Monday, March 22, 2010

Hundreds of Georgia School Children to Receive Free Eye Exams and Glasses

/PRNewswire/ -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGA) and OneSight®, a Luxottica Group Foundation have teamed to bring a regional clinic to Georgia from today, Monday, March 22, through Friday, March 26. Clayton County, Henry County and Spalding County Schools pre-selected approximately 600 students from kindergarten through high school based on their financial and vision needs to receive free vision care, including full vision exams and new eyewear. Held at the Luxottica Retail Distribution Center (100 Greenwood Industrial Pkwy, McDonough, GA 30253), local doctors, community partners, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia associates, as well as employees from LensCrafters, Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical and Target Optical will provide services and assistance during clinic hours (8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily).

According to the Vision in Preschoolers Study, the National Institutes of Health, the National Eye Institute and NEI Clinical Studies, vision problems are the fourth most common disability in the United States, and one of the most prevalent conditions in childhood. In addition, the American Public Health Association (APHA) recently reported that one-in-four children in kindergarten through sixth grade has visual disabilities that affect their ability to learn. Some studies indicate that 80 percent of learning in children occurs visually; yet 86 percent of children do not receive a vision exam during these formative years.

"This ongoing collaborative effort to bring the Vision Van back again this year to the greater Atlanta area continues to make a meaningful difference in the lives of children who might not otherwise have had their vision needs met," says Monye Connolly, president, BCBSGa. "Our hope is that this service will provide these children with improved self-esteem and a better opportunity to live life to the fullest."

"OneSight provides important opportunities through clear vision that enable children to succeed in school and ultimately, in life," said Jane Walters, OneSight captain. "We have seen many cases where a pair of glasses has made the difference in helping a child accomplish greater scholastic success or simply see clearly for the first time. Watching a child's face light up as the world comes into focus is something I will never forget."

"An eye exam is one of the best forms of preventative medicine today. Good vision health is connected to overall health and well-being. Supporting OneSight's regional clinic helps these children to more clearly experience the world around them," said Jeff Spahr, staff vice president, Vision and Voluntary Services.

In addition to serving children in communities throughout the country with the regional clinic, OneSight also performs two-week Global Clinics designed to hand-deliver eye exams and recycled, donated eyewear to underprivileged individuals in developing countries. To date, nearly 3 million people have been helped during Global Clinics.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Save a Life -- Prevent the Tragedy of Spring Suicide

/PRNewswire-/ -- Recent news reports of celebrities and college students taking their own lives highlight the need for vigilance and intervention against the tragedy of suicide. The nation's emergency physicians treat more than half a million suicide attempts every year and urge the public to recognize the signs of suicidal crisis and act right away.

"More than 30,000 people kill themselves every year, which is nearly double the number of homicides in America," said Dr. Angela Gardner, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Increasing public awareness of the risk may help prevent the tragedy of suicide. Many believe - incorrectly - that suicide rates spike over the year-end holidays. In fact, most suicides occur in the spring."

Did you know that:

-- Four times as many men as women die by suicide?
-- The highest death rate by suicide occurs in people ages 65 and older?
-- Living in a rural area elevates the risk of suicide?
-- Having a family member or friend commit suicide raises your risk of
-- Depression, mental illness and substance abuse are the leading
underlying causes of suicide?
Suicide typically comes with warning signs. These include:

-- Threatening to hurt or kill oneself, or talking about wanting to hurt
or kill oneself.
-- Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms,
available pills, or other means.
-- Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide.
-- Feeling hopeless.
-- Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger, or seeking revenge.
-- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities.
-- Feeling trapped -- like there's no way out.
-- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.
-- Withdrawing from friends, family, and society.
-- Feeling anxious, agitated or unable to sleep, or sleeping all the
-- Experiencing dramatic mood changes, including sudden generosity with
treasured possessions.

If someone expresses a desire to kill himself, do not leave him alone and do not assume the problem will go away by itself. Even if someone attempts suicide and lives, there can be lasting damage to that person and his community. Attempting suicide also raises the risk of a future suicide attempt.

"It's critically important to take any threats of suicide seriously and to intervene immediately," said Dr. Gardner. "Someone contemplating taking their own life needs expert attention right away, either at the emergency department or from a professional trained to treat people in suicidal crisis. You might be the person who saves a life by getting a friend or relative the help they need."

For more information on suicide and other health related topics, go to

ACEP and MedicAlert Foundation are partnering to promote and to educate the public about medical emergencies.

MedicAlert Foundation pioneered the first medical identification and emergency medical information service in 1956 to provide people with a simple but effective method for communicating their medical conditions. Since the organization's founding, MedicAlert Foundation has provided services and products that help to protect and save lives for its 4 million members worldwide. For more than 50 years, the nonprofit foundation has relayed vital medical information on behalf of its members to emergency responders so they receive faster and safer treatment. MedicAlert IDs alert emergency personnel to a member's primary health conditions. In addition to its 24-hour emergency response service, MedicAlert Foundation also provides family and caregiver notification so that members can be reunited with their loved ones. For more information, visit

ACEP is a national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Beverage Industry Applauds Members of Congress for Their Leadership on School Nutrition

/PRNewswire/ -- The American Beverage Association (ABA) today commended Sens. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, as well as Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., and Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., for their bi-partisan leadership on school nutrition.

"The beverage industry commends Chairman Lincoln, Ranking Member Chambliss, Senator Harkin, Chairman Miller and Representative Woolsey for their steadfast commitment to updating school nutrition standards in a manner that is supported by science and grounded in common sense," Susan K. Neely, ABA president and CEO, said.

The beverage industry has been an industry leader on school health and wellness, developing and implementing national School Beverage Guidelines as part of a broader effort to teach children the importance of a balanced diet and exercise.

"As parents and grandparents, we recognize that schools are special places," Neely said. "Industry has spent the past several years removing full-calorie soft drinks from schools across America and replacing them with lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverages. We believe this standard, which is already implemented and working, provides a strong cornerstone for developing a new federal nutrition standard for all foods and beverages sold in schools."

Limiting calories in our nation's schools is a sensible approach, and one on which the School Beverage Guidelines are based. The Alliance School Beverage Guidelines Final Progress Report shows that the beverage industry delivered on its promise to parents, school and community leaders by removing full-calorie soft drinks from schools across America and replacing them with lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverages. This initiative has resulted in 88 percent fewer beverage calories available in schools.

In May 2006, America's leading beverage companies agreed to implement School Beverage Guidelines that limit portion sizes and reduce the number of beverage calories available to children during the school day. Under the voluntary guidelines, 100 percent juice, low-fat milk and bottled water are allowed in elementary and middle schools, with the addition of diet beverages and calorie-capped sports drinks, flavored waters and teas in high schools. For more information, please visit the ABA Web site at

The American Beverage Association is the trade association representing the broad spectrum of companies that manufacture and distribute non-alcoholic beverages in the United States.

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Uninsured People to Receive Help at Atlanta Free Health Clinic Event Amidst Health Care Reform Debates

/PRNewswire/ -- While health care reform discussions continue in the nation's capitol, the National Association of Free Clinics (NAFC) is bringing help to the Atlanta area for people without health insurance who are in need of medical care. Uninsured residents of Georgia who want to attend the free health clinic event being held at the Georgia International Convention Center near Atlanta on March 27 should call 877-233-5159 toll-free as soon as possible to schedule appointments.

As this is Cover the Uninsured Week, the NAFC encourages people - both medical and non-medical - to volunteer at this event. Volunteers can find more information about the Atlanta C.A.R.E. clinic and can register to volunteer at

This event is about getting people who need care connected to free clinics and other safety-net providers for ongoing treatment. It highlights the incredible work that the 1,200 free health clinics around the country do every day to serve about 8 million uninsured people.

"While legislators continue the health care debates, the NAFC is bringing action to the problem now, helping those who may not be aware of the safety-net available to them and who have not had access to the medical care they need," NAFC Executive Director Nicole Lamoureux said.

Several hundred doctors, other medical providers and non-medical volunteers are expected to participate in the C.A.R.E. (Communities Are Responding Everyday) Clinic sponsored by the NAFC and the Georgia Free Clinic Network. They will provide care for a wide range of medical issues at no cost to participants or taxpayers from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on March 27.

Almost 18 percent of the non-elderly residents of Georgia do not have health insurance.

"About 83 percent of uninsured people have jobs," Donna Looper, executive director of the Georgia Free Clinic Network, said. "Being uninsured is not the same as being unemployed. At past C.A.R.E. Clinics, we found that many of the patients worked at two or more jobs but did not receive health insurance benefits. Some even worked as nurses or for insurance companies but still did not have insurance themselves."

This will be the sixth in a series of large, mostly one-day C.A.R.E. Clinics held around the country to bring together health care professionals and non-medical volunteers, to serve the needs of thousands of people who might otherwise go without medical care. Since last September, more than 7,000 uninsured patients received treatment at C.A.R.E. Clinics in Houston, New Orleans, Little Rock, Kansas City and Hartford.

In addition to the toll-free number for patients to register for the C.A.R.E. Clinic, patients and volunteers also can find information about the clinic online at:

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation Announces $214,500 in Grants to Improve Youth Fitness

/PRNewswire/ -- The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation (AFYF) recently awarded 11 nonprofit organizations a total of $214,500 in grants to improve youth fitness and reduce childhood obesity across Georgia.

The grants include $50,000 to a national nonprofit, Good Sports, which is working with AFYF to supply recreation and sports equipment to increase the number of low-income children participating in regular physical activity. Good Sports will deliver two dollars of equipment to Georgia organizations for every one dollar of AFYF grant funds.

More information regarding terms and eligibility for this equipment funding program is available on The first round of equipment donations are expected to be delivered in August.

"We are thrilled to team up with the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation to help kids in Georgia become more physically active," said Melissa Harper, CEO of Good Sports. "By providing equipment that removes barriers to participation, we can help move more children from sedentary to active lifestyles."

Preference will be given to projects serving low-income children in Atlanta and Gainesville, where AFYF supports Falcons Fitness Zone programming to reduce childhood obesity, as well as to projects in 12 identified high-need counties: Baker, Clay, Crisp, Early, Emanuel, Jenkins, Johnson, Stewart, Taliaferro, Terrell, Tift and Turner.

The 11 new grants deepen AFYF's investment across Georgia and in the five neighborhoods (four in Atlanta, one in Gainesville) designated as Falcons Fitness Zones, where AFYF partners are serving 10,000 kids at 50 sites during the school year - burning off more than 44,000 pounds of body fat, or more than 515,000 cheeseburgers. Since launching the Fitness Zones initiative in 2005, AFYF has invested more than $8 million in nonprofit organizations serving children in these neighborhoods.

The latest AFYF grants include awards to:

Georgia Action for Healthy Kids

$2,500 to provide scholarships for at least 25 teachers from Title I schools to attend a conference in Athens, Ga.: "School Wellness: The Cornerstone of Academic Achievement."

Piedmont Park Conservancy

$2,500 to provide at least 20 one-week scholarships to the Park's summer camp program, EnviroVentures, emphasizing outdoor activities. The scholarships are to be awarded to students from Title I schools.

Girls Inc.

$10,000 for the organization's Sporting Chance program, which features Double Dutch jump roping for 300 girls served through the Marietta Center and Ivy Preparatory Academy.

Park Pride

$12,000 to provide neighborhood parks groups in Atlanta with equipment and resources to engage children in outdoor activities, including bird watching and astronomy, and to disseminate new research on the role parks can play in improving health.

Kids & Pros

$12,500 to provide scholarships for up to 200 kids - drawn from current Fitness Zone neighborhoods - to attend a Kids & Pros week-long camp held at Clark Atlanta University in summer 2010.

Moving in the Spirit

$15,000 for the Stepping Stones dance program, which serves more than 140 youth across Falcons Fitness Zone neighborhoods.

KIPP Metro Atlanta

$15,000 for a youth sports league engaging more than 180 KIPP students, along with students at other charter and independent schools. Activities include flag football, basketball, cheerleading and soccer.

After-School All-Stars

$20,000 to acquire two HOPSports Trainings Systems for after-school and summer programs at two Atlanta Public Schools middle school sites.

Metro Atlanta YMCA

$25,000 to launch the Westside Health & Wellness Collaborative, providing health services for Fitness Zone children, including health screenings and follow-up care for 150 students from Bethune and Herndon elementary schools.

Good Sports

$50,000 over two years to operate a sports-equipment acquisition program, providing Georgia nonprofits with equipment that removes barriers to participation in physical activity. Good Sports will deliver two dollars of equipment to Georgia nonprofits for every one dollar in AFYF grant funds.

Atlanta Track Club

$50,000 over two years for the Kilometer Kids running program, which serves more than 2,000 youth across Fitness Zone neighborhoods.

About The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation:

Investing across Georgia, the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation helps nonprofit organizations reduce childhood obesity and improve youth fitness. The foundation was established in 1985 to serve as the philanthropic arm of the Atlanta Falcons. Since Arthur Blank acquired the Atlanta Falcons in 2002, the foundation has grown to be the largest owner-funded foundation in the National Football League, providing more than $16 million in grants to nonprofit organizations across the state of Georgia.

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Publix Pharmacies Launch Free Metformin for Type II Diabetes Patients as New Diabetes Program Debuts

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today Publix Pharmacies launched the first phase of a new diabetes management system. The program is a multi-faceted program established to assist customers and associates living with diabetes in managing their medication, compliance, monitoring, education, nutrition and exercise. In its first phase, this one-of-a-kind program offers diabetic patients free medication, online resources and the benefit of knowledgeable pharmacists. At the core of the program is the free generic immediate-release metformin (500 mg, 850 mg or 1,000 mg) — the generic form of the drug Glucophage.

“100 Best Companies to Work For in America”

“As both a supermarket and pharmacy, Publix is the ideal setting in which to promote healthy living,” said Maria Brous, Publix media and community relations director. “We are uniquely positioned to educate our customers and associates on the nutritional aspects of living with diabetes. As a grocer of choice for so many, we saw an opportunity to better serve the health and maintain the wellness of those leaning to live with and manage their diabetes.”

In addition to receiving their metformin for free, Publix Pharmacy customers will have all their maintenance medications enrolled into the Auto Refill program. This will ensure all prescriptions are refilled when due. A reminder call, to the telephone number on file, will be placed to customers when prescriptions are ready for pick-up.

A robust online library of diabetes-related content, including educational articles, interactive tools for risk assessments, quizzes, podcasts and videos will be available at Customers are also encouraged to sign-up and receive a monthly e-newsletter, which will contain additional diabetes-related articles, a featured recipe of the month and special offers from Publix and Publix Pharmacy. Included in the program is a voucher for a free Publix brand glucose meter.

Publix is privately owned and operated by its 141,000 employees, with 2009 sales of $24.3 billion. Currently Publix has 1,012 stores in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. The company has been named one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” for 13 consecutive years. In addition, Publix’s dedication to superior quality and customer service is recognized as tops in the grocery business, most recently by an American Customer Satisfaction Index survey.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

AMA Releases New Older Driver Safety Guide

/PRNewswire/ -- To help protect the lives of older drivers and make our roads safer, the American Medical Association (AMA) today released a new Physician's Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers. Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of injury-related deaths in adults over 65. The fatality rate for drivers 85 years and older is nine times higher than the rate for drivers 25 to 69 years old.

"For many, a driver's license symbolizes independence, and the decision to retire from driving can have both practical and emotional implications on a patient's life," said AMA President-elect Cecil B. Wilson, M.D. "Physicians play an important role in the safe mobility of their older patients, and we encourage them to make driver safety a routine part of office visits for their senior patients."

The AMA's guide can help physicians address the driving safety of their older patients and better understand the public health issues involved. Topics covered in the guide include screening, assessing functional abilities, handling evaluations and referrals, conditions and medications that may impact driving, addressing safer driving, and counseling those who are no longer able to drive. A section with worksheets and resources for older patients and caregivers is also included.

Older drivers have a higher risk of traffic fatalities for two reasons: Drivers age 75 and older are involved in significantly more motor vehicle crashes per mile driven, and older drivers are considerably more fragile and more likely to suffer a fatal injury in the event of a crash than their younger counterparts.

The Physician's Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers was developed by the AMA in cooperation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The guide is currently available online at, and physicians can order a free hard copy to be available in four - six weeks. Later this year, a Continuing Medical Education course for physicians will be offered on the AMA's Web site.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Georgia Kidney Community Recognizes World Kidney Day; Echoes Need for Legislation to Improve Access to Dialysis and Transplant Care

/PRNewswire/ -- In recognition of World Kidney Day March 11, members of the state's kidney community including patients, caregivers, family members and advocates from across Georgia are calling on their legislators to support policies that will enhance patients' access to health insurance for essential medical care. Designated as a day to increase awareness of chronic kidney disease (CKD) around the world, members of the kidney community in Georgia are also encouraging state lawmakers to support policies that improve access to life-saving dialysis care and essential anti-rejection drugs needed following a kidney transplant.

Just last month, the state Senate unanimously passed "Medigap" legislation (S.B. 316), sponsored by Senators Don Thomas (R-Dalton) and Ed Harbison (D-Columbus), to help approximately 2,000 Georgians suffering from kidney failure who are having difficulty accessing needed health insurance coverage. Kidney community members are also looking forward to working with the state House of Representatives to address this important patient access issue following their return to session this week.

"I applaud my colleagues in the Senate for recognizing the value of expanded access to Medigap coverage and for supporting improved access to life-saving kidney care," said Senator Don Thomas. "In honor of World Kidney Day today, I also encourage all Georgians to take time to learn more about the importance of kidney health."

While Medicare covers most medical costs for end stage renal disease (ESRD) patients, it still requires patients to pay deductibles and co-pays. Under current federal law, only Medicare beneficiaries over the age of 65 are able to purchase Medigap insurance as secondary coverage. Patients under the age of 65 do not have this same option. Most patients have some type of secondary insurance to help with these costs; however, approximately 2,000 Georgians under age 65 with kidney failure do not have access to this coverage intended to help them and patients deemed disabled access essential medical treatments, including kidney transplant.

In addition, Medigap coverage protects many patients from having to "spend down" their income to become eligible for state Medicaid insurance. If Medigap legislation is enacted, fewer people will be forced to enter Georgia's Medicaid program, resulting in Medicaid savings of up to $20 million over the next five years.

"As a dialysis patient who has had to spend down my income to become eligible for the Medicaid program to help pay for my mounting medical bills, I am proud to lend my voice to this effort and I strongly urge all lawmakers to support expanded access to Medigap," David Smith, a dialysis patient from Cumming. "On today of all days, we must acknowledge that all kidney patients should be able to get the care they need without cost or financial status being a factor."

"As the rates of kidney disease and kidney failure continue to increase in Georgia and nationally, it is critically important for patients to have access to the life-saving and life-enhancing care they require," said Marlin R. Gottschalk, vice-president and legislative coordinator for the Georgia Association of Kidney Patients. "In addition to supporting increased education and awareness, we must also emphasize the value of patient-centered policies to improve access to care, such as increased Medigap access to ESRD and disabled patients of all ages."

Georgia currently ranks ninth in prevalence of ESRD among all fifty states. Today, more than 14,700 Georgians suffer from ESRD and thousands more have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). Nationally, approximately 527,000 patients in the United States are living with kidney failure. Chronic kidney disease and kidney failure rates are on the rise across the country and particularly among minority communities such as African Americans, Hispanic and Asian patients who make up more than half the ESRD patient population. Patients experiencing kidney failure rely on lifesaving dialysis treatments to remove toxins from the blood in place of their failed kidneys.

"In celebrating World Kidney Day, the patient community is calling much needed attention to the importance of proper kidney health, disease prevention and access to quality dialysis care," added Chad Lennox, Executive Director of Dialysis Patient Citizens, a national, non-profit organization representing approximately 1,300 members in Georgia. "As part of this special day, we are also urging lawmakers to supporting policies such as Medigap reform, which is a critical step to ensuring patient access to dialysis and transplant care."

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A Sporting Chance for Active Total Knee Replacement Patients

/PRNewswire/ -- Total knee arthroplasty (TKA) patients may be able to participate in high-impact sports without increasing risk of early implant failure, according to a new study presented today at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). In addition, the authors observed better clinical scores in the group of patients who participated in activities discouraged by the Knee Society (KS) than those of the control group.

The Knee Society recommends TKA patients avoid activities that cause high stress loads on the implant and may increase the risk of early failure. Such activities include high-impact aerobics, football, soccer, baseball, basketball, jogging and power lifting, among others.

"Recent studies have shown that as many as one in six total knee replacement patients participate in non-recommended activities," said Sebastian Parratte, M.D., PhD, an orthopaedic surgeon from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and the Aix-Marseille University, Center for Arthritis Surgery, Hospital Sainte-Marguerite in Marseille, France. "This study offers some reassurance to those patients who choose to return to an active lifestyle after surgery."

Researchers evaluated outcomes of 218 patients between the ages of 18 and 90 who underwent primary knee arthroplasty at the Mayo Clinic and reported performing heavy manual labor or practicing a non-recommended sport following surgery. The "sport group" was matched by age, gender and BMI to a control group of 317 patients who underwent the same procedure using an identical implant and followed recommended activity guidelines.

Clinical and radiologic results were measured using Knee Society (KS) scores and implant survivorship was evaluated using multivariate analysis according to the Cox model.

At an average follow-up of seven-and-a-half years after surgery, the study found:

-- No significant radiological differences and no significant differences
in implant durability could be demonstrated between the sport group
and the control group;
-- The sport group showed slightly higher KS Knee and function scores
compared to the control group;
-- The control group experienced a 20 percent higher revision rate for
mechanical failure (loosening, wear or fracture) compared to the sport
-- After accounting for all variables, including co-morbidities, the
sport group had a 10 percent higher risk of mechanical failure
compared to the control group.

These results were quite surprising to Dr. Parratte and his team.

"We hypothesized that high-impact activities would not increase the risk of implant failure, but we did not foresee that such activities might actually improve clinical results," he said. "It is clear that more research is necessary to evaluate the short and long-term effect of high-impact activities on the durability and function of modern TKA implants."

He added that, although the industry is not ready or able at this point to revise its recommendations, that possibility may exist in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, he noted that surgeons and patients should continue to follow all industry recommendations relating to recovery following joint replacement surgery.

Learn more.

About Joint Replacement

Joint replacement, also known as arthroplasty, is considered by many to be one of the most successful medical innovations of the 20th century. Total joint replacement is a surgical procedure in which the patient's natural joint is replaced with an artificial one, made of a combination of plastic, metal, and/or ceramic.

The most common reasons for this surgery are pain and stiffness that limits normal activities such as walking and bending and that cannot be satisfactorily treated with medications or other therapies. Therefore, joint replacement surgery often provides a significantly improved quality of life to patients who would otherwise have to live with severe pain.

In 2007, there were 550,161 total knee replacements performed in the United States, and that number is on the rise--particularly as the Baby Boomer population continues to age. Because of this trend, it is important to optimize patient outcomes.

Disclosure: Dr. Parratte and his co-authors received no compensation for this study.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Positive Routine "HIV Test" is Likely to be a False Positive, Scientist Explains

/PRNewswire/ -- In many jurisdictions, tests for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are required screening for pregnant women. Some even suggest screening the entire population for HIV. The rationale is to administer powerful antiretroviral drugs to healthy individuals to "prevent transmission."

But what if healthy people take expensive, toxic drugs for a condition they cannot transmit because they don't have it?

In the spring 2010 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Henry H. Bauer, Ph.D., writes that "HIV tests are not HIV tests." A positive test does not mean that a person has or will get AIDS. It doesn't even mean that he has HIV. Rather, it is a test for antibodies, either to HIV or to something that cross-reacts with it.

The FDA said in 1987 that "the significance of antibodies in an asymptomatic individual is not known." It is still not known, as positive tests have been reported in many illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, malaria, and aplastic anemia. They have also been reported after immunizations to tetanus or influenza, and may even be caused by pregnancy itself.

"The problem of false positive tests applies to all screening tests, not just HIV," states Jane M. Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). "If a population with a very low likelihood of a disease is tested, there will be very few positive tests. But even with an excellent test, a positive is more likely than not to be a false positive."

If only one in 1,000 tested individuals has HIV, then only one out of every six positive tests is a true positive, even if the HIV test is as good as is claimed.

This is why a test that is a very good for screening blood donors can do much more harm than good if used to screen the entire population, Dr. Orient stated.

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Starting Treatment Early Doubles Chance of Success for People with Diabetes

/PRNewswire/ -- The sooner people with diabetes start taking metformin, the longer the drug remains effective, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published in the March issue of Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.

The study found that metformin, an inexpensive, generic drug that helps patients prevent dangerously high blood sugar levels, worked nearly twice as long for people who began taking it within three months of their diabetes diagnosis. This is the first study to compare metformin failure rates in a real-world, clinical practice setting. Other studies compared failure rates of metformin only in clinical trials.

Metformin is recommended as a first-line agent in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but in most patients it eventually stops working, forcing them to take additional medications to control their blood sugar. Each additional drug adds extra costs and the possibility of more side effects including weight gain, so this study is welcome news for newly diagnosed patients, researchers said.

"This is an important finding for the 30 million people world-wide who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes every year. The sooner they start taking metformin, the better and longer it seems to work," said the study's lead author Jonathan B. Brown, PhD, an investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore. "This study suggests that to gain full benefit from metformin, patients should start taking it as soon as they find out they have diabetes."

Researchers used electronic health records to follow nearly 1,800 people with diabetes in Kaiser Permanente's health plan in Washington and Oregon for up to five years. Metformin failed at a rate of only 12 percent a year for the patients who began taking it within three months of diagnosis. That compares to a failure rate of 21.4 percent per year for patients who started taking metformin one to two years after diagnosis, and 21.9 percent per year for those who didn't start taking the drug until three years after they were diagnosed.

"We believe that starting the drug early preserves the body's own ability to control blood sugar, which in turn prevents the long-term complications of diabetes like heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness," said study co-author Gregory A. Nichols, PhD, an investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. "The American Diabetes Association recommends that patients start taking metformin and make lifestyle changes as soon as they are diagnosed. This study provides more evidence to back up that recommendation."

In the study, patients were considered to have failed metformin when their hemoglobin A1C--a test that monitors glucose control---went above 7.5 percent or when they started taking a second anti-hyperglycemic agent. Only patients who initially controlled blood sugar (to less than 7 percent on the A1C test) with metformin were included in the study.

To reduce the possibility that factors other than delay in starting metformin influenced the results of the study, researchers controlled for age, gender, and how well blood sugar was controlled prior to treatment. After controlling for these factors, an even stronger relationship emerged between the time a patient started on the drug, and the amount of time it remained effective. Still, the authors caution that other unmeasured factors could have influenced the results.

The study was funded by Novo Nordisk, Inc., a company that does not make or sell metformin and has no financial interest in, or connection to, Kaiser Permanente.

Study authors include: Jonathan B. Brown, PhD, MPP, and Gregory A. Nichols, PhD, from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., and Christopher Conner, PharmD, PhD, from Novo Nordisk, Inc., Seattle.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Right Colorectal Cancer Test for the Right Patient

PRNewswire/ -- Recent reports of President Obama's CT colonography, or virtual colonoscopy, as a screening test for colorectal cancer and coverage by the Associated Press of an NIH State-of-the-Science conference heralding stool blood tests as an inexpensive alternative to colonoscopy may leave many consumers wondering which colorectal cancer test is best for them. Physician experts from the American College of Gastroenterology are available to comment and help provide perspective on the many options for colorectal cancer screening during March Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

"As GI physicians on the front line of diagnosing colorectal cancer, we are concerned that recent news reports may give an incomplete picture of the use of various screening tests in detecting colorectal cancer, especially if patients are at higher than average risk," commented ACG President Philip O. Katz, M.D., FACG.

The ability to prevent colorectal cancer through polyp removal is the cornerstone of ACG's recommendation of colonoscopy as a "preferred" cancer screening strategy. There is a tremendous body of evidence that shows that clearing the colon of polyps, including small polyps, significantly reduces colorectal cancer mortality. When detected in its earliest and most treatable stage, the survival rates for colorectal cancer exceed 90 percent.

"It's vital that patients are fully aware of all of their options because some tests could delay the accurate diagnosis of colon cancer and the prompt removal of colon polyps," explained Dr. Katz. In some cases, false negative stool tests could prevent the timely detection of abnormalities which could impact survival. Suspicious findings on some tests mean that patients may still need to undergo colonoscopy.

Confusion surrounding screening options is especially alarming for African Americans, who have the highest incidence of colorectal cancer of any racial or ethnic group, and who face decreased survival compared with whites because early diagnosis is essential.

Colorectal Cancer Screening Recommendations from the American College of Gastroenterology

The ACG recommends men and women at average risk for colorectal cancer to begin screening at age 50. African-Americans should begin colorectal cancer screening at 45. The 2009 ACG evidence-based colorectal cancer screening guidelines divide the options into cancer prevention tests and cancer detection tests. Cancer prevention tests are preferred over detection tests. To review the ACG guidelines visit

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