Doctor2008’s Top Health Stories of 2009

Its that time of the year again, so here’s my list of the healthcare stories that made the headlines in 2009.

1. The Swine Flu Epidemic- what started off as an outbreak of Swine Flu in Mexico in April was quickly metamorphosised by the WHO to AH1N1 infection and upgraded to a pandemic by administrative redefinitions. We may never know how serious this could have been, despite the reported 22,000 or so deaths, because of the intensive preventive measures, greater awareness and borderless cooperation.

Obama-health reforms pushed through-but at what cost?

2. Health Reforms- sure, this was about the United States, but the global impact was tremendous because the US is the world’s largest economy and many nations were watching to see what impact the reforms would have on them as well as, possibly, how they would tackle the problem themselves, in the face of rising costs of healthcare.

3. Drug Misuse & Celebrity Deaths- the deaths of Michael Jackson (see my blog posting ) and Brittany Murphy (see here) due to the untoward effects of prescription drugs highlighted the effects of drug interactions, especially with prescriptions obtained from multiple sources. After Anna Nicole-Smith in 2007 and Heath Ledger in 2008, is enough being done?

Brittany Murphy - latest in a long line of drug-related celebrity deaths

4. Mammograms & Breast Cancer- this diagnostic tool for early detection of breast cancer took a hit in the chest (pardon the pun) when the American Cancer Society released data that women in their 40’s do not require routine annual mammograms, going against the established ‘standard’ practice of many years.Read here.

5. Acetaminophen(Panadol,Tylenol) Trouble- what was considered a safe household pill available over-the-counter came under FDA restriction in its use with the reduction of its recommended dosage in view of liver problems. Read my posting here.

Electronmicrograph of brown fat

6. Good & Bad Body Fat- the discovery that ‘brown fat’ found in babies (needed to keep them warm) and found in minute amounts in adults was able to make adults lose up to 9 pounds yearly( if this fat was activated) without diet or exercise, has led to a research race to come up with a commercially viable product.See here.

7. Octuplet Mum- was it a breach of ethics by the obstetrician to allow a single unemployed 33year old mother of six to have eight babies by artificial fertility techniques?You decide..(read more here)

33 year old Nadya Sulaiman -eight babies at one go to add to the six

8. New Blood Test for Heart Disease- used for many years, C-Reactive Protein test for diagnosing active heart disease  was notoriously nonspecific as a lot of other conditions also caused elevated values.A more accurate test, hs-CRP is now available.

I’m leaving the last 2 slots vacant because, in my book, there hasn’t been that many significant stories in 2009 – unless somebody can prove me wrong!

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