Short Shorts September 2015

“Female Viagra” Approved by FDA

The good news: The FDA has approved flibanserin (Addyi), the first drug to treat premenopausal  women with low sexual desire. The appropriately colored pink pill has been described as the female equivalent of the  erectile dysfunction drug, sildenafil (Viagra).

(Sorry, postmenopausal girlfriends. You will have to continue to rely on the prowess of your partner to rev you up. It might be as easy as a bouquet of flowers, or if your partner showers more than once in a blue moon and shaves the thorny shrubbery off his face.  Girlfriends, am I right about that?)

The bad news: Addyi is not for patients with liver impairment and the medication carries a Boxed Warning about the risks of severe low blood pressure  and loss of consciousness among those who drink alcohol. (If this warning is not a red flag for disastrous situations in bars, what is?) 

Of course, it’s comforting to know that because of the label warning, Addyi will only be available through certified health care professionals and certified pharmacies. (Sure, like you can only get Oxycontin on prescription — unless you know a street dealer.)

My vision of what COULD happen:

Ultimate optimist that I am, because of the government’s super success in stopping illegal drug use, I anticipate  creation of a new federal bureaucracy, staffed with government agents paid at least 100K a year (big brothers/sisters —  like Obmacare navigators) to oversee and monitor premenopausal revelers at bars and other venues where alcohol is served. This could be paid for by tax hikes and/or cuts in Social Security or Medicaid.

To avoid lawsuits, and before dispensing drinks, bartenders would have to be trained,  credentialed,  and required to administer blood or saliva tests to premenopausal women to detect the presence of Addyi (creating yet another costly, useless level of bureaucratic “healthcare”). Furthermore, bartenders  would be held responsible for Addyi being slipped into a woman’s drink by nefarious types that infest bars. Surely, one can see the endless possibilities and opportunities for government intervention in the lives of  premenopausal women in an attempt to protect them from themselves and from predators.

Back to reality: Addyi was approved with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) because of risk of severe low blood pressure and loss of consciousness. Prescribers of Addyi must be certified with the REMS program and complete training. They must also use a Patient-Provider Agreement form to emphasize the risks of drinking while taking Addyi. Pharmacists are responsible for counseling patients prior to dispensing about the importance of alcohol abstinence. (As if pharmacists do not have enough counseling responsibilities already). 

Question: What is it about this medication that requires physicians to be specially trained and  certified in order to prescribe it? Many new drugs have potentially devastating side effects but don’t require physicians to be specially trained in order to prescribe them.

Around 2400 premenopausal women took 100 mg of Addyi in 3 24-week placebo-controlled trials. Around 10% of the women in the trials reported meaningful improvements in sexual events, desire, or distress. (The nature of “distress” was not identified.)

Seriously, 10% is not a great result considering potential problems with careless or illegal use of the drug. The cost is anticipated to be around $400 a month and must be taken daily so the annual tab could be around $5,000 a year. Typically, health plans do not cover “lifestyle” drugs.

Older Online Dating: The Good, Bad, and The Ugly

Barbara E. Joe, writer, Spanish interpreter,  long time Peace Corps volunteer and single older woman has written a personal and revealing piece about the trials of online dating. It’s  lengthy (8,000 words) and if you would like a copy at no cost you can download it  here.  (You will not be subscribing to anything.)

Think Before You Ink: Are Tattoos Safe?

As the popularity of tattoos continues to grow, so does the concern about potential risks. Some risks, such as the spread of infections through the use of unsterilized needles, have long been known. But what isn’t clear is the safety of tattoo inks. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) became aware of a problem after testing inks in home use tattoo kits marketed by White and Blue Lion, Inc. FDA has confirmed bacterial contamination in unopened bottles of the company’s inks. Check out this sobering warning from the FDA.

Naaah, It Can’t Be True: Places With More Marijuana Dispensaries Have More Marijuana-Related Hospitalizations

People who live in areas of California with a higher density of marijuana dispensaries experience a greater number of hospitalizations involving marijuana abuse and dependence, an analysis has discovered.

If it’s this bad in California where pot is not legal except for “medical purposes”, what is the pot related hospitalization rate in Colorado where pot is legal? But really, does anyone care?

Who Knew? Romantic Kissing Is Not The Norm In Most Cultures

For generations, passionate kisses immortalized in movies, songs and the arts have served as a thermometer of romantic affection. But current research has found that not only is romantic kissing not the norm in most cultures, some find it uncomfortable and even flat-out repulsive.

Think about this:  Can’t we just shake hands anymore? After kissing someone with infected gums, (or worse) — yuck! At least, after shaking hands, you can use an alcohol wipe. Girlfriends, am I right about that? (I know you know I am right but you’re gonna go right on kissing, right?)

No kidding! Chantix Not Boosting Number of Smokers Who Quit?

The introduction of prescription smoking-cessation aid Chantix in 2006 has had no significant impact on the rate at which Americans age 18 and older successfully quit smoking, according to a study. (Relentless TV advertising would have you believing differently.) Additionally, Chantix has some alarming potential side effects. If you are considering using the drug, see Chantix: Why the Black Box Warning is Not Enough and Drug Should Be Removed from the Market.

Living Overseas On The Cheap?

Many Americans, fed up with what’s happening at home, consider living abroad. This interest is fueled by an increasing number of retirement publications that glorify the benefits of living in a foreign country. The usual enticement is it’s cheaper to live “there” than “here”.  It is becoming clear, at least to me, that “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence” phenomenon relating to expat living may be (and probably is)  illusory. I subscribe to a blog from Ecuador  and while many U.S. expats call Cuenca, Ecuador home, it’s not a place I would like to live.  Take a look at the blog — it doesn’t paint the same kind of rosy picture of expat living  praised  in pricey  subscription publications that promote overseas living.

New Ring Can Diagnose Sexually Transmitted Diseases In A Single Test

std-ring-resizedCredit: Image courtesy of Investigación y Desarrollo

A ring with the ability to diagnose sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis has been developed. The portable medical device called Hoope is a ring placed on the thumb, contains a disposable cartridge with a retractable needle for single use and sends the data to a smartphone where an app gives results in less than a minute. The Hoope has an anesthetic system by which an electrical pulse generates numbness, preventing pain at the time of the puncture.

Every year more than 500 million people around the world contract one of the four STDs mentioned above, 50 percent of them are between 15 and 23 years of age. (Increasing numbers of much older people are infected and don’t know it. When pregnancy is no longer an issue condom use declines with the inevitable result). The problem is that 75 percent do not present early symptoms, therefore the need for an early detection strategy.

The device functions as a home diagnostic tool and will be manufactured in China and available in January 2016 through an Indiegogo campaign. It will first be marketed in Mexico and the rest of Latin America, later in Europe and the United States. It will have a price of $ 50.

Good Grief!! Is ANYTHING safe to eat?

Ever wonder what that the words triple-washed or pre-washed on a bag of baby spinach mean? Not much according to engineers. They discovered that small peaks and valleys in baby spinach leaves could be a key reason why there have been numerous bacterial outbreaks involving leafy green vegetables. Furthermore, cross contamination in commercial processing facilities that prepare spinach and other leafy greens for the market can make people sick. But researchers are reporting a new, easy-to-implement method that could eliminate or reduce such incidences. I don’t know about anyone else, but I will continue to trust that the “triple washed” greens I eat won’t hurt me. (Or maybe not.)


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