Saturday, July 18, 2009

ACSH Almost Weekly Update!

Compiled by Rich Kozlovich

I have been too busy to do my “weekly” ACSH update, so the amount of information that I had to go through, organize and link was a bit more than I had time for.

I left out breast cancer, prostate cancer, hormone therapy and ovarian cancer and swine flu..lots on swine flu. These are all important issues, but there was just too much information. Among the host of issues that aren’t listed here includes smoking in the military and e-smoking…which I am not sure what I think about it at the emotional level, however, at the intellectual level it does appear that it will save lives. I will add this comment and link regarding that issue.

“The best way to start addressing the problem would be to use
scientific methods and alternatives to smoking like snus and other harm reduction products,” says ACSH’s Jeff Stier. “It would be a more gradual approach that would still be good for the soldiers.” Dr. Ross agrees: “As always, we are completely against smoking, and we support any efforts to reduce the harm caused by cigarettes”.

Also, There was so much on phthalates that I couldn’t organize it properly. However, I archive all the ACSH updates and I may do one big sheet dealing with this subject one day as a separate page to this blog. This is just like global warming…it just won’t go away; irrespective of the evidence. Another preconceived junk science conclusion in search of data. I have listed some information (actually a lot) dealing with this endocrine disruption story. The question is of course are we poisoning ourselves with these
minuscule levels of phthalates? For more information, see ACSH’s publication on BPA.

Bottled Water – yesterday’s green answer and today’s green scare. A new scare, a new demand, a new request for money and a demand for control and power! They cannot be satisfied…does anyone ever get that?

congressional panel met yesterday to discuss the safety of bottled water, which may become subject to FDA regulation. “The FDA has admitted that they don’t have much authority over bottled water, so they can’t figure out if there are toxins in the water,” says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “If we’re talking about actual bacterial or chemical contamination, then that is something they should be able to investigate, but if they extend the search to include chemicals that have leached into the water from the bottle, it could quickly become a witch hunt. Further, I don’t recall any actual instance of a bottled-water-related health event, so this seems to be just looking for a non-existent problem as a cause to regulate.”

ACSH’s Jeff Stier agrees: “My concern here is that people are piling on evidence against bottled water because there are lots of perceived problems with it. In some cases, it’s inefficient, expensive, the bottles pile up and become an environmental problem in disposal, the water isn’t fluoridated, etc. People who want to get rid of it will think that the end justifies the means, and that it’s okay to trump up health charges against it with BPA and other alleged ‘toxins’ just to get it banned. They need to focus on actual problems to make their case.”

Precautionary Principle vs. Burden of Proof

ACSH staffers were please to see the write up in Cal Biz Lit that covers the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant (“DART”) Identification Committee (under California’s notorious Proposition 65) and their upcoming meeting on bisphenol-A. The author declares, “This really shapes up as a classic precautionary principle vs. burden of proof kind of battle. [The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment] seems to acknowledge that the epidemiology is pretty inconclusive, and that...much of the science hasn’t been replicated.”

Still, the article concludes that BPA will probably end up being identified as a toxic substance by the paranoid committee. “It’s a slam dunk for the anti-BPA folks,” says Dr. Whelan. “It will get on the list and will get national attention.”

Another scare, another party!

Is there no end to the scares to the misinformed and uninformed, or worse yet to the unformed minds of children? Sharon offers a Kaplan would like
“Healthy Home” house party, which is supposed to be a gathering of friends and family to promote claptrap about how dangerous it is in you home. Chemicals, chemicals, chemicals everywhere and no place to hide. I wonder if these people ever think about what makes up the universe? If it is chemical free it doesn’t exist! “According to the announcement, you can even bring a toy and have it inspected for toxins, or bring your cosmetics to be crosschecked with the Environmental Working Group’s list of scary-sounding chemicals.” “What I particularly hate about this is that Sharon Kaplan is the director of volunteer services at the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes,” says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross, “and she seems to be exploiting that position to make this junk seem legitimate so she can scare parents about ‘toxic’ chemicals. I find that to be a horrendous conflict of interest for someone who has actually volunteered to help cancer victims.”

Celiac Disease on the Rise

An article from Reuters reveals,
“in the United States, celiac disease is four times more common now than it was in the 1950s,according to a study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.” Celiac disease is an immunological disorder caused by a reaction to a gluten protein found in wheat. “The apparent incidence of this disease is increasing, but that could be because people are becoming more aware of it,” says Dr. Kava.

Vitter for Drug Imports

amendment to allow drug imports from Canada that was sponsored by Senator David Vitter has been approved for addition to a bill funding the Customs Department and other homeland security agencies. Cheaper drugs….right? So why is this a bad thing? Nice publicity stunt to “get big pharma”, but we have to remember that “big pharma” brings out the new drugs that cure afflictions that could have never been cured in the recent past. How is this done? Prices cover the cost of R&D and production.

It costs about 300 million dollars to bring a pesticide to market and a company may test dozens of molecules before one makes it there; and that is just for pesticides. How much does it cost to bring a pharmaceutical to market? Billions!

There are two problems with this plan. One, the efficacy and quality is questionable. Two, “In simplest language, allowing drug importation is a way of imposing price controls,” says ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. “When you have price controls, there is less incentive for innovation. Countries with price controls on drugs, such as those in Europe and Japan, have ceded innovation to our country – up until now.”


ASCH also had comments dealing with the nominations of Dr. Regina Benjamin for the position of Surgeon General, and Dr. Francis Collins as the Director of the National Institutes of Health. “We’re pretty comfortable with Dr. Francis Collins as the new director,” says Stier. “Often it seems like we’re quick to criticize government officials, so it’s important to point out when we agree with a nomination. He is a real scientist who did groundbreaking work on the Human Genome Project, and he understands scientific and technological development. He’s not an idealogue, and that’s good. We welcome his appointment.” They did express some concern about Dr. Benjamin, although she is a dedicated health professional, her background isn’t in policy.

Urban “truths” that bear some investigation.

We have been preached to about this for so many years that we hardly even think to question what is actually know about this subject.
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of the FDA, testified to the House Rules Committee that the practice of feeding antibiotics that are used to treat human infection to healthy livestock in order to promote rapid growth should cease, since it can lead to the development of bacteria that are immune to many treatments. “This is a complicated issue,” says Dr. Whelan. “We can’t say we have a position on it yet.”

ACSH’s Dr. Ruth Kava agrees: “I can’t say whether or not this is plausible, since we also don’t know how much ‘rapid growth’ is affected by antibiotics.”
Stier adds, “We also don’t know how much it contributes to antibiotic-resistant bugs.”

“There is not much evidence to support the idea that this practice will create resistant bacteria,” explains Dr. Ross. “There is some, but it is still kind of a stretch. While antibiotics are being used to increase the yields of food animals, which is a valid public health goal, this goal does have to be balanced with consideration for antibiotic resistance.”

Stier, who has written before on activist criticisms of the food industry, says, “I wouldn’t put this in the same category as most of the other junk science accusations against corporate food producers, since it is possible that this could be a real concern.”

New Schizophrenia Drug
Clozapine, one of a newer group of drugs used for the treatment of schizophrenia, has been shown to significantly reduce the mortality rate among schizophrenic patients, but it is currently only prescribed after multiple, unsuccessful trials with other anti-psychotics because of a rare and potentially deadly side-effect. “This is an interesting example of the balance between benefit and risk,” says Dr. Ross. For more information, see ACSH’s publication on Weighing Benefits and Risks in Pharmaceutical Use.
Alzheimer’s Gene

In research presented Sunday at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Vienna, director of Duke University's Deane Drug Discovery Institute Dr. Allen Roses has
pinpointed a gene that could improve predictions of who will develop Alzheimer's and at what age. Both Dr. Whelan and Dr. Ross agree that this story implies that if detected early enough that it can be treated and that isn’t true and cannot help those with this terrible affliction currently. It may be a useful detection tool for future patients, which is a good thing, but that is all there really is to the story.

Dr. Stossel’s Army

ACSH Trustee Dr. Thomas Stossel, the American Cancer Society Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School,
is spearheading a new nonprofit professional organization “to be a forum for what we believe is a hitherto silent majority of individuals engaged in clinical service, medical education and medical innovation ready to oppose a small but well organized and well-funded coterie responsible for an anti-industry movement.”

“Tom Stossel is assembling a conclave to discuss in an unbiased and objective standard the benefits and risks of cooperation between science and medicine,” explains Dr. Ross. “The dogma on that topic dictates that industry-financed scientific research is automatically corrupt. This organization should help to discredit that notion.” For more information, see ACSH’s
publication on the scrutiny of industry-funded science.

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