05 Sep

New drug mimics the beneficial effects of exercise

Okay, as someone prohibited from intense exercise due to my heart defect, color me intrigued:

“A drug known as SR9009, which is currently under development at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), increases the level of metabolic activity in skeletal muscles of mice. Treated mice become lean, develop larger muscles and can run much longer distances simply by taking SR9009, which mimics the effects of aerobic exercise. If similar effects can be obtained in people, the reversal of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and perhaps Type-II diabetes might be the very welcome result.”

(Via New drug mimics the beneficial effects of exercise.)

06 Aug

700K in the US file for medical bankruptcy every year. In Japan 0. Germany: 0. This.


“‘Without insurance, we would have lost our house, decimated the college funds, spent every bit of savings we had, and, six years later, I’m sure we’d still be paying off those bills. Or we would have gone bankrupt. Some 700,000 Americans every year declare bankruptcy because of medical bills. The number in Japan? Zero. The number in Germany? Zero.'”

(Via Cory Doctorow: Without insurance, we would have lost our house,….)

19 May

Does Prozac help authors?

Interesting article takes a look at the effects of creativity while on antidepressants. I tend to have two reactions to this back and forth.

1) I hate seeing antidepressants derided as a ‘crutch’ as no medical doctor has ever said to someone with a broken ankle ‘hey, that’s just a crutch you’re using to keep the weight off your ankle.’ And no one in public would say ‘you should quit using crutches.’ Crutches, by definition, allow the break to heal. I think society is a bit hard on people with mental health fractures. We are ourselves as well. It may be that an artist needs to stop creating while they let themselves heal on something like this (much like you can’t play football if you broke a leg, but no one would mock you for being out for a while on crutches while waiting for it to heal. Not so in brain health. Also, I think it’s at least feasible that some mental health breaks could be career ending, much like an athlete who’s so beaten up they need to retire. A though).

2) I’ve seen many creative friends experience both the ability to write and who have lost it. Most of my friends, anecdotally, seem to find it helpful (and continue being creative) after dropping the fear that antidepressants would kill their creativity. It’s a big fear, articles like this, which don’t use double blind tests and scientific data, but collect a bunch of anecdotes, don’t exactly help. That being said, it at least talks about those who are able to write again thanks to antidepressants. But I do know some who get hit with the fog effect. Hey, people are varied, and it’s not surprising medicines have varied affects. But if you’re super depressed, or suicidal, I submit that taking care of yourself is the most important.

“Within three weeks of my own Prozac fog lifting, I was writing again. Yes, I still felt down, so down some days that I couldn’t work and buried my head under the duvet, but the trade-off was days when my fingers couldn’t move fast enough over the keyboard, my pen struck sparks from the page. In Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home, the heroine, Kitty Finch, has just quit Seroxat. ‘It’s quite a relief to feel miserable again,’ she says. ‘I don’t feel anything when I take my pills.'”

(Via Does Prozac help artists be creative? | Culture | The Observer.)

After my heart defect and the pulmonary embolism almost dropped me in 2009 I tried SSRIs, but they had side effects with the other meds I needed at the time to treat those things. I’ve used xanax off and on to treat physical side effects of stress (my face goes numb, I get disembodied) that came from the change in life in 2009. Stayed off them most of 2010, 2011, and most of 2012.

Early this year I had to reup my prescription due to the stroke-like symptoms of stress I got after a doctor’s visit (and I’ve always used Xanax to help me get on a plane, because flying terrifies the fuck out of me).

As far as I can tell, the main effect has been to let me write because I’m not sitting in a corner obsessing about what’s stressing me out. I’m getting better about not needing it (am off it again after that period early this year) over time, but apparently in 2009 the fall out from almost dying fractured my mind a bit, and I’m still getting over it.

I don’t in the least bit feel ashamed or worried about talking about it. You try almost dying a few times in a short span of time and then move forward with a heart that somedays feels like a landmine in your chest that could go off from too much moving about, and you get a sense for how my brain interprets my daily life some times. Most of the time that doesn’t hit me, but laying stuff down on top of that tends to burst through the energy I spend managing that stuff.

I’m grateful I only occasionally have to resort to Xanax. Hopefully in another few years, I won’t even need that except for on flights (and I’ve always had to use Xanax or copious amounts of scotch to fly happily. My old routine used to be three rum-n-cokes, pour self aboard flight, fly happy!).

17 May

Interesting interview with Bill Gates about worldwide health

This new incarnation of Bill Gates as the richest man in the world who jets around trying to solve world problems is my favorite, and this interview with him is pretty fascinating:

“‘I always use this chart of childhood death,’ Bill Gates says. ‘In 1960, 25% of kids died before the age of 5. And now we’re down below 6% of kids dying before the age of 5.’”

(Via Bill Gates: ‘Death is something we really understand extremely well’.)

29 Apr

An ounce of prevention…

One of the most dramatic impacts in medicare seems to be a program that tested sending nurses around to see how people are doing and focusing on the human care side of things, not the ‘treat them once they’re in trouble’ side:

“If there is a secret to the success of Health Quality Partners at preventing hospitalizations, it’s this: No one else is checking in with the Bradfields or the Allens every week. Medical technology — from pills to devices to surgical procedures — is so advanced and so competitive that making further gains requires enormous investment and rarely brings high returns. But the exciting field of knocking-on-the-Bradfield’s-farmhouse-door is almost totally empty. Medicine has been so focused on what doctors can do in the hospital that it has barely even begun to figure out what can be done in the home. But the home is where elderly patients spend most of their time. It’s where they take their medicine and eat their meals, and it’s where they fall into funks and trip over the corner of the carpet. It’s where a trained medical professional can see a bad turn before it turns into a catastrophe. Medicine, however, has been reluctant to intrude into homes.
For the most part, the medical system treats the old very much like it treats the young. It cares for them when they’re sick and ignores them when they’re well. Coburn’s basic insight is a discomfiting one. He doesn’t really believe in ‘better,’ at least not for elderly, chronically ill patients. He wants someone going over frequently to see if they’re depressed, if their color is good, if they understand their medications, if there’s anything they need. This isn’t medicine so much as it’s supervision.”

(Via If this was a pill, you’d do anything to get it.)

Of course, this may save money in the big picture, but you can imagine that bean counters who focus on short term savings thinking about that. They’re about to shut it down.

12 Apr

David Farland’s lack of insurance due to refusal of insurers to let him sign up for a plan

By 2050 40% or so of the US workforce is expected to be flexible or freelance. Despite the legions of vitriol against health care reform of any kind, right now things like this happen, when freelancers with preexisting conditions can be denied healthcare by companies and thus put their families at risk:

“Through no fault of his own, Farland cannot obtain medical coverage due to pre-existing health conditions. His wife did have a job that allowed them to carry group health insurance, but got laid off during the worst of the recession. When asked how authors survive these kinds of disasters, Farland answered, ‘It’s only through people working together. People are amazingly kind in times like this.'”

(Via Army of Friends Rally Around Best-Selling Author David Farland.)

The current system is due to change next year, due to the reforms that are coming down the pipe. Alas, this happened a year too early for Farland’s family.

This wasn’t a case of someone just not getting health insurance and gambling his family’s life, according to the story above, but a horrible and unique creation of the existing system that conservatives are fighting hard to keep in place, one that forces us to depend on employers and fear being laid off lest things just like this happen.

Consider helping however you can.

By the way, this could have been me. My genetic heart defect means American companies can, until 2014, refuse to even take my offered money if I wanted to get healthcare. Current we’re insured via my wife, but even if I made enough for her to leave her job, I couldn’t get covered due to the same issue.


You should be.

03 Apr

FDA Clears Ingestible Sensor

A swallowable sensor. Take two and the computer will diagnose you in the morning…

“Proteus Digital Health, Inc. announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared its ingestible sensor for marketing as a medical device. The ingestible sensor (formally referred to as the Ingestion Event Marker or IEM) is part of the Proteus digital health feedback system, an integrated, end-to-end personal health management system that is designed to help improve patients’ health habits and connections to caregivers.”

(Via Proteus Digital Health Announces FDA Clearance of Ingestible Sensor – Proteus Digital Health.)

27 Mar

Veti-Gel covers any wound and stops bleeding

Or, for those of you who have played Halo: Biofoam!

“Veti-Gel is said to dramatically speed the body’s natural clotting, closing wounds in seconds. It instantly tells the body, ‘OK, stop the bleeding,’ but also it starts the healing process.

‘I have seen (Veti-Gel) close any size wound that it is applied to,’ said Landolina. ‘As long as you can cover it, it can close it,’ he added.”

(Via Veti-Gel Instantly Stops Bleeding and Closes Wounds of Any Size it Can Cover.)

26 Mar

Trawling social media to find a better picture of drug side effects

This is interesting to me: a group of people mining twitter to look at the lesser reported side effects of drugs that might not get reported on up to the FDA due to them being not as dramatic.

I recently trawled newsgroups to find out that I wasn’t alone in having a reaction to a drug I’m on that gives me the munchies something awful. After noodling around the medical sites and not seeing much about it, I found a ton of anecdotes online from people who’d managed to isolate that same drug.

It was nice to know I wasn’t crazy.

“We found 295 instances of adverse events in the top 10 categories on Twitter – a number higher than is reported to the FDA. In the last 12 months for which data is reported (Jul2012-Jun2012, data is only available through June 2012 at time of writing), there has been an average of 8 adverse events where Claritin was the primary suspect in reports to the FDA, and 265 total adverse events per month where Claritin was mentioned to the FDA in conjunction with other drugs. Almost all of the cases we found on Twitter were primarily due to Claritin, over 30X the number of primary events that are reported to the FDA”

(Via Discovering Drug Side Effects with Crowdsourcing | The CrowdFlower Blog.)

23 Dec

A placebo, even if you know about it, might still help!

Here’s an interview with the author of a new study about placebos that might shake things up a bit!

A provocative new study called “Placebos Without Deception,” published on PLoS One today, threatens to make humble sugar pills something they’ve rarely had a chance to be in the history of medicine: a respectable, ethically sound treatment for disease that has been vetted in controlled trials.