Saturday, August 1, 2020

COVID-19 Vaccine Trials Need to Be Based on Good Science

It is 2020 and we still have to remind the health care decision makers that data need to be collected, analyzed, and reported by race, ethnicity, and gender. The reason behind this push to have meaningful inclusion of diverse population is that it is good science; and, to not do so may have dangerous consequences. This is especially true for clinical trials as they are meant to provide information that is useful about anyone who will use it or take it. Here is our OpEd piece on COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials that appeared in The Hill.

Buena Salud® Guide on Understanding Depression and Enjoying Life

As COVID-19 began to change our way of life I knew that this would be a hard time for most people and that many people would need support. I wrote the first edition in 2011 and because of how the science has advanced and how our expectations have changed what started as an update ended up being 90% new plus 92 endnotes. 

Life has changed and what is needed is a combination of science, clinical insights, and the lessons learned from many others. There is much that we can do on our own to make our lives better and when we cannot do it alone...there are many options for treatment.

The book is available at Amazon and at your local bookstores. 
Here is the link for English edition and for the Spanish edition

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

COVID-19 Requires Hospital to Rethink The Patient Experience

Keeping patients and health care workers safe is more than cleaning surfaces and having people tested for COVID-19 four days before they come from a procedure. It also means thinking about exposure, viral load, and ventilation. The time a patient spends in a hospital or health care facilities must be minimized for the health of the patient and all those who work in a health care setting. Procedures need to be recalibrated in real time to take into account the changing realities of COVID-19. It is not about having to wait; it is about the extra time spent possibly being exposed or exposing others.

For example, it is unconscionable that Georgetown University Hospital asks patients to check-in 2 hours before they are taken in to start the prep-op for a procedure. Good management practices would find it unacceptable that the process should take 2 hours. In the case that I witnessed the process actually took less than 20 minutes but the patient had to be there 2 hours before and then ended up waiting an additional hour because the other procedures were delayed. Of course there is paperwork that needs to be done, but much of that can be, and is often accomplished by phone or online.

I contacted the hospital by email about my concerns. The “Patient Advocate” responded in a way that made clear that they were an advocate for the hospital. I eventually called Dr. Michael Sachtleben, President, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and Dr. Lisa Boyle, Vice President of Medical Affairs kindly returned the call. I emphasized that especially now, under the current circumstances, 2 hours should be unacceptable to all. For certain what is required is timely action and not the process of a committee to agree that 2 hours is too long. The goal must be to reduce time spent in the hospital as much as possible. No excuses. Following pre-COVID-19 standard operating procedures is dangerous to some and fatal to others.

I will see if there is any change as I will be taking my patient back for a repeat procedure. 


Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Evidence on Vitamin D is Clear

In August 2018 I wrote my first blog on Vitamin D and wondered how long it would take for clinical practice to change. Much more has been documented since then to move prescribers to rethink and change what they recommend.


Even with critically ill patients the benefits were not evident. The December 26, 2019 NEJM original article “Early High-Dose Vitamin Dfor Critically Ill, Vitamin D–Deficient Patients” from The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute PETAL Clinical Trials Network concluded “Early administration of high-dose enteral vitamin Ddid not provide an advantage over placebo with respect to 90-day mortality or other, nonfatal outcomes among critically ill, vitamin D–deficient patients."

When it comes to recommending Vitamin D the willingness to change current prescribing behavior is still missingThe lag between the bench and clinical practice is not just a matter of communication; prescribers also have to be willing to change. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

High-fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and You

While the March 22, 2019  report in Science, "High-fructose corn syrup enhances intestinal tumor growth in mice," may need to be confirmed with humans, it is reasonable to expect that a similar effect will be found with people. At the very least each one of us who shops for food or beverages for ourselves and others should carefully read the ingredients that are listed on the label. And then what? When the product has HFCS...be proactive with your health and and the health of those you love and get something else.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Saving Money in Health Care

A good way to redirect the discussion on health care costs and savings is by reading our piece on clinical trials. We need to make sure that each person gets the medicines that we know will work for them. This is how to save lives and save money in our health care system.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Redo Recommendations Now: Vitamin D, Fake Data, and Hype


We all need Vitamin D, a hormone, but the challenge is in how to measure levels of Vitamin D, how to determine how much a person needs, and when necessary how to supplement it. Over the years it was difficult for me to reconcile how practically everyone I knew had a Vitamin D deficiency. Since we are not all part of one cohort and we are certainly a group that is diverse in many ways it seemed very odd that we all had the same deficiency.

An answer came in two recent articles. First and most concerning was the August 17, 2018 issue of Science article,"Tide of Lies— The researcher at the center of an epic scientific fraud remains an enigma to the scientists who exposed him."(DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6403.636). This analysis detailed that much of what we know about Vitamin D was based on Dr. Sato's fabricated studies. According to the article his work was "referenced more than 1,000 times, and 23 systematic reviews or meta-analyses have included one or more of the 12 trials." Second, on August 18, 2018 A Kaiser Health News investigation for The New York Times, "Vitamin D, the Sunshine Supplement, Has Shadowy Money Behind It," revealed the effect of one person on an entire field of practice.

Both are disturbing commentary on the state of our knowledge...and our sense of responsibility to one another. How fast will clinical practice change to take this fake data and hype into account? How long will it take to change the Recommendations for Vitamin D Supplementation, the Algorithms in medical decision making and AI, and all the other information that we give and have been giving. Given this evidence how do we answer the question, "Do I stop taking my Vitamin D?"

Friday, August 3, 2018

How Can We Do Better...

This has been a year of field research that evidenced that too often efforts to create a better situation ends up compromising a person's health and well-being. Here are three cases to consider.

Heathcare-associated Infections (HAIs)
Frank entered the hospital with pneumonia but upon returning home it seemed that while in the hospital he had contracted an infection of his foot. Several weeks later the infection was much worse and Frank was taken back to the hospital to determine how much of his leg would have to be amputated. There were no plans for rehab. 

In 2011 75,000 patients with HAIs died during their hospitalizations.

Best Practice
After Rosa’s stroke she was told that in order to prevent another stroke she needed to have the blockage in her artery cleared, i.e., carotid endarterectomy (CEA). Rosa knew the risks of the procedure but went through with it. Much to her disappointment, a few months later the blockage had reappeared. One year later she still has the blockage but no stroke.

Translational research is a step in the right direction but the continued lag from the bench (research) to the bedside (clinical practice) is unacceptable. At the same time evidence based medicine (EBM) continues to be undermined by the lack of inclusion and analysis by individual characteristics as well as the tendency of clinicians and insurers to apply a rigid set of procedures that are not nuanced to the person in front of you.

Defining Comfort
Agnes was having difficulty breathing and was taken to the hospital. Her initial diagnosis was pneumonia and a UTI; then, suddenly while at the hospital she had two heart attacks. Her family was told that (1) her heart had stopped working and was severely damaged, (2) there were no treatments available, and (3) diagnostic procedures that were invasive were not possible given her age and fragility. Agnes' family was also told that she would die that night in the ICU. Agnes's family decided that given the damage to her heart that "palliative or comfort" care was the best option for her. Somehow Agnes got through the night and after two more nights in the ICU Agnes was moved to a private room. The family was told she could not go home because the levels of oxygen given were higher than allowed in a home setting.

Comfort care what does that mean? How do we know?