What You Should Know About Generic Medicines

Prime Minister Modi is onto something when he announced about a new law pushing doctors to prescribe generic drugs. If you ask us, we think it is a wonderful move to making medicines cheaper and more available for most people in the country. You may be aware that generic drugs are rather affordable, but few people know more than that. If nothing else, everyone knows how these drugs are less expensive than their branded counterparts.

You need to know a lot more about generics though, such as what makes it affordable, or what regulations generics need for distribution and other fun facts. Thankfully, you don’t have to go anywhere else to know. Here is a well-researched piece and a quick read rather, to tell you everything you should know about generics.

Generic drugs need to be identical to the branded ones.

Any medicine manufacture needs to meet the standard of quality, strength, safety, performance and other criteria. That’s the only way to get FDA approval. A medicine always has active ingredients and inactive ingredients. Whether it’s a brand name or a generic, if the medicine claims to be equivalent to a branded medicine, then the substitute needs to be a bioequivalent too. The active ingredient of the generics needs to be identical to the brand names. Inactive ingredients such as the color or flavor need not be the same. 

They may not look the same though.

Apart from the obvious pricing, the only other difference between the generic and the branded medicines are the inactive ingredients. The inactive ingredients need not be the same in the substitute medicines. These are filler materials such as dyes. They may be of different shapes and sizes too. That’s why generics and branded medicines don’t look the same.

Performance of generics is same as branded medicines.

For generics vs branded, it’s never a question about which medicine performs better. Many perceive that expensive drugs do better, but it is all in the mind. That is only a perceived notion, an incorrect one at that. Generics need to perform exactly the same way as branded medicine. The way it’s administered and the performance characters need to match with branded drugs, only then can generics get the FDA approval for distribution.

Price difference between generic vs. branded is humongous.

Everyone knows generics are rather affordable than branded medicines, but not everyone understands the magnitude of how cheap generics really are. According to the regulations, generics are relatively 80 to 85 percent cheaper than branded medicines. Again, quality has nothing to do with the pricing system of the generics. The active ingredients, the quality, and performance of the substitute has to be the same as the branded medicine.

Generics may have a different time-release formula.

This is another way of saying how fast the drugs get absorbed in the body. Compared to branded medicines, the rate of absorption of a substitute may differ. This is because of the variation in the inactive ingredients. According to the FDA, there is a fair window of variability. Due to this, you may find that a brand works faster or better than its generic. The key here is to not give up after trying just one substitute. Try another and see if that has a better rate of absorption instead of giving up and continuing with expensive branded drugs.

You can be apprehensive of the generics, at some point.

Given that generics have to be identical to the branded medicines, even performance-wise, they work well for the most part. However, FDA recommends branded medicines for special conditions such as thyroid or blood pressure issues. Since there is a small window of variability, branded medicines are recommended for reliability. Also, since the inactive ingredients differ, the color or the flavor or other agents may cause allergy in some people. This is why you need to be careful and closely watch the effects of the medicines if you plan to switch from a branded to generics.

No matter how small the differences may be in the shape or make of the generics vs. branded medicines, it can make a big impact on your finances and your body. Talk to your physician about your prescriptions. Understand which need be branded and which can be substituted. You have a choice, make a wise choice.

All That You Need to Know About H1N1

The recent news of H1N1 or Swine Flu caused panic and uproar of sorts, but that is why you need to know the facts. For instance, did you know? The first pandemic of H1N1 was way back in 2009, in Mexico. It is a respiratory disease and is contagious. It lasts from 3-7 days and serious illness may take up to 9 days to recover. As in the cases of most contagious diseases, the best way forward is prevention. We hope the information you get here helps you prevent or cope with this disease.

What is Swine Flu?

As the name suggests, the virus that infects the respiratory tract of pigs has the same symptoms as a virus in human flu. The pigs that survive, the sickness lasts up to two weeks. People who are closely associated with pigs, for example, pig rearers, vets or pork food processors may come in contact with this virus and develop the swine flu infection through the same virus. Similarly, when humans with flu come in contact with pigs, the pigs can get infected too.

What Causes it?

Swine flu or H1N1 is contagious, so that means that simple acts of coughing or sneezing will send the virus flying into the air, and if ingested or inhaled, you can be infected. Therefore, one thing must be clear here that you will never attract the virus by eating cooked pork. If you touch an infected surface and then eat or touch your eyes and nose, then chances of spreading the virus from saliva and mucus are much higher.

Risk Factors for Swine Flu

From the little outbreaks prevalent since 2009 and the recent one in India, it is seen that H1N1 is most common with children ages 5 years and up. However, you can be at a higher risk of contracting this disease if you were:

  • A senior, over the age of 65
  • Pregnant women
  • Young children under 5 years
  • Teenagers under 19 years regularly taking aspirin therapy
  • Weak immune system
  • Chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease.

Symptoms of H1N1

If you or your loved one ever had the flu, then the symptoms of H1N1 are much the same. Since it is the respiratory tract that is infected, you will have trouble breathing because of the stuffy nose, coughing, chills, and fever. There can be nausea and vomiting, sore throat, body ache, fatigue, and diarrhea too. It is so exhausting that you will have to rest for two weeks to recover.

Warning Signs

If you are a person with a weak immunity or who easily gets sick, then you may worry, that’s understandable. The symptoms let you know this is a terrible disease however, most patients recover with no problems. The high-risk individuals though are likely to have a worse outcome. The complications may look like a severe case of pneumonia or bronchitis including sinus and ear infections.

Prevention Tips

H1N1 is contagious and so, the easiest way to prevent getting infected by the virus is to keep yourself away from an outbreak in your community. Whether it is school, work or any public gathering, stay at home before you get a vaccination for it. If you find yourself surrounded by people affected by the virus, make sure you wash your hands with warm water and soap.

Avoid touching your face, nose or eyes with unwashed hands. If you feel you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, rush to your doctor for a diagnosis and take prescribed medicines. It’s best to stay at home and rest if you contract the illness. Use disposable tissues or sneeze into your shoulders to prevent others from being infected.

Home Remedies to Prevent H1N1

  • Increase daily intake of citrus fruits, such as amla.
  • Eat at least five tulsi leaves daily in the morning to boost immunity.
  • Drink warm milk mixed with a pinch of turmeric at nights.
  • Swallow two pods of raw garlic, on empty stomach in the morning with warm water.
  • Regular Pranayam can help you keep your throat and lungs healthy.

The best way to ease your symptoms of swine flu is to remain hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids such as warm water, soup or juices. You need to rest as much as possible. Last, stay informed with local community news to learn about new vaccine availability and other relevant information about H1N1.

The Shifting Goalposts Of Popular Health Parameters And What Those Mean For Us

Here’s the irony we all seem to live with – while technology is giving us more and more opportunities to stay ahead of time, somewhere it is also making us too dependent on circumstances. The changing focus on health concerns rightly compliments this argument. While every person, irrespective of profession and gender, ideally needs to take care of health and stay fit, this is all the more true for working professionals who deal with long and stressful work hours. Consequently, diabetes, cholesterol, and thyroid top the list of most common health concerns faced by the working class.

Change in Health Parameters

Earlier the parameter set to identify if a person was diabetic, for example, was if the fasting blood sugar level was above 140 (i.e. 140 milligrams of glucose per decilitre of blood). However, in 1997, the Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus brought down the number to 126. This was probably more from a preventive point of view wherein; experts felt that sooner a condition was treated better the chances of a person from avoiding the dreaded health condition altogether. Unfortunately, this decision meant that all of a sudden almost 1.6 million people who were otherwise “healthy” (since their blood sugar level was in the previous good range of 126-140) suddenly were declared diabetic. The same goes for measuring cholesterol. While the cholesterol level earlier was considered a risk at 300, over the years as research progressed it came down to 240 and eventually has settled at 200, thus bringing in almost 42 million people in the category of high cholesterol patients.

The other health problem which is seen to greatly impact the population is thyroid. Thyroid, too, was always a concern but never with the same gravity that it demands now. Hypothyroidism affects about 4-5% of the people across the globe and in India, one in ten adults go through it. Statistics state that women are much more at a risk and need to take precautions from early on. Such numbers further promote research and force the medical fraternity to take the results even more seriously. However, the more focus the problems get, the more the number of people seem to “suffer” from it.

Change in the Treatment Outlook

As a result, the treatment patterns also have considerably undergone a change. Everyone now stresses on preventive measures vis-à-vis earlier times when a health problem was treated as and when it occurred. It could be because of the fact that since there is so less time to spare, people prefer taking extra cautions to stay healthy rather than later spend time making visits to a doctor. From the doctors’ perspective, they would prefer avoiding an unwarranted health scare by prescribing medicines to counter a possible situation than having to deal with it at a later stage. It also implies monetary profits for the healthcare business sector. That makes the increasingly lowered threshold levels slightly difficult to accept. But for the common man, the risk seems too great compared to money spent.

Resultant Situation

More importantly, what this situation has resulted in is an over-cautious generation. Lowered ideal health range levels may make people take cognisance of their eating habits, exercise routines, and so on. But they also forget the fact that excessively worrying about a certain health aspect will not take away the problem entirely; while cholesterol is the primary cause of a heart attack it can also occur due to unhealthy lifestyles, smoking, etc. Another example is of the BMI (Body Mass Index). In the beginning, BMI was essentially used as a measure for body weight, and, thus, to basically remain in the healthy bracket. It helped in predicting cardiovascular diseases or nutritional competencies. Now, as with other health parameters expanding their scope, so has this simple figure. Health specialists have lately arrived at a Waist-Hip Ratio (WHR) which when used along with the BMI apparently better predicts more serious disorders such as diabetes, lipid problems, atherosclerosis, and so on.

In some ways, this sounds greatly helpful. Yet, it is also important to remember that over-diagnosis can be problematic as well. Imagine the number of medicines one consumes these days. Somewhere it makes the body immune to certain strains of those medicines and hence when the real need arises, it is doubtful if that medicine will really have a positive effect. Many times, people even ignore the side effects of taking extra medications, just to ward off a future possible concern. The number of treatments available is endless as well. It is thus up to the educated us to decide whether we will allow ourselves to be supposedly called “unhealthy” and where to stop in this vicious circle.

 

It’s a Myth that Plastic Surgery is Just for Vanity

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear plastic surgery? Nose jobs, liposuction, breast implants? If you associate plastic surgery with these (now alarmingly) common procedures, you are not alone. There is a rise in cosmetic surgeries on popular celebrities, both men and women today. So, many wrongly believe plastic surgery is just for vanity, only a luxury for the rich and the famous. That is not true.

Cosmetic Vs Plastic Surgery

Many use the names interchangeably and wrongly assume that both are the same things. However closely related they may be, cosmetic and plastic surgery both have different goals.

Cosmetic surgery, as the name implies, is only focused on improving the appearance. Breast augmentations, liposuction, Botox and tummy tucks all fall under this category. Cosmetic surgery is generally not covered by the insurance.

Plastic surgery is primarily focused on the repair or reconstruction of dysfunctional body parts so that the person undergoing the procedure may live better. Burn repair surgery, hand surgery or scar revision surgery etc. fall under this category. Plastic surgery is expensive, but for the right reasons, it can be covered by your insurance.

Women and Plastic Surgery

Women with breast cancer may have to undergo a mastectomy but not all women with mastectomy will pursue breast reconstruction. In another scenario, some women want breast reduction to help reduce chronic back pains.  Either way, plastic surgeons closely work with such cases. While this may not be medically necessary, it helps women enhance their quality of life. Although it is a part of it, plastic surgery is not just to enhance a person’s appearance or beauty. In many ways, surgical enhancements develop into a medical necessity.

Check out the following cases where it is not only medically essential but proves that plastic surgery is not just for vanity.

Skin Cancer

Plastic surgeons work closely with people with many types of skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, etc. The surgeon first removes all the skin affected by cancer. Then reconstruction is performed which includes sutures or skin graft – which is the process of replacing skin with skin from another part of the body. This is an extremely intricate procedure.

Dog Bites

Plastic surgery is key for victims of a dog attacks. It aids proper healing and avoids the risk of skin infections and scarring if treated within the 12-24 hours. Bites that cause serious injuries to the face as those incurred in car accidents may also need plastic surgery.

Face Reconstruction

A severely injured soldier also gets help from the plastic surgeon. The treatment is not just to fix or improve the external look of the person. Plastic surgery helps improve the soldier’s quality of life. They can look in the mirror and not be reminded of the trauma they underwent. The surgery also protects the soldier from stranger’s reactions to the injuries, thus improving their self-esteem.

Deviated Septum

A nasal septum is normally the straight midline of the nose that divides the nose passageway into equal halves. A deviated septum is a severely shifted midline. A person having it may have heavy snoring, chronic sinus infections, nosebleeds, headaches or nasal congestion. Septoplasty is an invasive procedure performed by a plastic surgeon so there is no bruising on the outside of the nose.

Birth Defects

Babies born with a cleft palate or deformed upper lip are unable to nurse or suck the right way. This is a type of birth defect which requires plastic surgery to reconstruct the lip. Others with facial bone defects require plastic surgery not only to enhance their look but to improve the way they eat, breathe and talk too.

Eye Lifts

Some women who still want to wear eyeshadow and look young, go for eyelid procedures. However, eye lifts are medically necessary if the dropping of the eyes interferes with the person’s ability to see. Insurances generally cover the latter case.

Patients who are looking for a surgeon for either cosmetic or plastic surgery procedures should always check out the doctor’s specific certifications and if he or she is a member of the Association of Plastic Surgeons of India. There is absolutely no harm is talking to other people who have undergone a similar procedure to know how exactly it works, what to expect and what not to expect.

Is It Time for Your Next Dental Check-up?

The high-stress lifestyle which we all live these days leaves us with very little time to take care of one the most important things – our health. There is simply no time to take precautionary measures. The doctor ceases to become someone we visit only when there is no getting out of a health scare, and that too when we are unable to treat the problem ourselves! Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly an appropriate way to go. Timely checks help us avoid last minute tensions, and in turn, time and money so to say.

On that note, we realised that somehow the most ignored health aspect is taking care of our teeth. Unless someone is grappling with a toothache or maybe a loose tooth, there hardly is a time when we visit a dentist on our own. So much so that in the process we fail to see the long-term repercussions of missing a dental check. According to National Oral Health Programme, only 50% of India’s population uses a toothbrush and just 2% of the population visit the dentist.

Teeth are an indicator of not just a clean mouth but also a healthy heart! Yes, you read it right. During a routine dental exam, a dentist will check for any gum problems, decaying of teeth, and any tartar or plaque build-up. However, the overall oral condition will also indicate if you suffer from any vitamin deficiencies (especially vitamin C), and other serious problems such as diabetes or oral cancer. Dentists are also ideally supposed to check for the movement of your lower jaw joints (TMJs) to indicate any joint problems and peripheral head and neck issues. But most importantly, there is a strong link between healthy gums and our heart. Apparently, the oral bacteria easily spread through the body worsening any impending heart diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and other inflammatory conditions. No, we don’t mean to scare our readers at all. Just trying to reiterate the importance of dental hygiene for the overall wellbeing.

Even if you brush twice a day, floss, avoid harmful substances such as tobacco and cigarettes, it is vital to go for a dental exam every six months. That is what the American Dental Association recommends for all, young and old. Just schedule a 6-monthly appointment with your dental practitioner so there will be no hassle in remembering the dates. Do check with the doctor if the daily dental routine you follow is on the right track; if the brushing and flossing technique you use are correct; if there’s anything more that needs to be done for the maintenance of the teeth and gums. At such appointments, you will be checked if the previously done fillings are still strong or need rework. That is critical because the way we chew the food has a direct effect on our entire digestive system. Sometimes, dentists may even ask you to take an x-ray to check for any root damage. That again is very important since it will avoid significant pain, if some tooth root does show to be problematic, in the later days. Hence, dental exams allow a thorough complete protection against future concerns and thus are absolutely indispensable on a periodic basis.

Before any dental procedure, don’t forget to share your medical history with the dentist. It is important that they know about your medications, medical history, heart diseases, diabetes, pregnancy etc. It is also always recommended that you share your health concerns, allergies, or anxieties with the dentist. In today’s age of smartphones, you don’t really need to carry too many files with all such details with you. All you need to do is maintain your medical history through a mobile app, and share the information with the doctor during your visit!

The sound of the drilling by some dental devices or pain experienced during treatment in the past may be keeping you off such visits. However, don’t be nervous. Do remember that it is all momentary. And also, something for your own good. Once the check-up/ treatment is done you are good to go for another couple of months without any worries. Your teeth will look cleaner, you will feel so fresh and healthy, and more than anything else, the bright smile will be so worth it!