Medications and Mosquitoes: The Latest Developments

Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen answer reader questions about the Right-to-Try Bill and pesky mosquitos.

Medications and Mosquitoes: The Latest Developments

Q: Congress passed a Right-to-Try bill, which means that people who are terminally ill can try new drugs without FDA approval. That’s a good thing, right? — Joseph B., Columbus, OH

A: No, it’s not a good thing (except, we say, perhaps in extreme cases). And more than 100 medical and consumer organizations say so too! A doctor’s oath is to do no harm and this turns a particularly vulnerable part of our population into human guinea pigs. Without the oversight of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), experimental drugs and therapies can inflict terrible harm.

The backers of this bill (Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn and Matthew Bellina, Right to Try Act of 2017) claim it provides a pathway for folks with life-threatening medical issues who have run out of treatment options to access experimental medications and procedures.

But the opponents of this bill—the American Cancer Society, the Cancer Action Network, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and many other medical groups, expressed their strong opposition in an open letter to the Speaker and the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. They pointed out, “creating a secondary pathway for accessing investigational therapies outside of clinical trials…removes FDA approval and consultation and would not increase access to promising therapies for our patients.”  They also said:

  • The FDA approves more than 99 percent of requests for access to investigational therapies for over a thousand patients each year who face life-threatening conditions.
  • Because all clinical trials have well-maintained records, researchers are able to develop important dosing and safety improvements as the trials progress. Remove that info from a patient and you threaten their well-being, instead of improving it. The Right-to-Try bill removes FDA safeguards that would protect patients from the potential harm of unproven and unsafe therapies.

So what to do? To find a clinical trial that pertains to a specific condition go to clinicaltrials.gov. And to apply for access to an investigational therapy, Google “expanded access FDA” and read all the materials.

As for the Right-to-Try? The bill may be a benefit if you or a loved one are in the 1 percent who do get turned down for access to an investigational therapy and have no hope of survival.

Q: Why, when I am outside for a summer barbeque, do I attract 10 times more mosquitoes than everybody else? — Johnny D., Nashville, TN

A: Lots of folks ask that question and we have a few possible answers, but first, put on some insect repellant! According to Sharecare spokesperson Dr. Clifford Bassett, 40 percent of you don’t even use it! That’s a big mistake. Not only does insect repellant ward off skeeters, it also repels ticks, jiggers and black flies (no-see-ums). The most effective insect repellants are the ones with 30 percent or more DEET or picaridin. If you don’t want to use DEET (no studies have shown adverse effects), natural repellants, such as lemon, eucalyptus and geranium oils, are also effective.

That said, about 20 percent of you may be a member of that quick-to-itch subgroup for several reasons.

  • You’re a big target: Larger people, whether obese or pregnant, exhale more CO2, which is one way mosquitoes target you.
  • Alcohol: Any alcohol you have at the BBQ can make you more of a target, perhaps because of increased body temperature or sweat.
  • Specific cheeses: Eating cheeses like Limburger can attract mosquitos.
  • Sweat: Mosquitoes are attracted to the chemicals found in perspiration.
  • Type O blood: One study revealed that Aedes albopictus (one strain of mosquitoes) are 83.3 percent more likely to land on people with type O than people with type A, B or AB blood.

Solutions? Stick with spraying DEET on long pants, sleeves and any areas where your skin is exposed. Consumer Reports tested clothes treated with the insecticide permethrin and found that none of them were foolproof, plus the EPA classifies permethrin as a likely human carcinogen.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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