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On ‘Sound Medicine’: Pharmaceutical funding of research, residents’ long hours, and cancer in pets


INDIANAPOLIS — The award-winning “Sound Medicine” program for May 12 includes segments about the dangers of pesticides for pregnant women, coping with malpractice lawsuits, and a study on skyrocketing cancer rates in golden retrievers. Please check local listings for broadcast dates, times and stations.

“Sound Medicine” covers topics in ethics, 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 updates are posted on Facebook and Twitter.

Do pesticides cause birth defects? The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a policy statement that outlines the harmful effects of pesticides on early fetal development. In 2009, Paul Winchester, M.D., released a study that looked at 30 million Indiana births from 1996 to 2002. According to Dr. Winchester, babies conceived in April, May and June have higher rates of birth defects such as Down syndrome, cleft palate and spina bifida. Most birth defects, such as spina bifida, happen early in the pregnancy. Although many pesticides are dangerous and can cause serious birth defects, Dr. Winchester cautions that not all are harmful. Dr. Winchester is the director of the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Francis Hospital, Indianapolis, and a clinical professor of pediatrics and neonatology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Doc chat: Are residents’ long hours to blame for medical mistakes? In 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education limited the number of hours medical residents could work continuously from 36 to 24 hours. In 2011, the ACGME cut the number of hours again, this time to 16. The goal is to reduce the number of medical mistakes interns make and provide a better quality of life for residents. However, a recent study published online by JAMA Internal Medicine found that the reduced hours for residents may not have the desired effects. According to “Sound Medicine” regular guest David Crabb, M.D., the residents working a 16-hour day didn’t make any fewer medical mistakes than those working 30 hours. Dr. Crabb explains why and said he believes changes will be made to the 2011 policy.

Does pharmaceutical-funded research produce biased reports in medical journals? In 2003, when diabetes drug Avandia was released, The New England Journal of Medicine published an article about how the drug outperformed two leading competitors in a clinical trial. The study was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, the makers of Avandia; four of the authors were GSK employees, and the others had received support as consultants. The article failed to mention that Avandia showed early warning signs of causing sometimes fatal heart problems. Peter Whoriskey, a reporter for The Washington Post, recently published a report, “Biased Research, Big Profits,” featuring the Avandia story and many others involving pharmaceutical-company-funded research. According to Whoriskey,  the majority of research is now conducted and reported by pharmaceutical companies. Although the United States requires drug companies to disclose if they are conducting clinical trials, the public doesn’t have access to the information gained during these trials. Many are pushing the FDA to compel drug companies to release all of the data from drug trials for independent researchers to examine.

What happens when doctors get sued? According to Mike Ward, M.D., a retired emergency room physician, 75 to 99 percent of all doctors will be sued for medical malpractice sometime in their career. Although most lawsuits are settled outside of court for financial compensation, lawsuits still affect a doctor’s reputation and mental health. Dr. Ward says every physician will have bad patient outcomes at times, but not all bad outcomes are due to physician negligence. Dr. Ward says that  treating patients with respect and apologizing when appropriate without admitting guilt is best practice.

Why are golden retrievers at a high risk for cancer? More than half of all golden retrievers develop cancer in their lifetime. Veterinarians don’t understand why they’re at a much higher risk than other animals, but there are genetic links and factors that can lead to cancer. Elizabeth Murphy, DVM, discusses a new study funded by the Morris Animal Foundation that is modeled after the Framingham Heart Study. The foundation has started a canine lifetime study and picked golden retrievers to be the first breed studied. To participate, golden retrievers must have a pedigree that can be traced back three generations; the owners must be over 18 and must allow the dogs to be studied over the course of their entire life.

“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: 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.), KMHA (Four Bears, N.D.), WYSU (Youngstown, Ohio), KPOV (Bend, Ore.) and KEOS (College Station, Texas).