Medicine and Pharmaceuticals

Doctors have been saying it forever (almost): the only thing you should put in your ear is your elbow. No swabs, no pencils, no probes, no eyeglass stems should be used to remove earwax, also know as cerumen. In fact, you probably shouldn't be removing cerumen at all. It's produced in the ear canal, and is moved towards the outer opening of the ear by chewing and swallowing movements. As it moves, it carries dead cells and any dirt along. Like colon cleanses, earwax removal is unnecessary the majority of the time. And if it requires removal, someone with the appropriate tools and expertise (such as an otolarygolgist) should do it.

So this advice has been pretty widely ignored for years — according to one...

Who among us hasn’t been tormented by the itch after a mosquito bite? This is due to the histamine release at the offending site. In some, it is a bit more exaggerated and an oral antihistamine or topical cream with the passage of time does the trick to provide optimal relief.

Now imagine that intensity and urge to scratch diffusely spread over your entire body in a constant and unrelenting fashion. Night and day. Where a more significant underlying cause won’t be benefitted and cured by time or a Benadryl, for instance.

That is called chronic “generalized pruritus” and its etiologies can range from the readily fixable to the necessitation of a liver transplant in those where treatment for the symptom might be refractory. In the extreme, sleep is impaired and even...

Things aren’t always what they seem.  Why should this colloquialism be any different in the medical realm?

Incidental findings are rather commonplace.  Meaning:  When exploring one diagnostic avenue for a symptom, another existing often more significant issue presents itself unrelated to the initial event.

This is exactly what has been reported by the Japanese Society of Neuropathology.  In a recent published case report, the authors describe an adolescent female who—while undergoing an emergency surgery for appendicitis— was discovered to have large, bilateral, mostly cystic ovarian masses (aka tumors).  

Three months later they were removed.  The mature cystic teratoma of her ovary...

The last time I wrote about one of the two most advanced experimental herpes vaccines— Rational Vaccines' (RVx) Rotavax, which performed well in one very small clinical trial, I noted that all clues about the continued development of the vaccine were pointed in the same direction—Mexico. (See: Herpes Vaccine Heads South ... Of The Border?", November 13, 2006.

Although the first (and only) trial so far consisted of only 20 patients, the results were encouraging, and it was clear that the company was planning on more advanced trials, which would be held outside to the US to circumvent the FDA—an agency that Dr....

"Dreaded ‘stomach flu’ wreaks havoc on families — and it’s only going to get worse"

Lena H. Sun, Washington Post, January 5, 2017

Uh oh. When it comes to choosing a common infectious disease that you would avoid, it's a pretty sure bet that most would say "the stomach flu." Although the term is incorrect—the bug is called norovirus, and it has nothing in common with influenza—everyone knows what that means: A day or two of hell, during which various components inside your gastrointestinal tract decide that they really don't want to be in your body. You know the drill. We've all been through it.

As if the "stomach flu" isn't enough to worry about, especially if you...

All too frequently, the things we do daily become routine.  This is likely true of many tasks in a multitude of professions.  It’s just that in certain fields, like medicine, seemingly mundane and tedious duties can—all too often— provide the most valuable knowledge of a patient’s well-being and genuine health status.

Vital signs matter.  They matter most when done correctly and provide accurate data.  Hence, why they are likely called “vital” signs.

Dismiss them or do them incorrectly and the bad information obtained will guide medical decisions on your behalf-- potentially toward a negative trajectory.  Now, with electronic medical records, especially, this erroneous information will follow you and your future care may be directed based on these false results.   

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Type 1 diabetes – the kind that involves loss of the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells — requires that insulin be injected daily, or several times daily. The holy grail for researchers has been finding some means of either stopping that loss or increasing the number of functioning beta cells. In 2013 researchers from Harvard University published a paper suggesting that a new hormone that they called Betatrophin might do the trick, since it controls beta cell proliferation, and seemed to increase the number of beta cells, at least in mice.

Unfortunately, other laboratories were unable to replicate this work, nor did the Harvard group when they tried to repeat the experiment. Thus, they have retracted ...

RNA-based treatments for select genetic diseases have made major headlines in the last few months by receiving FDA approval and giving hope to families of suffering children. They are Spinraza for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and Eteplirsen for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD.) 

These drugs are the future of therapeutics for genetic diseases - at the forefront of a long line of similarly based therapies coming down the pipeline. They are called "exon skipping" therapies and in order to understand how they work - we need to first understand what an exon is and why skipping it is an ingenious way to design a therapeutic.

Last week, we wrote about how proteins are made from DNA entitled “...

The overdose epidemic sweeping the nation is hitting some demographics harder than others. New data released by the CDC breaks down heroin overdose deaths by age.

As shown below, heroin overdose deaths began to skyrocket in 2010. Of all groups, older Millennials (i.e., individuals aged 25-34) are the likeliest to die from a heroin overdose. In 2015, the mortality rate from a heroin overdose was 9.7 per 100,000 for this group, which is more than quadruple the rate in 2010 (which was 2.2 per 100,000). 

 

This is a very shocking development. The overall mortality rate for Americans aged 25-34 is 108.4 per 100,000. That means more than one out of...

Once again, the echo chamber nature of press releases serves to promote misleading science and health clickbait.  This time it is with headlines like “Tobacco, but not pot, boosts early stroke risk.” 

First, it is an imprecise conclusion based on the newly published study.  Second, the research it refers to downplays the significant flaws and limitations of its own work.  

Let’s break down the findings for you to draw accurate (and your own) conclusions.  The goal of the work was to determine whether there is an “association between cannabis use and early-onset stroke, when accounting for the use of tobacco and alcohol.”

Who was studied and how was the data acquired? (1)

  • Population-based cohort study comprised of 49,321 Swedish men (...