Angelina Jolie’s decision

Huffington Post. 16 May 2013. Dr. Diana Zuckerman writes, “Let’s use Angelina Jolie’s announcement to have a frank discussion of the treatment choices for breast cancer and to encourage women to make decisions based on their own situations not on the choice of a celebrity, however admirable she is.” Continue reading

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): what is it and what are the signs?

Monthly changes in hormones affect nearly all women. Some of the symptoms are more bothersome or noticeable than others, and sometimes they signal health problems. Studies show that 4% to 18% of women of reproductive age have a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It can be difficult to diagnose because it is similar to so many other conditions. What is PCOS, and what are the signs? Continue reading

Can cleanliness increase the risk of allergies and asthma?

Is being too clean bad for your health? Research indicates that some of the products we use to avoid germs may contribute to the development of conditions like asthma and allergies. Continue reading

NRC and Patient, Consumer, and Public Health Coalition comments to FDA: Don’t need a new pathway for antibiotics for limited populations!

January 30, 2013 — The FDA considered a new way to approve drugs for use in small patient populations. NRC warn that such a pathway would put patients at risk of harm by giving them poorly studied drugs without knowing if the drugs provide any benefit. Continue reading

Can taking fish oil supplements help lung cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy?

Fish oil is a well-known supplement that is said to have many benefits. Research shows that taking fish oil may help lung cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy respond better to treatment and reduce side effects of chemotherapy. Continue reading

Urinary incontinence: a guide to treatment

Do you ever leak when you laugh or sneeze? Do you feel the constant urge to urinate, even when your bladder is empty? You may be one of the 10 million Americans with some form of urinary incontinence (the inability to control the bladder). Don’t be embarrassed–talk with your physician. It is treatable, and not inevitable. Continue reading

What you need to know about the flu (including H1N1 or “swine flu”)

News about the flu is everywhere. First it was “avian flu” or “bird flu,” and now it’s the H1N1 virus, originally called “swine flu.” When flu spreads, infecting people all over the world, it is called a pandemic. The World Health Organization has declared the H1N1 flu a pandemic. Pandemic flu can be frightening. Here are the facts. Continue reading

Cold and flu: do natural health products work?

Cold and flu are two of the most common illnesses and there is no “cure” for either. Because antibiotics do not treat symptoms or cure either cold or flu, many people turn to natural products in an effort to prevent and treat cold and flu symptoms. But, do these products work, and are they safe? Here, a range of these products are compared, examining their safety and effectiveness. Continue reading

Testimony of Dr. Jennifer Yttri on Bedaquiline

November 28, 2012 — Dr. Yttri testifies to the FDA Committee that the data on bedaquiline indicate that the benefit to patients with multi drug resistant tuberculosis is questionable. The FDA’s responsibility is to approve drugs that will help, not harm, consumers. Treatments exist for patients with multi drug resistant tuberculosis that are safer without the addition of bedaquiline. Continue reading

Statement by Senior Fellow Jennifer Yttri, PhD, at FDA Public Hearing on Antiseptic Preoperative Skin Preparation Products

December 10, 2012 — Dr. Yttri testifies to the FDA on the serious public health issue of contamination of antiseptic products. First, we support the recommendation of the August 2009 Advisory Committee in ensuring that all antiseptic patient preoperative skin preparation products are held to current good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards. Second, the FDA should remove ineffective antiseptics from the market. Third, as extrinsic contamination accounts for the majority of contamination outbreaks, FDA should require product packaging that would reduce extrinsic manipulation. Finally, while the majority of outbreaks seem to be related to extrinsic contamination, intrinsic contamination introduced during manufacturing most likely accounts for a greater number of contaminated products. Continue reading

Statement from Dr. Jennifer Yttri, senior fellow, at the FDA public hearing establishing a list of qualifying pathogens for the GAIN act

December 18, 2012 — Dr. Yttri testifies to the FDA that the growing risk of antibiotic resistant pathogens and need for development and responsible use of new antibiotics are critical public health concerns that need to be addressed. Continue reading

Pancreatic cancer: could bacteria in our mouth help us detect this deadly cancer sooner?

Pancreatic cancer has an extremely low survival rate because it is difficult to detect at early stages. A method for earlier diagnosis would greatly improve patients’ chances of survival. New research suggests that a specific type of oral bacteria might serve as a warning sign for pancreatic cancer. Continue reading

Adolescents, celebrity worship, and cosmetic surgery

A new study shows that media portrayals of celebrities influence how adolescents feel about their looks and influence their decisions to undergo cosmetic surgery. Young adults are not just mimicking the clothing and hairstyles of their favorite celebrities, but rather undergoing invasive procedures to feel better about how they look. Continue reading

Emergency contraception & sexual assault: why compassionate care should be a standard of care

The Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies (CARE) Act of 2009 (H.R.1236) and the Prevention First Act of 2009 (H.R.463/S.21) were introduced in Congress in early 2009. The sole purpose of the CARE Act, and one of several goals of the Prevention First Act, would be to direct hospitals and emergency medicine facilities that receive federal funding to inform all women who have been sexually assaulted about emergency contraception (also known as the “morning after pill” or “Plan B”) and to make it available to them, regardless of their ability to pay. Continue reading

Recall of device to treat irregular heartbeats is worrying patients who have them in their bodies

Defibrillators are medical devices that treat irregular heartbeats and can prevent sudden cardiac arrest. The 79,000 Americans who were implanted with the Riata or Riata ST Silicone implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) leads made by St. Jude Medical are left wondering what to do now that the FDA recalled the device in December 2011. This recall was announced a year after the company stopped their sales of the product. Continue reading

Exposure to heavy metals and fertility: what a couple should know

Are you or someone you love trying to start a family or have another baby? A new study suggests that when men or women are exposed to heavy metals in their environment it can make it more difficult for a woman to get pregnant. We should be aware of the ways we come into contact with these metals, and limit our exposure. Taking a few preventative measures today might make it easier to get pregnant and have a healthy baby. Continue reading

Consumer group questions review of breast implants

Consumer safety advocates are questioning the Food and Drug Administration about incomplete and seemingly erroneous data used to support the safety of silicone breast implants in an agency review last year. The FDA concluded last summer that silicone-gel implants are basically safe as long as women understand they come with complications. Continue reading

FDA needs to provide breast implant patients and physicians with unreported industry data about quality of life, connective tissue symptoms, rupture rates per patient, and other complications

January 5, 2012 — At the FDA Advisory Panel meetings in 2003 and 2005, FDA provided and presented data from the Breast Implant Core studies regarding connective tissue disorder (CTD) signs and symptoms (S/S) and Quality of Life measures. Continue reading

Laser liposuction—weight loss tool or scam?

As American waistlines have expanded, the attraction of a quick weight loss fix has increased. Diet and exercise are the key to safe weight loss, but for many of us, the results are discouraging. As a result, liposuction is the third most commonly performed cosmetic procedure in the United States, after breast augmentation and nose reshaping. However, the procedure can result in severe though rare complications including infection, cardiac arrest, blood clots, excessive fluid loss, fluid accumulation, damage to the skin or nerves, seizures, bruising, swelling, and damage to vital organs. Plastic surgeons often present laser liposuction as a safer, effective alternative which works by inserting a laser beneath the skin and liquifying fat. But does it work and is it really safe? Continue reading

Taking medications while pregnant or breastfeeding

Some medications can cause harmful side effects to you or your baby if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Sometimes doctors don’t realize how a medicine can be harmful to a baby in the womb until after many babies have been born with problems. While that sounds frightening, it’s important to remember that many pregnant or breastfeeding moms take medications for a wide range of health conditions. It is important to learn more about the possible risks of taking medications while pregnant or breastfeeding and to discuss any potential side effects with your health provider. Continue reading

2011 FDA update on silicone gel breast implant safety: many unanswered questions

The FDA released a new report on June 22, 2011 showing that breast implants cause many complications and often need to be removed, but that if “used as directed” (including regular MRIs) implants are “reasonably safe.” However, the FDA admits that we don’t have as much safety information as we need, and that the implant companies haven’t done a very good job of doing safety studies. Continue reading

The wrinkle in facial injections and implants: safety questions

In the eternal search for eternal youth, some new technique or product is always being touted as the next best thing. Women and men seek out long-lasting non-surgical procedures that will reduce wrinkles and make them look younger or better. There are many different types of facial injections (some permanent and some temporary) and implants, each having a variety of brand names. We will discuss five of the most popular of these treatments, and in terms of safety concerns, the news is not especially good. Continue reading

Examining the safety of natural supplements

In their quest for health and beauty, half of all American adults take natural supplements to solve all sorts of problems. But do these products really work, and how much do Americans know about their safety? Not as well as one may think, and not nearly enough.
Ultimately, it is unwise to trust the claims that manufacturers of dietary supplements make about either the effectiveness or safety of their products. Let the buyer beware. Continue reading

Dolls are not a substitute for babies

Adults assume that teenagers would be less likely to get pregnant if they knew how hard it is to care for a baby. That was the theory behind the development of Baby Think it Over (BTIO), a computerized infant simulator doll. Unfortunately, several studies suggest that taking care of these baby dolls does nothing to discourage teens from becoming parents. Continue reading

Ghostbusting: exposing drug company-hired ghostwriters in medical journals

Doctors rely on scientific papers for accurate information on which drugs and treatments are best for their patients, but are all these papers trustworthy? Often times, industry-paid “ghostwriters” author these papers, leading to biased articles that mislead doctors into prescribing medication that may not work or could be harmful to their patients. Continue reading

Heart CT scans: new heart disease test may cause cancer

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among adults in the U.S., so some doctors have recently started using a “CAT scan” (or CT scan) to detect blockages in the heart’s arteries. Unfortunately, a CT scan uses relatively large doses of radiation, which could ultimately lead to many new cases of cancer from increased exposure to radiation. Although heart CT scanning may be a useful tool in detecting blockages in heart arteries, there is not enough evidence to show that this test is worth the risks and is therefore not recommended for screening for heart disease at this time. Continue reading

New warnings about the birth control patch

When choosing a method of birth control, most women want what is the most effective and convenient. Women who want “hormonal” birth control can choose a pill, patch, injection, or vaginal ring, yet not all of these options have equal risks. In fact, the Patch, Ortho Evra, is now shown to put women at greater risks than birth control pills did by exposing women to high levels of estrogen. But, how does Ortho Evra work, and why is it more dangerous than other forms of birth control? Continue reading

Breast implants: a research and regulatory summary

In the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in breast implant surgery, yet this does not necessarily mirrored by a similar increase in the number of women with breast implants. Many women are replacing old implants that have broken or caused problems. This summary examines the role of the FDA in safety research, the types of breast implants, the frequency of local complications, increased risk of autoimmune and connective tissue diseases, cancer, lung disease, and suicide, impact on general health and quality of life, and the hidden costs associated with breast implants. Continue reading

Nips, tucks, and…designer vaginas?

Variations in the natural female form used to be accepted, even celebrated. Increasingly, however, these variations are seen not as assets, but as problems to be taken care of by plastic surgeons. Amongst many cosmetic surgeries, “genital rejuvenation” is growing in popularity. Does this procedure work, and what does the future hold for such genital plastic surgeries? Continue reading

Irritable bowel syndrome medication: Zelnorm and treatment INDs

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an uncomfortable intestinal problem that affects nearly one in five Americans, most of whom are women. Unfortunately, known treatments only help with IBS symptoms, not the cause. More so, these treatments often have dangerous side effects. How is it that these drugs are still on the market if they are unsafe? The answer is because of a drug development process known as “treatment IND” (Investigational New Drug). The most recent of these treatment INDs involves a medication known as Zelnorm. What are the dangers, and should you take it for your IBS? Continue reading

Human growth hormone: youth in a bottle?

You may have seen the ads claiming that you can regain lost youth, remove wrinkles and cellulite, lose weight, and build lean muscle without exercise. According to the advertisements, you would think that human growth hormone pills or oral sprays offer the fountain of youth in a bottle. But according to scientists, you might be disappointed with the results you get from over-the-counter human growth hormone products (HGH). In fact, you might even be endangering your life. Continue reading

Cancer researchers with industry ties report “rosier” results

With all of the cancer studies being performed today, how can consumers be sure of their accuracy? A study by Dr. Reshma Jagsi at the University of Michigan and her colleagues indicates that cancer studies are more likely to have positive results when the researchers have ties to the company that makes the product being studied. With nearly one-quarter of relevant research articles disclosing a conflict of interest, this causes reason for concern. Continue reading

Blind adults in America: their lives and challenges

A report by the National Research Center for Women & Families–a closer look at non-institutionalized legally blind adults living in the U.S. Exactly where are they living? How many are living in poverty or near poverty? How is their health? What programs and services are they using, and are their needs being met? What are their daily lives like? Are there regional differences that we need to be aware of to improve policies for adults who are blind? Continue reading