Q: It is bad taste to send us to a drug manufacturer’s website, so why do you do it? You should be ashamed!
A: Quiet a few people think that most or all of the research we’re interested in is both publically funded and conducted by impartial individuals. Much of the information and research useful to us, however, comes from for-profit companies. Indeed, it is not unusual for investors to hear about a company’s medical breakthrough before the medical community. Even newspaper articles are often based on a for-profit company’s press release or interviews with stakeholders. Unfortunately, with the growth of the Internet, there is an increasingly unrecognizable distinction between “news” and “promotion.” It is a problem for all of us. Most of the information on new drugs and devices, for example, comes directly from the drug manufacturers, so without their news releases, available on their websites, there would be little drug development news to report. Further, studies conducted in universities are often funded, in part, by grants from drug or other medical products companies. At times the research is even conducted jointly between private companies and public institutions. To take it a step further, independently funded research that appears in peer-reviewed journals is often conducted by investigators who have “relationships” with drug manufacturers and other medical companiessomething openly disclosed in the original research paper, to which a link is provided when possible (although you usually have to pay to read the full study). Similarly, trade association and advocacy groups often discover and report information relevant to us even though they have a vested interest in a particular point of view. For this reason, as well as for transparency, when possible, the original sources of news items are provided so the reader can take the source of the information into consideration when reaching conclusions. Similarly, readers are also given credit for their ability to keep in mind that experts often disagree with each other, and for having the awareness that research can “prove” just about anything if it is designed accordingly.
Q: Why are your articles so technical? I need practical advice!
A: The newsletter summarizes the latest news relevant to the many things that affect those of us with COPD. Within any given week, many of the news items that appear are, admittedly, technical. That’s just the nature of the news, and some weeks are, well….challenging at best. Fortunately, there are many good sources available on the Internet for basic information on living with COPD. On occasion, and for variety, an article will be included that reviews practical and/or basic information, but that is the exception rather than the rule.
Q: Why do you always use “Tiny URLs?” They annoy me and I don’t trust not knowing where the link takes me!
A: Over 80% of the links included in the newsletter are longer than 60 or 70 characters and often overflow to the next line if “TinyURLs” aren’t used (overflow depends on your settings and the email program you use). More important, some subscribers are unable to receive their email newsletter with the hyperlinks activated, so they have to cut and paste each link into their browser to view a site. Using “TinyURLs” makes it easier for them to do this. As for not being able to recognize a link, con artists have become so adept at creating valid looking links, it is now often difficult to differentiate safe links from the phony ones. Ask any bank. Although there is no guarantee that the editor won’t one day be outsmarted, each link is checked multiple times, and newsletter subscribers include family and friends of the editor.
- COPD INCREASES RISK OF SHINGLES
TEST YOUR HOME FOR RADON
Researchers in Taiwan have discovered that people with COPD are at greater risk for Shingles (varicella-zoster virus or herpes-zoster virus) than those without COPD. Their study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, shows that those COPD individuals taking oral steroids are at even greater risk. They found that the rate of people with COPD who develop shingles is 16 out of every 1,000 people, compared to 9 out of every 1,000 people without COPD. Shingles is caused by the same virus responsible for chicken pox. After chicken pox, the virus can hide in the nerve cells and become active later in life, often in people over 50. A shingles vaccine is available. For more information about the study, see the Canadian Medical Society Journal at
CMS (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) is giving a stern warning to insurance companies offering Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans: “If you raise premiums by more than 10% in 2012, you likely won’t be allowed to enroll any Medicare beneficiaries.” (This can also be interpreted by some as announcing that CMS will allow increases up to 10%). Medicare Advantage plans are Medicare plans managed by private companies. These plans are already scheduled to receive a 1.6% increase next year. The financial consequences of the Affordable Care Act won’t hit insurance companies with Advantage plans until 2014. CMS’s draft of their proposed new payment policies includes mention of a $10 increase in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan deductible for 2012. For more information, see this MedPage Today article at http://tinyurl.com/6kepsta
Vitamin E has been found to influence the immune system, so University of Helsinki researchers are looking into the effect this vitamin might have on the risk of catching pneumonia. They are finding something unusual, and it has to do with smoking and exercise. Vitamin E decreases the risk of pneumonia by 69% for those who have the least exposure to smoke and who exercise during their leisure time. However, the vitamin actually increases the risk of pneumonia by 79% for those participants who have the highest exposure to smoke and don’t exercise. For the study, see the AlphaGalileo web site. It is a not-for-profit news service at http://tinyurl.com/6xkjm8p
The title of this article says it all. The Boston Globe describes how deadly mistakes happen because of the din of alarms going off, causing something the writers refer to as “alarm fatigue.” As an example, they claim a 15 bed unit at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore averages 942 alarms per day, and a critical alarm goes off every 90 seconds! The Globe based its article, in part, upon the FDA’s databank of reported “adverse events,” as analyzed by a not-for-profit healthcare research and consulting company. The Boston Globe article can be read on their boston.com website at http://tinyurl.com/4kt8yga
If you have low income or reside in rural areas of the South or Midwest in the U.S., you are more likely to be hospitalized for COPD (based on 2008 statistics) than if you live in other areas or have higher income. In fact, COPDers in rural areas are almost twice as likely to be hospitalized for COPD as those living in large urban areas. For more surprising statistics, see this Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) report at http://tinyurl.com/6c6o3rm
Some of us are more anxious than others, and some of us are more biologically prone to experiencing generally higher levels of anxiety. This holds true whether or not we have COPD, but anxiety is certainly a common problem for many of us with impaired breathing. An NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) funded study looks at two regions of the brain, one area that is involved in fear and another area that is involved in suppressing fear. How we experience and handle anxiety appears to be related to the degree of response in each of these areas, and how they work together when responding to different situations. The researchers find that people who experience a higher level of anxiety react more strongly to “cued” fear situations, which is when a neutral signal is followed by an adverse event. There is a lot more to this study, and it you might want to read the NIMH article which can be found at
Zinc helps treat the common cold if taken early enough, but the side effects of bad taste and nausea may get you to think twice about using it. Some of the findings of this study, published in the Cochrane Library, include
-if zinc is taken by otherwise healthy people within the first 24 hours of cold symptoms, it reduces the duration and severity of the cold
Smoking suppresses a protein that is needed to prevent mucus-producing cells in the lungs from overpopulating. Such findings might help lead to treatments for chronic bronchitis, a type of COPD. The abstract of this study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine can be found at http://tinyurl.com/6cdcshc
Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers find that smokers who quit smoking by using electronic cigarettes attain a higher rate of abstinence from smoking than those who use other methods such as nicotine patches or gum. Using electronic cigarettes nearly double the rate of success compared to those who use other methods. An electronic cigarette is a battery operated device that produces a nicotine vapor. For more information, see this BUSPH summary (or the full study via the link on the bottom of the opening page) at http://tinyurl.com/6blh7hl
The Newsletter, like all the other endeavors of the Family of COPD Support Programs , is provided to you by COPD-Support, Inc. a non-profit member organization with IRS designation 501(c)(3). If you would like to be involved and help us provide these programs to the individuals who benefit from them, please consider joining us as a member. Further information is available at: http://copd-support.com/membership.html
TEST YOUR HOME FOR RADON
AMERICAN TREASURES OF THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
BURMA SHAVE JINGLES
For comments and questions, or to contact Richard D. Martin, please send your email to: newsletter@COPD-Support.com
Until next Friday,
Richard D. Martin, Editor
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