Monthly Archives: May 2012

Medication Safety and Recent Consumer Alerts

The drug you’ve been prescribed may have been recalled. Or it may be a counterfeit. Whatever the case, learning the latest drug safety information could save your life.

There are about 300 drugs on the market that carry a safety alert from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Before you begin taking any medication, it is very important that you not only consult with your doctor but use every resource you have available to you to learn more about your prescription.

There are many examples of drugs being prescribed before the full extent of the risk is known. Among them:


Actos hit the market in 1999 amid great fanfare. The drug, which is part of the glitazone family, treats type 2 diabetes by helping the patient to absorb more insulin.

However, just a year after Actos was launched, its close relative — a drug called Rezulin — was recalled after patient deaths due to liver failure.

Actos has had some of the same problems — and some new ones. France and Germany banned the drug in 2011, but the FDA is dragging its feet on dealing with Actos. While the FDA awaits more results some patients have started filing an Actos lawsuit in some cases after incidents of bladder cancer resulted when taking the medication for longer than a year. A black box warning has been issued on the drug, which is the most serious warning it can require.

Diabetic patients may want to avoid this drug altogether and talk to their doctor about alternatives.


Millions of women take Prozac or a similar antidepressant, yet few realize the risks if they take the drugs while they are pregnant.

In 2006, the FDA acknowledged the link between the most common type of antidepressant — selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — and the higher risk of birth defects. This class of drugs includes Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa and Effexor.

When taken during the third trimester, Prozac has been linked to a number of complications for the baby, including:

  • Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN)
  • Respiratory distress
  • Heart defects
  • Abnormal brain and skull development (anencephaly)
  • Blue/purple skin discoloration
  • Seizures
  • Unstable body temperature

Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Prozac, after women failed to receive adequate warning of the risks of the drug.


Chantix, one of the most popular drugs for smokers who are trying to quit, now carries a warning that existing heart problems could get worse with treatment.

Hundreds of patients have sued Pfizer, the maker of Chantix, after experiencing psychiatric problems after taking the drug.


The FDA approved the birth control pill Yaz in 2006. The pill was marketed as the solution to acne and irritability — the “pill that goes beyond the rest.”

In 2008, the FDA forced the drug’s manufacturer, Bayer, to air new commercials to set the record straight on what Yaz can and cannot treat.

Only years later did consumers learn the truth — that the pill can cause deadly blood clots and other serious Yaz side effects.

The FDA has added stronger warnings to Yaz packaging, but has refused to recall the dangerous drug. Women would do well to avoid it.


In early 2012, the FDA issued a warning about a counterfeit version of Avastin, which is a cancer drug.

Letters were sent out after the agency discovered that the active ingredient was missing.

Protect yourself

It’s easy to buy into a drug that is featured in a flashy TV commercial, and FDA warnings can often be overlooked by consumers. Before you take any medication, it’s important to learn about all of the risks.

You can find a lot of information online, by typing the name of the drug into a search engine, along with phrases like “side effects” and “safety alert.”


Author bio: Barb Stephens is a writer for She uses her knowledge about medications to help raise awareness about drug safety and to educate consumers and patients.


“The New Normal” approved for NBC Fall schedule

The New NormalNBC has given the green light to Ryan Murphy’s surrogacy comedy “The New Normal” for its fall television lineup, the network has confirmed.

Fertility specialists hope that the new series will help educate the public about a variety of fertility issues and treatments including egg and embryo donation, among many others, in a positive and humorous way.

The highly anticipated show involves a gay couple, played by Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha, and the woman who will serve as the surrogate mother for their children, played by Georgia King. The pilot episode was written by Murphy and “Glee” writer Ali Adler.

This will make Murphy’s third series on a third network, with his other shows “Glee” on Fox and “American Horror Story” on FX. While “Horror Story” has attracted significant buzz heading into its second season, “Glee” has struggled with sinking ratings in its third season.

“The New Normal” will be the first mainstream television show of its kind and infertility doctors have expressed their support for the show because it will raise awareness about surrogacy and other fertility treatments.

“The New Normal” begins in September 2012.

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Asian women are paid more for egg donation

Egg donationEgg donation for Asian women is financially more lucrative than people from other ethnic groups. High prices reflect the growing demand and shortage of willing donors.

Asian women make approximately $10,000 to $20,000 for their eggs, where women of other ethnic groups typically get about $6,000, but have difficulty selling their eggs, because of lack of demand.

Ads in college newspapers shamelessly read “Asian Egg Donors Needed”.

Selling eggs is legal in the U.S., but regulations for egg pricing is absent making it perfectly fine to pay more depending on a woman’s race or ethnicity.

Guidelines exist that say donors should not be compensated extra for ethnicity, beauty or high-test scores, but they are often ignored.

Clinics say there has been a shortage of Asian eggs for several years. This has been exacerbated as of late because of rising Chinese wealth, which has allowed more couples the means to come to the U.S. for surrogate parent programs, and because this year is the Year of the Dragon, considered the luckiest year in the 12-year zodiac calendar.

Lack of supply has been attributed to Asian women because they earn higher salaries and are more likely to be college-educated than their counterparts in other racial groups. Simply put they are more financially secure.

For Latina, African-American and non-Jewish women, the number of willing donors often outstrips demand.

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8 ways to increase low semen count

8 ways to increase low semen countIf you’re a man concerned about low semen count, read our 8 steps to improve male fertility.

1. Eat less bad fats and more good fats. Eating lots of saturated fat found in red meats, processed meats, full-fat dairy products and many snack foods and desserts, can reduce sperm counts by 38%. Getting more omega-3 fatty acids from fish like salmon and wild trout means higher counts.

2. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Consuming fruit and veggies protects sperm quality and keeps them healthy.

3. Add vitamin D-3 and zinc. Plenty of vitamin D-3 helps sperm swim better. Aim for 1,000 IU a day from a D-3 supplement. Add 12 mg of zinc a day for a healthy sperm count and superior shape. Find zinc in poultry, beans, cashews and no-fat, no-added-sugar yogurt.

4. Take the laptop off your lap and your phone out of your pocket. Surfing the web or checking email on Wi-Fi is bad news for sperms’ swimming skills and the precious cargo (DNA) they carry.

5. Keep cool. Sperm production needs temperatures cooler than the rest of your body, which is why hot tubs, a fever and even a desk job can torpedo your count. Take standup breaks at work, let them breathe, and switch to boxers.

6. Skip the drinks and smokes. Smoking slashes your sperm count by 13% to 17% and triggers genetic abnormalities. There’s evidence marijuana is also bad news. More than one beer, glass of wine or cocktail a day also messes with sperm quality.

7. Stay trim. Adding extra pounds lowers sperm count and increases the number of abnormal sperm in your arsenal. Obesity may alter hormone levels and heat up your testicles.

8. Have sex! Daily sex improves sperm quality dramatically, reducing DNA damage in sperm by about 30%.

Giving your sperm a healthy makeover makes sense for every couple trying for a baby. If you are younger than 34 and have been trying but haven’t conceived in 12 months, or if you’re age 35 or older, talk with your doctor to discuss diagnosis and treatments for possible male infertility.

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