Archive for August, 2013

New Tylenol Cap Will Have Warning Label

New Tylenol Cap Will Have Warning Label

CNN-  Bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol will soon have a new warning on their caps: “Contains acetaminophen. Always read the label.”

The bright red lettering is an effort by Tylenol’s parent company, Johnson & Johnson, to reduce the number of accidental acetaminophen overdoses that occur each year.

“Acetaminophen overdose is one of the most common poisonings worldwide,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

Taking too much of this pain reliever can cause severe liver damage. The Food and Drug Administration sets the maximum limit for adults at 4,000 milligrams per day. One gel tablet of Extra Strength Tylenol contains 500 mg.

People should keep their doctor and pharmacist informed about all the medications they are taking to ensure that they are not consuming more than the daily limit, according to the FDA. They should also avoid taking acetaminophen with alcohol.

“With more than 600 (over the counter) and prescription medications containing acetaminophen on the market, this is an important step because it will help remind consumers to always read the label,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement about the new caps, which will arrive in October.

Gupta: Let’s end the prescription drug death epidemic

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Sex, Politics, Religion? Actually… Health

Sex, Politics, Religion? Actually… Health

By: Emily Spitzer

The health insurance exchanges at the heart of the Affordable Care Act are still months away, but millions of women across the country are already benefitting from the law.

It has been a year since most employers have been required to offer health insurance that covers basic women’s preventive health care services, which means that no matter when a plan year started, women who have employer-sponsored insurance likely now have access to a host of important services without having to make an additional co-payment or meet their deductible.

Coverage of these services was endorsed by a highly respected committee of health care professionals at the Institute of Medicine, who produced an extensive report on the science and statistics behind their recommendations. The services include annual “well-woman” visits; gestational diabetes screening; DNA testing for the human papillomavirus (HPV); counseling on sexually transmitted infections; screening and counseling on HIV; contraception and contraceptive counseling; breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and screening and counseling for domestic violence.

These are all wonderful advances in addressing disparities in women’s health. Unfortunately, chances are that most people have only heard about one of them: contraception.

Even though 28 states required contraception coverage long before the Affordable Care Act was passed, opponents of “Obamacare” are using the issue to challenge the law in lawsuits filed across the country. At last count, 69 cases have been filed, 49 are still pending, and few have been decided on their merits.

The challenges are part of a larger legal strategy to re-litigate (really, re-re-re-litigate) the constitutionality of the ACA. As commentators have noted, once challengers get conflicting decisions in different courts, they will then have grounds to appeal the matter to the Supreme Court. (Circuit splits are one of the most common reasons the Court decides to hear a case.)

To read the headlines, the issue sounds like the ultimate dinner party no-no: Sex! Politics! Religion!

In fact — and I refer you again to the IOM report — it is all about health.

By the way, opponents who want to argue that it is all about religion are actually arguing that it is all about corporations. Religious freedom is very important, but it is also very personal, and up until now, it has been accepted as a protection for individuals, not corporations. That is why one of the few courts that has reached the merits of the issue wrote that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “is not a means to force one’s religious practices upon others” when it dismissed the employer’s lawsuit. And in fact 99 percent of sexually active women — including 98 percent of women of faith — have used contraception.

Back to health. For those who truly care about the health and well-being of women and children, the studies cannot be clearer: unintended pregnancies are bad news for both. This is why one of the CDC’s public health goals in its Healthy People initiative is to “improve pregnancy planning and spacing and prevent unintended pregnancy.” Here’s a key excerpt from the initiative’s landmark 2010 report:

Medically, unintended pregnancies are serious in terms of the lost opportunity to prepare for an optimal pregnancy, the increased likelihood of infant and maternal illness, and the likelihood of abortion… With an unintended pregnancy, the mother is less likely to seek prenatal care in the first trimester and more likely not to obtain prenatal care at all. She is less likely to breastfeed and more likely to expose the fetus to harmful substances, such as tobacco or alcohol. The child of such a pregnancy is at greater risk of low birth weight, dying in its first year, being abused, and not receiving sufficient resources for healthy development.

A bonus for employers who are focused on the bottom line: saving lives and promoting healthy outcomes is also good for the balance sheet. In fact, a study of large employers found that “it costs employers 15-17 percent more to not provide contraceptive coverage in employee health plans than to provide such coverage, after accounting for both the direct medical costs of pregnancy and indirect costs such as employee absence and reduced productivity.” Similarly, every dollar invested in contraception by the government has saved the Medicaid programs $5.68 in averted pregnancy-related care.

Of course, the fact that it is good for business is just a bonus. Health care decisions should be made by individuals in consultation with health care professionals, not by someone in a corporate board room. We would not tolerate our employers refusing to cover antibiotics or blood transfusions, both of which have faced objections on religious grounds. Taking responsibility for one’s own reproductive health should be no more controversial.

Broccoli Helps Prevent Arthritis

Broccoli Helps Prevent Arthritis

(TIME.com) — Even if you’re not a fan of broccoli, your joints may be.

Nutritionists have rhapsodized about the various benefits of broccoli — the cruciferous vegetable is stuffed with vitamins A, B, K, C, as well as nutrients such as potassium, zinc and fiber — and arthritis sufferers may soon join them.

Along with its cousins brussel sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage, broccoli contains sulfur compounds that can filter out carcinogens that promote tumor growth.

The latest study, published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, shows that those substances may also battle inflammation, which is at the root of osteoarthritis, a painful, degenerative joint disease in which cartilage that normally protects joints starts to wear away under the influence of the inflammatory factors.

For the estimated 12.4 million people affected by arthritis in the United States, these results are certainly welcome news.

Starting with studies in mice, the researchers found that animals that ate a diet high in the sulforaphane found in broccoli had significantly less cartilage damage and signs of osteoarthritis compared to mice who did not consume sulforaphane. The team then moved to human and cow cartilage cells, and found that the sulforaphane was equally effective in protecting these cells from damage.

The sulfur-based compound, they say, may be blocking enzymes that contribute to inflammation in cartilage, and the scientists are starting a trial to see if broccoli can protect a small group of arthritis patients getting knee replacement surgery.

If that trial confirms these early results, that could help more people to avoid arthritis to begin with; although surgery can treat symptoms, protecting joints from irreversible damage would keep joints stronger for a longer period of time.

“Although surgery is very successful, it is not really an answer. Once you have osteoarthritis, being able to slow its progress and the progression to surgery is really important, study author Ian Clark, professor of musculoskeletal biology at the University of East Anglia said in a statement. “Prevention would be preferable and changes to lifestyle, like diet, may be the only way to do that.”

Not to mention that a broccoli-rich diet could lower risk of other chronic diseases like obesity, which prior studies have connected to… arthritis

This story was originally published on TIME.com

Obama Administration Will Not Block State Marijuana Laws

Obama Administration Will Not Block State Marijuana Laws

Washington Post – The Obama administration said Thursday that it would not challenge laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington state as long as those states maintain strict rules involving the sale and distribution of the drug.

In a memo to U.S. attorneys in all 50 states, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said the Justice Department is “committed to using its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats in the most effective, consistent and rational way.” He stressed that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

The memo, which was welcomed by proponents of marijuana legalization, directs federal prosecutors to focus on eight areas of enforcement rather than spending time targeting individual users. Those aims include preventing distribution of marijuana to minors, stopping the growing of marijuana on public land, keeping pot from falling into the hands of cartels and gangs, and preventing the diversion of marijuana to states where it remains illegal.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. called the governors of Colorado and Washington about noon Thursday to inform them of the decision. A Justice official said Holder told them that federal prosecutors would be watching closely as the two states finalize a regulatory framework for marijuana and that prosecutors would be taking a “trust but verify” approach.

Last fall, Washington and Colorado approved initiatives to legalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, becoming the first states to approve the drug for recreational use. Twenty states and the District have passed laws legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Until Thursday, the administration had remained silent about the initiatives in Colorado and Washington, despite requests for guidance from state officials.

“We recognize how difficult this issue has been for the Department of Justice and we appreciate the thoughtful approach it has taken,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who opposed efforts to legalize marijuana last year, said in a statement. “Amendment 64 put Colorado in conflict with federal law. Today’s announcement shows the federal government is respecting the will of Colorado voters.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), in a statement with state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, said the guidance “reflects a balanced approach by the federal government that respects the states’ interests in implementing these laws and recognizes the federal government’s role in fighting illegal drugs and criminal activity.”

Proponents of marijuana legalization welcomed the new administration guidance.

“This is a very significant step forward,” said Christian Sederberg, a Denver lawyer who helped draft Amendment 64. “The simple truth is that a tightly regulated marijuana market is superior to the criminal market. ­State-regulated business will now be able to continue creating good jobs and generating tax revenue. This is what progress looks like.”

Sederberg said state lawmakers and a government-backed task force in Colorado have tried to deal with the concerns of federal officials — such as keeping pot out of the hands of minors — while setting up the regulatory framework for a marijuana market.

Colcord, Oklahoma: Residents Told to Watch Out for Blood Worms in Water Supply

Colcord, Oklahoma: Residents Told to Watch Out for Blood Worms in Water Supply

The people of Colcord, Oklahoma, might need something a little stronger than Brita filters to remove the impurities from their drinking water.

Blood worms — small, red insect larvae — have been appearing in water glasses and filters in the rural town.

Authorities have warned Colcord’s 800 residents not to drink, cook with or brush their teeth with the worm-infested tap water.

Schools in the area have been closed since Tuesday as officials try to figure out where the bright-red creatures came from and how long it will take to get rid of them.

There are no known health effects from the worms, which range from about a quarter to a half inch in length. But local officials aren’t taking any chances, hand-delivering letters to residents warning them to stick to bottled water for the time being.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is investigating the cause of the outbreak but isn’t yet able to say when the water will be safe to drink again, said spokeswoman Erin Hatfield.

Blood worms, also known as red worms, are found in the southeastern United States, but not usually in Oklahoma.

The environmental quality department has only recorded one other such infestation in the state, Hatfield said: in the town of Drumright, 108 miles away, more than 20 years ago.

For the people of Colcord, about 75 miles east of Tulsa, the blood worm invasion that was first detected Monday can’t end soon enough.

Staff at CJ’s Country Corner, a local gas station and convenience store, told CNN affiliate KJRH that business was much slower than usual, largely because of the school closure. They’re also unable to serve coffee or sodas from the fountain, they said.

Colcord’s water commissioner, Cody Gibby, is scratching his head over how the worms, the larvae of midges, got through the town’s water-filtering defenses.

“It’s not just a little 6-inch filter, it’s 6 foot of coal and sand mixed together that not even a hair can get through,” he told KJRH. “And these worms are getting through it and getting into our distribution water.”

And his verdict of the presence of the little red invaders in the tap water?

“Disgusting.”

Pescatarian Eating

I don’t eat chicken, beef, pork, turkey, or any other land meat.  I have a sensitive stomach so I sometimes would experience digestive issues by eating meat. I would often feel tired, nausea, and bloated.  I chose to become a pescatarian because I do not support the hormones and other chemicals injected into the animals. Land-animal flesh is filled with toxins, uric acid and fecal bacteria. I do not take pharmaceutical drugs or hormonal drugs such as birth control.

My diet consists of water, soy almond milk, fruit, vegetables (spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, peppers, onions, and asparagus), nuts (walnuts, pecans, and almonds), oats, beans, crabs, shrimp, lobster, tilapia, whiting, and catfish.  I am lactose and tolerant so I do not eat dairy products.  Occasionally I substitute veggie patties for the fish.  I’m noticing I have more energy and I am not as tired as I usually am.  (I like to take a nap a day.) I have been experiencing lighter and shorter periods.  My menstrual cramps haven’t been as severe as they normally are.  Nor do I find myself as hungry as I normally would be. My hair, which is already waist length, has been benefitting from the oils in fish.  My urine doesn’t have such a strong smell anymore.  I am not trying to loose weight as I have a small slender frame with a height of 5’0 and a weight of 108lbs.  I am simply trying to progress towards a healthy lifestyle.

Since consuming a large amount of fish high in toxins, such as mercury and PCBs, can be unhealthy, a wise pescetarian makes sure to eat a variety of fish and become educated about which fish should be eaten in limited quantities. Unlike most red meat, seafood is typically low in saturated fat, which is the primary cause of high cholesterol.

A team of Indian and Saudi medical researchers explored the comparative risk of type 2 diabetes between vegetarians of several types and nonvegetarians. The “Indian Journal of Community Medicine,” reported that the risk of type 2 diabetes among pescetarians was 4.9 percent, compared with 8.2 percent for nonvegetarians.

In a journal of the American Heart Association, Joseph S. Alpert, M.D., outlines dietary recommendations for patients with heart disease urges heart patients to be “as much of a pescetarian/vegetarian as possible.” He specifically suggests using seafood as the main source of dietary protein.  He particularly recommends oily fish from northern oceans, including Alaskan halibut, anchovies, mackerel, salmon, sardines and tuna, all of which are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

I know that eating healthy can sometimes be expensive.  When shopping for healthy products look for inexpensive products that can be substituted for the less healthy choice.  Many fruits and vegetables can be frozen and stored, although I prefer fresh fruit and vegetables.  I do not shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joes.  I like to grocery shop at the farmers market for fresh fruit and vegetables, and I buy my fish at the local fresh fish markets.  Shopping this way is usually less expensive and I often get more food for my money.

The Huffington Post recommends trying the 30-Day Challenge. “All you do is take a pledge to cut out meat, excluding fish and seafood, from your diet for the next 30 days. With the increase of fresh fish and vegetables in your diet, I believe that you’ll feel healthier, experience less headaches and sickness as well as increased energy levels. In the long-term, you may also improve your weight, the health of your brain and heart, hair and even your skin.”

Amgen Said to Be Near Deal to Buy Onyx for $10.5 Billion

Amgen Said to Be Near Deal to Buy Onyx for $10.5 Billion

BY MICHAEL J. DE LA MERCED AND ANDREW POLLACK

Amgen is close to a deal to buy Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc., a maker drugs to fight cancer, for about $10.5 billion, people briefed on the matter said on Saturday.

A deal — in which Amgen would pay about $125 a share — could be announced as soon as Monday, though these people cautioned that talks are continuing and could still fall apart.

If a transaction is completed, it would be the latest of many in the health care industry, especially as drug makers look to add to their offerings. One attractive set of products is new cancer drugs, which can fetch high prices.

Amgen is the world’s largest biotechnology company by sales, with $17.3 billion in revenue last year. But its top-selling products are older and many are selling more slowly, or even declining.

Some of the company’s drugs are also facing competition in Europe from near-generic copies, known as biosimilars, and that competition is expected to come to the United States in the next few years. Teva is expected to introduce a near-copy of Amgen’s Neupogen, a drug that helps prevent infections in patients undergoing chemotherapy, late this year.

A deal for Onyx would be the first big takeover struck by Robert A. Bradway, who became Amgen’s chief executive in May of last year. Analysts expected Mr. Bradway, who spent most of his career as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley, to drive a tough bargain.

Amgen began its quest for Onyx in June, when it made an unsolicited bid valued at $120 a share, about 38 percent above the stock price at the time.

But Onyx rebuffed the approach and hired the investment bank Centerview Partners to seek bids for the company. A number of drug makers expressed interest, including Pfizer and Novartis, but analysts considered Amgen the most likely buyer.

Onyx’s main attraction is its cancer drugs, two of which won approval last year. Its crown jewel is Kyprolis, a drug for multiple myeloma that was approved in July and that Onyx fully owns.

Several analysts expect annual sales of Kyprolis to reach $2 billion within several years, providing tremendous impetus to Onyx’s growth. The company reported $362.2 million in revenue in 2012, mostly from proceeds of drugs it shares with Bayer.

But Kyprolis’s $61 million in sales during the second quarter were slightly below some analysts’ expectations, raising concerns about competition. Onyx also disclosed that the drug had failed to improve survival in an interim analysis of results from a clinical trial being conducted to win approval in Europe. While that does not mean the drug does not work, the company must now wait for final data from the testing, which is expected in the first half of next year.

A brief hiccup in the discussions occurred recently when Amgen demanded to see more clinical trial data on Kyprolis, people briefed on the discussions have said. Amgen sought to lower its bid from the $130 a share it had floated because of that dispute.

Onyx and its advisers, however, have come to the conclusion that at $125 a share, Amgen’s bid is significantly more than its original proposal  and outweighs the uncertainty of a drawn-out sales process, one of the people briefed on the matter said.

At $125 a share, Amgen would be paying about 13 times the amount analysts expect Onyx to have in sales over the next 12 months, one of the highest multiples in the biopharmaceutical industry.

Mark Schoenebaum, a biotechnology and pharmaceutical analyst at the ISI Group, has said that many of Amgen’s largest shareholders are value investors who are interested in having the company return money to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks instead of making big acquisitions.

“I think they are under a lot of pressure to not overpay,’’ he told clients this week.