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Bipolar News

July 21, 2005

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Personal Markers of Bipolar - USA
... "I suspect bipolar disorder presents scores, if not hundreds, of markers - taking all of us together, millions of marker-generated behaviors. ...

40 pilots in California indicted for fraud
Reuters AlertNet - London,England,UK
... Authorities said they found pilots who continued to fly even though they had disabilities including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, drug and alcohol addiction ...

Cruise'n for trouble
Battalion - College Station,TX,USA
... For individuals suffering from a number of diseases including Alzheimer's, bipolar disorder or depression, it's quite individually debilitating. ...

Medicare “Extra Help” Can Be Beneficial to People With Low Incomes

People who have little or no income or savings might be eligible for “extra help” to pay for medications under the new Medicare drug benefit. Although applying for the extra help can be cumbersome, it can also be worth it; according to government estimates, “extra help” could be valued at up to $2,100 a year, on average. The National Council on Aging and the federal Administration on Aging are developing Web tools to help people check on their eligibility to receive this extra help, and the Access to Benefits Coalition ( ) lists local coalitions on its Web site that can assist people in applying for extra help. Those who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid automatically qualify for the extra help program and need not apply. (The Wall Street Journal, 7/17/05)

Mexican Artist Returns Home

In the years since one of Mexico’s most celebrated folk painters, Alfonso Lorenzo Santos, was first diagnosed with schizophrenia, he has been in and out of an inpatient clinic to stabilize him enough to return to his village. However, every time he’s returned to his village after treatment, he stops taking his medications, becomes agitated and ends up chained to a wall by villagers. Fellow artists have helped him return to the clinic many times. Despite Lorenzo’s longings to return to home, his art patron couldn’t find anyone in his village to ensure that he take his medication. Lorenzo’s uncle eventually took him in, where he continues to paint. (The Wall Street Journal, 7/13/05)

Bush Administration, Private Groups to Educate the Public About Drug Benefit

The results of multiple public opinion polls suggest that many people have either not heard of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit or that they do not understand it. As a result, President Bush and other federal officials have begun a cross-country tour to educate the public about the program. The tour started last week in Maine, where local residents who are eligible for the program and are healthy said that they saw no immediate need to sign up for the program. People with chronic illnesses said that the benefit was too meager to help them much. Meanwhile, a coalition of 30 advocacy and professional organizations announced plans last week to launch their own national education campaign, including television commercials. (The New York Times, 7/17/05)

Some Dual Eligibles May Face Difficulties Maintaining Health

People who are eligible for both the Medicare and Medicaid programs may face trouble in maintaining the combination of medications they now receive under Medicaid when Medicare takes over their drug benefit in January. Because the new Medicare drug benefit relies on market competition among private health plans, the plans will rely on generic medications and other cost-saving measures, according to experts. Although the majority of California’s 1 million “dual eligibles” will probably fair satisfactorily under the new program, many tens of thousands rely on a delicate balance of several medications to function and survive. Any change to those balances would be harmful, advocates say. (Los Angeles Times, 7/17/05)

Governors’ Discuss Medicare Lawsuit, Embrace Need for Medicaid Changes

About 17 state governors are considering filing suit against the federal government over the payment structure for people who are dually eligible in the Medicare drug benefit, said Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm at a National Governors’ Association Meeting Sunday. The governors contend that states will end up paying for dual eligibles’ prescription drugs even though the intent of the program was to relieve states of such payments. Separately, governors also agreed that Medicaid should be altered to slow its growing costs and that states should have more flexibility to experiment to that end. Such changes would include requiring copayments and prohibiting older adults from transferring assets so that they can meet Medicaid eligibility requirements. (Dow Jones Newswires, 7/17/05)

NIMH Research Priorities Criticized

In a commentary, E. Fuller Torrey, president of the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center, voiced support of Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, who successfully attached an amendment to the 2006 appropriations bill that includes NIMH funding. The amendment prohibits the federal agency from funding two research studies, which Torrey labeled “egregious.” Torrey said the studies, which would examine how pigeons classify objects into categories and the happiness of newlyweds in marriage, were better left for other agencies. The purpose of NIMH, according to Torrey, is to research severe mental illnesses, to which these and other studies are “clinically irrelevant.” Although Thomas Insel, M.D., the NIMH director, is “working diligently to correct these priorities,” he’s facing “major” opposition from NIMH staff and interest groups, wrote Torrey. (The Wall Street Journal, 7/18/05)

Bills to Promote Electronic Medical Records Merged in the Senate

Four senators agreed last week to combine their separate bills to encourage the development of health information technology with the hopes of a Senate committee passing the new bill sometime this week. The senators’ action comes at a time when the Bush administration is spearheading efforts to promote partnerships designed to develop electronic health records in a push to reduce errors and improve efficiency. Separately last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt announced the creation of the American Health Information Community, a public-private collaboration intended to help set standards for and guide the transfer of personal medical records to an electronic format. (Reuters Health, 7/15/05)

New Book Explores Lobotomies; Families Seek to Revoke Nobel Award from Procedure’s Developer

At the most, lobotomies helped about 10 percent of the 50,000 people who underwent the surgical procedure, according to the author of a new book, The Lobotomist. The book fixes its spotlight on the procedure, which was discounted about 30 years ago In an editorial in the current New England Journal of Medicine, a = medical historian notes that the “procedure was a desperate effort to help mental patients.” In a later interview, he also said that the “numbers that were harmed were quite substantial.” Many families of people who had lobotomies have joined together in a campaign to convince the Nobel Prize committee to take away the award they gave to Egas Moniz for his development of procedure in the 1930s. (Intellihealth /The Associated Press, 7/14/05)

Cyberonics’ Depression Treatment Device Approved by the FDA

The FDA approved last week Cyberonics’ vagus nerve stimulator for the treatment of depression, the company has announced. The stimulator, which is implanted in the chest of a person with treatment-resistant depression, delivers a mild electrical impulse to a person’s brain through the vagus nerve in the neck. (The Wall Street Journal, 7/15/05)

Latest Research

Study That Shows No Benefit for Antidepressants Criticized: A study published in last week’s British Medical Journal in which researchers conclude that antidepressant drugs provide no meaningful benefit to people who have depression has been labeled a “remarkably biased presentation” by the American Psychiatric Association’s Darrel Regier. In an interview following up on the study’s publication, one of the researchers said she “doesn’t think there’s such thing as a drug that will specifically relieve depression” and that she’s “skeptical that there’s such a biological syndrome as depression.” Regier said the researchers only focused on negative studies and “conveniently” ignored or mischaracterized other studies. (Reuters Health, 7/15/05)

Researchers Investigate Dopamine’s Role in Anorexia: Researchers report in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry that women with anorexia have overactive dopamine receptors in their basil ganglia, a part of the brain. Dopamine is a brain chemical that helps regulate feelings of pleasure. If verified, this finding could help explain why people who have anorexia lose weight by not eating but don’t gain any satisfaction from it. University of California, San Diego, researcher Guido Frank, one of the study’s authors, said this finding might also lead to the development of drugs to help regulate dopamine levels. (The Associated Press/, 7/14/05)

New Device Helps Manage Bipolar Disorder 'Health Buddy' helps home patients manage their care

A new electronic device named "Healthy Buddy" is helping patients at the South Mississippi Home Care and Hospice. The device which can be plugged into a telephone line and electrical outlet costs nothing to use and is quite convenient in that it can be used "any time of the day." Further, the device provides 16 "different programs individualized to the patient's need." The device currently helps monitor conditions such as "heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, artery disease, bipolar disorder, cystic fibrosis and others."Not only does the device help patients feel more secure by enabling them to easily connect to a case manager, but it also helps them manage their condition.

Donna Buckles, a case manager, demonstrated the device, explaining that it had been programmed for a patient with congestive heart failure.Four buttons below a small screen give the patient options for answering questions that appear on the screen. "Did you weigh yourself today?" If the patient answers yes, the Health Buddy responds with other questions, "What is your weight?" and "Is it more or less than last time you weighed?"The questions are simple and easy to follow, Buckles said. However, they are appropriate to the patient's case and provide a good look at his or her condition at the time. The Health Buddy prompts the patient to make calls to the case manger or the pharmacist or gives other instructions. "I get on the Internet on a secure sight and can look at the questions and how they answered them," Buckles said. "I can call patients or have a nurse follow up with some further information when necessary."The Internet site is color coded, Huffines said. "The case manager's eye is drawn to the red on the screen, which tells her something is amiss" when the patient's information gets to the site. Imagine the possible positive implications of this device in connection to bipolar disorder? It can remind a patient to take their meds., alert a case manager when the patient has not taken their meds., and even inform the case manager if the patient is feeling for example, suicidal. Of course this device takes for granted that the patient will answer the questions honestly, That is, there could be a tendency for patients to misrepresent their situation by answering the questions dishonestly. For example, a patient could answer "yes" to taking their meds. when in fact they haven't done so. Still, the device appears to be effective if the patient is willing to use it. As of now, only 73 patients are using the device. This may be due to the fact that the device only became available in January of this year.

Although the article did not mention the manufacturer of the device, this California-based company (Health Hero Network) looks like it is the source. More information about the Health Buddy product

Joan Gandy @

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