Jan 14

Cutting Edge Medicine

by Jess

Wars rage, a budget crisis looms, the health care system is in limbo, and a record number of people are unemployed. Everyone has a right to be depressed being caught up in the gloom and doom of daily news reports. 

I would like to take a minute to look away from all that is perceived to be wrong in our world and focus on some positive aspects. There are still plenty of amazing and brilliant people who are making awesome discoveries and advancing our way of life, especially in the field biotechnology.

1.    Bio-absorbable Heart Stent

Cardiology is an interesting place to start looking at this technology.  Believe it or not, the first simple EKG performed on a human was published way back in 1887, and by 1920, the first EKG showing an acute Myocardial Infarction was released.  The advances continued and in 1953 the first open heart surgery was performed by a physician from Philadelphia.  In the late 1950’s the first cardiac pacemaker was invented by a man from New York. 

In 1969 the first cardiac stent was invented and placed in a dog.  It continued to evolve and is commonly used today in the human population to widen narrow arteries in order to restore blood flow to the heart.  Although very useful in treating coronary problems, the material used in the newest stents carry the possible complication of formation of blood clots.  Fortunately, an Illinois laboratory has developed a bio-absorbable version that begins to dissolve in 6 months and is completely gone from the body in 2 years. Because of the more natural healing process and lack of foreign substance in the body, the vessel is able to return to a more flexible state and experiences less complications.  This stent, being marketed under the name Absorb, was approved for use in Europe in 2011 but has not yet been approved in the United States.  It may be eligible for approval by the FDA in 2015.

2.    New Lupus Medication

Estimates vary widely, but it is reported by the FDA that between 300,000 and 1.5 million people suffer from Lupus in the United States.  Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body).  With Lupus, something goes wrong with the immune system which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs (like when you get the flu). Normally the immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body but with Lupus it can not tell the difference between bad organisms and healthy tissue.  The antibodies actually attack and destroy healthy tissue. This causes inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body. Lupus can range from mild to life-threatening and should always be treated by a doctor.

In March 2011, Benlysta was the first new drug approved to fight Lupus in over 50 years!  In studies, patients treated with Benlysta, in conjunction with their other Lupus therapies, experienced less disease activity than those who took a placebo. However, those taking Benlysta in the study reported more serious infections and even death compared to those who took the placebo.  Also another worrisome finding was that African-American women did not seem to respond to the medication.  This is concerning because African American women are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with Lupus than Caucasian women.  It was thought that perhaps the sample number of this group was too low, and in order to get FDA approval the manufacturer had to agree to continue studies.  Despite this, it is still an encouraging advance for those patients fighting this chronic disease.

3.    Afrezza for Diabetes

For an insulin dependent diabetic, a life free of regular injections is only a dream.  But, it is one that might just come true.  Hope rests upon a small, lightweight, single-dose cartridge filled with an inhalable form of insulin marketed as Afreeza.  In December 2010 it was denied FDA approval, but the manufacturer continues to pursue the additional recommended safety trials with hopes to some day market it.  Afreeza studies show that aside from the convenience factor, it carries a lower risk of hypoglycemia and less potential for weight gain than other types of insulin.

In conclusion, I hope that by looking at these advancements we can gain hope for the future and remember that there are many more amazing discoveries just around the corner!

Just J & B:

Bob

Bob is a managed care coordinator who in 1984 started as a compliance analyst for credit and mortgage insurance. Later he shifted to major medical. This staff member has spent countless hours reviewing claims, medical policy and has a lot to say about both.

Jess

Jess is a nurse case manager dedicated to patient advocacy after receiving her RN license in 1998. This long time staff member provides her unique perspective based on thousands of conversations held with patients and providers.

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