Our Bodies, Our Blog

List of Comparative Effectiveness Research Priorities Released

By Rachel Walden |

We’ve mentioned in previous posts that comparative effectiveness research (research that directly compares the effectiveness of different treatments for the same illness) received funding in the stimulus bill, and that the Institute of Medicine was gathering public input in order to inform a report providing specific recommendations to Congress for prioritizing the expenditure of the funds. On Tuesday, the IOM released that report, “Initial National Priorities for Comparative Effectiveness Research“, which includes a list of 100 top topics (out of 1,268 unique suggestions) that the authoring committee believes should be prioritized for funding. The committee writes that the list of priorities was determined not just by which conditions affect the largest number of people, but with balance in mind. The full report notes that rare diseases and conditions that disproportionately affect specific segments of the population were also considered. They also explain that while comparative effectiveness research often focuses on comparing drug A to drug B, the committee felt it was important to include a diversity of interventions and different types of therapies, and they also considered where the gaps are in existing research. The priority list includes several childbirth related topics, including this: “Compare the effectiveness of birthing care … More

Double Dose: Mass. Mothers Get Breastfeeding Protection; NABJ Conference on Health Disparities; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Clinic; The Cutting Edge of Opera; Studies on IVF, Fosamax …

By Christine Cupaiuolo |

Who Decides? A State-by-State Analysis: NARAL Pro-Choice America has released its 18th edition of “Who Decides? The Status of Women’s Reproductive Rights in the United States.” The report summarizes the state of women’s access to reproductive healthcare nationwide, including legislation considered and enacted in 2008. This year’s edition also examines attacks on choice in the states and in the courts and highlights pro-choice legislative and non-legislative victories, including NARAL’s Prevention First initiative. Trading in “Barefoot and Pregnant” for Economic and Reproductive Justice: “The relevance of barefoot and pregnant remains central to an inclusive and just America,” writes Gloria Feldt. “Economic parity and reproductive justice are still intertwined, not only in the lives of individual women; they are indivisibly connected to our economic recovery as well.” A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Clinic …: That’s the title of an essay in Exhale’s latest issue of its bilingual abortion zine, “Our Truths/Nuestras Verdades” (download the pdf). Yes, it’s the humor issue. As Exhale founder Aspen Baker writes in the intro to the issue: Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowAbortion is a serious personal issue that is hotly debated … More

Osteopororsis Medicine: National Women’s Health Network Urges Women to Consider the Risks

By Christine Cupaiuolo |

National Women’s Health Network has posted a health alert concerning FDA oversight of bisphosphonates, such as Fosamax, and is urging women to carefully evaluate whether they should be on the drugs: After two bisphosphonate studies showed problems with heart damage, the FDA examined the effect of these drugs on the heart and found that women taking zoledronic acid (Reclast) and alendronate [Fosamax] were more likely to have dangerous irregular heart beats (atrial fibrillation). After examining all the available data, the FDA wasn’t able to confirm that the drugs cause the irregular heart rhythms, but it can’t rule it out, either. The FDA says it will do further studies of this issue, but in the meantime it has alerted women about the possible problem. The FDA advised women currently taking bisphosphonates not to stop. However, NWHN believes there may be many women taking the drugs for whom the benefits don’t outweigh the risks, and we urge women and prescribers to carefully evaluate whether they should be on the drugs. For example, healthy middle-aged women whose only reason for taking the drug is that a test showed some loss of bone density may decide they don’t want to increase their risk for … More

Cultural Support Needed for Women Who Breastfeed, Plus a Pitchman for Breast Milk

By Christine Cupaiuolo |

Aisha Qaasim, a civil rights attorney, often advocates on behalf of others. Today, in an essay published at Women’s eNews, Qaasim takes on the insults hurled at women who breastfeed in public and argues that the negativity surrounding breastfeeding is hurting the health of children and mothers, particularly in African-American families, where the rate of breastfeeding is the lowest. Women who breastfeed lower their risk of developing uterine cancer, osteoporosis, Type 2 diabetes and breast cancer over their lifetimes. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowBut the irony is that in today’s ambitious parenting climate — where millions of dollars are being spent on educational toys and organic baby products — breastfeeding as the most important developmental head-start is often neglected. Among African American women that’s particularly true. In 2004, 74 percent of U.S. women initiated breastfeeding soon after giving birth. Among black women it was 60 percent. By the time infants reached 6 months of age — a key health target — only 14 percent of U.S. infants were breastfed exclusively. Among black infants it was 7 percent. Only 36 percent of U.S. babies received breast milk in combination … More

Bone-Building Drugs May Cause an Uncommon Fracture

By Christine Cupaiuolo |

A story making headlines this past week raises questions about what we know/don’t know about a class of drugs commonly used to treat osteoporosis. The New York Times looks at a rare type of leg fracture in the upper thighbone — a fracture that typically affects people in car accidents or very frail older people — which is showing up in women who have used a class of bone-building drugs called bisphosphonates for five years or more. Tara Parker-Pope writes: Some patients have reported that after weeks or months of unexplained aching, their thighbones simply snapped while they were walking or standing. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act Now“Many of these women will tell you they thought the bone broke before they hit the ground,” said Dr. Dean G. Lorich, associate director of orthopedic trauma surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell and the Hospital for Special Surgery. Dr. Lorich and his colleagues published a study in The Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma last month reporting on 20 patients with the fracture. Nineteen had been using the bone drug Fosamax for an average of 6.9 years. To be sure, the problem appears to be … More

Double Dose: Bush White House – “Where All Good Public Health Protections Go to Die”; Afghanistan’s High Maternal Death Rate; The Disney Hypocrisy; Divorce Tied to Professor’s Job Loss; Amy Richards on “Opting In”; and More

By Christine Cupaiuolo |

Federal Agencies Can Now Offer Secret Input on EPA Chemical Reviews: The Washington Post reports on changes the Bush administration has made to Environmental Protection Agency reviews of chemicals — changes that officials with the Government Accountability Office say will delay scientific assessments of health risks and open the process to politicization. Richard Wiles, executive director of the Environmental Working Group, called the EPA process a “bureaucratic quagmire,” adding, “With these rules in place, it’s now official: The Bush White House is where all good public health protections go to die.” Death in Childbirth a Health Scourge for Afghanistan: Reuters takes a close look at the staggering maternal death rate in Afghanistan, where about 1,600 Afghan women die in childbirth out of every 100,000 live births. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act Now“In some of the most remote areas, the death rate is as high as 6,500. In comparison, the average rate in developing countries is 450 and in developed countries it is 9,” writes Tan Ee Lyn. “Virtually everyone in Afghanistan can recount a story about a relative dying in childbirth, often from minor complications that can be easily … More

Genome Scans: What do You Want to Know About Your DNA?

By Christine Cupaiuolo |

How much would you pay to know your genetic makeup? And once you had the information, how might it affect your behavior? Or your anxiety levels? Anna Gosline gets to all that and more in this comprehensive story she wrote for the L.A. Times about the fall-out from her own genetic test. Gosline discovered that she has a higher-than-average lifetime risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease — a risk that wasn’t entirely a surprise, since her maternal grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease. Gosline writes: But something about the plain and simple statement of my own genetic fact seemed shocking and terrifying. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act Now“Genetic information has a special power,” says Dr. Robert Green, professor of neurology, genetics and epidemiology at Boston University School of Medicine. “It has a feel of fate about it, a sense of inevitability, that sense that, ‘Oh, you are marked.’ “ But what, exactly, does that “mark” mean? And what about the accuracy? The article breaks down how the test works, what kind of information a client can expect to learn and how companies — which charge from $1,000 to $2,500 for the results … More

Good Bones: Prevention and Treatment for All Ages

By Christine Cupaiuolo |

Our Bodies Ourselves Executive Director Judy Norsigian and Managing Editor Heather Stephenson recently wrote about the potential side effects associated with some medications for post-menopausal osteoporosis, and they offered smart tips to help navigate the pharmaceutical hype. Writing in the Washington Post, Nancy J. Nelson personalizes the challenge of determining one’s risk for bone fractures and making informed decisions about treatment options: I share an anxiety with several women friends in their 50s and 60s. We’ve all been told that because our bone mineral density is low — though not low enough to meet the definition of the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis — we need to take medication to reduce our chance of fractures. This means primarily hormones or Fosamax, the top-selling osteoporosis drug, for which doctors wrote more than 20 million prescriptions last year, nearly $2 billion worth. Knowing the associated risks — heart disease, stroke and breast cancer for hormones; ulcers of the esophagus and stomach, and jaw decay for Fosamax — none of us is eager to follow our doctors’ orders. […] Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowI also suspect my friends and I are a lot … More

Bones to Pick — and Preserve

By Christine Cupaiuolo |

In a recent commentary at Women’s eNews, Judy Norsigian and Heather Stephenson of Our Bodies Ourselves caution women about buying into the hype surrounding a new, once-a-year, injectable medication for osteoporosis. While it might be a worthwhile option for women of a certain age or women with certain risk factors, most women should think long and hard before rushing out to get the bone density screenings needed to determine if you might benefit from the drug. Although the drug companies don’t really want you to hear it, medications for postmenopausal osteoporosis have many potentially serious side effects, which Norsigian and Stephenson outline in detail. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowThey also emphasize that there are several risk-free measures women can take to help prevent osteoporosis. Rather than relying on medication, women can work on ensuring that their diet includes plenty of calcium and vitamin D as well as exercising regularly, quitting smoking and reducing the risk of falling (which accounts for, among other things, 9 out of 10 hip fractures in older Americans) through safety measures as well as strength training and balance exercises. By putting the hype surrounding … More

FDA Slashes Funding for Office of Women’s Health

By Christine Cupaiuolo |

From today’s Washington Post, Rick Weiss writes: When is $4 million really $2.8 million? One answer is “When you’re a woman,” as the Labor Department has repeatedly found that women earn about 75 cents for every dollar that men earn for the same work. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowBut this week’s answer is “When you are the Office of Women’s Health” within the Food and Drug Administration. That office, which was at the center of a politically damaging storm over the emergency contraceptive “Plan B,” just had more than one-quarter of this year’s $4 million operating budget quietly removed, insiders say. The office funds research on male-female biological differences to ensure that women receive the most appropriate drug doses and treatments. It also produces heavily requested health information about menopause, pregnancy, birth control, osteoporosis and other topics. The practical application of this drastic cut is huge. The already budgeted — and approved — $4 million for the Office of Women’s Health was the same amount it received for the past several years. But suddenly the FDA decides it needs to spend that money elsewhere. According to a high-level … More