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Friday
Oct012010

One in Six Americans Now on Medicaid 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Medicaid became more popular than ever with Americans last year.  The Kaiser Family Foundation reported Thursday that an additional 3.7 million people enrolled in the federal medical assistance program for low income individuals and families in 2009 because they lacked health coverage.

Due to the economic downturn and loss of benefits, Medicaid enrollment has jumped by 6.2 million since 2007, meaning there were about one in six Americans on Medicaid by the end of last year.

Every U.S. state showed Medicaid growth last in 2009, which also takes a toll on their budgets since they share costs of subsidising the program with the federal government.  The sudden and massive growth of enrollment has forced 39 states to either cut or freeze payments to Medicaid providers, while 20 states have reduced rates to doctors.

Compounding the problem is that the new health care reform law will eventually expand eligibility for the program, which mainly helps children, pregnant women, the aged and disabled.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct012010

Female Sexual Dysfunction: Medical Fiction?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Many doctors have criticized the over-medicalization of female sexual dysfunction by the pharmaceutical industry, but journalist Ray Moynihan, author of Sex, Drugs, and Pharmaceuticals, goes so far as to argue that drug-makers helped to create the disorder.

"It has become clear that drug companies have not simply sponsored the science of this new condition; on occasions they have helped to construct it," he writes in an article published Thursday in the British Medical Journal.

Between industry-sponsored research that puts female sexual dysfunction (FSD) at epidemic proportions and industry-developed diagnostics that teach physicians how to make five-minute diagnoses, Moynihan argues drug marketing has merged with medical science, influencing and even guiding medical perception of female sexual dysfunction.

"They did it for social anxiety disorder and for erectile dysfunction," says Dr. Marcia Angell, who teaches social medicine at Harvard Medical School. "They create a lot of buzz, and all of a sudden there's an under-treated epidemic -- and they have a ready-made market for what they turn out."

But would this supposed "creation" of a disease by drug makers suggest that female sexual dysfunction, as a diagnosable medical disorder, doesn't really exist?  Some doctors would say so, arguing the novelty of much of the medical discussion of FSD lends credence to the fact that it's predominantly an invention of the industry.  Sexual therapists and their patients, on the other hand, beg to differ.

The "argument that female sexual dysfunction is an illness constructed by pathologizing doctors under the influence of drug companies will fail to convince clinicians who see women with sexual dysfunction, or their patients," writes Dr. Sandy Goldbeck-Wood, a U.K. associate specialist in psychosexual medicine in an accompanying response to Moynihan's article.

Though the pharmaceutical industry's over-involvement in much of the research on the subject should certainly be called into question, she adds, the reality of these disorders and the distress they cause, should not. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct012010

White Noise Offers Help to Inattentive Children

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NORWAY) -- Inattentive children may get some help learning material in class if white noise is playing.  According to EurekAlert!, researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Behavioral and Brain Functions tested the noise's effect on 51 school children at a secondary school in Norway.  They found it improved the memory of children who had a difficult time paying attention.

Göran Söderlund from Stockholm University in Sweden, worked with the team of researchers and said, "There was significant improvement in performance for the children rated as inattentive by their teachers, and a significant decline in performance for those rated as attentive as noise levels were increased. This finding could have practical applications offering non-invasive and non-pharmacological help to improve school results in children with attentional problems."

The children in the study were asked to remember as many items as possible from a list that was read out loud, both in the presence and absence of white noise.  Researchers believe a phenomenon known as 'stochastic resonance' may explain the improvement in performance by the inattentive children.

According to Söderlund, "When a weak signal is presented below the hearing threshold it becomes detectable when random or white noise is added to the signal. Our study is the first to link noise and stochastic resonance to both higher cognitive functions and attention".

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct012010

Viagra Doesn't Work for Half of Those Who Have It Prescribed

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BRITAIN) -- Doctors say Viagra isn't effective for half the men who take the drug.  Britain's Daily Mail reports many men who are prescribed the little blue pill have low levels of testosterone.  The drug alone does nothing to treat this.  In fact, Viagra works by enhancing the effects of nitric oxide.  This chemical doesn't function unless a person taking the pill already has high levels of testosterone.

"Viagra will only work if there are sufficient levels of testosterone. Often men with low testosterone levels won't feel like sex at all," says Dr. Geoffrey Hackett, a consultant urologist at Good Hope hospital in Birmingham, England and former chairman of the British Society for Sexual Medicine.  "They will get repeat prescriptions for Viagra in the hope that it will eventually work. Everybody thinks that Viagra is the panacea for all sexual problems; it's not," he adds.

Low levels of testosterone, which affect 40 percent of men over the age of 40, can be detected with a simple blood test.  Once the condition is confirmed, treatment can commence with testosterone pills, patches or gels.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct012010

Washington Department of Health Investigating Child Deaths Due to Overdosing

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- The Washington State Department of Health says it is looking into a second child death involving Seattle Children's Hospital.  The news comes just days after Children's announced a Sept. 15 overdose that killed an 8-month-old girl.

There are reports that a third child also became ill following an overdose, but the Washington State Department of Health says it is not involved in that investigation. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Thursday
Sep302010

Gay Adolescents, Young Adults at High Risk for Suicide, Experts Say

Photo Courtesy -- Tyler Clementi | Facebook.com(NEW YORK) -- Mental health experts say Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, who jumped to his death last week from New York's George Washington Bridge, may have been reacting to a constellation of factors related to sexuality, public bullying and humiliation that put adolescents and young adults at a particularly high risk for suicide.

Clementi is believed to have been caught on camera during an intimate encounter with a young man in his dorm room. His roommate, 18-year-old Dharun Ravi, allegedly streamed video of the two on the Internet.

According to the 2005 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, teens who identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, or who report having any same-sex sexual contact, are four times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year than their straight classmates.  The 2009 National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) shows that nine out of 10 lesbian, bisexual and transgender middle and high school students report having been harassed.

The extent to which the public revelations of Clementi's sexual encounter influenced his decision to take his own life remains to be fully understood. However, his death comes on the heels of several recently publicized suicides among younger gay teens who were bullied and humiliated at school:

Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old from Tehachapi, Calif., hanged himself from a tree in his backyard. Authorities say other teens had taunted the boy for being gay. He died Tuesday afternoon after nine days on life support.

Asher Brown, 13, an eighth-grader in Houston, fatally shot himself in the head last week after enduring what his mother and stepfather said was constant harassment from four other students at his school for being gay.

Billy (William) Lucas, 15, a student at Greensburg Community High School in Greensburg, Ind., was found dead after he reportedly hanged himself in a barn at his grandmother's home last Thursday evening. Friends said the torment that Lucas endured included taunts that questioned his sexual orientation.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep302010

Novartis to Pay $422.5M to Resolve Criminal, Civil Charges

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Drug company Novartis has agreed to pay $422.5 million to resolve criminal and civil charges that it illegally marketed the epilepsy drug Trileptal, as well as other drugs. The company will plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and pay $185 million in criminal penalties.

A release from the Justice Department notes the DOJ and the Department of Health and Human Services “focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover approximately $3.445 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. The Justice Department’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 have topped $4.595 billion.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep302010

Johnson & Johnson CEO: 'Sorry' About 'Phantom Recall'

Image Courtesy - Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc.(WASHINGTON) -- The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing Thursday on the extent of "phantom recalls" by Johnson and Johnson which resulted in the largest recall of children's medicine in history.

Documents show Johnson and Johnson hired contractors to go into stores and buy Children's Tylenol products that the company wanted to recall, an effort apparently conducted to avoid publicizing the recall. The company originally told Congress in May that it didn't know what the contractors were doing, but the House committee obtained documents showing Johnson and Johnson ordered the phantom recall.

Johnson and Johnson Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William Weldon said he knows the company has let the public down and admitted the company made a mistake in not notifying the FDA. 

"We did not maintain our high quality standards and as a result, children do not have access to our important medicines. I accept full accountability for the problems," Weldon said, adding that the company's children's liquid products will be back on shelves next week.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep302010

Nutritionist Loses Weight on Twinkie and Steak Diet

Photo Courtesy - Interstate Bakeries Corporation/PRN(MANHATTAN, Kan.) -- It's either a kid's dream or a dietician's nightmare: nutritionist Mark Haub ate Twinkies, Nutter Butters, steak, milk, and a multivitamin for a month and lost 15 pounds. Haub, an associate professor of nutrition at Kansas State University, wasn't indulging in this snack cake binge for kicks; rather, he wanted to open a debate for his students: as long as basic nutritional needs are met, is it what you eat, or just how much that counts?

"I knew I could lose weight doing this, but I had no idea what was going to happen to cholesterol. That's why I made it only four weeks because I had no idea how it would affect my health," he says.

Haub began to feel healthier, had more energy and stopped snoring. Not only did he lose enough weight to drive down his overall cholesterol and BMI, but his good HDL cholesterol crept up two points and his blood glucose -- despite all that cream filling -- dropped 17 percent. The cholesterol changes were a surprise, he says, and he's pleased with the weight loss, but Haub is careful to point out this was an experiment, not an attempt at to create an "optimal diet". He wouldn't advise anyone to try it themselves because the long-term effects of this kind of eating are still unknown.

Diet experts warn the initial changes in Haub's cholesterol and weight could be decieving. Losing 15 pounds will always make you feel healthier, they note, but over time, a diet rich in processed, sugary food is no way to improve health.

"He's not the first person to lose weight on an unhealthy diet. You could eat all chocolate cake and lose weight as long as you didn't eat too much of it. Staying on this diet forever and he'd have some unpleaseant consequences," says Carla Wolper, a researcher at the St. Luke's Hospital Obesity Center.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep302010

Arthritis Drug Blocks Pain Too Well in Some

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DAVIS, Calif.) -- An experimental drug for patients with osteoarthritis has yielded an unexpected finding.  The drug appears to be effective against pain in many people with arthritic knees, but in some patients, it blunted joint pain so powerfully they never felt the warning signs they were overdoing it and suffered joint destruction as a result.

In the quest for new pain relievers with minimal side effects, researchers have been focusing on a chemical known as nerve growth factor, which has been associated with increased pain from a variety of injuries and inflammatory conditions.  The experimental drug in this study aims to inhibit nerve growth factor. Its effect is significant, especially in light of the prevalence of osteoarthritis, a common result of excessive wear-and-tear on the joints, which plagues an estimated 27 million American adults. Many sufferers seek pain relief from non-narcotic medications.

"This is a radical notion for most people: that pain can be protective, but if you think about it, without pain signals, we would injure ourselves all the time" said Dr. Jack Choueka, chairman of orthopedics at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., who was not involved in the study.  "Doctors strive to reduce chronic pain, but they need to preserve at least some of it. It is the body's way of putting up a red flag warning about imminent tissue damage, Choueka said. "So it's important for doctors to help patients cope with pain, but not to the point where their ability to feel pain is impaired and places them in danger. Ergo: a little pain is a good thing."

The drug that worked "too well," tanezumab, is among a class of targeted treatments using monoclonal antibodies that latch onto a specific target, in this case nerve growth factor, and neutralize it.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio