The number of people diagnosed with high cholesterol blood levels has been increasing steadily with each newly issued cholesterol guideline. Currently, about 71 million American adults and about 35% of children as young as 9 have borderline or high cholesterol levels and, as such, require cholesterol lowering medications. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 50% of adults in high-income countries and approximately 25%-35% in lower income countries have elevated cholesterol levels.
We still hold memories of the public alerts and the scare of the bird flu epidemic from 2003. Millions of infected birds were killed at that time in an effort to stop the spread of the virus to humans. Nevertheless, the bird flu virus continues to infect humans and multiple deaths have been reported since 2003. The FDA recommended antiviral flu medicines such as Tamiflu and Relenza are not very effective, and the bird flu virus has developed resistance to other flu drugs like amantadine and rimantadine.
Nearly one third of the world population is infected with the tuberculosis (TB) bacteria even if they may not have any symptoms. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 8.6 million people had active illness and 1.3 million died from TB in 20121. The US has approximately 10,000 reported cases of TB. In the developing countries, more than 90% of the TB infections and deaths occur in young adults between the ages of 15-44. The death rate is expected to increase worldwide because the TB bacteria have developed resistance to almost all the available treatment options and new approaches to TB are desperately needed.
You may be surprised to learn that the fastest growing disease in the world today is diabetes. Every day approximately 5200 Americans are diagnosed with diabetes1, which results in hundreds of cases of leg amputations, blindness, and kidney failures. Worldwide, diabetes is one of the most common non-communicable diseases and is at the forefront of the public health challenges the world faces this century. In the last two decades, the number of people suffering from diabetes has skyrocketed and it is projected to increase from 171 million in 2000 to 438 million in 2030.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol® or Paracetamol) is the most commonly used painkiller and fever reducing medicine and is easily available over-the-counter. Many people use this drug as if it were candy, without being aware of its likelihood for causing serious, sometimes deadly, consequences when taken in excess. Moreover, acetaminophen is present in small doses in nearly 600 other over-the-counter products in small doses, such as cough and cold drugs, sleep medicines, and in prescription painkillers. Easy access and an abundant presence makes acetaminophen the most common culprit for accidental and potentially life-threatening overdose. Although Acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen (Motrin®) and aspirin, it has a very narrow safety margin and even a small dosage error can cause serious damage to the liver. Accidental acetaminophen poisoning is the cause of 78,000 emergency room visits per year and is the most common cause of liver failure requiring liver transplants in the United States.
With over 65% of Americans taking one or more pharmaceutical medicines on a regular basis, it is imperative to be aware of not only the damaging health side effects but the associated costs as well. According to a 2008 estimate, Americans are spending more than $205 billion on prescription drugs alone. Contrary to popular belief, the elderly are not the only age group being overly medicated. Drugs for children are one of the pharmaceutical industry’s fastest growing businesses.
With the slight seasonal variations, many people of all ages suffer from asthma attacks throughout the year. Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in children, affecting 7 million children and 32 million adults in the US. Worldwide 235 million people have asthma and the related deaths reach 180,000 per year.
An asthma attack is marked by severe and recurrent bouts of coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, which can range from a minor annoyance to a debilitating or life threatening disease. Approximately one in every 12 Americans suffer from asthma and the incidence has increased by 60% since the early 1980s. Therefore, it is not only the disease of an individual, but has become a public health problem and a huge financial burden. According to the Centers of Disease Control, the annual spending on asthma care is over $56 billion, which includes hospital visits, treatment costs, and missed workdays. In spite of such massive expenditure, asthma treatment offers only symptomatic improvement.
One in every three adults, that is approximately 67 million people in the US, already have high blood pressure and many more have prehypertension. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is diagnosed when the blood pressure readings are consistently higher than 140/90 mm of Hg. Worldwide, there are more than 1 billion people living with uncontrolled hypertension, and the number is estimated to increase by 60% by year 2025. The lifetime risk of developing high blood pressure is more than 90% for people after 55-60 years of age.
Contrary to common belief, arthritis or joint pain is not limited to the elderly alone. More than two-thirds of the arthritis patients in the US are under the age of 65 and some are children. Currently 57 million adult Americans suffer from arthritis and the number is projected to increase to 67 million by 2030. Worldwide, it is estimated that more than 10% of men and 18% of women have symptomatic osteoarthritis.
Everyone is at risk of fracturing a bone from a fall, sport activities, or a car accident and it is all the more likely to happen to people suffering from osteoporosis. Bone fractures are one of the most painful injuries and require a lengthy recovery time.
The most common bone fracture, especially in active adults and children, is a broken leg, and often involves a tibial (or shinbone) fracture. In the US, approximately 492,000 tibial fractures are reported every year resulting in close to 400,000 hospital days. The usual time for healing a tibial fracture is 12 to 16 weeks. However, this is often delayed due to a high incidence of complications requiring strong painkillers for the patient. In European countries, osteoporosis related hip fractures were reported to be 620,000 according to a 2010 report.