Tag Archives: teens

Is Your Phone Smart Enough to Cure Acne?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says no, definitely not.  On Sept. 8, the agency announced that it had reached settlements with two companies that were claiming that their apps could cure acne. It is the first time the FTC has pursued any company making a health claim for an app.

“AcneApp” and “Acne Pwner” both claimed to be able to treat acne with colored lights that come out of the phone when the app is activated. Purchasers were told to hold the screen next to the affected area of skin for few minutes daily.

The agency was having none of it. “Smartphones make our lives easier in countless ways, but unfortunately when it comes to curing acne, there’s no app for that,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, in a statement.

Acne Clear app. Photo by Alicia Ault

According to the FTC, there were 3,300 downloads of AcnePwner, for sale in the Android Marketplace for 99 cents. AcneApp was downloaded 11,600 times from the iTunes store at a cost of $1.99 each. 

The AcneApp makers claimed that the app was developed by a dermatologist and that its technology was backed up by a study in the British Journal of Dermatology. Nope, not true, said the FTC.

The settlements bar the app makers from making acne-treatment claims and they were ordered to pay nominal fines. Koby Brown and Gregory W. Pearson, doing business as DermApps, have to pay $14,294, and Andrew N. Finkle, doing business as Acne Pwner, was ordered to pay $1,700.

The trade journal mobihealthnews reported that both apps had been removed from retail earlier this year or late last year.  Mobihealthnews also noted that the New York Times gave the AcneApp some press in late 2009. Gregory Pearson is identified in that story as a Houston-area dermatologist.

Apps that claim to offer curative powers were the subject of a two-day workshop that the Food and Drug Administration just wrapped up.  The agency has been mulling over how and when to regulate mobile apps.  It looks like the FTC may have beaten it to the punch.

But there are likely to be plenty more apps to scrutinize in the future.

A quick check of the Android marketplace today from my smartphone found, “Acne Clear,” from United Holdings Group, being sold at 99 cents.  It supposedly “uses a specific sound frequency and a blue color wavelength from the Lapis Lazuli gemstone to help clear and detox the skin.”  United also markets a “Skin Cleanser” app that supposedly uses a sound frequency and “a yellow color wavelength from the Imperial Topaz gemstone to help clean the skin of dark spots, sun spots, and acne scars.”  It’s 99 cents.

There’s also “SkinApp” from M&R Selected, which is free. and advises that it allows you to do “color light therapy on the go.” It is listed as having 10,000 to 50,000 downloads. The reviews are full of testimonials that it works, but also that it is just plain “bad.”

What kind of review would you give these apps? Should patients download them, or are they better off keeping their 99 cents?

— Alicia Ault (on Twitter @aliciaault)

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Filed under Dermatology, Drug And Device Safety, Family Medicine, Health Policy, IMNG, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Primary care, The Mole

Inner-city Teens Get Asthma Messages by MP3

Ask a teenager what he or she did today, and you’ll probably get the universal adolescent answer: “Nothing.” Turns out that a whole lot of that “nothing” involves using electronic media. Some innovative pilot studies tapped into those habits to get inner-city teenagers to improve their use of asthma medications, Dr. Giselle Mosnaim reported at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).

Image of iPod Shuffle by flickr user aliciat80 (Creative Commons license).

She became frustrated when she kept seeing the same teens in the emergency department in acute asthma crisis over and over again. The messages to use their asthma medications were not getting through to them, so she looked for potentially better ways to reach them.

In a large survey study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, youths aged 8-18 years reported that their use of media (TV, music, computer, video games, print, or movies) in 2009 increased to 10 hours and 45 minutes per day, up from 8.5 hours in 2004 and 7.5 hours in 1999. How is that even possible? They’re multitasking 29% of that time, compared with 26% of media time spent multitasking in 2004 and 16% in 1999. Even accounting for multitasking, they were exposed to media 7 hours and 38 minutes per day in 2009.

In that same time span, cellphone ownership increased in this age group from 39% to 66%. The proportion that owned an iPod or other MP3 player increased from 18% to 76%.

Dr. Mosnaim (Photo by Sherry Boschert)

So Dr. Mosnaim designed a pilot study in which 27 inner-city teenagers with asthma received free cellphones and could choose music to listen to via the phones, but they had to  hear messages from celebrities urging them to take their asthma meds before they could access the music. That study bombed. (Not as in, “You’re the bomb!” but as in, “Fail!”)  Medication adherence did not improve, and the teens found a way around safeguards on the cellphones to run up hundreds of dollars in calls that they weren’t supposed to be making, said Dr. Mosnaim of Rush University Medical Center, Chicago. Plus, they didn’t think much of the celebrity messages.

So she tried again, this time using iPod Shuffles. Four teens in the second pilot study were allowed to download 10 profanity-free MP3 songs per week. They met weekly in coping/peer-support groups, where they recorded their own take-your-asthma-meds messages, and those were mixed in with the tracks on the iPod Shuffle. I don’t have permission to post audio of some of those messages here, but suffice it to say that their creativity outshines most rappers and DJs. The investigators attached a device to each teen’s inhaler to objectively measure medication adherence.

Hearing their own voice on the “asthma track” proved to be a hit. And it seemed to work. Medication adherence increased to 70% in 8 weeks, a “clinically significant treatment target,” Dr. Hosnaim said.

The idea is now graduating from pilot studies to a randomized, controlled trial with 90 participants. The control group will get the iPod Shuffles and follow the same protocol as the intervention group, but the voice on the asthma messages will be Dr. Mosnaim.

Not too long ago, I might have ended this blog post by saying, “Stay tuned.” That’s so last century. When the study’s results drop, you’ll get them here first. Are you subscribed?

— Sherry Boschert (@SherryBoschert on Twitter)

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Filed under Allergy and Immunology, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, IMNG, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Primary care

Talking To Teens, Even When They Ignore You

Teenage patient issues can be a dermatologist’s nightmare: unrealistic expectations, poor compliance, and little or no patience for anything less than instant gratification—yesterday.

courtesy of flickr user Glasgow Street Art (creative commons)

But few aspects of medicine are more satisfying than breaking through the barrier with a teen patient, according to Dr. Hilary Baldwin, vice chair and associate professor of dermatology at the State University of New York in Brooklyn, N.Y.

At this year’s Orlando Dermatology Aesthetic and Clinical Conference, Dr. Baldwin shared some anecdotes and tips for talking to teens.

–Keep at it. Just because a teen isn’t looking at you doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. Even if that 14-year-old boy seems more interested in the mechanism of his chair than in what you are saying, keep talking.

–Minimize distractions. That chair may be interesting, but it is no iPod. Dr. Baldwin said she insists that her teen patients refrain from wearing hats, sunglasses, or earphones, and desist from texting, chewing gum, or sprawling on the exam table.

–Talk to the teen, not to the parent. Give teens the option to have their parents in the exam room, but if a parent is present be sure to keep talking to the teen, said Dr. Baldwin. But friends definitely stay in the waiting room, and (ideally) so do siblings, she said.

–Give teens some control. Dr. Baldwin advised letting teens make decisions about factors such as the vehicle of a skin care product (cream or gel, etc.) to improve compliance. And make sure teens know that you aren’t forcing a treatment on them. Instead, try suggesting “I will be here to help when you are ready.”

–Other tips to boost teen compliance: Avoid morning use products if possible, and be liberal in giving sample-sized products so they can be carried in every backpack, purse, or coat pocket. Dr. Baldwin also recommends taping a tube of skin product to the  computer monitor at home to improve compliance.

–Heidi Splete (@hsplete on twitter)

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Filed under Dermatology, Family Medicine, IMNG, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, The Mole

Getting Kids HEALTHY

Thank God – or school administrators, or Dr. Gary Foster, or kids who just want to have fun – thank anyone you want… but there’s finally some good news about childhood obesity. It came on June 27, at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association

The Move It Kids demonstrate fun fitness. By Flickr user nutrition educator.

 The results of the three-year HEALTHY Study are in, and while they might not be exactly what researchers hoped for, they’re plenty good. A three-pronged middle school program that improved food in schools, jacked up gym classes, and made it “cool” to be healthy, helped husky 6th-graders slim down by the time they were headed off to high school.  

Technically, the study didn’t succeed – that is, it did not meet the primary endpoint of decreasing the prevalence of a combination of overweight and obesity at target schools more than control schools. But by the end of the intervention, HEALTHY schools did have fewer kids with extremely high waist circumference, and fewer with a body mass index above the 95th percentile.  

The program seemed to work best in the kids who were already overweight or obese as 6th-graders. They were 21% less likely to be overweight or obese in 8th grade than students at the control schools. And they had a trend – though not a significant difference toward a greater reduction in the BMI z-score  by grade eight.  

Perhaps the best news in the study was its “failed” primary endpoint: By the end of the study both intervention and control schools saw significant decreases of 4% in the prevalence of kids who were overweight or obese. It’s not entirely clear why, but at a press briefing, Dr. Foster, a Temple University endocrinologist, suggested a few possibilities.  

The control schools had the same enrollment procedure as the intervention schools: All the 6th-graders had a health screening that included weight, blood pressure, a lipid panel, and insulin and fasting glucose levels. All the parents got a “health report card” describing their child’s status and suggesting a doctor visit if indicated. That might have been enough to stimulate some family changes that helped children shed pounds.  

Just as likely, he suggested, are societal trends. Maybe word of the looming avalanche of obesity-related diabetes, cancers, and cardiovascular disasters has finally penetrated the cacophony of advertisements suggesting that kids can live off the “Children’s Menu” diet – chicken fingers, french fries, and a soda.  

Whatever the reason, I’m thrilled: Last year, my son wanted to celebrate  his 13th birthday by taking some buddies to a theme park . Two of them — one “husky” and one frankly huge —  couldn’t take the strain of walking around a slightly hilly park on a warm late-April day. The bigger one ended up in the nurse’s station for 4 hours with a splitting headache and an upset stomach.  

It was a lesson learned for my son, though. He has moderated his own diet noticeably since then, referring several times to how sad it was that his lifelong, overweight friend couldn’t keep up, even in the race to have fun. 

— Michele G. Sullivan (on Twitter @MGsullivan)

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Filed under Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Family Medicine, IMNG, Pediatrics, Primary care, Uncategorized