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Flu Season for 2021 - 2022

(updated October 31, 2021)

A look at the 2021-2022 flu season, including a list of the nine vaccines available, plus a look back at last year's flu season, which had the lowest incidence of flu on record.

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New CDC V-Safe Monthly Vaccine Safety Report Data and Comparing of Three Vaccines

(May 5, 2021)

First monthly V-Safe vaccine safety report with more than 1 million enrollees provides a comparison of the reactions to the vaccines. CDC's April 30 Janssen vaccine safety report and vaccines in the pipeline.

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Type 2 diabetes drug from 'GLP-1' class of drugs that can help lower blood sugar AND cause patients to lose weight

(February 19, 2021)

Novo Nordisk, maker of once-a-day injectable Victoza for diabetes, received approval in December 2017 to market once-weekly Ozempic for diabetes. Its "semaglutide" ingredient may soon be approved for weight loss.

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A Look at the New Drugs Approved in 2020

(January 11, 2021)

53 new treatments approved by the FDA in 2020 including 21 standard and 31 orphan drugs.

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Top-Rated Prescription Drugs of 2020

January 3, 2021

Patients' picks for the best and worst drugs of 2020 - also a roundup of the year's most popular health news links from the Ask a Patient Weekly Newsletter.

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Shingrix: the New Vaccine for Shingles

October 4, 2020

A look at the new Shingrix vaccine, along with highlights of more than 200 patient reports of side effects and benefits.

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2020-2021 Flu Season Amid COVID-19

(last update: January 1, 2021)

A look at flu shot options available for the 2020-2021 flu season.

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Patient Guide to Coronavirus Websites

(updates ongoing)

Directory of authoritative websites with coronavirus case statistics, treatment options, testing, health restrictions by state, vaccines under study, clinical trials, volunteering, more.

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Generic Drugs: Comparing Three Kinds

(June 22, 2020)

A look at the differences between authorized, branded, and unbranded generic drugs.

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Coronavirus News January 2020 to June 2020

(June 22, 2020)

News on COVID-19 outbreak as reported in the AskaPatient Weekly Newsletter between January 2020 and June 2020

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Heartburn Treatments and Ranitidine (Zantac) Recalls

(Updated April 3, 2020)

Updates on ranitidine recalls due to NDMA contamination. H2 blocker, Antacid, or PPI? How to choose a heartburn treatment at the drug store.
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2019 New Drug Approvals and Old Drugs with New Warnings

(January 7, 2020)

Almost 50 new treatments were approved by the FDA in 2019. Also, there was a surge in the number of drug labeling changes due to safety reasons last year.

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Top-Rated Prescription Drugs of 2019

(January 1, 2020)

Patients' picks for the best and worst 5 drugs of 2019 - also a roundup of the year's top health news stories.

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Flu Shot Options for 2019-2020

(September 26, 2019)

What's new for this flu season. Includes chart with the nine approved flu vaccination choices for 2019.

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Overseas manufacturing of key ingredient leads to massive recalls

(Updated October 15, 2021)

The debacle of generic valsartan recalls in 2018 and 2019 and 2021; now the recall expands to include some losartan and irbesartan products in the U.S. An overview of the situation, a chart of worldwide API producers, plus lists of companies affected and list of major side effects of valsartan/Diovan.

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Finding the Right Surgeon Part II

(September 15, 2019)

Tools for researching and learning about various surgical procedures. Where to go for hospital rankings and surgeon credential information.

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Finding the Right Surgeon Part I

(September 3, 2019; updated September 15, 2019)

Tips on what to consider when choosing a surgeon. Describes web sites that rate surgeons by analyzing complication rates for risky surgeries.

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Doctor Ratings Sites

(August 1, 2019)

A look at seven popular doctor ratings sites that may help patients find the right doctor.

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Healthy Fish Choices

(July 8, 2019)

FDA's advice for pregnant women about seafood; best fish choice recommendations for everyone; ocean-friendly sources. Eight of the ten most popular kinds of seafood consumed in the U.S.

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Withdrawal Effects from Antidepressants

(June 23, 2019)

A growing number of people continue to take antidepressants for years - even after their mental health issue has resolved. Severe withdrawal symptoms are the reason.
A study identified withdrawal side effects of antidepressant and divided them into four categories: physiological, psychological, cognitive, and social impact.

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New Dementia Guidelines

(May 19, 2019)

World Health Organization's 2019-2025 guidelines aim to reduce dementia cases worldwide by reducing risk factors for cognitive decline.

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Three Regulatory Announcements

(May 12, 2019)

HHS and Drug Price Transparency, FDA Black Box Warning on Sleep Medications, and FDA Warning to INOVA Genetics Testing ("MediMap") Lab

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RTMS Device

(April 28, 2019)

A new device recently approved as a non-drug at-home treatment option for ADHD that children wear while they sleep.

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Why are so many patients prescribed gabapentin?

(April 7, 2019)

Given that an increasing number of people over the age of 50 are receiving shingles vaccines, and that a sudden increase in seniors with epilepsy isn't likely, there must be other factors at play to account for the recent surge in gabapentin prescriptions. Some attribute the increase to the opioid addiction crisis, but there are other possible reasons. Also, "Fast Facts" about gabapentin Rx.

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Drug-Induced Restless Legs Syndrome

(March 17, 2019; updated October 15, 2021)

Restless legs syndrome can be triggered by certain prescription drugs. Includes a chart of Rx drug names, drug type, and links to patient reports of the side effect.

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Readability of Patient Medication Information

(March 10, 2019)

How do patient medication guides, pharmacy privacy policies, and other prescription-related information meant for the consumer rate in terms of readability? We put a small sample of patient handouts to the test, using the "Flesch-Kincaid" readability assessment.

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Alpha Gal Red Meat Allergy

(March 3, 2019)

Research presented at a recent medical association meeting suggests that the potential tick population capable of transmitting the alpha gal allergen is much greater than was thought previously, making more people at risk of  developing the red meat allergy.

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CBD Oil as Dietary Supplement vs. Rx

(February 20, 2019) (updated May 15, 2020)

More than a dietary supplement, CBD is also the active ingredient in a prescription drug approved last year to treat a rare form of epilepsy. This article provides an overview of CBD oil's treatment potential for pain, anxiety and more; chart compares the dietary supplement oil product with the much stronger Rx drug's uses, availability, strength, price, and more.

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Pharma donations to non-profit patient advocacy groups

(January 20, 2019)

Are patient charities really advocating for patients or are they instead often advocating for the industry that funds them? A look at the growing phenomenon of industry influence via pharma company donations to patient advocacy groups. Includes chart with 10 large pharma companies' spending on charities, physicians, lobbying, and campaigns compiled from KHN and other databases.

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CMS Database as a Consumer Tool

(January 13, 2019)

CMS "Open Payments" reporting program promotes transparency and accountability by helping consumers understand the financial relationships between pharmaceutical/medical device industries and physicians/teaching hospitals.

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2018 Healthcare Roundup: the best and worst of 2018

(January 1, 2019)

Our annual healthcare review provides the five top-rated and worst-rated prescription drugs for 2018. Also news highlights and readers' favorites.

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Overcoming obstructive sleep apnea

(December 2, 2018)

Sleep apnea is a common condition which can often be overcome with lifestyle changes. Two prescription drugs may be used to treat sleepiness associated with the condition.

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When the stomach doesn't do its job: a painful condition called gastroparesis

(November 11, 2018)

Explains the digestive disorder gastroparesis, treatments like Reglan and Metoclopramide, surgical treatments, dietary recommendations, and provides resource links.

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Genetic testing for drug suitability

(November 4, 2018)

Newly approved OTC genetic test provides information on eight drug metabolizing genes, and will help a patient know how quickly or slowly their body is likely to metabolize drugs associated with a particular gene..

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Patients frequently pay too much for their Rx

(October 14, 2018)

Many patients pay more for a drug with their Rx co-pay than they would if they simply paid out-of-pocket. JAMA study results and new bans on pharmacist gag clauses are explained.

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Many common drugs come with a risk of depression

(October 7, 2018)

Around 37% of Americans are taking drugs that have depression side effects risks. These include oral contraceptives, heartburn drugs, and beta blockers. Here is a list and links to patient experiences.

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A new flu season begins with 10 vaccine choices

(September 23, 2018)

September is the official start of the flu season, and most people who choose to get a vaccine will do so by the end of this month. Here's a list of what's new, what's old but new again this year, and a chart with flu options by age range.

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Muscle relaxants and serotonin syndrome; list of drugs flagged by FDA for potential safety risks (Part 2)

(September 16, 2018)

In the most recent 2018 FDA quarterly report, a new potential risk of serotonin syndrome is associated with the use of muscle relaxants. Other drugs flagged by FDA include those for cancer nausea, thyroid, rheumatoid arthritis, fungal infections, and insulin injection products.

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Is less salt an easy blood pressure fix?

(September 9, 2018)

Discussion of salt in our diets and recommended sodium amounts, which will be under review soon as part of USDA's Dietary Guidelines for America 2020-2025 revision. Includes salt trivia and list of prescription diuretics (water pills) used to reduce salt in the body and lower blood pressure.

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Breast cancer treatments linked to neuropathy side effects

(August 19, 2018)

Neuropathy is a condition is characterized by numbness, tingling, or burning in extremities like the hands and feet. Some drugs used in conjunction with breast cancer treatment have neuropathy symptoms associated with them.

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New drug warnings for fluoroquinolone antibiotics; list of drugs flagged by the FDA for potential safety problems (Part 1)

(August 12, 2018)

FDA is making changes to warnings about fluoroquinolone antibiotics because of life-threatening risk of low blood sugar. Also a list of commonly prescribed drugs that have adverse effects reported that have been identified in the past year by the FDA for further evaluation.

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Brain stimulation therapy for depression shows promise as more patients are covered for treatment and research expands

(August 5, 2018)

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS or TMS) is a prescription treatment option that many people may not be familiar with, even though it was approved in the U.S. a decade ago.

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FDA to consider drug importation as way to lower drug prices

(July 22, 2018)

For years, the idea of importing of drugs to the U.S. to help American patients purchase their medications at cheaper prices has been proposed, but has been resisted by the FDA and others.

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Worldwide valsartan recalls and vaccine news

(July 15, 2018)

From FDA: Common hypertension drug recalled in the U.S. and more than 20 other countries. New on AskaPatient: shingles vaccines reviews

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L-dopa (levodopa)- a history of its discovery as treatment for Parkinson's disease

(July 8, 2018)

Nobel prize winning pharmacologist Arvid Carlsson, who discovered a revolutionary treatment for Parkinson's, died June 29 at the age of 95. Here's a brief history of what led him to the discovery of a treatment for this common and debilitating degenerative neurologic disease and descriptions of new areas of research.

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Does the FDA's rapidly growing database of adverse events reports improve drug safety?

(July 1, 2018)

There has been a surge in adverse events reports collected by the FDA through its Medwatch and FAERS program. Has the FDA used the plethora of data to make rapid and effective safety decisions about drugs?

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What's in your gut affects your mental health

(June 24, 2018)

There is a growing body of evidence that the bacteria in our intestines have much more to do with our health than just digestion. Our brain may not be anywhere near our intestines, but many studies are showing that what we eat can have a huge impact on our mental health.

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Yet another use for baking soda: potentially thwarting autoimmune disease

(June 10, 2018)

Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia have found evidence that drinking a daily solution of baking soda in water can reduce the autoimmune response by changing how the spleen interacts with mesothelial cells. The desired result is promising for those afflicted with autoimmune disease: less inflammation in the body.

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Side effects of sleep medications

(June 3, 2018)

Trending this week: interest in sleep medication side effects. Ambien, approved in 1992, is part of the class of insomnia drugs called Hnon-benzodiazepines," which are DEA Schedule IV drugs and act on the body in a similar way to benzodiazepines (which are usually used as tranquilizers or for anxiety).

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Recent Consumer Reports investigation finds wide disparity in Rx Prices

(May 27, 2018)

Five years later, another Consumer Reports secret shopper investigation reveals wide disparity in Rx prices among pharmacies. With more people having insurance plans with very high deductibles or poor drug coverage, more patients are paying for drugs out-of-pocket, and so they need to be cost-conscious about where they shop. Based on Consumer Reports' latest survey of drug prices, where you shop can make a big difference in your wallet. In fact, even for those with insurance co-pays, simply paying for the drug out-of-pocket could be cheaper than the co-pay itself.

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Lawmakers continue to investigate pharmaceutical price increases

(April 29, 2018)

On March 26, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill released a report from the U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, Minority Office's investigation into pharmaceutical price increases. The 12-page report identifies the 20 most-prescribed drugs for seniors in 2017 and compares price changes of those drugs for five years, between 2012 and 2017.

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Drugs for treating migraine headaches perform well

(April 8, 2018)

For the "migraine headaches" drug treatment category on AskaPatient, patients are satisfied overall with the treatment options. For the 19 drugs listed in this category, the overall average satisfaction score (combined) is 3.75, a rating corresponding to "satisfied."

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Generic Drug Price Fixing Scheme: Case Grows as 47 States and the DOJ Widen Their Investigation

(March 11, 2018; updated November 15, 2018; updated May 24, 2020)

The Department of Justice along with the attorneys general from 47 states (including the District of Columbia) are accusing at least 18 generic drug companies of conspiracy, collusion, and illegal agreements that have amounted to schemes to fix prices and assign market share.

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Glaucoma: causes and common eye drop medications

(March 4, 2018)

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. According to a study by the National Eye Institute, "the leading cause of blindness among white persons was age-related macular degeneration (54.4% of the cases), while among black persons, cataract and glaucoma accounted for more than 60% of blindness."

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Rheumatoid arthritis treatment option: tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers

(February 25, 2018)

The most common kind of arthritis is osteoarthritis, a disease of the joints causing stiffness, pain, and reduced movement. It can occur in the hands, shoulders, spine, knees, hips, and arms. While typically occurring in middle age or later, sports injuries or other factors causing repetitive stress on the joints (e.g. being overweight) can cause it to occur at earlier ages. According to National Institutes of Health (NIH), osteoarthritis affects around 23% of adults in the U.S.

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Overactive bladder (OAB): medication treatments for women and men

(February 18, 2018)

The most common type of incontinence in men and women is stress incontinence, which is defined as "involuntary leakage of urine from the bladder accompanying physical activity which places increased pressure on the abdomen." Examples of activities that trigger it include coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercising. Treatment usually involves exercise and diet modifications. As a last resort, surgery options are available.

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Flu advice and more on the health effects of cell phone radiation study

(February 11, 2018)

How long is someone contagious after catching the flu?
Also, the implications of the NIH's National Toxicology Program cell phone radiation and cancer study; it used data from more than six years ago when cell phone EMF was at a lower frequency.

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Scary side effects: nightmares and hallucinations in children taking Tamiflu

(January 28, 2018)

With the widespread outbreak of flu (including H3N2 and Influenza B) affecting the entire U.S. right now, it is no surprise that number of prescriptions written for antiviral drug Tamiflu is up by more than 600% compared with the same time last year (according to assessment). In addition to news reports about children dying from the flu, there are also reports about kids and adolescents having neuropsychiatric reactions (like hallucinations, nightmares, and behavior problems) from taking Tamiflu. In early 2008, the FDA issued a warning to health care providers about neuropsychiatric events associated with Tamiflu: symptoms such as hallucinations, delirium and abnormal behavior leading to injury.

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New drugs approved in 2017 for serious central nervous system diseases

(January 14, 2018)

While no cures have yet been found for the following four devastating neurological diseases, in 2017 each of them received an approval for a new treatment option. Costs, as expected, are very high, as are risks of side effects. The diseases (Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, Huntington's, and ALS) are listed in descending order of prevalence in the U.S.

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Notable new drugs approved in 2017 for rare diseases have high price tags but great potential

(January 7, 2018)

The FDA approved 46 new chemical drugs and three important biological drugs in 2017 after only approving 22 chemical drugs in 2016. The four drugs below were fast-tracked for approval under "priority review" status and also represent "first-in-class" innovation for the drug type. The first two are for extremely rare diseases that afflict children and received rare FDA pediatric disease priority review. The second two treat rare forms of leukemia, including a break-through gene therapy (Kymriah) that is only approved for use in children and young adults up to age 25.

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