All posts by John Starkey

New Pharmaceutical Box Design Could Help Patients Make More Objective Decisions

According to a new study by Dartmouth Doctors Lisa Shwartz and Steven Woloshin, it’s more than possible for the FDA to provide quantitative information — empirical data showing the efficacy of drugs — in a presentable, articulate way, which will help people better understand the risks and benefits of the medicine they’re taking and allow them to make more informed decisions about their medicine.

Their idea is simple. Medicines should have what they call a drug facts box that concisely shows how the drug compares to a placebo.

These boxes would show that the drugs were either significantly more effective, or weren’t very effective in comparison to a placebo. If they weren’t, people may decide to consider other, less risky medicines.

And that’s kind of the idea.The drug facts box isn’t intended to help people choose the cheaper option, as some might think — they’re designed to help people figure out what medicine is objectively better.

“When the people are presented with the standard information they see — like a drug ad — about 30 percent of people chose the better drug,” said Woloshin, speaking about a social experiment he and Shwartz had conducted on their proposed drug facts box. “But when we showed them information in the drug facts box form, 68 percent of people were able to choose the objectively better drug. So that’s a really dramatic improvement. It just shows you that if you show people information in a way that’s understandable, they can use it, and it can improve their decision.”

Woloshin and Shwartz also conducted an experiment on a drug facts box for Lunesta, a medicine that treats insomnia, which 10% of all adults suffer from. Their version of the box told patients that people who took Lunesta fell asleep 15 minutes faster than those who took the placebo. What’s more, the box also noted that the Lunesta group stayed asleep 37 minutes longer than the control group.

According to Shwartz and Woloshin, there are people out there who might consider these benefits are worth taking the drug, and some who might not think the benefits outweigh Lunesta’s risks.

“That’s the whole point of the drugs facts box — to let people look at the evidence and come to their own judgments,” said Woloshin. “But you can’t make those judgments without the facts

Company Based in Austin, Texas Harnesses Probiotics for Oral Health

A Texas-based oral health manufacturer is looking to revolutionize the way we look at and treat oral health through probiotics.

Great Oral Health just launched its first product, an oral probiotics treatment that uses beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms to balance the ecology of your mouth. This ecology can be disrupted by sugars, drugs, stress and chemicals that come from daily life.

Oral bacteria imbalances can lead to tooth decay, bad breath and gum disease. By populating the mouth with beneficial bacteria instead, Advanced Oral Probiotics may not only freshen your breath: they may improve your ear, throat and nose health as well.

According to Mary L. Marazita, director of the dental genetics program at the University of Pittsburgh, as much as 60% of the risk for dental issues is based in genetic quirks that make certain people more prone to them.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you’ll have poor dental health no matter what you do. If anything, a predisposition to poor oral health only increases the importance of oral probiotics, since your teeth may be more vulnerable to hostile bacteria growth.

Advanced Oral Probiotics are chewable tablets that are easy for adults and kids to add to their tooth-brushing routine before bed. The user just has to chew two tablets after brushing their teeth, swish the 7-probiotic blend around their mouth, then swallow. The solution is all natural, great tasting and completely safe to consume.

The tablets, which consist of a proprietary blend of 7 probiotics, come in packages of 60 for 27.95 on Amazon. They’re also manufactured with Live-Bac® technology to ensure that the bacteria strains can be stored without losing effectiveness.

Great Oral Health is now in the final stages of testing an advanced all-natural toothpaste that will be released in 2015.

Texas Courts Weigh in on Damages for Nuisance Claims

Wooden gavel barrister, justice conceptOn April 22, Dallas County Court-at-Law No. 5’s verdict in the Parr vs. Aruba Petroleum, Inc. case brought up an important question: how much, if at all, should plaintiffs in nuisance claims be awarded?

Up until then, Texas courts had maintained that plaintiffs could receive compensation for annoyance and personal discomfort caused by a private party.

According to a July 16 Texas Lawyer article, the plaintiffs of the Parr case sued Aruba Petroleum, citing nuisance caused by the company’s natural gas well drilling and production taking place near the plaintiff’s home.

In the verdict, Texas Lawyer reports that the jury awarded more than $2.9 million to the plaintiff, including “$2.25 million for past and future physical pain and suffering, and $400,000 for mental anguish.”

So what does this mean for future cases in which a plaintiff seeks compensation for nuisance claims?

According to Texas Lawyer, the Parr case will allow Texas courts to work to clarify the distinction between nuisance cases and more traditional personal injury cases — of which there are about 29,948 each year, with 60% of those are brought by drivers, workers amd other Americans seeking compensation for a personal injury.

In the case of Parr vs. Aruba Petroleum, the plaintiff’s pleadings made it clear that the plaintiff was forced to seek medical treatment from the damaging health effects of living near Aruba Petroleum’s activities, making the case based just as much on personal injury as it was on nuisance.

In the future, it will remain to be seen just how Texas’ court systems will interpret the Parr verdict in regards to nuisance claims.

Texas Nonprofit Health Care Systems Partner With Retailers to Expand Walk-In Clinics

Entrance to emergency room at hospitalNorth Texas’ two biggest not-for-profit health care systems have recently announced partnerships with major health retailers to establish walk-in clinics that are open seven days a week.

According to a July 16 Dallas News article, Texas Health Resources (THR), based in Arlington, will partner with CVS, while Dallas-based Baylor Scott & White Health will likely partner with Walgreens and Wal-Mart.

THR physicians will offer their services at 34 CVS MinuteClinic locations throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Dallas News reports, with seven more locations planned to open early next year.

Baylor physicians will help oversee 13 area Walgreens walk-in clinics by this fall, according to the Dallas News, with the number growing to as much as 28 clinics eventually.

Walk-in clinics and urgent care centers are rapidly becoming popular ways for Americans to see a licensed physician for urgent, non-life-threatening health concerns. In fact, the number of urgent care facilities across the country has grown from 8,000 in 2008 to 9,300 today.

Urgent care and walk-in clinics can treat a wide variety of ailments, the Dallas News reports, ranging from sore throats, earaches and urinary tract infections to broken bones and wounds requiring stitching. They also charge significantly less than a visit to the emergency room would cost, and offer longer hours of availability than a normal doctor would.

“These clinics will be a tremendous alternative to what’s available at 8 p.m. in an emergency room,” Carl Couch, president of Baylor’s quality alliance, told the Dallas News. “We’d much prefer that a minor illness goes to one of these clinics instead of a Baylor emergency room.”



Several people got together on June 14 and cleaned up the historic Carrollton Community Cemetery, also known as the Carrollton Black Cemetery, a short distance east of the Coppell city limits just south of Belt Line Road. The cemetery contains the graves Carrollton’s earliest black settlers. Among those who participated in the cleanup were the Rev. Willie Rainwater, Roy Turner, Anthony Todd, Christian Branson, Ron Branson, Roy Turner, Brandy Branson, Paulette Golden, Travis Golden, Carmron Ardoin, Juanita Rainwater and Gwen Turner. Photo by Ron Branson


Texas Legislature Considers New Bill Aimed at Better Preparing Students for Working Life, College

Texas educators, lawmakers, and parents are mulling over a soon to be implemented bill from the Texas State Legislature that would see sweeping reforms of the state’s educational rules. The bill, simply titled House Bill 5, will change regulations and programs offered across the Lone Star State in hopes of making Texas youth more prepared for work or college following their high school education.

HB5 Lays out Numerous New Programs

As outlined by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), HB5 is currently in the midst of a months long process of hearing public discourse and receiving a plan from the Texas Commissioner of Education on the implementation of HB5’s new programs for the 2014 to 2015 academic year. The School Board of Education, along with the Commissioner, reserves the right to cut out or otherwise amend programs included in the bill.

In a nutshell, HB5 works to rehab the number and types of credits each student needs to receive his or her diploma and be suitably “prepared” for professional life or college, “without remediation.” The so-called Foundation High School Program requires students to accrue four credits in English-language arts, three in mathematics, three in science, and three in social studies, with other minor credit requirements for electives and other non-major areas of study. In addition, students can seek out “endorsements” that translate to credits by working with area businesses and educational institutions in a sort of internship arrangement. Advanced versions of the Foundation HS Program, known as the Distinguished Level of Achievement and Performance Acknowledgement, will also be awarded when students go above and beyond the basic requirements for a degree.

HB5 is Noticeably Lax on STEM Requirements

While no one doubts that Texas needs to reform its educational system to make its students more competitive in the current economic landscape, critics of HB5 worry that the bill doesn’t go nearly far enough in ensuring proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the so-called STEM fields. Overall, the United States ranks only 52nd in quality of STEM education provided, a number the World Economic Forum says is set to plummet over the next few years. Many parts of Texas show some of the worst preparedness for students when it comes to STEM classes in the country. For Irving, the highest ranked institution, MacArthur High School, only ranks 303rd in the state; Irving ISD’s Barbara Caldwell Career Preparatory Center comes in at 1,422nd, only 10 places off the bottom of the list.

In a recent study from Georgetown University, it was revealed that of the top five college majors that offer the best return on investment, four are considered to be part of the STEM group — engineering, computers and mathematics, health, and physical sciences all topped the list. That being the case, it shouldn’t be any wonder why Texas parents are less than impressed by the state’s rule changes, changes that put English-language arts requirements above math and sciences. In a world where professional success and income are tied directly to STEM education, the Texas State Legislature seems willing to go through the motions of reform; unfortunately, those reforms aren’t entirely in-line with reality.

Irving Convention Center to Finally Get Entertainment Center, Hotel After Years of Delays

Plans for the long troubled Irving Convention Center finally seem to be moving ahead. In a 6-3 decision by the City Council at the end of June, it was decided that the $84 million construction project that would bring an entertainment center, city-owned hotel, and tax-free office building to the Las Colinas site would finally move ahead. The project heralded by construction firm ARK Group will be funded almost exclusively by public funds, garnered through taxes, and incentivized with tax breaks for the developers.

Groundbreaking Comes Seven Years After Plans for the Project Began

Some in Irving have been dreaming of this entertainment center for almost a decade. Billy Bob Barnett, businessman and famed creator of Fort Worth’s Billy Bob’s Texas honky tonk restaurant, envisioned the Irving Convention Center as an epicenter for cutting edge multimedia and entertainment, shopping, music, and eating. In its earliest inception, the Irving Convention Center was meant to have five levels, filled to the gills with 14 original restaurants, nightclubs, and shops.

With the support of then mayor Herb Gears and many business minded folks in the Irving community, plans went ahead with the project. The groundbreaking was originally set for Fall 2009, but as would become a reoccuring theme, troubles with funding and the often sudden departure of crucial parties left the project crippled. After a slew of legal battles over public financing for the project, it was finally completed in January of 2011; however, the convention center was only part one of the project. The heart of the entertainment center — the restaurants, the music venues, the shops — remains absent from the space.

Public Funds, Tax Breaks Leave Many in Irving Hesitant

This isn’t the first time the entertainment center has been a step away from getting started, only to have the plug pulled at the last minute. In 2012, it was reported that the $250m project would finally be underway — that is until Standard & Poor’s began dragging its feet over whether or not to grant the project’s investment package status as investment quality. As had been the case for years, interest in the project fell apart.

In reality, S&P’s lack of faith in those behind the Irving Convention Center debacle was really only another drop in the bucket. Many Irving citizens were against putting so many of their tax dollars into an  entertainment complex. The project was thought to be so toxic that it is often credited with Mayor Beth Van Duyne’s ousting of former officeholder Herb Gears in 2011. Poised for a rematch with Gears for the seat this year, it’s no real surprise that Van Duyne voted “no” in the June 2014 motion before the City Council. It was a politically savvy move, but ultimately useless, as the City Council’s affirmative vote finally pushes the entertainment center to a 2014 start.


Coppell and Irving Ramblers to become one May 1

With high hopes in August of 2012, the staff of Rambler Newspapers made the bold decision to create the Coppell, Las Colinas Valley Ranch Rambler separate from the Irving Rambler.

Our intention in creating two papers was to better serve the communities and the people who live in them.

After more than a year-and-a-half of production, the Coppell, Las Colinas Valley Ranch Rambler publication has not met expectations. Therefore, as of May 1, the papers will be merged into a single publication: The Irving Rambler.

Despite the merge, the staff of Rambler Newspapers will continue to serve the city of Coppell and surrounding communities with fair and accurate reporting and advertising.

Our staff would like to thank all of our readers for your ongoing support as we work to better serve you.