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Michael Wilcox is a health and medical journalist who writes frequently about clinical research, health policy, and technology in medicine. He has written previously for a number of medical and health trade magazines with a focus on obesity, cardiovascular health, surgery, and cancer, as well as covered ground-breaking medical science for academic research institutions.

For the past 50 years, aspirin has been hailed as something of a wonder drug. Not only does it reduce pain and fever, but it is also believed to lower the risk of heart attacks as well as certain types of cancer. Some of the most important medical organizations in the world, including the American Heart Association (AHA), the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) have recommended that patients take a daily, low-dose aspirin to prevent having a heart attack. An estimated 40% of US adults over 50 followed their advice. But this…

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For more than 250 years, physicians have used placebos as a deceptive way of placating patients who demand a treatment for their symptoms when there is none. More recently, placebos — inactive pills — are being used as a control intervention in clinical trials to demonstrate the activity of a new drug. But a new group of researchers is hoping to dramatically change the role of placebos in medicine through the use of “honest” placebos, where the patient knowingly takes a placebo. These “open placebo” pills are now available to consumers on the internet, and the approach is currently being…

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Anesthetics, and in particular the inhaled ones used to put patients “under” for surgery, are considered one of the most important medical advances in history, essentially opening the door for the entire modern field of surgery. There are an estimated 46 million surgical procedures done each year in the US, and yet anesthetics — which make nearly every one of these surgeries possible — remain among the potentially most toxic and poorly understood of all drugs. This doesn’t mean that undergoing anesthesia — essentially a reversible loss of consciousness — is unsafe. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA),…

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Even among cancer types, prostate cancer stands out as uniquely controversial. Screening for prostate cancer has been the subject of intense debate since the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) — the main government body that oversees cancer screening — recommended against it in 2012. Last month, they changed course and said screening is an “individual decision” between a patient and their doctor. Recently, record numbers of men with low-risk prostate cancer have simply avoided treatment altogether, adopting a strategy of “watchful waiting” until or unless symptoms worsen. Against this backdrop, doctors are now at odds over whether one of…

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“Oh god, I really hate you prednisone, I can’t sleep because of you.” It’s only 66 characters long, but Twitter messages like this one may become a critical tool for understanding and reporting a drug’s side effects in the future. As people have become more and more comfortable sharing personal information online, including personal health information, pharmacoepidemiologists — the health care professionals who closely track a drug’s benefits and side effects in the general population — now see social media sites like Twitter and Facebook as vast troves of data about prescription drug use in America. It would be an…

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Take vitamins and think they are all healthy for you? Think again – many are dangerously overused. Find out which ones may actually do you more harm than good. By almost any measure, the use of vitamin supplements among Americans is staggeringly high. More than half of all US adults report taking a vitamin or mineral supplement in the last month, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), at a cost of more than $14 billion a year. What is less known — and certainly much less promoted — is that vitamin supplements are not…

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