2011 Roundup: the Good and Bad News on Drugs, Food and Health Care


2011 saw a number of developments in stem cell research, including the world’s first artificial windpipe created from stem cells. Doctors also managed to repair heart damage by injecting stem cells into patients’ otherwise irreparably damaged hearts.

And 2011 was mostly a great year for lovers of food and drink. Chocolate was shown to improve heart health, and researchers discovered that coffee appears to lower the risk for certain kinds of cancer and build resistance to some infections. And having a glass of wine with dinner can help you stay health as you age.

But 2011 saw a few food scares as well. Cantaloupes infected with listeria passed the deadly infection onto consumers; there were also concerns raised about the levels of arsenic in apples and groundwater. And that glass of wine we mentioned? Research in 2011 also tied moderate drinking to a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.

Doctors in 2011 discovered new diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and HIV.  A preventive vaccine developed in Canada is about to be tested in HIV patients, and a cure could soon become a reality. But some doctors expressed concern over the number of tests recommended to patients, especially as those patients age; some tests, like the PSA and mammograms, might do more harm than good.

The good news is, despite any concerns, there are a few easy things 2011 showed us that we can do to live healthier: quit smoking (the sooner you quit, the greater the benefits), soak up the sun, smile, and spend time with friends. Have a look at our roundup of the some of the best and worst health news of the past year, compiled from AskaPatient’s tweets over the year. We wish you a happier and healthier 2012. Cheers!

Click on the highlighted word to link to the news source.

Drugs & Treatments: The Good News

Drug patents are expiring, making way for cheaper generics in 2012

FDA approved 35 new drugs this year compared with 21 last year

New
Ebola vaccine can be stockpiled

Stem
cells shown to be capable of repairing heart damage

Stem cells used for first
artificial windpipe

Stem cells treatment used for first time for
spinal nerve repair

Stem cells show promise for treating
Parkinson's

Harmless virus
appears to kill cancer cells

Promising new
lung cancer drug available for niche group

Gene therapy shows promise for  treating HIV

Scientists are fighting malaria with
sterile mosquitoes

FDA has approved trials for a vaccine that
prevents HIV

Genetically engineered
T cells can quash cancer cells

New tool identifies
melanoma with light

New blood test measures
Alzheimer’s progression

Breakthrough in
diabetes: testing tears instead of blood

New  cheaper, faster, accurate
HIV blood test


Drugs & Treatments: the Bad News

Drug shortages are causing problems

FDA reports more than 350 drug and food recalls in 2011

Less vaccinations lead to
measles outbreaks in Europe and possibly forecast here

Flu shots
may suppress antibodies to other strains of influenza in children

Asthma drugs
might mask dangerous symptoms

Disappointing breast cancer drug
Avastin (FDA withdrew its approval)

Product packaging defects,
such as for eye drug Avastin and birth control pills

Drug deaths
outnumber traffic fatalities

Consumers are extremely concerned about
drug safety

Tenofivir gel proved ineffective treating
HIV in trial

Dartmouth study suggests only 1 in 8 saved by
mammogram

Drug-resistant
tuberculosis has researchers in Europe concerned

The prospect of microchip-embedded drugs raise “Big Brother” concerns


Food: the Good News

Non-fried fish lowers Alzheimer’s risk

Purple potatoes make blood pressure plummet

Chocolate
may lower risk of stroke and is good for heart health

Coffee
may lower risk of uterine cancer and reduces depression in women

Coffee and tea drinkers
might be more resistant to the MRSA superbug

Moderate drinking
may help you stay healthy as you age

Red wine
could boost your metabolism and help with weight loss

White fruits and veggies
(pears and cucumbers) might cut stroke risk

FDA says
organic arsenic found in apple juice is harmless


Food: the Bad News

Well-done red meat associated with higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer

Processed red meat leads to increased risk of type 2 diabetes

Canned soup
found to have high BPA levels

Salt:
Too much or too little salt is bad for cholesterol

Some
groundwater may have high levels of arsenic

Consumer Reports found high levels of
organic arsenic in juices

Vitamin supplements
might actually do more harm than good

Pesticides
linked to prostate cancer

Aspartame
(in diet sodas) linked to tumor growth

Americans are drinking too many sugary drinks

Moderate drinking
also linked to slightly higher breast cancer risk

Cantaloupes were found to blame for mysterious Listeria outbreak


Lifestyle: the Good News

Vermont is the healthiest state to live in

Quitting smoking lowers (not just lung) cancer risk

Sunshine’s
vitamin D protects against heart failure

More Americans
normal weight than overweight according to poll

Smiling
leads to longevity

Keeping busy
and having friends turns bad fat to good in mice

Moderate drinking
may help you stay healthy as you age

Exercise
cuts dementia risk, boosts vitamin D , and lowers heart disease risk

No link found between cell phones and cancer


Lifestyle: the Bad News

Mississippi is the unhealthiest state

Foreclosure crisis is affecting American's health

Being underweight linked to increased risk of Alzheimer’s

Slightly elevated blood pressure may increase risk for stroke

Wi-Fi use on desktop computers lowers sperm count

Watching SpongeBob Squarepants hampers kids' brainpower

Southerners are more likely to take antibiotics

Lack of mother-toddler bonding linked to teen obesity


Health Care Policy & Practice: the Good News

Doctors are concerned about "over-treating" patients

Many patients are now getting their vaccines from a pharmacist instead of a physician

Healthcare costs
are expected to rise at the lowest rate since 1997

Analyzing
patient data could result in fewer hospitalizations

The call for
price transparency in health care


Health Care Policy & Practice: the Bad News

Many practitioners busted this year for making fraudulent Medicare claims

Many patients don't have a clue as to what their
medical bills will be

Improper
hand washing by hospital practitioners is leading to more infections

Supreme Court rules that VT doctors cannot opt out of
sale of Rx data by pharmacies

Electronic medical records
might not be secure

Americans forgo
psychiatrist and psychologist visits but take more psychiatric drugs than ever;
More than 1 in 10 Americans are taking antidepressants but most never see a mental health professional.

-by Chuck Pletcher. Contact him and follow health news at Twitter.com/Askapatient, or get the news via our weekly healthcare news update:

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