On this day, a child was born…

On this day in history, Bob Dylan was booed off stage at the Newport Folk Festival for using an electric guitar, Bob Lemon replaced Billy Martin as the manager of the Yankees and the Cerro Maravilla Incident occurred in Puerto Rico. Far away, in England an even more memorable event was taking place. On July 25th, 1978, Louise Joy Brown, the world’s first ‘test tube baby’ was born. Last month, Dr. Peter Brinsden, Director of the Bourn Clinic (Cambridge, England) paid a surprise visit to colleagues attending the Midwest Reproductive Symposium* to celebrate this very special birth.  Even after 33 years, Louise’s story continues to generate worldwide media interest. Her birth, through in-vitro fertilization (IVF), is still regarded as one of the most remarkable medical breakthroughs of the 20th Century. Her birthday also highlights the issue of millions of couples who try to have a baby only to find that they cannot. Infertility doesn’t discriminate.  It affects both men and women and all races. It can be hormonal, age-related, genetic, illness-related (think cancer), or anatomical in origin – as it was for Lesley Brown, Louise’s mother who suffered from blocked Fallopian tubes. Infertility is a disease, not an inconvenience and affects more than 7.3 million couples in the US alone. Fortunately, about 90% of cases can be treated with conventional medical therapies or surgery. IVF is the process of fertilization by manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish. When the IVF procedure is successful, the process is combined with a procedure known as embryo transfer, which is used to return the embryo to the uterus. Louise Brown’s birth was a culmination of over 10 years of work by Dr. Patrick Steptoe, a gynecologist at Oldham General Hospital, and Dr. Robert Edwards, a physiologist at Cambridge University. Dr. Brinsden, who worked closely with Dr. Edwards, paid homage to his colleagues while attendees at the MRS toasted Brinsden, the Bourn Clinic and its success. Success, as measured by the ‘take home baby rate’ has been increasing every year since Louise’s birth. About 1 in 100 babies born in the US are conceived using IVF or other forms of assisted reproduction and today, more than three million babies worldwide have been born thanks to IVF. Louise’s life has been an extraordinary one from the moment of birth. Every detail has been photographed and documented; every milestone celebrated. But mostly, she remains a symbol of this procedure’s success and the delight experienced by those touched by IVF. From all of us at SRxA’s Word on Health, Happy Birthday Louise!

* The MRS, an annual CME program for health care professionals in Reproductive Medicine, is hosted by Fertility Centers of Illinois and chaired by Angeline Beltsos, MD (Executive Chairperson), Barry Behr, PhD, HCLD, and William Kearns, PhD.  

Happy Birthday…

to…First Lady- Michelle Obama,  boxing legend-Muhammad Ali, Founding Father-Benjamin Franklin, actors-Betty White and Jim Carrey, gangster-Al Capone…and to Us!

Yes, SRxA’s Word on Health is a year old today. Over the past 12 months we have posted 159 blogs on a variety of medical, healthcare and pharmaceutical industry issues. In this time the blog has been viewed  14,697 times.   To put this into perspective, a Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers, meaning we have been viewed by the equivalent of all the passengers on 35 full 747s.

We’re happy you like what we’ve been doing and want to take this opportunity to Thank You for your support.

If there are topics you’d like to hear more about, stories you’d like us to cover or opinions you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you.

A Safe, Happy and Healthy New Year from SRxA

New Year’s Eve.  A time to celebrate with dancing, drinking and delicious foods.

And while we hope our readers will enjoy the festivities, we want to ensure that the fun and frivolities don’t cause you or your loved ones injury.

So, our final Word on Health for the Year: eat, drink and be merry but keep these safety topics in mind:

  • While festive drinks are fabulous, please drink responsibly. Let’s keep inebriated drivers off the roads. Organize your transportation plans ahead of time so you can enjoy yourself and arrive home safely.
  • If you’re hosting a New Year party, remember although candles are beautiful they could potentially cause a fire. Make sure they are placed where they can’t be bumped and remember to blow them out before heading to bed.
  • If you have young children or pets, you may want to forgo small whistles or plastic bells, which could cause a choking hazard.
  • Dress warmly. Even if you aren’t joining the millions of people watching the ball drop outside in Times Square, in most parts of the country Dec. 31 2010, is going to be very very cold. Be prepared for situations like cars not starting, having to park a long distance away from the party or losing your keys. Have plenty of antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid on hand, and check your tire conditions before you leave the house. It’s a good idea to pack an emergency car kit, complete with tools, warm blankets, water, nonperishable food items, flashlights and cell phones, in case your car were to become stuck in a remote location.

So party safe and be sure to join us again in 2011 for all the latest news and views from the world of health, medicine and pharmaceuticals.

Asthma Through the Ages

SRxA’s Word on Health prides itself on bringing you the latest, cutting edge health and medical new stories. Today, however we’re going back in time and looking at an issue close to our heart (and lungs) – asthma.

The earliest recorded reference to wheezing and respiratory distress was recorded in China around 2,600 B.C.  Huang Ti, legendary leader of China wrote: “Man is afflicted he cannot rest and when his breathing has a sound.”  At the time, it was believed that asthma was caused by an imbalance of the yin and yang.

A thousand or so years later, the Babylonian “Code of Hammurabi” (1792-1750 B.C.) recorded symptoms of breathlessness: “If a man’s lungs pant with his work … When the breath of a man’s mouth is difficult.”

Around 300 B.C. Hippocrates first used the word “Asthma” (Greek for “wind” or “to blow”) for panting and respiratory distress. He is believed to be the first physician to understand the relationship between the environment and respiratory ailments, correlating illness with climate and location.

When Alexander the Great invaded India in 321 B.C. , he found locals smoking the herb stramonium, which they claimed relaxed the lungs. Today, a number of similar atropine-based compounds are still  used in asthma treatment.

The Greco-Roman doctor Galen ( 201-130 B.C.), identified asthma symptoms and established that asthma was caused by bronchial obstruction.  His treatment for the condition was owl’s wine.

Around the same time, other Roman physicians described asthma as “gasping” and the “inability to breathe without making noise.”  They also claimed: “If from running, gymnastic exercises or any other work, the breath becomes difficult, it is called asthma.” Today the American Lung Association calls this “silent asthma”.

A little later, another Roman, Gaius Plinius Secundus (23 A.D.) better known as Pliny the Elder noted that pollen was a source of respiratory distress and recommended use of ephedra (better known today as an FDA banned diet drug) and red wine as asthma remedies.   He also suggested that drinking the blood of wild horses and eating 21 millipedes soaked in honey could help!

Approximately  400 years later, the Jewish Talmud describes “drinking three weights of hiltith,” a resin of the carrot family, as a remedy for asthma.   While seven hundred or so years later, the philosopher and physician Maimonides published his “Treatise on Asthma.” In this he recommended comprehensive treatment including rest, good personal hygiene and environment, avoidance of opium, a small quantity of wine and special diet. Nuts, fowl, milk, cool vegetables and legumes were forbidden, while the soup of fat hens was considered beneficial.

Chicken noodle soup anyone?

Patients are from Mars, Physicians are from Venus!

Or so it would seem.  According to a study just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine there is a huge disparity between patients’ expectations of angioplasty versus those of their cardiologists.  While the majority of heart patients harbor the notion that angioplasty, a procedure performed to unblock clogged arteries, will cut their risk of heart attacks and death, cardiologists believe that its value is limited to reducing chest pain.

The research involved 27 cardiologists and 153 patients who consented to elective coronary catheterization and possible angioplasty, from Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, and Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston.

During angioplasty, a tube is inserted at the groin and snaked up to the affected artery, where a balloon opens the blockage. A stent is often left in place to help prop open the artery and maintain blood flow. Angioplasty involves some risk but the rate of death during the procedure is less than 1 percent, experts note.

Although 63% of cardiologists believed that the benefits of angioplasty were limited to angina symptom relief:

  • 88% of patients believe that angioplasty would prevent heart attacks or fatal heart attacks
  • 74% of patients thought that without the procedure  they would probably have a heart attack within 5 years

Furthermore, most patients stuck to their beliefs even after spending time with a cardiologist who explained the risks and benefits to them, and had them sign an informed consent form prior to the angioplasty.

The authors of the study noted that the benefits obtained by angioplasty can often be achieved with medication alone, and only patients who are actually having a heart attack or coronary event can expect a reduced risk of future heart attacks and death from angioplasty.

The number of angioplasties done for stable heart patients has decreased lately.  According to the American Heart Association, about 1.3 million such procedures are done in the United States each year.

Once again, this study highlights the “disconnect” between what doctors know and what patients understand. In order to have real informed consent, patients have to understand not just the risks, but also the benefits of whatever treatment is proposed.

One reason for patients’ misunderstanding is the common belief, that if a treatment is offered, it must have curative benefits.

However, the problem of patient understanding isn’t limited to angioplasty but is common in many areas of medicine. According to a previous study from the Mayo Clinic, doctors don’t always do a good job of knowledge transfer in a way that patients and family members can understand. Graphs and charts are not going to work for many patients.

SRxA and our team of problem based learning expert Advisors can help physicians, institutions and device manufacturers produce patient-centric materials to assist with informed consent. Contact us today to find out more.

Watch Out – the FDA’s About!

It’s been a busy year for the FDA.  In addition to approving 63 new and original drug applications (NDA’s and BLA’s)  since the beginning of 2010, the Agency has rejected countless more, including the much touted “pink pill” or Female Viagra and the fat fighting drug Qnexa.

They also appear to have taken on the pharmaceutical industry – in a big way.

Industry insiders and observers are all acutely aware of the increase in the number of Warning Letters and Notice of Violation letters coming out of the FDA’s Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC).

Since January 2010, DDMAC has issued 71 warning letters, notifying pharmaceutical companies about promotional violations. The number has been steadily rising since 2009.

Word on Health suspects that this may, in part, be due to the fact that the FDA recently reversed a policy that required warning letters to undergo legal review before they were issued. Then again, maybe the Agency’s BadAd program is bringing more promotional “no-no’s” to their attention.

Others would like to blame social media and the lack of FDA guidance for the increase. Indeed, just last week the FDA issued a Notice of Violation letter regarding the “Share” function on Facebook.  It’s also rumored that DDMAC has staffed up.

Whatever the reason, it means the pharmaceutical industry needs to be more careful than ever.

SRxA can help companies develop and deliver, compliant and effect programs. Contact us today to learn how we can help you avoid becoming another FDA statistic.

Happy 4th of July

Word on Health wishes all it’s readers a safe and happy holiday.

We will be back on Wednesday 7th, bringing you all the latest news from the world of health and pharma.

New Way to Eliminate Source of Asthma?

U.S. researchers say they’ve found a way to eliminate the source of immune system molecules that cause asthma and other allergic diseases.

These soluble IgE moleclues are produced by immune cells called B cells. While targeting IgE in the blood is an effective treatment for moderate-to-severe allergic asthma, this approach doesn’t stop IgE production and patients require repeated treatments.

According to the May 10 edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, scientists from Genentech say they’ve developed a way to eliminate IgE-producing B cells.  This finding could potentially lead to new long-lasting treatments for asthma and other allergic diseases.  So far the method has only been tested in mice, where it proved highly effective.

Word on Health awaits the results of future studies in humans.

You Can Control Your Asthma

To mark World Asthma Day, SRxA’s Word on Health spoke exclusively to four of the world’s leading asthma specialists.

In keeping with the “You Can Control Your Asthma” theme of World Asthma Day 2010, we asked these Top Docs to share their #1 piece of advice for people with asthma.

Allan Luskin MD, Chair of the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program is adamant “Asthma can be controlled -accept nothing less.”

The Madison, WI allergist and immunologist continued “Better isn’t good enough.  Patients should try for “normal’ and for many people that’s achievable.  Normal means they sleep through the night, wake up with a clear chest in the morning, hardly ever need a rescue inhaler, are fully active including whatever exercise they want to do, and are able to get a cold without needing an urgent visit to the office or ER and using medication with no significant side effects.”

Bill Storms MD, Clinical Professor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Director of the Research Center at the William Storms Allergy Clinic in Colorado Springs, CO says succinctly “Take your meds on a preventative basis, not as needed.”

World Asthma Day is organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) in collaboration with health care groups and asthma educators to raise awareness about asthma and improve asthma care throughout the world.  The first World Asthma Day, in 1998, was celebrated in more than 35 countries. Participation has increased with each World Asthma Day held since then, and the day has become one of the world’s most important asthma awareness and education events.

Michael Kaliner MD, Founder and Director of the Institute for Asthma and Allergy, Wheaton, MD advises, “Most asthma is due to allergies. Having an allergy assessment by a certified allergist can lead to advice about allergy avoidance and consideration for allergy injection therapy. Allergy injections are the only treatment of any kind that can reduce asthma at its root cause.”

Brad Chipps MD, Director of the Capital Allergy and Respiratory Disease Center, Sacramento, CA adds “The most important advice to maintain asthma control is a thorough understanding of what constitutes good asthma control both in impairment (day to day symptoms) and risk (exacerbations) domains. This should be integral of the treatment plan provided to each patient.”

Four excellent pieces of advice, from four outstanding clinicians.

To learn more about how SRxA can help you to educate patients, physicians or allied health professionals on asthma control and management contact us today.