Charles A. Bertrand, M.D., FACP, DIM-CD (Ret.)
Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at New York Medical College
and at the Medical University of South Carolina


I enjoy reading the Harvard Health Letter, and this month's report (December 2004) was particularly interesting. It consists of the top ten health stories of last year.

They are:

  1. Lowdown on cholesterol, high-dose statins
  2. Cloning from stem cells
  3. The rise and fall of Vioxx
  4. Making smart drugs even smarter
  5. Bad news about drugs should see the light of day
  6. Take your brain for a walk
  7. PSA speed may matter
  8. Cost shifting to "pay-tients"
  9. Controversy over coronary calcium screening
  10. The flu vaccine shortage

I'd like to add a few comments.

#1- Statins are great drugs. They have even been compared to antibiotics as the most important drug development of the past century. Of course, there are side effects — mainly involving the liver and muscles — but they're uncommon. What is recent news is the use of very high dosage — 80 mg a day is really quite high (20 to 40 mg per day is the usual dose), and this results in a very low LDL level — about 70. But these are small studies, and the jury is still out regarding high dosage statins. Larger studies are needed as well as long-term follow-up.

#6- Take your brain for a walk — and that sounds good! It's like chicken soup — "it can't hurt." The data are on the short side, but I hope that this will eventually prove true. There are other compelling reasons to exercise daily (if possible). As you may know, an exercise program helps prevent heart attacks and has other benefits as well.

#10- The flu vaccine shortage. This article gives a comprehensive explanation of what happened this year to account for the shortage. It also makes some suggestions for the future. Actually, this is a 50 year-old system that depends on chicken eggs and educated guesses about which strains or viruses will be prevalent. It is time for improvement.

For proper medical attention see your doctor on a regular basis. The above represents a general medical discussion.

The advice provided on this website is intended to be general in nature and should not be relied upon for specific treatment. If you need personal medical attention please contact your physician.

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