Testing It Up » March 2009

Monthly Archives: March 2009

Early Disease Detection

No Increased Heart Risk with New Diabetes Pill Saxagliptin

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A staff report posted on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website revealed that new drug saxagliptin from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and AstraZeneca PLC did not cause an increase in risk for cardiovascular conditions such as heart attack and stroke, a side effect which has been observed in other diabetes drugs.

structural diagram of saxagliptin The review was released in advance of a scheduled Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee meeting on April 1.

Since 2008, the FDA adopted more stringent standards for reviewing anti-diabetic medication, asking companies to prove that their drug will not trigger an increase in risk for heart attack or stroke. In June, the agency increased their safety requirements even further after the controversy that surrounded the drug Avandia (rosiglitazone), which was said to trigger an increase in the risk for cardiovascular conditions.

The new pill was able to meet the cardiovascular safety guidelines set by the FDA. The Advisory Committee meeting will consider these findings and will provide their opinions on the data, which were taken from trials that were not designed to evaluate such risks. They will not be asked to take a vote on an overall approval recommendation for the drug.

Drug manufacturers are actively developing new diabetes treatments for the estimated 24 million Americans suffering from the disease, especially since older therapies have been seen to cause heart risks.

Saxagliptin is similar to the Merck drug Januvia, a DPP-4 inhibitor. Januvia is a treatment for Type 2 diabetes by stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin and the liver to produce less glucose.

There were eight studies conducted. In four studies, patients were given either saxagliptin or placebo; in three, saxagliptin was added to an existing anti-diabetic treatment; and the last study consisted of patients receiving a combination of saxagliptin and metformin.

Early Disease Detection

Fight Cholesterol With Your iPhone

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The iPhone is certainly well on its way to being your medical buddy.

A new application has been released onto the iTunes App Store last Friday – Cholesterol Coach from Melbourne-based Pocket Pixels, a software developer for the iPhone platform.

It is a known fact that in the United States, high cholesterol or hypercholesterolaemia is one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke. Of the more than one hundred million Americans who are believed to have high cholesterol levels, over thirty percent are considered high risk for heart disease and stroke.

iPhoneAn increase in cholesterol levels is generally brought about by a person’s lifestyle and eating habits. Unfortunately, as most people deal with the challenges and pressures of urban living and career building, what commonly follows is the development of an unhealthy lifestyle. Fortunately, though, it is exactly this very same urban lifestyle and consequent fascination for gadgets that may well pave the way towards a healthier life for the young urban professional.

The Cholesterol Coach is exactly what its name implies – it will be the iPhone user’s personal coach on anything cholesterol related. The application will help you track your cholesterol levels and will then take key modifiable risk factors for high cholesterol such as diet and exercise and use this as a basis for putting together an action plan to lower cholesterol levels. It will explain to users the effects that diet, exercise and smoking will have on cholesterol levels as well as help them set realistic goals for achieving normal cholesterol levels.

In order to inspire users, the application uses eye-catching graphs to track progress over time and show the impact of the adopted lifestyle, diet and exercise routine to his or her cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol Coach will also be able to provide information in easy-to-understand language, calculate annual spend on cigarettes, and assist in understanding food labeling in relation to fats.

Health & Wellness

Confirm BioSciences Launches First Oral-Based Lead Test Kit: LeadConfirm

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Confirm BioSciences, the San Diego-based bio tech company that developed HairConfirm (a home hair follicle drug test kit) and SteroidConfirm (a steroid test kit), launched a new addition to their product line: LeadConfirm Professional. This new test is a more convenient and non-invasive way of determining the amount of lead exposure a person has been subjected to.

LeadConfirmPrior to the release of this product, testing for lead exposure meant the extraction of blood samples. While this may not be too much of an inconvenience for adult subjects, children do not particularly respond well to this testing method. A vast majority of lead testing, however, is conducted among children, lead poisoning being the leading environmentally induced illness in children.

Nearly a million children who are five years and younger are said to have lead levels which are equal to or even greater than what experts deem as dangerous. This can lead to pediatric disorders such as speech delay, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, anemia and loss of hearing. With the introduction of this non-invasive procedure, testing for lead exposure has become easier to conduct, especially for children.

LeadConfirm Professional utilizes the saliva instead of the blood in determining lead exposure. Saliva samples are collected by a doctor or health care professional through a few simple swabs from inside the cheek. The swabs are then placed in vials that are sent back to Confirm BioSciences laboratories for analysis using a pre-paid envelope included in the kit. Results can be accessed either online or through phone within 5 to 6 days after the laboratory receives the kit.

Saliva is a bodily fluid that carries molecules that can serve as indicators for what is going on in various parts of the human body. In order to confirm the accuracy of the oral-based test kit, researchers analyzed saliva samples taken from 100 North Carolina children whose blood samples were also being analyzed for lead exposure. The result was that there was a 100% correlation between the two tests, which proves that LeadConfirm is as accurate as existing blood tests.

Substance Abuse

New York Relaxes Stringent Drug Laws

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In 1973, then Governor of the State of New York Nelson Rockefeller lobbied for strict drug laws in order to curb what was then considered as a “heroin epidemic”. What resulted are drug regulations that are considered as the stiffest in the country, which includes jail time even for offenders involved in non-violent drug cases and first-time user-offenders.

On Friday, though, New York state officials have agreed to loosen the reins on these harsh laws, partly in order to save the state more than just a few dollars as it tries to weather the economic downturn that is sweeping the country. The savings due to the modifications to the laws may reach up to a quarter of a billion dollars.

prisonThe announcement was made through a joint release by New York Governor David Paterson, the State Senate and the Assembly. Modifications to current laws will include the elimination of mandatory prison sentences for first- and second-time offenders, making them eligible for probation that might include drug treatment. Basically, for those who are only users and not violent criminals or drug pushers, the focus will no longer be incarceration but rehabilitation.

This might actually result in a positive outcome as instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars keeping these offenders in jail, with each prisoner costing the state $45,000 a year, probation and rehabilitation might actually help them become drug-free and productive members of society.

There is one such former offender who has successfully done that — a female former drug addict who was arrested 60 times over a 25-year period but eventually cleaned up her act. She is now a drug counselor.

Successful rehabilitation might even contribute towards a decline in drug-related violence and crimes. Sticking drug users in prisons without help or counseling will not rid offenders of their addiction.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, New York’s prisons are said to hold about 12,000 prisoners due to drug-related cases who are first- and second-time offenders, representing roughly 21% of the state’s prison population.

New York Drug Screening

Substance Abuse

Mexican Drug-Related Violence: U.S. Shares the Blame, Says Hillary Clinton

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The trafficking of illegal drugs has been a cause of concern, especially since the issue has claimed thousands of lives over the last year alone. The violence that surrounds the illegal drug trade normally happens along the Mexican border going into the United States.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on her way to Mexico last Wednesday, makes a good point in saying that it is the United States’ “insatiable demand for illegal drugs” that is partly responsible for keeping the illegal drug trade alive, and, consequently, for the violence that goes with these operations.

On Tuesday, the United States government released its plan to improve security along its southern border, the border it shares with Mexico. Clinton is in Mexico City to meet with President Felipe Calderon and other Mexican leaders to swap strategies for fighting the ‘drug war’. The main theme that emerged since her arrival in Mexico is the investment that the United States has made in the drug war.

smuggled gunsNot only is supplying the United States with illegal drugs considered as the cash cow of these illegal drug cartels, it also serves as their source of weapons used in the violence that inevitably ensues. These weapons are illegally smuggled into Mexico and eventually end up killing and maiming not only drug cartel members but police officers, soldiers and, many times, innocent civilians. This is a fact that Clinton feels strongly about, which prompted her to express further that there was a need for the United States to prevent the influx of weapons across the border into the hands of the cartels.

All this is happening amidst an ongoing debate in the United States for the legalization of marijuana, which is among the currently ‘illegal’ drugs that are being smuggled into the country through the Mexican border. Advocates believe that one of the positive effects of having a legal trade, at least for marijuana, will be a decrease in drug-related violence as the cartels lose their illegal trade market.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Aspirin: A lot more than just a Painkiller!

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AspirinToday, my roommate had a hectic day and when he came back to the room, tired and exhausted, he just fell on the bed.  With this head threatening to do a big-bang, he cried out ‘Oh God’! And God was right there in the cupboard … in the form of Aspirin! Aspirin has rightly come to be known as the wonder drug of the 19th century for it serves a diverse array of medicinal purposes, from being a pain reliever to an active ingredient of a lot of shampoos! Surprised by its use in shampoos? Join the club, you aren’t the only one!!

Aspirin is the acetylated derivative of salicylic acid; used as an analgesic anti-inflammatory drug which belongs to a group of medicines called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It works as a pain reliever by blocking the action of cyclooxygenase enzymes that control the production of prostaglandin hormones.

Aspirin may not cure everything, but it has uses far beyond than a pain-killer! The active ingredient of aspirin i.e. salicylic acid serves as an astringent, causing contraction of body tissues. As a result, aspirin can also be used in face washes. Nowadays, it is often prescribed in lower doses as an anti-platelet as it prevents blood clotting too! There are also few contradictory reports on benefits of aspirin in preventing repeated miscarriages. A study published in Oxford Journals in Oct 2000 reported that low doses of aspirin significantly improved the chances of full term births in women that had previously experienced late term miscarriages while another paper published in British Medical Journal (BMJ) in Aug 2003 reported that taking aspirin around the time of conception or for longer than a week during pregnancy increased the chance of miscarriage by 80%! Then in 2004, a study was published in Journal of the American Medical Association which reported that women who had taken aspirin at least once per week for six months or longer were 20% less likely to develop certain breast tumors! Further, this January, a paper published in Journal of Clinical Investigation by a group at Yale reported that aspirin cuts liver damage in mice by interfering with a chemical pathway that triggers an inflammatory response that damages the liver.

Aspirin has been one of the most reliable wardrobe tablets for decades! It is an excellent pain killer, an amazing anti-inflammatory drug which also helps in preventing blood clotting. And as far as its mysterious presence in shampoos is concerned, it is explained by the anti-fungal properties of the aspirin’s active component – salicylic acid. Now that doesn’t mean that you should let yourself be a goofball trying to add crushed aspirin to your hair-wash! You may find more about pain-killer drugs and their side-effects here! More research is warranted to establish the aforementioned associations and it is certainly not advisable to take aspirin, or any other medication for that matter, for purposes other than what it is prescribed for, without consulting your physician.

Substance Abuse

The Steroid Pressure That College Athletes Face

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It’s not just the professional athletes who have to deal with the pressure to perform. The college athlete is now accorded almost the same level of exposure as his or her professional counterpart, with their games now beamed across the globe through cable networks such as ESPN. It is not too uncommon for someone in Asia, for instance, to root for the Buckeyes football team.

steroidsThis means that they are as much exposed to the temptation to resort to performance-enhancing drugs as are the pros. Athletic coaches in the different colleges, though, are pro-actively trying to keep their players away from steroids. Methods such as random testing are being employed by schools across the country to ensure that everyone is playing clean.

Known steroids are not the only things that college athletes should watch out for. Certain over-the-counter supplements are also known to generate positive results in random tests, so athletes should be careful about what they take. Since the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements very well, consumers are not sure about what they are taking in. To be safe, college athletes should actively consult with their respective coaches before taking anything, even if they are ‘just supplements’. Trainers generally have a list of everything that is legal and illegal and would be able to give the proper advice.

The good news is that college athletes do not normally go down the steroid route due to financial constraints. Performance-enhancing drugs are rather expensive, and there are very few college athletes who have that kind of money to splurge.

The other factor that will discourage the college athlete from touching steroids would be dreams of a career with the pro leagues. In the pros, the most a player who gets caught using steroids would suffer is a suspension – a slap on the wrist – and then he or she will be allowed to play again. The environment is not as forgiving for college athletes. A violation may very well mean the end of a career, and not just with the college team. It can also squash any chances of making it to the pros.

Whether these factors will be enough to keep college athletes away from steroids is really difficult to ascertain.


Today Is American Diabetes Alert Day

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Today is American Diabetes Alert Day, a day dedicated to the early detection of diabetes. Across the country, hospitals as well as health organizations, societies and communities who work towards diabetes detection, prevention and disease management will be holding activities such as free diabetes testing, fora and symposia to spread information on diabetes.

symptoms of diabetesDiabetes is a rather common disease in the United States and nearly a quarter of those suffering from it do not even know that they have it. The American Diabetes Association says that there are 23.6 million Americans who are diabetics, adult and children alike. Currently, one in five Americans are at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes, which account for up to 95% of diabetes cases in the country.

Despite these statistics, however, diabetes is a highly preventable disease. Proper diet and exercise can very well protect someone from developing the disease, or at the very least, delay its onset in the case of those who have a family history of diabetes. This is where proper information dissemination comes in, as well as pro-active testing and implementing lifestyle changes.

Health care organizations commemorate American Diabetes Alert Day in their own way. In the case of Iredell Health System, they are offering an online diabetes risk assessment test on their website and encourage people to take the survey in order to determine if they are at risk for developing diabetes. The online assessment is actually provided by the American Diabetes Association.

Most of the activities will be focused on diabetes testing with several organizations offering free diabetes screening services and encouraging people to undergo testing. Focus will also be given towards early detection. Since diabetes symptoms such frequent urination, excessive hunger and thirst can be easily misconstrued as benign symptoms by the uninformed, diabetes can go undetected and proper treatment and disease management cannot be administered in a timely manner.

Be involved and check out the Diabetes Alert Day activities organized in your area.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

The Apple iPhone: Your New Medical Buddy

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Picture this: you are away on business, but your doctor only gave you the go-ahead with the condition that you need to monitor your blood pressure or your blood sugar levels and keep your doctor informed about your status at regular intervals. Sounds cumbersome? It may not be soon.

Apple logoApple’s announcement last week of a new operating system for the iPhone – iPhone OS 3.0 – comes with new capabilities and applications that will make these activities a breeze for iPhone users. Aside from being your mobile business assistant, the iPhone may also become your medical assistant in the near future.

Two of the more interesting applications are for blood pressure and blood sugar monitoring. A blood-pressure cuff can be plugged into the iPhone connector, and an application will then take care of delivering the controls needed for inflating the cuff and measuring a person’s blood pressure. If you think that’s amazing, the iPhone OS 3.0 will take this one step further, by having the ability to send the results to the person’s attending physician using 3G technology. This way, the doctor can perform remote real-time monitoring of a person’s medical status and make changes to medication as soon as it is needed.

The other application is for testing blood sugar levels. The application can tie a blood glucose test to an iPhone. The connection will enable a diabetic iPhone user to download the results where it can be read as a graph.

The iPhone will also have the ability to connect the user to real-time information which will help determine whether there is a need to adjust insulin or medicine intake, as well as to other iPhone users or community of experts who can provide feedback and input on how to manage diabetes.

Substance Abuse

4 Died in Accident Involving Off-Duty Police Officer; DUI Suspected

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Although it is yet to be proven, it seems that alcohol may have claimed another four lives after a fatal accident in Des Peres, Missouri, early Saturday morning.

Investigators believe that off-duty officer Chrissy L. Miller of the Sunset Hills Police Department may have been drinking before crashing into an oncoming vehicle. Miller was driving her 2001 Mitsubishi in the wrong lane and crashed into a 1999 Honda at the intersection of Des Peres road and Dougherty Ferry Road.

car crashOf the five people in the Honda, four were killed instantly: 23 year-old Anusha Anumolu, 23 year-old Anita Lakshmi and 22 year-old Prya Muppvarapu from Charleston, Illinois, and 25 year-old Satya Chinta from Aurora, Illinois. The driver, 27 year-old Nitesh Adusumilli of Ballwin, Missouri, was initially in critical condition at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis, but has since been declared in fair condition. Miller was treated and underwent surgery in the same hospital and was also in critical condition.

Since Miller was unconscious at the time rescuers arrived at the scene, no sobriety test was performed. Investigators are also keeping mum about the specific reasons that led to their hypothesis that alcohol consumption was involved in the accident.

Sunset Hills Police Chief William LaGrand called the reports of possible drinking in the part of Miller “very disappointing”, although he shares that such behavior is not in keeping with Miller’s character.

Accidents such as these lend more credence to the need for substance testing for drivers involved in crashes. Despite the fact that a sobriety test cannot be performed due to the drivers’ physical state at that point in time, other options such as blood testing can be employed.

While there is no intention to lay blame on anyone, especially since, in most cases, even the erring driver is as seriously injured as the others involved in the accident, such information is essential towards achieving a thorough investigation.