Do You Take an Aspirin a Day?

On May 2nd, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a report regarding the use of daily aspirin to prevent a heart attack and stroke. The FDA’s findings may drastically alter how the health care industry utilizes daily aspirin therapy.

Background:
A number of patients take a daily aspirin due to the belief that it reduces their risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

“Primary Prevention” – Refers to patients with diabetes, family history of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol who have an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke and use aspirin as prevention (before either of these events occur).

“Secondary Prevention” – Refers to the use of daily aspirin therapy for patients who have had a heart attack, stroke, or having known coronary artery disease. Secondary prevention use of aspirin has well established benefits and significantly reduces the chance of a second heart attack or stroke.

The Update:
The FDA has reviewed new data regarding aspirin use for primary prevention and concluded that there is insufficient evidence at this time to support routine use of daily aspirin therapy in these patients.

What does this mean for you? 
If you have not had a heart attack, stroke, or have known coronary heart disease and you take a daily aspirin, talk to your physician about the need for continued use of aspirin and weigh the risk versus benefit of prolonged aspirin therapy.

Commit to Quit!

There are significant health benefits associated with quitting tobacco. Within one year of kicking the habit an individual’s risk of coronary heart disease will cut in half. What’s the magic solution to help you quit successfully?

Studies have shown:

  1. The use of approved medications for tobacco cessation doubles the likelihood of successfully quitting.
  2. The effects of medications used for tobacco cessation increase substantially when paired with behavioral intervention.

There are three FDA-approved drugs for smoking cessation: nicotine replacement therapy (gum, patch, lozenge, nasal spray, inhaler), bupropion, and Chantix. Read facts about each of these below.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT):
•  Use of NRT products approximately doubles quit rates
•  Available in many forms to fit your preferences and lifestyle
•  The patch, gum and lozenge are available over-the-counter
•  The nasal spray and inhaler are prescription only

Bupropion SR (Zyban):
•  Prescription only
•  Also an antidepressant; might be beneficial for individuals with depression

Chantix:
•  Prescription only, expensive if not covered
•  Decent success rate when taken as prescribed and well tolerated
•  Has more intolerable side effects than the other agents available

It’s important to consult your physician and/or pharmacist to help you determine the best medication option for you.

What’s the deal with e-Cigarettes?

What are electronic cigarettes? 
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) came onto the market in 2007 and are battery operated devices that deliver nicotine via vapor. These differ from the traditional cigarette as there is no tobacco in the e-cig compared to its traditional counterpart.

Great unknowns about e-cigs:

  • Long-term risks associated with the inhalation of nicotine vapor
  • Exactly how much nicotine is delivered per inhalation
  • If there is proven benefit to using these products
  • What exactly is in the e-cigarette nicotine cartridge (many of these are manufactured in China and under no quality control)

Research:
A study published in the journal of Addictive Behaviors found that people who use e-cigs in order to quit smoking either became hooked on the e-cig or go back to using traditional cigarettes.

A study published in The Lancet found no statistically significant difference concerning the use of the e-cig compared the nicotine patch in terms of smoking cessation benefits.

Faulty Reasoning:
It is believed that the use of the e-cig creates an illusion on behalf of the smoker as they think they are doing something positive for themselves. In reality, the individual is maintaining their smoking habit.  Editors of The Lancet consider the e-cig “a moral quandary”. Other researchers agree that converting millions of smokers to the e-cig won’t necessarily lead to a cleaner, healthier environment as individuals are still addicted to nicotine.

Take Home Message:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not find a therapeutic purpose or benefit to the electronic cigarette at this time.

Limit the Tylenol

Many prescription pain medications are combination products that contain varying amounts of Tylenol, or acetaminophen.  In the past, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not placed limits on the amount of Tylenol that is included in these combo products.  That is changing as the FDA is asking manufacturers of these medications to limit the amount of Tylenol per pill to 325mg.

Excessive amounts of Tylenol can lead to serious liver damage.  If you are taking a prescription pain medication that contains Tylenol, it is important to avoid the use of over the counter products that contain acetaminophen (the same active ingredient as Tylenol).  Acetaminophen is available in a variety of over the counter remedies, including numerous cough and cold products.

Look and Ask!  Look at the active ingredient listing on all over the counter products and ask your pharmacist if you have any questions.