1. Promise of holistic healing draws cancer patients to Mexico clinics
Despite controversial origins and consistent bad press in the United States, Tijuana's border clinics continue to attract people like the Hausers, who are in search of more holistic approaches to cancer treatment. Because little data exist on how many clinics are operating, it's unclear how many American cancer patients visit Mexico each year, said Stephen Barrett, a patient advocate who runs the Web site, http://www.quackwatch.com/. "If they answered, you could not be sure they were telling the truth. They might have an incentive to raise the number," he said in an e-mail. "To make matters more complicated, many of the 'cancer' clinics also see people who don't have cancer." The concept of complementary and alternative cancer treatment has slowly been gaining acceptance for more than a decade in the United States, with the creation of entities including the National Cancer Institute's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine. But no one recommends that alternative treatment be used to replace conventional care, such as chemotherapy or radiation, he said. As far as Tijuana's border clinics are concerned, the American Cancer Society cautions that "methods promoted in Mexican border clinics are not consistent with scientific understanding" of cancer and its treatment. "Although these clinics often claim great success in advertisements and books, they have not published convincing evidence in medical journals to support those claims," the ACS says in a section on its Web site called Questionable Cancer Practices In Mexico. "Patients traveling to the Tijuana area for treatment appear to be subjecting themselves to costly and potentially hazardous regimens, especially if they postpone standard medical care." Loose regulatory standards in Mexico allow Tijuana's clinics to thrive, many offering expensive treatment in luxurious, spa-like settings, complete with fresh meals, exercise classes and emotional and spiritual counseling. Many herbs and dietary supplements used in border clinics are not considered dangerous; they just have not been put through the rigorous clinical trials required for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve them for use as cancer treatments. Others, like the antioxidants carotene, lycopene and vitamins C, E and A, have produced inconsistent results in large-scale trials and are still being researched. Still others, like laetrile, a chemical compound whose active ingredient is cyanide, can be dangerous, the National Cancer Institute says. But many patients say they are attracted by the warm, caring relationship between patient and clinic staff.
CNN by Emanuella Grinberg
2. Walgreens clinics to test diabetes treatment program
In the latest effort to expand its retail clinic business into specialized services, Walgreen Co. confirmed plans to launch a pilot program to treat the growing number of Americans with diabetes, a key driver of higher health-care costs. Drugstore giant Walgreens' Take Care clinics and CVS Caremark Corp.'s MinuteClinic subsidiary are this year rolling out specialized services that go beyond treating routine maladies. Launched about four years ago, the retail clinics have treated such ailments as ear and sinus infections, strep throat and pink eye. Retail clinic operators have started training nurses to handle more specialized care, including injections for chronic conditions like osteoporosis and asthma. They also are offering treatments for advanced skin conditions that include removal of warts and skin tags or closing minor wounds. This week, Walgreens Chief Executive Greg Wasson said on the company's third-quarter earnings call that it will expand its offerings for chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes. He would not disclose the locations. About 90 percent of those with diabetes have the Type 2 variety, when a patient's body does not produce enough insulin or does not use it effectively. People with Type 1 diabetes produce very little to no insulin.
ChicagoTribune by Bruce Japsen June 25, 2009
3. Making a dent in Obesity: Is it time to treat junk food like tobacco?
"Obesity [among children] has tripled in just a generation," said Thomas Frieden, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this week in Washington, DC, at the first annual CDC conference on the "Weight of the Nation." "We know that our genes haven't changed this fast. We know that our preferences have not changed this fast. We are hardwired to like sweet and salty food," he said. "What has changed is our environment, and if we are to make a change in the obesity epidemic, we're going to have to change the environment in order to gain control." While no easy answers exist on how to tackle this epidemic, Frieden said that the public health community may want to take pages from the playbook on eliminating smoking, the leading preventable cause death in the country. He suggested a three-pronged approach used to reduce tobacco use that could be used to rewire the way children—and even adults—approach food. Price is the first prong. One solution, which was done with tobacco products, is to make these junk foods more expensive through taxes. Exposure is the next key intervention. This means increasing exposure to healthy foods through placement in supermarkets or small grocery stores, and making these foods more readily available. Decreasing exposure to unhealthy foods—like decreasing exposure to tobacco—is another avenue, albeit a tricky one. Image is the third key area. "Food ads for children are extensive," Frieden said. "I think when we look back 20 to 30 years from now, we'll say 'what in the world were they thinking'?—allowing the kind of advertising that occurs today still to exist in the midst of an epidemic of childhood obesity."
HealthLeaders Media by Janice Simmons July 30, 2009
4. Cost of Hospital care for obese children has doubled
Americans, and specifically taxpayers, paid nearly double in costs of hospitalizing obese children between 1999 and 2005, with almost twice as many such children requiring hospital care, according to a new report in the journal Health Affairs. The authors don't know exactly why, since the prevalence of childhood obesity did not change. However, they speculate that physicians may be more frequently listing obesity as a primary or secondary reason for admission. Another possible reason is that children are becoming even more obese and for longer periods of time, giving disease processes much more time to cause damage. Hospitalizations increased even for children as young as age 6. The report evaluated hospitalizations whose primary or secondary diagnosis was listed as mental illness, pregnancy-related conditions, asthma, diabetes, appendicitis, pneumonia, skin and subcutaneous infections, biliary tract disease and other bone diseases in children and adolescents ages 2 to 19. All tolled, their care cost the healthcare system $237.6 million in 2005, up from $125.9 million in 2001, measured in 2005 dollars. Seen in 2008 dollars, the numbers are 20% higher.
HealthLeaders Media by Cheryl Clark July 10, 2009
5. Obesity costs U.S. $147 billion annually
The United States is spending as much as $147 billion each year for obesity-related healthcare–representing nearly 10% of all annual medical costs–and that figure is expanding along with the nation's waistline, according to a joint study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Research Triangle Institute. The study titled–Annual Medical Spending Attributable to Obesity: Payer- and Service-Specific Estimates—was released on Monday, the opening day of the CDC's Weight of the Nation conference in Washington, DC. The study reports that obesity increased by 37% between 1998 and 2006 and that increase is responsible for 89% of the overall increase in obesity costs that occurred during that period. In addition, the proportion of all annual medical costs that are due to obesity increased from 6.5% in 1998 to 9.1% in 2006. This total includes payment by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers, and includes prescription drug spending. Overall, obese people spent $1,429 (42%) more for medical care in 2006 than did normal weight people. These estimates were compiled using national data that compare medical expenses for normal weight and obese people. In addition to the study, CDC has issued its first comprehensive set of evidence-based recommendations to help communities tackle the problem of obesity through programs and policies that promote healthy eating and physical activity. The report–Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States–and a companion implementation guide, appear in CDC's MMWR Recommendations and Reports, and are also available on the CDC Web site.
HealthLeaders Media by John Commins July 28, 2009