Category Archives: health insurance

End the War on Patients by Allergan Pharmaceuticals (or is it Actavis or is it Pfizer)


By Gary Pepper, M.D.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-expensive-medicine-image3053770Have you noticed that prices of prescription drugs including generics are skyrocketing? The public is being squeezed by the pharmaceutical industry to pay increasing prices for the same medications while inflation in other areas of the economy is all but absent. Some fairly simple answers exist as to why this is occurring and there is a need to do something to stop it. Continue reading

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

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

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

National Organizations Fail to Recognize New Approach for Treatment of Hypothyroidism


The 2013 guidelines issued by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association reiterated their long standing opinion that only a single hormone, T4 (Synthroid, levothyroxine) is advised for treatment of  hypothyroidism. These key organizations

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Why Emotions Trigger Food Cravings


The old saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” implies there is a deep connection between emotions and eating. My guess is  no one is really surprised by this idea. Both men and woman can identify ways in which their mood and appetite are intertwined and it is no mere quirk of man’s personality that this is true.

Evolution tells us that we were born to eat. The earliest creatures in the world’s history were simple eating machines. Their bodies consisted of an entrance for food, a digestive tract and an exit for refuse. In order to become more efficient at getting food creatures developed a system to locate food and to move toward it. This system is known as a nervous system. The first creature to have this ability is the worm. Eventually the nervous system controlling the digestive system (enteric nervous system) began to sprout nodes which were early brains.  As time went on and the brain became better developed it split off from the nervous system that controlled the digestive tract. Everything that followed in evolution, has served the purpose of developing  increasingly efficient brains (central nervous system) for acquiring the fuel of life.

Another example of how deeply connected the gut and brain are, is to look at the development of the fetus. When a human fetus is still just a lump of jelly, the digestive  and nervous systems are one structure. Soon this organ splits into two, one to become our gastrointestinal tract and the other the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). Even though they become physically separated the chemical signals used by the gut and nervous system remain virtually identical. These chemicals comprise the groups known as neurotransmitters and hormones.

The same chemicals in the digestive tract that cause the intestines to twist and convulse (peristalsis), in the brain stimulate the emotion of anxiety. This explains why people get “butterflies” in the stomach or diarrhea when they are nervous.  The brain chemicals involved in depression can cause constipation.  The syndrome of irritable bowel disease (IBS) with its cycles of diarrhea and constipation is thought to be a reflection of an emotional rollercoaster.  The chemical relationship between mood and appetite is even more complex but no less real. One of the most common side effect of mood altering drugs is increased appetite and weight gain. Just ask anyone who has been on an anti-depressant drug such as Prozac, Zoloft or Abilify.  The chemical in marihuana that gets people high is famous for triggering the eating binge called “the munchies”.

Appetite suppressant drugs often have effects on mood and can be the source of major side effects. One new generation of appetite suppressants being developed, Acomplia, failed to be approved by the FDA because it caused severe depression and suicidal thinking.

In the next part of this series we will look at ways we can influence the brain to control our appetite.