Tag Archives: medicine

Saving Lives, Bad for Business?

Recently a report has been published by Goldman Sachs analysts exploring the question “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” The idea behind it being that as “one-shot cures” rid more and more people of their disease and/or medical condition, the need for that particular medicine will go down, as there fewer people to spread it. The report cited a study about treatments for Hepatitis C that have more than a 90 percent cure rate. As a result of that effective treatment, the need for that treatment decreased significantly, as did the profits from it. All of this begs the question, what in the world is wrong with medical companies?

It would seem that profit is the greater concern over improving lives and saving lives. This report appears to suggest that medical companies developing treatments and cures for sick people should focus their efforts on diseases that can and will appear on their own, without the need for carrier. It suggests that the research should focus more on disease like cancer or medical conditions like asthma not because they should try to cure it, but because it has a more sustainable business profit. That is to say, because people will always have to deal with these conditions, and therefore they can continue to profit off of the sick. And as for the people will curable or potentially curable disease or conditions? It seems they are just going to get ignore and be left to suffer. It is apparently a bad thing that so many people got treated for Hepatitis C.

What sort of world do we live in were profit is put above improving and saving lives? It is understandable that companies need to make a profit so they continue to fund medical research, but it should never be taken so as to even consider placing profit over the lives of their patients. If this is how things are going to go, how until we hear from our doctors that our illnesses are curable, but that they will not cure it because it would mean less money for them and the medical companies?


Photo from the Wall Street Journal

The fix for unnecessary use of antibiotics

Antibiotic resistance is a growing global dilemma. Specialists say doctors typically send their patients home with prescriptions for antibiotics due to the fact that they can not verify the origin of the ailments.

Antibiotics are overprescribed and becoming less effective. Image from Rotenberg.
Antibiotics are overprescribed and becoming less and less effective. Image from Rotenberg.

Antibiotics are overprescribed and becoming less and less effective. Image from Rotenberg.

More than half of children who visit the doctor for a sore throat, ear infection, bronchitis or other respiratory illness leave with a prescription for antibiotics, despite the fact that the bulk of those infections — over 70% — prove to be caused by viruses that antibiotics can’t kill.

Students at Duke University are attempting to assist doctors in finding a quicker way to pinpoint the cause behind their patients’ illnesses.

Kelsey Sumner, a senior at Duke University mentioned that the goal is to better verify if and when to administer antibiotics in order to stem the increase of drug-resistant superbugs.

For 10 weeks over the past summer, Sumner and fellow Duke student Christopher Hong teamed up with researchers at Duke Medicine to locate blood markers that could be used to tell whether what’s making someone sick could be a bacteria, or a virus.

Prescribing antibiotics when they aren’t necessary may make different infections more difficult to treat.

That’s because antibiotics wipe out susceptible bacteria, however some bacteria that are naturally resistant to the medication survive, which permits them to multiply without other bacteria to keep them under control.

With help from Sumner and Hong, the team has identified variations in patient’s’ blood-work that they hope may eventually be detected within a few hours, in contrast to current tests that can take days.

They targeted the genetic signature generated by small snippets of genetic material referred to as microRNAs, or miRNAs, that play a role in controlling the activity of different genes inside the cell.

Using blood samples from 31 individuals, 10 with bacterial pneumonia and 21 with flu virus, they used a method referred to as RNA sequencing to check miRNA levels in bacterial versus viral infections.

So far, the researchers have identified various snippets of miRNA that differ between bacterial and viral infections, and may be utilized to discriminate between the two.

Sumner and Hong were among 40 students nominated for a summer research program at Duke referred to as Data+. They presented their work at the Data+ Final Symposium on July 23 in Gross Hall.

Aspirin cures cancer?

People around the world use Aspirin in their daily lives, whether it’s to treat fevers, inflammation, arthritis, or just general pain.

New studies would like to add to that list. Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands ran a multitude of tests on those with gastrointestinal and colon cancer and found that taking Aspirin after cancer treatment often increased survivability of the individual.

Through rigorous testing post-diagnosis, Aspirin users were twice as likely to survive gastrointestinal cancer than those who didn’t take the drug.

What is unique about this number is that it was determined after taking into account confounding variables such as age, sex, cancer stage, and form of cancer treatment.

Dr. Frouws, the head of research behind this project, came forth stating that he wants to change the medicinal formula that we as a nation have come to accept. The formula we currently have is that medicine should be personalized, which leads to an extreme increase in price and a decrease in effectiveness over the general population.

Dr. Frouws thinks that we need to reverse this idea and instead of personalizing medicine, we need to take a step toward the generalization of medicine.

image1 (2)
Photo By: Danielle Johnson

The benefit of a cheap, well established, and over-the-counter drug such as Aspirin is the key to treating the masses. It’s because that Aspirin isn’t a personalized drug, it can treat a larger group of people all while focusing in on the treatment of a select individual.  

In today’s modern economy where the number of middle class citizens increases daily, this is a step in the right direction. There has to be a trust between government grade pharmaceuticals and the citizens of the country or infrastructure begins to falter. We see people on the news like Martin Shkreli, who bought out Turing Pharmaceuticals and raised the price of the drug Daraprim (a drug used to treat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis) from $13.50 to $750, receiving colossal backlash from the general population. We as a nation can’t have people doing that because it breaks the bridge that took years to set up which is why this study done by the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands is so vital to the progression of medicinal science.

A guide for being sick in college

Being sick at college is no fun. Graphic from Doctors in Training
Being sick at college is no fun. Graphic from Doctors in Training

Your health is more than just the physical condition of your body. In the past two weeks, every student on campus seems to be catching an unwelcoming sickness. Being sick in college is not pleasant; you don’t have anyone to take care of you and make you food. And living in college means living with germs! I was sick this past week and it was so hard to get out of bed for every 8am or 9am class and last Friday, I heard every student sitting behind me in my COMS 130 class coughing or sneezing. It was horrible and I’m scared to get close to anyone! Work piles up as you stay in bed and that’s not fun either. But at some point, every college student is going to get sick. Here are some tips I have for you from experience, if you’re sick with the Radford plague:

  1. Go to the Student Health Center in Moffett Hall and ask for a cold kit (this was a lifesaver for me) and most importantly– it’s free.
  2. Drink lots of fluids and get a good night’s sleep.
  3. Stay away from anyone who’s sick as well and keep hand sanitizer with you in your backpack at all times.
  4. Grab some chicken noodle soup from the Au Bon Pain cafe since your mom can’t make you any, and trust me it’s delicious! Remember to eat healthy.
  5. Stay prepared with your medicines and cough drops.
  6. Try to avoid sharing personal items and keep your room clean.
  7. And lastly, if you’re going to miss a class, let your professor know beforehand!

The best way to treat illness is to prevent it! Also, in my opinion, it’s okay for students to take it easy when they’re sick, don’t stress too much otherwise it’ll be harder on you to get better. Not only is it important to get well and ready to college again but to not hurt any other student’s health. I hope the ones not sick can manage avoiding the plague.

Follow these tips to tackle your sickness and don’t forget to stay warm!



Ear piercings, circumcision and child mutilation –oh my!

I’ve had my ears pierced since I can remember. I don’t remember actually getting them pierced, but if I wanted to take them out, I could — and they’d grow back fine. Some parents disagree with piercing a child’s ears because, in their eyes, it’s “mutilation.” However, parents that argue against piercing a child’s ears often seem to have another child who was circumcised.

No female genital mutilation! Graphic from Janie Maitland
No female genital mutilation! Graphic from Janie Maitland

Circumcision is rooted  in religious beliefs for both  males and females. Female circumcision, better known as female genital mutilation(FGM), is typically done in third-world countries. Many small countries in Africa encourage FGM because they believe women are supposed to be pure. FGM essentially paralyzes a woman’s genitals, making pleasurable sensation during sex completely non-existent. This practice also causes many complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Women who have been circumcised often develop scar tissue around their vagina, making natural childbirth extremely painful and, in some cases, impossible. Many women and girls have died or lost a child because of the extreme danger of childbirth after being put through FGM.

Women who are put through FGM are usually at the age of puberty, and can remember the pain. There’s extreme irony in this practice, as some women who have failed to successfully give birth because of FGM have been left in the wilderness alone to be killed by animals. It’s believed that women who cannot successfully reproduce are cursed and will bring bad luck to the village, and are therefore banished. It’s strange to me that this practice would even be considered because it would make it impossible for most women to give birth.

There are absolutely no health benefits to FGM. It’s a cultural and religious practice used to control women and to keep them from desiring “explicit” sexual activities.

So what about the health benefits of male circumcision? There’s some speculation that circumcising baby boys will later prevent health risks such as urinary tract infections, STI’s and even HIV. Although there’s some truth to these speculations, for the most part there are more risks than benefits in male circumcision.

Male circumcision performed on babies can cause scarring, hemorrhaging, infection from the incision.It’s also painful to the baby. Babies can experience difficulty peeing and may develop urinary tract infections immediately after circumcision. The foreskin of the penis is a protective barrier. It can prevent injury, protect the head from germs and other bacteria, and increases sexual pleasure for both male and female partners.

Circumcision also has extreme religious roots. Anyone who’s read the Bible remembers God commanding Abraham to circumcise himself at the age of 99, as well as all of his descendants.  God said, ” You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.” In other words, God wanted Abraham to circumcise himself as a symbol of loyalty. Just as women in the Bible were expected to commit their virginity to God before they are married, men were expected to experience less sexual pleasure because, I suppose, God could please them in other ways.

I’m no expert on penises, seeing as I don’t have one. However, it does seem like having scarring around the head of the penis would render some nerves down there completely useless. It also seems funny that God would create men with foreskins and then command them to cut them off. Circumcision can’t be fixed on males or females. Those parents who argue that piercing ears is somehow related to mutilation, but opt to have their child circumcised, are complete hypocrites. I’m glad my mother had my ears pierced when I was little so I don’t remember the pain. Circumcision is a different story, though. Very few men have to be circumcised later in life, and men who grow up curious as to what it’d be like to have had a foreskin can’t undo it. If I grew up angry at my mother for piercing my ears, I could just take them out and let them grow back.

Hysterectomy vs. Vasectomy

There comes a time in every adults life, where a decision has to be made. Some people may make this decision after they’ve had enough kids, and some may make this decision before they even have kids. This decision isn’t an easy one and it can drastically change a persons body forever. This decision comes in two different flavors: hysterectomy and vasectomy.

This decision of who’s getting “fixed” is usually a mutual decision between a couple who are either done having kids or have decided not to have kids. Either way, once the procedure is done, the end result is always the same: the couple can no longer have children. Although many couples usually have an easy time deciding who’s going to be undergoing a procedure, there are a lot of risks that need to be taken into consideration.

sex organs
“This decision comes in two different flavors: hysterectomy and vasectomy.”

Many men feel that getting a vasectomy will somehow end their manhood. Although the man can no longer produce children, there’s no reason for him to feel that he isn’t as manly. On the other hand, there are a lot of hormonal and bodily issues that women can experience after getting a hysterectomy. Hysterectomies are very invasive. The woman’s entire reproductive system is essentially cut out of her. Although women can also get their tubes “tied,” this is also extremely invasive compared to the simplicity of a vasectomy.

Vasectomies are typically done in one doctor visit, with only local anesthesia being used. The man may be a little sore for the first few days, but he will recover quickly and will be able to continue his normal life, only having to take Tylenol or other drug store pain killers. However, a hysterectomy requires general anesthesia, a hospital stay and much stronger pain killers. There is also a lot of scarring that can occur.

Not only are hysterectomies a lot more dangerous and take more recovery time, they can affect a woman’s hormones in a way that could require additional medication. Many times, a woman will have a very difficult time getting aroused or achieving orgasm after getting a hysterectomy or getting her tubes tied. This issue doesn’t usually occur in men following vasectomy, although it can occur because of old age. Although men may not ejaculate, they will still be able to achieve orgasm.

Although many men may opt for a vasectomy and have no issue making that decision, I believe it’s important for men to realize that a procedure doesn’t affect their manhood. Making this small sacrifice for their partner is a lot easier than seeing them have a difficult time recovering.

RU’s bioethics symposium poses questions about medical ethics in a modern world

Radford University hosted a bioethics symposium on Tuesday, Sept. 17th 2013.

The symposium, which was held by Dr. Michael Gillette, highlighted important points about the growing bioethics field and its possibilities for Philosophy majors.

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