Doctors “in bed” with the drug companies – Issue 09

Dear Health-Conscious Friend,

Have you ever wondered why many doctors are quick with the pen when it comes to recommending prescription medicines? Well, I’m going to tell you a possible reason—and which doctors are most likely to be “in bed” with the drug companies…

…and if you’re finding it hard to get a good night’s rest, you might want to hold off on using prescription sleep medicines. Research has turned up some rare—but BIZARRE—side effects!

Plus, I’ll tell you why staying active on the social scene can help prevent memory loss.

You’ll find all this and MORE in today’s Monday Edition of Health News Weekly™. So let’s get started!

Does Your Heart Doctor
Have a Drug Company “Pimp”?

Layne Lowery

Cardiologists are more than twice as likely to receive direct payments from drug companies for consulting and other services, a recent national survey concluded.

A study published in the April 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine says despite the potential for conflict of interest—almost EVERY practicing physician in the United States has some type of relationship with pharmaceutical manufacturers. The study says these relationships vary based on the kind of practice, patient mix, medical specialty and professional activities.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Yale University, the University of Melbourne, and Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia conducted the first national survey of 1,662 practicing physicians in late 2003 and 2004 to study these relationships. They surveyed doctors in six specialties to determine the extent of their financial ties with the pharmaceutical industry—and the factors that predict those ties.

Study findings indicate drug and device manufacturers hand pick the doctors with whom they’ll form the strongest ties. In addition to direct payments, study results show cardiologists are also more likely to be paid honoraria than pediatricians, anesthesiologists or surgeons.

Study co-author Eric Campbell, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, notes the strategic implications of these “hand-washing” practices. Campbell said “if the drug and device industry can influence cardiologists, they can likely influence the prescribing practices of other doctors.”

Popular Sleep Drugs May Cause
Hypnotic “Sleep Driving”

Roz Roscoe, Staff Writer

If you’re one of the millions of people using Ambien®, Lunesta® or Rozerem™ to fight sleepless nights, here’s some eye-opening news! The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says manufacturers should include stronger labels to warn consumers about the rare and bizarre side-effects these drugs can produce.

According to a March 14 FDA press release, prescription sleeping pills may cause hypnotic “sleep-driving.” This behavior can cause you to awaken in the middle of the night and go for a spin in your car—with NO MEMORY of doing so! This strange side effect first hit the headlines in May 2006 when Rep. Patrick Kennedy crashed his car into a U.S. Capitol security barrier after taking Ambien®.

Sleep-driving is just one of the odd behaviors associated with sedative-hypnotic sleep drugs. Officials say people using these drugs have reported making telephone calls… preparing and eating food… and even having sexual relations while asleep!

Some people have reported severe allergic reactions and facial swelling—both of which can occur as early as the first time you take the drugs.

In December 2006, the FDA requested that manufacturers of these drugs revise product labels to include warnings about these potential side effects. They are also working with the drug manufacturers to notify health care providers of the new warnings.

The FDA press release said later this year, all prescription insomnia drugs will come with Patient Medication Guides. These brochures will help inform consumers of each drug’s potential risks in easy-to-understand language

Fast Fact

Easy eyeglass protection…

To prevent the screws in eyeglasses from loosening, apply a small drop of clear nail polish to the threads of the screws before tightening them.

Try a Little ‘Fun and Frolic’ to
Stop Senior Brain Drain

Are you a social butterfly? Do you enjoy staying physically active and connected with friends and family? Well, the surprising news is those bridge nights and ballroom dancing lessons just might save you from age-related memory loss! According to the latest research, lonely seniors are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as older folks with more friends and activities.

A study published in the February 2007 issue of Archives of General Psychology shows seniors who reported feeling lonely demonstrated lower brain function at the start of the study—and experienced more rapid decline into dementia during the course of the study. Here’s what happened…

Dr. Robert Wilson, and a team of researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, followed a group of 823 elderly folks for up to 4 years. To assess perceived loneliness, participants began by rating their agreement with statements such as “I often feel abandoned” and “I miss having a really good friend”. The average loneliness score was 2.3 on a scale of 1 to 5, with higher scores indicating more loneliness.

All participants were free of dementia at the outset—but during the study 76 folks developed dementia that could be classified as Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers found that the risk of developing dementia increased by about 51 percent for each notch on the loneliness scale. This means a person with a high degree of loneliness—a score of 3.2 out of 5—had twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease during the study compared with someone who reported fewer lonely feelings.

While the link between loneliness and dementia remains unclear, Dr. Wilson and his colleagues note that being single… having few friends… and participating in few activities with others may increase your risk of experiencing brain drain.

So if you’re worried about memory loss and cloudy thinking… try widening your social circle. It may be a simple and easy way to help make—and PRESERVE—special memories!

Health E-Hints

Ahh… the Smell of Cancer-Fighting Foods!

Many famous chefs are known for using recipes that pile on the onions and garlic. Not only do they make the food taste great—they also give you great health benefits too. In a recent analysis of European studies done at the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche in Milan, Italy, researchers discovered that people who ate more onions and garlic were less likely to develop common cancers such as oral, colorectal and ovarian cancer.

What’s the link between these foods and low cancer rates? Researchers say onions and garlic are packed with natural cancer-fighting chemical compounds. For example, onions are rich in the disease-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids. These warriors prevent damage to body cells that can eventually lead to cancer. And garlic is packed with compounds that prevent abnormal cell growth.

So why not spice up your cooking with plenty of garlic and onions? They’re a great-tasting way to prevent health problems—and to enjoy a great meal!