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Stay Healthy and Mentally Sharp: Celebrate Old Age

Interesting Ageing Stuff

For many years, I have posted a Saturday listing of Interesting Stuff - internet items that piqued my interest that I think you too might like.

Although the topic of this blog is ageing and what it's really like to get old, that's not required for Interesting Stuff. Sometimes I include one or two pieces related to age, but only if they can be explained in a paragraph or short lead-in to a video.

Longer and more complex stories related to ageing are better suited to weekday posts when there is room for more detail but now I see that there is a third category I have neglected: items too long for Saturday, too short for an entire blog post.

So expect to see Interesting Ageing Stuff here now and then. Today is the inaugural edition.


Although doctors have long denied it, there is now evidence that physicians who are paid by pharmaceutical and medical device companies for promotional talks, research and consulting prescribe more brand-name medications than those who do not.

”Doctors who got money from drug and device makers - even just a meal - prescribed a higher percentage of brand-name drugs overall than doctors who didn’t, our analysis showed,” reports ProPublica.

“Indeed, doctors who received industry payments were two to three times as likely to prescribe brand-name drugs at exceptionally high rates as others in their specialty.”

For nearly a decade, non-profit Propublica has been turning out investigative journalism in the public interest and in 2010, became the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize.

(FYI: The 2016 Pulitzer Prizes are being announced today. You can watch live at the Pulitzer Prize website at 3PM Eastern time, 12N Pacific time.)

As ProPublica explains, pharmaceutical and medical device companies are now required by law to release details of their payments to a variety of doctors and U.S. teaching hospitals. ProPublica is never anything but scrupulously fair in their reporting:

”ProPublica’s analysis doesn’t prove industry payments sway doctors to prescribe particular drugs, or even a particular company’s drugs. Rather, it shows that payments are associated with an approach to prescribing that, writ large, benefits drug companies’ bottom line...

“Among internists who received no payments, for example, the average brand-name prescribing rate was about 20 percent, compared to about 30 percent for those who received more than $5,000.”

According to the data, the company that paid out the most to physicians is Genentech, Inc.: $388,000,000. The physician who has received the largest total payments is Sujata Narayan, a family medicine specialist in California: $43,900,000.

You can see if or how much your own physician has received at ProPublica's Dollars for Docs page. You can read the entire story here.


When I got serious about devising a daily exercise routine a few years ago, I made a point to include a fair amount of strength training to help maintain bone density and to prevent falls.

It turns out that I, along with many internet health websites, exercise experts, professional medical societies and more, are wrong. Osteoporosis researchers have known that for ten years, reports Gina Kolata in The New York Times:

”The answer came a little more than a decade ago when scientists did rigorous studies, asking if weight bearing exercise increased bone density in adults.

“Those studies failed to find anything more than a minuscule exercise effect — on the order of 1 percent or less, which is too small to be clinically significant...

“[Other] Studies have found that older people who did weight bearing exercise decreased their risk of fractures. But this seems to be more likely explained by the fact that exercise leads to stronger muscles that in turn made falling less likely.

Further, osteoporosis drugs like Fosamex slow the rate of bone loss but do not build bone. All that is the bad news. Here's the good news:

”There is a glimmer of hope for those who have put their faith in exercise. Perhaps, osteoporosis researchers say, even though bones do not get stronger with exercise, exercise might make bones healthier in terms of a mysterious property called bone quality.

“No one knows exactly what it is but it may help explain why some people with bones that look strong get fractures while others with bones that look fragile do not. Maybe those microscopic changes in bone make a crucial difference, but it is too soon to say.”

Even so, on the strong muscle theory, I won't be slacking off on my strength training. You can read the entire story here.


AARP hired Hart Research Associates and GS Strategy Group who surveyed 1659 registered voters – with an emphasis on blacks and Latinos - in February and March this year about Social Security and other issues.

Here are some of the Social Security responses:

More than eight in ten (82%), including 85% of African Americans and 83% of Hispanics, say that having a plan for Social Security is a basic threshold for presidential leadership.

More than nine in ten (95%) voters ages 50+, including 96% of African Americans and 97% of Hispanics, say that it is important that presidential candidates lay out their plans to update Social Security for future generations.

Seven in ten voters ages 50+ say that it would be “very helpful” in their vote decision to learn about a presidential candidate’s plans for Social Security, including 82% of African Americans and 72% of Hispanics.

You can read more about the survey at AARP, the short version, here. You will find the entire survey results here [pdf].

Let me know if you think an occasional Interesting Ageing Stuff post is useful or interesting to you.

* * *

Interesting Ageing Stuff is an occasional listing of items I like that are too long for Saturday's Interesting Stuff and not quite important enough for a full blog post.

You are all encouraged to submit age-related-only items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


Yes, the Interesting Ageing Stuff posts are useful and interesting to me. In today's post the bone strength and exercise info was especially interesting since osteoporosis is a major health risk for me. Thanks for sharing your research and resources.

Yes. I looked up my doctor and discovered he received $314.
That doesn't necessarily make him guilty of anything. We have a long relationship.
He knows I don't like to take medicine and never pushes if I refuse. The only thing
I do take seriously and religiously is my blood pressure med.

I'm game- keep evolving, Ronnie :)

What they said!

Nobody has proved this, but my MIL dutifully took Fosamax to preserve bone density -- and suffered at terrible femur fracture of a sort that has since been associated with the drug. (https://www.drugwatch.com/fosamax/femur-fracture/) Her experience only reinforced my belief that in most cases, the less drugs the better... I think exercise strengthens the muscles that can prevent falls, thus indirectly preserving bone, but this too may not be provable.

I've yet to read an "uninteresting" blog post from you, Ronni & I've been with you from the beginning! LOL. As usual, good stuff, not matter when. Keep on Keepin'! Dee :)

I agree with Dee, the word "uninteresting" isn't in your personal dictionary. Nor TGB.

Keep on keeping on Ronni. Even it is outside my orneriest area I can always ignore it ,so these longer items of possible interest are welcome any time at all. Your research skills and broad interest areas serve us all well.

My jaw dropped when I read about the doctor receiving $43.9 million from pharmaceutical companies. "How is that even possible?" I wondered.

So I googled the name. Turns out there is a more or less reasonable explanation. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, that doctor and her husband co-founded a private, venture-backed medical device company and received $54.8 million when it was bought out by Abbott Laboratories.

Other large sums have similar explanations. One doctor, the chief of orthopedics and scoliosis at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, says the multiple payments totalling $1.4 million dollars that he received are royalty payments for a spinal implant device he developed.

A doctor who received several thousand dollars in meals and travel expenses was a principal investigator for a clinical trial funded by Amgen. The company paid for all investigators to attend meetings to review research methods, data and statistics of the trial.

Okay, doctors are no shining angels. They're human, and every bit as subject to subtle manipulation as the rest of us humans. The way the system is currently set up does seem like it's open to abuse. There may well be some undue influence going on. ProPublica itself is very careful to say only that there is a "correlation" in prescribing practices, and stops short of overtly suggesting that there is anything wrong going on. But then... they list paying the expenses of someone conducting a trial, and the sale of a business, and royalty payments for an invention, as if they were all the exact same thing as a drug sales rep bringing free lunches to a doctor's office. There's a heavy implication, just by the way they post it, that something reeealy fishy has to be going on.

Maybe they're the good guys anyway. I don't know. But finding out they're lumping apples and dandelions and orangutans together does not lead me to have confidence in their statistical methods.

I was on Actonel (Same as Fosomax, but by a different pharmaceutical company) for many years and last year my doctor took me off of it. I had Osteoporosis for may years and it upgraded to Osteopena. (pre-Osteoporosis.)

I can't guarantee that Actonel was responsible for my improvement, but I had to quit walking after breaking my hip so exercise can't be credited with the upgrade.

I'm with Sylvia on this. I have a lot of respect for Pro Publica, but I think on this one they needed to be much more careful to point out the important distinctions among the various payment types. Most people are not good at using their noggins and they can so easily go off half cocked to the detriment of reputations. In general, I don't think having a lunch or two on a drug company makes my brilliant cardiologist a worse doctor. She's down for a piddling $166 and I'm not going into shock about it.

Lunches and free samples are not the problem.

It is the doctor's that participate in trials of pharmaceutical companies that need to be watched. They know what the results are suppose to be if they want the money, they need to provide something in return---
so bias can mean money --

It is the doctor's that go on fabulous trips paid for by a medical company that stands to profit from them somehow that is a concern. These companies don't give out money for the fun of it.

Even royalties can be suspect. How exactly did the doctor arrive at the condition that allowed him to be paid big bucks.

And it isn't just drugs ---it's medical procedure and products like stents and pacemakers.

Any time a big health related company gives out big money there is a big probability of a big return for the company --- You don't get something for nothing from them.

Sorry --- I got too carried away there and forgot to say good things about all your interesting topics ----keep them coming!

What about cholesterol ? I read a couple of books lately -- The Cholesterol Myth and another one titled the Cholesterol Con. Think of the money in keeping your cholesterol lowered and the dollars coming in for keeping a con going.

There is a really interesting article I thought of instantly as you mentioned the "Dollars For Docs" bit. It describes the weak oversight process FDA-approved medical devices go through before they are allowed on the market https://www.recallguide.org/how-medical-devices-make-it-to-you/. Most people, and maybe more in the older crowd than anyone else (maybe not), assume medications and devices that are "approved" by the government have gone through rigorous testing and are at least 99% safe.

Oops, sorry looks like the link didn't go through there - https://www.recallguide.org/how-medical-devices-make-it-to-you/

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