Mine hasn't. At least, he hasn't taken money from any of the 15 companies that have been forced to disclose information about gifts and cash they give to doctors. Pro Publica has put that information into an easily searchable database
. It's not total transparency — the drug companies whose payouts are included here only represent 47% of the total market — but it's a good place to start if you want to know whether your doctor has any conflicts of interest that could affect your health. — Maggie
Really, really intriguing piece at Nature News by Heidi Ledford. It's all about a class of patients called "exceptional responders" — aka, the people who got a benefit (sometimes a big one) from a medication or treatment that otherwise failed the clinical trial process
. When we do clinical trials, we're looking at group averages. We want to know whether a drug performed better than placebo when administered to lots of people. Sometimes, though, drugs that can't do that do seem to have a positive effect for a few lucky individuals. Now, scientists are trying to figure out why that is. What makes those people special? And how should this change the way we do research? — Maggie
The Canadian government has approved the sale of nosodes — homeopathic alternatives to vaccines. I probably don't have to explain to you all why giving children a sugar pill that works no better than placebo is a bad, bad, bad idea when the diseases you're trying to prevent are things like polio, measles, and rabies. Here's what you can do to help stop this racket
. — Maggie
The Body Horrors blog has a new recurring series called Microbial Misadventures — all about times when people met disease-causing microbes under less-than-normal circumstances. It starts with an interesting question: Given the fact that most anthrax infections come from eating tainted meat, how did a vegetarian end up with the disease in 2009?
Two-word hint: Drum circle. — Maggie
Tuberculosis — aka, the reason everybody in 19th century literature is always coughing up blood, escaping to the countryside for "better air", or dying tragically young — is back. And this time, it's evolved a resistance to antibiotics. In fact, in a handful of cases, tuberculosis has been resistant to every single antibiotic available to treat it
. Tom Levenson explains what's happening and why it matters at The New Yorker. — Maggie
Here's a 15th century illustration of an English surgical procedure. Fun!
See the full blog — Discarded Image | Discarding Images.
The editors of The Lancet (the long-running British journal of medicine) issued a correction this week for several rude statements and a rather terse obituary that it published in the 1850s
. All of these relate to John Snow, the epidemiologist famous for figuring out that cholera was spread by contaminated water. The trouble with this: Snow's evidence-based arguments stepped on the toes of a former Lancet
editor who believed strongly that such diseases were caused by bad air — and who had, as a consequence, led an initiative to ban tanners, soap makers, and other smelly professions from the city of London. Snow had testified before Parliament that bad air could not possibly cause disease. A feud ensued. — Maggie
There was no actual snake oil in old timey snake oil (except when there was, of course). Rather, most of the lotions and potions sold by early 20th century miracle medicine salesmen actually contained mercury and lead. Now, don't you feel better? University of Detroit Mercy chemists recently analyzed the ingredients of several dozen patent medicine samples from the Henry Ford Museum's collection. From Smithsonian:
Their findings, which they presented yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Atlanta, were that many of the pills, powders and ointments tested had beneficial ingredients like calcium and zinc—but that others had toxins such as lead, mercury and arsenic.
Back in the day, this was a very trial-and-error kind of field,” (chemist Mark) Benvenuto said in an interview. “The stuff that we think of as dangerous now, though it was dangerous, was as cutting-edge as they had at the time.”
"What’s in Century-Old ‘Snake Oil’ Medicines? Mercury and Lead
Coronavirus — characterized by the halo of protein spikes that surround each individual virus particle — is the family that gave birth to SARS. Today, there's a new coronavirus stalking humans, especially in the Middle East. Scientists have documented 16 infections, and 10 fatalities. The good news is that there are probably lots of non-serious infections that aren't being reported, meaning the fatality rate probably isn't as high as it looks. Also, this coronavirus seems to have trouble spreading from person to person. But, in regards to that last factor, it's important to pay attention to a detail from the SARS outbreak that we still don't totally understand. Turns out, a handful of people were responsible for most of those infections. The Canadian Press' Helen Branswell writes about superspreaders and the scientists trying to understand how individuals can alter the course of an outbreak
. (BTW: If you don't follow Helen Branswell
on Twitter, you're missing some of the best infectious disease reporting out there.)
It's not just that bad information on the "dangers" of vaccines is working to reduce the number of children getting vaccines — a fact that affects herd immunity. Now, there's evidence that the fake scares (and efforts to debunk them) are getting in the way of scientists publishing real evidence about actual problems with certain vaccines
. These aren't the kind of broad "vaccines are poison" claims you're familiar with. Instead, we're talking about legitimate science documenting side effects that are usually very rare, but still have an impact on certain subsets of the population and need to be addressed. — Maggie
There are 44 prescription drugs on the market today that should never be combined with grapefruit. That's because the sour fruit (and some other, closely related, kinds of citrus) contain chemical compounds called furanocoumarins that prevent your body from metabolizing certain prescription drugs. Essentially, the grapefruit creates an artificial overdose where one tablet packs the power (and side effects) of 20. The CBC has a full list of the drugs
, which includes cancer drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and drugs to treat problems of the urinary tract. Wikipedia has more about why this interaction happens
. — Maggie
The New York Times has a story on problems with the treatment of ovarian cancer that holds lessons for many aspects of modern medicine
. The big issue here: Local doctors, even local specialists, might not have the information necessary to properly treat patients who come in with problems those doctors don't have a lot of experience with. And those doctors don't always refer patients to people with more expertise. In a world with constantly changing information, how do you get that information to the people patients are most in contact with? In a world with more and more evidence available, how do you change traditions in the medical community that apply treatments based on "what my teachers did" and "what I've always done"? Big questions here, not a lot of answers. — Maggie
Jess Hill has published the second part of a three-part series on what it’s like to have a brain tumor diagnosed, then surgically removed. Read: Magical Realism: From Seizure to Surgery.
The earlier installment is here
. — Xeni
In November 1322, Jakoba (or Jacoba) Felicie stood trial in her native Paris for the crime of practicing medicine without official sanction. Over the course of the trial, it became clear that her work as a doctor had been excellent. But Dr. Felicie was stuck in an unfortunate catch-22. She could not legally work as a doctor without first getting professional training. And she could not get professional training because she was a woman. The ScienceZest blog tells her story
. — Maggie
Federal data to be released this week through the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that drug overdose deaths rose for the 11th year in a row. Most were accidents involving prescription painkillers: specifically, opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin which are commonly prescribed for pain management, and are widely abused. Those two drugs contributed to 3 out of 4 medication overdose deaths, according to the report.
Not one single death in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data set was due to overdosing on marijuana.
Read the rest