08/31/14 2:00pm
08/31/2014 2:00 PM
The palcohol.com homepage.

The palcohol.com homepage.

An expanding selection of powdered products is opening up some dangerous doors, according to federal officials who are warning consumers not to get caught up in the novelty.

The Suffolk County health department, too, is urging buyers to stay away from one product in particular: powdered pure caffeine.

A single teaspoon of the powder is roughly equivalent to the amount of caffeine in 25 cups of coffee, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which issued a warning following the death of a teenager who used the product in July. (more…)

05/04/14 8:30am
05/04/2014 8:30 AM

Comfort Zone GPS

About a month ago, 82-year-old Jean Taber of Riverside decided to go out for a walk with her dog Freckles — but Ms. Taber, who had been suffering from short-term memory loss, became disoriented and unable to find her way home.

It took more than two days — plus 250 volunteers and the help of a helicopter — to find her body in a wooded area.

But imagine if Ms. Taber had been wearing a GPS locator, a device designed specifically for seniors and those with cognitive impairments and at risk of wandering. With the touch of a button, her family might have been able to locate her within seconds of realizing that she’d left her home. (more…)

03/30/14 10:00am
03/30/2014 10:00 AM
Discarded cigarettes under a bench outside the entrance to the criminal courts building in Riverside. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Discarded cigarettes under a bench outside the entrance to the criminal courts building in Riverside. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Come 2015, like it or lump it,  young smokers in this area likely won‘t be able to buy a pack of smokes at local convenience stores until they turn 21, now that the Suffolk County Legislature has voted to increase the minimum age for legal purchases of tobacco products.  (more…)

03/23/14 11:00am
03/23/2014 11:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | (left to right) Town Councilman John Dunleavy, Maureen O'Connor, program director of the Cancer Services Program of Eastern Suffolk County at Peconic Bay Medical Center, Dr. Claire Bradley, board president of American Cancer Society Eastern Division, Dr. Brett Ruffo, colorectal and general surgeon at PBMC, Sherry Patterson, chair of PBMC Health foundation, Joseph Abbate, colorectal cancer survivor, Dennis McDermott, owner of The Riverhead Project, Legislator Al Krupski, Janine Nebons, general manager of Tanger Outlets, and town councilwoman Jodi Giglio.

(left to right) Town Councilman John Dunleavy; Maureen O’Connor, program director of the Cancer Services Program of Eastern Suffolk County at Peconic Bay Medical Center; Dr. Claire Bradley, board president of American Cancer Society Eastern Division; Dr. Brett Ruffo, colorectal and general surgeon at PBMC; Sherry Patterson, chair of PBMC Health foundation; Joseph Abbate, colorectal cancer survivor; Dennis McDermott, owner of The Riverhead Project; Legislator Al Krupski; Janine Nebons, general manager of Tanger Outlets and town councilwoman Jodi Giglio. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

What you put into your body must eventually go down and then come out, making a healthy colorectal tract indispensable.  (more…)

03/09/14 6:00am
03/09/2014 6:00 AM
Carrie Miller

Carrie Miller

A new painkiller that packs large amounts of hydrocodone into a single pill has quickly become one of the most controversial medications in years to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, as health officials debate whether its benefits outweigh the likelihood of being abused.

Zohydro, which is manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Zogenix Inc., is comparable to the painkiller Vicodin, said Dr. Brian Durkin, director of the Center for Pain Management at Stony Brook University Medical Center.

But unlike Vicodin, which has between five and ten milligrams of hydrocodone in a single pill, Zohydro can contain up to 50 milligrams depending on the prescribed dose — making it up to five times more powerful than the highest dose of Vicodin currently on the market.

In addition, unlike Vicodin and other opioid painkillers, Zohydro pills do not include an embedded tamper-resistant mechanism, meaning abusers can easily crush them and snort them or dissolve them in a liquid to be injected.

“We’re risking having another Oxy-Contin crisis,” said Dr. Durkin, recalling a 1996 spike in prescription drug abuse that occurred after another hydrocodone pill hit the market without a tamper resistant mechanism.

In 2010, OxyContin was reformulated to include a system in the pill that prevents people from crushing it. “It turns into a paste,” he explained.

“We’re going in the opposite direction of where we should be for these dangerous drugs,” the doctor said. “I am surprised they approved it.”

Dr. Durkin isn’t the only one: Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) held a press conference Monday calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to reverse the “confounding” FDA decision or at least pull the drug until it is tamper-resistant.

Anti-addiction activists have also called on the FDA to revoke its approval of the controversial drug.

Overdose deaths in the U.S. due to prescription painkillers have increased 300 percent since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2010, 2 million people — nearly 5,500 each day

— reported using prescription painkillers the fi rst time for nonmedical purposes.

In Riverhead, Community Awareness Prevention executive director Felicia Scocozza said she has seen an increase in prescription drug abuse since she started at the nonprofi t in 1999. While rates of abuse are lower in Riverhead than in the rest of the county, she said, “across Long Island, it’s becoming a huge problem.”

Zohydro, which could hit the market sometime this month, was granted FDA approval in October — despite an overwhelming 11-to-2 vote against that approval by the FDA’s advisory committee, Dr. Durkin said.

So what is so special about the new drug? Dr. Durkin said he isn’t really sure.

“There are plenty of drugs on the market now that are just as good,” he said. “I don’t see any need for this. Not these days.”

Hydrocodone is the most prescribed pain medication in America, given most often following surgery, Dr. Durkin explained — but for longterm chronic pain management, its use is still “controversial.”

“Frankly there are other drugs that have better efficacy and better patient safety profi les than hydrocodone,” he said. “I don’t see myself needing to prescribe this.”

On Monday, Pamela Mizzi, director of prevention with the Suffolk County Resource Center, said she agreed.

“It’s a legitimate controversy,” she said. “On one side, you have the addiction professionals — and I’m a substance abuse counselor — who feel strongly that there is not the need for another variety of hydrocodone to be available. Especially without the anti-tampering preparation.

“But on the other hand,” Ms. Mizzi said, “there are people who have legitimate needs for pain and pain management.”

Dr. Durkin and Ms. Mizzi said the only advantage of Zohydro they can see is that it does not include acetaminophen (tylenol), which some patients cannot have. But there are still other usable alternatives.

03/02/14 12:00pm
03/02/2014 12:00 PM
Carrie Miller

Carrie Miller

The winter season tends to keep people indoors, depriving them of the sun’s vitamin D-filled rays. And recent studies have linked defi ciencies in vitamin D to a wide range of conditions — among them an increase in severe asthma reactions.

More than 25 million people in the U.S. suffer from asthma and close to 7 million of them are children, according to the National Institutes of Health.

07/06/13 8:00am
07/06/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Summertime at Iron Pier Beach in Northville.

It’s Fourth of July weekend and locals and visitors alike are touring grapevines and splashing in local waters – marking the official kickoff of summer on the North Fork.

Carrie Miller

Carrie Miller

While you’re out having fun in the sun, it’s important to remember to protect your skin.

“It is the largest organ of the body and the gateway into your internal system,” said Dr. Mitchell Meyerson, a dermatologist in Riverhead with 16 years’ experience.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, accounting for almost half of all cancers in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. Most people have heard of melanoma, the most harmful type of skin cancer, but there are several other types that can develop, Dr. Meyerson said.

Damage is caused by the sun’s UVA rays, which cause wrinkling and sunspots, and UVB rays, which are what burn the skin, according to the American Cancer Society.

“It has been know that UVB are the very damaging rays. But in the last five to 10 years, it was found that cumulative exposure to UVA rays is supposedly just as bad,” Dr. Meyerson said.

One reason why, he said,  is that the more damaging UVB rays are blocked by glass, while UVA rays are not.

“And we see a lot more skin damage on the left side of the face or arm because of all those years of driving,” he said.

So whether you’re out for a joyride or digging your toes in the sand, sunscreen is a necessity.

When choosing sunscreen, look for one that offers protection from both types of rays.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has changed sunscreen labeling language from “UVA and UVB protection” to “broad spectrum,” but they mean about the same thing, Dr. Meyerson said.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing an SPF of at least 30, higher than its initial recommendation of SPF 15.

“When moving from SPF 15 to SPF 30, we think there is a significant increase in protection factor,” Dr. Meyerson said.

He noted that higher SPFs tend to be more costly, but don’t necessarily offer that much more protection.

While lotions, creams and sprays are all OK, the doctor cautioned that they need to be applied  properly.

“I think they are all good but there is a misconception about sprays. They are easier to put on but people don’t realize they still need to be rubbed in,” he said. “They spray little dots, and there are openings between those dots. You’re going to have areas that are missed.”

When swimming or sweating for more than 15 minutes, be sure to reapply, he cautioned.

The sun’s rays are not the only trigger for skin cancer, which can develop even on parts of the body that have not been exposed to the sun, he explained.

It’s also important to know your skin.

“Know your moles. Knows your growths,” Dr. Meyerson said. “You want to do self-exams. If you see anything changing in size, shape, or color or a new growth, you should  get it checked.

“Early detection is vital, especially in dermatology,” he said.

Got a health question or column idea? Email Carrie Miller at cmiller@timesreview.com.

Follow her on twitter @carriemiller01.