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June 2009

Can the death of an icon impact our health?

Ami Banerjee
Last edited 28th June 2009
He has only been dead for 48 hours but this story is going to dominate the headlines for weeks. Like millions of music fans and aspiring moon-walkers across the world, I found the news of Michael Jackson’s unexpectedly sudden death a terrible shock. In terms of impact on popular culture, it has already been compared with the death of John F Kennedy and Princess Diana, but two aspects set this celebrity death apart.

Heart age calculator should come with a warning

Carl Heneghan
Last edited 28th June 2009
The Heart age calculator that was announced in the press this week sounds like a good idea; however it should come with a health care warning.  We tried it out this week and entered that we were a female with diabetes, 60 years old and had recently given up smoking. The problem is, it came back with a heart age of 80. It doesn’t take account recent blood sugar levels, exercise or diet. Therefore it is rather discouraging and given there is no way of reducing the heart age what is the point.

FDA goes up in smoke

Carl Heneghan
Last edited 22nd June 2009
Over a cup of coffee, in one of those shabby railway cafes you get round England, I came across this story in the New Scientist. I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading and therefore decided to buy my first ever issue of the New Scientist - which is quite expensive at £3.25 – to lighten the train journey.

Do women in medicine need workforce planning?

Ami Banerjee
Last edited 22nd June 2009
The Royal College of Physicians report, “Women and medicine: the future”, dominated both the Lancet and the BMJ last week, allaying several common misconceptions about medicine in the UK. Firstly, women are not “taking over medical schools”, with about 57% of medical school places filled by women [1, 2]. “Neither are men disappearing from medical schools; in fact, 50% more medical students were admitted in 2007 than 10 years earlier [2].” Secondly, there is no evidence that women are more likely to leave medicine than men. Thirdly, it is more likely that women are not achieving consultant jobs in specialties such as surgery due to part-time training and an active decision to pursue specialties such as general practice and public health, rather than sexism per se. However, women are hugely under-represented in management and senior research positions.

Some drugs just never go away, but they should

Carl Heneghan
Last edited 15th June 2009
We first criticized this drug in 2006, when in the BMJ we first mooted rosiglitazone in the DREAM trial – which cost $23million - caused a significant increase in heart failure, despite the population being at low risk of such a problem. The drug showed no clear benefit at 3 years on clinical outcomes and the rate of all cardiovascular events tended to be higher in the treatment group.

Aspirin for all? No

Ami Banerjee
Last edited 7th June 2009
Since medical school, I have always been struck by the number of patients of all ages who live life by the “aspirin-a-day” mantra. In people who have had heart attacks or strokes, aspirin reduces further events by 25%. This beneficial effect is known as “secondary prevention”, and outweighs aspirin’s bleeding risk [1, 2].

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