Pharma Pictograms

7847_web.jpgFrench researchers have developed a potentially very useful set of graphical icons to depict disease and drug information:

Like road signs, the VCM graphical language uses a small set of graphical signs. The current dictionary contains about 130 pictograms displayed in 5 colors. For example, current conditions of a patient are shown as red icons while risks of future conditions are orange. The physicians who tested the system learned it in a couple of hours and think this system will reduce the number of errors in drug prescriptions.

I think a universal, simplified set of icons is a great idea. Of course they wouldn’t be a replacement for drug information sheets, etc., but they could allow doctors and pharmacist to quickly identify a substance and work more safely and efficiently.

LifeStraw for water purification

l-s-family.jpgMeant for use in developing countries or in areas with few sources of clean water, the LifeStraw seems to be a promising product:

  • Arrow Filters a minimum of 15,000 litres of water – provides safe drinking water for a family for more
    than 2 years (calculated approximately on a family’s consumption of 20 litres water/day).
  • Arrow Has a high flow rate.
  • Arrow Removes minimum 99.9999% of all bacteria.
  • Arrow Removes minimum 99.99% of all viruses.
  • Arrow Removes minimum 99.9% of all parasites.
  • Arrow No electrical power or batteries required.
  • Arrow No spare parts required for the lifetime of the product.
  • Arrow No running water required.
  • Arrow Easy-to-clean pre-filter as well as purifier cartridge.

ls-f-user-c1-3.jpgSounds pretty ideal, and not as impractical as peddling for clean water. The design is simple and straightforward, with good water coming from the blue spout, and the remaining non-potable water coming from the red spout. It would be really great to see these offered for little to no money for those who really need it.

FRONTLINE:sick around the world

FRONTLINE does yet another great job as one of the only remaining investigative journalism outfit in America. It’s kind of like Sicko without the persuasive slant, though it is done in an editorial/feature style. You can watch it entirely online (because PBS is awesome), and there’s even a little bonus footage at the end where he explores Ayurvedic medicine. One of the great things about watching Frontline online is the little text popups that link to informative pages, such as this one, that contained a few very interesting graphs (click for bigger):

graph1.jpg   graph2.jpg   graph3.jpg

You’ll notice that the US spends far more money to far less effect than the other nations gathered in these charts (data gathered from a 2007 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)). Another really interesting section is on how different countries compensate doctors and deal with malpractice. I thought the author made a really excellent point when he said that the current presidential candidates are mentioning health care reform, but not one is referring to how we can emulate more effective systems from other parts of the world.

First Google Health Screenshots

Go here and check them out, if that sort of thing interests you. They look pretty Googley. Interesting to imagine having your health records accessible anytime, anywhere, provided you have an internet connection. Besides the obvious Big Brother and l33t h4x0r concerns, this is probably a pretty good thing.

Overdose Rescue Kits Save Lives

NPR: Overdose Rescue Kits Save Lives

Every year, overdoses of heroin and opiates, such as Oxycontin, kill more drug users than AIDS, hepatitis or homicide.And the number of overdoses has gone up dramatically over the past decade.

But now, public health workers from New York to Los Angeles, North Carolina to New Mexico, are preventing thousands of deaths by giving $9.50 rescue kits to drug users. The kits turn drug users into first responders by giving them the tools to save a life.

[...]

The nasal spray is a drug called naloxone, or Narcan. It blocks the brain receptors that heroin activates, instantly reversing an overdose.

Pretty awesome, right?  The Bush administration doesn’t think so:

But Dr. Bertha Madras, deputy director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, opposes the use of Narcan in overdose-rescue programs.

“First of all, I dont agree with giving an opioid antidote to non-medical professionals. Thats No. 1,” she says. “I just dont think thats good public health policy.”

Madras says drug users arent likely to be competent to deal with an overdose emergency. More importantly, she says, Narcan kits may actually encourage drug abusers to keep using heroin because they know overdosing isnt as likely.

Madras says the rescue programs might take away the drug users motivation to get into detoxification and drug treatment.

Now, this would be an ok position for an idiotic, hack pundit or talk show host to have, but this is the deputy director of the ONDCP. Let’s see what their mission is:

The goals of the program are to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing, and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences.

I always hear President Bush saying history will be the judge of his administration. I’ve got a good guess what word history will file his presidency under: failure. It’s like he hires people based on their ability to be willfully and blissfully stupid. The rationale against Narcan reminds me a lot of the opposition to the HPV vaccine; a twisted moral argument at worst, a bureaucratic cop-out at best.