Health Updates 27 June 2011

  • Supreme Court rules in favor of drug companies in two decisions – generic drug makers don’t have to warn on dangers and prescription records may be purchased for marketing: “But in a 5-4 decision, the high court said this duty to warn patients of newly revealed dangers does not extend to makers of generic drugs.  Justice Clarence Thomas said that because the federal Food and Drug Administration must approve changes in the warning labels, the generic makers may not be sued under state liability laws for failing to warn patients of new dangers…In the second decision, the court by a 6-3 vote struck down a law in Vermont that barred pharmacies, drug makers and others from buying or selling prescription records from patients for ‘marketing’ purposes.  Vermont’s physicians had sought passage of the law, arguing their prescriptions were intended for private use of patients and should not become a marketing tool”.  (LA Times)
  • Nighttime TV watching can be a source of toddler’s sleep problems: “That’s the message in a new study that found sleep problems are more common in 3-to 5-year-olds who watch television after 7 pm.  Watching shows with violence – including kids’ cartoons – also was tied to sleeping difficulties.  The study builds on previous research linking media use with kids’ sleep problems, and also bolsters arguments for limiting children’s screen time”. (Associated Press)
  • Little progress seen in treating chronic pain: “Treatment of chronic pain today remains strikingly inadequate, despite better understanding of the underlying pathology and an ever-widening range of therapeutics, according to an overview of the literature.  Worldwide, one in five people report chronic pain…Many factors influence patients’ experience of pain, including cognitive and emotional elements, history and pathology – all of which need to be addressed for successful pain control”.  A review of treatment for noncancer pain found little good news to report; the opioids most commonly prescribed have disappointing results. (Nancy Walsh, MedPage Today)
  • In medicine, new isn’t always improved: “It is an American impulse to covet the new and improved – whether it’s a faster computer, a smarter cell phone or a more fuel-efficient car.  And in medicine, too, new drugs, devices and procedures have advanced patient care.  But the promise of innovation can also prove a trap, a situation now playing out with dire consequences for possibly tens of thousands of people who received artificial hips intended to let them remain active”.  The implants known as metal-on-metal hips, regarded as a vast improvement over older designs that used metal and plastics, are now causing patient pain and injury.  “In a highly unusual move, the Federal Drug Administration…ordered manufacturers of all metal hips to undertake emergency studies of patients”.  There is further concern as, in recent years, many so-called innovations have “imploded not long after introduction”. (NY Times)

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