Medical news of 2004


As much as things change they seem to say the same, a very old cliché that has never seemed more appropriate than in reference to this years’ medical news. Along with any new technological wonder comes difficulties- some more difficult than others. But as long as Americans continue to look to the modern technology of medicine to cure, fix, soothe or erase symptoms researchers will continue to take up the banner and march forward.

This year saw a sharp increase in the number of plastic surgeries being performed. Our fascination with youth and looking young has found many an individual seeking the services of a plastic surgeon. In a society where even men are under the gun to look young one can hardly blame someone for wanting to have an edge up when for every job available there are hundreds sometimes thousands of applicants. Many of the newer procedures including injections with Botox to reduce the appearance of wrinkles seem to be without residual problems, other than the fact that it will set you back $300-400 per session and will need repeating every 3-4 months. Other procedures to lift brows, reduce puffiness under the eyes will go from $2500- 10,000.

The wonder drug Vioxx (a Cox 2inhibitor) used to reduce arthritis pain was pulled from the market when further studies of the drug proved to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke fifty fold. Hundreds of class action suits are being filed against its maker Merck Pharmaceuticals. To date it is estimated that some 100,000 Americans have suffered. Celebrex, another Cox 2 inhibitor has been shown to be much less of a risk if taken in lower doses, unfortunately most Vioxx users find Celebrex to be ineffective.

Congress passed new laws changing how Americans purchasing their own health insurance with high deductibles can cushion the blow of uncovered medical expenses. HSAs or health savings accounts allow individuals to save up to 2,500 tax-sheltered money to use in the event of uncovered medical expenses without a tax penalty. If the money is not used it can be rolled over into a 401K without penalty. Speaking of health insurance even these changes have not brought about affordable health insurance for some 44 million Americans who do without.

A record number of Americans due to the exorbitant cost of drugs are now purchasing drugs mail order out of Canada. There are some stiffer laws that will come into effect in 2006 that may help stem the flow but with state governments including our own purchasing Canadian drugs it will be questionable as to how they can enforce those laws.

Here in Galesburg Cottage Hospital was purchased by a for profit hospital group out of Tennessee. The company owns 73 other hospitals in similar sized areas mostly throughout the Midwest. Most employees that managed to keep their jobs and seniority have found it to be a good thing. Some employees in the transcription department have lost their jobs due to outsourcing.

This year as with all the others researchers have diligently worked to bring a more exacting science to the field of medicine and give reassurances to all that the answer to our human condition of want and suffering is fixable. Although never completely attainable it is the only system we have. If the politics of big business and big government would get out of the way it might be easier. That’s just my thought. In the meantime I guess I’ll hang around another year and hope they prove me wrong. Happy New Year to all, Rebecca