Category: Health News

It’s about time someone figured this out.

Most of us already knew this.
Nov 2nd, 2010

LONDON (Oct. 31) — Alcohol is more dangerous than illegal drugs like heroin and crack cocaine, according to a new study.

British experts evaluated substances including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana, ranking them based on how destructive they are to the individual who takes them and to society as a whole.

Researchers analyzed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body, in addition to other criteria like environmental damage caused by the drug, its role in breaking up families and its economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison.

Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, were the most lethal to individuals. When considering their wider social effects, alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the deadliest. But overall, alcohol outranked all other substances, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.

The study was paid for by Britain’s Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and was published online Monday in the medical journal, Lancet.

Experts said alcohol scored so high because it is so widely used and has devastating consequences not only for drinkers but for those around them.

“Just think about what happens (with alcohol) at every football game,” said Wim van den Brink, a professor of psychiatry and addiction at the University of Amsterdam. He was not linked to the study and co-authored a commentary in the Lancet.

When drunk in excess, alcohol damages nearly all organ systems. It is also connected to higher death rates and is involved in a greater percentage of crime than most other drugs, including heroin.

But experts said it would be impractical and incorrect to outlaw alcohol.

“We cannot return to the days of prohibition,” said Leslie King, an adviser to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and one of the study’s authors. “Alcohol is too embedded in our culture and it won’t go away.”
King said countries should target problem drinkers, not the vast majority of people who indulge in a drink or two. He said governments should consider more education programs and raising the price of alcohol so it isn’t as widely available.

Experts said the study should prompt countries to reconsider how they classify drugs. For example, last year in Britain, the government increased its penalties for the possession of marijuana. One of its senior advisers, David Nutt – the lead author on the Lancet study – was fired after he criticized the British decision.

“What governments decide is illegal is not always based on science,” said van den Brink. He said considerations about revenue and taxation, like those garnered from the alcohol and tobacco industries, may influence decisions about which substances to regulate or outlaw.

“Drugs that are legal cause at least as much damage, if not more, than drugs that are illicit,” he said.


Myeloma Blogs web site gets a facelift, a blog feed aggregator for patient and caregiver myeloma blogs, has been revamped.  It’s all new, thanks to our good friend, Lopo Lencastre de Almeida of iPublicis.

The site has a new look and will allow you to read a short excerpt of posts, search posts and browse by tags.  You can also help spread the word by sharing blogs posts on many social networking sites.

You’ll see what I mean.  Head on over to

Advancing Rare Disease Research: The Intersection of Patient Registries, Biospecimen Repositories and Clinical Data

Subject: Advancing Rare Disease Research: The Intersection of Patient Registries, Biospecimen Repositories and Clinical Data

The Office of Rare Diseases Research, National Institute of Health, is sponsoring a workshop entitled “Advancing Rare Disease Research: The Intersection of Patient Registries, Biospecimen Repositories and Clinical Data,” which will be held in the DoubleTree Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland, on January 11-12, 2010.

The workshop objective is to discuss the development of an infrastructure for an internet-based platform with common data elements utilizing a federated rare disease registry able to incorporate:
1. Existing rare disease registries
2. Patient organizations with no registry looking to establish one
3. Patients with no affiliation with a support group looking to belong to
a registry

The expected outcome of the workshop is to gain acceptance of the concept of a federated rare disease patient registry and participation in creating this patient registry from as many curators of patient registries and other stakeholders as possible. Participating stakeholders will discuss harmonizing standardized common data elements, vocabulary, and open source software to enable the exchange of data and information to facilitate research collaborations. The purpose of this effort is to establish a rare disease registry to benefit the rare disease patient and research communities.

A link to the draft agenda is available at the bottom of the registration page

For additional information please contact: Yaffa Rubinstein (ORDR), 301-402-4338.

Sign Language Interpreters will be provided. Individuals with disabilities who need reasonable accommodation to participate in this event should contact Yaffa Rubinstein (ORDR),  301-402-4338 and/or the Federal Relay (1-800-877-8339).

Flu Preparedness Advice

This arrived in my inbox, and I wanted to share.  What preparations have you made?  I have a prescription for Tamiflu, but have not had it filled yet.  I haven’t had my seasonal flu shot yet, but will get that done soon.

To: Duke University Health System Patients

From: William J. Fulkerson, M.D.
Senior Vice President, Duke University Health System

Date: September 16, 2009

Re: Influenza Preparedness: Advice to our Patients

Dear Duke Patients,

As we approach the official beginning of autumn, we are entering the annual cold and flu season. This year’s flu season is expected to arrive early, stay late and be more intense than the flu seasons we have experienced in the recent past. The H1N1 influenza pandemic (aka “swine flu”) continues to intensify throughout the world, and public health officials fully anticipate a second and third wave of illness similar to what was experienced in the spring of 2009. Given the magnitude of health implications the flu can have on individuals (and their families), Duke Medicine is recommending the following steps to stay well this fall and winter.
Understand the facts about the flu. The H1N1 (aka “swine flu”) and seasonal flu are contagious respiratory illnesses caused by influenza viruses. They are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing and less commonly by touching a contaminated surface. The circulating strain of H1N1 causes an illness pattern similar in severity and duration to typical seasonal flu in most patients.
Know if you are in a high-risk group for complications from influenza. The high-risk groups for complications from H1N1 and seasonal influenza are similar. The major difference is that pregnant women and younger patients seem to be at a slightly higher risk to contract H1N1 (possibly because older patients have developed immunity to similar viruses over the years). The following are high-risk groups whose Duke health care provider should be contacted immediately if they become ill with influenza like symptoms: children less than 5 years old, pregnant women, adults and children who have chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems, persons aged 65 years or older, residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities.
Understand the symptoms associated with the flu. Seasonal and H1N1flu symptoms are indistinguishable. They include: fever, sore throat, chills, body aches, cough, runny or stuffy nose, diarrhea, vomiting and headache. Please note that many of the recommendations regarding when it is safe to return to work or school are based on knowing your body’s temperature. If you don’t have a thermometer in the house, consider purchasing one now.
Understand when to seek medical care. Most patients recover from the flu completely in a few days and do not require a visit to their health care provider. But it is important to know when you should seek medical care. Flu symptoms typically resolve in 5 days, but if your symptoms persist beyond 5 days, contact your primary care doctor. If you have any of the following potentially life-threatening symptoms while battling the flu, immediately contact your health care provider or go to the closest Emergency Department: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, flu symptoms that initially improve but then return with cough and fever. Infants should be taken immediately to the Emergency Department if there is a bluish or gray skin color, lack of responsiveness or extreme irritability.
Get a seasonal flu shot! The seasonal flu vaccine is the single best way to avoid getting the seasonal flu. It does not protect you from the H1N1 (aka “swine”) flu, but is highly effective against most strains of the seasonal flu. Duke Clinics will begin offering seasonal flu shots as early as mid-September this year. By obtaining your flu vaccine well before the peak of flu season, you give your body the ability to build immunity to the flu before you are exposed. It takes about two weeks for your body to fully build its defenses after receiving the vaccine.
Consider getting the H1N1 vaccine. This year in addition to the seasonal flu vaccine there will be a separate vaccine for H1N1. This may be a one part or two part vaccine aimed directly at the circulating H1N1 influenza virus. The vaccine is highly recommended (and will be prioritized) for pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical services personnel, persons between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old, and people ages 25 through 64 who are at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems. Once there is adequate supply of the vaccine, we encourage all patients to get vaccinated. Talk with your health care provider about when you should be vaccinated for H1N1.
If you’re sick, stay home! The flu is spread when an infected individual coughs and sneezes. Once it is in the environment, the rest of us can get from handshakes, by simply being in close contact with someone who is infected, or by touching contaminated surfaces. If you come down with flu-like symptoms, stay home (away from other people) until at least 24 hours after your fever has naturally resolved.
Wash your hands frequently. Frequent hand washing is a simple activity to avoid a multitude of infections – including the seasonal flu, swine flu and the common cold. Wash your hands well using soap and water; alcohol-based hand gels are a good alternative when you are away from a sink. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as these are the routes of entry for cold and flu viruses into the body.
“Eat right and sleep tight. Stay hydrated.” Diet and sleep patterns have a profound effect on your body’s ability to fight infection and disease. Eating green, red and yellow fruits and vegetables and sleeping a minimum of 8 hours a night boosts your body’s immune system. A healthy adult needs to drink about 64 ounces of water each day.
Stay calm and don’t panic. Pandemics can be scary times – but rest assured the federal, state and county governments and Duke University Health System are all working together to address this pandemic. Duke Medicine is committed to helping you and your families stay healthy this cold and flu season. Please do not hesitate to visit for updates on the flu season, or contact your health care provider with questions.

William J. Fulkerson, MD

H1N1 Flu prevention

Gov. Bev Perdue on Tuesday called on North Carolina residents to re-dedicate themselves to following good prevention practices as the number of influenza cases are expected to rise with the beginning of the school year and the arrival of flu season.
“Parents, students and teachers can help prevent the seasonal flu and H1N1 flu from spreading by getting vaccinated, practicing good hygiene and keeping themselves healthy,” Perdue said. “I don’t want folks to be scared about the flu, but I do want every North Carolinian to be vigilant and prepared.”
Everyone should follow standard health precautions as a first line of prevention;

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from making them sick.
  • Get the seasonal flu vaccine now and the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available.

For more information about influenza in North Carolina, please visit