Testing It Up » February 2011

Monthly Archives: February 2011

Substance Abuse

FDA Sued by Tobacco Companies Over Menthol Cigarettes

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An advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration is slated to deliver their final report on March 23, where they are expected to make a recommendation as to the fate of menthol cigarettes. Before that decision is handed out, however, two cigarette manufacturers launched a “preemptive strike” of sorts, and filed a lawsuit against the FDA.

cigarettesAccording to a report by Reuters, Lorillard, Inc., manufacturer of top-selling cigarette Newport, and Reynolds American Inc., manufacturer of Kool, sued the FDA on charges of “conflicts of interest and bias among members” of the FDA advisory panel.

Information from Euromonitor International revealed that menthol cigarettes make up roughly 30 percent of annual cigarette sales in the United States, pegged at more than $83 billion. In 2009, the FDA was given regulatory power over tobacco products through a law. This led to a ban on the use of chocolate, fruit, and other flavorings for cigarettes, as these are said to be attractive to children and encourage them to start smoking.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, pointed out that the three members of the FDA advisory panel for tobacco had “severe financial and appearance conflicts of interest and associated biases.”

The advisers, according to the lawsuit, have received research funding, or payment for consultation work, from manufacturers of smoking-cessation products.

In addition, two other members of a panel subcommittee were also accused of having biases, as they have allegedly served as paid expert witnesses against tobacco companies, according to the lawsuit.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Simple Tests to Tell If Stroke Patient Is Ready to Drive

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A study revealed that doctors can use three simple tests, in order to determine whether a recovering stroke patient is ready to drive, according to a feature by HealthDay.

Hannes Devos, review author and a research assistant at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, shared that “A quick and objective screening in the doctor’s office can help them make more accurate decisions.”

driveStroke patients may have to ask their doctors for approval before they can legally begin driving again. Devos shared, however, that there are doctors who “do not feel confident to screen for fitness to drive because they lack standardized tools that can be administered in the doctor’s office.”

Devos and his colleagues used this challenge as the basis for conducting a review of 30 surveys, 27 of which were included in an overall statistical analysis. The researchers identified three screening tests, which had accuracy levels of 80 percent to 85 percent, in determining how a patient will perform during an on-road driving test. The three tests require patients to do the following:

• Match road signs to driving situations
• Match cue cards in a mockup of a driving roundabout or rotary
• Connect 25 circles while alternating between numbers and letters in consecutive order

The tests, according to Devos, take only about 15 minutes to administer during a routine doctor’s visit.

Some doctors, however, are not sure about using the tests. Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, professor of medicine and director of the Duke Stroke Center at Duke University Medical Center, shared: “I am not sure whether it is practical to include a formal driving assessment as part of the routine post-stroke follow-up visit or whether the cost would be reimbursed.”

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Moderate Alcohol Consumption Linked to Heart Health

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Two more studies link having a drink or two each day to a healthy heart.

A feature on Bloomberg BusinessWeek shared the efforts of a team of researchers from the University of Calgary, who conducted a review of 84 studies that looked into alcohol consumption and heart disease. Their analysis indicated that people who consumed alcohol moderately – with moderation defined as having one drink or less per day – are 14 to 25 percent less likely to develop heart disease, when compared against those who do not drink alcohol at all.

healthy heartAs in previous studies of that nature, the researchers of the first paper stress the fact that the benefits of alcohol consumption is anchored upon moderation; when alcohol consumption goes beyond moderation, these benefits are lost.

Another team of researchers, also from the University of Calgary, conducted a review of 63 researches, and determined that moderate alcohol consumption may lead to a significant increase in the levels of “good” cholesterol. Such an increase protects people against heart disease. In addition, they concluded that health benefits are provided by alcohol content, and not the type of alcoholic beverage consumed.

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hospital in New York City, commented: “”In addressing lifestyle issues, alcohol consumption, in moderation, could be recommended as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle… One of the mechanisms of decreasing heart disease is by increasing the HDL [‘good’ cholesterol], which is independent of the type of alcohol, whether it be wine, beer or spirits.”

The findings from both researches were published online in the BMJ.

New York Health Screening

Early Disease Detection

Free STD Testing Kits Target Young Adults

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Sexually-transmitted diseases (STD) may be developed by as many as half of young people who are sexually active, but a lot of them may not get tested for a variety of reasons: they either cannot afford to have one, or are embarrassed to undergo STD testing.

A feature on the Los Angeles Times shared efforts aimed at reaching out to these young people, and ensuring that they get the tests that they need.

blood sampleOne such effort is a program called “I Want the Kit,” which was developed with the help of Charlotte A. Gaydos, a professor of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The website gives out free testing kits for three of the most common STDs: gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis.

Prof. Gaydos shared: “The highest prevalence is in young adults, and we knew we had to reach these kids… They were always on the Internet, and now, on their smart phones. They weren’t going to ask their mothers to take them to a clinic.”

I Want the Kit serves teens and young adults in Maryland, Washington, West Virginia, parts of Illinois, Denver, and Philadelphia. Each kit provided by Hopkins, which cost anywhere from $65 to $70 (including cost of mailing, test and lab worker time), is mailed in a plain envelope, and contains the swab, questionnaire, information about STDs, and consent form. People can access the website via Facebook or through a smart phone application. The app reads barcodes printed on program brochures; these brochures are left in schools and clinics.

Early Disease Detection Substance Abuse

Amphetamines Linked to Development of Parkinson’s Disease

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The results of a recently-released study featured on DrugWatch.com indicated a link between amphetamine use and Parkinson’s disease.

The study analyzed data from 66,348 participants, who were followed for almost 40 years. Upon their enrollment into the study, participants were asked whether they had taken weight loss drugs. They were also specifically asked whether they had taken the amphetamines Benzedrine or Dexedrine.

Parkinson'sBased on the results of the study, researchers determined that patients who had taken the amphetamines developed Parkinson’s disease at a higher rate, when compared against those who had admitted to taking weight-loss drugs, but did not take Benzedrine or Dexedrine.

Amphetamines are usually prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy; it is also sometimes prescribed for obesity. They regulate the release and absorption of dopamine, a chemical messenger that is present in low levels among those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease, on the other hand, is a chronic neurological illness characterized by a progressive loss of movement control. It is the second most prevalent neurological illness in the United States, after Alzheimer’s disease. Actor Michael J. Fox and boxer Muhammad Ali are among the famous people who are dealing with Parkinson’s disease; the late Pope John Paul II also suffered from Parkinson’s.

The results of the study, however, were only able to suggest an association between use of prescription amphetamines and the development of Parkinson’s disease, as opposed to a causal relationship. An assessment of the exact link between the two factors can only be done through further research.

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Montana Medical Marijuana Law Repealed by House

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The House of Representatives in Montana has voted to repeal the state’s medical marijuana law, according to a report on The Colorado Independent. The Republican-run House voted 63-37 to overturn the law on Thursday, and the likewise Republican-run State Senate is expected to do the same.

medical marijuanaIn an excerpt of a report on The New York Times, shared by the Independent, Montana House Speaker Mike Milburn said: “We were duped.” Milburn had sponsored the repeal bill, and expressed his belief that the arguments given in favor of the medical use of marijuana were, in reality, paving the way towards advocating recreational use, and full legalization, of marijuana.

Before the vote, Milburn had addressed the chamber, saying: “This bill says, shut down everything – it’s gone way too far.”

After having been passed by the House, the bill will now be considered by the Senate. If the results of the House vote are in any way indicative of the way the Senate will vote, the measure will probably find its way onto the desk of Democrat Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

The governor, however, has not taken a position on the issue of repeal, beyond saying that he agreed that the laws needed a bit of tightening – so there is no telling at this point what his final decision will be. Gov. Schweitzer’s spokeswoman Sarah Elliot shared the following in an e-mail: “The business has gotten out ahead of the regulatory environment, and we need to build some boundaries.”

Readers who expressed their opinions regarding the House vote through the Independent, however, did not seem too pleased about the repeal.


New York Drug Screening


Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Man Who Killed Grandma Blames Cocaine and Alcohol

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A jury at the Old Bailey heard how 27-year-old Jack Langlands repeatedly stabbed and battered his 83-year-old grandmother Doris Langlands to death at her home in Green Dragon Lane, Winchmore Hill, north London. He carried out the attack on Easter Saturday last year.

Jack LanglandsLanglands denies murdering his grandmother Doris, admitting manslaughter through diminished responsibility. He claimed to be suffering from paranoid psychosis induced by cocaine and alcohol during that time. He also tried to blame the attack on his other grandmother Millie Walton, with whom he spent the earlier part of the day. Langlands claimed “her body language conveyed the knowledge that she wanted him to kill Doris”.

Walton told the court she and her grandson watched football during the afternoon. He then asked her for money for a cab to get to Doris’ house.

He carried out the killing between 7pm and 8pm on April 2nd. He walked out and headed into central London. He eventually turned up “freezing cold” and without a coat in the early hours of the morning outside Walton’s home. He left in the morning, saying he was going to travel to Peterborough.

Langlands lived in Florida, US for five years before returning to the UK in 2008 after assaulting his wife.

Florida Drug Screening

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

How to Detect a Heart Attack

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Even if one is not a doctor, it is important to be able to tell when someone is having a heart attack. A heart attack can happen rather unexpectedly, and the symptoms can be rather mild that it is very easy to simply brush these symptoms off.

heart attackA feature on the Los Angeles Times shared heart attack symptoms that people need to be sensitive to, as these may indicate that a person is suffering from a heart attack. Dr. David Rizik, director of Interventional Cardiology for Scottsdale Healthcare Hospitals in Scottsdale, Arizona, shared that symptoms can vary from person to person, and within a person who has had more than one heart attack. Men and women can also experience different heart attack symptoms.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) shared symptoms that can be experienced by both men and women, such as mild to strong discomfort in the center of the chest; a sensation of pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the chest; discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, and/or stomach; shortness of breath; cold sweats and nausea.

The NHLBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, shared that women are more likely to encounter the certain symptoms, which include shortness of breath, vomiting, flu-like symptoms, and indigestion, among others. A study published by the American Heart Association indicated that women may feel these symptoms more than a month before the heart attack.

Dr. Rizik said that the best way to “establish a diagnosis of a heart attack” is to use the symptoms experienced by the patient, and the results of an electrocardiogram. He also pointed out that getting immediate treatment for a heart attack is important in order to prevent “as much heart damage as possible.”

Health & Wellness

Healthy Food Choices for Super Bowl Sunday

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It’s all systems go for Super Bowl Sunday 2011, and fans across the country have undoubtedly made plans for watching the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers make a bid for NFL supremacy this season.

super bowl foodThe usual fare for these get-togethers are endless bottles of soda and beer, hotdogs, burgers, pizza, chips and salsa – at least that was what we had back in the day, when “home” was a tiny two-bedroom flat that was as reasonably priced as it was reasonably close to campus, shared with a super-cool roommate. That spread certainly did not constitute the healthiest of meals, but it was the game, and not the grub, that really mattered back then.

Nowadays, however, it is imprudent to throw healthy eating to the wayside to enjoy the game, not when daily concerns include keeping one’s cholesterol levels in check, and other such matters. There is a way to have both, and a feature on The Washington Post shared some tips.

Some of the healthier suggestions include swapping staples such as chips, cookies and brownies with air-popped popcorn, oat pretzels and fruit. Authors Bonnie Benwick and Joe Yonan mentioned the fact that 2011 has been declared as the “Year of the Vegetable” by some (unmentioned) people, so it may be a good idea to plan your Super Bowl Sunday spread around ingredients of the green, leafy and healthy variety. The feature shared the Post’s Recipe Finder, in case you would like something to turn to for ideas.

There’s plenty of time to forget the chips and re-stock the fridge and the pantry, before getting your game on. So for Super Bowl Sunday, think healthy! We’re pretty sure watching the game will be just as fun!

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

How to Manage Cholesterol Levels Without Medication

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One of the things that have gone hand-in-hand with modernization, at least in as far as managing health issues is concerned, is taking medication. It may not be wholly incorrect to say that there are a number of people who have made a habit of turning to pills for practically anything – and doctors who have built practices out of prescribing away. While medical breakthroughs have undisputedly saved countless lives, depending on drugs may not be the right option for everyone.

low cholesterol dietIn a feature on The Huffington Post, Dr. Mark Hyman, best-selling author and founder of The UltraWellness Center, shared his two cents regarding controlling cholesterol levels, and how strong drugs are not the be-all and end-all of cholesterol management. He wrote: “Drugs don’t treat the underlying causes of chronic illness… The causes of chronic disease are rooted in what we eat, how much we move, how we face stress, how connected we are to our communities and toxic chemicals and metals in our environment.”

Dr. Hyman then shared several tips to keep cholesterol levels in check, without the aid of cholesterol-specific drugs. The first two had something to do with establishing various parameters that can be associated with cholesterol levels, starting with getting the right cholesterol tests. He also suggested checking for metabolic syndrome, by determining whether you have a fat belly, and measuring LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels, among others.

He also suggests what is actually the obvious: leading a healthy lifestyle by eating a healthy diet, exercising, and getting good quality sleep. Hyman also recommended using supplements to support healthy cholesterol particle size, and working with a doctor to determine whether it will be beneficial to use high-dose niacin or vitamin B.