Category: COVID-19

Keeping Weight Loss Supplements Out of the Hands of America’s Youth

In my previous post, I talked about the bad habits that were brought to us courtesy of COVID-19. But check this out. Yet another healthcare issue being brought to light by the pandemic. 

Here’s the story in a nutshell.  During the pandemic, kids were among the people that we talked about in the previous post who are overeating and, surprise, gaining weight. Big time. Doctors report that hospitalizations for eating disorders skyrocketed during the height of the pandemic. 

And out on the street, kids were increasingly scrambling to find “appetite suppressants” that would permit them to regain the self-control that they had lost when they went into “lock down” and no longer had to face their friends.

The plot thickens. These products, like “supplements” in general, are unregulated, and many contain hazardous ingredients. Danger for kids and adults alike, but kids are more vulnerable and have more advertisements for these products directed specifically at them. 

Bottom Line. So here we see society putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging artery. Rather than bring such products under Federal regulatory scrutiny and control, thus protecting adults and adolescents alike, three States are trying to keep these products out of the hands of young customers by restricting the marketing and sales of such products to them. You read that right…Three States!!! AND. Is it not likely that the local nature of these actions will simply drive the supplement market to the Internet? 

Aw c’mon. We can do better! 

How to Break Your Bad Pandemic Habits

Check this out. What you will see is a physician’s tips on how to break the bad habits that you developed during the pandemic. Overeating is a major one of these habits. 42% of the respondents to one survey reported that they had gained weight during the pandemic, with an increased poundage of an amazing 29 pounds.  Increased alcohol consumption, smoking and vaping were also high on the list of bad habits that flourished.  Anxiety, depression and sleep disorders also raised their ugly heads during these hellacious months. Many people, of course, manifested more than one of these newly formed bad habits, and this blogging physician wisely recommends not trying to jettison them all at once.

Bottom Line. Perhaps the saddest part of these negative outcomes is the promise we made to ourselves when “lockdowns” began. Remember? We were going to use this newly found isolation to do something really special. Learn a new language. Catch up on books that have long been on our reading list. Etc. Well, for most of us, things simply didn’t work out that way, and now we need to scramble to get back to our healthier, pre-pandemic status quo.

The best guidance offered in this piece is that we be “intentional” with our time. Be mindful of metering out time for good activities, thus allowing less time for bad habitual behaviors to manifest themselves.

That’s good advice! I’m working on it myself!!!

Aging in Place

Check this out. What you will see is a reminder. A reminder of the depressing state of the “nursing home crucible”, in which many senior citizens unfortunately end their days. Nursing homes, by whatever name, have always been unfortunate places. But the COVID-19 pandemic, with residents locked away from relatives and disproportionately dying of the coronavirus, nonetheless, brought to this physician blogger a clearer image of the wrinkled fingers pressed against windows, longing to be back in the real world with their relatives in their final days.

Bottom Line. The message here? As a society, we need to do a better job of helping our seniors to “age in place.” We have the tools that are necessary to do that. 

We just lack the commitment! 

Anyone Out There Not See This One Coming???

Check this out. What you will see are recent Harris Poll results indicating that the pharmaceutical industry’s image seems to have its “halo slipping.” More quantitatively, we see that positive ratings have slid from 62% positive several months ago to 56% now. And what might that mean? Maybe lots of things, or maybe nothing!

In the “nothing” category, it should be noted that while across the year we see a gradual trend downward, the majority rating is still one of positivity. The bottom is not falling out. 

Relatedly, the statisticians among our readers may interpret this as nothing more or less than a “regression toward the mean.” Translated, that means that the perception of pharmaceutical companies jumped up significantly, as we have previously discussed, when the rapid development of effective COVID-19 vaccines made us heroes.  Maybe the blush is just coming off that rose a little bit. 

On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies are once again being excoriated in the news. The introduction of an Alzheimer’s drug that may or may not work, and costs over $50,000 a year per patient, doesn’t help. And then the indications for using that drug getting “walked back” by the manufacturer makes matters worse.  AND. The fact that the FDA is now calling for an investigation of their own doctors involved in the approval process for this drug is likely to crank our rating down yet another few notches in the eyes of the public.

Bottom Line. We said several months ago that the pharmaceutical industry had an opportunity to build on the fleeting vaccine positivity and establish a pathway to a more permanent positive public image. 

Nonetheless, here we are!

Are Physical Exams Obsolete?

Sometimes! Check this out. What you will see is a post by our friend, The Country Doctor, who argues that such examinations are often conducted without a good reason.  and perfunctory. As evidence, he offers the successful journey that most physicians made into telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic, successfully treating patients without laying eyes or hands on them. 

BUT. The conversations I have been having with physicians for my ongoing On Doctors’ MindsSM project have clearly indicated to me that many of them feel otherwise. For them, telemedicine was a necessary, temporary adaptation to permit their practices to go on rather than being put under, in terms of both patient care and finances, by the coronavirus.  Now that offices have reopened to personal visits, telemedicine is being relegated to extremely limited use, if any. Doctors report that they need to observe their patients to get the full picture of what is going on. Specialists in fields from cardiology to neurology have specific evaluations that they want to make, and they have to be done in person.

But is the same thing true for PCPs in a “routine” office visit? A brief story. When my wife and I moved to Hilton Head Island almost a decade ago, we promptly joined the concierge practice of what we were told (and it is true!) was the best Internist in Beaufort County. On my wife’s first visit, the physician laid her hands on my wife’s throat and “felt something.” Scroll forward and her cancerous thyroid was summarily removed. A good “routine” physical exam? Damn straight!

Bottom Line. I get the Country Doctor’s point.  Sometimes physical exams look a lot like “going through the motions” for no reason whatsoever.  BUT. To catch the unanticipated, as well as to build patient relationships, they are probably about as far from obsolete as they could possibly be!!!

Covibesity

Check this out.  What you will find is a quick definition of this term which, as you have doubtless already guessed, refers to sustained weight gain following the pandemic.  You will also find some simple, straightforward reasons why such weight gain has become ubiquitous. Working at home, increased screen time exposing us to food advertisements, etc.

The key word embedded in this little snippet, I believe, is “enduring.” People, this obesity is not going to go away just because the pandemic is, thanks be to God, winding down in many countries. Nope. We are going to need “Swift, effective, broad management involving multiple stake holders” to tackle this problem head on.

Bottom Line. Question. Is anybody working on this???

Post-Pandemic Priority Shifting

Check this out. What you will see is a really important video from Bob Lederer at RFL Communications. The point being made here?

Numerous agency heads have observed that following the pandemic, virtually everyone is reshuffling their priorities. What was important before COVID-19 struck often isn’t so much anymore. Research suggests that both rich and poor are fundamentally reevaluating who and what “matters” to them given the learnings of the last 18 months. You can almost hear the wagons being circled, with an increasing focus on what is “near and dear.” 

For example. Conversations that I have been having recently with millennials have clearly indicated that they are less than pleased with the notion of returning to the office. After 18 months of working at home, the hour commute each way, that they never questioned before, now seems very onerous. A young lady I spoke with last night, a partner in a major investment firm, reported that she has gotten very used to putting a load of laundry in during the workday and “going for a bike ride at 5 PM.” After Labor Day, this will all disappear. Or will she??? Will a “hybrid” model, involving some days in the office and some days working at home, suffice?

Bottom Line. And the so what? Companies that claim to be empathetic with their customers need to get in touch with this new normal.

Think about what this might mean for your company, its employees, and its products!

Decarceration and Public Health

Check this out. What you will see is a thorough lesson on “how mass incarceration makes us sick”. Actually, you will see a double whammy described in this post.

First, we are reminded that the high and growing rate of incarceration in the US does not provide us with the protection from crime that the general public believes that it does.  Translated, our incarceration rates are significantly higher than those of other first-world countries, but our crime rates are not commensurately lower. Whoops!

And then there is this learning of the pandemic. Prisons make wonderful Petri dishes. Great for spreading pathogens like COVID-19. And as is pointed out here, prisons are not like Vegas. What happens there doesn’t stay there, rather spreading like wildfire to surrounding communities. You all saw the news reports from prisons in Illinois and elsewhere demonstrating these effects during the height of the pandemic. And New York City was quick to clear out as many prisoners from Rikers Island as possible, as quickly as possible, to avoid a coronavirus disaster there adding to their woes. 

And then there are other factors to consider. Like the impact that differential incarceration rates have on racial inequality in health and healthcare. 

Bottom Line. The message here is clear. Mass incarceration can have significant, untoward public health consequences. We need to keep them in mind when we, as a society, exercise our understandable but troublesome penchant for wanting to punish even the most minor criminals with jail time. 

Fewer Physician Visits By PSRs Post-Pandemic?

As you will see in these survey results from FirstWord, that is the desired scenario for about half of the 100 doctors they polled. Throughout the six months of reporting on the results of my On Doctors’ MindsSM conversations, that about lines up with what I have been finding. As we predicted back in November of 2020, many doctors are looking forward hopefully for a return of the “old normal.” BUT. About half of all physicians we have talked to, and especially many specialists, have learned over the course of the pandemic to “do without” PSRs, readily getting  the answers and information they need in their practices from other sources. 

While you are looking at these results, check out the data concerning virtual details. Here, 57% of doctors reported that they find them to be equally or more “effective” than personal PSR visits. BUT. In my conversations with physicians, the majority of doctors are avoiding these virtual visits like the plague (Sorry!) due to difficulties in scheduling and the extra time required. Translated, perhaps the virtual details that are happening are “effective,” but most of my discussants, and I believe most physicians more generally, are not letting them happen.

Bottom Line. Throughout our study of the effects of the pandemic on office-based physicians, we have been telling our pharmaceutical clients that they had best be prepared to increase their physician micromarketing sophistication as the pandemic winds down. Doctors are differing widely in their preferred mode of communicating with pharmaceutical companies. One size definitely doesn’t fit all here, and we need to be ready to respond to these differing physician preferences. 

Segmenting the Non-Vaxxers

Non-vaxxers are not necessarily anti-vaxxers. Nope. They are just people who haven’t received the COVID vaccine.  Yet. For various reasons. And the variety of reasons is actually the theme of this NYT article.  

As I pondered each of the segments described here, my main thought was to question which of the reasons offered by these four behavioral segments makes the least sense. The largest segment, amazingly, hasn’t gotten the vaccine because its members deny that COVID presents a significant health risk. What? With over 500,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus???

And look at the other segments. Nine percentreport that they couldn’t afford the vaccine. Last I looked, “free” was the going price at most injection sites. 

Eight percent are in wait-and-see mode. Almost a year and a half into this, one wonders what they are waiting for.

And then there is the final segment. The 4% who believe that the health care system has not been fair to them.  Quite possible, but of questionable relevance. 

And there you have it. Several different “personas” that all wind up inhibiting the overall population from reaching herd immunity. As is pointed out in the article, the “psychobehavioral” segmentation approach being  used here permits better targeting and tailoring of pro-vaccine motivational messages than does an approach based on demographics. 

Bottom Line. But hold on a second. All of this leaves me wondering just how different these personas really are from one another. I’m thinking that all of the reasons offered here for vaccine avoidance might simply be different ways of saying “I don’t want to” or “I’m scared to.”

How do we drill down to find out what is really going on here?