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Archive for November, 2014

 

Time for Pharmacies to Stop Selling Tobacco

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

 

(By Douglas Anderson, PharmD, DPh)

A recent study has revealed that 6% of patients receiving medications for chronic lung disorders also bought cigarettes at the same time. Cigarette smoking is well known as a cause of these diseases, and also increases the risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and head and neck cancer. Such conditions are among the leading causes of death in the United States.

It is contradictory for pharmacies to sell cigarettes as well as medications to combat chronic lung ailments. This not only impacts the health of the patient, but it is also contrary to the duties of the pharmacist, whose oath states that the “…welfare of humanity and relief of human suffering [are] my primary concerns.” In February 2014, CVS, the nation’s second largest pharmacy chain, announced that it would stop selling all cigarettes and other tobacco products. This may cost CVS some profits. True, customers can simply buy their cigarettes somewhere else, and this is unlikely to decrease tobacco use overall (grocery stores with pharmacies will probably continue to sell tobacco). But the pharmacy profession is moving away from a customer focus to a patient focus. To this end, CVS put the health of their patients and the sanctity of the pharmacist’s oath above profits, and this is commendable.

It is time for all pharmacies to do the ethical thing, and to stop selling tobacco products that destroy the health that pharmacists are called to protect.

JAMA Internal Medicine article

 

The Ethics of Ebola (31)

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

My colleague, epidemiologist and public health expert Dr. Ginger Cameron, joins me to discuss the ethics of the current Ebola crisis.

We ask some important questions:

  • What’s going on in West Africa? Why is the outbreak so severe?
  • Was it ethical to treat western missionaries with experimental drugs?
  • What about enforced quarantine? Does that violate individual rights?
  • How does medical triage work?
  • What are the latest ethical challenges?

_________________________________________

To listen, just click on the player below (click on the Audio MP3 button if the player doesn’t appear).

Could GMOs Help Solve Global Health Issues?

Thursday, November 6th, 2014 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

(By Dr. Heather Kuruvilla)

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are often portrayed as unnatural, potentially harmful, and just plain scary. Like any technology, genetically modified organisms have some potential risks, both to people and to the environment. We don’t know if the newly engineered proteins may be allergenic or otherwise harmful to humans. And there’s always a risk that engineered traits could “migrate” from the engineered species into native species, causing unforeseen environmental consequences.

The potential benefits of GMOs, however, are too often under-reported. What if we could solve pressing global health issues, like malnutrition, or vaccine distribution, using GMOs? The Golden Rice project addresses vitamin A deficiency by engineering rice to produce beta-carotene. In parts of the world where rice is part of the diet and vitamin A deficiency is endemic, golden rice could be a substitute for white rice.

In areas of the world without much infrastructure, vaccine distribution is a formidable challenge. But if folks could grow their own banana vaccines, they might be protected from Hepatitis B. This would also reduce potential complications such as liver cancer. Work on banana vaccines has is tricky, since bananas are not all the same size, and it would be difficult to know when a patient has the right “dose” of a banana.

Even if we can’t use fruit to make oral vaccines, perhaps GMOs can still help us fight disease. For example, the experimental Ebola vaccine ZMapp is grown in genetically modified tobacco plants. A genetically modified flu vaccine, using insect cells to produce viral proteins, has recently been approved by the FDA.

Maybe GMOs aren’t so scary after all.

Sources:

www.goldenrice.org/

www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/14/1/1978/htm

www.webmd.com/news/20140804/ebola-virus-vaccine

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/07/12/fda-approves-first-gmo-flu-vaccine-expected-on-market-in-2014