Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Advancing imaging techniques to aid detection

One of my dreams, and I am sure there are a lot of people who have this dream -- is to build a booth. Once you walk into it, a million scanners run over your body. They examine your genes, your morphology and other markers in your body. They run a health report - past, present and future.

They indicate the health conditions that currently afflict you, and what risks you run for the future. Treatments can then start immediately.

A step closer to this, would be techniques similar to the one reported by researchers at Dartmouth. They are using the differences between oxygenation and deoxygenation of blood to try and identify breast cancer tumors. Having worked with sensory distinction of deoxygenated blood from oxygenated blood, I feel this has a lot of promise.

While the woods may be dark, deep and there might be a million steps to go in medical diagnostics research, this is a good step forward!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer - What is the interrelation?

Research at the Mayo Clinic now points to a certain "something" that forms a suspicious connection between diabetes and pancreatic cancer. We need to find out what that "something" is. That said, atleast in certain instances, it might make sense to get out there and check yourself for pancreatic cancer if you were just diagnosed with an onset of Diabetes Type II. Early diagnosis helps with surgery and possible removal of the pancreas to prevent metastasis and increase survival rates.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Become Invisible - Exciting Possibilities for Research

What would you do if you could become invisible? While the pathopsychological investigations of this hypothetical situation might produce some interesting results, the problem of becoming invisible itself does not seem like science fiction anymore.

What used to be science fiction a few years ago, is creeping into reality. So why not try and dream up more and more science fiction, so that someone sits down and creates the reality portion of it.

Of interest to me, personally, is the mathematical and physics aspects that could lead to these proofs. Of course materials research needs to go in deep before such cloaks become thin enough that someone could actually wear them, and less, still, throw them around.

While the military aspect is quite inviting, there are other uses that could warrant an invisible cloak. Once made, who is going to regulate this industry?

So many questions, and so few answers. Maybe someone could write a book about all this.

Alza FDA approval brings transdermal drug delivery closer to reality

This can be quite exciting for the drug delivery world. Imagine being able to delivery insulin (in an appropriate form, wherein lies a major challenge), transdermally. There might also be other breakthroughs, such as instant aspirin and a cocktail of drugs delivered to relieve patients who just suffered myocardial infraction.

While thhis might seem like jumping to conclusions, its more of a dream, that could potentially save thousands of lives, if it becomes a reality!!!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What are EMRs? And why are they abuzz?

EMRs refer to Electronic Medical Records. The idea is that the entire medical history of the patient, and any pertinent information will become available to doctors, insurance companies, researchers, and more importantly patients. These records can then be effectively used in conjunction with Information Technology tools to manipulate, transfer and do other things to help you get speedy treatment.

Of course each beneficiary of the EMRization of patient data views it to their own advantage.

- Researchers obviously would like the idea of being able to cull large amounts of data on the disease type, its spread, the patient demographics that go along with it, the treatment offered, the success rates and so on and so forth.

- Doctors view this as a tool to keep track of their patients, to be able to do some of their own research, to be able to understand how they are perfroming and so on.

- Various governments view this as an opportunity to formulate policies, track grants and funds, hospital data, disease spread among various other aspects.

- Insurance companies view this is a grand opportunity to manage data, since they are the ones that actually carry the burden of the data.

The above are only examples of portions of perceptions of the data by these large groups. We also have health activists, economists, generalists, religious activists, lawyers and many more type of people, looking to access the data, to the extent it is made available to them, and use it to their own advantage.

This complexity is similar to the description of an elephant provided by 11 blind people.

Problems with EMRs include - bad technology, improper collection and distribution designs, lack of training and understanding in how to use them, lack of support from various arms of health care management and providers and so on.

So watch out for the discussions surrounding EMRs to emerge from conferences, government deliberations, insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, lawsuits, and of course, the media!

Making hay with bluetooth: Software aids patients to transfer important blood glucose monitoring data wirelessly

Continuous monitoring of patient data maybe a dream today. More so, would be the act of allowing for doctors to access this data anytime, or even allowing patients to access the data, feed it into capable computers, to get ready assessment of their conditions, dietary and pharmaceutical recommendations.

But, CreatorBlue is definitely a step in the right direction. If the product itself does not become the means to achieve the goal, it would sure serve as a very good prototype to examine the problems surrounding the design of similar products.

While little is known of the product pending its public release, such attempts should be closely monitored to understand their future implications.

mDiabetic is touted as a product that helps doctors and patients interact virtually for effective treatment. The company website has several links to help patients understand more about the disease, and also learn about carb levels associated with various food items.

To learn more, Mobile Diabetic:

Footnote: Attempts to enhance help for diabetic patients through mobile applications is not new by any means. This was brainstormed extensively by my team at a class we took a few years ago. It is heartening to see an internet search for this topic bring out about extensive results.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Businessweek Cover: Dr. David Eddy and the discombobulation in the practice of medicine

Simulating a complex set of diseases and predicting their outcomes used to be a dream once upon a time.

The reality staring back at us a few years down the line, seems to be quite different! We are talking of routinely stimulating entire sets of diseases, complexly interwound among patients, and clinical studies on such patients.

This might very well be the future of medicine.

On the same note, it was a little worrisome to read some of the comments, supposedly from real doctors. Now, if that is the kind of trouble we are looking forward to, then, a bunch of simulation tools wont solve the problem per se...We need doctors to participate in revolutionalizing the field of medical practice.

Maybe someone should simulate how a doctor is supposed to navigate a barrage of pressures from the government, the patients, insurance companies, device and drug companies, the lawyers, the media and anyone in-between...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Women's Health: Cervical Cancer drug wins several fans at the FDA

The fight between complex diseases and vaccines with the FDA had not been going too well for drug companies - remember Cerebrex and other debacles such as Vioxx?

However, but for a few who consider themselves the moral police, everyone at the FDA, including 9 public health groups seem to be ga-ga over this new vaccine, that can prove to be quite beneficial to several victims of a dangerous disease.

However, this does not eliminate the pap - smear test, as the vaccine is not strong enough to combat all strains of HPV.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Reporting a possible breakthrough in insulin therapy

One of the major problems with trying to treat diabetes, is the body's inability to absorb insulin. Several methods have been tried, and for the most part, other than the painful injection of insulin into the bloodstream, at regular diurnal intervals, none of the other methods have been successful.

Several attempts have been made to cure the disease through gene therapy. The body, while showing an aversion to anything foreign, has a very strong resistance to the addition of genes.

Hence, viral injection of genes was touted as a solution. This method involved a mechanism similar to how the AIDS virus attacks human immune cells. The idea is for a virus to go in with the required genes, and imbibe itself into the genetic make up of the islets in the pancreas.

One obvious problem with this therapy is that there exists a high risk of rejection and jilted immunoresponse (the body's efforts to fight and reject anything foreign, including viruses), that might cause severe damage.

However, MIT's Technology Magazine reports an ultrasonic bubble technology, developed at Dallas, that shows quite a good deal of promise. This involves the application of a combination of ultrasound and microbubbles that will be able to deliver the genes into the cells, and hence might be more effective than viral-induced gene therapy.

Only time can tell whether this is an improvement, but it is exciting anyhow. The approach is quite unique and might open the key to the human body's well guarded genetic makeup.

Stanford: An interesting approach to educating diabetic patients

One of the main problems plaguing today's diabetic is education, information and support. There are several studies, reports and web pages that can aid in raising more alarm, than in actually helping the patients.

While this is the case, Stanford University has come up with a unique approach to type 2 Diabetes education. The study is a randomized approach(probably, part of a larger study aimed at understanding the effects of education on the lifestyle of diabetic patients), splitting the patients into two groups, separated by a course start date of six months. The six week course promises to provide a lot of useful information and suggestions for altering patient life-style to help deal with the problem of diabetes.

Another unique approach, though not new, is the use of diabetics as educators. This helps bring the patients closer, and makes them open, thus enabling them to discuss a lot of things they might not normally wish to discuss. It must be mentioned that diabetes is a disease associated with a lot of psychological struggle.

Further details are available through the link provided on the title, and also at,

or on phone via (800) 366-2624

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Boston Scientific: Playing fair on the recall game.

Medical Devices are among the most critical products as far as expected functionality goes. Recalling medical devices can be a major headache, a PR disaster, and it can lead to certain death of a company if not managed properly.

It might be recalled that Boston Scientific has purchased Guidant which was headed for a definite downward spiral. It should also be noted that there was a general unhappiness with the way Guidant handed recalls.

As noted in the adjoining LA Times article (click on title), Boston Scientific is definitely doing a much better job at handling such recall issues - something worth watching.

If Boston Scientific can "pull this one off", then they would be setting a path for the industry to follow. One can only wait and watch how they manage things down there..

Monday, May 15, 2006

SOP - what is it? Do we need it?

SOP - stands for "Standard Operating Procedure". This refers to a well defined document that is used as a "how to" tool. This does not mean that it is used in the context of a simple tutorial tool, but more as a control directive on how to do things appropriately - whether it is taking inventory, or stepping in and out of a laboratory.

While it helps a lot in teaching and training employees, it also helps the company to standardize practices, so that adherence to quality is achieved easily.

Read the associated page (by clicking on the link) for further information.

If you work in the medical devices/biotech industry expect to be reading, training and sometimes authoring your own SOPs.

Something new to learn today: Canadian Medical Device Regulations

The FDA is very famous, and so are the regulatory agencies in the EU and in Japan. Canada is not behind in regulating medical devices, and their government has come up with "Medical Device Regulations", that must confirm to certain ISO standards. Their government also provides comparision charts between their standards, and those of the ISO standards and the FDA.

The link on the title, takes you to the comprehensive online documentation developed by the Canadian Government.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Unique Patient Advocacy - But You Don't Look Sick!!!

Patients need support - different kinds and forms, under different situations. Some websites are unique, some aren't. This is a very unique effort, by someone who has been a patient herself. A unique and purposeful exercise.

Acknowledgements: This website was Cool Site Of The Day ( ) for Sunday 14, May 2006.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Good News!! Conjoined twins separated

Medicine and computer assisted surgery may make many advances, but they are still tools. The magic lies in the surgeon's hands! And this magic suceeds now and then. The dedication, and the effort need commendation. Since this blog is dedicated to reporting such medical successes with joy and jubiliation, I take pleasure in sending a personal message of congratulations, wishing joy and happiness to the twins, and many more such advances in serving humanity to the surgeons!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mysterious consumer software products - be excited, nay or be wary?

Quicken is a name I used to associate with software for taxes so long. Now, we know of a new venture, Quicken for HealthCare or something to that effect.

While this sounds promising, and is probably useful, where do the boundaries end for a software product that is useful for you to save and transact personal information, and where does exploitation begin?

Would this information be used to manipulate patients with terminal or other expensive diseases? Enter, poor Health Care Management practices which some big names are being accuesed of. Would these become dangerous tools in their hands?

Who will regulate them? Who has access to the information?

Let's not cheat ourselves. Any database is a data mine..

Now we have mystery companies from outside industries nosing into the healthcare industry with mysteriously dimly defined products.

We might have to wait that whole year, before we get a chance to scream, "Geronimo". But when our phone calls and emails are game, why not our healthrecords. All the government needs to do is, ask!

What are the problems you can face when you get your body pierced or you get a tatoo?

Let's not worry about the social consequences. This is not the blog for that, but I hope young people get advised about possible causes of embarassment (this is not a personal opinion, its an observation) in the future.

Moving on, health risks are quite high. While the article I jumped across, cites methods of dealing with body piercing and tatoos(which is well appreciated!), if you were to finally choose it, I believe there should be more stress on the needs to avoid either, via appropriate scientific documentation.

There doesn't seem to be a set of well grounded research documents that prevail upon the number of cases that go wrong, the appropriate statistics on injuries and other complications.

Hopefully, an assembly of these documents will educate people, both young and old on the medical reasons to avoid piercing and tatoos.

One would wish the "gruesome list" mentioned in the following article were more readily available:

Self Piercing: Something quite dangerous (again, articles are devoid of statistics)

A tiring look at the remaining search results on Google only yields such vague results. Helpful, but vague!

The conclusion: There is an urgent need for statistical review of such health dangers arising from activities prevalant among young adults.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Useful information on the use of Blood Glucose Monitors

I have a little bit of knowledge of how blood glucose monitors work, and while I recommend the devices for personal use on a regular basis, always caution people of the variability involved. This article provides certain insights that might come in handy as well.

If you have someone who is a diabetic, and/or regularly monitors their blood sugar levels, consider showing them the article (click on title for the article).

If someone you know is a diabetic and is not currently using any form of glucose monitoring, please do recommend atleast one of the various meters available on the market. At the least, they provide a guidance and comfort in times of need!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Fighting the prescription data war - why I think it makes no sense..

Here is the deal - pharma companies, benefit managers, insurance companies and data mining companies cannot sell information. Fair enough.

Now I am a drug company sales person/Information miner. This particular law has made it harder for me to find out exact information on who is prescribing what. But I want to push for drug sales. I now have a drug in the market, and I need to find out who I should push, so they sell more of mine.

Here is a picture,

1. I have my own drugs distribution channel. At one level or the other, I know that my drug for a special Californian disease, "Springtime blues" has been up in sales, just not as much as I want it to be. There is only one other drug out in the market, it is called, "Pretend sunshine". Now, I know that enough Californians are feeling dizzy from the lack of sunshine in their lives this spring (like last spring, and you know, that is important). I know that I could be selling 100 gazillions of the drug, as opposed to the 80 gazillions I currently manage. I know my points of exit, I know where the hospitals are, I know where the specialists are, who the specialists are, and who is selling the drug.

Well, maybe not to that accuracy, but hey, why would someone in Mojave have springtime blues? So I concentrate on Nothern California. I zone in on the Bay Area. I split them up into regions. I know which pharmas used my drug channels. Maybe, I can even find out where the trucks drop them off, maybe not...

I can actually define a strategy to tell you how, with a certain degree of accuracy, if you had a pre - existing drug distribution channel of your own, you could predict who is prescribing and who is not, in general.

After all, you take your chances with Dr. Dolittle, and walk into his office, find him prescribing your drug, and you know, its gotta be Dr. Schweitzer next door, who is not prescribing your drug.

You are a salesman. When was your job easy?

So, really, who is this law helping? Why complicate the situation as it is? Why do we need to live by the mythical assumption that we "can" hold off information and data? Someone needs to convince me..

If you don't have a drug, what do you do. Unfortunately, you can just drop by the Grannies' tea club and find out what they are all raving about. Now, that, there is the point where you need to stop data leaks....

Kaiser's trouble - Manged health care needs to be put on the 'scope

Managed healthcare can be good and bad. Regardless of where individual stances lie, when people's lives are at stake, the only option left, is to create an evaluation system, a regulatory system, and an accountability system. This does not mean one has to create an organization out of millions of dollars to do this, simple steps would ensure success.

One only needs to analytically watch and collect information on how each of the organizations is doing. If LATimes, and a lawyer (the Blue Cross case) can do this, why not the rest of us!

Kaiser, really needs to pick up the fallen pieces, especially since they now admit, patients have died because of their botched up program administration. This does not add pride to a health care system, that is already not very helpful...