Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Diagnoses of Celiac Disease on the Rise PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Jake Glimco   
Monday, 12 December 2011 16:15

Celiac Disease Diagnoses Increasing

Celiac Disease now the #1 most frequently searched GI term on the internet

QUAD-CITIES / November 29, 2011 -- Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease of the small intestine previously thought to be rare, is increasing in frequency in the Quad-Cities. Gastroenterology practices are seeing an increase in patients diagnosed with Celiac disease and the term ‘Celiac’ has now become the single most searched-for term in gastroenterology on the internet today.  As many as two million Americans may have Celiac disease. Researchers are not certain what factors are contributing to the increased incidence, but recent Mayo Clinic research of blood samples preserved from the 1950’s indicates the prevalence of the blood markers suggesting Celiac disease has increased four-fold in the last 50-60 years

What is Celiac disease? The inside surface of most people’s small intestines resembles a dense pile carpet with the fibers, or villi, which play a vital role in the digestion of food.  But in patients with Celiac disease, their bodies attack the villi in the small intestine, sometimes to the point where the lining becomes smooth.  Without healthy villi, nutrients pass through the small intestine without being absorbed.   Patients suffering from Celiac disease do not absorb vital nutrients and can become malnourished in spite of eating the right foods in the right amounts.  These patients can become predisposed to premature bone loss, infertility, miscarriage and occasionally lymphoma and intestinal cancer, among other problems.  One-third of the population is estimated to carry a genetic marker for gluten intolerance, but only one-in-100 has the sensitivity to gluten, setting off the destruction of the intestinal villi.  

Celiac disease and infertility – Researchers who have studied women with infertility issues have found they test positive for Celiac disease-related antibodies at a rate ten times higher than the normal population.   These women do not always exhibit an iron, B-12 or folate deficiency.  This suggests there may be another mechanism besides nutritional deficiencies caused by intestinal damage impairing their ability to conceive.   Additionally, women with un-treated Celiac disease were found to enter menopause four to five years earlier than those who observed a strict gluten-free diet.

Why the increase? Researchers are not sure, but investigators are exploring what role, if any, diet and environment may play in the increase of gluten intolerance and Celiac disease.  Doctors say that triggers such as infection, pregnancy, severe emotional stress, surgery or physical injury can set off Celiac disease in those with a genetic predisposition.

Who is at risk? Caucasians of Western European descent who have a relative with Celiac disease appear to have the highest incidence of the disease.  Because Celiac disease is controlled by the same gene carrying diabetes, those with diabetes are at an increased risk. Those with other autoimmune diseases, such as thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis and liver disease, may also be at an increased risk.

How can I tell if I have Celiac disease? Symptoms vary and can include:


  • Gas, recurring abdominal bloating and pain
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Pale, foul-smelling or fatty stool
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Tingling or numbness in the legs due to nerve damage
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Behavioral changes (irritability in children)
  • Delayed growth in children or failure to thrive in infants
  • Pale sores inside the mouth
  • Itchy skin rash, especially around the elbows.

It is believed Celiac disease often goes un-diagnosed because these symptoms are attributed to other problems; and while most health care providers know about the disease, it is not always considered as a potential diagnosis when patients have symptoms.

Diagnosing Celiac disease: Because the symptoms of Celiac disease can mimic other diseases, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s disease, it is often recommended that patients suspected of having this affliction undergo an upper endoscopy (EGD) to obtain a sample of the tissue (biopsy) from the small intestine. An upper endoscopy involves passing a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera, or endoscope, through the mouth and stomach and into the small intestine.  Tiny instruments are then passed through the tube to obtain a tissue sample for the biopsy.  Blood tests to check for high levels of antibodies are available, but the results are less reliable than a biopsy.  To insure the accuracy of any tests for Celiac disease, it is important patients do not prematurely eliminate gluten-containing foods from their diet.

The GOOD news:  The vast majority of cases of Celiac disease can be effectively treated.  With adherence to a gluten-free diet, intestinal damage can be completely reversed in two years.  People with Celiac disease must remain on a gluten-free diet for life, but drugs or surgery are usually not required.  While it is true a gluten-free diet eliminates wheat-based goodies like cake, cookies and beer, there has been an explosion of non-gluten options which makes sustaining a gluten-free diet much easier. Gluten-free substitutions, once only available at health food stores and on the internet, are now available in most supermarkets and even some local restaurants.  However, even traces of gluten on cooking utensils or manufacturing equipment can be enough to trigger a reaction.

About Gastroenterology Consultants

Gastroenterology Consultants is an accomplished group of board-certified gastroenterologists and supporting physicians specializing in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal diseases. Our state-of-the-art facility with an adjacent AAAHC accredited endoscopy center is located in Moline, IL, and proudly services the Quad-Cities and surrounding communities.

At Gastroenterology Consultants, we provide a wide range of endoscopic services. Apart from routine endoscopic services, our facility offers motility studies, 24-hr pH (Bravo), Lap, therapeutic ERCP’s performed in hospital setting, endoscopic ultrasound with fine needle aspiration, Celiac blocks, video capsule, endoscopic anti-reflux procedures, ultrasound guided liver biopsies and pathology.  Most recently, GI Consultants became the first GI practice in the Quad-Cities area to offer the BARRX HALO Radio Frequency Ablation system, a minimally-invasive treatment for pre-cancerous Barrett’s esophagus.

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Grassley Statement at Express Scripts/Medco Merger Hearing PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 12 December 2011 16:08

Statement of Ranking Member Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Senate Committee on the Judiciary,

Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights

Hearing on “The Express Scripts/Medco Merger: Cost Savings for Consumers or More Profits for the Middlemen?”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing.  Whether people know it or not, this proposed merger will affect them.  Prescription drugs are a daily part of many folk’s lives.  How those drugs are paid for and determining who gets paid what is a complex process.  At the heart of all of this are the Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBMs.

The combination of Express Scripts and Medco would create a company that processes almost one-third of all PBM-administered prescriptions.  Basically, one in four individuals who receive prescription drugs through a health plan will be impacted.  So, this is an important matter.  I expect the Federal Trade Commission will examine this merger rigorously, as they should.

Today this Committee has the opportunity to hear some practical concerns with the merger in a public forum.  I’m sure there will be much discussion on the legal issues that will be part of the Federal Trade Commission’s review.  However, we get the chance to listen to those who support and oppose the proposed merger. I expect the discussion will be fruitful and informative.

I’ve heard from a large number of Iowa pharmacists who raise concerns.  I’m interested to hear about the effect this merger will have on them and consumers.  There are also transparency and competition issues that deserve discussion and today’s a great opportunity to do so.

Again, thank you for holding this very important hearing, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to hearing from the witnesses.

 
BAUCUS, GRASSLEY, KOHL EXAMINE PHARMACEUTICAL DEALS THAT LIMIT ACCESS TO GENERIC DRUGS PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 12 December 2011 10:00

Senators Request Information on Agreements between Pfizer, Drug Benefit Companies, and Insurance Companies Pertaining to Promotion of Heart-Disease Drug Lipitor

Washington, DC – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), senior Finance Committee member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Special Committee on Aging Chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) sent letters today to Pfizer, three companies that manage pharmaceutical benefits and two insurance companies asking for information about agreements aimed at limiting the sale of Atorvastatin, the generic equivalent of Pfizer’s drug Lipitor.  The letters were sent after a news report alleged Pfizer agreed to provide discounts to pharmaceutical benefit management companies (PBMs) and insurance companies if the PBMs and the insurers would block prescriptions for Lipitor’s generic equivalent.  In letters sent to Pfizer, PBMs Medco, Express Scripts, and Catalyst RX and insurance companies Coventry Health Care and UnitedHealth, the Senators expressed concern these arrangements will hinder access to generic drugs today and in the future.

“We need to do all we can to preserve access to the generic drugs that so are critical to seniors and millions of Americans across the country.  Patients and their families depend on generic drugs and they can’t afford to see these generics pushed out of the market,” Baucus said. “By working with manufacturers to push brand-name drugs, drug benefit companies may be abusing Medicare to boost their profits and denying generic alternatives to patients – a practice that needs to end immediately.  We need to take a close look to ensure we’re protecting both taxpayer dollars and access to the medicine patients need.”

“In what’s been reported, just about everyone wins except consumers and taxpayers.  That’s cause for scrutiny, and these letters reflect a commitment to looking at how to prevent the system from being manipulated so that access to generic drugs is restricted and taxpayers are forced to unnecessarily pay brand-name drug prices.” Grassley said.

“Consumers and taxpayers foot the bill when drug benefit companies and insurers manipulate the marketplace to prevent access to generic drugs for millions of Americans.  We hope that scrutiny into these business practices will restore fairness and open the gates to affordable prescription drug choices and tremendous cost savings,” Kohl said.

The news report indicated Pfizer and PBMs Medco Health Solutions and Catalyst RX have entered into agreements aimed at undercutting Atorvastatin sales.  Letters sent from the PBMs to pharmacies show the agreements will prevent customers enrolled in certain prescription drug plans from receiving the generic alternative to Lipitor.  While these letters indicate that a plan member’s co-pay for Lipitor would be discounted and equal to the cost of a less-expensive generic prescription, the Senators are concerned the PBMs and insurance companies may charge health plan sponsors, including employers and Medicare Part D, full price for brand-name Lipitor from December 1, 2011 through May 31, 2012, while pocketing the discount from Pfizer.  The senators asked for a detailed list of all of all agreements which block generics or favor brand-name drugs and for documents related to the Lipitor deal.

Spending on the Medicare Part D program providing drug coverage for seniors will total $65 billion in the current fiscal year.  In the next four years, brand-name drugs with approximately $100 billion in sales in the U.S. have patents that will expire.  Without the prospect of true competition, generic drug manufacturers will be hesitant to invest the time and resources required to bring low-cost generic drugs to the market.  This heightens the concern that these types of arrangements will become a trend, ultimately compromising access to generic drugs and increasing costs to Medicare.

The United States Senate Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  More than 100 million Americans receive health care and have access to affordable prescription drugs under those programs.

 
GAO testimony on oversight of psychotropic prescriptions for children in foster care PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 12 December 2011 09:57
Thursday, December 1, 2011

Senator Chuck Grassley issued the comment below regarding new findings from the Government Accountability Office about dramatically higher rates of psychotropic prescription drugs being given to foster children over other children in Medicaid.  The GAO is finishing work on a report requested by Senator Tom Carper of Delaware.  Senators Grassley, Collins, McCain and Scott Brown joined in requesting the report.  The GAO today testified about its findings during a hearing of a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.  A foster youth named Ke’onte Cook also testified about his personal experience in having to take several medications while moving from one foster home to another.

Senator Grassley’s comment:

“Children in the foster system are about as vulnerable as children can be, so more should be known about the degree to which foster children are given psychotropic drugs and the rationale for doing so, especially given the dramatic findings of this report.  The federal government should provide, without delay, the recommended guidance to states for monitoring what’s happening.  Prescribing patterns and adverse effects need to be tracked for the well-being and protection of these children.  An environment needs to be established where there’s accountability for the degree to which these drugs are used in order to make sure it’s not just for convenience and at the children’s expense.  There’s also a public interest in making certain Medicaid isn’t being abused through over prescribing.  My oversight, combined with investigative reporting, has exposed a few doctors in Florida who prescribed higher numbers of psychotropic drugs than seem humanly possible.  That’s the kind of pattern states and the federal government need to monitor and nip in the bud as problems develop.  Also, disclosure of drug company payments to doctors will help to identify doctors who might be inclined to prescribe certain drugs at high levels because of a strong relationship with the drug maker.”

Background information:

Senator Grassley has worked to make improvements to the foster care system and to make it easier for children in foster care to be adopted into permanent, loving homes, including the landmark 2008 law.  The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 requires states to strengthen oversight of medical treatment and ensure that foster children receive high-quality, coordinated services when their placements change.

In 2009, Senator Grassley and Senator Mary Landrieu founded a Foster Youth Caucus in the Senate to draw the attention of policy makers to the needs of older children in foster care and the importance of helping children in the foster care transition out of the system and to independence, without the support of family.

Separately, beginning in 2007, Senator Grassley made the case for requiring pharmaceutical and medical device makers to disclose payments they make to doctors.  The disparities he disclosed between payments that research doctors reported receiving and payments that were made by drug makers galvanized support for enactment last year of a reform legislation sponsored by Senator Grassley and Senator Herb Kohl which will require disclosure.  Under their Physician Payments Sunshine Act, drug, device and medical supply companies must file annual reports with Department of Health and Human Services delineating all payments over $10, and the information will be posted online in a searchable manner beginning on September 30, 2013, and then on March 31 each subsequent year.  Physician names, office addresses, and specialties will be posted along with the form and amount of payments.  Senator Grassley has said this reform will provide transparency and, in turn, greater accountability in medical research and practice.

 
Governor Quinn Commemorates World AIDS Day PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Nafia Khan   
Monday, 12 December 2011 09:55

Encourages Commitment to Prevention, Education, Access to Healthcare 

 

CHICAGO – December 1, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn commemorated World AIDS Day today by urging Illinois residents to support raising awareness, and providing access to education and quality healthcare in the global effort to stop the spread of HIV infection.

 

“There has been tremendous and groundbreaking work done worldwide to educate the public in the effort to prevent the further transmission of HIV,” Governor Quinn said. “But as we observe the 23rd World AIDS Day, and the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of HIV/AIDS, we must continue working globally and locally to reach our goal of zero AIDS-related deaths.”

 

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS estimates that 33 million adults and 2.5 million children are living with HIV worldwide. As a result, the theme for the 2011 World AIDS Day - observed every Dec. 1 since 1988 - is “Getting to Zero.”

 

Illinois has the 7th highest number of AIDS cases in the nation, with 38,265 cases reported since 1981, with half of those cases being African-American.  Of the Illinois residents diagnosed since 1981, 20,970 have died. The Illinois Department of Public Health sponsors several groundbreaking programs and funds many organizations statewide that aim to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The department also provides access to healthcare services for those living with the disease, including an HIV/AIDS and STD hotline: 1-800-243-2437.

 

Other programs include:

 

  • Quality of Life Endowment Fund – Proceeds from the “Red Ribbon Cash” scratch off lottery game are used to fund organizations providing HIV/AIDS prevention and support services.
  • AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) – Serves 4,100 low-income persons diagnosed with HIV/AIDS per month access life-saving anti-retroviral drugs.
  • BASUAH – Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS program promotes HIV/AIDS awareness among communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted by the disease, through education, collaboration and community engagement. Visit BASUAH.org for more information.
  • Text 2 Survive – Allows public to find free testing sites and health events via mobile phone by texting “EVENT”, “IL” or “ALERT” plus 5-digit ZIP Code to 36363. Spanish speakers can text “CENTRO” plus 5-digit ZIP Code to 36363.

 

At today’s event, Governor Quinn was joined by Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago), Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair, and Kathi Braswell, executive director of the Ruth Rothstein CORE Center, one of the largest HIV/AIDS clinics in the United States.

Governor Quinn also declared today World AIDS Day, presenting the following proclamation:

 

WHEREAS, preventing the transmission of HIV infection and stopping the spread of AIDS requires a worldwide effort to increase communication, education and action; and

WHEREAS, estimates from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS on the global AIDS epidemic show that around 33 million adults and 2.5 million children were living with HIV at the end of 2009; and

WHEREAS, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois has the seventh highest number of AIDS cases in the nation, with 38,265 reported cases of AIDS since 1981. Of those diagnosed with the disease, about 20,970 have died; and

WHEREAS, the World Health Organization has designated December 1 of each year as World AIDS Day, a day to expand and strengthen the worldwide effort to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS; and

WHEREAS, this year marks the 23rd anniversary of World AIDS Day and the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of HIV/AIDS. While we have come a long way since then, there is still much more to be done; and

WHEREAS, the theme for World AIDS Day 2011 is “Getting to Zero” Global leaders have pledged to work towards universal access to HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and care, recognizing these as fundamental human rights. Valuable progress has been made in increasing access to HIV and AIDS services, yet greater commitment is needed around the world if the goal of universal access is to be achieved; and

WHEREAS, the campaign calls on all sectors of society such as families, communities and civil society organizations, as well as governments, to take the initiative and provide leadership on AIDS; and

WHEREAS, this day in Illinois is commemorated by a number of events across the state, including the dimming of the lights atop the Illinois State Capitol dome and at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago during the evening hours to coincide with the dimming of the lights at the White House in tribute to those infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS:

THEREFORE, I, Pat Quinn, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim December 1, 2011 as WORLD AIDS DAY in Illinois, and encourage all residents to take part in activities and observances designed to increase awareness and understanding of AIDS, to take part in AIDS prevention activities and programs, and to join in the efforts to prevent transmission of HIV and further spread of AIDS.

 

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