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On 'Sound Medicine': Naming drugs, combating 'chemo brain,' and the rise in knee replacements


“Sound Medicine” covers controversial ethics topics, breakthrough research studies and the day-to-day application of recent advancements in medicine. It’s also available via podcast and Stitcher Radio for mobile phones and iPads and posts updates on Facebook and Twitter.

What factors have influenced the rise in knee replacements? Total knee replacement has become one of the most common and most expensive surgeries in the U.S. Peter Cram, M.D., MBA, director of the Division of General Medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, ascribes  the growth in knee replacements  to the desire of older Americans to remain active and  Medicare’s generous coverage of the procedure. Another factor: Artificial knee replacements last 10 to 20 years, which may necessitate an additional replacement during a patient’s lifetime. Cram says the growth in knee replacements cannot be attributed to increased levels of obesity.

Are the effects of “chemo brain” irreversible? “Chemo brain” was coined for cognitive problems such as memory difficulties and slow processing speed experienced by patients receiving chemotherapy. In a recent study, Diane Von Ah, R.N., Ph.D., assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Nursing, implemented strategies to improve these cognitive deficits in breast cancer patients, particularly those still experiencing detrimental cognitive effects of chemotherapy one year after treatment.

Von Ah found that the patients who used memory training and computer programs experienced improved cognitive functioning, including memory and processing speed, which is promising for survivors of breast cancer to regain their pretreatment level of cognitive functioning.

Do feelings of loneliness pose health risks? Are you feeling isolated or left out? Even people who are married or have a companion may feel lonely. Carla Perissinotto, M.D., MHS, an assistant professor in the University of California, San Francisco Division of Geriatrics, found that loneliness leads to a decline in functioning and even death.  Perissinotto’s research is leading her to explore options and services that could help prevent this. The researchers used a three-item loneliness questionnaire to assess loneliness and classify individuals based on their subjective feelings. Perissinotto describes how to connect older adults socially, including evaluating an individual’s lifestyle and finding suitable social connections.

How do drugs get their names? Scott Piergrossi shares some of the secrets behind naming drugs, which he is familiar with in his role as vice president of creative development at the Brand Institute Inc. Drug names carry subtle messages to physicians and consumers. So, before a name is chosen, it must undergo a market review, linguistic review and legal review. He says drug names cannot imply benefits that cannot be backed up by clinical research, and that drug mechanisms and unique properties may influence the naming of a drug; something that would resonate with prescribers more than patients.

“Sound Medicine,” co-produced by the IU School of Medicine and WFYI Public Radio (90.1 FM) and underwritten in part by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, is aired on the following Indiana public radio stations: WBSB (Anderson, 89.5 FM), WFIU (Bloomington, 103.7 FM; Columbus, 100.7 FM; Kokomo, 106.1 FM; Terre Haute, 95.1 FM), WNDY (Crawfordsville, 91.3 FM), WVPE (Elkhart/South Bend, 88.1 FM), WNIN (Evansville, 88.3 FM), WBOI (Fort Wayne, 89.1 FM), WFCI (Franklin, 89.5 FM), WBSH (Hagerstown/New Castle, 91.1 FM), WFYI (Indianapolis), WBSW (Marion, 90.9 FM), WBST (Muncie, 92.1 FM), WBSJ (Portland, 91.7 FM), WLPR (Lake County, 89.1 FM) and WBAA (West Lafayette, 101.3 FM).

“Sound Medicine” is also broadcast on these public radio stations across the country: WLRH (Huntsville, Ala.), KSKA (Anchorage, Alaska), KTNA (Talkeetna, Alaska), KUHB (Pribilof Islands, Alaska), KUAF (Fayetteville and Fort Smith, Ark.), KIDE (Hoopa Valley, Calif.), KRCC (Colorado Springs, Colo.), KEDM (Monroe, La.), WCMU (Mount Pleasant, Mich.), WCNY and WRVO-1 (Syracuse, N.Y.), KMHA (Four Bears, N.D.), WYSU (Youngstown, Ohio), KPOV (Bend, Ore.) and KEOS (College Station, Texas).