News October 2004 Issue

In the News: 10/04

U.S. Population Overdosing On Pain-Relievers
More than half of the people who buy over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications either take more than the recommended dose or take them more often than the label advises, according to a large-scale study by the American College of Emergency Physicians and the Emergency Nurses Association. The study, which was sponsored by Pfizer, included 3,443 men and women who had taken pain relievers for a variety of reasons (backache, headache, joint pain, arthritis). Nearly 60 percent admitted to taking more pills than recommended, and nearly 50 percent said they take them more often than advised. Equally alarming, 24 percent admitted taking an OTC drug at the same time they were taking a prescription pain-reliever. Researchers lay the blame on the perception that any drug bought over the counter comes without risk, and warn that, with any medication, misuse can result in serious health consequences—particularly severe gastrointestinal problems that could land the user in an emergency room.

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Early RA Treatment With Multiple DMARDs Recommended
Finnish researchers have found that early treatment with a three-medication DMARD (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug) regimen significantly retards joint damage in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The study, which followed 178 patients—those treated with a single drug as well as those treated with a combination of drugs—for five years, found that RA progression was retarded by 33 percent in those on the multi-drug regimen. Patients were randomized to a single DMARD (sulfasalazine with or without prednisolone) or to sulfasalazine, methotrexate, and hydroxychloroquine (with prednisolone). Patients in both groups continued treatment for two years, after which their choice of treatment was unrestricted. The study found that the high rate of remission and slower joint deterioration achieved through the use of combination therapy at two years continued even after five years, despite the patient’s choice of drug therapy following the two-year period.

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Custom Insoles No Better Than Off-the Shelf Orthotics
If you think you’re giving your feet a treat by investing in pricey custom-made orthotics (insoles worn in shoes to treat foot problems or allow the foot to function more efficiently), a recent study published by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society may give you pause for thought. Researchers supplied 874 Israeli infantry recruits (who had no existing foot problems) with custom and off-the-shelf orthotics made of both soft or semi-rigid materials, then proceeded to track their experience for 14 weeks. Users preferred the comfort of semi-rigid orthotics (custom-made or off-the-shelf) over the softer insoles. Researchers also found no statistical difference in foot problems among the population wearing either custom-made or off-the-shelf models. Researchers concluded that if the orthotic is not designed to treat a foot abnormality, there is little reason to prescribe a high-cost custom-made device, which provides no more advantage in comfort or in the reduction of fractures, ankle sprains, and other foot problems than an off-the-shelf product.

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Study Urges Earlier Screening For Osteoporosis
Despite newer therapies and drugs to treat osteoporosis, millions of people in the U.S. still remain undiagnosed and untreated until they suffer a broken bone. This, according to a study by the Stanford (Calif.) Prevention Research Center, is due not only to the availability today of such wonder drugs as oral bisphosphonates and raloxifene but to physicians who have neglected other less-sophisticated components—calcium, vitamin D, exercise—that are important in the overall treatment of osteoarthritis. The study concludes that primary-care physicians need to pay more attention to patients needing early screening for osteoarthritis—before bones are fractured.