New Warnings on Tylenol

tylenol-imageWhen a headache or minor aches and pains creep up, many people reach for an over-the-counter pain medication containing acetaminophen. New warnings on Tylenol products that are sold in the United States will now be clearly printed on the caps of every bottle. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol, and is actually the leading cause of sudden liver failure in the country. The new warnings aim to inform consumers of the risks associated with this common active ingredient found in many medications.

Why the New Warnings?
Johnson & Johnson, the company that produces Tylenol, has been facing an increasing amount of lawsuits related to the product. There has also been growing pressure from the US federal government for action to be taken. Although all bottles carry a warning on the label, many consumers simply do not read the fine print. The new warnings will be printed in bright red ink, compelling a consumer to become aware of the potential risks of taking the drug.

Millions of people use acetaminophen as a pain killer and fever reducer on a daily basis. Surprising as it may sound, many of those consumers end up accidentally overdosing on the drug, causing health complications, and in some cases, even death. Acetaminophen is potentially fatal if consumed in a large quantity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 55,000 to 80,000 individuals in the United States end up in an emergency room due to an acetaminophen overdose every year. According the the Food and Drug Administration, at least 500 individuals suffer from a fatal overdose. With the new warnings, more consumers will hopefully take the time to read the label and follow the proper dosing directions, as well as be fully aware of the risks of the drug.

Johnson & Johnson is taking action now because there are currently over 85 different personal injury lawsuits that are pending against the company. Tylenol is being blamed as the cause for deaths and liver injuries in the cases, which will be brought into federal courts. There is a lot at stake for the brand, as over-the-counter pain medications are a billion dollar industry in the United States.

Tylenol is not the only over-the-counter pain medication that contains acetaminophen. There are actually more than 600 different products which have the drug as an active ingredient. Acetaminophen can be found in familiar household brands of cold, sinus, and pain relief products like Nyquil, Sudafed, and Excedrin.

Is Acetaminophen Safe?
Acetaminophen is considered safe when taken within the recommended doses. 4,000 milligrams or less per day is considered to be safe for a healthy individual by many experts. When it comes to Extra Strength Tylenol, that equals a maximum of eight pills in a 24 hour period. One bottle of Tylenol may contain as many as 325 pills, making it all too easy for a consumer who is seeking pain relief to accidentally take too many in a single day.

When the Warnings Will Appear
According to Johnson & Johnson, starting in October of 2013, bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol will have the new warning printed right on the caps of each bottle. Other Tylenol products will show the warning label in the coming months. The goal of the warning on the caps is to make it explicitly clear to any person about to take the drug that it contains acetaminophen, and they should read the label for full details on the warnings and dosage directions.

The new warnings on Tylenol should hopefully compel consumers to take a closer look at the labels of over-the-counter medications. It is very important to follow the directions and read the warnings fully before taking any medicine. With the bright red warnings now printed on the cap, it should be easier for consumers to find the information that they need.

Electronic Cigarettes Still Causing Controversy

Comparison of tobacco and electronic cigarette photo.Anything that involves tobacco seems to be quite controversial in the United States. Smoking has come under fire in recent years, starting with the initial bans on smoking inside public buildings. As campaigns were developed to educate consumers about the real dangers of cigarettes, many entrepreneurs began looking for alternatives that were safer for both their customers and for those around them. The development of electronic cigarettes was meant both to help smokers and to alleviate many of the concerns that are traditionally associated with tobacco smoke. This development, though, has quickly become a controversy in its own right — especially in New York City.

Concerns about E-Cigarettes

There are, of course, controversies that surround electronic cigarettes. Tobacco use is always an issue in the United States, and there are many who are concerned about any activity that even remotely resembles traditional smoking. Though these cigarettes have actually been shown to help cut down on second-hand smoke and to aid smokers in quitting, some anti-tobacco lobbies wish to do away with electronic cigarettes in order to stamp out the general smoking habit in the United States. Though numerous studies have shown that the products actually decrease the number of smokers, it seems that appearance can sometimes trump logic.

More pressing are those studies that have shown that toxic chemicals might be used in some brands of e-cigarettes. Though the chemicals may not be in widespread use, the fact that they were present in some samples is enough to cause at least a moderate amount of alarm. While other studies have shown that the cigarettes are almost entirely harmless, many do still consider the fact that dangerous chemicals were present in some samples as cause for more careful regulation of the smoking products. While more research is certainly useful, it does not seem that a lack of scientific rigor is in any way related to some of the latest news on the electronic cigarette front.

The Bloomberg Question

As always, New York City seems to be one of the hotbeds for determining where e-cigarettes are likely to go in the future. Noted public health crusader Mayor Bloomberg seems to have set his sights on e-cigarettes in particular, trying to bring them under the same regulations as typical tobacco cigarettes. Whether or not the products actually contain tobacco seems to be irrelevant to Bloomberg, who was the architect of the large soda ban and numerous other “public health” ordinances. While the current proposal seems to target all cigarettes in particular, electronic cigarettes may face new regulations.

Bloomberg’s bill would not only raise the minimum purchase age for the product from 18 to 21, but it would make the process of buying flavored e-cigarettes virtually impossible. While typical (unflavored) versions of the product could be bought at a normal retailer, all other versions would have to be sold through “tobacco bars” – specialty shops that have not been allowed to be opened since 2002. While the bill would not be a total ban on the product, it would make it significantly harder for those individuals seeking to switch to a smokeless alternative to find the cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes still causing controversy will likely be a part of the way the world functions for some time. As the product allows for an activity that seems overly similar to a more dangerous past-time, there will always be those who wish to see it stamped out. While these devices do help many to quit smoking altogether, it is still important to note that the products are relatively new developments. How they end up impacting total smoker numbers and whether or not they represent the best possible alternative to smoking is something that is still up for debate. If the Bloomberg bill passes, however, that debate may become academic.

How to Keep Your STD Test Results Confidential

Because of the law that protects anyone who goes for an STD test, you have a right to privacy. This means that no information about the condition of your health can be divulged and you are protected during the delivery of care or payment for services that can be directly linked to you. Protected Health Information (PHI) is protected through very stringent federal and state laws and this includes the standards that are connected to the security of that information.

STD test lab worker image.STD test results are also within the same privacy regulations that govern your medical information. This means that any information about your STD results cannot be divulged. The privacy of your health information has protection even when you have access to medical care.

When you go to any testing center, it is essential that you should be aware that they are all constrained by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Nonetheless, you must learn how to keep your STD test results confidential. You can either choose to take your tests either confidentially or anonymously.

When you go for confidential testing, your name and other details that identify you will be attached to the results that you receive. Your medical records will reflect this information and the information can be shared with your health care providers as well as your insurance company. Nonetheless, the results will still remain under the protection of the state and federal privacy law and regulations.

Anonymous testing is the best option because nothing will connect you to the test results. Anyone who goes for an anonymous STD test will be given a unique identifier which enables you to receive your results. It is helpful to learn that not all testing sites have this type of testing and it is important to get in touch with your local health department in order to find out if your local area has any anonymous testing sites.

To ensure that you protect yourself and keep your STD results confidential, you must go to a testing site where your rights to privacy are taken seriously. Confidentiality must be ensured before, during and after the testing. It is essential that you ask and determine that nobody knows why you are at the testing center.

When you are billed, the STD test should not appear on your billing information, on any emails or on your credit card information. You can choose a variety of payment options that ensure that your identity is protected. You should also find out if the STD lab tests will or will not appear on your medical records without your express permission.

Your personal data must be secure and should not be divulged, sold or rented to anyone for whatever reasons. Your credit card information must be kept safe and this can be done by ensuring that only the last four digits of card are stored and the website that the diagnostic center uses is encrypted and has secure socket layer (SSL) encryption.

When you want to get an STD test done, find out more about how the diagnostics center communicates with its clients. Make sure that you work with a center that only sends discreet emails and do what it takes to protect your privacy. Make sure that nothing is emailed to your home address and that all written communication is done through emails.

Work with a center that does not call you on phone unnecessarily and does not leave any unwanted messages on your phone. Discretion should be observed if and when they have to call you. It is also better to do an online booking for your testing so that you keep everything confidential.

Dieting vs. Exercise

Which is right for you -- dieting or exercising?Whether a person is trying to lose weight or maintain overall health, he or she may consider dieting vs. exercise. Each of these two methods can benefit the person in many ways. However, there are negatives to each method as well. Before incorporating any diet or exercise regimen, one must consider all factors. The following are the benefits and negative aspects of each component:

Exercise

A person who is attempting to lose weight can choose from several types of exercise. The person may engage in cardiovascular exercises such as bike riding, running, stair climbing or treadmill walking. He or she may also opt to lift weights. All these forms of exercise have two main benefits. The first benefit of an effective exercise plan is weight loss. Depending on the type of exercises one chooses to perform, the individual can burn 100-500 calories per session safely. An exercise program can also build muscle, which also aids in burning extra calories. Additionally, a strict exercise plan can give the person a better cardiovascular health and add years to his or her life expectancy.

Regular exercise also improves a person’s mood because of the changes that occur within the brain chemicals. People with or without mental illnesses can benefit from the effects of having the sudden boost in endorphins and serotonin. Furthermore, exercise prevents the sufferers of certain diseases such as diabetes from developing heart disease and other complications.

The down side to exercising is that the person must continue with the program, or the risk of gaining the pounds back comes forth. Another negative effect of exercising is fatigue. Many people who begin exercise programs are not used to such physical activity. The danger of burning one’s self out or raising the heart rate to a dangerous level might surface. Therefore, anyone who is entering a new exercise program should be very careful and start slowly by raising the level of activity or the amount of weight lifting up gradually.

Dieting

Dieting for health and overall wellness has many benefits to it. As with exercising, a proper diet can cause a person to lose weight quickly. Cutting out certain fat producing elements can show progress in as little as two weeks. Adding the right nutritional elements can also strengthen a person’s immune system so that he or she can fight disease easier. Certain foods can also jar a change in a person’s brain chemicals that can lead to happiness and satisfaction.

The negative side to dieting is management. Many people attempt to incorporate diets that strip them of the elements they need to maintain health. Even when a person is dieting, he or she still needs to consume substances from all major food groups to stay strong and full of energy. Therefore, proper nutritional education is extremely important for any dieting program to work.

Another negative aspect of dieting may be the mental strain involved with it. It takes a strong will and a sharp memory for a person to keep up with a healthy diet. Peer pressure, stress and family conflicts might cause a dieter to run off course and then lose motivation because of the error.

Dieting vs. Exercise

Overall, both dieting and exercise can provide an undeniable amount of benefits. The best way for a person to lose weight fast and maintain good health is to incorporate a balance with both of these methods. Eating right and exercising regularly can give a person results that exceed the original intended purpose.

HIV/AIDS Update 2013: Hope Shines Brighter

Controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS photo.Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) its name in 1981, the disease has claimed more than 30 million lives (UNAIDS, 2009). Caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), AIDS is the deadliest disease to come out of the twentieth century. More than thirty years after its christening, humans seem to be coming closer to taming the HIV virus. Here is a comprehensive HIV/AIDS update 2013; we may still be a distance from the perfect cure but hope certainly shines brighter.

PEPFAR Celebrated One Millionth Mother-to-Child HIV/AIDS Transmission Prevention
President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) celebrated its tenth anniversary in June, 2013. Commendably, PEPFAR’s achievements and not just the years of its existence were the real reason to rejoice. On the occasion, Secretary Kerry announced that as of June, 2013, PEPFAR’s Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) program had successfully prevented 1 million potential transmissions of HIV virus from mothers to their children. Further, President Obama seems keen at financially fortifying PEPFAR’s work in preventing AIDS. He has proposed $6 billion for preventing AIDS worldwide from the national budget for the fiscal year of 2014.

Antiretroviral Treatments Gained Momentum
In March, 2013 a Mississippi baby that was born with HIV but “functionally cured” following antiretroviral treatment that began just 30 hours after the birth made headlines across the world. Only the second person (first one, Timothy Brown also used a combination of antiretroviral drugs initially) in history of be cured of HIV/AIDS, this unnamed child shifted the focus of AIDS treatments towards antiretroviral drugs. In June, 2013 World Health Organization (WHO) caught up with the developments and launched consolidated guidelines on the use of antiretrovirals for HIV treatment and prevention. According to the WHO HIV/AIDS Update 2013, 26 million of the 34 million living with HIV are eligible for antiretroviral therapy.

FDA Approved New Treatments, Tightened Labeling Guidelines
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new drug to treat HIV in August, 2013. Marketed as Tivicay and made by GlaxoSmithKline, this pill blocks an enzyme that is vital to the virus’s replication and propagation in the human body. FDA gave tentative approval to several other drugs including emtricitabine, tenofovir, efavirenz and lamivudine. It also mandated labeling changes for several drugs including Prezista (darunavir), Sustiva (efarvirenz) and Complera to list potentially hazardous combinations with other drugs, pediatric effects and side effects.

FDA Approved First Rapid Diagnostic Test for HIV, Home-Testing Became Legal in UK
In August, 2013, FDA approved the Alere Determine HIV-1/2 Combo Test for quick diagnosis of HIV-1/ HIV-2 infections. Manufactured by Oreganics, the test detects HIV-1 antigens and hence allows infections to be detected earlier than is possible with traditional antibody-based tests. A week after this, UK Department of Health legalized self-testing kits for HIV.

HIV/AIDS Rates Fell in Africa
UNAIDS, the United Nations body working against AIDS reported that for Eastern and Southern African countries, fresh HIV infections dropped 50% in seven countries, 30-50% in another seven countries and 0-30% in six countries between 2009 and 2012. The disease’s death toll declined by 38% in the region between 2005 and 2011. UNAIDS credited the success to availability of new antiretroviral treatments. However, Africa is still a long way from complete eradication and future prevention of the disease with current lack of funds being pegged at $7 billion.

Increased government spending, FDA approval of new drugs and stricter drug-labeling guidelines, easier diagnostic tests, advances in antiretroviral treatments, and finally, falling HIV infection rates in Africa: the fight against AIDS has never been stronger. HIV/AIDS Update 2013 gives the 32 million people living with the disease a hope of a healthier life. Hopefully, mankind will be able to put HIV/AIDS behind it soon.

Useful Links
http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/byaudience/forpatientadvocates/hivandaidsactivities/ucm122951.htm
http://www.who.int/hiv/en/

Nanny Bloomberg Seeks NYC E-cigarette Ban

woman-using-electronic-cigaretteFor habitual smokers who have been meaning to quit but cannot seem to kick the habit, e-cigarettes present a promising alternative. Sleek, handy, provides immediate satisfaction just like a real cigarette can, e-cigarettes has risen in popularity among adult smokers, some of whom swear by its efficacy as a means to break their smoking habit. However, if a new bill supported by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City is passed, electronic cigarettes will be regulated and controlled in much the same way as tobacco cigarettes.Now that “Nanny Bloomberg” wants an NYC e-cigarette ban, is the end near for an alternative that was once touted as the best way to end the smoking habit?

The End to E-Smoking?

E-cigarettes are also known as Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems or ENDS, although not all users incorporate nicotine in the mixture of chemicals they use. These devices are designed to mimic the effects and experience of smoking by turning flavored liquid into vapor that the user inhales. E-cigarettes are currently sold in tobacco and cigar stores and retail stores where they can be freely purchased. However, if recently leaked proposed bills at the City Council are passed, the way people buy and use e-cigarettes may change drastically.

In essence, the bills will:

  • ban the display and advertising of e-cigarettes and components in retail and convenience stores
  • limit the number of e-cigarette flavors sold in retail stores, leaving smokers to choose only among mint, menthol, wintergreen and tobacco flavors; other flavors will be made available only in tobacco bars where age restriction will be implemented
  • raise the age of individuals allowed to purchase and use e-cigarettes to 21 years
  • create a price floor of $10.50 per pack
  • increase fines for illegal sale of cigarettes
  • ban the use of cigarette and tobacco coupons

An Impending Health Disaster?

According to Boston University School of Public Health professor Dr. Michael Siegel, the proposed bills could have a significant effect not just on individual smokers and users of e-cigarette products but on the public as well. He says that e-cigarettes are life-saving devices, especially for people who are heavy smokers. This claim may sound too good to be true but with evidence pointing to the benefits of using e-cigarettes instead of cigarettes or cigars, there is reason to believe Siegel’s argument.

In a study presented in early 2011 at the European Conference on Tobacco or Health in the Netherlands, 95% of the 3,587 participants stated that e-cigarettes were instrumental in helping them stop smoking, while 92% said it helped them reduce their intake. A recent study that was published by Drexel University showed that chemicals used in e-cigarettes posed no harm to smokers. For Siegel, banning or heavily restricting access to e-cigarettes could potentially lead to an increase in health risks among smokers who are trying to quit or at least cut down on their nicotine habit. For one, smokers who use e-cigs rely on this type of system to help them wean themselves off cigarettes. For another, vapor from e-cigs does not pose the same risks as secondhand smoke from tobacco cigarettes.

For these reasons, e-cigarettes are considered an excellent (and relatively effective) alternative not just to tobacco cigarettes but to other products meant to be used as an aid to quit smoking. It even offers the advantage of providing the complete sensory experience of traditional smoking without the associated risks. According to Siegel, restricting e-cigarette sale and regulating consumers’ access to these products could seriously impede the goals of many smokers to quit. Difficulty in finding or buying the alternative could push smokers to turn back to their tobacco habit and thus expose themselves to serious health issues related to habitual nicotine use.

To date, no official comment has been released by the Health Department regarding the leaked proposals. Meanwhile, the safety of e-cigarettes over the long-term is yet to be established.