Thursday, January 17, 2008

Medical News, Elders in Film and Novels

Last night on the ABC local news there was a brief snippet. It seems some doctors (unnamed) have come to the defense of Zetia and Vytorin (which combines Zetia and Zocor (I think?)). In the check-out line at our local grocery store, Mom was in her usual conversation with one of our favorite clerks when the talk turned to the cholesterol medications. Our clerk recounted the predicament of a friend who had been placed on Zetia and whose doctor was very unhappy with her progress. "She has lost 85 lbs. and she is taking Zetia but her cholesterol has not gone down. They can't figure out why." Mom told her about the story that was on the ABC Nightly News Monday night in which cited the results of a study concluded two years ago and only released that day. The drug company's own after-release study concluded that Zetia was basically ineffective. They did not lower cholesterol any more than placebos (sugar pills). In other words, THEY DID NOT WORK. According to the news reader, the company had held the results back to examine them further. Now, as I understand the procedure, the drug companies last steps to approval involve clinical trials during which they are supposed to test the drugs for efficacy and safety after which the results are sent to the FDA for testing. Questions: How did they test these drugs in the clinical trials? and Why did the new statistics show such a disparate result? That is a kick in the head, isn't it? You pay all that money, trust the doctor who is prescribing the medication and get no results.

Thinking of this situation I remembered a story from a couple of years ago in, I think it was, "60 Minutes" that featured a hospital that tried to get a handle on both the diverse studies on drug safety and effectiveness and on the medication prices. The hospital set up a review board of staff physicians whose job was to collect the data from the various published studies of drugs, compare and critique the results and answer some very basic questions. How safe and effective were the drugs? Were the new drugs safer and/or more effective than older drugs? The committee found that new drugs, usually more expensive and still under patent, were often less effective than older, generic drugs and if they were as effective as the older drugs they often had more pronounced and serious side effects. In other words, new does not necessarily mean better.

On another note, sometime ago Ronni at 'Time Goes By' added another installment in the old saga of older actors who find good roles for them are scarce and getting scarcer. Among those quoted was Dustin Hoffman who mentioned that he might have to shift his efforts to Europe where an Oscar winning actor of any age could still find worthy roles. In the comments, one person suggested elder bloggers start listing
movies featuring elder actors and provide mini-reviews. I think we can go that one better and include books as well because the number of books that feature older characters are also few and far between. In that spirit, here are 'a few of my favorite things.'

Space Cowboys--I am not a great Clint Eastwood fan and most of the films he has done that I would include in my favorites are of the quirky nature. He is in wonderful form as a former test pilot whose dreams of going into space are derailed when the NASA takes over the program and shuts him and his buddies out. Thirty years later as an engineer with specialized knowledge of an obsolete system he blackmails an old nemesis into putting all four back in the game. Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Southerland round out this wonderfully eccentric group.

The Crew--Burt Reynolds is also not one of my favorite actors. The only other film he has made that I like includes two of my all time favorite actors, Jackie Gleason and Sally Fields. That would be Smokey and the Bandit, for those of you who couldn't guess. In this film he teamed up with Seymour Cassel, Richard Dreyfuss and Dan Hedaya. The boys portray aging 'wise guys' retired to Miami who find their comfortable if not affluent life is being threatened by 'gentrification' for lack of a better term.

Brother Cadfael--almost any of the films and definitely any of the books. The only one of the films, featuring Derek Jacobi as Cadfael, I did not like was the Pilgrim of Hate in which the story line changed in a way that made it unpalatable as well as, in my humble opinion, historically inaccurate. Cadfael started adult life as a Crusader and, after spending more than 20 years abroad, returned to England were he became a Benedictine monk. Most of the books are set some 15-20 years after he entered the monastery making Cadfael 60+. He uses the knowledge of healing, herbal remedies, human nature and wounds and injuries to solve murders set during the long civil war between King Steven and his cousin, Empress Maud, daughter of the late King Henry I.

I will have to do more another time because I am running out of steam.

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