Sunday, December 4, 2011

American Council on Science and Health, 2011: Week 48

The presence of linked articles here are merely a way of showing what is going on, whether I agree or disagree with the positions presented. Rich Kozlovich


Dr. Ross on The Hill
The U.S. Senate is currently considering a call for further tightening of our country's already restrictive - and effective - chemical safety laws. In an op-ed for The Hill, ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross explains how the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the key lobbyists for this unnecessary measure, has based its campaign on misinformation fueled by fear.


Family link to breast cancer is questioned
In what comes as a surprise to both scientific thought and conventional wisdom, a recent study suggests that, for women ages 40 to 49, a family history of breast cancer makes no difference in their rates of invasive disease.


Progress against malaria
Malaria is still one of the leading causes of death in sub-Saharan Africa, but great progress is being made.


B alert for stealth vitamin deficiency
A deficiency of the vitamin B12 can cause a host of problems, from fatigue to poor memory, that can be misdiagnosed simply as symptoms of aging. Jane Brody's column in The New York Times reports this week on the importance of recognizing how frequently a B12 deficiency can develop as people age, as well as the importance of detecting and treating this problem before it progresses, since B12-deficiency nerve damage can be irreversible.

Americans thinking bigger, getting bigger
Americans are not only heavier than they were two decades ago, but their perceptions of their ideal weight have ballooned as well.

Big Brother for big kids?
Does a severely obese child qualify as a case of parental abuse and neglect? County caseworkers in Ohio say yes.


One bad apple juice don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl
We thought the arsenic in apple juice scare had ended up in the unfounded scares graveyard, but headlines in today’s news took us by surprise. In a revival of this juice scare, Consumer Reports has announced that about 10 percent of the samples of apple and grape juice that they tested had levels of arsenic exceeding federal standards for drinking water.

This follows on the heels of a widely discredited piece by Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show, who claimed in September that some apple juice contained excessive levels of arsenic. Scientists quickly pointed out that Dr. Oz had not distinguished between organic and inorganic arsenic — an important distinction, because organic arsenic is considered to be non-toxic. The FDA responded with a statement explaining that most of the arsenic in apple juice comes in the harmless organic form; the agency and other experts called Dr. Oz’s report “irresponsible and misleading” for creating hype and fear around a perfectly safe product…….Dr. Elizabeth Whelan is concerned that the FDA’s sudden reversal may set off needless anxiety among parents; she questions the agency's decision to reverse its initial stance on the basis of what she considers a dubious study.

ACSH’s Dr. Ruth Kava agrees that this small study, which has not been peer-reviewed, has been taken out of context. “They are jumping to a conclusion that will affect millions of people, all based on one non-peer-reviewed study,” she says. As ACSH advisor Dr. Allison Muller points out, “Further analyses of these data are needed before we can say that the amount of inorganic arsenic found in these foods is enough to cause any of the supposed health risks.”

My Take I have felt for a long time that Dr. Oz is a loon. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t presenting some valid information. However, just because there is something of value there doesn’t give them a pass on stuff in which he has no expertise and being a doctor doesn’t make anyone an expert on everything. All of that is what I call the “He made the trains run on time” fallacy. An old German guy used to tell me that Hitler was a great man because he made the trains run on time. Just because Hitler made the trains run on time didn’t give him a pass on the rest of life. And as far as I am concerned that applies to these TV doctors who can only stay on the air and make all of that lovely, lovely money by maintaining an audience. That means they have to entertain as well as inform. Part of being entertaining is being outrageous, and then they lend themselves to outrageous scare mongering.


Back pain compounded by wallet pain
In a small but concerning study, researchers report that doctors may not always make MRI recommendations with their patient's best interests in mind. According to the study, presented at the Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago, doctors who own an MRI scanner may be more likely to recommend an unnecessary back scan than if they had no financial interest in the procedure.

Don’t drill, baby, drill
New technology in dentistry might seem like an unquestionably good thing. But as dentists are using these technologies more and more often to detect and treat problems that may not need to be treated, patients - and some dentists - are becoming concerned.


For Tylenol, dose and overdose aren’t that different
It's not widely known, but acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) is a significant cause of liver damage when the recommended dosage is exceeded.

A few powerful meds can cause big problems
Four common medications are responsible for the majority of adverse drug reactions in older Americans, a study just published in The New England Journal of Medicine has found.

Pfizer is nursing a fat lip(itor)
Pfizer's exclusive right to sell the blockbuster drug Lipitor (atorvastatin) ended yesterday. With the expiration of Pfizer's patent, the door is now open for generics to enter the market. Given that Lipitor earned $13 billion at its peak, and that 3 million Americans currently take the cholesterol-lowering drug, that market is enormous.

My TakeWhen I was in NYC for the premiere of 3Billion and Counting I met a number of people there involved in third world health issues. Naturally I had views that I just had to share with them….surprise! My comments started by saying that in this case greed is good. I think that surprised them so much that it gave me time to lay foundation for my views.

One of the things that I discussed was this whole business about patents on life saving pharmaceuticals. There is a big push all around the world to change how things are done in this manner by taking some patent protections away in some areas and not giving patent protections in others. My view was that if patent protections were weakened or eliminated then humanity would suffer far more than now. In point of fact if there is no patent protection; if there is no profit; then there is no product.

Pharmaceutical companies are in business to make money….lots of money, and they need to make tons of money just to build financial reserves for new research. They also want to make a lot of money for themselves….and as a result they devote themselves to discovering new drugs….so….greed is good.

I then went on to point out that the primary reason for patents wasn’t to offer exclusive protection for a limited time in order to get companies to make money. That was a secondary purpose; the primary purpose was to put new products in the market place, whether it was drugs, chemicals or mechanical devices of every kind. Why? Because once out there they would improve life and help create a better economy. Eventually those products would become public domain and everyone and anyone could produce them. That would help create an even bigger economy. In short….what I called greed is in reality enlightened self interest….and that is a good thing all around. It is also why we here in the U.S. produce most of the new pharmacueticals that save so many lives over a broad specturm of afflictions. It isn’t perfect, but in this world the best we can hope for is the best possible imperfection.


For stopping smoking, practice (plus lozenges) does not make perfect
We're always eager to hear the results of smoking cessation trials, hoping for some rare good news on this subject. But the latest trial of nicotine therapy has us baffled.


Get your booster vaccine: Whooping cough spreads across Long Island
Today's breaking news is not good: An outbreak of whooping cough (pertussis) that began in one Long Island town in June has spread to more than a dozen districts in Suffolk County.

Don’t play chicken
The chickenpox vaccine doesn't protect only the inoculated child; it also protects infants who are too young to be vaccinated but for whom the disease is especially dangerous.

Doctor knows best and should tell parents so
Speaking of getting your children vaccinated on schedule, a disconcerting trend in some pediatric practices has been reported in a new study: Over half of pediatricians surveyed report that they are willing to alter a child's immunization schedule at a parent's request.


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