Articles Posted in Research Studies

cardiacstent-300x169Tens of thousands of patients with serious but stable heart disease soon may see themselves treated more with prescription drugs and less with rushed surgeries, especially bypass procedures or operations that seek to open clogged blood vessels with wire cages called stents.

A possible shift away from stents — which have come under question for some time now — may be accelerated by the just-announced findings of a $100 million, multi-year study of more than 5,000 heart patients at 320 sites and in 37 countries. The research, the New York Times reported, sought to provide rigorous and more incontrovertible evidence on procedures that now are a bulwark of heart care:

“[The study dubbed] Ischemia is the largest trial to address the effect of opening blocked arteries in non-emergency situations and the first to include today’s powerful drug regimens, which doctors refer to as medical therapy. All the patients had moderate to severe blockages in coronary arteries. Most had some history of chest pain, although one in three had no chest pain in the month before enrollment in the study. One in five experienced chest pain at least once a week. All participants were regularly counseled to adhere to medical therapy. Depending on the patient’s condition, the therapy variously included high doses of statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs, blood pressure medications, aspirin and, for those with heart damage, a drug to slow the heart rate. Those who got stents also took powerful anti-clotting drugs for six months to a year. Patients were randomly assigned to have medical therapy alone or an intervention and medical therapy. Of those in the intervention group, three-quarters received stents; the others received bypass surgery. The number of deaths among those who had stents or bypass was 145, compared to 144 among the patients who received medication alone. The number of patients who had heart attacks was 276 in the stent and bypass group, compared with 314 in the medication group, an insignificant difference.”

burkedbglobe-212x300A big Boston hospital has offered 13 million and one ways to try to make good with a former orthopedic surgeon who assailed the respected institution and colleagues for performing simultaneous operations in which doctors went from suite to suite, working for hours on multiple patients at once.

Massachusetts General Hospital insisted this practice was safe. Dr. Dennis Burke, a hip and knee specialist whose patients have included former Secretary of State John Kerry, disagreed. He told his bosses at the Harvard-affiliated hospital that simultaneous procedures put patients at risk, and, at minimum, they should be told that the surgeons they flocked to for surgery on them might pop in and out of their procedures.

Burke infuriated his bosses by taking his criticisms outside the hospital, including to investigative reporters for the Boston Globe. The newspaper dug into hospital surgeries, particularly in orthopedic cases where operations lasted for hours.

drugtruvada-300x200When Big Pharma insists its sky-high prices are justified, patients may want to keep in mind key findings just revealed about prescription drugs and their makers:

Expensive brands may not be manufactured by name firms, and instead, may be cranked out in dirty and risky secondary facilities. And the research that leads to expensive products may have been ripped off from federal scientists funded by taxpayers who aren’t getting paid back.

Sydney Lupkin of the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News service deserves credit for expanding public attention on growing concerns over the safety and quality in drug manufacturing beyond generics and on to costly, blue chip branded prescription medications. As she reported of the Federal Food and Drug Administration:

cdcalcoholdriving-300x141Although drunk drivers inflict terrible carnage on others traveling on the nation’s streets and highways, law enforcement agencies and skeevy device makers may be unwinding the trust in what has become a cornerstone of the nation’s safety regimes: roadside alcohol testing machines.

The New York Times reported that it “interviewed more than 100 lawyers, scientists, executives and police officers and reviewed tens of thousands of pages of court records, corporate filings, confidential emails and contracts” to discover “the depth of a nationwide problem that has attracted only sporadic attention.”

As the newspaper noted of roadside “breathalyzer” exams and devices used for them:

cdcheartfailure-185x300Although many Americans fret that old age will afflict them with cognitive impairment, from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it may be that their hearts will give way first.

Experts have expressed growing concern about increasing issues with rises in heart disease, especially in the elderly, and a new study appearing in the online medical journal “JAMA Cardiology” provides explanation why these fears are well-founded: After a period of decline, deaths due to heart failure are spiking.

As the Wall Street Journal reported: “The death rate from the chronic, debilitating condition [of heart failure] rose 20.7% between 2011 and 2017 and is likely to keep climbing sharply.”

blindjustice-300x200The civil justice system, by regularly closing off and keeping secret key parts of lawsuits involving medical devices and prescription drugs, may contribute to patients’ serious injuries and deaths, according to a “special communication” published in a noted medical journal.

The online article in JAMA Internal Medicine argues for greater transparency and disclosures, with a table of examples that includes how:

  • With the Prempro hormone therapy drug for women, the “Manufacturer hired vendors to publish ghost written reviews and commentaries that promoted estrogen replacement for several off-label uses, including prevention of dementia, Parkinson disease, and visual impairment, and downplayed risks of hormone-associated breast cancer.”

sugarspoon-300x211Grownups shouldn’t be surprised that child obesity is a major and rising concern for 1 in 5 of the nation’s young, putting their short- and long-term health at serious peril: That’s because Big Sugar and major food makers persist in  a costly, relentless barrage on kids and adults for unhealthful products, notably sweet drinks that hook children into hard-to-break habits for a lifetime.

Although pediatricians and nutrition experts keep warning that babies and tots, especially, should get much lower amounts of sugar in various forms in their daily diet, almost “two-thirds of the $2.2 billion in beverages marketed to children contained added sweeteners, according to a report released last week by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut,” the New York Times reported.

Rudd researchers found that just three food industry titans sprinkled $21 million in advertising for sugary liquids.

biogenlogo-300x104With as many as 14 million Americans potentially suffering from various forms of dementia by 2040, including the common  Alzheimer’s disease, and with the costs of the care for them forecast to soar soon to more than $500 billion, a frenzied race is on for ways to deal with the debilitating cognitive syndromes. But will individual initiative or Big Pharma products matter most for seniors and their loved ones in the days ahead?

Industry analysts and patient advocates alike were stunned when drug maker Biogen reversed itself and announced that it would seek federal Food and Drug Administration approval for aducanumab, which the New York Times reported “is a monoclonal antibody, an expensive type of drug that attaches to specific proteins in order to disable them. The drug clears a key protein in Alzheimer’s disease — beta amyloid — that accumulates in plaques in patients’ brains. Aducanumab is given as an intravenous infusion once a month.”

Biogen had spent heavily on multiple tests of this drug, suddenly pulling the plug on it last spring, declaring with the counsel of an independent advisory board that the prospective prescription medication — and possibly the line of inquiry about beta amyloids and Alzheimer’s that had led to its creation — was a failure.

fallhospitalIt’s the 21st century, and excellent information is more available than ever due to communication and technology advances. But doctors and hospitals keep harming patients by testing and treating them in ways that are unsupported by rigorous medical evidence, and by carrying out safety recommendations in extreme ways.

Just consider:

cardformedicare-300x188Americans in coming weeks will make important decisions on the national and personal level about how best to safeguard themselves and their loved ones with a crucial component of the U.S. health care system: their insurance coverage.

Though the exact timing of the open enrollment season varies by geography and plan, it’s that key time for millions who get their coverage via Medicare and may wish to make changes. These are important weeks, too, for many who obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Many workers are hearing a lot from their human resources folks about their employer-provided plans.

It’s clear from the political polling and the sometimes-dreary Democratic presidential debates that there’s huge interest and lots of devil in the details about Americans’ health insurance options.

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