By Gary Pepper, M.D.
A survey by metabolism.com reveals that a vast majority of the public believe doctors in the US are overly influenced in their decisions by the pharmaceutical industry. 500 visitors to the website participated in the survey. 419 (84%) answered yes to the question, “Do you feel that US doctors’ decisions are overly influenced by pharmaceutical industry money?” 56 (11%) were not sure, and only 20 (4%) voted no to this question. Continue reading
by 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.
By Gary Pepper, M.D.
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
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 the 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
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
Obesity Related Type 2 Diabetes is More Severe in Teens than Adults
by Gary Pepper, M.D. and Andrew Levine, Pre-Med, Univ of Central Florida
The recently published TODAY study found obesity related type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is more severe as a teen than as an adult, and high risk of developing diabetes could be tied to weight gain at an early age.
Between 2004 and 2009 the “Treatment Options for Type 2 Diabetes in Youth Study Group” (TODAY) gathered 700 participants who met the American Diabetes Association’s criteria for this disease. The participants were monitored for between two to six years. TODAY’s goal was to assess treatment options and the clinical progression of obesity related T2DM in youth. The mean age of the 700 participants in the TODAY study was thirteen, the majority being female. Sixty percent of the 700 participants were African American or Hispanic, with the remainder being Caucasian. The mean duration of diabetes for the study’s’ participants was less than seven months. A major worrisome finding from the study is a majority of participants were also discovered to have dyslipidemia, an abnormally high amount of fats (cholesterol, triglycerides) in the blood, as well as high blood pressure (hypertension). Continue reading
Poor eating habits are contributing to the rise of type 2 diabetes and obesity in children and adolescents. One of the major nutritional culprits is the high consumption of sugar contained in soda. The amount of sugar in soda is astounding.
by Gary Pepper, M.D. and Andrew Levine, Pre-med
If you ask the average person to define diabetes, a typical response might be “it’s when you have unhealthy eating habits and an overabundance of sugar in your blood.” Although that is not far from the truth, a more accurate definition is that diabetes is a disorder in the way our body uses insulin to process digested food for energy and storage. A good part of what we eat is broken down into glucose, the principle form of sugar in the blood. Diabetes occurs when there is not enough insulin to push the glucose into our cells. This deprives the body of the energy it needs because glucose is metabolized as fuel by all the organs in the body. Therefore in diabetes despite an elevated amount of sugar in the blood, the cells are actually starving for energy. We sometimes conceive of glucose in the blood as the enemy , but without it we would die. Continue reading
About two years ago I wrote a blog about the latest two weight loss drugs to be rejected by the FDA. One of these drugs was Qnexa a combination pill made up of two well established medications, phentermine and topiramate (Topamax). At that time the FDA felt there was not
Understanding of the various ways vitamin D effects the body is growing rapidly. Originally this vitamin was thought to only effect calcium in the blood and bone but recent research shows it possesses important influences on the immune system and cancer development. A study just published in Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism June 2012 now shows that this same vitamin can possibly influence metabolism. A common disorder of metabolism known as Syndrome X or the Metabolic Syndrome is characterized by high triglycerides and low good cholesterol (HDL), abdominal obesity, along with elevated blood pressure and blood sugar. The researchers discovered those with vitamin D levels between 16 and 20 were 75% more likely to develop the Metabolic Syndrome within 5 years than those with vitamin D levels above 34 (levels below 30 are considered low).
Whether low vitamin D is the cause of the Metabolic Syndrome is unclear. Vitamin D prevents fat cells from reproducing, helps the natural process of triglyceride breakdown and helps regulate blood sugar by making insulin work more efficiently. Without enough vitamin D the fat cells could multiply faster, triglyceride levels accumulate and blood sugar rise as is seen in Metabolic Syndrome.
As I have explained in previous posts at metabolism.com, vitamin D is also related to development of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and obesity in Type 2 Diabetes which could be considered a more advanced form of Metabolic Syndrome.
Doctors’ efforts to monitor vitamin D levels are being hindered by new regulations by Medicare and private insurance carriers to deny payment for vitamin D screening. Lately, a number of my patients’ vitamin D tests were denied by insurance carriers with patients being charged over $200 per test because it was not “indicated”.
Recommendations for vitamin D supplementation are debated. When skin is exposed to sunlight it manufactures vitamin D so there is thought that people who get sun exposure should not need vitamin D supplement but that is not borne out in reality. Previously the recommended daily allowance (RDA) was 400 units per day an amount which has been increased slightly for the elderly. Some experts recommend 1000 unit daily or more. In my practice I generally recommend starting at 1000 units and then rechecking 25 hydroxy vitamin D levels a few months later. Some individuals require 4000 unit or more daily to achieve vitamin D levels over 30. When purchasing vitamin D the D3 form appears to be converted in the body more rapidly than the D2 variety. High priced brands of vitamin D, in my opinion, are a waste of money.
Gary Pepper, M.D.