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Chantix Is Safe For Your Heart, New Study Suggests

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that Pfizer’s Chantix, a smoking cessation drug, is safe for your heart — a big relief for smokers, doctors, and treatment facilities alike.

8,000 smokers were randomly assigned Chantix and three other similar cessation medicines for 12 weeks, while an extended study followed 2,400 participants for 12 months. According to WHNT News, ”there were five heart-related deaths and 22 nonfatal heart attacks and strokes, pretty evenly distributed among the four groups”, both during and after the treatment.

The findings conclude that Chantix, which blocks the effects of nicotine on the brain, is as safe for the heart as nicotine patches and placebo pills. By the end of the study, 34% of those taking Chantix had quit smoking, the most successful of the four treatment options tested.

Researchers noted that many of the participants did have high blood pressure and other risks for heart problems prior to the study. The findings are great news to doctors and treatment facilities for smoking addicts. “We now know it’s a lot safer to use these drugs to help people quit smoking than to continue smoking”, says Dr. Nancy Rigotti, from the Massachusetts General Hospital Tobacco Research and Treatment Center.

Buy Chantix easily, online at KwikMed.

Viagra: The Next Generation?

There has generally been a strong correlation between erectile dysfunction and old age, yet new studies suggest that Viagra is far from an old man’s drug.

Viagra, which has been on the market since 1998, has exclusively been thought of as a treatment for ED, usually for older men who are struggling with sexual performance. A new article from Healthline however, suggests that a younger generation is taking advantage of the drug’s performance enhancing benefits.

Though erectile dysfunction is rare for a young man, anxiety during sex is not. According to Sara Nasserzadeh, PhD, “When a man enters a relationship or a dating scenario these days, sex is not something that you shy away from, and it might be good or not. Sex is actually a component that could be a deal breaker for many of the relationships these days”. Though Viagra can help with the physical repercussion of such psychological barriers, it won’t fix them long-term. It will help them get an erection, but odds are they’ll still be nervous.

The Huffington Post cited studies that suggest that most young men who take Viagra “have the same ability to get erect as men who don’t take the drugs, they have less confidence in their erections and lower satisfaction with their sex lives”. Additionally, other young men may take the drugs recreationally, before drinking for example, to increase sexual performance even when the barrier isn’t psychological.

So is it safe? Though doctors note Viagra is a very safe drug, taking it recreationally has its risks. But if anxiety or stress is the problem, the blue pill can help and may be worth a shot.

If you have a psychological stressor that you think is having an effect on getting an erection, talk to your doctor or a physician at Kwikmed to see what options are best for you.

Is A Little Knowledge Helpful or Dangerous?

By Jason Poole

We all think it. When you have an unusual ache or a pain, or a tender spot, or some nagging pressure somewhere… you think, “is it serious?” Your mind will race off to scary places. Is that rash some form of cancer? Is that burning in my chest heart disease? Could this headache be an aneurysm? Or a brain tumor?

In the past, we would go about our life, waiting for these small afflictions to go away by themselves. Most of the time, they would prove to be a simple rash, or indigestion, or a headache. If the problem persisted, we would eventually see a doctor. We could present a list of symptoms, and some calendar of events, and the doctor could help us out.

That was before the Internet Age. Our fully-connected world has changed the way we respond to those mysterious aches and pains. We have instant access to information from all over the world, in the palm of our hand. In a study released last week by the Pew Research Center, it is estimated that over 80% of Internet users search online for health information. This can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse, for two significant reasons. Most of us don’t have the ability to filter out and assess medical information the way a healthcare professional can, and not all the information out there is valid.

When a doctor looks at your symptoms and tries to diagnose a problem, they draw on many things. Published information, deeply ingrained learning, diagnosis software, and hopefully, a huge pool of experience. Assessing a group of symptoms to discover a cause to an ailment is not an exact science. It often cannot be narrowed down to A+B=C. When a person without medical training looks online, their experience can be misleading, frightening, or flat-out dangerous. A common result is over-diagnosis. The web hypochondriac. The nervous parent who looks up some symptoms and becomes convinced that her child has early signs of a terrible disease. These things can be annoying or disturbing, but the stress and fear can be real. More dangerous is the possibility of a misleading conclusion, that leads to inaction or harmful action. Someone may look online and decide that they know what is wrong, and by undertaking their own course of care, they could neglect or impede good care for the true problem.

The other problem with this boom of Internet-powered self-diagnosis is the lack of reliability or accountability in the resources. There are obviously some very respectable sources of information. Some of them even have useful and helpful ‘online-diagnosis’ tools. But the problem is that a random Google search for a set of symptoms can yield a terrifying array of results. Many of these results will provide completely inaccurate, and sometimes dangerous ideas for diagnosis and treatment.

The bottom line is this: Feel free to dig. Knowledge is always a good thing. But be careful that the information you are getting is from a reliable source, and always verify any course of treatment with a medical professional. It is great to go to a doctor with some ideas, some knowledge, and some suggestions. But be careful that you don’t go into an appointment thinking you absolutely know what should be done. Be open-minded, and communicate with your care-provider, so that you can combine your research skills with their education and experience.

You Will BE the Network

By Jason P

There is some news recently about developing technology for small, low-power networks, made up of low-power, low-cost, and even disposable devices. A “Mobile Body Area Network,” or “MBAN,” will enable radio communication between tiny devices that are very close together. The goal is to be able to connect multiple devices that are on a person’s body, or clothing. The network will move with the person, and not reach beyond their personal space. It has also been called a “Personal Area Network,” or “PAN.” The main application will be medical monitoring with tiny devices, like smart bandages. While the technology and the concept have been in development for years, the initiative was given a boost when it appeared in the FCC National Broadband Plan, which we discussed here last year. This short article has a nice diagram and some more explanation.

Unfortunately, development of the technology has been hindered by some industry forces. Until recently, the technology was opposed by several industries, most notably aerospace, because it will operate in the same radio frequency spectrum that they currently use for testing and avionics. Many companies have lobbied the FCC to block further use of these frequencies, claiming that it could endanger safety and reliability of testing and avionics.

The good news last week is that various players have agreed on a plan that will limit the power and reach of MBANs or PANs, ensuring that they will not interfere with existing technologies. The industry giants that were strongly opposed to MBAN technology have now reached out to the FCC to support it. They are now urging the FCC to approve the technology with the controls and limitations to which they have agreed.

The possibilities are fascinating. Imagine a patient with chronic heart problems, with persistent heart-monitoring needs. Instead of being wired to a large, bedside monitor, the patient could have several adhesive bandages which wirelessly communicate data over their MBAN. Using very low-power radio communications over short distances, they connect to a portable wireless internet device, like an iPhone. This smartphone, or other device, can run several applications, which are monitoring the data, analyzing the situation, and seeking input or intervention from a healthcare provider when necessary. That patient is no longer stuck in a bed or tied to a monitor. They may not even be required to stay in a hospital or their home. The monitoring network moves with them, so they may be able to have a normal freedom of movement, while still being completely monitored.

Like any new technology, several companies are vying to become the market leader, and the “standard.” You are probably familiar with Bluetooth, which is already integrated into nearly all smartphones and other tablet devices. Not surprisingly, this is a front-runner in the race for MBAN technologies. Unfortunately, it uses a lot of power, so there is a low-energy version in the works. Apple has already developed a low-power modification of Bluetooth, which is currently in use with the Nike pedometer, but their system is proprietary to iPhones, iPods, and iPads. Another contender is ANT wireless, which is starting to gain popularity because of its very low power consumption. More info about this can be found in this article.

What do you think about this new technology?

Your Smartphone May Save Your Life: More mHealth

By Jason P

Last week, we looked at the possibilities of mHealth: Portable, net-connected devices which can monitor your health in realtime, and provide a new level of connection to your healthcare provider while offering new freedom and mobility to chronic-care patients.

There are a few articles this week about the nexus of mHealth, the smartphone. Not only does the smartphone provide the connectivity that we need for mHealth, but it can run the programs, or apps, that make it all possible.
An article in HealthcareITNews summarizes an report that predicts mHealth apps will triple in number by 2012. There are currently around 200 million mHealth applications in use now, and by next year, there should be 600 million patients who trust some of their medical care to the app on their smartphone or other mobile device.

Even as medical device manufacturers scramble to innovate new hardware for mHealth services, and tablets and netbooks flood the consumer market, it is starting to look like the smartphone will dominate over other hardware form factors. After all the tablet buzz last week at the Consumer Electronics Show, an industry survey, reported here, indicates that smartphones will emerge as the hardware of choice for mHealth.

Another interesting prediction this week concerns app distribution. Current app sources, like the Apple App Store and the Android Marketplace, may be replaced by doctors and hospitals and pharmaceutical manufacturers distributing their own app directly to patients. According to this article in eGov Monitor, your doctor may need to write you a prescription for some pills, and an app.

At-Home Healthcare of the Future is Happening Now

by jasonP

Imagine a common medical situation: An older patient, with chronic health issues, needs to be monitored by one or more medical devices regularly. Then a healthcare provider must review the data frequently to monitor the patient’s condition. In the past, this situation mandated that the patient be in a hospital setting, connected to bulky devices, with healthcare personnel nearby. This scenario is very expensive, and is stressful and depressing for the patient, which complicates their treatment and/or recovery.

Now imagine that the devices could function at the patient’s home, sometimes wirelessly, and that the healthcare provider who monitors the device output could be miles away. With new advances in wireless technology, portable device technology, and remote-monitoring software, this future is a reality now.

There are dozens of devices now available for in-home health monitoring. Many types of monitoring are available, from blood-pressure, to EKG, to blood chemistry. Many are even built for the patient to configure and operate themselves. Some can be connected to your home computer, and their output can be uploaded to a centralized Electronic Medical Record (EMR) repository, like Microsoft’s HealthVault. Here is some info about the devices which work seamlessly with HealthVault.

To foster new development of ‘home-health devices,’ GE and Intel announced a joint venture this week, which will focus on portable, wireless, and even ‘wearable’  devices for home health monitoring. The main goal is to give the patient greater freedom and a more comfortable environment. Additionally, taking the patient out of the hospital environment saves a great deal of money.

As a precursor to this joint venture, the two companies have already been collaborating with Mayo Clinic to study the efficacy of home health monitoring. As noted in this article, earlier this year, they began home-based monitoring of a group of chronically ill patients. Their data is fed to a central computer system every day, where doctors can see graphic representations of their vitals over time, to see trends and long-term progress.

There is already some evidence that being in the more comfortable environment, with nurturing family support, results in much better medical response.

This type of healthcare is clearly the future and much is being done on several fronts. Last week, the FCC and the FDA announced a new partnership to clear the way for this class of devices. The goal is to allocate wireless frequency spectrum and codify device safety regulations, to enable these devices to reach market as quickly and as safely as possible.

Now let’s revisit our common medical situation, but with the future of care in mind: Now, instead of being chained to a hospital bed, connected to bulky devices, with medical personnel hovering nearby, our older patient with chronic health issues can stay at home, with small devices strapped to their body. They can move about their house as much as their condition permits, while their vital data is streamed wirelessly to a doctor miles away. The patient can be surrounded by their family in a familiar environment, leading to a much greater quality of life, and probably better overall health. And this scenario will cost a fraction of what hospitalization would cost. Better care, better quality of life, and great cost savings… the future of medicine is here.

Also, two quick followups to some earlier posts (here and here) about mobile devices in healthcare:

It seems iPhones and iPads are becoming essential tools in hospital settings. Two different articles, here and here.

What’s So Bad About “Generic” Viagra?

By EmilyM

Looks can be deceiving. If something looks like the real thing and sounds like the real thing, but is offered at a mere fraction of the normal cost…well if you aren’t initially suspicious, maybe it’s time to start asking yourself, “okay what’s the catch?”

There is a time to be trusting but when it comes to buying Viagra and other medications online, it pays to start off as a skeptic. After all, this concerns your health, it’s not like buying a Prada on Canal Street in Chinatown for example. You buy the bag because you are told “it’s real,” days later the “designer” bag nearly crumbles as the cheap imitation leather and stitching falls apart. Well you bought it dirt cheap and guess what? It is cheap.

While that can be a real bummer – the whole fake “generic” Viagra thing…much bigger deal.

Counterfeit Viagra is no joke, it’s illegal and it can have terrible consequences on your health. I know I personally am sick and tired of emptying out my spam folder, constantly clearing out the clutter of countless offers for “Viagra.” I put this in quotes because regardless of the claims, chances are the only similarity between the genuine Pfizer product and the ones offered in spammy emails is the name.

This week, an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle really put the whole magnitude of the industry into tangible terms. According to a source from the article, pharmaceutical counterfeiters can make $450,000 from a mere $1,000 in seed money. To put that in perspective, the article compares this to the profits of those who peddle heroin, saying that a $1,000 seed will only yield up to possibly $20,000.

This month has marked a large victory in the war on counterfeits for Pfizer. Gone are the days when the largest drug manufacturer left the matter of catching counterfeiters up to local authorities. Now Pfizer is dealing with the matter head-on and discovered their first large counterfeiter in the process.

An article in Bloomberg Businessweek reports the story of one man, Martin Hickman, who made quite a killing off his illegal business. In fact, when Pfizer spies (formerly U.S. Customs officals) caught him, he was living a merry life of crime in his Spanish Villa, alongside his frivolous purchases, including a diamond-encrusted Rolex watch. Apparently his brief, 3-month stint in jail in 2007 for trademark infringement did nothing to curb his ways. According to the Bloomberg article, the new method of catching criminals is really starting to pay off, so far recovering nearly $5 million.

So aside from the fact that it is illegal, why exactly is buying these pills so bad?

1. Many of these counterfeits are marketed as “generic Viagra.” Currently there is no FDA-approved generic version, which means that these pills are not regulated at all. Often, the quest to make a near-identical lookalike means adding ingredients that should never be ingested in the first place. According to one report, many fake medications include things like boric acid, cement dust, road paint, chalk and brick dust, nickel and arsenic. If the active ingredient, sildenafil citrate, is found in these pills at all, it is often in trace amounts or in the wrong chemical combination, rendering it virtually useless.

2. Counterfeiters usually illegally smuggle their fake Viagra stashes into the U.S. Many times the money made from their illegal activities goes to support other criminal activity.

3. When a site does not require any type of medical assessment, massive health complications can result with any type of prescription-only medication. While it may seem convenient and easy to just order quickly with a click of the mouse, an online medical assessment reviewed by a licensed physician is the safest way to purchase medication online.

4. These scandalous companies make it more difficult for legitimate online pharmacies to operate. When operated correctly, buying Viagra online offers patients privacy, convenience and a lower cost alternative to going in to the doctor’s office and having a relatively uncomfortable conversation. In fact, according to research from the University of Utah and published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, an online medical assessment can actually be safer than the traditional in-office visit.

Some telltale signs that an online pharmacy is not legit (and neither is the medication they claim is the “real thing”):

* Viagra is offered in “quick dissolve” or “soft tabs,” neither of these are produced by Pfizer

* Claims to be a cheaper “generic” version

* Offers medication without a prescription

Hopefully with Pfizer’s new initiatives and a collective growing knowledge of the dangers of fake medication, these criminal counterfeits will find that crime truly doesn’t pay.

KwikMed.com is the ONLY company currently granted regulatory approval to prescribe Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, Propecia and Chantix online. All prescriptions are monitored by licensed physicians, overseen by a regulatory board and all pills are genuine, domestically manufactured and name brand products.

Is it Fake Viagra or the Real Thing?

By EmilyM

Today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell whether you are getting the real thing or some potentially dangerous knock-off when you order medication online.

In an industry that is overwhelmingly filled with scam artists, it’s a bit of an uphill battle to stand out when you are one of the few legit pharmacies prescribing medication online. This is especially true when you are dealing with erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, since these are the most frequently targeted. Just take one look in the spam folder of your email if you need further proof. Illegal pharmacies are everywhere and they are sure putting up one heck of a fight to stay in the game.

Many people do not realize the dangers of buying “generic” erectile dysfunction medications. It’s easy to be deceived when these counterfeits are priced well below the actual manufacturer’s price. But like many things, when it seems “too good to be true,” generally it just may be.

Currently there are no FDA approved generic versions of these on the market. This too may change over time as the product’s manufacturers eventually lose their patents, but for now there are no exceptions. What many of these pharmacies do is illegal and unquestionably immoral.

While some of the pills peddled as “the real thing” turn out to have at least some of the active ingredient in Viagra, Sildenafil, it’s usually in the wrong amount or wrong form if it is even there at all. Tests have revealed that many fakes are made up of things like road paint, cement dust and chalk and are usually manufactured in dirty warehouses, not medical labs. These factories and warehouses typically make other, unrelated products all day and then simply switch over to the illegal pill production at night. This is why there have been plenty of strange ingredients discovered; it is often leftover from the making of construction materials and household products.

Fortunately, however, it appears that even more of these fraudulent operations are beginning to make their way to the news and this is hopefully starting to shed some light on one very shady illegal industry.

Just a few weeks ago, a huge drug bust in Dubai took place when a customs team discovered nearly 7 million fake Viagra pills. This may sound like no real threat to American customers, but places like Dubai are often the holding area for many criminal shipping rings. These fake and potentially dangerous pills stay in these holding areas before making their way to U.S. medicine cabinets. Consumers continue to purchase these fraudulent pills unknowingly online.

A second bust was even more shocking. For the first time ever in the pharmacy/wholesale supply chain in Australia, fake Viagra somehow leaked in. The product was deceivingly labeled as 100 mg Pfizer Viagra in packs of four. Since these were showing up in legitimate supplies at pharmacies, it was not immediately known or even suspected that they could be fake. As a precaution, pharmacists in Australia have been advised to pull their stock of Viagra matching the batch number. There have been around 800 packs intercepted so far. It comes as quite a shock for the people in Australia since there has never been a known problem of counterfeit pill production there. Any fake pills that have been confiscated in the past had been brought in illegally through websites that shipped from other countries.

The problem is simply getting out of hand and fortunately many illegal rings are being broken up. It truly pays to do the research before jumping on the discount pills that litter the Web. When pills are bought illegally, the only people who benefit are unfortunately the criminals who keep producing them.

Healthcare Apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch

By jasonPiPhone and iPod Touch in Healthcare

We recently reported on the potential uses for the iPad in healthcare. Already, apps are being developed and released to help doctors and patients access and manage information easily. Since the iPad was released in April, over 2 million units have been sold. But perhaps more important to the discussion of mobile computing in healthcare are the iPhone and iPod Touch, at nearly 100 million units sold. The handheld devices have long been used in healthcare, with over 1500 apps already available for healthcare professionals, according to Scientific American.

One example is ‘iTriage,’ from Healthagen. This app gives patients access to their Personal Health Records (PHRs), as well as some symptom-checking, and a healthcare directory. From the press release: “1 in 14 Americans has used a PHR to take better care of themselves, ask more questions and know more about their health, than when their personal health information was less accessible.” We have discussed Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) before, and the real state of data exchange and standards development is not all that simple, but at least this is a step in a good direction. When EMRs (or PHRs) become more universal, and interoperable, these types of apps will become invaluable.

Another example is Bayer’s ‘myBETAapp.’ Despite the name sounding like an unfinished software project, this is a finished app that helps MS patients track their Betaseron(R) treatments. The app “provides patients with injection reminders, injection site rotation assistance and injection history,” according to their press release.

One critical aspect of mobile medicine is imaging quality. In order for a doctor to make a diagnosis or provide a consult, they often need to be able to see x-rays, MRIs, or other diagnostic images with very high resolution. In the past, this has been a limiting factor on small, mobile computing devices. But with this weeks announcement of the iPhone 4, we may see a whole new wave of mobile imaging capabilities. The display on the newest iPhone has four times as many pixels as the previous generations. They claim that when viewed at a normal distance, the pixel density is greater than the human retina can distinguish, so the individual pixels become invisible, and all you see are clear, smooth images. Whether this is true, or just marketing-speak, remains to be seen in the real world, but initial reports from the launch event seem to agree that it looks much sharper than any existing mobile device. In addition, the iPhone 4 has a 5 megapixel camera and can record HD video. This is another boost to mobile medicine, since a doctor could record and share details of a case, or even a procedure, from anywhere in the world. HealthLeaders Media has a nice article about the possible uses, including training, real-time remote monitoring, 3-D animation, and more.

Mobile Medicine is just a part of the healthcare technology revolution. Telemedicine, Electronic Medical Records, and Online Medicine have the potential to transform the way we receive care and interact with our healthcare providers. All of these innovations can improve care and save money, if done right. KwikMed is at the forefront of Online Medicine, with the first-and-only government-regulated and licensed process for prescribing and fulfilling prescriptions online.

The Impact of Erectile Dysfunction on Marriage and Relationships

By emilyM

Sorry guys, I hate to be the bearer of bad news here but no matter how you look at it, erectile dysfunction doesn’t only affect you…but your partner too.

No matter if it begins in the early days of courtship or the golden years of marriage, impotence is that elephant in the room and well… certain men just act a bit crazy in response. Mood swings, feelings of rejection, even ogling other ladies, what’s up with that?

No one person in the relationship should have to go through it alone and it’s something that, with help, can be successfully treated… so don’t panic just yet. But if you are just hoping “the problem” will go away on its own, unfortunately it’s not very likely. Many times ED is not purely a psychological problem like many once believed, but a physical one that can be successfully treated.

I know couples who have amazing stories of the things they have overcome in their relationships and marriages and I am a believer that any disagreement can be resolved… but when it comes to problems in the bedroom… well it seems problems begin sprouting up elsewhere in the relationship too. Fortunately, unlike so many problems in relationships, there is a relatively easy solution!

Here are a few recent stories that have popped up on the Web and really reinforce the need for first gaining the support you need from your significant other and then together seeking the help of a physician, because chances are, you would really like to have a healthier sex life too, right?

Example 1:
The frustration of an older women married to a husband suffering from erectile dysfunction (and consequently acting out in the way many men often do in response) drove her to write into the advice columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press:

“DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: My husband is impotent and has started obviously ogling women at bingo right in front of me. I date it back to when his sexual apparatus stopped working. I feel like telling the women he’s putting up a front, pardon the pun. — So Angry! North End”

to which she replies…

“Dear Angry: Your problem is with his behaviour, not with the women he ogles. Say something like: “I know why you started doing this and I’m asking you to stop as I feel hurt and humiliated when you do. Now, what can we do to regain a sex life, even if it can’t include potency pills or intercourse?” There are lots of other things you can do, and you need to tell him clearly you would enjoy them.”

Example #2
The next example comes from The Standard, a website from Nairobi, Kenya.

The article talks about a husband who refused to “consummate” the marriage with his new wife in the first few days of marriage, therefore driving the new bride to a court in Gucha that ruled she could divorce her husband on the grounds that the union was “null.” It also goes on to explain that erectile dysfunction or “impotence” which prohibits a couple from “consummating” their marriage is not a new thing.

Example# 3
Forum posts from women frustrated with their man’s unwillingness to seek help for ED.

No one likes having to confront a rather uncomfortable subject, but really there is nothing unmanly about asking for help. The sooner you address the problem, the sooner you can get your love life back on track!

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