs $255 for the same amount.

money-300x193What if you bought the hottest car around, only to find a neighbor found a model just as sporty and paid much less? How would you react if you opened your credit card bill and learned that the family budget was in tatters because your daughter commuted a few blocks to school by taxi, and your son had racked up huge charges for junky electronic gadgets and questionable movies online? Your consternation would be a tiny fraction of the great concern that most of us should experience due to a new study that finds that Americans spent $3.2 trillion on health care in 2014.

If you’re like me, when figures get that big, they become hard to grasp. But for comparison’s sake, the United States’ medical spending  exceeded the 2015 gross domestic product (the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a given country’s borders in a specific time period) for the economies of: Britain, France, Canada, Russia, Italy, Mexico, Indonesia, Australia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and the Netherlands.

Americans spent more on back and neck pain than Russia did on its military and national defense.

Champagne_1050x700-300x200Here’s hoping the holidays are going well for one and all. But, even as they fly away, moderation and some common sense about the seasonal celebrations is worth keeping in mind.

It can pay, for example, to be careful about what you eat in this festive time. Researchers at the RAND Corporation have just issued a study that finds that consumers are “more likely to choose unhealthy foods from November to December, and the subsequent holiday pounds they gain account for 60 percent to 70 percent of the weight they gain per year.” We’re all too inclined, the researchers said, to feast on “nutritionally undesirable foods” such as sugar-sweetened beverages, chocolates, cookies, candy, and ice cream, leading to added pounds that, alas, don’t go away quickly or easily. Bah, humbug, perhaps to these findings based on information on eating habits of 400,000 South Africans who were followed for four years? Or maybe the calorie-conscious might want to consider the Washington Post’s menu of party options and alternatives?

Or how about following the New York Times’ timely report on how the holidays—with their increased eating and drinking and staying up late or sleeping in—confuse our livers, those vital organs that researchers say closely follow circadian rhythms as they help to filter the blood and to regulate critical body chemistries to process food and liquids, including alcohol.

generic-drugs_22034348-300x200If there ever were naïve wishes that parts of Big Pharma might work in more enlightened ways for patients, the attorney generals in 20 states and federal prosecutors, have dashed optimism about “white hat” drug makers. Led by Connecticut’s chief legal officer, the attorney generals have sued a half dozen makers of generic drugs, asserting they engaged in illegal price-fixing to gouge consumers.

The defendant drug makers include: Mylan, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Citron Pharma, Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Aurobindo Pharmaceuticals, and Mayne Pharmaceuticals.

The suit is related to federal prosecutors’ efforts to ferret out criminal dealings by Heritage in the pricing of doxycycline hyclate, a delayed-release medication to treat severe acne, and glyburide, an oral diabetes drug. Heritage itself has sued two of its former executives, blaming them for a price-fixing scheme and for “plundering” the company.

cdc death causesImportant indicators about Americans’ health and well-being are trending the wrong way: For the first time in almost a quarter century, the nation’s life expectancy has declined.  Meantime, fatal overdoses by Americans taking opioid drugs continued to surge and exceeded 30,000 in 2015. And abuse of heroin has exceeded that of traditional prescription painkillers, with deaths due to heroin-related causes surpassing gun homicides.

Experts were surprised by the life expectancy decline, which reflected an increase in eight of the top 10 causes of death (see figure right from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics) including heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s—but not cancer.

It may be a statistical blip from one particularly bad year. The last time a comparable dip occurred was in 1993 due to high rates of deaths from HIV-AIDS, flu, homicides, and accidental deaths. Some experts said the decline in life expectancy, which for men fell on average in years from 78.9 to 78.8, may be attributable to increasing issues with Americans and obesity, and health care hitting limits on progress against heart disease.

elexAlthough many Americans remain saddened or exultant  by the results of the  presidential vote, the November ballot produced key health-related results worth a quick post-mortem:

Just some quick updates on some topics that the blog has followed in recent days:

Big Soda, Big Pharma spending big to battle ballot measures

Raw_cane_sugar_lightWe’ve seen this playbook before, and it’s never pretty how wealthy industries can distort scientific research and harm the public health for decades. Think tobacco and cancer, oil and climate change, football and brain injury. Now: sugar.

Big Sugar secretly paid influential experts, steered and reviewed their inquiry, and, as a result, American health policy at a critical point in the 1960s–and since–has emphasized the role of fats and downplayed sugar’s harms in the rising incidence of heart disease, researchers have found.

This influence-peddling involved then-prominent (now dead) Harvard nutrition experts and the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). The prevailing ethics then differed. Authors were not required by medical journals to disclose conflicts of interest, as they are supposed to now.

SPORTS-DRINKSWith the summer’s sizzle, it’s vital to stay hydrated. But take with a grain of salt the hype that prevails−for athletic “performance” drinks, and about recent reports on cancer risks and alcohol. For those who cut up limes in big quantities for their refreshments, it also may be worth taking note of a quirky health issue that may result−call it the margarita burn.

The Washington Post deserves credit for scrutinizing the claims made by sugary sports drinks, pitches that the paper says will increase in time for the Summer Olympic Games and likely will target kids. The paper says these drinks were developed for demanding athletes whose strenuous work-outs so depleted them that they might need special replenishment.

But kids, lounging around the house or even chasing Pokemon characters in the park, don’t fit this bill, and, other than expansive selling, it’s hard to see how sports drinks have saturated themselves into a $6.8 billion market, the paper says.

big_sodaThe City of Brotherly Love has passed a tax demonstrating its affection for new revenues and its dislike for unhealthy, sugary soft drinks: It’s unclear, however, whether other governments will follow Philadelphia in imposing soda taxes and whether these levies achieve their public health goal of discouraging harmful sugar consumption, especially by kids.

Big Soda and its allies, grocers and labor unions, fought tooth and nail the city’s 1.5-cent per ounce soda tax, airing $700,000 in opposition commercials and spending an estimated $5 million to persuade officials in a notably poor city to be like 40 other municipal or state governments in rejecting what opponents attacked as a Big Brother levy.

In the end, Philadelphia’s craving for cash for its coffers, as much as any potential health benefits for young folks in town, carried the day. City officials stressed, for example, that the soda tax could fund pre-kindergarten education and other programs. As the New York Times describes it:

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