December 20, 2011

Generic Lipitor is Finally Here! But is it Cheaper?

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 11:48 am by keepyourhearthealthy

Image representing Pfizer as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Many heart disease patients have waited years for the option of a cheaper Lipitor.  Now that the generic is being sold in pharmacies throughout the country, is it really providing the benefit of being a lower-cost option?

With Lipitor being a widely prescribed drug for heart di

sease patients, the concept of a cheaper version has been a long time coming.  Lipitor (atorvastatin) has avoided going generic for over 20 years by using big money to fund new studies and fight generic companies in court.  Pfizer, Lipitor’s manufacturer promised that they were really going to let it go generic this year.  It did indeed go generic just this past week!

News reports have stated that Lipitor’s sales have fallen by 50% just in this first week of generic availability.  However, other reports (an article in the New England Journal of Medicine) have brought up concerns over Pfizer’s tactics to compete with the new generic.  Deals have been struck between Pfizer and some large pharmacies to allow for Lipitor to be sold cheaper than it’s own generic!!

Currently there is only one generic available but after 6 months there will hopefully be more competition from other manufacturers.  The more generic pills available to the public would mean lower prices for everyone!  For now though, you may want to recheck the price of Lipitor at your pharmacy.  Many people are just automatically filling their prescription for the generic without actually discovering the new price of Lipitor.  While Pfizer’s tactics may be somewhat questionable, saving a few dollars in this tough economy is a top priority for many!

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October 1, 2011

Free Cholesterol Test, Blood Pressure Check and Diabetes Screening

Posted in heart disease, Heart Disease in the News, Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 11:32 am by keepyourhearthealthy

Kroger logo

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In this tough economy Kroger hopes to attract more customers by offering Free Health Screenings at participating pharmacies.  Heart disease patients know the importance of annual cholesterol checks but they can get quite costly for those without health insurance.  This new Health Screening option can provide a little relief in the expense of maintaining a healthy heart.

Kroger grocery stores throughout the U.S. are advertising these free Health Screenings which include:

  • Cholesterol Check (reportedly includes Total Cholesterol, LDL, Triglycerides and HDL)
  • Blood Pressure Check
  • Diabetes Screening
  • Body Mass Index

A licensed pharmacist performs the tests and discusses the results with you.  Most likely you will be given a copy of your test results so that you can bring them to your doctor for review.  Heart disease patients experiencing financial stress can use this free screening as their annual cholesterol test.  As long as you bring the results to your doctor and the numbers are at “heart disease goal,” there should be no need to obtain a second test.  If there are changes made to your cholesterol medication, a second test will need to be done to verify the medicine is working.

People who want to take advantage of this opportunity need to make an appointment by calling the national Kroger number 1-877-444-9689.  It is important to see a cardiologist at least once a year if you have heart disease so please do not use this as a substitute for your yearly heart check-up.  Find more great tips about cutting costs and maintaining a healthy heart in the book What To Do When You Have Heart Disease.

August 7, 2011

Generic Lipitor set to be Available in November!

Posted in Heart Disease in the News tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 10:32 am by keepyourhearthealthy

A package and pill of atorvastatin 40mg (Lipitor).

Image via Wikipedia

Lipitor’s 26-year reign over the statin brand-name market may soon come to an end when it’s generic equivalent starts selling in November.

Cardiologists and primary care physicians all throughout the country have long awaited a cheaper version of the “biggest selling drug of all time.”  According to the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog, Lipitor will be sold in a generic version by a company called Ranbaxy starting November 30, 2011.  Lipitor’s manufacturer, Pfizer, has been able to put off the production of a generic by continually extending it’s patent for Lipitor.  They found new indications for the drug which allowed for more and more patent extensions.  Not to mention they have put plenty of money and effort in the legal battle over the rights to produce a generic.  There is even some talk now about Pfizer legally trying to make Lipitor over-the-counter (highly unlikely!).

Lipitor, generic name atorvastatin, was originally used for treating high cholesterol.  It inhibits a liver enzyme which usually signals production of more cholesterol for the body.  Over time, it was found to prevent cardiovascular disease including heart attack and stroke.  It is now also indicated for preventing heart attacks in people who already have heart disease.  Regardless of cholesterol numbers, patients who have a heart attack will be placed on a statin like Lipitor as a means of preventing a second heart attack.

Other statin generics have been available for years now.  Zocor’s generic (simvastatin) and Pravachol’s generic (pravastatin) have become very popular alternatives to Lipitor since they are much more affordable.  Most physicians will tell you that these alternatives are just not as effective for reducing cholesterol compared to Lipitor or the just-as-expensive brand name Crestor.  Clearly it is effectiveness that has kept Lipitor a top-selling drug in recent years.  In this time of economic stress though, many uninsured people have had no choice but to make the switch to the cheaper statins.  They simply cannot afford out-of-pocket Lipitor at $100 a month while simvastatin is only $15 a month and pravastatin is only $4 a month!

With this new generic Lipitor, atorvastatin could become just as cheap as the other generic statins.  Hopefully it will still maintain it’s effectiveness as well.  Ranbaxy will be the sole manufacturer of atorvastatin for the first 6 months which may mean continued higher pricing.  Once other manufacturers join in on the competition, we should see a very affordable generic for Lipitor emerge!

March 17, 2011

Stents or Bypass? New Study Says They Are Equal One Year Later

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links, New Heart Studies, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 7:34 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

Three coronary artery bypass grafts, a LIMA to...

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WebMD took a closer look at a new study comparing the benefits of stenting vs. bypass.

Well-informed patients with heart disease will certainly find this new WebMD article interesting.  Patients who undergo Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) frequently ask the question, “Why did I have to get bypass instead of stents?”  Alternately, people with stents frequently wonder how they dodged the bullet by avoiding bypass.  Many more people may be dodging the bullet in the future thanks to this new study and the continual improvement in stenting procedures.

Several years ago, the decision for bypass was made whenever someone had more than 3 blocked arteries OR a significant blockage in the heart’s main artery (called the left main).  In the study, a group of 1800 patients who traditionally might have all gone on to bypass surgery were split into 2 groups: approximately half went ahead with bypass while the other half underwent stenting instead.  The results showed the 2 groups felt similar improvement after 1 year. In addition, the rate of heart attacks or death were about the same for both groups after one year.

There were some differences noted though when you look closely. People who got stents felt better much quicker and had a faster recovery than those who had bypass.  On the other hand, people with stents were more likely to need another stenting procedure within the first year.  Also, people who had daily or weekly chest pain prior to their procedure felt more relief of their chest pain with bypass surgery by 6 months out.

While this study may lead to more stents and fewer open heart surgeries, it won’t be making bypass extinct anytime soon.  Many patients dread the idea of bypass surgery but if you have 3 or more blocked arteries AND you get chest pain at least once a week, bypass will still be highly recommended.

Read more about the study at WebMD’s article which is listed below:

March 10, 2011

More Genetic Markers Implicated in Heart Disease

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:44 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

This image shows the coding region in a segmen...

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Another 18 heart disease genes have reportedly been discovered…but are we any closer to a cure for the number one killer?

Despite the fact that 30 genes have now been implicated in the progression of plaque buildup in the heart arteries, scientists are estimating that we are only about 10% of the way there.  Of all the heart attacks which appear to be inherited, the genetic markers discovered thus far explain only about 10%.  What seems even more confusing is that some of these markers are common in the general population as well.

Some of the researchers feel they have made significant progress while others seem frustrated by the lack of knowledge after many years of research.  According to theheart.org’s article yesterday,  Dr Hugh Watkins  from the University of Oxford said,  “In terms of identifying risk, I don’t think these new discoveries add that much. There are still a large number of CAD genes out there yet to be discovered, but I would think their effects will all be small. This is bad news in terms of developing a test for heart-disease risk, as each culprit gene is responsible for only a very small incremental risk.”

March 9, 2011

Ways to Protect Your Teen From Sudden Death

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:20 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

A heart with a white EKG peak superimposed & s...

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The tragic deaths of 2 young athletes has brought media attention back to the problem of Cardiac Arrest.

A 16 year-old track athlete in Florida and a 17 year-old basketball player in Michigan both passed away within the last week after strenuous activity.  Most people are shocked when they hear about these types of unexpected deaths.  Parents, teachers and coaches have no reason to suspect that a young, athletic student could have a serious heart problem leading to sudden death.  Even though it affects only about 1 out of every 250,000 young athletes, even that one tragic loss is too much for the loved ones left behind.

What can be done to prevent sudden death in teenagers? Traditionally, screening for heart problems that can lead to sudden death begins with questions about family history and concerning symptoms.  Some heart problems are genetic so expect your doctor to be concerned if anyone in your family has ever died suddenly.  Some people also may not realize they are having symptoms of a heart condition until it is too late.

In addition to questions about family history and symptoms, having an EKG test can be a useful tool for detecting heart trouble.  An EKG is a painless test that takes just a few minutes to obtain.  Unfortunately, a recent study out of Israel has discouraged mandatory screening with an EKG.  As a parent and a cardiac care provider, I will still encourage the voluntary testing with an EKG.  I firmly believe that everyone should be proactive when it comes to their health (and your kid’s health too!).

The first step in being proactive is to fill out a screening questionnaire and bring it to your teen’s pediatrician.  For the most part, your pediatrician will only need to address questions marked as “Yes.”  Next you can request that your teen get an EKG (electrocardiogram).  Your pediatrician will read the results of the EKG immediately and recommend further cardiac evaluation if needed.

If you are unable to obtain an EKG from a doctor’s office, there are several programs which provide free EKGs for high school students.

  1. Chicago
  2. Maryland
  3. North Carolina
  4. Tampa

If you need to find one in your area, use a search engine (google, yahoo, bing, etc.) to search for “high school heart screening” in your state.  You may not find anything within your vicinity right away.  Consider asking your school administrators if they could host a heart screening event.

Another way you can protect your teen’s life is to make sure that all of the sporting arenas they play at have AED’s (Automatic External Defibrillators).  When a person collapses and the pads are placed on their chest, AED’s provide life-saving electric shocks while waiting for an ambulance.

February 28, 2011

Could Night Sweats and Hot Flashes be a Sign of Heart Disease?

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, New Heart Studies tagged , , , , at 8:10 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

photo by Filomena Scalise

A new study is giving menopausal women something to be concerned about.  Apparently women in menopause who get night sweats are more likely to have heart disease than those who sleep comfortably through the night.

This new study out of the Netherlands shows that these women with night sweats have a “moderately” increased risk of heart disease. The study was published in a journal called Menopause last month.  Interestingly, another study this month has shown that early hot flashes are a good sign in terms of cardiovascular disease.  Women who had hot flashes early in menopause were less likely to have heart disease than those who got them later in life.

Hot flashes are caused by the blood vessels dilating which causes more blood to rush to the face (this is also known as flushing).  Flushing has been suggested in the past as a good thing because it shows the blood vessels are flexible and working well.  It is possible that women who get hot flashes early on in menopause have better blood vessel function than those who get them late in menopause.

February 22, 2011

Vein Harvesting May No Longer Be Needed in the Future

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 1:07 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

photo from Los Angeles Times news article

 

According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, researchers have found a way to engineer blood vessels needed for bypass surgery.

Bypass surgery is a complex and intimidating procedure that makes everyone cringe at the thought of having their chest cut open.  What some people may not realize is that smaller procedures are needed prior to bypass.  Other veins or arteries need to be cut out from other parts of the body in order to replace the blocked arteries in the heart.  For patients who require a second bypass or even a third, you start to run out of places to take veins for the heart.  Apparently, as many as 100,000 patients a year are unable to have bypass because they do not have enough suitable veins to put in the heart.

Luckily a new scientific procedure has a found a way to make vessels that are storable and ready-to-go at a moment’s notice. A company called Humacyte, Inc. created the vessels by shaping cadaver smooth muscle cells around a tube and letting the cells create their own collagen network.  After 2 months, a new vessel has formed and they wash away any of the remaining living cells.  What’s left behind is a clean, durable vessel that can be implanted right away or put on the shelf for later use.

Human trials are expected to begin soon using these new artificial vessels.  Animal testing in baboons and dogs have already shown promising results.  Other types of artificial vessels may also be emerging soon but none are close to being available to the public.  It may be another 5 to 10 years but the technology is evolving quickly and bypass patients may have more options soon!

Artificial blood vessels: In the Works – latimes.com.

February 20, 2011

Cardiologists Get Updated Guidelines With Coumadin Alternatives

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 8:11 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

photo by Ambro

An update to the US atrial fibrillation guidelines posted last week has made Pradaxa an official part of the treatment protocol.

When the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology published their new atrial fibrillation guidelines in December, many people were left with more questions than answers.  The updated guidelines did not include the newest drug, Pradaxa, which is the only alternative to Coumadin at this point.  At the time the guidelines were published, the American Heart Association promised they would provide an update to the guidelines to include Pradaxa soon.  As promised, the “update” to the “updated guidelines” is officially out.

What do the guidelines say then about this new Coumadin alternative? The guidelines give Pradaxa one of the highest recommendations possible (called a Class I).  They state specifically that it “is useful as an alternative to warfarin [Coumadin] for the prevention of stroke.”  However, they also say, “patients already taking warfarin [Coumadin] with excellent INR control may have little to gain by switching to dabigatran [Pradaxa].”

These new guidelines provide further assistance to cardiologists and patients who desperately needed an alternative to Coumadin.  Through the support of the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, physicians can now prescribe Pradaxa more comfortably for the patients who have trouble taking Coumadin.

February 6, 2011

Super Bowl 2011 Makes Heart Attack Headlines

Posted in Heart Disease in the News tagged , , , , , at 2:17 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

The San Francisco 49ers' Super Bowl XXIX troph...

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The Miami Herald as well as several other publications put a heart disease spin on the Super Bowl yesterday.

The media reported on a recent study article in the Journal of Clinical Cardiology which says that fans of the losing Super Bowl team are more likely to die from heart problems 2 weeks after the big game than the winning team’s fans.  The study also found that female fans of the losing team are even more likely to die than their male counterparts.

There were several theories reported for what causes this post-game heart attack dilemma.  Some reporters interviewed cardiologists who felt the problem was overeating which was previously found to increase heart attack risk immediately following a big meal.  Other cardiologists, including the study’s lead author, felt the problem lies in stress and “emotional attachment.”

It seems difficult to tell people not to get emotionally attached to their favorite team playing in the biggest football game of the year.  A more realistic goal would be avoidance of overeating.  Portions should be kept small and consider skipping dinner if you have already eaten many different appetizers.  One more thing to remember is to pay attention to your symptoms.  Do not hesitate to call 911 if you feel chest pain, chest pressure, significant shortness of breath, dizziness or if you almost pass out.

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