US highlights 1 October 2010

Fiona GodleeA few weeks ago, I drew your attention to blogger Richard Lehman’s weekly review of general medical journals, a personal appraisal and one-stop shop of what’s interesting for primary care doctors.

As well as Richard’s selection, we also have our own “Shortcuts,” a weekly section that provides concise summaries of articles from general medical journals.

A new weekly blog, “Research highlights,” is a roundup of original research papers appearing in that week’s print BMJ. So if you don’t have time to read a full paper or PICO abstract, you can scan the blog to find articles that might interest you. Our latest research paper (scroll down) is featured in this week’s roundup (“Oseltamivir: another piece of the puzzle”), and we’d like to hear your views on the subject. So please do leave a blog comment or leave a response to the research paper.

And, last but not least, a research paper with accompanying editorial just published on reports a randomized placebo controlled trial conducted at sites in Ohio, which found that the combination of a β blocker and behavioral migraine management, but not either one alone, improved outcomes when added to optimized acute treatment.

We look forward to hearing from you.
Effectiveness of oseltamivir on disease progression and viral RNA shedding in patients with mild pandemic 2009 influenza A H1N1

With the swine flu pandemic still in everyone’s minds and the flu season in the western hemisphere about to start, the BMJ has just published an opportunistic retrospective review of medical charts of 1291 patients with confirmed influenza A (H1N1) 2009, who were identified through the national surveillance system in China from May to July 2009. In these patients, treatment with oseltamivir was associated with a significantly reduced development of radiographically confirmed pneumonia and a shorter duration of fever and viral RNA shedding. However, the authors warn that, although the patients benefited from treatment, the findings should be interpreted with caution as the study was retrospective and not all patients had a chest radiograph.

Read this research article and others at

Latest from the BMJ
Ray Moynihan looks at how marketing and medical science have merged to create a new entity: female sexual dysfunction. Researching his latest book, Ray uncovered how drug companies helped construct the scientific building blocks of a new condition. He asks whether we need a fresh approach to defining disease: “The move towards evidence informed health care has enhanced the scientific evaluation of the risks and benefits of interventions. Perhaps it is time to apply a similar rigor to the claims about the nature and extent of the conditions those interventions are targeting and start the slow process of untangling the marketing from the medical science.” Read the feature at and listen to Ray in a forthcoming podcast interview.

Quick links—a selection of recent stories

Scientists await decision in US legal fight over funding of stem cell research

Insiders criticize FDA’s decision not to withdraw rosiglitazone

Raising price of alcohol works better than prevention programs, US review says

US insurance firms drop child-only health policies

US pediatricians call for ban on tobacco advertising and limits on alcohol and drug advertising

Latest poll

Last week’s poll asked: “Have targeted cancer drugs met expectations?”
30 (25%) of you voted “yes” and 92 (75%) “no”

This week’s poll asks: “Should all athletes have ECG screening?”

Vote at

Latest podcast

Healthcare reform continues to dominate the headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. Martin McKee is a professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and research director of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, a group that promotes evidence based healthcare policies in Europe. In this podcast, he discusses the effect the squeeze in funding is having on health care in Europe, and the various strategies different countries are using to save money.

Listen to this podcast and others at

Latest blog

Misuse of illegal drugs poses a substantial public health problem in the Western world. Guest blogger Jeremy Sare thinks that decriminalizing drugs may be the way forward: “When the most senior copper responsible for drugs [Chief Constable Tim Hollis, lead on drugs of the Association of Chief Police Officers since 2006] openly questions the sense of criminalizing young people for drugs possession then perhaps the game is finally up for the strict advocates of prohibition … Now the government is actively seeking the widest views from drug policy stakeholders and the general public, politicians should be mindful they would stand almost alone if they tried to simply uphold the status quo.”

Read this blog and others, and leave your own comments, at