Watch Out for Falling Drug Prices!

Falling Prices yellow road signPrices of Popular Drugs Set to Fall

The prices of a number of widely used drugs are expected to drop in coming years as brand name patents expire and generic versions become available,
according to experts.

Over the next 14 months, patents on seven of the world’s 20 best-selling drugs will expire, according to London-based EvaluatePharma Ltd.
That includes the two leading sellers, the cholesterol medication Lipitor and the blood thinner Plavix, the Associated Press reported.

Generic versions of other top-selling drugs for asthma, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV, bipolar disorder and high triglycerides will also be introduced on the market.

Over the next decade or so, the patents of about 120 brand-name drugs will expire, according to prescription benefit manager Medco Health Solutions Inc.,
the AP reported.

CDPH Reports First Human West Nile Virus Case of 2011

Fight the Bite, West Nile virus prevention logoSACRAMENTO – The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today reported a man in Santa Barbara County is the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus infection in California this year. The man was hospitalized, but is now recovering at home.

“With the first confirmed human illness from West Nile virus this year, we are intensifying our surveillance for the virus with the help of all counties,” said CDPH Chief Deputy Director Kathleen Billingsley. “To protect against West Nile virus, the most important step people can take is avoiding mosquito bites.”

West Nile virus is most commonly transmitted to humans and animals by the bite of a mosquito harboring the virus. The risk of serious illness to most people is low. However, some individuals – less than 1 percent – will develop serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis. People 50 years of age and older have a higher chance of getting sick and are more likely to develop serious symptoms. Recent data also indicate that those with diabetes and/or hypertension are at greatest risk for serious illness.

To date in 2011, West Nile virus has been detected in 14 other California counties.

CDPH recommends that individuals prevent exposure to mosquito bites and West Nile virus by practicing the “Four Ds”:

  1. DEET – Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 according to label instructions. Repellents keep the mosquitoes from biting you. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.
  2. DRESS – Wear clothing that reduces the risk of skin exposure to mosquito bites.
  3. DAWN AND DUSK – Mosquitoes bite in the early morning and evening so it is important to wear repellent at this time. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens with tears or holes.
  4. DRAIN – Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flower pots, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls. If you have a pond, use mosquito fish (available from your local mosquito and vector control agency) or commercially available products to eliminate mosquito larvae.

California’s West Nile virus website includes the latest information on West Nile virus activity in the state. Californians are encouraged to report all dead birds and dead tree squirrels on the website or by calling toll-free 1-877-WNV-BIRD (968-2473).

Scientists Discover New Role for Vitamin C in the Eye and the Brain

Vitamin C spelled out with orange slicesScienceDaily (July 15, 2011) — Nerve cells in the eye require vitamin C in order to function properly — a surprising discovery that may mean vitamin C is required elsewhere in the brain for its proper functioning, according to a study by scientists at Oregon Health & Science University recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

“We found that cells in the retina need to be ‘bathed’ in relatively high doses of vitamin C, inside and out, to function properly,” said Henrique von Gersdorff, Ph.D., a senior scientist at OHSU’s Vollum Institute and a co-author of the study. “Because the retina is part of the central nervous system, this suggests there’s likely an important role for vitamin C throughout our brains, to a degree we had not realized before.”

The brain has special receptors, called GABA-type receptors, that help modulate the rapid communication between cells in the brain. GABA receptors in the brain act as an inhibitory “brake” on excitatory neurons in the brain. The OHSU researchers found that these GABA-type receptors in the retinal cells stopped functioning properly when vitamin C was removed.

Because retinal cells are a kind of very accessible brain cell, it’s likely that GABA receptors elsewhere in the brain also require vitamin C to function properly, von Gersdorff said. And because vitamin C is a major natural antioxidant, it may be that it essentially ‘preserves’ the receptors and cells from premature breakdown, von Gersdorff said.

Continue reading Scientists Discover New Role for Vitamin C in the Eye and the Brain

Doggone It, It’s the Cat’s Pajamas!

Dog nuzzling a kitten
I feel better already!


The Truth About Cats and Dogs: Pets Are Good for Mental Health of ‘Everyday People’

ScienceDaily (July 11, 2011) — Pets can serve as important sources of social and emotional support for “everyday people,” not just individuals facing significant health challenges, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

And, the study found, pet owners were just as close to key people in their lives as to their animals, indicating no evidence that relationships with pets came at the expense of relationships with other people, or that people relied more on pets when their human social support was poorer.

Psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University conducted three experiments to examine the potential benefits of pet ownership among what they called everyday people. The results of the current study were reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology®, published online by APA.

“We observed evidence that pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences, than non-owners on several dimensions,” said lead researcher Allen R. McConnell, PhD, of Miami University in Ohio. “Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.”

Continue reading Doggone It, It’s the Cat’s Pajamas!

And You Thought Office Politics Were Toxic!

Man at computer wearing gas mask
It does make coffee breaks tricky

BOSTON, July 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Researchers studied over two dozen offices in Boston and discovered dangerous flame retardant chemicals – polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) – banned by an international treaty  – are contaminating every office. Exposure to PBDEs in the Office Environment: Evaluating the Relationship Between Dust, Handwipes, and Serum, was published June 30th in Environmental Health Perspectives.

“These chemicals can mimic our bodies’ natural hormones and may contribute to problems with reproduction and development,” explains Ami Zota, Sc.D., researcher with the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California San Francisco, and not affiliated with the study.  “Young men and women of child bearing age working in offices should know that fetal exposure to PBDEs can alter brain development and lead to long lasting developmental deficits including reduced IQ.”

“While our study sampled a relatively small number of offices, the findings suggest additional research could indicate most offices are contaminated,” says Tom Webster PhD., study co-author and associate chairman, Boston University School of Public Health. “PBDEs are very pervasive but even in new offices with brand new furniture we found PBDE compounds present.”

The study found frequent handwashing appeared to reduce exposure to certain PBDEs.

“An outdated California regulation virtually forces manufacturers to put these flame retardant chemicals into foam for products meant for sale in California and elsewhere, even though doing so doesn’t prevent fires,” explains Ana Mascarenas, from Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles.

“Fire retardant chemicals used to meet California regulation don’t provide a fire safety benefit,” says Arlene Blum PhD, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute and co-author of a recent study documenting lack of fire safety benefits from the chemicals used for CA  regulation, TB 117. “Exposure is linked to thyroid disease, lowered IQs in children, and reproductive effects such as infertility.”

Kathy Curtis, coordinator, Alliance for Toxic Free Fire Safety, says failure in federal law explains how PBDEs persist in consumer goods, “When Congress eventually reforms the nation’s chemical law – the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 – we’ll have safer products. If industry had to prove that flame retardant chemicals were safe for human health, they’d never have been approved for use to begin with.”

For more info:

CA DWC Goes the Extra Mile

California Deptartment of Workers' Compensation automobile
MPG = MedicalCare Per Gallon

California DWC Increased Mileage Rate For Medical Expenses

Oakland, CA (CompNewsNetwork) – The mileage rate for medical and medical-legal travel expenses increased and has been in effect since July 1, 2011. This rate must be paid for travel on or after July 1, 2011 regardless of the date of injury.

Labor Code section 4600, in conjunction with Government Code section 19820 and the Department of Personnel Administration regulations, establishes the rate payable for mileage reimbursement for medical and medical-legal expenses and ties it to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Cal/OSHA Continues Enforcement of Heat Illness Prevention Requirements

By California Department of Industrial Relations, Cal/OSHA             Published: Thursday, Jun. 30, 2011 – 5:00 pm
Summer heat safety patch
Wear it on your sleeve!

The Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) continues to focus on heat illness prevention as temperatures again rise to double digits. Last week’s enforcement actions uncovered violations of the heat standard across the state, and resulted in the shutdown of an agricultural employer’s operations for failing to protect workers in high heat. The grower failed to provide shade and other measures for his workers in temperatures that registered 105 degrees before noon.

“The safety and health of California’s outdoor workers is vital and our inspectors are out making sure that safety regulations are followed,” said DIR Acting Director Christine Baker.  “Enforcement, while key, is only one tool we use to ensure compliance. We also partner with industry, community, and labor groups to educate employers and workers on steps needed to prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths.”

Cal/OSHA inspectors issued an Order to Prohibit Use (OPU) to Canoga Park-based owner Ho Ik Chang, dba Ty Farms working in Coachella, which resulted in the closure of their operation. A crew of four workers was observed in a chile pepper field working without access to shade. Inspectors learned that the crew had started their shift at 6 a.m. in heat that registered at 98 degrees at 8:30 a.m. and spiked to 105 degrees before noon.

“This is precisely why we have inspections taking place across the state, to ensure that all employers are protecting their workers with good heat illness prevention programs.  Adequate water, shade, rest breaks, training, and emergency procedures and training can mean the difference between life and death,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. “California workers in agriculture, construction, landscaping, and other outdoor jobs are at risk of heat-related illness or death, but this risk is entirely preventable.  Issuing an OPU is the strongest tool that we have in cases of imminent hazard such as this one in Coachella, and we will continue to use OPU’s when we find such high risk to workers’ health and safety.” Continue reading