New Diabetes Medications Give Early Indication of Danger


warning signby Gary Pepper, M.D.
Chances are, if you have diabetes you have heard about a new class of drugs to treat high blood sugar (glucose). The first of these new medications to gain FDA approval in the U.S., in 2013, is Invokana manufactured and promoted by Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson. In the last year and a half the number of these drugs known as SGLT2 inhibitors, has multiplied faster than tribbles to include Farxiga, Xigduo, Jardiance and Invokamet. Prescriptions for these medications are also showing explosive growth, increasing 300% since January 2014. A recent forecast by Express Scripts calls for this one class of drugs to be responsible for about a 20% increase in the yearly cost of prescriptions per all members per year for the next 3 years . The explanation behind the eager adoption and dissemination of this brand new class of medications may eventually serve as a tragic lesson for diabetic patients and for the medical community in general.
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Tara Struggles with Persistent Symptoms of Hypothyroidism and Her Medical Care


Sad LadyMetabolism.com received this message from one of our readers. Her story seems typical of the sort of dilemma so many people face today. The best advice usually comes from others who face the same problem. It would be helpful to hear what others would do in her situation.

Tara’s message;

I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease in 2009, I had RAI in 2011, after my daughter turned 3 months. Being pregnant with Severe Grave’s was the scariest thing in my life at the time. I gained weight prior to my pregnancy, during, and after RAI. My family doctor told me no matter how much you ate while severe Hyperthyroid you should have been anorexic, so something else is wrong. Continue reading

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Medical Specialists Fail to Sanction Treatment for Hypothyroidism Preferred by Patients


Why Patients Aren’t Receiving the Most Effective Treatment for Hypothyroidism
By Gary Pepper, M.D.

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For the past 3 to 4 decades endocrinologists worldwide have adhered to the belief that only synthetic T4 (the most abundant of 4 thyroid hormones produced by the thyroid) is appropriate therapy for a sluggish thyroid even though it is known that a substantial number of those treated with T4 only continue to suffer from persistent symptoms of the disease. This may be because under normal conditions the thyroid produces two principle hormones T4 and T3. In 2013 an NIH study showed that 50% of those with hypothyroidism preferred treatment which includes T3 and our group reported that 78% of a subgroup of patients preferred T3 containing medication to treat hypothyroidism . Continue reading

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How the Sunshine Act Will Save You Money


By Gary Pepper, M.D.

Offering Promotional Money

Have you noticed that medication costs are skyrocketing? Even if you don’t take medication these higher costs are passed along to you in your health insurance premiums. The recently enacted Sunshine Act will combat these economic forces but in ways you may not realize. The legislation requires pharmaceutical companies to report all payments made to doctors. Physicians receiving substantial amounts of money from these companies include “thought leaders” who are sponsored by the drug companies to lecture the nation’s doctors on newly approved medications. Continue reading

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Public Support and New Research Promote Changes in Thyroid Treatment Guidelines


http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-thumbs-up-down-image17557325In a blog at metabolism.com several months ago, website visitors were asked to join an email campaign addressed to Dr. Mack Harrell, President of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE). The purpose was to ask help reversing the existing practice recommendation # 22.4 published by the AACE in 2012, calling for a ban on the use of Armour Thyroid in the treatment of hypothyroidism.  With over 800 individuals participating, the campaign appears to have achieved some success as the latest AACE treatment guidelines  released last month no longer stipulate that desiccated thyroid is unfit for treatment of hypothyroidism. Instead the statement is issued, “ We recommend that levothyroxine be considered as routine care for patients with primary hypothyroidism, in preference to use of thyroid extracts. “,   and…. “ Furthermore, there are potential safety concerns related to the use of thyroid extracts, such as the presence of supraphysiologic (unnaturally elevated, ed.) serum T3 levels and paucity of long-term safety outcome data.” Continue reading

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New Diabetes Medications Cost 100 Times More than Established Treatments


by Gary Pepper, M.D.

“New is not always better.” This caution seems reasonable when considering the value of the recently approved medications for treatment of Type 2 (adult type) diabetes.  These drugs include three new classes of medication referred to as GLP-1 analogs, DPP-4 inhibitors and most recently SGLT-2 inhibitors. The focus of this discussion will be the most widely prescribed of the newcomers, the DPP-4 inhibitors.

The first thing consumers will notice about thehttp://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-expensive-medicine-image3053770 new diabetes medications are their TV commercial friendly names,  Januvia, Onglyza, Tradjenta, and Nesina.  Mix these newcomer drugs together into a single pill with the venerable low cost generic metformin and the names becomes Janumet, Kombiglyze, Jentadueto, and Kazano.

The next thing a consumer will notice is the price tag. At the local pharmacy in Jupiter, Florida the retail prices of a 3 month supply of Januvia, Onglyza or Tradjenta are all about $1100.  A three month supply of the established generic drug, glipizide, is $9.99 and metformin is between zero and $41. Continue reading

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Glaxo-SmithKline Reneges on Pledge to End Paid Physician Promoters


Broken promise

Broken promise

by Dr. S. Brown

Less than a year ago, Glaxo-SmithKline made a public pledge to stop using physicians as paid promoters of their pharmaceutical products. Now, with the release of their new diabetes product, Tanzeum, GSK also released a list of 168 freshly minted physician lecturers, specifically trained to promote the new drug.
As of yet, no other company has joined in the effort to clean up physician marketing of new drug products. Perhaps it became clear to the pharmaceutical giant that using doctors to promote their products was just too successful a tactic to give up, particularly if the competition refused to abide by the new rules.
Coincidentally, in the 2014, September 2 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine (Ann Int Med 2014; 161 (5): 363-363), Jerry Avorn, M.D. of Harvard University, authored an opinion piece Continue reading

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Are Drug Companies Paying to Control Your Doctors’ Prescription Pad?


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by   Dr. S. Brown

As a physician in private practice familiar with highly skilled pharmaceutical representatives pitching the latest (and most expensive) medications, I am fairly good at separating truth from salesmanship. These clear cut interactions with the drug reps visiting my office are relatively harmless. Drug maker’s are now changing up the game however, with a new, more subversive tactic to influence doctors’ prescribing habits.

I have been compiling a “medical propaganda” file, consisting of emails directed to my work and personal address offering cash for my time. In less than a year, I count over 500 of these emails. Here are twenty from the past week. Some details are blacked out for legal reasons. Continue reading

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Medical Specialists Remain Resistant to Treatment for Hypothyroidism Preferred by Patients


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by Gary Pepper, M.D.

According to government estimates, 4.6% of the US population aged 12 or more has hypothyroidism (low thyroid function). Based on treatment guidelines published in 2012 by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), only synthetic thyroid hormone (levothyroxine, Synthroid, Levoxyl) is an appropriate therapy for this condition. According to these guidelines, the biologic product Armour Thyroid, is unfit for this treatment purpose. Armour Thyroid, an extract of porcine thyroid, has been available as a treatment for hypothyroidism for about 100 years. It was first used in the U.S. to treat hypothyroidism in 1892, a year after it was introduced into the United Kingdom. The impact of the AACE guidelines is more than symbolic Continue reading

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Pharmacies Label Armour Thyroid “Illegal” and Issue Therapeutic Warning


 

by Gary Pepper, M.D.http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-danger-sign-skull-symbol-image31277139

Early in May 2014 a patient being treated with Armour Thyroid (desiccated thyroid) for hypothyroidism reported that her pharmacy service would not refill her prescription for Armour Thyroid because it was an “illegal” drug. We were both very distressed to learn of this, but for different reasons. My patient was rightfully concerned that she might be receiving a wildly inappropriate medication, while I was concerned that I might not be able to prescribe a medication I knew to be extremely helpful and safe. Continue reading

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