Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Medical News

Quick update on some very interesting medical data:

1. Placebo pills work, and the price matters. Such a great study in JAMA this week from MIT researchers. Patients who were told that their pills cost $2.50 cents a piece experienced significantly less pain than another group of patients who were told that their pills cost only 10 cents. Both pills were nothing more than vitamin C. This is unbelievable. It shows what control the mind has over the body. And it shows why some patients say that they "don't respond to generic medications". There was an amazing efficacy rate in both groups (85% and 61% reported improvement in pain in both groups, respectively). This may be the way to help save tons of money for the health care system. Granted, it can't be done for life-threatening cardiac conditions or cancer or diabetes, but for non-specific pain syndromes (chronic headaches, fibromyalgia, etc), why not try placebo pills first?


2. Bacteria-filled snow - Another "fear" story about bacteria and food by the media. The title reads "Snow Eating Now Endangered Pleasure". And, yes, there was bacteria found in snow. But, as they point out later in the story, has anyone really ever gotten sick from eating snow? The fact is we eat bacteria on regular food all the time, and our liver and immune systems do a great job at clearing the little bugs. So, I'm still going to eat snow, ask for the lemon wedge with my water at the restaurant, and eat out of the bowl that was "double-dipped" (see previous posts for those stories).


3. Airborne is a fraud- Has anyone ever taken that tablet called "Airborne" to prevent (and treat) the common cold? Well, the makers of Aiborne have lost a class-action suit and have to pay back $23 million to customers for making false claims about the benefits against the common cold. It turns out that Americans spend $300 million a year on this ineffective product, so it looks like the manufacturers are still making out. Note to all: stop wasting your money on this stuff. Watch this video:


If you do want to try to abate the symptoms related to the common cold, you may have more success with the zinc-containing products (e.g., Zycam).

There have been 10 randomized controlled trials of these products, and 5 of the 10 have shown benefit in reducing symptoms and duration. Here is one of the studies:


4. Loud snoring- Loud snoring is not just annoying for one's bed mate, but is bad for your health. Researchers in Hungary found that people who snore loudly are at much higher risk for hypertension, heart attack, and stroke. A lot of this is mediated through obstructive sleep apnea, which is a treatable condition with proper medical care. So, if your loved one is snoring loudly at night, don't just kick them to make them shut-up...have them see their primary care physicians to get screened for obstructive sleep apnea and have their blood pressure monitored.



Will said...

I love the placebo stuff. I remember during our second year Horwitz did his grand rounds on the placebo effect. He had some data not only showing a placebo effect in some RCT but also that pts who were adherent to the placebo did better than those non-adherent to the placebo. This would be a key subanalysis in this pain trial; pts in pain trials (and depression trials) tend to get better over time regardless of the intervention or even without intervention. But if those adherent to the placebo within the placebo group did better than those non-adherent, now we're talking. I would also be curious to know about the sample...my guess is that these folks were opioid naive. My sense is you're not going to convince too many people on mscontin that vitamin C is improving their pain.

julie said...

Here's a question: what makes a person consistently deny that they snore? I know someone who does that.