Parents avoid vaccine by spreading disease through mail
November 9th, 2011
10:42 AM ET

Parents avoid vaccine by spreading disease through mail

Parents who don’t want to give their children the chickenpox vaccine are choosing instead to buy mail-order lollipops already sucked on by sick kids.

They hope their child will get chickenpox and then develop a natural immunity.

CNN affiliate KPHO in Phoenix found a Facebook website called “Find a Pox Party in Your Area,” which included postings of parents willing to ship infected items across the country.

“Fresh batch of Pox in Nashville Tennessee. Shipping of suckers, spit, and Q-tips available tomorrow. $50 via PayPal,” reads one post. It goes on to explain the money covers overnight shipping.


November 2nd, 2011
05:09 PM ET

New drug 'big deal' in cystic fibrosis fight

A new pill may help in the fight with cystic fibrosis.

A study, funded in part by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, found the drug ivacaftor (pronounced eye va kaf tor) caused patients with a specific type of cystic fibrosis to improve lung function, gain weight, and fight other aspects of the disease.

“This is the first time that we have a therapy that is directed at the cause of cystic fibrosis,” says Dr. Michael Konstan, the chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland and one of the authors of the study. There is no cure for this disease and existing treatments just help alleviate some of the symptoms.

“This is a big deal,” says Robert Beall, the president and CEO of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  “The fact is it is obviously going to make a very big difference in the lives of patients.”


October 26th, 2011
06:01 PM ET

Don't get hurt by an MRI

MRI machines allow doctors to see inside your body and diagnose what’s wrong with you, but if mistakes are made, they can hurt or even kill you.

“If administered properly, it’s one of the safest exams that have ever been invented,” says Tobias Gilk, an MRI safety advocate.

But accidents do happen.

“Most errors are a combination of human error and bad timing,” says Dr. Emanuel Kanal, a professor of radiology and neuroradiology at the University of Pittsburgh. Faulty training and lax rules about who can be around the machine also contribute.


Prostate cancer screenings: Who decides?
October 6th, 2011
07:15 PM ET

Prostate cancer screenings: Who decides?

The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force is expected to recommend  next week that men not be screened for prostate cancer.

It's an issue that's been the subject of much debate. In 2010, the American Cancer Society recommended that men be allowed to decide whether they're screened for prostate cancer.  As CNN reported at the time, "Cancer specialists know that because prostate cancer is usually a slow growing disease, many men are likely to die from other causes before they would die from prostate cancer."

So it's a decision that many men wrestle with. One of them, Andrew Traver, profiled in 2009, opted for surgery and believes the treatment saved his life.

Read about him and get tips on how to make the choice and be an Empowered Patient with advice from CNN's Elizabeth Cohen.

Study: 22 million Americans use illegal drugs
Marijuana is the most common drug for first-time users, according to the study.
September 8th, 2011
06:10 PM ET

Study: 22 million Americans use illegal drugs

More than 22 million Americans age 12 and older - nearly 9% of the U.S. population - use illegal drugs, according to the government’s 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The overall rate of drug use is only slightly higher than the 2009 study but nearly a percentage point above the 2008 survey.

“I am encouraged there were no significant increases in drug use over the past year,” Gil Kerlikowske, the U.S. director of national drug control policy, said in a statement. “However, today’s survey also shows that drug use in America remains at unacceptable levels.”

Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants and some prescription drugs used for non-medical purposes were counted in the survey. Marijuana was the most commonly used drug, with more than 17 million users in 2010, 3 million more than in the 2007 survey.


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Filed under: Addiction • Alcohol • Marijuana

Study: World is getting fatter, needs to stop
August 25th, 2011
06:30 PM ET

Study: World is getting fatter, needs to stop

The problem of obesity is spreading around the world and poses serious health threats.  The finding is part of a new special report on obesity, and how to combat it in the medical journal the Lancet.   The editor, Dr. Richard Horton, calls obesity a pandemic, and said it is one of the “huge threats facing governments which are likely to derail all their best attempts to improve the health of their nations while at the same time controlling costs.”

Obesity Around the World
The first study says nearly 1.5 billion adults in the world are overweight, and half a billion more are obese.  Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) more than 30.  That’s equivalent to an adult who's 5 feet 6 inches weighing more than 185 pounds, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s BMI calculator. 

“It is occurring in just about all countries, apart from the lowest income countries,” says Professor Boyd Swinburn, with the World Health Organizations Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention in Melbourne, Australia.  “There is quite a lot of evidence now coming out that this is being driven by changes in the food system,” he says. “The food supply: increasingly processed, available, affordable and highly promoted tasty food.”


Medical journals retracting more research
August 12th, 2011
10:27 AM ET

Medical journals retracting more research

You may trust what your doctors tell you, but studies show they might be working off bad information.

Physicians and researchers share breakthroughs in medical science and treatments in journals.  Sometimes, however, these publications have to retract stories when they turn out to be wrong.  The number or retractions is going up according to a Wall Street Journal investigation conducted by Thomson Reuters.   It says there were only 22 retractions in 2001, but 339 last year – a fifteenfold increase.

John Budd’s research also shows an increase over time.  He’s a professor at the University of Missouri who spent years studying why publications are retracted.  He found that between 1997 and 2008, 47% of the articles were pulled because of  "misconduct or presumed misconduct."  Errors accounted for 25 %;  21% were taken down because the authors could not get the same results consistently.  The remaining 7% were unclassified.


Football and heat: Who's at risk
August 5th, 2011
01:35 PM ET

Football and heat: Who's at risk

When a kid goes out for football, you don't think of it putting his life at risk. But maybe you should.

Sad events in recent days  - "We think it was the worst week in the last 35 years in terms of athlete death" one expert told CNN –   make it feel as if it there's an epidemic of deaths related to high school athletics.

In fact, research from  2010 showed more football players are dying now than in previous years.  On average, between 1980 and 1994 there were fewer than two deaths a year.  After 1995, the average went up to nearly three deaths a year.  The study found a total of 58 football players died between 1980 and 2009.  All but 10 were 18 or younger.

Some experts believe a lack of rules for working out is a factor in the deaths.  And the climate scientists who conducted the 2010 research, published in the International Journal of Biometeorology, believe they've found clues to why there are now more players dying.


Big-name drugs go generic
July 26th, 2011
04:18 PM ET

Big-name drugs go generic

Some of the most popular prescription drugs are about to get a lot cheaper.  According to the mail-order pharmacy Medco, at least 22 prescribed medications may be available as generics in the next year.

When drug companies develop a drug the FDA usually grants them exclusive rights to market that drug for a set period of time.  When those rights expire, other companies can make the exact same drug.  Since there is competition, the generics are cheaper.  The FDA says the regulations are “designed to promote a balance between new drug innovation and generic drug competition.”

 Medco compiled a list of drugs and when they are expected to become public.

Among major drugs on the list for the next year:

  • Lipitor, a popular cholesterol drug, goes generic in November.
  • Solodyn, used to treat bacterial infections,  November.
  • Zyprexa, which treats schizophrenia,  October.
  • Lexapro, used to treat depression,  March
  • Provigil, which treats sleep problems, April
  • Plavix, an antiplatelet drug which can prevent blood clots, May.
  • Singulair, an Asthma drug, August 2012.


Heat hurts your insides too
July 12th, 2011
05:08 PM ET

Heat hurts your insides too

When the heat hits, you can see it on the outside of your body with the buckets of sweat you’re pouring out, but it’s affecting you on the inside, too, doctors say.

As the temperatures soar outdoors, the temperature in your brain goes up slightly, according to Dr. Michael Bergeron, the director of the National Institute for Athletic Health & Performance  in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This explains why people sometimes get confused when they’ve spent too much time in the heat.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.