Members of Congress Put Costly Drugs in Their Crosshairs

  • by Shannon Firth

WASHINGTON — Prescription drug prices are getting more attention on Capitol Hill, with two senators from opposite sides of the aisle announcing plans to investigate while House Democrats declared they were forming a task force on the issue as well.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) this week announced a bipartisan probe into drug costs, according to a press release from McCaskill’s office. The senators are requesting drug pricing information from four companies whose products’ prices have recently spiked: Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Turing Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin, and Rodelis Therapeutics.

“We need to get to the bottom of why we’re seeing huge spikes in drug prices that seemingly have no relationship to research and development costs,” McCaskill said, in the statement.

According to the release, the investigation will look into:

  • “Substantial price increases on recently acquired off-patent drugs”
  • “Mergers and acquisitions within the pharmaceutical industry that have led to dramatic increases in off-patent drug prices”
  • “The FDA’s role in the drug approval process for generic drugs, the agency’s distribution protocols, and, if necessary, its off-label regulatory regime”

The Senate Special Committee on Aging has scheduled an initial hearing on this issue for Dec. 9.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) announced the formation of the “Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force.”

House representatives said they hope to advance legislation that would enable Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to negotiate Medicare prices and to force drug companies to be transparent about the cost of making their products.

Doggett cited the now infamous example of Turing Pharmaceutical’s Daraprim (pyrimethamine), a drug for treating infections common in patients with cancer and AIDS. After the company acquired the drug 3 months ago, the price went from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. On Tuesday, the company said it would lower the price by the end of the year, but did not say by how much.

“But exorbitant drug prices are not about one wrongdoing, or one drug, or one class of drugs; they are a systemic problem that involve a wide range of manufacturers,” said Doggett while standing at a podium flanked by posters of Turing’s CEO Martin Shkrelivilified by the media for his tone-deaf comment that his actions would benefit society — and Michael Pearson, CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

Click here to read the rest of this article

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Kidney Stone Patient Guide

Kidney Stones

Painful Mineral Deposits in Urinary Tract

Kidney stones are formed from a combination of minerals and waste materials. The stones may not cause symptoms until they move from the kidneys through the ureters and into the bladder.

Even small kidney stones can cause intense pain until they pass out of the body. Larger stones may lodge in the urinary tract, leading to infection.

Most kidney stones pass on their own over several days, but some are too large and must be broken up with sound waves or be surgically removed. Patients who have kidney stones are at higher risk for future stone formation. Dietary changes and medications can help lower this risk.

Cause Intense Pain Over Several Days Until Passed Out of the Body

Kidney stones are a common urinary tract disorder, accounting for many emergency room visits in the United States each year.

Risk Factors

Kidney stones are almost twice as common in men as in women. Age is also important; the risk for men increases after age 40 years, while women are more affected during their 50s. Even children can develop kidney stones; teenage girls have the highest risk.

At any age, a diet high in salt, sugar, and protein increases the risk. Drinking an insufficient amount of water may also contribute to stone formation. Overweight or obese people are at higher risk, as are those with a family or personal history of kidney stones. Certain drugs, as well as diseases of the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract disorders, hyperparathyroidism, and gout, all increase the risk for kidney stone formation.

Allergy Season: Experts Predict Severe Allergy Symptoms, But A Shorter Season

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There was no short supply of sniffles, sneezing, or stranger side-eye on the subway this winter (sorry about that) — and allergy season may be a similar scene. Experts predict the 2015 season will be more severe than years past.

Dr. John Basso, chief of allergy and immunology at Nyack Hospital in New York, told USA Today “the prolonged moisture in some regions this winter may have laid the groundwork for a bad season.” Basso explained a warm, dry spring following a wet winter is a recipe for high pollen counts. But if we were to have a wet spring, pollen might not be such a problem.

Pollen levels over the past few years have been unusually elevated, the overall season starting earlier and lasting longer. This year, Dr. Tanya Laidlaw, director of Translational Research in Allergy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told Tech Times the classic oak, birch, and maple trees will be late to pollinate — so there’s a chance seasonal allergies will be cut short by at least a few days.

Still, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for experts to predict what exactly is in store for allergy sufferers. Global warming is considered to be partly responsible for the unpredictable shift, the increased carbon dioxide and climate change stimulating pollen growth. This then makes pollen more prevalent and potent.

This is why experts have started recommending sufferers take any medication and otherwise precaution before the onset of spring allergies. Basically, experts find sufferers are better off when they plan a preemptive strike against miserable symptoms.

“It’s a really good idea to start early, because if you have your armamentarium on board protecting you, the medication will be a lot more effective and you’ll feel better,” Dr. Laura Mechanic, chief of allergy at White Plains Hospital, told USA Today. “A lot of people who wait end up suffering longer and on even more medication for a longer period of time.”

If your allergies aren’t bad enough to warrant a prescription, there are other ways to reduce symptoms. Eating healthy foods can reduce symptoms; cleaning air conditioning and furnace filters every three months can minimize pollen and mold in the air; and wearing sunglasses when outside keeps irritants away, reducing itchiness and redness.

Bonus: Several apps are available for smartphones now to help sufferers better manage and even predict the severity of their symptoms. For example, ZYRTEC® AllergyCast delivers a GPS-based allergy forecast for today and tomorrow, as well as the day’s top allergens based on a person’s location. Check out four other options here.

Article reprinted from Medical Daily

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How to take a child’s temperature

Several methods for taking a child’s temperature quickly, accurately, and safely are available.

Devices used to measure body temperature in children include the digital thermometer (for rectal, oral, or underarm readings), the digital ear thermometer (tympanic membrane thermometer), the digital pacifier thermometer, and the forehead (temporal artery) thermometer.

Mercury thermometers are no longer considered safe because the glass can break and release the liquid mercury, which is highly toxic. Digital thermometers, which are safe and measure body temperature in seconds, should be used instead of mercury thermometers.
Never Leave a Child Alone While Taking Temperature

Taking a child’s temperature with a digital device is easy and quick, but the patient should never be left alone while the thermometer is in place. When a child has a fever, healthcare professionals recommend recording the time and temperature readings, along with any medication given to lower the fever. The following are descriptions of the different methods used to measure body temperature in children.

Click here > to learn more about Rectal, Oral, Axillary, Ear and Forehead Methods and here > to download the Pediatric Thermometry.pdf

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Fixing Healthcare Can Be As Close As Your Neighborhood Pharmacy

by John Nosta

The clinical emergency is medicine itself

Demand for primary care services is projected to increase through 2020, due to the increasing aging and population as well as the expanded insurance coverage implemented under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In other words, the demand for primary care physicians will grow more rapidly than the supply, resulting in a projected shortage of over 20,00 full-time physicians.

The value of your neighborhood pharmacy

Nearly 70% of Americans are on at least one prescription drug and over 50% of Americans are on at least two prescription drugs. Given the shaky assumption that these folks are actually taking their medicines, it’s fair to say that beyond the physician, the pharmacist plays a key role in the health dynamic. Currently pharmacists can provide many services to their patients–from information to specific medicines.  In fact, the pharmacy is often a first source of medical information for many.  Pharmacy services have evolved from strictly dispensing medications to offering services such as medication therapy management, medication education, improving medication adherence, administering immunizations, and health/wellness. In addition, pharmacists can now be found in specialty areas such as oncology, organ transplant and even psychiatry. RxWiki–an on-line patient information service–now extends the pharmacy experience into the digital landscape, offering patients on demand access to medication information, pharmacy transactions, and medication adherence. RxNetwork is another emerging company with a unique methodology to link the pharmacy and patient–providing real-time support from compliance to education.  RxNetwork’s patient relationship management solution bridges the pharmacy-patient communication gap and provides an efficient, non-disruptive solution for the pharmacies with a convenient, rewarding, motivating solution to their connected patients.

Click here to read the rest of this article by John Nosta in Forbes Magazine

Congressman and Medical Doctor Phil Roe Presents An Outstanding Obamacare Alternative

Family Research Council discussion of the Republican Study Committee’s alternative to the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare.”

Dr. Phil Roe, the Congressman representing Tennessee’s First Congressional District, will present an overview and answer questions about the RSC’s patient-centered and free market alternative, the American Health Care Reform Act. More information about RSC’s bill can be found here. Because of the federal government’s expansive role in structuring health care’s cost and coverage, this important discussion is relevant to all Americans. Dr. Roe has a valuable perspective as a medical doctor who understands the challenges facing America’s health system today.

Congressman Phil Roe represents the First Congressional District of Tennessee. A native of Tennessee, Phil was born on July 21, 1945 in Clarksville. He earned a degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Austin Peay State University in 1967 and went on and to earn his Medical Degree from the University of Tennessee in 1970. Upon graduation, he served two years in the United States Army Medical Corps. Congressman Roe serves on two Committees, Education and the Workforce, and Veterans’ Affairs, that allow him to address and influence the many issues that are important to the First District students, teachers, veterans and workers.

Click here to watch this presentation on YouTube >>> Congressman Phil Roe: An Obamacare Alternative

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Psoriasis and Look-alikes—A Photo Essay

Click on this picture for a slide show of photos and descriptions of psoriasis and look-alikes

How to know whether your cough is serious


I saw 17 patients in my primary care practice yesterday. Six of them were coughing.

One of the most basic parts of my job is sorting out who’s a little sick from who’s very sick, or in danger of getting very sick. How do I do that when so many people have the same symptom? And, as a patient, how do you know when your own cough is worth a trip to the doctor (especially when it’s cold, you feel rotten, and the waiting room is likely to be full of … coughing people)?

First, what is a cough? One way to think of it is as a version of speaking or singing: air is being expelled through the throat in such a way that a noise comes out. In coughing, however, the expulsion of air is caused by some irritant, is reflexive and involuntary (though you can fake a cough, usually unconvincingly) and occurs against closed vocal cords, producing a distinctive sound. Some coughing sounds–the “bark” of croup (listen here) and the “whoop” of whooping cough (listen here)–are especially distinctive.

Dozens of conditions can cause a cough. The most common ones I see in adults are:

viral upper respiratory infections
influenza (“the flu”)
bacterial pneumonia and bronchitis
asthma
allergies
congestive heart failure
gastroesophageal reflux (“GERD”)
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”)
smoking
lung cancer
post nasal drip
medication side effects–especially from the blood pressure medications known as ACE inhibitors (lisinopril, accupril, monopril, etc.).

Some of the clues I use to sort through these are the quality of the cough (wet or dry, throaty or deep, etc.); timing (acute vs. chronic); accompanying symptoms (wheezing, fever, etc.); and characteristics of the patient (age, medical history, exposure to smoke, medications, or sick contacts, allergens, etc.)

Someone taking lisinopril who feels well other than a tickly feeling in their throat that’s been making them cough for weeks is easy to diagnose, as is someone who’s got a high fever, body aches, chills, and a kid at home with the flu, or someone who coughs every time they eat a heavy meal and then lies down in bed and gets heartburn (the acid irritates the throat).

Things get tricky when the variables scramble and combine: a smoker with GERD who takes lisinopril and has a sick kid at home, for example. When that happens–and it often does–you work your way through the list of possible diagnoses (“the differential”) and eliminate them one by one, starting with the most serious and the most likely the way a detective considers crime suspects. The physical exam, blood tests, a sputum sample, a chest X-ray, and a consultation with a specialist may all be helpful in sorting through the list. Sometimes, a “therapeutic trial” is the key to the diagnosis: if changing the blood pressure medication, treating the GERD, or having the patient avoid cats cures the cough, you have your answer.

This time of year, the vast majority of coughs I see are due to upper respiratory viral infections. Each of the six coughing patients I saw yesterday had one, I determined. I advised them to rest, drink soothing liquids, use over the counter cough medications as needed, cough into their elbows and stay out of work or school if they have fevers or until they felt better (yes, a subjective call).

There are symptoms that may signal a cough that may require more treatment and evaluation than this. These include:

fever >101
shortness of breath
wheezing
coughing up blood
chest pain
cough that lasts more than several days
exposure to flu, whooping cough, or other infectious diseases

Even these symptoms don’t necessarily mean the cough is serious. I’m seeing plenty of people this year with fevers and coughs lasting two and even three weeks or more who still turn out to have simple viral infections. But these are symptoms that are worth a call or even a trip to your doctor’s office.

Please don’t be offended when we hand you a mask at the door.

Suzanne Koven is an internal medicine physician who blogs at In Practice atBoston.com, where this article originally appeared. She is the author of Say Hello To A Better Body: Weight Loss and Fitness For Women Over 50.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

Mayo Clinic breast cancer mammogram video — What to expect

By Mayo Clinic staff

Click here to see the ‘What to expect’ video >>> Mayo Clinic Mammogram Video

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Copy of  the video text below:

A mammogram is a picture of your breast taken with a safe, low-dose X-ray machine. It’s the most effective exam for early detection of breast cancer.

There are two types of mammography exams: screening and diagnostic. A routine screening mammogram is performed when you have no symptoms. Ask your doctor when you should begin regular screening mammograms.

A diagnostic mammogram is performed if there is concern regarding your breasts or if a screening mammogram requires additional studies. You don’t need to prepare for a mammogram. You can eat normally, and if you take medications, continue to do so. However, you may be asked not to wear deodorant on the day of your mammogram because such products may show up on mammogram images. Also, if you are premenopausal, it’s best to schedule your screening exam during the week following your menstrual period, when your breasts may be less tender.

Once checked in, you’ll undress from the waist up and wear a special robe. A mammography technologist will perform your mammogram. She has specialized training in mammographic positioning and techniques.

If you are asked to complete a breast-health survey prior to your exam, your technologist can assist and review the survey with you.

Once in the exam room, you’ll be asked to stand in front of the mammography unit, a special type of X-ray machine. It can move up and down and side to side.

Your technologist will position your breast between two firm surfaces that compress your breast as flat as possible, to ensure good X-ray pictures. For example, here you can see how the machine flattens the technologist’s hand.

She may also switch paddles to get a different view.

Compression is necessary to spread the breast tissue and eliminate motion, which may blur the picture. This may be uncomfortable but shouldn’t hurt.

Compression usually lasts no more than 20 to 30 seconds. During this time, an X-ray beam comes from above and penetrates your breast tissue. The X-ray image is either created on a film cassette, located below your breast, or recorded digitally and stored in a computer. Denser tissue, such as cancer, appears bright and white, whereas less dense tissue, such as fat, appears dark or gray.

The images are then processed and made available for review and interpretation.

Here we see a baseline mammogram of a 40-year-old woman. Five years later, her formerly clear image now shows cancer.

Don’t be concerned if you are asked to remove your gown or reposition, even if it means standing on your toes. This ensures that your gown won’t interfere with the pictures and that you are standing correctly. If you are uncomfortable, please tell your technologist.

After the pictures are taken, you may be asked to wait while the X-ray images are processed.

During this time, technologists check your images to assure they are acceptable. If they aren’t clear, you may be asked to have more X-rays done. Don’t be alarmed if this happens, your technologist simply wants the best images.

A doctor trained to read X-ray images, a radiologist, will examine your mammograms. Under federal regulations, the radiologist must be experienced in reading mammograms.

If no further studies are required, you’ll be released and can resume your regular activities.

Based on what your radiologist sees on your mammogram, you may be asked to return for a diagnostic mammogram. It’s not unusual to be called back after a screening mammogram. This is because your radiologist may not have any previous comparison or may need to look more carefully at a specific area of the breast. The additional imaging is usually necessary to clarify a finding on your screening mammogram. Most findings are not cancer, but it’s important to have the additional imaging done. This may include specialized and tightly focused X-ray pictures, known as a magnification or compression view, or possibly a breast ultrasound.

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Cold & Flu Quiz: Can You Tell the Difference?

Cold, Flu and Cough Health Center

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Question 1 of  12
woman blowing nose

You woke up with a sore throat and a runny nose. You probably have:

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