Breast Cancer Awareness Month | Ask the Nurse and Asthma

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer risks, the value of screening and early detection, and treatment options available to women and men who are diagnosed with one of the many forms of breast cancer. More than 249,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer every year, and nearly 41,000 die from the disease.

Over the years, a loop of pink ribbon has come to symbolize breast cancer awareness, and today the image of a pink ribbon can be found emblazoned on thousands of products, from apparel to dishware to office supplies.


Things you should know about Advair

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Ask the Nurse: Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare Staffing and Nurse

Dear Chris: I am an asthmatic and I take Advair. But I keep reading about issues related to the drug. What should I know to be smarter about the drug? Ellen in Des Plaines.

Dear Ellen, the irony of modern medicine is how many more choices you have to address a medical issue than, say, your mom did. Every day a new drug. Hard to say that’s a bad thing.

But here’s the catch. Almost no medicine answers every question at every stage of a condition. More choices in drugs mean more choices to live a healthier life but it also means more exposure to the risk of the wrong medicine. That means you have two choices: Hope your physician always knows all the answers or else take personal responsibility for research on what you take.

The best answer is a combination of both, plus the advice of a great pharmacist. With the proliferation of new medicines over the last 30 years, almost no single person knows as much about the subtleties of a particular medicine as a top-flight pharmacist.

I always advise clients to talk with their pharmacist about the issues related to the drugs and, if there are other drug options for controlling your asthma, the pharmacist will often call your doctor and have useful chat.

Here’s the latest on Advair.  It’s a fabulous asthma medicine but it could make your asthma deadly. The danger is statically higher simply because the main drug in Advair is used so often. Almost no one but those who suffer from asthma is aware of how dangerous it is - 4,500 people die in America every year from it.

Advair contains the long-acting beta-agonist (LABA) salmeterol. A 2006 analysis of 19 trials, published in the “Annals of Internal Medicine,” found that regular use of LABAs can increase the severity of an asthma attack. Because salmeterol is more widely prescribed than other LABAs, the danger is greater—the researchers estimate that salmeterol may contribute to as many as 5,000 asthma-related deaths in the United States each year. Similarly disturbing findings from an earlier salmeterol study prompted the FDA to tag Advair with a "black box" warning—the agency's highest caution level. Your strategy? No matter what you may have heard, a LABA, such as the one in Advair, is not the only option, according to Philip Rodgers, a clinical associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of pharmacy. For instance, if you have mild asthma, an inhaled corticosteroid such as Flovent is often all you need. Still wheezing? Patients can also consider an inhaled corticosteroid paired with a leukotriene modifier, Rodgers says. This combo won't create dangerous inflammation, and according to a Scottish review, it's as effective as a corticosteroid-and-LABA combo.