Thursday, 14 April 2011

Medical news

Two bits of medical news jump out at me from this week’s, Pulse magazine. It’s aimed at doctors but I have to look through it as part of my job. Drug companies often target doctors with adverts and one struck me this week. It’s an advert for a Testosterone test to see if you need testosterone therapy which I assume is being given added testosterone – I should point out it’s aimed at men.

So the advert shows a babushka doll (Russian doll) with three top halves of an overweight, sad looking man. In the first the half man holds a sign saying, “Inside this type two diabetes patient”, the second holds a sign saying, “is a man with low testosterone”, the third – a somewhat happier man, still chubby but obviously smaller – holds a sign saying, “waiting to be found”.

According to the advert, “men with type 2 diabetes commonly suffer from testosterone deficiency syndrome (first I heard of it) leading to: Loss of libido, fatigue, erectile dysfunction.” So now I’m scared but I’m also intrigued. The advert goes on, “Testosterone therapy can address these symptoms as well as reducing HbA1c, waist circumference and improving insulin resistance (which I’m sure they mean reducing insulin resistance).” Wow, that’s some good stuff, but in the light of last week’s posting about fraudsters surely this is a little too good to be true.

Well they reference every point they make to a paper written based on studies, and although I don’t know who all these people are I can take a look if I feel the need. Secondly they don’t offer a price, you and I can’t buy this, it’s aimed at doctors, and it’s not selling the therapy it is only selling the test.

“Data presented at the Diabetes UK Annual Conference in March last year revealed that Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome (TDS) is found in over 50% of men with Type 2 diabetes, more than double the rate in the non-diabetic population. TDS is associated with a 42% additional risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and up to 60% additional risk of all-cause and coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality.”

No one has mentioned TDS to me in any conversations with any diabetic specialists. It looks like a real problem and I for one will be asking my doctor for a test. In fact I haven’t been called for an HbA1c since my first one in June and I’m more than due. I do find I have to do all the pushing to get appointments, I still haven’t seen an eye specialist (although I have had the test and now wear glasses in order to type this). I know they say you have to self medicate with diabetes but I didn’t know you had to self consult, self advise and self organise. Perhaps the NHS does so much for us we don’t always think to push hard ourselves. In this case it’s good to be pushy.

And finally, one other story stood out, according to one news story giving up smoking increases the risk of developing diabetes. A study by Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore (one of the top hospitals in the world) found that weight gain after stopping smoking contributed to a 73% increased risk of developing diabetes over three years, compared with non smokers. The researchers followed nearly 11,000 subjects for over a decade. The good news is that the risk gradually decreased until after 12 years there was no more risk. The top boffin leading the study suggested GPs offer quitters lifestyle counseling. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you do and then quit.

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