Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Better Breathing with Laughter Yoga~Alternative Health Trend

Hi Ya'll! The article below arrived in one of my news emails this morning and I'd like to share it with all of you. This really appeals to me and I hope you all get something from it, too. I'm thinking of having a "Laughter Yoga Party" if I can locate a qualified instructor to lead it. Won't that be fun ~ and a health benefit to boot.

Sweetest Blessings and lots of laughter,


Laughter could be your body's best medicine

Jolene Hart
September 15, 2009

There's no denying that it feels great to laugh- to let out a roar, to shriek or howl, or to burst into a fit of giggles. But do you consider laughter to be a workout for your mind and body? You should, especially if you're practicing Laughter Yoga.

A growing alternative health trend, Laughter Yoga combines laughter and yogic breathing for a unique form of mind and body therapy. As with a cardiovascular workout, Laughter Yoga increases air supply and circulation, releases endorphins and decreases blood pressure and stress.

So what happens if you're not feeling particularly jolly during a session of Laughter Yoga? You'll be laughing anyway. The key to the program's success is the idea that the body benefits from mimicked hoots and intentional guffaws the same way it does genuine laughter. So we need not be limited by sense of humor or mood. The total body therapy of Laughter Yoga is available to all.

While yoga is a centuries-old practice, Laughter Yoga is a modern creation, developed in India in 1995. It has since spread to sixty countries. Laughter Yoga is traditionally a group practice and is well-suited to target the stresses of fast-paced, modern lives. The practice also proves beneficial for anger management, social anxiety, depression and lack of self-confidence, as well as physical challenges. Supporters of Laughter Yoga say that it helps them to live life more joyfully and to deal more readily with stressful moments.

So what would you experience during a session of Laughter Yoga? Group members typically stand in a semi-circle facing the instructor, who gives directions that initiate different types of laughter. The group may chant a deep "Ho, Ho, Ho," act out silent laughter, or laugh while slowly increasing volume and speed. Group laughs last less than a minute, and deep, yogic breathing and occasional upper body stretching is practiced in between laughs. Group members maintain eye contact during laughs, which creates a feeling of comfort and support. Each session, 20-30 minutes, ends in meditation. Laughter Yoga practice benefits from an open mind and childlike playfulness.

Interested in trying an exercise for yourself? Open your eyes wide, extend your tongue and roar like a lion. You've just done the simha mudra - the lion laugh of Laughter Yoga.

To find a Laughter Yoga group in your area, check online. Or
try a session over the phone with a West Coast Laughter Yoga group called Laughter Yoga On The Phone that has set up a daily call line. During the 20-minute call (several are scheduled throughout the day) you can laugh, breathe and make noise along with an instructor from the group. Try it and you may be inspired to take up the practice! You'll join the thousands of Laughter Yoga devotees who know that laughter really can be the best medicine.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Be Gone, Ye Idiots! I'm Being Happy!

It greatly annoys me when people - the family, friends, doctors, nurses, anyone really - feel that keeping information or news from me is better for me. How would they know this? Quite the contrary, I find it infuriating, insulting, belittling, disrespectful and that is putting it mildly.

It is as if because I have a tube in my nose delivering oxygen - and not that much more oxygen than they themselves use, mind you - that suddenly my brain doesn't function normally.

How Rude!!!

Of course not ALL people act this way but some of those closest to me do carry on this way and I have to tell you that it offends me so greatly that I have begun to avoid those people. This makes me sad to do so but I also do not have the stress and utter frustration that this sort of behavior brings to my plate.

It isn't as if I haven't spoken with them about this kind of "attitude" toward me and have, in some cases, had my own doctor address this issue with no avail. (Of course, they would know better than my own physician, I say with definite sarcasm :0)

If my 31 year old niece had her way, I would be in a wheelchair with a blanket draped over my lap and wearing a bibb. Now, this niece checked my mail the other day and proceeded to sort through it & toss out what she decided I did not need to see. LOL Can you stand it??? She actually threw it in the trash bin outside before she brought the remainder of the mail into the house. I know because I watched her from the front window. When I told her this was not acceptable, she scolded me. Scolded me!! Telling me in a very condescending tone that "...if I needed anything she would go and get it for me." Huh???

When the truth of the matter is that I own my own home, have my own dog, care for my home and dog, do my own shopping and can stand and walk on my own 2 legs, albeit slower than most, just fine. I drive and take care of my finances. I have a bank account or two and have never once bounced a check in my life and I am 50 years old, having traveled the globe more than once. I know a thing or two.

Thank God for the folks I encounter out in the world that give me respect and do not see "only" the oxygen and think my mind doesn't function. The fact is, I'm still sharp as a tack and I'll take on the likes of anyone who thinks otherwise.

Since the COPD puts more than enough restrictions on me, I have made a choice to avoid those people who behave so badly and I shall thoroughly enjoy my remaining time as happily and wonderfully as I can. For that is how it should be. Eliminate the frustration and stress that I can ~ and bring in the happy!!! So there!

OK. That's my rant....for now.

Enjoy yourselves for that is how it should be!!
Sweet blessings,

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Silent Killer-COPD

This came in my Johns Hopkins news alert this morning and I am sharing it here. The link to the entire article is at the bottom of this one.
Lung Disorders Special Report

COPD: Catching the “Silent Killer”

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute about 12 million Americans likely have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) but don't know it. Because COPD often produces no symptoms in its early stages, it is often not caught until severe breathing problems develop. That's why COPD is sometimes referred to as "chronic overlooked pulmonary disease." However, by catching the disease early, people with COPD can make lifestyle changes and start on treatments that will slow the loss of lung function, improve their quality of life, and, in some cases, increase survival.

To help identify COPD at its earliest stages before it causes serious lung damage, anyone at risk for COPD should take a simple, painless, noninvasive breathing test called spirometry at the first sign of any breathing difficulties. People at risk for COPD include current and former smokers over age 40, anyone exposed to environmental tobacco smoke or irritants in the workplace, people with a family history of COPD, and anyone with the genetic abnormality alpha1-antitrypsin, or AAT, deficiency.

Anyone of any age, regardless of smoking history, should have a spirometry test if they have these COPD symptoms:

constant coughing, sometimes called smoker's cough
shortness of breath while doing activities you used to be able to do
excess sputum production
feeling like you can't breathe
difficulty taking a deep breath

What Is Spirometry?
Spirometry is a lung function test that measures the amount of air you can blow out of your lungs and how fast you can blow it out. The test is performed with a machine called a spirometer. To perform the test, you will be asked to take as deep a breath as you can, and to then blow out as hard and as fast as you can into a disposable mouthpiece that is connected to the spirometer with a flexible tube. The spirometer will then measure how much air you exhaled in the first second, called the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), and the total amount of air exhaled, known as the forced vital capacity (FVC). Some portable office spirometers measure FEV1 and the total amount you exhaled in six seconds (FEV6). On these spirometers, FEV6 is used as a substitute for FVC.

Doctors use the ratio of FEV1 to FVC (or FEV6) to help determine whether your lungs are functioning normally. The ratio is obtained by dividing your FEV1 by your FVC (or FEV6).
A value less than 70% suggests that you may have COPD. FEV1 is used to measure the severity of COPD. It is expressed as a percentage of the average result expected (the percent predicted) for a healthy person of your age, height, gender, and race. For example, a person with an FEV1 of 50% exhales about half the amount that a similar healthy person would be expected to exhale in one second. In general, an FEV1 greater than 80% of predicted is considered normal.

Why Early Diagnosis of COPD Matters
If you're in an at-risk group and spirometry indicates your lungs are healthy, experts recommend getting retested in three to five years. If you do have COPD, the sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner you'll be able to start treatment and make lifestyle changes that can help slow disease progression. If you have mild or moderate COPD, your doctor may recommend some or all of the following:

Stop smoking. If you smoke, quitting will prevent further damage to your lungs as well as help preserve remaining lung function.

Get vaccinated. The flu can be very harmful to people with COPD, often leading to pneumonia and other serious respiratory problems that require hospitalization. To protect yourself from the influenza virus, get a flu shot yearly. A pneumococcal vaccine every five to 10 years also is important.

Take your medications. Proper treatment can help to reduce the frequency of COPD exacerbations. If you occasionally have symptoms, your doctor may prescribe a short-acting bronchodilator, such as ipratropium (Atrovent HFA) or levalbuterol (Xopenex HFA) to be used as needed. When your symptoms become more frequent, a long-acting bronchodilator, such as tiotropium (Spiriva) or salmeterol (Serevent), might be prescribed.

Go to pulmonary rehabilitation classes. This program of education and exercise classes for people with all stages of COPD teaches you about how your lungs function, how to exercise and do activities with less shortness of breath, and how to live better with your lung condition.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Southern Comfort ;)

Southern women know their summer weather report:


Southern women know their vacation spots:
The beach
The rivuh
The crick

Southern women know everybody's first name:

Southern women know the movies that speak to their hearts:
Fried Green Tomatoes
Driving Miss Daisy
Steel Magnolias
Gone With The Wind

Southern women know their religions:

Southern women know their cities dripping with Southern charm:
Foat Wuth

Southern women know their elegant gentlemen:
Men in uniform
Men in tuxedos
Rhett Butler

Southern girls know their prime real estate:
The Mall
The Country Club
The Beauty Salon

Southern girls know the 3 deadly sins:
Having bad hair and nails
Having bad manners
Cooking bad food

More Suthen-ism's:
Only a Southerner knows the difference between a hissie fit and a conniption fit, and that you don't "HAVE" them, you "PITCH" them.

Only a Southerner knows how many fish, collard greens, turnip greens, peas, beans, etc., make up "a mess."

Only a Southerner can show or point out to you the general direction of "yonder."

Only a Southerner knows exactly how long "directly" is, as in: "Going to town, be back directly."

Even Southern babies know that "Gimme some sugar" is not a request for the white, granular sweet substance that sits in a pretty little bowl in the middle of the table.

All Southerners know exactly when "by and by" is. They might not use the term, but they know the concept well.

Only a Southerner knows instinctively that the best gesture of solace for a neighbor who's got trouble is a plate of hot fried chicken and a big bowl of cold potato salad. If the neighbor's trouble is a real crisis, they also know to add a large banana puddin!

Only Southerners grow up knowing the difference between "right near" and "a right far piece." They also know that "just down the road" can be 1 mile or 20.

Only a Southerner, both knows and understands, the difference between a redneck, a good ol' boy, and po' white trash.

No true Southerner would ever assume that the car with the flashing turn signal is actually going to make a turn.

A Southerner knows that "fixin" can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adverb.

Only Southerners make friends while standing in lines, ... and when we're "in line,"... we talk to everybody!

Put 100 Southerners in a room and half of them will discover they're related, even if only by marriage.

In the South, y'all is singular, all y'all is plural.

Southerners know grits come from corn and how to eat them.

Every Southerner knows tomatoes with eggs, bacon, grits, and coffee are perfectly wonderful; that red eye gravy is also a breakfast food; and that fried green tomatoes are not a breakfast food.

When you hear someone say, "Well, I caught myself lookin'," you know you are in the presence of a genuine Southerner!

Only true Southerners say "sweet tea" and "sweet milk." Sweet tea indicates the need for sugar and lots of it -- we do not like our tea unsweetened. "Sweet milk" means you don't want buttermilk.

And a true Southerner knows you don't scream obscenities at little old ladies who drive 30 MPH on the freeway. You just say,"Bless her heart" ... and go your own way.

To those of you who are still a little embarrassed by your Southerness: Take two tent revivals and a dose of sausage gravy and call me in the morning. Bless your heart!

And to those of you who are still having a hard time understanding all this Southern stuff, ... bless your hearts, I hear they are fixin' to have classes on Southernness as a second language!

And for those that are not from the South but have lived here for a long time, all y'all need a sign to hang on y'alls front porch that reads "I ain't from the South, but I got here as fast as I could."

Southern girls know men may come and go, but friends are fahevah !

Now...... Shugah, send this to someone who was raised in the South or wish they had been! If you're a Northern transplant,bless your little heart, fake it. We know you got here as fast as you could .

Monday, June 8, 2009

An Interview with Julie

This is an article/interview with a very wonderful friend of mine who has been a true blessing to me, holding my hand through diagnosis of COPD and a bitter divorce. She continues to be my touchstone and I doubt that I would have made it through to this day without her constant support, love and encouragement. Unbeknownst to me, while I was going through the hospital stay for my own illness and the constant divorce battle, she was going through her own trials. She never said a word to me. She just kept on supporting me, lending me her strength, lifting me in prayer. What a friend! So, I thought I would share with you the interview that she recently gave. What has been left unsaid throughout is that also during this time her daughter was diagnosed with MS. This is the strongest and most caring woman I know.

An Interview

Testimony of Cancer Recovery

Even though I’m pretty much retired now I love keeping busy. And I've always looked at myself as being a very healthy person. But in 2005, I was working out in the yard at my home here in Georgia and noticed a mole on my arm.

I didn't know what it was at the time. I thought to myself, "Hmmmm, I wonder what that is?" Everything seemed just fine until that day, when I noticed a spot that had appeared on the upper portion of my arm … seemingly out of nowhere.

I asked a friend if she could recommend a good dermatologist to me since I’d never been to one before. So I made an appointment with the dermatologist and during my office visit he took a skin sample to send off so it could be tested. He said he'd call me within a few days to let me know how the tests came out.

The doctor ended up calling me the next morning. The diagnosis happened very quickly. He said the tests showed the growth was advanced melanoma and that it had to be cut out of my upper arm right away. I was then advised to make an appointment at Emory University in Georgia to schedule the operation.

I didn't panic immediately after receiving this diagnosis … not at first anyways. But when I went on the Internet and read about melanoma my heart sank down below my ankles. If I could have gone that day to get surgery I would have. I felt like the sooner I had surgery the better.

“You Are What You Eat”

My surgery went well on the day of the operation. The surgeon cut deep into my arm to remove the cancer and he was able to cut out all of the melanoma. Even though the cancer had been in a small area the doctor made a 6 to 8 inch incision in my arm because it was a muscular area.

After surgery the doctors recommended that I take further tests to see if the cancer had spread. They did that and far as we knew it hadn’t. That was a huge relief to me. But it was still like I’d received a message that I needed to buckle down and get on the path of eating better … especially making a commitment I wasn't going to deviate from it. I felt as if I needed to address my lymphatic system.

I had worked as dietician/food manager with a local elementary school system years ago. One of the things I'd heard on that job was, "You are what you eat." Back then those words didn't mean as much to me as they do now. But that phrase had been instilled into my subconscious.

I’d grown up in the city, but my family went to the country on weekends. We had a family garden and orchard there. But we also had a garden and orchard in the city.

Those kinds of experiences gave me the idea we need to eat “correctly.” The notion we need to eat right seemed very natural to me. So those thoughts came up in my mind like a neon sign when I was diagnosed with cancer.

Making a commitment to change my diet in a big way was huge. But I really thought, "I've got to tweak my diet somehow." So I started seeking out some alternative help for suggestions about how to improve upon what I was eating.

I went to a Chiropractor who suggested that I work to boost my immune system. And it wasn't long after that I went for a visit to a place called Hallelujah Acres.

Hallelujah Acres is a health organization I sought out. I'd found out about them through my nurse practitioner. She recommended them. I wasn't sure about the type of diet they advocated, but I worked through a health course taught by John and Judi Cecil, who shared with me what this lifestyle was all about. I really learned a lot.

I felt like I had to get very serious about my diet, especially when it came to my intake of vegetables. I’d always eaten lots of fruits and vegetables, even before discovering I had cancer. But I ate some hormone and anti-biotic free meat occasionally. But now I started eating a ton of green foods as well as all types of colored vegetables.

In addition to learning about diet, I also learned about the importance of juicing. I’d never juiced vegetables until I went through their program. I didn't have a juicer at the time. I didn't even know how to juice. But I discovered certain juicers are better than others. Now I encourage people to look at juicers closely to make sure they extract as many nutrients as possible.

They also covered the importance of exercise. Getting exercise is almost as important as eating vegetables and fruits if you ask me. For example, rebounding is a great exercise that uses a little round trampoline. You can use it right at home. There are a couple different rebounders that are really good. One has a stabilizing bar that helps you keep balance. It's very good for improving circulation in the body and improving the lymphatic system.

We also talked about the importance of just walking everyday, either outside or inside on a treadmill. Doing simple exercises to get oxygen into the system is a part of a daily routine.

“A Living Foods Diet”

I tried to follow a living food diet as much as possible, especially after learning more about it. There were times when I felt like I was taking 2 steps forward and one step back. But eventually I "committed to my commitment." I read things that kept me both uplifted and directed. You're quality of life isn't much unless you've got your health.

I cut out all white flour, white sugar and white rice. I gave up dairy at that time, in addition to other harmful things.

In addition to committing to a plant-based diet, I started taking lots of vitamin C and consuming a green drink called Barely Max, which contained lots of Chlorophyll. I also started taking some "whole food" supplements. Those are supplements that contain no synthetic ingredients.

We do not eat anything that is processed with MSG or corn syrup or other ingredients frequently found in processed foods either. I was privileged to hear Dr, Russell Blaylock speak last year. He is a neurosurgeon who has written a book called, “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills.” It’s about toxic taste enhancers, such as the sweetener in diet sodas, which can damage the brain.

I refer to artificial sweeteners as "Frankenfoods." If I do want to enjoy a sweet treat now and then I’ll use a bit of honey, agave nectar and maple syrup.

Another thing I did was start eating as organically as possible. Buying organic foods is highly recommended. I buy organic carrots from the Publix supermarket, which is close by my home. They always keep them for me in a cooler at the back of the store. They’ve been very good to me. I buy 25-pound bags of carrots at a time.

Both the Publix supermarket and a store called Ingles are offering more organic vegetables all the time. We live a long way off from the local organic market. It's quite a hike for me to get there, but I do visit it about once a month. We will have a local organic market in our county soon though.

My carrots are stored in a small refrigerator that one of my children used in their dorm room at college. I drink all of the organic carrot juice that I can.

One tip I feel is important when preparing foods is to never use olive oil when cooking. I use the olive oil for things that aren't going to be heated, but I use grape seed oil if I need to apply heat for a recipe. I use it for beans and legumes and things like that. I also like it for sautéing things like garlic and onions, which I love doing regularly.

We eat a lot of raw vegetables by themselves and salads with raw vegetables on top. I try to eat a salad at least 2 times a day. And I also try to get as many of my vegetables as I can within a 100-mile radius of my home because these will tend to be the freshest. This is especially true when buying organic.

My husband and I are incorporating more seeds into our diet than ever before too. And we really like products such as millet and quinoa. We also use a product called “Vegenaise” in place of mayonnaise, which can be found in a good health food store.

“Being Your Best While Here on this Earth”

I’d encourage any individual that if you do "fall off the wagon" then don't guilt yourself over it. Don't waste any time on guilt. It's a waste of energy. Don't even go there. Each day is a new day that God has made so just start over fresh each day and put it to the best use that you possibly can.

When I really got serious about diet I started feeling better. My brain even started working better. I got rid of what people call "brain fog." A part of this process involves cleansing your body of toxic chemicals and things you've accumulated throughout your life because of bad diet or unhealthy environment. A raw living diet will help the body "de-toxify" itself from impurities.

Food processors and juicers are great helpers when you eat raw. You can throw recipes together rather quickly when you've got good equipment to help prepare things easily.

That is where eating this way can be a little rough for some people at first because they can't afford to just go out and purchase the small appliances that make things easier. But if this is the case then you just have to chop, chop, chop on a cutting board. You don't need appliances but they can be convenient.

As far as I know the status of my health right now is great. I only plan to go to the doctor's once a year now for blood work. I don't take any blood pressure medicine. I don't take any cholesterol medicine. I live an active life and try to get into the sun at least 30 minutes each day.

I’d encourage anyone who is skeptical about changing their diet that if they continue doing what they've been doing then they’re going to continue getting what they’ve got. But they shouldn’t lose hope. If you lose hope then you lose an optimistic spirit.

If you’re getting concerned about your health then why not try this lifestyle? This isn't about doing a diet in order to get well so you can go back to eating junk. It's a lifestyle.

I'm very much into helping people with nutrition so they can get healthier at this time. Most of them hear about me through my ties in the local community and I also do some speaking in our area. I've spoken a lot to support groups where people have had health challenges.

I really believe in having a high quality of life. Quality of life is about being your best while you're here on earth. When it's your time to go then you can turn up your toes and so be it. But I'd rather be in good shape while I'm here on earth ... with energy and a good healthy mind.

I feel that if one has their health then it’s better than being a millionaire. I thank God daily for the information He sent to me about this lifestyle.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Smoking Affects Vary-Some get COPD-Others Don't

Cigarette Smoking Does Not Affect Everyone In Same Way

London, June 5 (ANI): Cigarette smoking induced COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, does not progress in the same way in all smokers, a new study has found.

COPD, a disease that results in severe breathing difficulty, is the fourth leading killer worldwide, according to World Health Organization (WHO).

However, the mechanisms responsible for some smokers developing COPD and others evading the disease have not been well understood.

Scientists say that an autoimmune mechanism, compounded by genetic predisposition in COPD, would explain the progression of the disease in some smokers and the evasion in others.
COPD has a family connection and next of kin of patients with COPD have a much higher chance of developing the disease, a characteristic of autoimmune diseases.

Although smoking is the primary risk factor for COPD in the western world, open fire pollutant cooking and heating fuels in the home is an important risk factor for the development of COPD in women in developing nations.

“Smoke can play an important role in autoimmune diseases such as COPD, and other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, because it accentuates genetic predispositions to the disease,” said Dr.Manuel Cosio from the McGill University Health Centre, who conducted the study in collabration with Italian and Spanish scientists.

Yet contrary to previous scientific beliefs, COPD does not progress in the same way in all smokers.

The authors describe three steps in the potential progression to COPD in smokers: “COPD does not go from stage one, two and three in all people. Depending on their personal balance between immune response and immune control some people would stop at stage one, others at stage two, and some will progress to stage three, full autoimmunity and lung destruction.”

“Hopefully investigators will now see the disease in a totally different way. Our hope is that our research will open the door for a different investigation on COPD, where scientists learn more about the immunological processes and how these processes could be controlled and modulated to eventually provide the right treatment,” Dr Cosio added.

The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Breathing Easier? Generic v. Brand Meds

Many of us COPD'ers find ourselves using a legion of medications and not only for the COPD but for the other conditions that can accompany the COPD - sometimes as a result of our medications. Whew! What a vicious circle it can be. I don't know about you but I take generics when they are available and I even use medications from another country because they are so less costly overseas, aren't they! A huge difference in costs! The following article is interesting and I want to share it here. I admit that I am skeptical and wonder if this is a Big Pharma promotion. :) Yet, we must all be careful with our meds, I know. So, sharing.......
All Drugs Are Not Created Equal

Courtesy of Self
Bad Bargain
All of us want cheaper medicine—but not if it costs us our health. Troubling reactions and a series of recalls are making some doctors wonder, Are generic drugs as safe as the FDA says they are? Self investigates.

Just when Beth Hubbard should have been feeling great, her health fell apart. A 34-year-old housewares designer in the St. Louis area, Hubbard had recently gotten married. She liked the creativity of her career. And she’d conquered her mild depression and fatigue with a combination of exercise, rest and medicine, including the antidepressant Wellbutrin XL. But in the fall of 2006, shortly after she refilled her prescription—her pharmacy giving her this time Budeprion XL, a generic version of the drug—her good health gave way. Within a month, she had gained 15 pounds, couldn’t sleep well, developed gastrointestinal problems and felt such extreme fatigue and lack of motivation that she thought about quitting her job. She cried and called in sick for days at a time.

"I chalked it up to exhaustion after the whirlwind of the wedding and honeymoon," Hubbard says. Yet she wasn’t getting better.

Her doctor referred her to four specialists, but none, she complains, "were really listening to me—they were just anxious to give me another drug." They diagnosed her alternately with severe allergies, a heart murmur, a slow thyroid, irritable bowel syndrome, gluten intolerance, mononucleosis and chronic pain. She cycled on and off different drugs: Ambien to help her sleep at night; Provigil to keep her awake during the day; Allegra, Zyrtec and Nasacort for allergies; Lexapro, Zoloft and Xanax for anxiety and depression; Zelnorm for bowel problems. And she continued on the Budeprion XL the entire time.

"I was fighting for almost a year with the insurance company over all the tests and therapy I needed," Hubbard adds.

After eight months of struggling with her mystery ailments, she was out to dinner with a friend and mentioned that she needed to refill her prescription. Her friend said she’d recently gone off Wellbutrin and had some leftover pills Hubbard could use. Within a week, Hubbard’s troubling symptoms vanished. Her energy came roaring back. And that is when she finally connected the dots: Her problems had begun mere days after she first took the generic.

Because generics had always worked well for other conditions, she says, "I never even gave it a second thought or mentioned the pharmacy’s switch to my doctor." Until now. She called her doctor to complain about the generic and request a new prescription for the brand name only.
The nurse’s response floored her. "Yes" the nurse said matter-of-factly. "We hear that all the time."

Why Your M.D. is Worried
If you took a prescription pill recently, odds are it was generic: Nowadays, generics constitute almost 70 percent of all the prescriptions dispensed nationwide, racking up $58 billion in sales in 2007. Anxious to cut costs, health insurers are stampeding to switch patients to drugs that are cheaper to make, test and ultimately buy because their manufacturers can piggyback on the research and marketing already done by brand-name-drug companies. Pharmacists in most states are also free to give patients whichever version of a drug is cheapest for them to supply, without telling the prescribing doctor; in some states, pharmacies are required to make this switch. And few of us complain when it happens: Women who wouldn’t dream of substituting Diet Pepsi for Diet Coke, simply because of the taste, eagerly swap vital medications, because the change can cut co-pays in half.

Many lawmakers and health-policy experts say the trend has little downside. "Generic drugs have the same active ingredient that brand-name drugs do and are made in FDA-approved plants, just as brand-name drugs are," says Aaron S. Kesselheim, M.D., an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

In an analysis recently published in "The Journal of the American Medical Association", Dr. Kesselheim reviewed data from 47 clinical studies and found no evidence that patients on brand-name cardiovascular drugs had clinical outcomes superior to those on generics. Given these results, and the lengths that some brand-name-drug companies have gone to protect their patents and profits, it’s easy to believe that any supposed problems with generics are "a story cooked up by Big Pharma"—the conclusion reached by consumer watchdog Peter Lurie, M.D., deputy director of the health-research group at Public Citizen in Washington, D.C. But a yearlong investigation by Self—including more than 50 interviews and records leaked from one of the world’s largest generic-drug companies, Ranbaxy Laboratories—raises questions about whether some new generics are as safe or effective as the brand names. Although Dr. Kesselheim’s review looked at all of the available data, many of those studies were completed before the recent flood of generics hit the market and many generic-drug factories moved overseas. In FDA applications for new generic drugs, nearly 90 percent of the factories providing active ingredients are located overseas, where the agency’s inspection rate dropped 57 percent between 2001 and 2008. "The average citizen would want to know that someone is checking that manufacturers are making the drugs they got approval to make," says William K. Hubbard of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, associate commissioner for policy and planning for the FDA from 1991 to 2005 (and no relation to Beth). "That’s not happening, and the risk to consumers is potentially huge. I take generic drugs when they’re prescribed for me, but my confidence in them is lower than it was a year ago—and going down." Generics, which came into widespread use after Congress streamlined testing requirements in 1984, are supposed to be tightly regulated. In the late 1980s, after companies were caught paying off inspectors in order to get generic drugs approved, the FDA overhauled its rules. The agency vowed to inspect each factory before giving the green light to any application. And it newly required any generic-drug maker seeking approval to make one test lot of the proposed drug and then to produce three larger lots to show its manufacturing capabilities.

"I have told the industry they are in charge of the health of the American public," says Gary Buehler, director of the FDA’s Office of Generic Drugs, adding, "We have come a long way in how we do inspections." But Self found that the FDA’s reforms have largely fallen by the wayside. Few applications trigger inspections, according to sources knowledgeable about the process, and instead of the three required lots, companies are making one or none. Manufacturing problems have come to light, with six generic companies recalling 20 products in 2008. KV Pharmaceutical Company, a maker of heart and pain medicine, recalled everything it made. "The FDA is satisfied that generics are OK," says Nada Stotland, M.D., a psychiatrist in Chicago and the president of the American Psychiatric Association. "My question is, Are we satisfied?"

Next: The Difference Between Generic and Brand Name Drugs

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