Saturday, March 12, 2011

American Council on Science and Health, 2011: Week Nine

Posted By Rich Kozlovich

Another week, another set of issues.  The American Council on Science and Health has been attacked as being a dupe for big________(fill in the blank) because they have taken money from various companies.  I haven't always agreed with their conclusions, but I have never found any reason to impugn the integrity of these people. 

Update on press misrepresentations of ACSH
A blog appearing Monday in The New York Times falsely implied that ACSH is a lobbying group. This prompted a blog in TIME to make the same inaccurate assertion. We're glad to report that TIME has corrected its error. We continue to await action from The New York Times.

Dr. Stossel says pharm-academia conflict-of-interest issue is mere unhealthy propaganda
ACSH Trustee Dr. Thomas Stossel offered yesterday morning's readers of the Denver Post a timely editorial on the controversy over professional relationships and contacts among drug researchers. Dr. Stossel, an American Cancer Society Professor of Medicine and a director at Harvard University Medical School, is concerned about proposed changes in the rules governing relationships with industry of University of Colorado faculty.

Big pharma going down, down, down
Yesterday's The New York Times reported on worrisome trends in the pharmaceutical industry: the dearth of big drug breakthroughs, research and development downsizing and more stringent FDA regulations.

A clarion call for inexpensive drugs by politicians or activists may be thrilling to hear, but there is a penalty to be paid for this kind of action that leads to unnecessary interference. It costs about three hundred million to bring a pesticide to market. How many compounds are tested each year before one qualifies to be released? One year a company began the testing process of 25 compounds, and none of them ever made it to market. Can you imagine how much it must cost to bring a pharmaceutical to market? I hate to say this, but "greed is good" ; if you want innovative, effective quality products that is. Why? Because the incentive to make money is what created these companies in the first place and it is the incentive that causes them to take chances and to innovate; which has brought about some of the most amazing cures to afflictions that have plagued mankind for thousands of years.

Secondly, eventually these products will go out of patent, and will then be sold extensively and cheaply to the entire world. And hopefully the original registrant will have made tons of money. This lays the financial foundation that allows them to develop other blockbuster products that will also go out of patent. All of which benefits all mankind.

For without that profit motive there will be no more new pharmaceuticals coming down the pipeline. Because of interference from governments around the world little new work is being done on antibiotics. They have eliminated or seriously reduced the profit potential which is one of the reasons bacteria are getting out of control. We need to stop vilifying those people who are saving millions and millions of lives because they wish to make a lot of money while doing it. The alternative is that they will be forced out of business. And people will die the tens of millions. RK

Pfizer drug may offer hope for rheumatoid arthritis patients
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients with active, progressive disease will be happy to learn that a needle-free treatment option may be available in the near future.

FDA approves new lupus drug Benlysta: a good start
Until recently, patients diagnosed with active, autoantibody-positive lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), were treated with decades-old sub-optimal therapies such as aspirin, anti-malarials (Plaquenil), corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Topamax and pregnancy: A tricky mix
Researchers have known for some time that a pregnant woman taking anti-convulsive medications faced a greater risk of bearing a child with a cleft palate. On Friday, the FDA went further, specifically warning women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant about Topamax (topiramate). Federal officials said that data from the North American Antiepileptic Drug Registry showed Topamax doubled or tripled the risk of cleft palate and cleft lip when taken during the first trimester compared

Study: Fewer unplanned pregnancies with extended birth-control prescriptionsThe journal Obstetrics and Gynecology offers a new and intriguing study of 84,401 low-income California women taking birth control pills. Researchers wanted to know if giving Medi-Cal patients a year's worth of pills at one time, rather than a one to three months' supply, would reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy and the number of abortions..

Should pediatricians say bye-bye to unvaccinated tykes?
Friday's Medpage Today carried a story about a growing phenomenon: more and more pediatricians are refusing to see children whose parents choose not to vaccinate them. The doctors argue that they cannot in good conscience place their other patients at risk by exposing them in their waiting rooms to unvaccinated children.

Japan sending mixed messages about vaccine safety
Four days after investigating the deaths of four Japanese children who died within days of receiving vaccines against pneumonia (Prevenar) and meningitis (ActHIB), the country's heath ministry has said that it found no link between the children's deaths and the vaccines. Yet it is continuing to suspend their use.

FDA to look into at-home gene tests
On Friday the FDA acknowledged that it was reconsidering whether to permit pharmacies and drug stores to sell at-home genetic testing kits.

Brave New World on children’s soccer fields?
Yesterday the AP offered its readers a rather creepy story about at-home genetic testing intended to determine if children have certain genes associated with improved athletic performance. The article cites the example of a father who "counseled" his soccer-loving nine-year-old daughter about what her test results might mean before submitting a specimen to find out about her chances of someday playing on a U.S. Olympic team.

Small study says new blood test may better diagnose Down syndrome
Down syndrome, characterized by varying degrees of intellectual impairment and distinguishing facial features, as well as other internal maladies that often contribute to a shortened life expectancy, is caused by carrying three copies (trisomy) of chromosome 21 instead of two.

Blood money?: Lawyers and patients argue bone marrow should be saleableLast week the Los Angeles Times reported on a fascinating ongoing legal saga: a three-judge panel of a federal appellate court is now considering the latest motions from the Institute for Justice, a Libertarian legal foundation, which is challenging laws prohibiting individuals from selling their bone marrow.

California considers cancer warnings for wine, beer and everything else thereCalifornia's state EPA is considering applying its Proposition 65 to alcohol. Under Proposition 65, substances "known to the State of California" to be "carcinogens" can only be sold with warning labels, and since excess alcohol can cause liver cancer and may raise breast cancer risk, the Prop. 65 board is contemplating adding warning labels to all bottles of wine, beer and spirits sold in the Golden State.

To chlorinate or not to chlorinate: That should not be the question
A new Wisconsin bill sponsored by state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) and Rep. Erik Severson (R-Osceola) - who is, sorry to say, a physician - aims to repeal a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) rule requiring all municipal water systems to disinfect their drinking water by chlorination.

My Take - It really must be true; stupid can't be fixed.  In South America a number of years ago environmental activists convinced leaders to eliminate chlorine from their water supplies because they claimed it caused cancer.   Here's is what would have happened if they had left in the water.  It would have saves thousands of lives that were lost as a result of these leaders listening to green nutcases and prevented tens of thousands from being sickened.  In the third world the poverty is so bad that being sick even for a little while can have very serious negative long term consequences to these poor people.  I would llike to know if the activists were prosecuted for these deaths?  Surely, if it wasn't a crime against humanity it was at the very least depraved indifference!  RK

Startling eating disorder statistics
In the largest and most comprehensive survey of eating disorders yet, a sample consisting of more than 10,000 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 yielded surprising and disturbing information: over half a million U.S. adolescents have an eating disorder.

A shot of quackery: starvation diet incorporates hCG hormone treatment
The New York Times and ABC's Nightline both reported that one of the latest weight-loss fads has dieters crowding doctors' offices for $1000 shots of the pregnancy hormone hCG to supplement a 500 calorie-a-day diet regimen.

More plastic fears leached by TIME
An alarmist TIME article presents yet another dubious Environmental Health Perspectives study as factual.

Erin Brockovich Redux — Wasn’t Once Enough?
An Associated Press article that ran yesterday should strike fear into the hearts of logicians, scientists and those devoted to improving public health: Erin Brockovich is back in her old stomping grounds of Hinkley, California, once again making claims about the dangers of hexavalent chromium. We at ACSH claim no special knowledge of Brockovich's motives. Yet we can't help but wonder why it took an AP reporter until the fifteenth paragraph of her sympathetic take

Dr. Whelan refutes proposal to ban soda purchases using food stamps on BBC
In an interview for BBC, ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan challenges the validity of a recent request by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bar residents who receive food stamps from using them to purchase soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

Add cream, sugar and a lower risk of stroke to your coffee
It turns out that a morning cup of joe may not only put a pep in your step, but it may also reduce your risk of stroke, according to a new study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

New study says normal blood pressure may actually be higher than current recommendations
A new meta-analysis concludes that up to 100 million Americans diagnosed with prehypertension do not actually face an increased risk of blood-pressure related health consequences.

The truth about snus health effects
While speaking to over 30 University of North Carolina Wilmington students, Paul Turner Jr., director of the N.C. Spit Tobacco Education Program and former director of the CDC's oral health division, haphazardly groups various smokeless nicotine products, including dip, snuff and snus, into one category - harmful to human health - despite each having its own risk profile.


If there is a health scare today, the American Council on Science and Health will most likely have the answer by tomorrow; and for members it will appear in your e-mail. No effort on your part, except to read the answer. All that the ACSH is interested in are the facts and they are prepared to follow them wherever they lead. Who can ask for more?  Please Donate Now!


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