Thursday, December 01, 2011
Share side effects with doctors

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

It is hard to watch television without seeing an ad for the latest wonder drug. One of the things that these ads frequently have is a list of side effects. There is an associated commentary about seeing your doctor if any of these things occur. You may wonder where this list of side effects comes from. There are usually two ways of getting symptoms on such a list. The first has to do with the original drug trials that are conducted when a new drug is being tested. The approach is to give half the people the new drug and the other half a placebo drug. The research team is the only one who knows who is taking the real drug and who is getting just a placebo. Once the trial is completed, the patients are then asked about common symptoms. They might be asked if they had common things like headache or abdominal pain. They might be asked about less common things like muscle aches or pins and needles in their fingers. The results are then added up. They then compare the frequency of the symptoms with the new drug and the placebo. If the frequency is the same for both, then that is not considered a side effect. For example if 5% of people on the drug had headaches and 5% of people on placebo had headaches, then headaches would not be considered a side effect. If, however, 10% of the people on the drug had side effects and only 5% of the people on placebo had headaches, then headaches might be a side effect. In order to be sure, a statistical analysis would be necessary. They would need to see how many people in total were treated. They would then need to see how many of them actually had headaches and if the difference could be accidental. For example if you flipped a coin many times, you would get about 50% heads and 50% tails. However, you might get heads or tails several times in a row before the other side came up. That is the kind of thing that statistical analysis determines. If the analysis indicates that the symptom clearly could not be explained by pure chance alone, then that symptom is added to the list of things that the medication could cause as a side effect. In most cases, very few people will get the side effects on the list. However, if they occur more frequently than they did with placebo, that symptom will still be added to the list. The other way things get on the list of side effects is after the drug has been in use for a while. Most drugs are tested on small numbers of people before they are released for general use. If there is a rare side effect it might not show up in the small group. Thus when large numbers of patients start using the drug, these side effects can show up. It is very important to report these side effects. If the drug company does not know about them, then other people will continue to get them. They may go as unrecognized side effects. In some cases the results can cause significant medical problems. While the television advertisements give you a list of what to report to your doctor, there may be other things that you still need to report. You might be the first one with that side effect. If you do, then it might be included on the list the next time you listen to a television ad.

Be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide During the winter months, Delawareans may assume that any dizziness, headaches and fatigue they experience are caused by a bug going around. Carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, toxic gas, can also cause these symptoms, along with nausea, vomiting, chest pain and disorientation. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, each year carbon monoxide poisoning claims approximately 400 lives nationwide and sends another 20,000 people to hospital emergency rooms for treatment. Carbon monoxides symptoms can make people feel too sick to move to safety, said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH). Thats why its important to have a detector in your home that can provide an early warning for you to leave. Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels burn. Improperly functioning or inadequately ventilated heating systems, stoves, fireplaces, space heaters, cars, small gasoline engines and outdoor equipment can cause carbon monoxide to build up rapidly indoors. At high levels, such as occur when running a car or other engine in a closed garage, carbon monoxide can be rapidly fatal. Children, elderly, smokers, people with heart and respiratory disease, and those with increased oxygen needs due to fever, hyperthyroidism or pregnancy are considered most susceptible. Carbon monoxide poisoning in pregnant women can cause birth defects. Its important to pay attention to small children and pets in the house. They are usually the first ones to become susceptible to the fumes, said Jerry Brennan, training administrator at the Delaware State Fire School. If they appear to be more sleepy than usual or are not acting normally remove them to fresh air and see if their condition improves. To stay safe, follow these recommendations: If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, leave the location and then call 911. Get a carbon monoxide detector from a local hardware store. Detectors should be installed outside sleeping areas and near fuel-burning appliances. Have trained professionals inspect fuel-burning appliances, fireplaces and chimneys at least once per year. Make certain that appliances are properly installed and vent fumes outside. Inspect chimney, flue and fireplace before use. Correct loose or damaged masonry, rusting or water streaking on a vent or chimney, falling soot, or the presence of animals or birds in chimneys. Dont idle the car in the garage. Fumes can build up quickly and enter your home. Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even in a fireplace. Dont sleep in a room with a fuel-burning space heater. Its fumes can sicken you when you are most vulnerable. In a power outage, never run portable generators in the home or garage. Portable generators should always be used outside. Change the batteries in carbon monoxide detectors at the same time you change your smoke detectors batteries. DPHs Healthy Homes program offers a home health hazard assessment. For more information, call 302-744-4546 or visit

Alzheimers Support Group offered Nanticoke Memorial Hospitals next Alzheimers Support Group meeting is at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at LifeCare at Lofland Parks, first floor Resident Lounge, 715 E. King St., Seaford. This group provides support and information about Alzheimers and dementia to families, caregivers and anyone who is affected by this disease. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact LifeCare at Lofland Park at 628-3000, ext. 8302.

CPR classes at Nanticoke Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer community CPR classes to anyone interested in learning CPR at the Nanticoke Training Center located on Water Street in Seaford. Participants will learn how to perform the basic skills of CPR on adults, children, and infants and how to help an adult, child or infant who is choking and use of the AED. This classroom-based, video, and instructor-led CPR course offers families, friends,and community members the opportunity to learn CPR and need a course completion card. Classes are open to participants 12-years-old and up.

This program is specifically designed for those who prefer to learn in a group environment with feedback from an instructor. The target audience is those who have a duty to respond to a cardiac emergency because of job responsibilities or regulatory requirements. Cost is $40. Payment and registration is required by no later than five business days prior to the class. Late registrations may be accepted if seating is available. To register and to obtain a listing of class dates/times, contact the Nanticoke Memorial Hospitals Training Center office at 629-6611, ext. 8919. Pre-registration is required.

NMH offers first aid classes Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer community first aid classes to anyone interested in learning first aid on Tuesday, Dec. 6from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., at the Nanticoke Training Center located on Water Street in Seaford. Participants will learn basic first aid that will enable them to administer help during the first few moments until emergency responders arrive. Classes are open to participants ages 13 and up. The course covers cognitive learning, role-playing and skill practice. Cost is $30. Payment and registration is required by no later than five business days prior to the class. Late registrations (if seating is available) will be an additional $5 fee. To register, or for more information, contact the Nanticoke Memorial Hospitals Training Center office at 629-6611, ext. 8919.Pre-registration is required.

Stroke Support Group meeting Nanticoke Memorial Hospitals next Stroke Support Group meeting is at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the Seaford Library.The support group is designed for individuals who have survived a stroke as well as their families and caregivers. Modeled from the American Stroke Association, the hospital is engaging with speakers to provide education, community resources and emotional support to those who have been affected by this life-altering event. The two-hour support group meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and stroke survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support, and allow for networking. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group.For more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, ext. 8626.

NAR-ANON support group Take Heart, Be Strong is a support group available to those family members and friends who are concerned about the drug/alcohol addiction of a loved one. We find people in NAR-ANON who understand what we are going through and are ready to share their experience, strength and hope to help us. This group meets at 7 p.m. every Thursday in the Youth Room at Crossroad Community Church, 20684 State Forest Rd., Georgetown. If you are interested or know someone who might be, call Beth at 302-745-0466. This is an anonymous program and there are no obligations. Attendance is welcome with no prior arrangements. For more information and other meeting locations, visit

Summit on communicable diseases Health care professionals are invited to register for the 2011 Health Summit: Communicable Diseases on Dec. 2 in Newark. The summit runs from 7 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at the Embassy Suites, located at 654 S. College Ave. The Health Summit is an annual event that provides the opportunity for interested physicians, pharmacists, nurses and other allied health care professionals to discuss information on new medical advances, updated guidelines, breaking research and national and state requirements relevant to the prevention and treatment of communicable diseases. Nov. 28 was the registration deadline for the summit, which is sponsored by Delawares Division of Public Health (DPH) in collaboration with the Medical Society of Delaware (MSD).Local and nationally recognized speakers will present topical issues and be available for discussion with participants. Attendees may earn five AMA PRA Category 1 credits. DPH Director Karyl T. Rattay, MD, MS will give a presentation on seasonal influenza. Other presentations include vaccination of health care workers, diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) infection, viral hepatitis, and adolescent wellness and sexual health. For credentials or more information, contact Cheryl Botbyl, Medical Society of Delaware, at 302-224-5193 or by email at Information on the conference is also available by calling the Delaware Immunization Program at 1-800-282-8672.

Breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. To learn more, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided.

Relay for Life fundraiser Dr. Marie Wolfgang is again sponsoring a 12 night Winter Getaway Cruise to the Southern Caribbean as a fundraiser for Relay for Life, sailing from Cape Liberty, N.J. on Feb. 10. The itinerary includes St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Johns (Antigua), St. Lucia and St. Maarten (Philipsburg). Transportation to and from the dock is available. For a brochure, call or visit Dr. Wolfgangs office at One Cedar Ave. in Seaford, 629-4471. Space is limited.

Bereavement luncheons Delaware Hospices New Beginnings bereavement luncheons are an informal way to meet and talk with others, who have had similar loss experiences. Lunch begins at noon and is followed by a brief program.The location rotates each week of the month throughout Sussex County. New Beginnings luncheons are open to the public. Registration is not required. There is no fee except the cost of your lunch. For more information, call Midge Dinatale or Paul Ganster at 856-7717.

New depression support groups If you have been diagnosed with depression, are currently receiving treatment and need extra support, join the Mental Health Association in Delawares newest depression support groups. The support groups provide a safe and comfortable environment for adults who may be struggling with depressionto find others who may be going through similar experiences, learn coping skills and take back control of their life by being proactive. A support group meets in Seaford every Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The location of the meeting is provided only to registered members. To register, contact the Mental Health Association in Delaware at 302-654-6833 or 800-287-6423. These new groups are made possible due to a grant received from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delawares BluePrints for the Community program.