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Naturalis Historia

"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."
Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 16, 2013 - 24 comments

Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future

Five years after my great-uncle’s death, penicillin changed medicine forever. Infections that had been death sentences—from battlefield wounds, industrial accidents, childbirth—suddenly could be cured in a few days. So when I first read the story of his death, it lit up for me what life must have been like before antibiotics started saving us. -- Lately, though, I read it differently. In Joe’s story, I see what life might become if we did not have antibiotics any more.
posted by Potomac Avenue on Nov 26, 2013 - 103 comments

Use Only as Directed

ProPublica.org and This American Life partnered for a special report on acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol), the active ingredient in Tylenol, which is also found in many other over-the-counter medications. The narrow therapeutic index of acetaminophen means that often, the difference between safe use and overdose can be as small as one gram. From ProPublica.org: "About 150 Americans die a year by accidentally taking too much acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, federal data from the CDC shows."
posted by fiercecupcake on Sep 23, 2013 - 76 comments

Anecdotally... yup

Could Magic Mushrooms Be Used to Treat Anxiety and Depression?
posted by showbiz_liz on Jun 10, 2013 - 63 comments

Even better than the real thing?

Widespread fraud has been discovered in the case of an Indian generic drug manufacturer that makes generic Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium) and many other drugs. Ranbaxy has "pleaded guilty to seven federal criminal counts of selling adulterated drugs with intent to defraud." [more inside]
posted by fiercecupcake on May 18, 2013 - 28 comments

Ayurveda in the Modern age

Ayurveda: Hoax or Science? "'Western science identifies these systems as folklore. They don’t see it as an organised system of knowledge—this is an alien epistemology to them because their medical traditions only go as far back as the medieval times and renaissance.' There is also the very real problem of complexity in natural-product research. It is harder to develop a drug from Ayurveda than it is to build a synthetic molecule, because of the large number of compounds in each Ayurvedic herb. All these factors are responsible for the state of Ayurvedic medicine today."
posted by dhruva on Mar 7, 2013 - 89 comments

We are powerless buyers in a sellers’ market

Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us. Summary: Inside the Cover Story. Related video: The Exorbitant Prices of Health Care [more inside]
posted by zarq on Feb 21, 2013 - 85 comments

How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death

Scientists investigate the use of psychedelic drugs in end of life therapy "Grob and his colleagues are part of a resurgence of scientific interest in the healing power of psychedelics. Michael Mithoefer, for instance, has shown that MDMA is an effective treatment for severe P.T.S.D. Halpern has examined case studies of people with cluster headaches who took LSD and reported their symptoms greatly diminished. And psychedelics have been recently examined as treatment for alcoholism and other addictions. "
posted by bookman117 on May 18, 2012 - 57 comments

Will we ever know what caused the Salem Witch Trials?

"I would point out to you that medical explanations are modern. That Americans today want medical explanations for things that in the 19th century would have been explained by hysteria, and in the 18th century would have been explained by religious conversion experiences in the context of the Great Awakening, when people were having these types of fits, and in the 17th century by witchcraft."

posted by empath on Jan 30, 2012 - 54 comments

The pain is killing me

Even a little too much Tylenol over a few days can cause a liver failure. Paracetamol or acetaminophen, active ingredient of such over-the-counter painkillers as Tylenol, Panadol, Anacin-3 and many, many others, is considered safe - and it is, in prescribed doses. But even a single overdose can lead to liver failure despite treatment, and then only a liver transplant can avert a fatal outcome. [more inside]
posted by hat_eater on Nov 27, 2011 - 108 comments

Biting back at Malaria...

A new malaria vaccine has been shown effective in large-scale field trials. After decades of disappointment, researchers think they're finally on track to unleash the first practical vaccine against malaria, one of mankind's ancient scourges. In the world's first large field trial of an experimental malaria vaccine, several thousand young children who got three doses had about 55 percent less risk of getting the disease over a year than those who got a control vaccine against rabies or meningitis. [more inside]
posted by BobbyVan on Oct 18, 2011 - 21 comments

But what about Panadol, Anacin and Efferalgan?

Last week Johnson & Johnson announced that it is lowering the maximum daily dose for single-ingredient Extra Strength Tylenol from 8 to 6 pills per day (from 4,000 to 3,000 mg). [more inside]
posted by hat_eater on Aug 4, 2011 - 54 comments

Pitcher’s Treatment Draws Scrutiny

Bartolo Colon, now of the New York Yankees, underwent a controversial stem-cell treatment in the Dominican Republic to regain his old form.
posted by reenum on May 12, 2011 - 23 comments

master of information

The New Biology - Eric Schadt's quest to upend molecular biology and open source it. (via)
posted by kliuless on Apr 9, 2011 - 35 comments

Premature birth-preventing drug faces cost spike

Progesterone caproate injections have been used to reduce the likelihood of premature births in at-risk pregnant women for years. Up until now, the drug was custom-compounded by wholesale and specialist pharmacies, legally, but without federal approval. These injections cost between $5 and $15 a dose and were regularly reimbursed by insurance companies and Medicaid. Last month, the FDA announced their approval of a commercially produced version of the compound, to be marketed under the brand name Makena by a company called KV Pharmaceuticals. No stranger to controversy and trouble, KV barely survived a rash round of layoffs and wrongful termination lawsuits. Their former chief executive now faces criminal charges surrounding the company's failure to notify the FDA that they were producing oversized morphine tablets. (He could also do for a shave, it appears.) Now, KV has announced that the new drug will be available at a cost of $1,500 per dose, bringing the total pregnancy term cost of treatment to $25,000-$30,000, from its former cost of $250-$300, a 100-fold increase—but it gets worse... [more inside]
posted by disillusioned on Mar 9, 2011 - 63 comments

Placebos Without Deception

Meet the Ethical Placebo: "A provocative new study called 'Placebos Without Deception,' published on PLoS One today, threatens to make humble sugar pills something they’ve rarely had a chance to be in the history of medicine: a respectable, ethically sound treatment for disease that has been vetted in controlled trials." [Via]
posted by homunculus on Dec 23, 2010 - 76 comments

Placebos

Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why.
posted by homunculus on Aug 25, 2009 - 106 comments

Mother's Little Helper was only in trouble if it was mislabeled

The US Food and Drug Administration started regulating the labeling of food, beverages, and medicines after the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, and added food coloring and cosmetics with the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. They have just released a new website, the FDA Notices of Judgment Collection, 1906-1963, containing data from thousands of cases of mislabeled or misadvertised products and drugs, available in multiple forms (text, PDF, metadata XML, .TIF image, etc.), with searchable archives. Poking around in the data will yield information on cases ranging from misbranding methamphetamine tablets, to quack "Film-O-Sonic" devices, to bacteria-laden unproven abortifacients sold over the counter, to purported "4-way" cures for baldness, to hunks of radium sold for putting in your drinking water to "stimulate the sex organs" (judged against for stating an unproven use, not for actual danger of product). Organized by the FDA's history office, the new database is a fascinating resource for historians, public safety advocates, researchers, and librarians.
posted by Asparagirl on Apr 6, 2009 - 28 comments

"Our whole approach is based on the idea that science matters at the FDA"

The Economist on Drugs -- Scientists in North America, Europe and Israel are studying the use of MDMA, LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana and other banned psychoactive substances in treating conditions such as anxiety, cluster headaches, addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are supported by private funds from a handful of organisations: the Beckley Foundation in Britain; the Heffter Research Institute and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in America. [related]
posted by kliuless on Dec 28, 2008 - 43 comments

The Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008

Thirty-six years after the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse recommended that "simple possession" of pot be decriminalised, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), to remove federal criminal penalties for possession of up to 100 grams (about three-and-a-half ounces) of marijuana and the not-for-profit transfer of up to one ounce (28.3 grams). Drug reform advocates lit up hailed the legislation as "an important step toward bringing federal law into line with scientific fact, practical reality and public opinion." Is America, at long last, having a collective moment of sanity?
posted by kliuless on Apr 20, 2008 - 76 comments

Anti-depressants, Serotonin and Depression

"Researchers found that failing to publish negative findings inflated the reported effectiveness of all 12 of the antidepressants studied." See also: Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature. [more inside]
posted by OmieWise on Jan 17, 2008 - 137 comments

Paeykillers

Richard Paey Speaks - An interview with the paraplegic man sentenced to 25 years in prison for treating his own pain, but now out after a full pardon by the Florida Governor. [more inside]
posted by daksya on Nov 20, 2007 - 42 comments

The larks, still bravely singing, fly / Scarce heard amid the guns below.

The poppy is bitterly ironic this Remembrance Day. Borrowed from John McRae's classic In Flanders' Fields, the poppy has shifted from a symbolic meaning to the central subject of an ongoing conflict. As international intervention in Afghanistan continues, opium production has reached record-breaking heights, with this single country now producing 90% of the world's total supply (utterly dwarfing global licit supply). Meanwhile, the world suffers a global opiate shortage(pdf), Canada's heroin maintenance project is threatened by politics, and the National Review of Medicine suggests that prescription opiates are far more dangerous than the "usual suspects".
posted by mek on Nov 11, 2007 - 26 comments

RIP Robin Prosser

Robin Prosser was a former concert pianist and systems analyst who suffered from an autoimmune disease similar to lupus for over 20 years. The disease left her in constant pain and made her allergic to most pharmaceutical painkillers. Only medical marijuana brought her relief, but last spring the DEA seized her medicine. Unable to cope with the chronic pain any longer, she committed suicide on October 18th. [Via Andrew Sullivan.]
posted by homunculus on Oct 29, 2007 - 68 comments

Pain Management as a Human Right

Recognizing Pain Management as a Fundamental Human Right. These pieces from the journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society argue that under-treated chronic pain is becoming a public health crisis which must be addressed. But a warning to pain doctors in the U.S. who prescribe opioids in doses that seem high to narcotics agents and prosecutors: “Be afraid.” [Via Hit & Run and TalkLeft.]
posted by homunculus on Jul 8, 2007 - 69 comments

Turn on, tune in, get out

Entheogens and Psychotherapy. A 2001 paper by Canadian psychotherapist Andrew Feldmar on the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelics and his own experience with LSD. Now, because of this paper, he is no longer allowed to enter the U.S. [Via MindHacks.]
posted by homunculus on Apr 24, 2007 - 20 comments

Natural Contraception in the Ancient World?

Silphium was the wonder plant of the ancient world. Originally identified by Greek colonists in North Africa, the plant - a species of Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) - grew only in a dimunitive area near the coast and could not be cultivated. Silphium was popular as a spice for cooking, but its notoriety stems from its alleged medicinal qualities, particularly its use as an herbal contraceptive (the "I love you" heart symbol may have originated from the shape of silphium's seed pods and its use in sex). So valuable was Silphium that it became an important component of the ancient world's economy and appears on coins. It's also among the first species recorded (by Pliny the Elder) as going extinct, probably by grazing sheep or uncontrolled harvesting. Or is it?
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot on Dec 7, 2006 - 21 comments

Paging Jeremy Piven

A meth bust turned deeply odd in East Palo Alto, California when an underground hospital clinic was discovered in a drug raid on a house owned by a Stanford Hospital employee. The world of underground medicine has been memorably fictionalized in film, but it can be argued that [nytfilter: metabooty/bootytastic] the real thing is plenty bizarre (link possibly NSFW) on its own merits.

On the other hand, what constitutes underground medicine? You can go with the literal definition, or you can consider this recent near-miss with one of the most persistent urban legends. However, as is often the case, the most entertainingly impassioned defenses of "underground medicine" are those promulgated by "alternative health" practitioners (mustache possibly NSFW).
posted by scrump on May 9, 2006 - 12 comments

Marijuana Like Substance Helps To Keep Our Bones Strong

Substances produced in the body that act like those found in the cannabis plant help preserve bone density, according to researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Why do they have to get rid of the psychoactive side effects similar to pot?
posted by sultan on Jan 5, 2006 - 29 comments

Bad medicine

The problem of fake pharmaceutical drugs
posted by daksya on Dec 22, 2005 - 21 comments

Liquid cannabis

The Lesson of Sativex - By approving liquid marijuana, the Canadian government has just certified that virtually everything our own (American) government has been telling us about marijuana is wrong. A little more on Sativex from GW Pharm. (via The Media Awareness Project ... and the MPP)
posted by mrgrimm on Apr 22, 2005 - 50 comments

Just Say No To Drugs (Reps)

Just Say No To Drug Reps.
posted by Gyan on Dec 4, 2004 - 40 comments

Heroin, PCP, ketamine, marijuana?

Rescheduling marijuana: third time's the charm? Rather than hoping activist judges use the outdated notion of state's rights to allow Angel Raich to use marijuana medicinally (she claims she'd die without it), why not reclassify it as Schedule II? Or more appropriately, Schedule III? Don't hold your breath. They've been trying since 1972.
posted by mrgrimm on Dec 2, 2004 - 42 comments

When drug companies hide data

When drug companies hide data.

"The attorney general's civil suit accuses the drug giant GlaxoSmithKline of committing fraud by concealing negative information about Paxil, a drug used to treat depression. The suit says that the company conducted five clinical trials of Paxil in adolescents and children, yet published only one study whose mixed results it deemed positive. The company sat on two major studies for up to four years, although the results of one were divulged by a whistle-blower at a medical conference in 1999 and all of the studies were submitted to the Food and Drug Administration in 2002 when the company sought approval for new uses of Paxil. At that time it became apparent that Paxil was no more effective than a placebo in treating adolescent depression and might even provoke suicidal thoughts.

My Dad was on Paxil until 26 days ago..... that's when he shot himself.
posted by Lusy P Hur on Jun 6, 2004 - 47 comments

Big heads wobbling on wee necks?....

Nootropics ("smart" drugs) - all wish to be smarter, correct ? And - while exercise, nutrition, learning, travel, and social interaction (the last 3 via release of neurotrophins) effectively do this, Nootropic drugs have been researched since the 1950's and have been shown to cause at least short term cognitive function enhancement. Piracetam, the first of this drugs, shows promise in the treatment of Alzheimer's and Attention deficit Disorder. Alas, as with poor little Algernon, the effect seems temporary. Nootropics can be a little difficult to acquire in the US. Beer is not a nootropic, but sex on the other hand.....
posted by troutfishing on Mar 5, 2004 - 20 comments

Painkillers destroy hearing

Painkillers destroy hearing - Looks like America's fascination with Vicodin, Oxycotin, and other hardcore painkillers has a lasting effect other than addiction. Studies are showing that "rapid hearing loss, even deafness, in some patients who are misusing the drugs". This is serious enough for Vicodin's manufacturer to add a "warning about the potential for hearing loss to the drug's label."

Is Rush Limbaugh's sudden deafness and recent involvement in a painkiller drug investigation simply a coincidence?
posted by Argyle on Oct 3, 2003 - 38 comments

And they work how exactly?

Anxious? Depressed? - you need more brain cells. Just take one of these twice a day. New research shows that antidepressants may not work as we thought at all, rather they actually stimulate growth of cells in the hippocampus area of the brain. This may all be for the good - but it seems strange that we release millions of happy pills and market them as safe without knowing for sure what they do. Perhaps its the money talking.
posted by grahamwell on Aug 9, 2003 - 75 comments

Take 2 Thorazine & call me in the morning.

The American Gallery of Psychiatric Art. 'Sanity For Sale: 1960-2000'. Magazine advertisements for psychiatric medications in the latter half of the twentieth century.
posted by eyebeam on Jul 23, 2003 - 15 comments

The Access to Essential Medicines Campaign

The Access to Essential Medicines Campaign is an initiative by Medecins Sans Frontieres that seeks to "lower the prices of existing medicines in developing countries, to bring abandoned drugs back into production, to stimulate research and development for neglected diseases that primarily affect the poor, and to overcome other barriers to access." HIV is one target disease. The Campaign's press releases, press clips and reports on HIV give a good picture of recent developments. In light of this evidence, does anyone care to step up and defend "big pharma" and the governments of the wealthy North? Have we/they "done enough"? What would "doing enough" look like, given the scope of the crisis?
posted by stonerose on Dec 1, 2002 - 5 comments

William James, The Nitrous Oxide Philosopher

William James, The Nitrous Oxide Philosopher The fascinating history of laughing gas has always included goofy moments and famous users (Samuel Coleridge and Peter Roget among them), but few took the drug as seriously as American philosopher William James. He wrote an 1882 essay about the "intense metaphysical illumination" nitrous provided. Of course, laughing gas has dangers, can kill you if used stupidly, and can also send you to jail. But is hippie crack always bad? Or are there times when it might actually be kind of appropriate? [more inside]
posted by mediareport on Oct 11, 2002 - 21 comments

And the top 200 prescriptions for 2001 are...

And the top 200 prescriptions for 2001 are... I see Claritin near the top of the charts, with zoloft and paxil not too far behind. Prozac is down, with viagra shooting up the charts like a... hmm. In total 3.1 billion prescriptions were filled in the US, which would be about an average of a dozen per citizen. Also interesting are the previous six years of data, allowing anyone to build a "Rx Zeitgeist" of the american hypochondriac.
posted by mathowie on May 21, 2002 - 59 comments

Utah Leads Nation in Rate of Anti-Depressant Use.

Utah Leads Nation in Rate of Anti-Depressant Use. It is interesting (to me) in that the people doing the study credit a "Mother of Zion" syndrome of married Mormon women putting on the happy face regardless of how happy they truly are. My state is up at the top also. Could be all the rain I guess. . .*sigh*
posted by Danf on Feb 20, 2002 - 45 comments

Kava exporters in Pacific react to Western Kava bans

Kava exporters in Pacific react to Western Kava bans
    Pacific countries who export kava called for an international review of its alleged health risks. They are reacting to a recent spate of warnings on its use and, in some cases, bans on its sale (1).
    Growing concern over a link between kava use and liver toxicity has prompted Germany, Switzerland and France to ban the sale of kava-derived herbal medicine (1, 2, 3). The US, Canada, and NZ are advising against its use, pending their own reviews (1, 2, 3, 4).
    Kava is cultivated and brewed to produce an narcotic ceremonial drink in much of the Pacific. Recently it has become a cash crop for an herbal-enthused Western market (1, 2), as well as part of a growing drug-abuse problem (1) in Pacific countries.
posted by rschram on Jan 18, 2002 - 13 comments

ADHD/ADD and Drug Abuse

ADHD/ADD and Drug Abuse They found a link between children with common 'behavioral' disorders and drug abuse later in life. Well what do you expect when we teach kids that the best way to deal with a problem is to turn to drugs (ritalin).
posted by crackheadmatt on Dec 20, 2001 - 27 comments

Medical marijuana

Medical marijuana not as effective as previously thought. Should this study affect the legalization talks?
posted by bytecode on Jul 6, 2001 - 7 comments

Memorial to those who died of heroin.

Memorial to those who died of heroin. This is what I got in email today, after, I guess, they found my half-completed story on such a topic: "I was looking on the internet on Google for heroin drug overdose. You can see my daughter's before and after picture on www.ourwall.net. Click on Cheryl Dean born July 11, 1979 overdosed on Oct 5, 1997. Cheryl didn't die but she can't walk, talk, move legs arms or hands is blind and on a feeding tube. She had a cardiac arrest and didn't get enough oxygen to the brain in time."
posted by Mo Nickels on Oct 8, 2000 - 42 comments

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