1. Parkinson's outrage: Meds don't work

    Parkinson's patients will tell you the worst part of the disease isn't always the infamous shakes that mark the condition.

    As bad as those are, there's something that can be even worse: Losing your grip on reality to the hallucinations, confusion, and delusional thinking that often come along for the ride.

    It's a frightening form of psychosis that strikes up to 60 percent of all Parkinson's patients -- and it's almost always caused by Parkinson's drugs.

    But instead of lowering the dose or changing the med, docs often prescribe powerful antipsychotic drugs -- and a new study shows that a full 98 percent of those meds don't even work.

    These are drugs with literally no clinical evidence of effectiveness, period -- and some of them are even known to make the Parkinson's symptoms worse.

    Researchers looked at the records of 2,500 patients given meds for Parkinson's psychosis at VA hospitals in 2008 and
    found that half of them were prescribed quetiapine, also known as Seroquel.

    That's the schizophrenia med given off-label for everything from insomnia to dementia -- often with disastrous results.

    There's no evidence it works for any of those off-label conditions -- and there are no less than four studies that show it does nothing for Parkinson's psychosis. But some of Big Pharma's favorite docs won't let a little science stand in their way -- they're using the drug anyway.

    One doctor not involved in the study told Reuters Health that even though there's no evidence behind Seroquel, many
    docs have had at least some anecdotal success using it... so they'll ignore the research and keep right on dishing it out.

    And even the author of the study in the Archives of Neurology admits to prescribing it -- and says he plans to continue to do so.

    Imagine the uproar if an alternative health doc announced his insistence on using treatments scientifically proven not to work. Heck, the feds would probably shut the guy down for quackery -- but somehow, mainstream docs get a free pass.

    And believe it or not, Seroquel sounds downright reasonable compared to some of the other meds given for Parkinson's psychosis.

    The researchers say a combined 28 percent of prescriptions were for either risperidone (Risperdal) or olanzapine(Olanzipine) -- two drugs that not only do nothing for the psychosis... they're actually known to make the Parkinson's disease worse.

    That's not just inexcusable -- that's malpractice.

    Parkinson's patients often don't have many options for the disease itself -- but a new study finds real promise in traditional Chinese medicine.

  2. Steroid inhalers not a breath of fresh air for asthmatic kids

    by Dr. Alan Inglis

    I've met plenty of patients who have children or grandchildren taking steroid inhalers. They all had pretty much the same reaction when their doctors first prescribed this aggressive medication for their loved ones.

    You know the reaction… your head kind of cocks to the side and your eyes narrow as you wonder, "Is this really safe?" Of course, most patients are afraid to say anything – and I understand not wanting to take any chances when it comes to a child's ability to breathe.

    But trust your instincts. These inhalers can be incredibly unsafe, and research is showing that they're not always very effective.

    A recent study from the University of Leicester in England reexamined the protocol at many hospitals, where children who are admitted with sudden wheezing attacks often are given steroid inhalers.

    The researchers compared preschoolers who were given prednisolone with those given a placebo. There was no significant difference in the comparative length of hospital stays for 687 kids ranging in age from 10 months to five years. There was no real difference in symptom relief, either.

    Another recent study, this one from Canada, looked at the benefits of using fluticasone as a preventive. Researchers concluded that the possible stunted growth from the steroid was more dangerous than any potential gains the drug provided for soothing wheezing.

    You've heard me say before that the hardest thing for a doctor to do is nothing. I understand that the wheezing sound an asthmatic child makes is frightening, and could lead a doctor to prescribe an aggressive medication. But before you let your children or grandchildren take a medication that lists everything from coughing up blood to psychosis as its side effects, you need to ask some tough questions about whether it's going to do any good.

    And, if we're honest, very often the answer will be no.

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