Platelet E-News – January 28, 2009

This e-newsletter is a monthly publication of the Platelet Disorder Support Association. The information in this newsletter is for educational purposes only. For advice on your unique medical condition, please consult a health care professional.

Contents:

ITP Research and Treatments

Hospitals, Insurance, and Medical Care

General Health and Medicine

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General Health and Medicine

Boosting Platelet Production in ITP

The long-held view that ITP is mainly caused by autoantibody destruction of platelets is only part of the story, according to a review of recent clinical studies by Australian researchers. Ineffective platelet production has a clear role in ITP, as shown by the effectiveness of new thrombopoietin (TPO) receptor agonists that stimulate platelet production. Although bone marrow megakaryocytes, which give rise to platelets, are typically plentiful in ITP, those megakaryocytes have structural abnormalities. The authors suggest that studies showing TPO receptor agonists can elevate platelet count rapidly in the majority of patients with severe ITP will stimulate new interest in how autoantibodies inhibit megakaryocyte maturation and platelet production. Long term studies are still needed to investigate concerns over side effects found in a few patients on these newer drugs.

Wei A, Jackson SP. Boosting Platelet Production. Nature Medicine, September 2008, 14(9):917-928.

New Way to Block Inflammation in Autoimmune Disease

A promising new target for autoimmune disease treatment, a cell-surface receptor called DR3, has been discovered by scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Blocking the receptor may slow or stop the damaging inflammation involved in autoimmune disease. Mice engineered to lack DR3 were resistant to two immune system diseases, asthma and multiple sclerosis. DR3 is a tumor necrosis factor. Many potent treatments for inflammatory diseases interfere with the action of TNF.

Scientists find potential new way to block inflammation in autoimmune disease. INFOCUS, newsletter of the Autoimmune Disease Association. September 2008, 16(3), pg. 7.

FDA Studying Safety of Drugs to Treat Autoimmune Disorders

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun a safety review of drugs that block tumor necrosis factor (TNF) for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease. The FDA is investigating 30 reports of cancer development in children and young adults who took the drugs. The drugs under study are Enbrel (etanercept), Humira (adalimumab), and Remicade (infliximab).

FDA begins study of autoimmune treatment drugs. INFOCUS, newsletter of the Autoimmune Disease Association. September 2008, 16(3), pg. 6.

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Hospitals, Insurance, and Medical Care

Rising Medical Costs Driving More Americans Into Debt

More Americans—those with and without health insurance—are struggling to pay medical bills in this deepening recession. 79 million Americans under age 65 (up from 58 million in 2005) were paying off medical debt or had problems paying medical bills in 2007, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund. A Washington Post article offers tips for managing medical debt: Billing errors are common, so carefully review all bills; make sure you’ve exhausted all payment sources, including current and former employers and see if you’re eligible for charity care; request a discount – Medicare or Medicaid prices may be 50% lower than the price uninsured patients are charged; try not to use your credit card and do not mortgage your house to pay medical bills; and never ignore medical bills, it can make matters worse.

Boodman, SG. Seeing Red. The Washington Post, January 13, 2009, Pg. F1, F5.

National Human Genome Research Institute Wants Your Input

The NHGRI, part of NIH, is asking for community input on three white papers as part of its long-term planning process for the future of human genome research, specifically on

1) diagnostics, preventive medicine, and pharmacogenomics;

2) therapeutics; and

3) education and community engagement. Comments will be posted anonymously on the Web site.

www.genome.gov/About/Planning

Sign Up to Receive Drug Warnings Via Email

For a more thorough view of medication warnings than may be available on the FDA’s Web site, check out the Web site of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Once there, you can sign up to receive email alerts related to specific prescription drug products.

www.consumermedsafety.org.

Web Site Offers Patients and Loved Ones A Way to Stay Connected

How to update dozens of family and friends on your medical condition, or connect with others who can offer encouragement? The nonprofit CaringBridge offers free, personalized Web sites so people can post updates and receive comments during a health crisis, treatment, and recovery. Users just need an email address and Internet access.

www.CaringBridge.org.

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General Health and Medicine

Common Cold Remedy Can Cause Respiratory Distress in Children

Vicks VapoRub should not be used for children under age 2 and should not be applied directly under the nose, according to a study by researchers at Wake Forest University. The common remedy for chest congestion can act as an irritant, causing the body to produce more mucus to protect the airway; in infants with narrow airways, swelling and extra mucus can be dangerous.

Abanses JC, Arima S, Rubin BK. Vicks VapoRub Induces Mucin Secretion, Decreases Ciliary Beat Frequency, and Increases Tracheal Mucus Transport in the Ferret Trachea. Chest, January 2009, 135(1), pg. 143-148.

Foods To Support a Healthy Immune System

Citrus fruit is packed with immune-boosting nutrients, as are orange vegetables (sweet potatoes and carrots) shitake mushrooms, and lean beef in moderation. Yogurt with active probiotic cultures balances the immune system in the digestive tract. Black and green tea contain antioxidants and the spice turmeric helps fight cold and flu (but don’t overdue green tea or turmeric if you have ITP; these act as natural blood thinners).

Feed Your Immune System. Washington Jewish Week, January 8, 2009.

Wisdom Teeth Contain Stem Cells That Can Grow New Teeth

If you haven’t had your wisdom teeth pulled yet, don’t. Turns out they are a great source of the adult stem cells that could be used one day to regrow your teeth, if the need arises. Although fewer Americans lose adult teeth than in past generations, scientists at NIH are devising a way to use adult stem cells to create living roots and eventually grow a full tooth.

Garreau J. A Moment of Tooth. The Washington Post, January 5, 2009, Pg C1,C8.

Time Spent With the Younger Generation Extends Life—At Least for Flies

Fruit flies with a genetic mutation that reduces lifespan survived twice as long as expected when they were housed with young flies.

Strange Science. Nature Medicine, September 2008, 14(9):1305.

Patients Believe You Get What You Pay For

Patients are more likely to feel a positive effect from a medication with a high price tag, according to a study by researchers at MIT. Two groups were given placebo pills, one group was told the pills cost $2.50 each; the others were told each pill was discounted to $0.10 each. Of those taking the pricier pill, 85% said they felt less pain; of those who took the cheaper version, 61% felt an effect.

Strange Science. Nature Medicine, September 2008, 14(9):1305.

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