April, 2011

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Dancing Away the Pounds and Inches

Monday, April 25th, 2011

If you’ve been watching Dancing With The Stars, you know that one of the stars, Kirstie Alley, is getting more out of her appearances than just some fun in the spotlight. According to ABC News, Ms. Alley says she hasn’t weighed herself in several weeks, but she knows she’s lost weight on the show because she’s dropped several dress sizes. The before and after photographs say it all.

This is a far cry from where she was when she started filming “Fat Actress” and her goal is to trim down even further.

Boy, can I relate, as I’m sure so many women can. Like Kirstie Alley (and maybe some of you), I’ve struggled with weight all my life. And like Kirstie Alley, I got down to my slimmest, healthiest weight when I got serious about ballroom dancing (although nobody has yet invited me to appear on Dancing With The Stars).

You can see more pictures of me at dance exhibitions and competitions, here.

Dr. Yvonne Thornton at the New York Hilton Dance Showcase

So many of us women don’t exercise enough and my guess is that’s because exercise, for the most part, isn’t a lot of fun. But dancing? Those of us who dance would do it if it didn’t offer any other benefits. Trimming down and staying fit are wonderful side-effects of a night of pure enjoyment – and there are other health benefits as well.

I’m so happy that dancing is catching on across the U.S. And Kirstie Alley is a great role model for those of us who didn’t start out with super-model bodies or metabolisms.

Give it a try. Even if you’ve never danced before, there’s almost certain to be a studio nearby where you can take your first lesson. You don’t need a partner; most schools will pair you up. You’ll feel great, you’ll look great, and you’ll have a blast.

See you on the dance floor.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

Come Join Me on BookTV Next Weekend!

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

I’m delighted to report that my keynote address to The Young Women’s Leadership Network was covered by C-SPAN for BookTV.  I had been interviewed a few years ago by Brian Lamb for his program Q&A on C-SPAN [], to talk about my first memoir, The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, and it was a great experience.

Now, on Saturday, April 16 and Sunday April 17, the program, broadcast from The New York Academy of Medicine in New York City, will capture me addressing 400 high school girls from East Harlem who are interested in math and science for their Career Day.  I will be discussing my recent memoir, Something to Prove: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill a Father’s Legacy.

C-SPAN book discussions are always in-depth, unlike so many other television “sound-bite” interviews, which is why I’m so happy to know that BookTV selected my presentation of the new book for their broadcast. Hope you’ll take a break from the last minute tax return rush to join me.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

Drug Maker Attempted to Capitalize on the Lives of Infants

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

There is a synthetic form of progestin called hydroxyprogesterone caproate, or 17P, that is used to prevent mothers-to-be from delivering prematurely. Treating a mother at risk of having a preemie with hydroxyprogesterone caproate was found, in tax-payer funded studies by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, to reduce the incidence of pre-term births, which naturally means that babies suffer fewer of the complications that plague preeemies. The studies also found that giving this drug to mothers-to-be at risk of premature delivery could save the health care system at least $2billion per year.

Until recently, the drug had been available only through “compounding pharmacies” (pharmacies that formulate drugs that aren’t commercially available), at a cost of about $10 to $20 per dose. But the FDA recently licensed one manufacturer, KV Pharmaceuticals, to manufacture the drug commercially, and exclusively, for the next seven years.

What usually happens at the point where a manufacturer is given exclusive rights to market a drug is that compounding pharmacies are told that they may no longer produce the drug.

And that would have happened this time – if KV Pharmaceuticals hadn’t done something that has caused a huge uproar in the maternal-fetal medicine and obstetrics community. It raised the price of the drug from the $10 to $20 per dose that compounding pharmacies had been charging to (are you sitting down?) $1,500 per dose.

No, that’s not a typo.

They raised the price by an average of 100 times what it had been.

Remember, it was tax-payer dollars that funded much of the research, so the raise in price could not be attributed simply to recouping research costs. And driving the price that high would put it out of reach of most women (and babies) who needed it. A full course of the drug, given between the 16th and 36th weeks of pregnancy, had previously cost about $400. The price increase would push that cost to $30,000!

This story, at least, has a happy ending. Although, according to this article in the Seattle Times, KV Pharmaceuticals agreed  to drop the price to $690 per dose (still outrageously high, in the opinion of most in the obstetrics community), the FDA decided to allow compounding pharmacies to continue to formulate the drug when presented with a prescription.

But just imagine all the mothers and babies who would have suffered had the FDA allowed KV to put profits ahead of all else, and ordered compounding pharmacies to cease formulating the prescription.

As a maternal-fetal specialist and a mother, it sends shivers up my spine.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH