Every paper is a medical journal

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Once upon a time, medical news was to be found in scholarly journals, where it was discussed and reviewed by doctors and researchers. Eventually, some consensus was reached about the use of a new drug and a different approach to illness and those decisions were unleashed on an unsuspecting public. But as people wanted to have more control of their medical direction and as businesses and investors realized that drugs and devices could be advertised directly to the public, medical news started creeping into all sections of the news.

My quick take on today’s treasure trove of information:

The government has recognized a new minority, the person whose weight is appropriate for height. The latest data published today finds that 66% of Americans are overweight or obese. And another shocker, the number of obese people is climbing at 1% per year. It’s a hard number to grasp, so to put it into perspective, 3 million new people each year are at least 30 pounds overweight. Considering that this puts people at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure to name a few and it is no wonder the amount of money spent of health care in the country is rising.
Merck, the makers of the ill fated arthritis medication Vioxx, have a new Cox-2 inhibitor that they are trying to get to the market. Arcoxia is being introduced as safe to use because of studies comparing it to diclofenac, another arthritis medication, showing it to be safe and effective. The problem? Arcoxia was also compared to Aleve and those tests found that there was a 50% higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Merck has the drug on the market in Europe, Latin America and Asia and even as the company attempts to introduce it into the US, there is a call to have it withdrawn worldwide. The FDA rules this week.

The New York Islanders made the playoffs on the last day of the season perhaps because of the stellar play of their back up goaltender. Where was number one? A concussion has sent Rick Di Pietro to the sidelines for the past couple of weeks and who knows when he will return. I’m amazed how hard it is for the brain to bounce back from being injured and sometimes it’s hard to recognize that a concussion actually occurred. No need to be knocked out to have subtle changes show. Symptoms may be as nonspecific as headache, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, short attention span and poor memory. Not the easiest of things to measure. And when should an athlete return to the arena? An important question, since the answer may help decide when people who have been injured should return to their construction job, or teaching or practicing medicine. Seems that the pro athlete may be an expensive guinea pig.

One story each from the front page, business and sports. Just where I want to get my continuing medical education

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