10 Facts We Now Know About Sunscreen

With summer on the horizon, we know it’s time to slather on the sunscreen and reapply, but how much do we really know about this magical lotion that’s said to protect against sunburn and prevent skin cancer? For all the mysteries that still remain about the sun and how it affects us, we can rest assured knowing that we have these 10 facts about sunscreen covered:

  1. There is No Evidence that the Chemicals in Sunscreen are Not Safe: Despite ongoing controversy over the safety of the chemicals in sunscreens, most scientists and doctors agree that there is no evidence that sunscreen ingredients are harmful to humans. The argument that sunscreen ingredients are carcinogenic, block vitamin D or alter the body’s hormone system will require further research and experimental studies before any conclusions are drawn.
  2. The Higher the SPF Number, the Smaller the Difference: It’s a common misconception that a higher SPF number means you are doubly or triply protected. A higher number does indicate more protection, but it doesn’t give you two to three times as much protection as one with an SPF 15. Sunscreens with SPF 15 filter out roughly 93 percent of UVB rays and SPF 30 sunscreens filter about 97 percent. The protection slightly increases as the SPF number gets higher, but only by one percent (98) for SPF 50 and two percent (99) for SPF 100 sunscreens. The fact is no one sunscreen will protect you completely.
  3. SPF Numbers Only Refer to UVB Ray Protection: The sun protection factor (SPF) number on sunscreens only measures protection against UVB rays, the skin-burning rays. There is no current FDA-approved rating system for measuring protection from UVA rays, which cause aging of the skin. To ensure coverage against UVB and UVA rays, you should use a "broad-spectrum" sunscreen, or one that contains avobenzone (Parsol 1789), ecamsule, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
  4. There’s a Difference Between Waterproof and Water-Resistant Sunscreen: Sunscreens that are labeled "waterproof" or "water-resistant" are slightly different in their chemical makeup and water tolerance. Water-resistant sunscreens can maintain their SPF level after 40 minutes of water exposure, and waterproof sunscreens can maintain their SPF level after 80 minutes of water exposure, according to the FDA. If you’re plan on being in the water or participating in outdoor activities, you should choose a water-resistant or waterproof sunscreen for optimal protection.
  5. Sunscreen Does Not Cause Vitamin D Deficiency: For years, people have blamed sunscreen and dermatologists’ pleas to stay out of the sun as the leading cause for vitamin D deficiency in Americans. However, we now know that there is little to no evidence that shows sunscreens cause vitamin D deficiency, and people can get the recommended amount of vitamin D from other sources than just the sun, such as taking dietary supplements and eating foods like salmon, milk and eggs.
  6. Sunscreen is Not Fail-Safe: We now know that sunscreen is not fail-safe because it is not a guaranteed protection against all of the sun’s harmful rays. There is also no supporting evidence that sunscreens protect you from developing malignant melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer. Sunscreen alone will not fully protect you from the sun or from developing skin cancer. In addition to wearing sunscreen, you should also seek shade, wear protective clothing, avoid peak hours of sun exposure and monitor the UV index.
  7. One Ounce of Sunscreen is Needed to Cover Your Body: We now know that one ounce, equivalent to a full shot glass, is the recommended amount of sunscreen needed to cover your exposed skin. You should apply sunscreen liberally and reapply every two hours, especially after perspiring, swimming or towel-drying. Sunscreen is something you definitely don’t have to go easy on. Don’t forget to protect the often-missed parts of the body, like the lips, ears, hands, feet, neck and scalp.
  8. Everyone Should Use Sunscreen, Regardless of Skin Color: People of all races and ethnicities are at risk for developing skin cancer, and should wear sunscreen to protect themselves from UV radiation. We know that people with fair skin and a large number of freckles and moles have a greater chance of burning and developing skin cancer, but people with darker skin can also burn and develop skin cancer as well. Dark-skinned individuals are also more likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer in the later stages when it is more dangerous and could be fatal.
  9. Sunscreen is Needed in All Types of Weather: Whether it’s sunny, cloudy or snowing outside, you still need sunscreen to stay protected all year long. Ultraviolet rays can do a significant amount of damage even when the sun is not at its hottest. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, people experience some of the severest sunburns because they did not protect themselves on cloudy days, where up to 40 percent of the sun’s radiation can get through. So, whether you’re hitting the slopes or riding the waves, you need to wear sunscreen in every season and every type of weather.
  10. Sunscreens Have a Maximum Shelf Life of Three Years: According to the FDA, all sunscreens have to be stable at their original strength for at least three years, unless otherwise indicated by an expiration date. Sunscreens lose their effectiveness after three years, especially when the bottle is exposed to direct sunlight, extreme changes in temperature or left open. Sunscreen is said to have a shelf life of three years. However, if you’re using the appropriate amount of sunscreen daily, you shouldn’t have bottles of sunscreen sitting around for more than one year!

Posted In:  Wellness Tips

  April 27th, 2011

10 Most Impressive Transplants Ever Successfully Performed

As medical technology continues to develop at a strident pace, transplant procedures also continue to push the boundaries of what anyone thought was ever possible. Still, even before we reached the technological triumphs of today, there are plenty of accounts of very remarkable transplants. Sometimes there were great risks; sometimes they paid off, and sometimes they didn’t. It can be somewhat difficult to define a successful transplant. Ideally, the organs transplanted should function as long as the person receiving them lives, but this is not always the case. Even with a "successful" transplant procedure, a body’s immune system can reject the new organ. Despite these obstacles, there have still been monumental achievements in transplant procedures that are worth noting and still plenty more anticipated triumphs in the future.

  1. First Human Heart Transplant: Though this procedure has become more commonplace since its original occurrence in 1967, the first successful heart transplant has to be among the most impressive transplants ever; heart transplant procedures are still considered very complex procedures and take great amounts of skill to pull off. Having experimented for several years with animal heart transplants (mostly dogs), Dr. Christiaan Barnard became the first to successfully transplant a human heart. The operation lasted nine hours and used a team of thirty people. The patient undergoing the operation, Louis Washkansky, suffered from diabetes and incurable heart disease, making the first ever heart transplant an ethical procedure. Washkansky survived the operation with a working, beating heart, but unfortunately died eighteen days later from pneumonia as he was taking immunosuppressive drugs.
  2. First Ovary Transplant: One of the most recent achievements in transplant surgery, in 2008 one woman was the first ever to receive a whole ovary transplant to result in a successful pregnancy. Experiencing an early menopause at age 15 when her ovaries stopped producing hormones, she received a donor ovary from her identical twin sister. While this operation rests on the condition that the donor ovary being genetically identical to the receptor, it opens the possibility of removing and freezing an ovary prior to cancer treatment. The operation involved microsurgery, connecting blood vessels as small as half a millimeter in diameter. Three months after the surgery, the patient was ovulating normally again.
  3. First and Only Penis Transplant: The first ever penis transplant is a kind of funny case, not just because it has the word penis in it. After "an unfortunate traumatic accident" in 2005 that left an understandably anonymous man with a small stump for a penis, unable to urinate or have sex normally, he and his wife felt a strong need for a penis transplant procedure. After a 15-hour microsurgery, Dr. Hu Weilie at Gaungzhou General Hospital in China managed to successful attach the donor penis. Unfortunately, we will never know if the first transplanted penis had the ability to perform sex adequately, as the penis was removed only two weeks later due to "a severe psychological problem of the recipient and his wife."
  4. First Corneal Transplant: The first corneal transplant was also the first successful human tissue transplant. In 1905, Dr. Eduard Zirm of Czechoslovakia was tending to blind patient Alois Glogar around the same time a young boy was brought into the clinic due to an accident that left metal pieces in his eyes. Unable to save the boys eyes, Zirm enucleated them and saved the corneas for transplantation into Glogar’s. Despite having the necessary microscopic technology to suture the cornea, one of Golgar’s eyes regained vision after the surgery and he was able to return to work. While eye surgeons around the world had been unsuccessful in this operation for hundreds of years, Zirm’s success has been credited with advances in anesthesia and asepsis.
  5. First Gland Xenotransplantation (Interspecies Transplant): That have been documented instances of xenotransplantation since the 1600s. Most records show that they were largely unsuccessful, and today, the idea of xenotransplantation is still considered controversial in part due to the very low success rate. However, there is one peculiar case in the 1920s that appears to have had moderate success. Dr. Serge Voronoff had been experimenting with glandular transplantation for a few years. In 1920, he extracted thin slices (a few millimeters wide) of testicles from chimpanzees and baboons and implanted them inside a human patient’s scrotum; the thinness of the tissue samples allowed the foreign tissue to fuse with the human tissue eventually. The transplantation allegedly resulted in the "rejuvenation" of old men. Unfortunately, most of these experiments were disproven after scientific discoveries began to show this simply wasn’t possible. The rejuvenation that Voronoff’s patients experienced was merely a placebo effect. Regardless, this was quite an impressive undertaking for xenotransplantation at the time.
  6. First Organ Xenotransplantation (Interspecies Transplant): There are very few published cases of successful xenotransplantation. The longest a human has survived with a vital organ of another animal is at most a couple months. However, there has been a successful case of a pig’s liver being transplanted to a woman as a "bridge" to hold them over until human transplants were available. The liver was kept outside the body in a plastic bag and hooked up to her main liver arteries. Fortunately, she survived long enough to receive a human liver. It is difficult to determine how necessary the transplantation was; however, as genetic technology continues to alter the organs of animals similar to us, xenotransplantation will become a more common, necessary procedure. There simply is not a large enough supply of human organs to fill the current demand.
  7. First Full Face Transplant: Perhaps the most recent achievement in the transplantation field, in the summer of 2010, a Spanish man named Oscar became the first to receive a full face transplant. After a horrid shooting accident, his entire facial skin and muscles — including his noes and lips — needed replacement. A team of 30 experts helped in the 24-hour long operation at the hospital in Barcelona. Led by Dr. J.P. Barret, they transplanted muscles, lips, maxilla, palate, all teeth, cheekbones, and the mandible through a combination of plastic surgery and micro-neurovascular surgery techniques. Doctors expect his to regain up to 90% of his facial functions. Though he had already had 10 partial operations prior to the surgery, this was the first full face transplant performed successfully.
  8. Living Donor Liver Transplant: Living donor liver transplantation (LDLT) is remarkable for two reasons: (1) Liver transplantation is an expensive and complex surgery involving three surgeons, one anesthesiologist, and a team of supporting nurses; (2) the remarkable regenerative capacities of the human liver allows a liver to regenerate even after 55 to 70% of it is removed. The first record of successful LDLT was in 1989 when two-year-old Alyssa Smith received a portion of her mother’s liver. Since then it has become a more common, acceptable procedure given the high demand for human organs. Although living donors must accept the risk of death prior to surgery, the mortality rate of living donors in the United States is low. Any member of the family or even a volunteer can donate their liver.
  9. First Lung Transplant: Interestingly, the first successful lung transplant was a combination of a lung and heart transplant. Dr. Bruce Reitz led the surgery on Mary Gohlke in 1981 at Stanford Hospital. The transplant team at Stanford is the longest continually active team performing these procedures. During the operation, the patient is connected to a heart-lung machine, which circulates and oxygenates blood. As the donor organs warm up to body temperature, the lungs begin to inflate. Sometimes the heart fibrillates at first due to cardiac muscles not contracting synchronously. However, internal paddles can apply a small electric shock to the heart to restore proper rhythm.
  10. First Hand Transplant: There is something very elegant and comforting in the idea of a hand transplant. Hands are characteristics that set us apart from most other species, so the ability to reshape any deformity that may occur in them seems nothing short of amazing. The first hand transplant ever recorded was in Ecuador in 1964; however, the patient suffered from transplant rejection (a common problem to transplants in such an early time period). The first short-term success occurred in France in 1998. While the operation was successful, the patient had trouble with the idea of his transplanted hand and failed to follow the prescribed post-operative drug and physiotherapy; the hand was removed at his request a couple years later. Finally, in 1999, the first hand transplant to achieve prolonged success happened in Louisville, Kentucky. Hand transplants have become more common and successful, but there is still a lot to refine in the procedure so that it can achieve longer success and a lower cost of surgery and rehabilitation.

Posted In:  Health Resources

  April 20th, 2011

10 Scariest Side Effects of Sleeplessness

We have all felt the sting of a poor night’s sleep. With endlessly busy lives full of forty hour work weeks, carpools, dentist appointments, school, family, friends, and so much more, it is nearly impossible to avoid late nights and early mornings. But there is no doubt that prolonged sleeplessness can have some very serious and very negative effects on our bodies and our minds. More and more often, individuals with chronic sleeplessness are turning to prescription sleep medications for aid. Prescription sleeping pills have increased in sale by over 60 percent in the last decade according to a 2006 New York Times article. With pharmacists filling more prescriptions for sleep aid and more and more individuals complaining of sleeplessness, concerns about the health risks of both sleeping pills and sleeplessness have elevated drastically. The following lists the 10 most severe and dangerous side effects sleeplessness can have:

  1. Death: While sleeplessness has not been proven to actually cause death, there are several factors involved with insomnia and poor sleeping habits that may. Those who suffer from sleeplessness are significantly more likely to turn to alcohol abuse and substance abuse. Moreover, individuals who regularly get little to no sleep are far more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. With the combination of alcohol and controlled substances and depression, insomnia can have some very dire consequences. Generally, experts believe that the body would merely shut down and sleep, before an individual would actually die from not sleeping. However, there has been very little research actually performed around this hypothesis because the experiment is just too dangerous.
  2. Psychosis: One of the most troublesome side effects of severe sleep deprivation is psychosis. When an individual suffers from psychosis they are often described as having a complete break from reality. They may experience personality changes or hallucinations. When associated with sleep deprivation, psychosis is usually only temporary, but it can lead to some very serious issues. Accompanied by psychosis an individual may experience severe depression and anxiety as well. These conditions drastically impair an individual’s ability to perform everyday tasks and worsen an individual’s quality of life.
  3. Obesity: It is no secret that obesity rates throughout America have escalated into a huge problem in recent years. Many health experts are calling the current obesity trend throughout the country an epidemic. Several studies preformed over that past decade have shown that individuals who sleep less are more likely to overeat and, therefore, more likely to become obese. Furthermore, stress and depression (two side effects of sleeplessness) have been shown to contribute to an individual’s weight gain. Obesity is a very dangerous condition. Experts have calculated that obesity is not only more expensive for both the country and an individual than smoking cigarettes, but is also more deadly than smoking cigarettes. While (of course) one night of not sleeping will not make you obese, a constant lifestyle of sleeping too little may.
  4. Type 2 Diabetes: Numerous studies have shown that a person suffering from sleep deprivation is much more susceptible to developing Type 2 Diabetes than a person who gets an adequate amount of sleep each night. It is important to note, however, that this result is only associated with chronic insomnia, not just poor sleeping habits. Type 2 Diabetes is a very serious condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is associated with several other debilitating conditions as well, including hypertension, high cholesterol, blindness, kidney failure, obesity, and many more.
  5. Suppressed Immune System: Lack of sleep affects almost all aspects of our physiological and psychological health. Sleeplessness has a negative effect on our body’s ability to heal itself. In other words, insomnia and frequent sleepless nights may lead to a decrease in your immune system’s ability to function properly. A weakened immune system (as one might imagine) can lead to several very serious complications. For example, in the study linked to above, individuals who received less than seven hours of sleep a night were almost three times more likely to develop the common cold than those who received eight or more hours of sleep. Even more worrisome, a weakened immune system can lead to chronic disease and severe infections. Several studies have put forth data that suggests a link between the production of disease-fighting cells (white blood cells) and adequate sleep.
  6. Memory Loss: Another serious side effect insomnia can have is memory loss. It is widely known that sleep is the time during which our brains process all the information that we have gathered during the day. It is during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep that our brain processes this information and stores it as memory. Individuals who do not get an adequate amount of sleep at night will not enter the REM stages of sleep as often and, therefore, will not be capable of storing as many memories. Memory loss can affect several different aspects of an individual’s life, including their personal relationships as well as their ability to think and learn. While it is known that sleep deprivation has negative cognitive consequences, the mechanisms by which sleep deprivation affects brain function remains fairly unknown to scientists.
  7. Loss of Self Control: One of the more serious side effects of sleeplessness is the effects that it can have on natural hormone levels in the body. Scientists have observed that lack of sleep can suppress certain growth hormones that are naturally produced in the body. These growth hormones help promote a balanced reaction to stressors of the immune system, sex drive, and mood. This means that individuals suffering from sleeplessness may feel that they are losing self control. Researchers have observed low levels of melatonin in individuals suffering from insomnia, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle in humans by chemically causing drowsiness. Also, many studies have noticed a correlation between sleeplessness and elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  8. Decreased Concentration: We can probably agree that trying to concentrate after getting a poor night’s sleep can be extremely difficult. Everyday endless numbers of people both young and old stumble out of bed and consume outrageous amounts of caffeine in order to stay awake and alert throughout the day. While decreased concentration is one of the tamer side effects of sleep deprivation, it can have some very dire consequences. Poor concentration due to lack of sleep can (and has) led to several automobile accidents. Every year, it is estimated that there are more than 50,000 adolescents who are involved in car accidents caused by lack of sleep. However, because sleep deprivation cannot be measured posthumously, it is impossible to determine whether it is a factor in accidents when the driver does not survive.
  9. Pain: While it isn’t all that difficult to believe that chronic pain may cause someone to have trouble sleeping, many researchers believe that lack of sleep may actually cause pain. It is widely known that individuals who suffer from sleeplessness have an increased likelihood of also suffering from severe migraines. A well-known study within the field performed in 1869, indicated that adequate sleep protects individuals from migraine attacks. According to this study, 29 percent of the participants’ migraines were actually caused by insomnia. It is also widely believed (although the science behind it is a bit uncertain) that lack of sleep causes increased pain in trigger points in the muscles.
  10. Dizziness and Nausea: As two of the more well known side effects of sleeplessness, dizziness and nausea are not the scariest consequences poor sleep can have, but they are the most common. These side effects are tangible even after only two consistent nights without much rest. While nausea and dizziness are not necessarily dangerous in themselves, they can lead to some very serious hazards throughout the day. An individual experiencing both nausea and dizziness will have more trouble focusing on the task they have at hand. Moreover, dizziness can severely impair an individual’s ability to operate a vehicle safely, making them a danger to both themselves and others.

Posted In:  Wellness Tips

  April 5th, 2011

10 Celebrities Who Championed Medical Causes

Celebrities have been supporting charities and campaigning for causes for as long as they could do so. Many lend their names to medical causes, but few actually take the initiative to fundraise for research, raise public awareness and volunteer their services. Here are 10 celebrities who championed medical causes:

  1. Jerry Lewis: Jerry Lewis may be best known for his slapstick humor and stage performances, but this funny guy is also the leading figure in the fight against muscular dystrophy. Since 1956, Lewis has dedicated his life to increasing funding and raising public awareness about the disease for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). Lewis’ fundraising efforts began by hosting a telethon with sidekick Dean Martin, which raised an estimated $600,000 in funding. Since then, his annual telethon has helped raise $2.45 billion for the MDA. Lewis’ selfless volunteer work and humanitarian contributions have helped fund the research needed to find a cure and help those living with the disease today.
  2. Michael J. Fox: Actor Michael J. Fox has been a major advocate for furthering the research and funding for Parkinson’s disease since he was diagnosed with the disease in 1998. Fox started the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research with the mission to find a cure for Parkinson’s. In addition to aggressive fundraising and innovative research, Fox’s foundation is also dedicated to helping patients living with Parkinson’s by providing information on the disease, explaining treatments and therapies and providing unconditional support. Since its inception, the foundation has funded more $230 million in research.
  3. Elizabeth Taylor: Elizabeth Taylor may have been best known for her acting, but this classic beauty was also an ardent supporter of HIV/AIDS research and fought to raise awareness about the disease. She was devoted to several different AIDS foundations and eventually created her own, called the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. Taylor also helped start the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), which is dedicated to furthering HIV/AIDS research, increasing public education and ending the global epidemic. Throughout her career, Taylor helped raise about $50 million in funding for the disease.
  4. Magic Johnson: Since Magic Johnson made his 1991 public announcement that he was HIV-positive, the former basketball superstar has dedicated his efforts to combating the deadly disease. Following his retirement from the NBA, Johnson established the Magic Johnson Foundation to fund HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and raise awareness. Over the years, Johnson has expanded his foundation to also assist inner-city groups and promote health care education for minorities.
  5. Elton John: Elton John has championed HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns for almost two decades. After the loss of his friends Ryan White and fellow musician Freddie Mercury to the deadly disease, he created the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 and the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1993. The organizations serve the same purpose — to fund prevention and treatment HIV/AIDS programs, provide support services for HIV/AIDS patients, increase awareness and eliminate common prejudices and misconceptions associated with HIV/AIDS. To this day, John remains deeply involved in his charities, which have raised more than $220 million worldwide since their inception.
  6. Lance Armstrong: Cycling champion Lance Armstrong may be known for winning the Tour de France seven consecutive times, but this retired athlete is also a major player in the fight against cancer. Armstrong’s own battle with advanced testicular cancer in 1996 lead to his establishment of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which promotes cancer research, funding and support for patients and survivors. Since its inception, the organization has raised more than $400 million for cancer programs and services.
  7. Katie Couric: News anchor Katie Couric has dedicated a great deal of her life to educating the public and increasing awareness about colon cancer. Couric became a spokeswoman for the disease after her husband died of colon cancer in 1998. Since then, Couric has used her fame and public presence to raise awareness about colon cancer and promote screening for early detection. She even underwent a colonoscopy on-air to encourage people to get checked, and also broadcasted her own mammogram procedure. Couric’s broadcasted colonoscopy had a tremendous effect on the public by increasing the amount of testing by 20 percent.
  8. Christopher Reeve: Christopher Reeve was best known for his role as Superman, but the actor became a real life superhero when he founded the Christopher Reeve Foundation, an organization dedicated to curing spinal cord injuries, funding research and supporting those with disabilities. Reeve became an activist for spinal cord research and disabled patient advocacy after a devastating equestrian accident that left him paralyzed in 1995. Reeve was a longtime member of the American Paralysis Association and the National Organization on Disability, and was a strong supporter of stem cell research for open-ended scientific inquiry.
  9. Maria Shriver: Maria Shriver has been a longtime activist for increasing research, funding and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. She became increasingly involved in this cause when her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2003. Since then, Shriver has teamed up with the Alzheimer’s Association to draft a comprehensive study that highlights the effects of the disease on women as patients, caregivers and advocates, in addition to organizing a 5K march and candlelight vigil in 2010 that raised more than $276,000 for Alzheimer care, support and research. She also produced a series of Emmy-Award winning documentaries that explored current medical research and how families cope with the disease.
  10. Montel Williams: Talk show host Montel Williams has been a major activist for multiple sclerosis research and awareness since he was diagnosed with the disease in 1999. Williams created the Montel Williams MS Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and furthering research for MS. Since its inception, the foundation has raised more than $1.5 million for research. Williams has become an important figure in his mission to provide support and inspiration to MS patients, as well as educate the public about this often debilitating disease.

Posted In:  Health Resources

  March 24th, 2011

The History of Pharmacy Leads to Online Pharmacy Programs

Pharmacy schools involve one of the oldest existing educational programs that has transformed humankind over the years.  Without the addition of medical supplements and aids, mankind would certainly not have made it past the Black Plague and other major epidemics.  In modern time, pharmacy schools have been able to research deeper into medical issues, and are now responsible for helping us live longer and fight off major illnesses.  The transformation of pharmacy school to online education has been a slow process, but is slowly gaining speed as educators realize how beneficial these programs are, considering the past history of pharmacy.  

Pharmaceutical programs have been around for thousands of years, although not in the same way we now consider pharmacy.  Prehistoric man used medicinal plants to fight off ailments, much like pharmacists use now, although in a more compacted form.  These were the original pharmacists, many times known as the shaman of the tribe who was able to cure ailments.  Pharmacological knowledge was first recorded during Ancient Egypt as long ago as 1550 BCE!  After this point, the knowledge spread throughout the growing modern world, although the next instance of recorded pharmacy did not occur until the 1st century CE in China, after which it was well recorded throughout the Islamic Golden Age and other Near Asian artifacts.

The advances in the Middle East in chemistry and botany led to the first instances of what we consider to be modern pharmacy – scientists discovered the medical uses of chemical compounds and how to prepare medicine through distillation.  These are very important concepts in the pharmacy world, and without these original scientists, pharmacy schools would not exist the way they do today.  Europe began to pick up on these studies after the Dark Ages and opened up apothecaries, many of which are still in existence today.  They were able to take the early studies of the Middle Eastern scientists and apply them to their benefit, much like we continue to do today.

The history of pharmacy is fascinating to think about, since it involved the mixture of many different chemical compounds, as well as the belief that these compounds will be able to fight off illness.  Many ancient scientists took risks that modern scientists would be unwilling to take in order to provide future generations with the ability to survive outbreaks of disease.  Online pharmacy schools are only the next logical step in pharmacological studies – one which will undoubtedly lead to even more great discoveries within the pharmacy world. 

 

Posted In:  Uncategorized

  August 16th, 2010

Why go to Pharmacy School in California?

It’s an all too familiar scenario: a student deciding what schools to apply to, eager to take the next step in life.  Many students are anxious to leave their home state, while others are too hesitant to make a cross-country move.  However, for future pharmacy students, California has proven to be at the top of the list even when making a cross-country move.  Whether this is due to the many pharmacy schools the state offers, its stellar pharmacy-research reputation, or just the state itself, pharmacy students flock to the state on the Pacific and rarely ever look back. 

Some of the first pharmacy schools in the nation were founded in California, such as the University of California in San Francisco’s School of Pharmacy and the University of Southern California’s School of Pharmacy (first Pharm.D. Program in the nation!).  The California Pharmaceutical Society was founded in 1868, and only four years later founded the California College of Pharmacy (later to become the School of Pharmacy at the University of California in San Francisco).  The school was the first pharmacy school in the West and only the tenth in the United States.  This was a major step in pharmacy circles and began California’s foray into the pharmacological industry.  The original Society founded the pharmacy school in order to advance pharmaceutical knowledge in the west and “elevate the professional level of apothecaries in California”. 

It only took a year for the California College of Pharmacy to affiliate with the University of California, adding much more credibility to the program.  A new curriculum was established in 1934 that replaced the previous vocational training and instead added a bachelor’s degree to the program, heightening the attention the school received from around the country.  The Doctor of Pharmacy program was established in 1955, only five years after USC’s School of Pharmacy offered it as the first school in the nation to do so.  The University of California currently remains popular with its students because of the many options its Pharmacy program presents them with – they can receive a dual PhD and PharmD at the same time or choose a specific discipline within the pharmaceutical industry to focus on during the course of their studies.  USC still considers itself the first pharmacy school in California, since it was properly established in 1905 (whereas the University of California’s school was not considered a school until 1955 – it was previously a ‘college’).  USC, however, still manages to attract 50% of the pharmacists in the region and remains a highly-ranked research institution. 

Pharmacy students have a lot to think about when comparing these two schools, but no matter which pharmacy school they decide on in California, both will lead to a promising future. 

 

Posted In:  Uncategorized

  August 16th, 2010

The Goals of Pharmacy School

Pharmacy school has become an integral part of our higher education system and continues to attract more students every year, despite urban legends about the “suicide rate of pharmacists” (and dentists).  While pharmacy is a demanding subject and career choice (including a thorough understanding of chemistry, biology, and more than likely working on weekends), many students of pharmacy school enjoy the process and can’t wait to begin their careers.  Pharmacy school requires more than just a diploma, but also includes an array of exams that must be passed in order to become a pharmacist.

Pharmacists are in charge of the distribution of prescription drugs to their many patients, as well as consulting with patients on the proper dosage.  Despite popular belief, pharmacists are not as involved with “compounding” the medications as many of us think we are.  I know I envision my pharmacists behind their office doors mixing together medications with beakers and other cylindrical devices.  However, with the influx of pharmaceutical companies, most medicines are now produced in standard dosages without the additional requirement of a pharmacist’s degree.  While pharmacy students typically go through years of grueling science-related courses throughout their degree programs, many pharmacists now are more well-versed in health insurance policies than chemical formulas because of the drastic changes pharmacy programs have made over the years. 

This is not to say that true pharmacy programs no longer involve actual pharmacy – many pharmacists now choose specialty careers such as oncology or nutrition, and are thus able to advise their patients on the best prescription drugs to take for each related illness.  The Board of Labor Statistics reports that pharmacists hold around 300,000 jobs throughout the nation, with 65% of them working in retail settings.  The other 35% are typically able to practice pharmacy in a setting that is more relaxed and set apart from the “tyrannical force” of pharmaceutical companies, away from the Walgreens and CVSes.  In the end, one of the main goals of pharmacy school is of course to end up as a pharmacist, a future career which is one of the best in the country at the moment.  In a country that is currently witnessing the highest unemployment rates in its existence, pharmacy school presents a more than suitable alternative career choice.  The projected job prospects have been statistically viewed to rise at an exponential rate in the next decade – a marked sign that despite the reign of pharmaceutical companies, pharmacists will continue to play a vital role within the economy. 

 

Posted In:  Uncategorized

  August 3rd, 2010

Will a PharmD help Combat the Nation’s Rising Prescription Drug Problem?

It has recently come to our attention how prevalent prescription drug habits have become around the nation.  This is especially frightening because most of the time they lead to further drug dependencies, the greatest of which is heroin, an addiction which claims the lives of so many young people every year.  While we remain aware of this problem, it is difficult to fight against it, since many teenagers continuously steal prescription drugs out of their parent’s medicine cabinets or make up ailments they do not have in order to receive painkillers.  How do PharmDs fit into all this? 

A PharmD is someone who can mix together this medication and hand it out to everyone with a prescription.  While this seems like a relatively easy task, it does require years of schooling and many times, a knack to know when a patient is not a true sufferer.  Most PharmDs go to school in order to work for a pharmacy company, and enjoy the day-to-day interactions with patients.  However, PharmDs are the last people an addict will see on their way home from getting a prescription.  It has therefore fallen on a PharmD graduate’s shoulders to be aware of what patients should be taken note of and which patients are simply chronic pain sufferers. 

There are many sad stories that have infiltrated many news stories and documentaries – tales of young adults who began a dependency on dangerous pain killers at a young age, only to have their parents find them after a drug overdose.  There are other stories of older adults who have become dependent on pain killers and have found doctors/pharmacists who will continue to prescribe this medication to them, despite the illegality of the situation.  Amidst all these stories, the pharmaceutical industry remains a highly profitable area, and pharmacists take credit for much of this success in putting together each specific prescription.   

However, despite the gloomy outlook many of these stories paint, there is always the optimistic hope that researchers with a pharmD will develop medication that does not have an addictive persona.  These prescription drugs will be able to be delivered without any fear of a dependency occurring and without any side effects.  We are nearing a stage in our societal development where this type of research is not unheard of, but will hopefully become routine.  There have been too many news stories about the dangers of prescription drugs for us to sit around and do nothing.  Pharmacists do not enroll in pharmD programs to help aid teenagers toward dependent drugs, but instead go to school to help cure people of their ailments.  This type of illness is only the most recent in our modern society that we need to work together to combat. 

 

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  August 2nd, 2010

California Pharmacy Schools and the Ugly Truth Behind Pharmaceutical Companies

Americans love our drugs.  Pharmaceutical companies are well aware of this love affair with drugs and have been able to market many of their new innovations on this fact.  Most pharmacy students, however, are not as accustomed to this association with their patients as customers, and are forced to learn this throughout their time in pharmacy school.  No state is more wrapped up in its pharmaceutical companies than California, a state that has many top-ranked pharmacy programs and produces thousands of pharmacy graduates a year. 

Ironically enough, over the past year, both prescription and pharmaceutical sales have risen to astronomical amounts – pharmaceutical sales reached over $250 billion while prescription costs nearly doubled for the average consumer.  Some could even make the argument that pharmaceutical companies have turned our population into a disease-obsessed country, one which assumes that every phobia needs to be treated with some type of prescription drug.  This is not too far from the truth – my doctor seems to always have a different prescription for each type of ailment, although I have understood for years that most illnesses clear up on their own. 

Where does pharmacy school fit into all these allegations?  Students are virtually unaware of this large monopoly pharmaceutical companies have over the whole of our existence.  Pharmacists themselves typically have little contact with the true meat behind pharmaceutical companies, and are instead worried about their various drug concoctions and their patients.  Most pharmacy students go to pharmacy schools to interact with their patients, not to become a member of a large pharmaceutical company.  A majority of our population is now aware of the truth behind most pharmaceutical companies thanks to the recent look into our health care bill as well as modern documentaries that have exposed the ways pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies work together.  It does not paint a pretty picture for pharmacy students of any state.

However, pharmacists and pharmaceutical companies also play an important role in our society.  Severe conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer cannot be combated without the use of prescription drugs, and thus far they have saved thousands of lives.  Most pharmacy students are attracted to their programs because of this opportunity to help hundreds of people every day through the prescription drugs they put together.  In the end, it is difficult to make the argument that we are too reliant on prescription drugs when we need them to ensure our population stays healthy; pharmaceutical companies are not always the evil entity political pundits make them out to be, but can instead be viewed as a beacon of hope for many people who suffer from chronic conditions every day. 
 

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  July 29th, 2010

Life After Pharmacy School

Pharmacy school involves a long time commitment both before and after school, although most pharmacy students look forward to the day they can have a different type of “work”.  With prescription drugs on the rise and new drugs concocted yearly, it is no wonder how we as a society have become so accustomed to pharmacists and pharmacies around the country.  Pharmacy schools now sprout out of nowhere, even through the internet.  However, most pharmacy students remain greatly interested in the subject, regardless of its use in the real world because of the science behind the drugs.

FDA studies are being released all the time, condemning this drug, praising that drug – it’s difficult for even pharmacists to keep track of this type of barrage of news, although patients now have the opportunity to check whether their prescription is considered legal by the FDA.  This lightens the load considerably on pharmacists who may not have been informed that a specific drug has been banned from production.  It’s difficult to always receive this type of information, even in such a highly specialized industry.  A recent article in The New York Times chronicles this new method of receiving information about drugs, allowing patients to log into the FDA’s website to check their drugs on an online database.   Pharmacists did not have to worry about problems like this only a few years ago!

While it is true that times are changing for every industry, few are as profound of changes as pharmacy.  Almost every year a new prescription drug hits the market that can help with cancer-treatment, help abate anxiety, or help even the common cold.  Pharmacists are constantly learning new formulas and adapting to new drug compounds, a perk in the career for many who enjoy learning.  If you do not enjoy this constant barrage of information, then pharmacy school and the inevitable career may not be for you.  However, many students of pharmacy love the prospect of learning new chemical compounds on a daily basis – a light at the end of the tunnel for many of them.  While a life in pharmacy may seem like a “dead-end” type of job (it’s been rated close to dentists on job lists), pharmacy is such a changing industry that it seems ridiculous that it would come close to be called “boring”.  

Pharmacists always have new hurdles to jump through, battles to pick with the FDA, and research to conduct on new chemical compounds.  It is hard to believe that any student of pharmacy would not enjoy their career in the industry after completing their degree program.  
 

Posted In:  Uncategorized

  July 28th, 2010

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