December 12, 2005 |
Every day on the front lines of medicine, doctors quietly weigh treatments. They consider which ones might help patients and which ones might harm them. And sometimes, rightly or wrongly, which ones might simply please or appease them. I'm a pleaser at heart. My family and friends know it, and so do most of my patients. However, when I think about doctors dispensing prescriptions merely to please, I feel my gut wrench. I first witnessed placebo medicine in the 1970s. Back then, a few doctors at my university hospital treated patients with saline injections and little blue sugar pills.
July 6, 2010 |
Many people who suffer with lower back pain rely on glucosamine supplements for some relief. But does the stuff really work? A new study shows that glucosamine was no different from a placebo in treating lower back pain. The study, released Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., was a large, double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial that included 250 adults with chronic lower back pain. It was conducted at the Oslo University Outpatient Clinic in Norway. Chronic lower back pain plagues millions of people in the U.S., and treatments include physical therapy, medication and the use of glucosamine supplements.
June 5, 2012 |
A drug already on the market to treat severely clenched fingers may also be useful in treating the excessively curved penis caused by Peyronie's disease, researchers reported Monday. If the findings are validated in larger trials, the drug, called Xiaflex, could become the first effective medical treatment for the condition, which apart from embarrassment can cause impotence and pain. The company that manufactures the drug, Auxilium Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Malvern, Pa., said it hopes to have approval from the Food and Drug Administration to market the drug for this purpose by the end of the year.
July 20, 2012 |
Silymarin, an extract of milk thistle widely used around the world for treating liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus, provides no more benefit than a placebo, researchers reported this week. Some estimates are that as many as a third of the estimated 3.2 million Americans with hepatitis C -- as well as many more millions around the world -- are consuming the drug in an effort to alleviate their symptoms. The new research by a team headed by Dr. Michael W. Fried of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine suggests that they are simply wasting their money.
May 14, 2012 |
Smoking marijuana to relieve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis is a practice with a fair number of adherents, though it has not been subject to rigorous testing. A new study finds that puffing weed does have a rapid and measurable effect on MS patients' muscle spasticity and on their perception of pain. But subjects who smoked pot were not able to walk any faster and -- surprise! -- they felt higher than members of the control group who smoked marijuana stripped of THC. The study, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, recruited 30 MS patients who suffered from spasticity -- stiffness and involuntary muscle spasms that are a common symptom of MS -- as well as from pain, usually in the back.
August 9, 2010 |
Statins are widely considered to be one of the safest drugs available. An estimated 24 million Americans take the cholesterol-lowering drugs, and most of them feel no different after their daily dose. "The vast majority of patients tolerate statins extremely well," said Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at UCLA. But like any drug, statins carry a risk of side effects. With so many people taking them, and millions of other potential users out there, doctors and patients need to be alert for symptoms that could be related to the drugs.