Category Archives: Health

Pharmaceuticals are the Drug

Geeks will appreciate the end of this post, I think. Michael Buckbee posted a link to an article by Malcolm Gladwell a couple of years ago on the pharmaceutical industry, which I found to be well-presented. An underlying theme seemed to be less about blaming the drug companies for high prices – and casting light on consumers for (a) not thinking for themselves, (b) yielding too much control and decision-making power to the media, (c) being equally a part of the problem.

The fact that volume matters more than price also means that the emphasis of the prescription-drug debate is all wrong. We’ve been focussed [sic] on the drug manufacturers. But decisions about prevalence, therapeutic mix, and intensity aren’t made by the producers of drugs. They’re made by the consumers of drugs.

Remember when gas was .99 a gallon here in the United States? Those were the days. Remember when that jumped to $1.50, and we swore we’d change our habits if it went any higher? Remember when we thought we’d do something different when it topped $3.00? Even when (not if) gasoline hits $5.00 per gallon, I’m certain we’ll still accept the price.

Addicts create demand, and drug pushers are more than happy to feed our addictions. An addict does not “get clean” by complaining about the drug or its supplier, nor does an addict seek salvation through the source of the drug.

To stop the problem (the drug, the price), you must stop supporting it. And yes, Oil is as much of a drug as any given pharmaceutical’s gelcap.

The core problem in bringing drug spending under control, in other words, is persuading the users and buyers and prescribers of drugs to behave rationally, and the reason we’re in the mess we’re in is that, so far, we simply haven’t done a very good job of that.

When members of society overwhelmingly maintain an external locus of control, this is the outcome. The doctors trust the FDA, the patients trust the doctors (and the media, who are OVERTLY supported by the pharmaceuticals), and the pharmaceuticals trust that nobody’s going to bother thinking for themselves. To this end, there is no end in sight for this pricing madness – and expecting the FDA to intervene in the matter is again reinforcing the dangers of maintaining an external locus of control.

We will continue swallowing our pills, paying any price for the “privilege.”

For sellers to behave responsibly, buyers must first behave intelligently. And if we want to create a system where millions of working and elderly Americans don’t have to struggle to pay for prescription drugs that’s also up to us. We could find it in our hearts to provide all Americans with adequate health insurance. It is only by the most spectacular feat of cynicism that our political system’s moral negligence has become the fault of the pharmaceutical industry.

I’d argue that the two are tied together: America’s political system and politicians (on all sides) and the pharmaceutical drug companies. Your beloved Hillary Clinton is as corrupt as your beloved Rudy Giuliani – as is every “leading” 2008 American presidential candidate. You’re an absolute moron to accept that as “just a fact of life” or to (worse yet) believe otherwise. If you want the drive-by version, there’s The Skeleton Closet. If you want a much better researched version, there’s the Special Interest Fact Sheet from Citizen.org.

While the following argument was not raised by Gladwell’s article, I believe it speaks to the dangers in blindly trusting the FDA (read: government) to make “health” decisions for us.

The government tells us is that it’s perfectly legal for manufactured drugs to be sold for public consumption at any price, but it’s absolutely illegal for organic drugs to be purchased and/or consumed by anybody for any reason. The war on drugs is more like a war on control – and seeking any kind of control is a tantamount to seeking illusion. One could argue that using marijuana for medicinal reasons is unjustified – but let he who hath not medicated cast the first pill.

And lest you throw the dangers of “illegal” drugs in anybody’s face, you might bother to read into the possible side effects from today’s “legal” drugs first. Thank you, I’ll take my chances with mother nature – and continue to point out America’s ongoing illogically-accepted hypocrisy.

Mind you, I’m not saying that prescription drugs are unwelcome – but I am saying that your stance on body-altering substances should either be all-in or all-out. Those who want to do something to their own body will find a way to do it at any price, and they shouldn’t be judged for that so long as that action does not directly impact another human being. If anything here is immoral, it’s the action of imposing your own (internal or external) locus of control upon others.

Trust yourself, and nobody else – and support like-minded individuals. If you’re tired of paying higher prices for anything, find alternative ways of achieving (roughly) the same outcome. This is what has motivated users to adopt open source software, what drove people to circumvent content delivery mechanisms that music labels and Hollywood officially delivered, and what will hopefully push citizens to understand that they can change this country’s direction by making “radical” decisions for themselves first.

Doctors and Lawyers and Such

A few weeks ago, I saw a television commercial with a doctor Jarvik in it – an inventor of an artificial heart. This ad wasn’t for a particular practice or institution, mind you – at least, not an institution of health or practice of medicine (necessarily). No, it was an advertisement for Lipitor – the drug that claims to lower people’s cholesterol. I didn’t think much of it. Then, when I saw the same commercial a few minutes ago, I decided to google for “jarvik sellout” – the results were quite telling. Is this celebrity doctor’s TV ad right for you?

Would you buy a heart medication from someone whose own efforts to cure heart disease led to failure? Apparently, many people do…

Oh god. Shouldn’t this be against the law or something? I mean, this isn’t funny. NPR covered the story a year ago, too. Dr. Jarvik’s Lipitor Endorsement:

If you’ve read The New York Times lately, you might have noticed a full-color, full-page ad that’s been in the paper every day this week. It’s for Lipitor, the cholesterol-lowering drug. The color picture is of Dr. Robert Jarvik, inventor of the artificial heart. Commentator Katie Watson is a medical ethicist. She says that the timing of the ad — and Dr. Jarvik’s endorsement — are both significant. As far as she can figure, it’s the first time that a doctor has been paid to endorse a prescription drug in an ad.

Oh god. My issue is less with the drug itself (at this point), and more with the marketing tactic that preys upon society’s belief that doctors are always right. Sadly, they’re equally as human as the rest of us. A few months ago, Jarvik Resists Subpoena To Pump Him for Lipitor Info:

The Federal Trade Commission is currently reviewing celebrity ad endorsements to see whether stars need to make greater disclosures regarding what they say about products (Brandweek, April 2). That review was spurred in part by various pharma marketers’ histories of using celebs to talk about drugs on TV talk shows without disclosing that they were paid to do so. And the FTC lost a case a few years ago against baseball player Steve Garvey, who had hawked the fraudulent Enforma weight-loss system in late-night infomercials.

But don’t cry for Pfizer…

Lipitor, the world’s No. 1 selling drug, has nearly $13 billion in annual sales, making up about one-fifth of all Pfizer revenues. Last year, Pfizer spent $143 million advertising the brand, up from $94 million in 2005, per TNS.

Jarvik is far from a celebrity, but I’d bet that most of Lipitor’s would-be patients were thinking “Well, if this doctor invented an artificial heart – he must be right about this drug. Why would a doctor hurt me?” I don’t know. Why would a doctor hurt you?

Trust Nobody, Trust Everybody

Everybody knows that cigarettes are safe! In fact, the health industry has come out in support of cigarettes several times over. Why would doctors (themselves) smoke if they were bad for you? The conspiracy theory has been debunked already, and you are doing the world a disservice by perpetuating the hoax that cigarettes aren’t good for you. If they caused health problems, don’t you think they would have been banned by now? Really, you should stick to what you know – and leave the doctors to think about your health.

Professional articles have been written, experts have given their unbiased testimonies, and people still want to believe that cigarettes are bad…

Watch your logic, folks. Fifty years from now, I’m guessing that we’ll look at today’s truths as yesterday’s fallacies.

The Truth is Out There – or is it?

So, I posted about potential dangers of aspartame the other day – and a flurry of comments came in, including loads of links back to Snopes. However, Snopes doesn’t seem to tell the whole story (not surprised, as no site on the Web is 100% complete). I let all the dissenting remarks come through since there were no personal attacks within, per se. The video seems to have surfaced a few more “stop thinking about anything other than what I think you should be thinking about” people, so I guess I’ve gotta take the extra step to do your work for you again. 😉

Okay, maybe I should also tell you that I… simply do not trust the FDA, nor any government institution that thinks it knows what’s best for my body. Let’s not get into the stories of internal FDA ineptitude that have already been discussed (that, again, is for YOU to read about independently). Here’s another resource that’s bent on posting news updates on aspartame. There’s also the DORway site referenced by several insiders.

Hey, I’m just saying: don’t assume truth is static, or that truth hasn’t been paid for (partially or entirely). When it comes to “truth,” you have to consider the source – and you also have to consider more than one source for “truth.” You must come to understand that sometimes “truth” is relative, not absolute.

And SOMETIMES “truth” is as absolute as we understand it to be.

Aspartame is Poison

I’ve lived without dependency on artificial sweeteners (and trans fats) for the greater part of seven years. Just ask Ponzi! Granted, I’m sure a few Frankenstein molecules have passed over my lips since I instituted the embargo – but certainly not intentionally. My vices are a bit more natural (and portion control is always under control). Why would anyone, anywhere, willingly and knowingly ingest something that nature doesn’t deem edible or process-able?! It doesn’t make any sense to me – it really doesn’t. We’re not talking about something that could cure cancer, mind you.

No, we’re talking about something that may cause cancer in the first place. There are thousands of separate resources for you to pore over, but do not continue to labor under the illusion that your physiology is THAT MUCH different than the rest of humanity’s. Bill Oertel Jr. sent this link to me earlier, and I’m quite inclined to pass it on in the hopes that it’ll save some of you from killing yourselves sweetly:

Jury’s still out on Splenda – and I will always err on the side of caution when it comes to faux food. It’s getting to the point where I’m pretty much forced to avoid most grocery stores (save Whole Paycheck and the like). But don’t believe me or this “conspiracy theory” video without further, independent investigation. Open your eyes to what’s happening, my friends…

…and if you want to debate the truthiness of these claims, might I remind you that truth is relative?

Gazelle Exercise Equipment in Seattle

Tony Little’s Gazelle Coupons:

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Find More Coupons

I love my Gazelle. Strike that: I’ve loved all three of my Gazelles. I have tried a variety of models throughout the years, and am most satisfied with the one I recently acquired. The Gazelle Power Plus is certainly the most stable and sound of all Gazelles, although it won’t fold away for storage (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, speaking largely to its solid structure).

I ordered a Gazelle Power Plus through Amazon a few months ago, and they pushed back the delivery date a few times. Ultimately, I decided to cancel the order and get the Gazelle through another vendor, instead. That second-order delivery was made on time, but Amazon decided to ignore my original cancelation and delivered the first-order Gazelle the other day.

What does this mean? I’ve got TWO Gazelle Power Plus units in my house and I only need one. I’m a bit upset at Amazon for messing this up for me, as we weren’t around to refuse the delivery. They screwed up, and this isn’t a small package. Before I try to reason with Amazon’s customer service (I’m nervous about that), I wanted to see if there was anybody in the Seattle area who wanted a Gazelle Power Plus? It’s never been opened or assembled. If I can make back the money I spent on it, I’ll be satisfied (a little over $300, but we could call it “even” at that).

Do you want a Gazelle?

Videos from a Cancer Patient

There is no cure for cancer – but despite a hellish diagnosis, Michael Nadorff’s mother still wishes to document her experiences:

Hi Chris, I hope this finds you well. First of all, I love the website and YouTube channel and miss the Tech TV days! Anyway, I have a pretty big question for you that I hope you can help me out with. My Mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and most likely has less than a year left. Because of this, she wants to make videos that she can do on her own and then leave us with when that day eventually comes. Because of this, I am trying to get the best setup I can for her. She has a laptop which she can use and it is good but she isn’t a very techy person so simplicity is a major plus. Given the circumstances, I am not worried in the least about cost, I will pay whatever it takes. I just am looking for the best setup that she can use on her own that also will leave us with great video to remember her by. Do you have any ideas? I would really appreciate all the help you can provide on this, I can’t tell you how much it means to me!

First, Michael – please send my best wishes to your mother. I’ve had relatives die from some form of cancer or another, and I’ve also been following a friend through his own cancer treatment.

You could run out and purchase a webcam to connect via USB (Logitech’s Ultra Vision has the best visual quality going at the moment, though its built-in microphone leaves much to be desired). Or, you could repurpose a DV camera through its FireWire connection. They’re both valid options, and I’d definitely recommend the latter.

If you want my honest opinion, I’d suggest getting a MacBook (or a used one, so long as it has an integrated webcam). Even though you could buy a “PC” with a built-in camera, I think OS X provides a much more complete / uncomplicated experience for novices. More than anything, having an integrated camera will keep the cord mess at a minimum. But…

Convenience aside, OS X supports DV camera FireWire audio and video – whereas I’ve discovered Windows Vista won’t recognize FireWire audio at all. I only recommend the DV camera because years from now (and this goes for anybody), you’ll always wish you had recorded something in better quality than you did.

Health is Sick

I definitely don’t agree with all of Michael Moore’s views, but he’s done the right thing in producing his new movie, “Sicko” – going directly after America’s unhealthy health care industry.

At the press screening for “Sicko,” the Wall Street Journal reported that hardened reporters and critics wept. Even those who have been harsh to me in the past, or who have not agreed with my politics, were moved. Aside from my stated desire that “Sicko” ignite a fire for free, universal health care (and a larger wish that we, as Americans, do a better job of treating each other with a true sense of solidarity and respect), I continue to hope that I can make a contribution to the art of cinema and give people a good reason to get out of the house for a few hours.

Health is something we all take for granted – until something goes wrong. Since did your wallet become a vital organ?

Medical Malpractice

It’s truly no secret that hospitals often overcharge for trivial items (such as tissue paper). Ponzi and I have heard that from a few people we know inside the medical industry (then again, on the radio last week). Plus, some doctors pay less attention to Medicare patients because they won’t bring in as much money as a patient who, say, isn’t on Medicare. This system, too, is broken.

But what happens when your doctor does something wrong? What else can you do insetaed from suiing for malpractice?

Chris Thomas:

That depends entirely upon what “wrong” is and how negligent the establishment has been. Many hospitals and private doctors are also for-profit businesses so you can talk to the Better Business Bureau or your State’s Attorney General. If this issue is with a specific physician you may write a letter to whatever relevant licensing boards are involved including the AMA.

Rose Hainey:

Depending on the deed, you could also report them to the regulatory agency that governs licensing of medical practices and doctors.

Jarrod Broussard:

I agree with both of the previous answers. More detail is needed in your question. If you are referring to the behavior of a specific physician in a hospital or practice, you could approach the controlling parties (assuming they are separate) or any internal oversight department within that establishment with your grievance and try to work it out there. If your grievance is not addressed there to your satisfaction, you could then seek out regulatory and licensing authorities in your state and seek disciplinary measures against the offending party. In the event proper measures were not taken by any management or internal oversight authority at the establishment level, you could then tack the potentially negligent establishment into your grievance. . You could also look into filing a complaint about the establishment with any state, regional, or peer agencies that perform recurring inspection or accreditation of the establishment, and any other third party agencies (e.g. the Better Business Bureau or a medical advocacy group) that could attempt to facilitate a resolution on your behalf. Your first step should be to seek the advice of a competent malpractice attorney or at the very minimum, an experienced advocate on medical issues, to get a full assessment of your situation before endeavoring to do any of the above on your own. Best wishes in obtaining a satisfactory resolution.

Ammon Beckstrom:

Great advice so far . . . At the risk of sounding like a whiner, my advice is to complain. Complain to the doctor(s), their supervisor/manager, and go all the way up if necessary. If the medical establishment is a large hospital, take it to the office of the CEO. Document all of your communications–written, or verbal–be sure to include who you spoke to, their title, and the date. Also, you can take your complaint to the BBB or to your state’s Attorney General. I’ve got a great document laying around here somewhere on how to “stop whining and start complaining.” Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll get you a copy.

Michael Busch:

  1. Contact the board that licenses the establishment
  2. Contact local newspaper and TV
  3. If narcotic drugs were evolved, contact DEA
  4. Contact the accreditation organization. For hospitals it is the Joint Commission on Accreditation Hospitals.

However do not expect much.

Andrew Crose:

What is your intent and motives? If it is retribution, many of the existing comments are fine. If your intent is to help the establishment, and help ensure the problem is fixed, a lawsuit might help, but probably isn’t the best answer.

I met an acquaintance whose son was given the wrong medication, and it almost cost his son’s life. After his son recovered, he used the threat of a lawsuit to force a discussion with the hospital about what could have been done to prevent this from happening. From the discussions, the hospital decided to invest in a bar-coding system that prevented future mistakes.

The cost of the lawsuit, versus the cost of the preventative measure was probably about the same, but I don’t think a lawsuit would have had the same long lasting effect, or prevented as many future mistakes.

“Sue, sue – yeah, I’m gonna sue! Sue, sue – yeah, that’s what I’m gonna do!”

How to Manage your Food and Diet Grocery List

Use Firefox in conjunction with Grocery List Generator. “The GLG (Grocery List Generator) is a helpful little tool to store your recipe-ingredients and other groceries you need regularly. It creates a well-organized grocery list to help make your grocery shopping as easy as possible.” A new version is out today:

  • Updated user interface and new icons
  • Added an info tooltip for items in the overview so you can easily see why an item has been selected n times + it’s comments.
  • Added option to rearrange the item types in the options screen with Drag & Drop.
  • Added option so minimize 1 of the overviews (dishes or items) so you can have a bigger view of 1 of them
  • Added more keyboard controls: DEL resets the currently selected row’s number of items, + and – keys increase and decrease them. (Up/Down and menu shortcuts where already available)
  • Made compatible with Thunderbird
  • Bugfix: After moving item categories in the overview, the status message (Refreshing…) would sometimes not hide
  • Bugfix: Fixed memory leaks

Ponzi says it’s still not very well designed (UI)… but at least it’s functional. 😉