“We figured out during the case that it was saying hamburger”

Hamburger lung.jpgFrom today’s article by the always-interesting Sarah Avery at the News & Observer:

After several failed attempts to extract the item, Manley was referred to another doctor, who suggested removing the entire left lung. “I said, no, I wouldn’t be doing that,” Manley says.
That’s when he decided to seek a second opinion at Duke University Medical Center.

We’ve heard of “hot tub lung” and “popcorn lung” but my chest hurts just thinking about “jagged, fast-food implement lung.”
If this case does not make it into the New England Journal of Medicine, I will be disappointed.
Photo credit: Duke Hospitals via the News & Observer
Title quote: courtesy of Dr Momen Wahidi, director of interventional pulmonology at Duke

NIAAA’s ‘Rethinking Drinking’

fulton.jpgI’m very proud today to see one of my formative professors, Dr Fulton Crews, quoted extensively in a USAToday article on a new, web-based alcohol awareness initiative, “Rethinking Drinking,” from NIH’s National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Division of Treatment and Recovery Research.

While many associate heavy drinking with liver problems, it can also increase the risk for heart disease, sleep disorders, depression, stroke and stomach bleeding. Consumed during pregnancy, it can cause fetal brain damage, says Fulton Crews, director of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Medicine. It’s also linked to cancer.
“We know if you’re a heavy drinker but not alcohol dependent, your risk of oral cavity cancer and also breast cancer are increased,” Crews says.

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Saturday news roundup

Here are some interesting news items I found during the week but lacked the time to blog about:
Natural alternatives to growth-promoting antibiotics in livestock feed in EU
Related: Herbal therapy for pigs at PigProgress.net
Coke and Cargill partner on herbal sweetener, Stevia (Rebiana)
Singapore herbal remedy adulterated with potent prescription drugs
Famed Karolinska Institutet opens Osher Centre for Integrative Medicine
Herbs misused relative to evidence-based guidelines
Slippery elm bark poaching in Kentucky
Creosote shrub compound extends mouse lifespan

People shouldn’t start taking NDGA, which is available as a nutritional supplement, to halt aging. Federal health officials warn that the plant is “associated with multiple serious and potentially fatal adverse effects in animals and humans,” including kidney and liver toxicity.

Yes, the decimal point matters

This sad story harkens back to my days as a pharmacy prof when students would argue for points on an incorrect pharmaceutical calculations exam by saying, “well, only the decimal point was off.”

A pharmacy erroneously made a drug 10 times more potent than intended, which killed three people who received it at an Oregon clinic, the state medical examiner said Friday.
ApotheCure Inc., a drug compounding pharmacy company in Texas, said an employee made a weighing error in the creation of the drug colchicine.

Drug compounding pharmacies have often attracted controversy. While they fulfill the classical Rockwellian pharmacist’s role of making drug formulations to order, particularly ointments or suppositories, they have often come under FDA scrutiny for making unapproved drug formulations, especially hormones and obsolete drugs. Regular readers will recall that a Canadian compounding pharmacist was recently asked to stop selling his formulation of an investigational cancer drug, dichloroacetate (DCA).

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Newsweek covers evolution; Begley online today

nw_leftnavcov_070319V2.jpgThe new issue of Newsweek (19 Mar 2007) carried a surprise for me: former Wall Street Journal health reporter, Sharon Begley, has moved back to the magazine. In fact, Begley wrote this week’s excellent discussion and cover story on the massive amount of science in support of evolution.

“The debate over human origins has been one of the most significant and controversial conversations in American society over the last 150 years. Whether they believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution as it was proposed in his “Origin of Species”, adhere to a literal interpretation of the Bible or inhabit some middle ground, Americans frequently clash over when and how humans first appeared in our current form. But NEWSWEEK’s Sharon Begley reports that emerging science shows how the story of our species may be far more complicated than anyone suspected. By analyzing the DNA of today’s humans as well as chimps and other species, scientists are zeroing in on major turning points in evolution, suggesting there may have been several more lines in the human family tree than the one that moved from monkey to man.”

Begley will also appear online today at noon EDT for a LiveTalk discussion on the topic. Questions can be submitted here.

$29 billion/year industry thrives despite negative clinical trial outcomes

Frequent commenter, anjou, just sent along a link to a MSNBC article by Robert Bazell entitled, “Ignoring the failures of alternative medicine.” The article is subtitled, “The U.S. spends millions testing popular supplements. It’s a futile effort.”
Bazell is chief science and health correspondent for MSNBC. Most striking about Bazell’s article is that the mainstream media has generally remained quiet on criticizing the alternative medicine industry. In contrast, the scientific community has long questioned both the legitimacy of NIH’s alternative medicine-focused center, NCCAM, and their priorities. Bazell’s article represents the first clear critique of these efforts that I have seen in the higher-profile lay press.

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Weekend sex and drugs update

Most of last week’s posts were about music, so I thought I’d round out the holy trinity of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
Traveling this weekend gave me an opportunity to indulge in one of my secret guilty pleasures: reading USA TODAY.
First up, as it were, is Kitty Bean Yancey’s story on the opportunity for Atlanta-based passengers to join the mile-high club in a private plane for just $299:

Q: Who goes on these flights?
A: Couples from 18 and 19 up to their 60s. I’ve taken between 75 and 100 in five years. I’ve had people fly in from New York, New Jersey and Miami just to do the mile-high club. It’s a lot easier (for them) than getting in the bathroom of a 737.
Q: Do men or women usually book the flights?
A: About 75% of the flights are booked by women. I’ve tried to figure that out, and I guess if the guy suggested it to a woman, he would be afraid she’d think he was some kind of pervert.
Q: But your plane is small. Aren’t people embarrassed to fool around with you there?
A: No. I’ve got a curtain up so I can’t see what’s going on, and I wear a headset. But I guess the ones who want to (take a mile-high flight) aren’t the inhibited type anyway.

The pilot only offers Cook’s or Freixenet sparkling wine but you get a certificate and the sheets. There has to be some TSA joke in here about gels and liquids being permitted, but I am not clever enough to take the bait.
Second, my drugs feature, is Donna Leinwand’s report on the results from the US National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Although illegal drug use in ages 12-17 are on the decline, baby boomers now in their 50s and 60s appear to be revisiting their love of recreational marijuana:

The Census Bureau says there are 78.2 million baby boomers, the generation born from 1946 to 1964. This year, the oldest of them are turning 60. When they were young, “substance abuse became seen as part of coming of age,” says John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Some “have carried (it) on throughout their lifetimes.”
Steve Hager, 55, editor of the marijuana advocacy magazine High Times, says some ailing people his age choose marijuana over sleeping pills or anti-depressants. “People in their 60s are rediscovering it,” Hager says of marijuana, which has been used as a pain reliever for glaucoma and other maladies. “If you’re using it sparingly, it’s the most wondrous medicine.”

Enjoy what remains of your weekend!

Being a Pharmboy isn’t always fun and games

From USA Today, some interesting and sad news:

When a teenager in Jan Sigerson’s office mentioned a “pharm party” in February, Sigerson thought the youth was talking about a keg party out on a farm.
“Pharm,” it turned out, was short for pharmaceuticals, such as the powerful painkillers Vicodin and OxyContin. Sigerson, program director for Journeys, a teen drug treatment program in Omaha, soon learned that area youths were organizing parties to down fistfuls of prescription drugs.

I am now officially old. I thought I’d never say, “I remember when…”
Well, I remember when drinking PBR as a teenager was living on the edge – and I’m not talking about the plasmid.

In recent months, federal anti-drug officials have acknowledged that they didn’t anticipate the quick escalation of prescription-drug abuse. Most government-sponsored drug prevention programs focus on marijuana, tobacco, alcohol and methamphetamine.
“We were taken by surprise when we started to see a high instance of abuse of prescription drugs,” says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is collecting information about how teens perceive, get and use prescription drugs so it can try to craft an effective prevention campaign.
In a bulletin last year, NIDA called the increase in pharmaceutical drug abuse among teens “disturbing” and said pharm parties were a “troubling trend.”
The increasing availability of prescription drugs is a big reason for the rise in their abuse, Volkow and other drug specialists say.
Pharmaceutical companies’ production of two often-abused prescription drugs — hydrocodone and oxycodone, the active ingredients in drugs such as Vicodin and OxyContin — has risen dramatically as the drugs’ popularity for legitimate uses has increased. Drug companies made 29 million doses of oxycodone in 2004, up from 15 million four years earlier. Hydrocodone doses rose from 14 million in 2000 to 24 million in 2004.
The 2005 Partnership survey found that more than three in five teens can easily get prescription painkillers from their parents’ medicine cabinets. And as Falkowski says, the rising number of youths being treated with stimulants has made it easier for kids to use such drugs illicitly. About 3% of children are treated with a stimulant such as Adderall or Ritalin, up from less than 1% in 1987.

Again, the full article by Donna Leinwand is here.