Secrets of ear wax

Secretion secrets: things you didn’t know about ear wax - Earwax is one of those bodily substances which few of us like to discuss in polite company. 

Like other secretions, it is something that most of us deal with in private. Yet it also holds a fascination for many. 

In the past, it has been used as a lip balm and salve for puncture wounds. 

But it can do a little more than that. Recent research suggests it can indicate a build up of pollutants in the body - and it could even be used to diagnose certain conditions.

Here are five things you - probably - didn't know about ear wax.

1. How it gets out 

The cul-de-sac of the ear canal 

The cells inside the ear canal are unique in the human body - they migrate. "You could put an ink dot on the eardrum and watch it move over a few weeks and it would be 'carried out' by the movement of the cells." according to Prof Shakeel Saeed at London's Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear hospital. 

If this didn't happen the mini cul-de-sac of the ear canal would soon fill up with dead cells created by the natural process of skin shedding. 

This movement also propels the wax - produced by the modified sweat glands which line the ear canal - towards the outside. It's thought that normal movements of the jaw - through eating and talking - assist with this movement. 

Prof Saeed has noticed that ear wax does sometimes get darker as we age - and that men whose ears get noticeably hairier as they age sometimes find that the wax can't escape through this jungle of hair. 

2. It has anti-microbial properties 

Cerumen or ear wax secreted by a gland in the ear canal 

Ear wax contains waxy oils but much of it is made up of keratinocytes - dead skin cells. The rest of cerumen - to give it its technical name - is a mixture of substances. 

Between 1,000 to 2,000 glands produce anti-microbial peptides - whilst sebaceous glands close to hair cells add into the mix alcohols, an oily substance called squalene, cholesterol and triglyceride. 

The production of earwax doesn't vary much between men and women. young or old - but in one small study its triglyceride content decreased from November to July. 

Cerumen also contains lysozyme, an antibacterial enzyme capable of destroying bacterial cell walls. Other researchers are less convinced and claim that it is the perfect medium in which bacteria can grow. 

3. It matters where your family is from 

Asian and non-Asian ears produce different types of earwax according to scientists at the Monell Institute in Philadelphia. Chromosome 16 is home to the "wet" or "dry" gene for earwax - with the wet variant dominating. 

A small change in the gene ABCC11 is related to both the dry-type earwax and also for reduced underarm body odour found in Chinese, Japanese and Korean individuals.

The American study measured the concentration of 12 volatile organic compounds found in earwax - in groups of East Asian and white men. 

In 11 out of the 12 compounds the Caucasian earwax had greater amounts of odorous compounds. 

Kate Prigge from Monell says their analysis of the smell of ear wax is a first step towards finding out whether they might eventually use it to detect disease. 

The institute studies a rare genetic disorder called maple syrup urine disease, which can be easily diagnosed through the scent of earwax compounds. Swabbing someone's ears is a much simpler and cheaper process than doing a genetic test. 

Dr Prigge does realise how odd her choice of career might sound. She says: "You tell someone that you work in human body odour you get a good laugh," says Prigge. "But when you explain the importance behind it or how much information can be gained in these types of studies, people often understand why." 

4. A vacuum rather than a syringe might help clear it 

Carrie Roberts said the procedure was "miraculous" 

Carrie Roberts is in her 40s and has an ear wax problem. She had her ears syringed at the GPs several times, tried hot oil with no success - and ended up with both ears blocked.

Ms Roberts decided to pay for micro-suction treatment, where the ear canal is cleaned with an instrument like a tiny vacuum cleaner. 

Prof Saeed prefers this method to syringing. "With syringing you are going in 'blind' - not under direct vision. If you use water it has to get past the wax and come back, bringing the wax with it. 

"If there is no gap it can't get through and it shouldn't be forced. It is uncommon to damage the ear drums during syringing, but it does happen." 

With the micro-suction the whole procedure is carried out whilst looking into the ear canal with a microscope. 

Carrie said the procedure was "painless, a little noisy and very quick". 

She adds: "It felt like one of those things they put in your mouth at the dentist to suck water out while you are having a filling, but in your ear. It has been miraculous." 

Carrie is a convert. "I will go every time now. Much better than syringing as I didn't feel dizzy and faint afterwards, it was much quicker and I didn't have to mess about with olive oil for a week first.

5. It can be a pollution monitor 

Ear implements from the 1800s 

Earwax, like many other bodily secretions, can show traces of certain toxins in the body such as heavy metals. But it's an odd place to look and no more reliable than a simple blood test. 

There are also some rare metabolic disorders that affect earwax. The most notable earwax scientific discovery of recent times is that of a 24cm wax earplug from a blue whale. 

Unlike humans which shed their earwax and dead skin cells, filter-feeding whales retain their earwax, recording life events similar to the way tree rings reveal arid and wet seasons during its lifetime. 

The earwax was analysed by Sascha Usenko, a environmental scientist at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He and his team found that during the 12-year-old male whale's life it came into contact with 16 different pollutants such as pesticides. 

There was a peak of exposure during the first year of life - suggesting that these were transferred from its mother either in the womb or through her milk. 

High levels of the stress hormone cortisol appeared in the waxy plug as the animal reaches sexual maturity - when competing for a mate would have been a priority. ( )

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The tell-tale symptoms of depression

The tell-tale symptoms of depression - People who may be suffering from depression or manic disorders actually exhibit or show each and every kind of symptom of depression that doctors will tell you that depressed people have. Sometimes it’s actually quite easy to overlook such symptoms and not be able to help one’s self or others who are suffering from depression for that matter.

There are actually a lot of symptoms of depression that depressed people may actually posses but they don’t have to suffer from each and every one of them before you actually help them get diagnosed and be treated for this illness. Also, since symptoms of depression actually vary, the time of their "attacks" varies as well.

Here are some common examples of symptoms of depression:

Prolonged period of sadness or not feeling "up to it," people who are always feeling not in the mood, who’d rather mope around the house and feel sorry for one’s self is the best example for this symptom of depression.

Feels hopeless, perennial pessimist: speaking of feeling sorry for one’s self, another common symptom of depression is when a person actually feels like he/she has nothing to look forward to in his or her life. As for being the perennial pessimist, those who show this symptom of depression are usually very negative about things, again, the feeling of hopelessness comes in to mind.

Guilt-driven, loss of self-worth and helplessness: other symptoms of depression that can be easily seen on people who prefer to mope around all day long are these. Whenever a person feels so guilty over something, that actually makes one a very sad person who feels like he or she doesn’t deserve to be happy. Thus, the loss of self-worth, if that person feels like he or she isn’t worthy of being happy or enjoying one’s self then that’s clear tell-tale symptom of depression. Helplessness also contribute to being depressed, when assuming that things won’t simply go your way, it’s already a clear saying that you have absolutely no hope in your body at all.

Isn’t interested in finding or taking pleasure; just dropping the hobbies as well as the other things that one used to enjoy: this tell-tale symptom of depression just shows how depressed a person can be, if one is actually too sad to take pleasure even in the very things that one loves then that person is seriously lacking something, rather, that person might well have caught the depression bug.

Fatigue, always tired: people suffering from depression, since they’ve lost whatever interest in life that they may have had before are actually lacking of physical energy at all times, if one would prefer to just mope around, probably won’t even eat not get enough sleep, a depressed person may well be on their way to not just a mental illness but depression can actually be terrible for one’s physical health as well.

Having trouble concentrating, having bad memory and is indecisive: a person who is suffering from depression easily gives away this tell-tale symptom of depression. Wherein one’s lack of interest with regards to the outside world or for just about anything for that matter can lead to that person’s inability to lose track of things and actually not be able to remember things that happened or what other people said. Lack of interest actually makes depressed people very inattentive.

There are actually more symptoms of depression that can actually help you see if a person (or you) needs to be brought to the doctor to get some help when it comes to depression: lacking sleep, sleeping too much or waking up at wee hours of the morning are all symptoms of depression (if it happens on a daily basis), appetite loss as well as eating too much may show one’s lack of enthusiasm for life. Be weary of sudden weight loss or weight gain in those around you. Being suicidal, talking about death, about wanting to die is another clear indication that that person is depressed. Being restless and irritable and physical symptoms that are usually brought about by poor mental health such as headaches, digestive disorders and various body pains.

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Finding the right Depression Treatment

Finding the right Depression Treatment - Depression or prolonged sadness is actually quite common in the United States, around 9.5 percent of the American population actually suffers from this illness, however, not all of them get to be treated, thus, depression and its ill-effects continue to be a burden to some individuals. This illness may seem quite simple to treat but in reality, it takes more than a little cheering up to actually cure depression. Constant visits to a cognitive behavior therapist is a must as well as taking all the prescribed medicines that the doctor will ask the patient to take – none of these exactly come cheap, but the amount of suffering that a person is going through because of depression is enough reason already for others to start taking notice and face depression head on through the various depression treatments that are available today.

Depression oftentimes can easily get in the way of an individual’s daily activities and his or hers’ normal functions, one’s zest for life can quickly and easily dissipate due to depression. And in place of an individual’s sunny disposition is more or less a person who hates his or herself, having no self-confidence, trying to isolate one’s self from the world and basically just not caring about living any more. More so, a person suffering from depression isn’t the only one who’s going to suffer from this destructive illness, his or her loved ones are sure to follow suit. By seeing the individual grow through such rough patches, basically not caring about anything or anyone anymore, it’s highly likely that not only will depression one’s relationship with one’s self but with his or her loved ones too. But this shouldn’t really pose as such a problem since people who suffer from depression are actually lucky that there are all sorts of depression treatments that can be used to aid an individual through the course of having a sound mental health.

Depression treatment actually starts with the patient openly acknowledging his or her illness, by just being honest with one’s self, it’ll be a lot easier not only for the doctor but for the patient most of all, to actually cure depression and find an appropriate depression treatment for him or her.

From various medications (like Zoloft antidepressant depression treatment) to all sorts of psychotherapies promising to be the best depression treatment. The patient, as well as his or her family are sure to get the best, positive results from these depression treatments.

Psychotherapy, a popular type of depression treatment actually includes short-term therapy sessions, usually from ten to twenty weeks promising to actually be able to make positive results for the depression patient. This type of depression treatment actually helps the individual by slowly making them to actually open up about their feelings, the root of their problems, more so, the root of their depression. Healthy verbal exchanges between the cognitive behavior therapist and the depression patient is great depression treatment that’ll positively affect the depression patient by helping him or her discuss and talk about whatever they’ve been keeping inside.

Various medications that are available for depression treatment are actually great for helping the depression patient to regulate his or her mood swings, to actually help him or her sleep better and as well as be more pleasant towards others.

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All About Clinical Depression

All About Clinical Depression - epression, a mental illness that is often characterized by prolonged periods of sadness and melancholy, experts from the field of psychiatry say.

But just because one person is moping around and just generally hating the world around him or her, doesn't mean that it's already depression, but if this kind of behavior, the feeling of emptiness, loss of self-worth and absolutely no hope for happiness just goes on and on, then, yes, that individual is very much, indeed, depressed.

Still, there are various types of depression from 
Manic or Bipolar depression - characterized by sudden and extreme changes in one's mood wherein one minute he or she is in an elevated state of euphoria while the next minute (day or week) he or she is feeling to be in a personal hell, 
Postpartum depression - characterized by a prolonged sadness and a feeling of emptiness by a new mother wherein physical stress during child birth, an uncertain sense of responsibility towards the new born baby can be just some of the possible factors why some new mother go through this,  
Dysthimia - characterized by a slight similarity with depression, although this time, it's been proven to be a lot less severe, but of course with any case, should be treated immediately, 
Cyclothemia - characterized by a slight similarity with Manic or Bipolar depression wherein the individual suffering from this mental illness may occasionally suffer from severe changes in one's moods, 
Seasonal Affective Disorder - characterized by falling in a rut only during specific seasons (i.e. Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall) studies however, prove that more people actually fall in to a rut more during the WInter and Fall seasons 
and lastly, Mood swings, wherein a person's mood may shift from happy to sad to angry in just a short time.

Clinical depression however, or as some might call as 'major' depression, is actually the medical term for depression. Actually clinical depression is more of a disorder rather than an illness since it basically covers only those who are suffering from symptoms related to depression. Clinical depression is how doctors usually refer to "depression" when giving a diagnose of their patient. It's basically just a medical term.

However, in spite of being an actual disorder, Clinical depression may well be treated. Doctors are actually highly optimistic that their patients who are suffering from Clinical disorder will be well on their way towards good mental health as long as they treated as soon as they have been diagnosed with Clinical depression. Patients who have been seeking for treatments for Clinical depression have proven to be quite successful in their quest, given that 80 percent of actual Clinical depression patients have been treated and has somewhat found relief from their disorder.

For those who may be seeking some answers for their Clinical depression related questions, the depression section of the health center is highly recommended, as well as books on psychiatry and the internet - which can offer a lot of helpful information with regards to Clinical depression although self-medication/treatment is highly disapproved of. Clinical depression may not pose as much as a threat as the other types of depression, but it is best to leave it to the hands of professionals who can safely attend to and cure this disorder.

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How to give an oil massage

How to give an oil massage - A massage can be soothing and invigorating. Our step-by-step guide to relaxing massage will teach you how best to give a massage. Hopefully — once you’ve given somebody a massage — you will get one in return. 

Step 1: Create the right ambiance. 
  • Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature. 
  • Dim the lights to create a warm, cosy ambiance and ensure the drapes are closed, so that there are no distractions. 
  • Light a scented candle or an aromatic dhoop. 
  • Prepare a playlist of relaxing music beforehand. For relaxation’s sake we recommend you stick to instrumental composition. 
  • Ensure you won’t have any interruptions till you’re done. 
Step 2: Lie on a hard surface 

The person you’re giving a massage to must lie down on a hard surface so that all the muscles are adequately supported. A firm mattress or a yoga mat on the floor is your best bet, if you don’t want to invest in a massage table. Also, ensure there is enough space for you to move around to massage different parts of the body. You can fold a blanket and leave it at the foot of the mat or mattress (the person lies between the mat and the blanket). 

Provide either a folded towel or small pillow for the head. 

Step 3: Keep towels handy 

It is important to cover the areas that you have already massaged to ensure that the heat you have generated while massaging doesn’t escape, leaving the person chilly. 
Step 4: Prepare massage oil 

Stock up on different types of body oils. You can choose to use herbal 

or aromatherapy oils like lavender and chamomile, both of which have relaxing properties. Some other good options include, jojoba oil, almond or coconut oil (which are also cheap), olive oil, grapeseed oil (known to be great for the skin and also, doesn’t leave a thick residue behind like most other oils). 

Step 5: Prepare yourself 

Cut your nails, take a bath and relax yourself. Put on some comfortable clothes and do some deep breathing before you get started. 

Step 6: Getting started 

Have the person take off his/her clothes and lie on his/her stomach. It would be ideal to take off all clothes, but if the person doesn’t want to, then it’s OK to keep the underwear on. If it’s a woman, you can open her bra during the back massage and close it before turning over. 

Start the relaxing massage by pouring a small bit of oil on the palm on one hand. Now, gently rub your hands together to warm the oil with your body heat. Follow this method of warming the oil, every time you pour oil. 

Step 7: How much pressure 

Check to see how much pressure the person you’re giving a massage to wants and make sure you stick to that degree of pressure for the rest of the massage. 

The neck and shoulders: 

Gently rub the shoulders back and forth, then up and down to release any stress. Work your way to the neck muscles, the back of the neck as well as the sides. Don’t rub too hard or apply too much pressure, as said earlier. 

Once you’re done, change the direction of your fingers and hands by moving them in circular motions. 

Arms and hands: 

Rub the arms, hands, and yes, even their fingers. Massaging the hands and fingers will help increase blood circulation. 

Do the back of the arms when the person is lying on his/her stomach and the front when he/she is lying on the back, later. 

The back:

The next area of their body is the back. A person’s back is the largest area of skin, so pour a generous amount of oil on to your hand. Once you’ve warmed the oil between your hand, start by placing your hands flat on the middle of their back. Massage the area up and down. Reach up their neck and down to their lower back to relax them. 

Once you’ve massage the middle back, move on to the rest of the back. Use circular motions to relieve tension and stress from the back muscles. You could also fold your arm and use your elbow in circular motions. 

Use the thumbs of both your hands. Place it on either side of the spine and gently move up and down the spine. Make sure you don’t do this on the spine, but on the two sides of the spine. 

Use a kneading motion to soothe the sides of the back. Use this motion up and down the sides a few times. 

Legs and hips: 

Use a kneading motion on the hips to soothe that region. 

Next comes the leg. Massage each leg, one at a time. Use a kneading motion on the thighs. Put pressure and press the sides of the thigh muscles. Do the same on the back of the calf. Massage the feet using circular motions. Pull the toes gently and release to ease tension in the toes. The foot has many nerve endings, so don’t leave this part out. Now repeat on the other leg. 

The front of the legs must be done when the person turns on his back. Repeat the same kneading motion on the front of the thigh and calf. Use circular motions to massage the front of the feet. For the toes, gently pull them and release. Use circular motion on the nails to relax the toes. 


Gently massage the forehead, temples and cheeks. But don’t get any oil into their eyes or mouth. Rub the temples in light circular motion, this helps relieve tension and stress. Use vertical strokes on the forehead to release stress. 

Note: Oils like menthol or eucalyptus help open up clogged nasal passages. 


Use your two thumbs in circular motion to massage the chest, three inches below the sternum to release tension around that region. This too is very soothing. 


Gently rub the side of the stomach in a kneading motion. Use your whole hand and gently rub the stomach clockwise a few times. ( Mdhil )

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Laugh Out Loud ( LOL )

Laugh Out Loud - Guffawing is great. It not only helps you bond better but also does your heart and head a sea of good.

When we moved into our home, I immediately fell in love with the expansive, lush green park in front. The only thing that startled me was the sound coming from the early morning laughter club that drowned out all other gentle sounds of nature. As I sat with my newspaper and tea in the balcony, a range of irritated thoughts passed my head from "Why do they have to be so loud?" to "They are just faking it", as I glowered at the group of senior men who were bent upon laughing their lungs out.

Eight years on, my attitude has changed, from irritated cynicism to wistful admiration. The group too has changed over the years as some very senior members have passed away making way for fresher greys. However, nothing, not even Delhi's extreme weather condition has dented their commitment and determination. And their early morning zest and back-slapping humour actually seems to be working wonders for them! There have been mornings when I have woken up feeling grumpy and on edge and their energetic mirth has added a dash of amusement and perked me up instantly.

If they can laugh for no reason then so can I! One very striking thing about laughter is that it is entirely social (unless you are watching a funny flick). We can smile alone, cry in solitude, be scared in isolation and rage all by ourselves, but we usually laugh when we are with people. It is even more contagious than yawning. Often while with friends and family, I have found myself laughing aloud at a joke that I did not entirely get. Laughter touches our empathy centre in

the brain and before we know it, we are giggling away merrily, our thinking brain desperately trying to catch up. As a kid I was always told that I laughed too much. I was sent out of class by my teachers for not being able to hold my mirth at the slightest provocation. My funny bone can still be tickled effortlessly and I also connect well with people who laugh easily. I have found that some of the most resilient people I have met are the ones who are able to laugh at themselves. An added bonus: a healthy sense of humour also keeps them going through the roughest of times. Robert Provine, a neuroscientist (Laughter: A Scientific Investigation, Penguin Books) gives a meticulous account of the anthropology and biology of laughter. According to him, laughter has tremendous analgesic properties.

In simple terms, it could be the best stress buster known to humans. It also has aerobic benefits as it activates the cardiovascular system, increases the heart rate and pumps more blood to internal organs. So the next time you miss the gym, don't fret. Just get hold of your friends or family and laugh it out. It will do your heart and your relationships a world of good! I have started believing that laughter is an excellent way to bond. Families that laugh together stay together. Giggling is the bonding glue for friends.

Even at workplaces, I have seen that teams that laugh together are most synergistic and effective. So if you are a little concerned about any relationship in your life, check out if you are injecting enough laughter into it. Whatever your unique style may be-giggle, chortle, chuckle, guffaw, hoot, cackle-don't hold back. Joyful living's got to be celebrated loudly. ( Prevention )

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How to improve your sleep

How to improve your sleep -  Put some work into a good night’s sleep, says the spa guru Karina Stewart

Sleep surroundings A lot of people struggle with sleep issues, often due to a stressful lifestyle or too many stimulants. But the health benefits of getting good-quality sleep are immense, so do put some effort into it. One of the ways is to sort out what I call 'sleep hygiene’. This means that, pre-bedtime, you should make sure your bedroom is really quiet, the temperature is comfortable and all light is minimised. Even little things like the light from a digital alarm clock have been shown to keep certain parts of the mind active, so use some eyeshades. You should be getting eight hours of sleep, and the earlier you go to sleep the better

A helpful nightcap Leave at least two hours or so between dinner and bedtime, and avoid caffeine and alcohol before you sleep, too. Drink camomile tea an hour or so before you go to sleep, or try mulberry tea; it’s calming and helps balance blood-sugar levels. You could also sprinkle a few drops of lavender or lemon-balm oil on to your pillow

Fit for bed Ensure you exercise regularly. It has a really positive effect on sleep and also helps with stress management. Aim for three one-hour sessions a week. But don’t spend all the time on a high-energy cardiovascular workout; exercise for around 45 minutes, then use the last 15 minutes to focus on deep breathing and stretching. This will train your body to switch out of a highly stressed state to a calming one, which is good practice for falling asleep

At a stretch Before you go to sleep, there is one yoga pose that automatically calms you down. While sitting on your bed, lean forward over your legs and try to touch your ankles. This is a relaxing stretch, so go to your limit and don’t push it any further. You can even put a pillow on your knees and relax your head there. Remain in that position for five minutes, taking deep abdominal breaths. This posture has been shown to calm the nervous system, bring down blood pressure and help with any headaches, all of which will enhance your sleep

Switch off completely Watching television or staying up late using your laptop close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep cycle. The light pulsation from the screen activates the cerebral cortex of the brain (the thinking part), so you’ll find it more difficult to go to sleep. You can read, write or be on the telephone, if you need to

An easy transition If you wake up in the night, don’t stress about it. A lot of people get annoyed and think, 'I have a busy day tomorrow and need to sleep,’ but that won’t help. Take deep breaths or have a cup of herbal tea and read something calming. Soon you’ll drift off )

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Ranbaxy Recalls Atorvastatin Calcium Over Glass Particle Risks

Ranbaxy Recalls Atorvastatin Calcium Over Glass Particle Risks -- Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals Inc. has recalled dozens of lots of its generic version of cholesterol drug Lipitor because some may contain tiny glass particles, the latest in a string of manufacturing deficiencies that once led U.S. regulators to bar imports of the Indian company's medicines.

Ranbaxy, a subsidiary of Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., India's biggest drugmaker, is operating under increased scrutiny from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because of quality lapses at multiple Ranbaxy factories over the past several years. The FDA also has alleged the company lied about test results for more than two dozen of its generic drugs several years ago.

On Friday, Ranbaxy posted a notice on its U.S. website, saying it's recalling 10-, 20- and 40-milligram doses of tablets of atorvastatin calcium. That's generic Lipitor, the cholesterol fighter that reigned for years as the world's top-selling drug.

The recall includes 41 lots of the drug, nearly all with 90 pills per bottle, but three lots contain 500 pills per bottle. It's unclear how many bottles are in each lot, but medicine batches typically contain many thousands of pills. The 80-milligram strength tablets are not affected.

Ranbaxy spokesman Chuck Caprariello did not answer questions or provide any additional information beyond the statement on the company's website.

"Ranbaxy is proactively recalling the drug product lots out of an abundance of caution," the website statement read. "This recall is being conducted with the full knowledge of the U.S. FDA."

The company also filed a two-sentence statement with the Bombay Stock Exchange stating Ranbaxy's investigation would be completed within two weeks, but that after that temporary disruption to the U.S. supply, the company expected to resume shipments here.

Patients who've filled a prescription can contact their pharmacy to determine whether it was made by Ranbaxy or another generic drugmaker and, if it's from Ranbaxy, whether it came from a recalled lot.

Ranbaxy's manufacturing deficiencies, dating to 2006, led to a lengthy investigation and sanctions by the FDA. During the probe, federal investigators found Ranbaxy didn't properly test the shelf life and other safety factors of its drugs and then lied about the results.

In mid-2008, the FDA barred Ranbaxy from shipping into the U.S more than 30 different drugs made at factories in India. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice demanded Ranbaxy turn over internal documents, alleging the company lied about ingredients and formulations of some medications.

In early 2009, the FDA said it would not consider any new applications from Ranbaxy to sell in the U.S. any products made at the troubled factories.

As FDA discussions with Ranbaxy continued, it appeared Ranbaxy would lose its shot at a revenue windfall when Lipitor's generic U.S. patent expired last Nov. 30. At the time, Lipitor brought in almost $8 billion a year in U.S. sales.

As often happens when patents first expire, for the first six months only one generic rival could compete with brand-name Lipitor. Ranbaxy had that right, although an authorized generic from Lipitor maker Pfizer Inc. and partner Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. went on sale on Dec. 1. With competition so limited, the generic prices only declined a bit from brand-name drug's price of about $115 a month – until several other generics entered the market six months later.

The FDA finally ended the suspense, deciding just before midnight on Nov. 30 to let Ranbaxy sell generic Lipitor made at the company's Ohm Laboratories factory in central New Jersey. It was unclear Friday whether the recalled Ranbaxy pills were made there or elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Ranbaxy is operating under a settlement with the FDA, called a consent decree, signed on Dec. 20, 2011. It requires Ranbaxy to improve manufacturing procedures, ensure data on its products is accurate and undergo extra oversight and review by an independent third party for five years. Ranbaxy at the time set aside $500 million to cover potential criminal and civil liability stemming from the Justice Department investigation. ( AP )

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Sandy insurance claims: Claims from Sandy in the U.S. Northeast could boost Florida insurance rates

Sandy insurance claims: Claims from Sandy in the U.S. Northeast could boost Florida insurance rates - A surge of insurance claims from Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast could boost rates in Florida, some insurance professionals fear.

Initial estimates put insurance exposure in the Northeast at more than $10 billion. Some of those payouts are expected from reinsurance companies, the same ones that provide insurance to insurance companies in Florida to help them cover their risk. If reinsurance rates spike, that in turn could push up property insurance rates in Florida.

Reinsurance makes up as much as 40 percent of premiums for some small insurers in Florida that have limited capital to cover potential losses from a disaster, according to the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group.

Florida professionals differ over how much claims from Sandy might affect the reinsurance market.

Some agents who sell insurance expect fallout.

"I'm sure there will be a trickle-down effect on reinsurance" in Florida, said Ron Kornbluh, president of Brokers Insurance Group of Margate.

That could tick up property insurance rates in Florida, which many analysts had expected to flatten out next year, said Dirk DeJong, president of Frank H. Furman Inc. insurance agency in Pompano Beach. Rates could rise up to 10 percent on some hard-to-place insurance policies, DeJong said.

But other industry leaders predict little or no effect for reinsurance and Florida rates.

Lynne McChristian, the Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute, said reinsurers entered this hurricane season with historically high levels of capital and likely can cover losses without rate hikes. Plus, major damage in the Northeast stems from flooding, handled by the government's National Flood Insurance Program and not by private insurers or reinsurers, she said.

Florida's Insurance Consumer Advocate hopes the Northeast flood claims can bring attention to the burden on Floridians. The state now buys about 30 percent of all flood insurance coverage nationwide, because some federal home loan programs require the coverage in a state seen as vulnerable to hurricanes. Flood coverage is not required in many other states.

"Perhaps this will open a discussion about what's fair in flood coverage. It might resonate now that it's not unique to Florida to be exposed to catastrophic risk," advocate Robin Westcott said. "And if we can get parity and more money coming into the flood insurance market, you can assume Florida premiums later will come down."

Sandy's impact depends too on the way insurance companies manage claims. Too often, companies end up paying big bucks on lawyers and adjusters to trim payouts on claims that they consider inflated, said Charles Stephens, an insurance adjuster based in Dania Beach. Poor management — instead of fair payouts on claims — leads reinsurers to raise premiums on those sloppier firms, he said.

"There must be transparency in claims, and there's no need for litigation in most cases," Stephens said. He suggests online auction bidding by contractors on repair work to help cut costs on claims.

Insurance experts say it will take weeks more to tally Sandy's claims, losses for companies and the effect on reinsurance. Until then, the debate on local consequences is sure to persist..

Said McChristian: "It's like trying to predict the stock market." ( )

READ MORE - Sandy insurance claims: Claims from Sandy in the U.S. Northeast could boost Florida insurance rates