...don't even ignore 'em.
-- Samuel Goldwyn

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


TV "Healthwatch," "Healthlink" -- and other syndicated short features generally health-clueless local TV anchors read to you every night -- stick with exciting "medical breakthroughs," or the latest liposuction technique. You have to read a newspaper or do your own health "watch" on the Web to get the bad news you need.

Here's a link to a major informational breakthrough-warning you won't see on local TV, published today, and reported here on NYTimes.com. The word is that a class of antipsychotic drugs that have been used to try to control the behavior of Alzheimer's patients mostly don't work, and may make people worse. Here's a key quote from a scientist from a company that makes one of the drugs in question:

“What the study does indicate is that this is a very sensitive population and that any treatment needs to be done with a lot of forethought and constant reevaluation” said Dr. Bruce J. Kinon, a Lilly psychiatrist.
The drugs that are the subject of the new study are not approved for use in the treatment of Alzheimer's, and their use is a practice known as prescribing "off label." I'll have to do some research. I don't understand why this practice is O.K. with the FDA. Or, the AMA, for that manner. But I'm just an ignorant lay person.

One more thing. If the treatment of this "sensitive population" should be performed with a lot of "forethought," why do drug companies advertise another class of Alzheimer's drug on TV? There is no cure for Alzheimer's, and the experiments in slowing it down are just getting started. Is a claim like this -- "Aricept may help..." (emphasis mine) -- enough to justify millions in advertising and the resulting pressure on doctors? Or are these companies exploiting family members? Drug advertising and marketing makes my flesh crawl.

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