Coast to Coast and Around the World

Through our Internet Service Center we are able to serve customers no matter where they live. Visit our Internet Service Center or call us at 239.591.4565 or email us

Monday, May 31, 2010

Big Pharma recall shows industry's ugly side

Big Pharma recall shows industry's ugly side
by William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.

Painkillers are dangerous enough for adults... but give them to kids, and you'll set them off on a lifelong path of overtreatment and overdoses.

So when they announced a recall of children's meds recently, I wanted to throw a party. Get these things off the shelves -- and keep them off!

Our kids won't get sicker. If anything, they'll get stronger.

McNeil PPC, a division of Johnson & Johnson, was forced to yank 40 of the most common and utterly unnecessary children's meds. These drugs -- including children's versions of Tylenol, Motrin and Benadryl -- had more problems than I can name in this space.

It took the FDA 17 pages to list them all!

The feds found bacterial contamination in the raw materials used to make these drugs, and tiny particles of who-knows-what in the meds themselves. They also found problems with "strength, quality and purity," which covers just about everything that could go wrong with a drug.

And if you think these meds come from state-of-the-art labs where people in white coats and facemasks quietly tiptoe around in pristine rooms, you've been watching too much television.

The feds found that these children's meds were being made in filthy, grimy labs -- places where duct tape was used to keep insulation over exposed copper pipes and the manufacturing equipment was covered in dust.

And testing? They don't need no stinkin' testing! The feds said the company didn't bother testing these drugs for contamination... but how could they? The company didn't even have a testing lab for these meds!

In all, the feds found at least 20 serious problems at the Pennsylvania plant where these drugs were thrown together. Other problems included everything from security to quality control to a failure to follow up on complaints.

Parents and grandparents are screaming betrayal, but c'mon -- is this really a surprise? It's not the first time, and I can give you my guarantee that it won't be the last.
Wow! Reading things like this article can make us PROUD to have access to products from a company which:

  • Does over 80,000 annual quality control tests.

  • 100 clinical studies published in peer reviewed journals
    75 top notch scientists

  • Dozen of patents

  • 20 year Landmark Study conducted by University of California Berkeley School of Public Health verifies that long term Shaklee users have markedly better health
    than those who took other brand multivitamins as well as those who took no vitamins at all.

  • Guarantees potency through third party verification of botanical ingredients

  • Guarantees purity with 350 contaminant tests conducted on EACH new botanical ingredient

  • Contains no artificial flavors or sweeteners, no dyes, trans fats, hidden fillers, banned substances, Chlorine Bleach & no animal testing

  • 100% Satisfaction guaranteed

  • The Shaklee Difference: NATURALLY PROVEN EFFECTIVE FOR OVER 50 YEARS! Always Safe, Always Works, Always Green!

    Contact us for more information on how you can help your family to a healthier life & a better life!

  • Bunny<>Sam 239-591-4565

Friday, May 28, 2010

Chemicals in our bodies, & What We Can Do - CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL VIEW

Untested Toxic Chemicals in Your Home? Yes They Are. - Toxic Ignorance is Not Bliss -

Why I'm Outraged About BPA and Other Chemicals, & What We Can Do

We live in a society that, if anything, seems too full of rules and regulations. But that means we can trust the products that come to market; they’ve been analyzed and researched and exposed to exhaustive, long-range testing, right?

Wrong. Most of the synthetic chemicals we live with—and some are so pervasive that they are now in the bodies of virtually all Americans—are under-tested and under-regulated. Those bottles, those non-stick pans, shampoos and lotions, those cleaning products—so much of the stuff of everyday life—may, in fact, be harmful to our health. All those times I nestled a warm bottle into my hungry child’s mouth, I may have been exposing him to toxic substances.

"Without agreeing to it...we have become the chemical industry’s guinea pigs."

You're only as healthy as you can be when your home is as healthy as it can be. That's why home should be the safest, cleanest, healthiest place in the whole world.

Get Clean Products: Always Green - Always Works -Always Safe -
Watch Video Here: >>>

Sloan Barnett on BGTV on Going Green with Shaklee Get Clean

Are YOU interested in alternatives that is safe for YOU, the planet AND save you lots of $$?
Come at 7PM on Monday, Jun 7th, to learn how you can have a healthier life & a better life RSVP!

10202 Vanderbilt Dr
NE corner at 102nd Ave
Naples, Fl 34108

Or, better yet, contact us today!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Drug Companies Busted For Fooling Mother Nature

Some of you have been asking about the May 4th 2010

announcement by GlaxoSmithKline that they were

suspending a clinical trial of their resveratrol drug

because of safety concerns.

Some of the articles went so far to say that people

should be cautious about taking resveratrol supplements

until these safety issues had been resolved.

Let me make this perfectly clear!

The "resveratrol" drug referred to in these articles is

not resveratrol itself!

But let's start at the beginning.

The story started when scientists at Harvard screened

over 500,000 chemicals to find which would be most

effective at turning on anti-aging genes.

They were looking for a drug that they could patent and

sell to a drug company for big bucks - not a naturally

occurring botanical nutrient.

But what they found was that resveratrol, a nutrient

that is found naturally in red wine, was the most

effective compound out of those 500,000 that they

screened at turning on the anti-aging genes.

That was great news for those of you who are using

resveratrol supplements, but it was bad news for them

because they couldn't patent it and, therefore,

couldn't sell it to a drug company.

But all was not lost. There is a time-tested process

for dealing with this dilemma.

You just make a chemically modified derivative of the

natural compound and, if it works, you patent the

chemical derivative and sell it to a drug company.

So that's what the scientists at Harvard did. They made

a chemical derivative of resveratrol called SRT501,

showed that it also turned on the anti-aging genes,

patented it and sold it to Sirtris Pharmaceuticals for

$500 million. Sirtris, in turn, sold it to

GlaxoSmithKline for $720 million.

As I said, this is a frequently used process. Many

successful drugs have been obtained this way, but the

process is also fraught with perils.

The problem is that the chemically modified derivative

is often not metabolized in the same way as the

original and frequently can be toxic in unexpected


In fact, the failure rate for this process is quite

high. Most of the chemical derivatives fail during

clinical trials for one reason or another. It is only

on a very rare occasion that these chemically modified

derivatives make it through clinical trials and become

a successful drug.

Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that SRT501

displayed unexpected toxicity that caused

GlaxoSmithKline to halt clinical trials of the drug.

But, SRT501 is not resveratrol and the toxicities of

this drug have nothing to do with resveratrol.

Resveratrol is a completely natural nutrient found in

grapes, red wine and other foods. SRT501 is a man-made

chemical derivative of resveratrol.

Sometimes it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature!

To Your Health!

Dr. Stephen G Chantey

Sunday, May 23, 2010

VIVIX will make you live longer and feel younger

Monday Evening May 24th at 7PM We will be doing a health sciences program on the most significant advance in medical science in my lifetime.

Health and Longevity - What Makes VIVIX Different - Look 25 years Younger and Live 25 Years Longer
Resveratrol on ABC News with Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters is presenting cutting edge research on a TV special on ABC called "Live to be 150... Can You Do It?" The claims by some researchers suggest that we could live all the way up to a 1,000 years or even never die. Even a sceptic will agree that it looks like the majority of babies born today will live to see 100 in the future.

In this video, Dr. David Sinclair shows Barbara Walters a protein that is linked to our aging process. There was a specific gene that is activated by resveratrol commonly referred to as the "survival" or "longevity gene". The antioxidant found that gives it the red and purple color in red wine is called resveratrol. Sinlair is working on concentrating resveratrol in a pill to increase the dosage you get from wine. The research showed a high fat diet mouse lived just as long as a healthy fed mouse. He thinks resveratrol could have the same effect in people. Over 100 million dollars are invested in research and added that Type 2 diabetes was treated by resveratrol. Aging is a set of disease, and if you reverse the aging process you prevent the diseases.


After last week's expose on the supposed claims of acai and mangosteen many of you asked me about the Vivix difference.

Some of you went so far as to ask whether one couldn't say exactly the same things about Vivix that were said about the acai and mangosteen products.

In response to your many requests, let me talk about what makes Vivix so special.

Let me start with the top two ingredients in Vivix - the resveratrol which is found in red wine and ellagic acid which comes from muscadine grapes.

These aren't the only beneficial ingredients in Vivix, but if I talked about all of the ingredients this letter would be several pages long.

Resveratrol and ellagic acid are both members of a naturally occurring class of compounds called polyphenols.

Polyphenols are found in fruits, green tea, coffee, chocolate and many other foods. They are excellent anti-oxidants and have a number of potential health benefits.

So it is perhaps no surprise that almost any food containing polyphenols has been turned into a supplement by someone. And most of these companies have a long list of supposed health benefits for their products.

So what is the Vivix difference? What makes Vivix different from all of these other polyphenol products?

#1: There are over 3000 published scientific studies on the top two ingredients in Vivix (1800 on resveratrol and 1200 on ellagic acid) compared to a handful for the other products on the market.

#2: Resveratrol is the only polyphenol that has been shown to delay the aging process and lead to a longer, healthier life span. This has been demonstrated in every organism tested - from yeast to worms to fruit flies to mice.

The anti-aging benefits of resveratrol have nothing to do with it's anti-oxidant potential. It is because it binds to a protein that turns on the body's anti-aging genes.

That is why you shouldn't pay any attention to the hype about the anti-oxidant potential of the other polyphenol products on the market. There is no proven link between anti-oxidants and longevity!

Of course, anti-oxidants do play many useful roles in the body, but Vivix has a higher ORAC
score (the standard measure of anti-oxidant potential) than most of those other products anyway.

So to the extent that anti-oxidant potential is important Vivix trumps the other products.

#3: The polyphenols in Shaklee's patent-pending polyphenol blend have all been shown to activate the same anti-aging genes as resveratrol.

That is not true of the polyphenols found in many of the other products on the market.

#4: The polyphenols in Shaklee's polyphenol blend are ten times more effective than resveratrol alone at preventing the formation of advanced glycation end particles (AGE particles) - a key mechanism of cellular aging.

With most of the other products on the market you don't know whether they affect any of the key mechanisms of cellular aging - because the companies simply haven't tested for them.

Of course, all of the studies I have referred to so far were done in cell culture or with animals. Here is where the biggest Vivix difference comes in:

#5: The are over 12 published clinical studies with resveratrol alone.

Of course, it will never be possible to do a clinical study on longevity - humans simply live too long.

However, the clinical studies have shown exactly the same beneficial effects as the animal studies. This means that resveratrol has the same effect in humans that it has in animals.

For example, resveratrol has been shown to turn on the same anti-aging genes, decrease the same markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improve insulin sensitivity, decrease platelet aggregation and increase the elasticity of the aorta in both humans and mice.

This tells us that resveratrol works in exactly the same way in humans that it does in animals.

We simply don't know whether that is true for most of the other products in the marketplace.

#6: Shaklee has done a clinical study proving that Vivix is effective.

Shaklee released the preliminary results this past August and the complete results will be available as soon as the study has been published.

I discussed those results in a previous "Tips From The Professor" health letter.

The study breaks new ground in that it shows how Vivix can reverse some of the detrimental effects of a bad diet.

However, the bottom line is that this study showed that Vivix has the effect on anti-aging genes in the human body that would be expected from all of the previous animal and human studies on resveratrol and ellagic acid.

And, of course, the real significance of this finding is that is shows that the amount of resvertrol and other polyphenols in Vivix is appropriate and that the polyphenols are bioavailable (That means that they get into your bloodstream in sufficient quantities to have a beneficial effect on your health).

Hopefully, this will help you understand why Vivix is light years ahead of the competition.

To Your Health! Dr. Stephen G Chaney

Dr Chaney has been a Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics in the Dept of Nutrition, UNC Chapel Hill for nearly three decades, teaching Medical Students & runs an active Cancer Research Program. Dr Chaney is published in 95 peer reviewed studies in respected medical journals.

Friday, May 21, 2010

My Personal Experience with Lipitor

The day after our visit with Dr. Star, we had an appointment with Dr. George Babbitt (whose code-name alas, won’t make sense without a background in American Literature).

As it happened, this first appointment with a physician did absolutely nothing to ease my growing suspicion of modern cardiac medicine. He reiterated the message from Dr. Ghoul: my medical needs could not be met in Naples and I was being referred to a surgeon in Tampa for a heart transplant.

I asked Dr. Babbitt about the Lipitor dose he had prescribed me. By then, I had already found for myself the safety and efficacy FDA studies that originally approved Lipitor. These studies had used doses of 2.5 mg and 5 mg daily. Yet interestingly, the lowest available dose of Lipitor manufactured by the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, was 10mg – double the highest dose used in the FDA studies for safety and effectiveness!

If that wasn’t enough to raise my eyebrows, Dr. Babbitt prescribed 80 mg daily doses of Lipitor – 16 to 32 times the doses used in the FDA studies. I told my doctor about my research on the FDA studies.

“You shouldn’t worry about those FDA reports – I have studies showing that 80 milligrams per day are safe, and more effective than those lower doses.”

I asked him who had done his studies.

I didn’t tell him that I was already aware of the Pfizer sponsored studies.
I suspect that Dr. Babbitt never saw the actual Pfizer studies, but had simply taken the word of a “detail man,” a representative of a drug manufacturer who calls on doctors to promote the products from that company. I wondered if he would be so enthusiastic about high-dose Lipitor had he actually read the study.

In 2005, the New England Journal of Medicine published a report funded by Pfizer that described the efficacy of high-dose Lipitor in cardiovascular disease. The authors concluded that high-dose Lipitor (80 mg) was superior to a ‘standard dose’ (10 mg) in reducing negative cardiovascular events in coronary heart disease (CHD) patients. Ten thousand CHD patients participated in the five-year study. Half of them received a daily dose of 80 mg of Lipitor, while the other half received a control, ‘standard’ dose of 10 mg/day.

The Pfizer study observed a reduction in major cardiovascular events in the high-dose Lipitor group (heart attack and/or stroke) over the course of the experiment. In the 80 mg group, 8.7% (or 434 patients) suffered a major cardiovascular event, compared to 10.9% (or 548 patients) of patients in the standard 10 mg group. When you do the math, that’s a difference of 2.2% – or 104 fewer cardiovascular incidences in the high-dose Lipitor group – a statistically significant improvement over standard treatment. Furthermore, only 126 patients in the 80 mg/day Lipitor group died from cardiovascular problems during the study, as compared to 155 in the 10 mg/day group.

I was surprised to discover that treatments were tested and put into practice with such small efficacy ratings. But, 2.2% is better than nothing, right?

Not when you take into account that in this same study, 158 deaths due to non-cardiovascular events occurred in the 80 mg/day group (3.2%), versus only 127 (2.5%) in the lower dose condition. Cancer, particularly lung and gastrointestinal, was responsible for more than half of these deaths. Hemorrhagic stroke and other, non-traumatic causes contributed to the remainder of non-cardiovascular deaths in both treatment conditions. However, this difference of 31 more deaths from non-cardiac related causes in the high-dose group brings the total deaths to 282 in the 10 mg Lipitor group, and 284 in the 80 mg group – statistically, that means there was no difference at all. Your chances of survival were actually 1 in 5000 lower if you took a high dose rather than a standard dose of Lipitor.

Between the actual statistics revealing the serious side effects associated with Lipitor and other statin drugs, and the failure to improve overall survival rate by using higher doses of Lipitor, I suspected that my doctor, had he actually been up on the facts, could have made a wiser choice. However, the professional to whom I was entrusting my life didn’t seem to be as well informed on the subject as I was. Later I was to discover that this isn’t unusual; it doesn’t take much research to be better informed than some doctors.

However, it was easy to understand why the drug salesmen from Pfizer only talked about the (tiny) advantage in reducing cardiac events and failed to mention the fact that there was no overall advantage in reducing death.

So why were the patients in the high-dose Lipitor study dying more frequently from non-cardiovascular causes? At this point, the mechanisms underlying this effect are unclear – we just can’t tell. But as one expert in the field wrote, “we need further reassurance as to the safety of this approach before making this higher dose a standard practice in CHD pharmacological therapy.” Despite their prevalence, the statins are not the only available method that can be used to lower LDL-C levels. Hybrid therapies with other drugs, natural therapies, and nutrition can all be effectively used for this purpose. But my highly paid doctor didn’t know that, either.

Muscle Pain and Weakness
Shortly after I left the hospital, I began experiencing significant pain in my arms and shoulders. I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but the pain was incessant, a relentless twenty-four hours a day, every long day. On a severity scale from 1 to 10 (10 being excruciating, 1 being a hangnail), my pain fluctuated between 6 and 8. I struggled to dress myself, to the point that I stopped wearing T-shirts because of the sheer pain it caused to pull them on over my head. I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t get comfortable, and even when I did slip into unconsciousness, pain shook me awake again. The upper body exercises I needed to do in preparation for surgery were impossible.

We hired two massage therapists to try to help me cope with the pain. They each came to our home once a week. On Thursdays came Frau Athena, so named after the Greek goddess of wisdom, war, arts, industry, justice and skill. Frau Athena was a German woman, as beautiful, strong, highly skilled, intelligent, and kind as the goddess. She knew that pain was part of the process of healing through massage, and showed no qualms about inflicting pain on me. Once, I muttered a weak joke (through clenched teeth) as she kneaded my aching muscles, “I told you, I don’t know where the diamonds are.”

“Dustin Hoffman from Marathon Man,” she quickly responded, amused by the attempt.
Frau Athena always ended my sessions by simply being gentle and kind; more than once did I fall asleep during the soothing massage & foot rub during the last few minutes of her therapy sessions.

On Saturdays came my other massage therapist – code name Bruce Lee – the Buddhist who practices massage therapy as if it were a martial art. A long-time friend of the family, he has a kind heart, but his technique is more competent than kind – he all but beat me up for my own good, a sort of ‘tough love’ massage therapy. Bruce Lee knows more about physiology and human chemistry than most of the doctors I’d been working with. He’s worked several years with Dr. Nobel; together, the two of them probably make the best alternative medicine team in the world. What’s more, Bruce Lee is not just a massage therapist: he also owns a successful Pilates studio and acts as a health consultant to some of the most wealthy and successful people in the nation. I joked that he could always moonlight for the CIA because he could get terrorists to talk by administering therapy, and no one could call it torture because he is licensed to do it.

But in addition to my constant pain, I was rapidly growing weaker and my muscle mass was noticeably deteriorating. I was horrified to see my usually well-muscled upper arms begin to wrinkle and shrink. After only a month of drug treatment, Bunny and I compared photos taken of me in the hospital to my appearance at that current point.

The difference in muscle size and tone was painfully obvious. On the first anniversary of my heart attack, as I finish this manuscript, I am still experiencing pain in my arms and shoulders. After less than six weeks on the medications, I had already researched the effects of Lipitor, and realized that the pain and weakness was not a side effect of the heart attack – but a side effect of the drug being used to treat the heart.

When that realization sank in, I actually got frightened. See, some of the side effects from statin drugs have killed people, and those same side effects were characterized by muscle pain and weakness. I knew that just because I had the symptoms, it didn’t necessarily guarantee that my medicine was going to prove fatal. However, my irrational self began to think, “The heart attack didn’t kill me but now the doctors and drug companies are going to kill me in a slow and agonizing way. Better to have died quickly, if I have to die anyway. If I am going to die someday let’s just get it over with”

by Sam and Bunny Sewell

*Doctors, drugs & surgery are not always the best answer!
*Includes scientifically validated Total Life Saving Regimen!
*NOW ~ You can buy our new book:

Healthy, Natural Alternatives to Drugs and Surgery
and have it sent directly to family & friends at:
$19.95 PRINT ~ only $12.50 as PDF download
For autographed copies, call 239/591-4565

View videos at:

Read our famous Chapter 16 on Stress Management at

Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good? - MUST READ!

Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good?
Research suggests that, except among high-risk heart patients, the benefits of statins such as Lipitor are overstated
by John Carey

Martin Winn's cholesterol level was inching up. Cycling up hills, he felt chest pain that might have been angina. So he and his doctor decided he should be on a cholesterol-lowering medication called a statin. He was in good company. Such drugs are the best-selling medicines in history, used by more than 13 million Americans and an additional 12 million patients around the world, producing $27.8 billion in sales in 2006. Half of that went to Pfizer (PFE) for its leading statin, Lipitor. Statins certainly performed as they should for Winn, dropping his cholesterol level by 20%. "I assumed I'd get a longer life," says the retired machinist in Vancouver, B.C., now 71. But here the story takes a twist. Winn's doctor, James M. Wright, is no ordinary family physician. A professor at the University of British Columbia, he is also director of the government-funded Therapeutics Initiative, whose purpose is to pore over the data on particular drugs and figure out how well they work. Just as Winn started on his treatment, Wright's team was analyzing evidence from years of trials with statins and not liking what it found.

Yes, Wright saw, the drugs can be life-saving in patients who already have suffered heart attacks, somewhat reducing the chances of a recurrence that could lead to an early death. But Wright had a surprise when he looked at the data for the majority of patients, like Winn, who don't have heart disease. He found no benefit in people over the age of 65, no matter how much their cholesterol declines, and no benefit in women of any age. He did see a small reduction in the number of heart attacks for middle-aged men taking statins in clinical trials. But even for these men, there was no overall reduction in total deaths or illnesses requiring hospitalization—despite big reductions in "bad" cholesterol. "Most people are taking something with no chance of benefit and a risk of harm," says Wright. Based on the evidence, and the fact that Winn didn't actually have angina, Wright changed his mind about treating him with statins—and Winn, too, was persuaded. "Because there's no apparent benefit," he says, "I don't take them anymore."

Wait a minute. Americans are bombarded with the message from doctors, companies, and the media that high levels of bad cholesterol are the ticket to an early grave and must be brought down. Statins, the message continues, are the most potent weapons in that struggle. The drugs are thought to be so essential that, according to the official government guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), 40 million Americans should be taking them. Some researchers have even suggested—half-jokingly—that the medications should be put in the water supply, like fluoride for teeth. Statins are sold by Merck (MRK) (Mevacor and Zocor), AstraZeneca (AZN) (Crestor), and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) (Pravachol) in addition to Pfizer. And it's almost impossible to avoid reminders from the industry that the drugs are vital. A current TV and newspaper campaign by Pfizer, for instance, stars artificial heart inventor and Lipitor user Dr. Robert Jarvik. The printed ad proclaims that "Lipitor reduces the risk of heart attack by patients with multiple risk factors for heart disease."

So how can anyone question the benefits of such a drug?

For one thing, many researchers harbor doubts about the need to drive down cholesterol levels in the first place. Those doubts were strengthened on Jan. 14, when Merck and Schering-Plough (SGP) revealed results of a trial in which one popular cholesterol-lowering drug, a statin, was fortified by another, Zetia, which operates by a different mechanism. The combination did succeed in forcing down patients' cholesterol further than with just the statin alone. But even with two years of treatment, the further reductions brought no health benefit.

The second crucial point is hiding in plain sight in Pfizer's own Lipitor newspaper ad. The dramatic 36% figure has an asterisk. Read the smaller type. It says: "That means in a large clinical study, 3% of patients taking a sugar pill or placebo had a heart attack compared to 2% of patients taking Lipitor."

Now do some simple math. The numbers in that sentence mean that for every 100 people in the trial, which lasted 3 1/3 years, three people on placebos and two people on Lipitor had heart attacks. The difference credited to the drug? One fewer heart attack per 100 people. So to spare one person a heart attack, 100 people had to take Lipitor for more than three years. The other 99 got no measurable benefit. Or to put it in terms of a little-known but useful statistic, the number needed to treat (or NNT) for one person to benefit is 100.

Compare that with, say, today's standard antibiotic therapy to eradicate ulcer-causing H. pylori stomach bacteria. The NNT is 1.1. Give the drugs to 11 people, and 10 will be cured.

A low NNT is the sort of effective response many patients expect from the drugs they take. When Wright and others explain to patients without prior heart disease that only 1 in 100 is likely to benefit from taking statins for years, most are astonished. Many, like Winn, choose to opt out.

Plus, there are reasons to believe the overall benefit for many patients is even less than what the NNT score of 100 suggests. That NNT was determined in an industry-sponsored trial using carefully selected patients with multiple risk factors, which include high blood pressure or smoking. In contrast, the only large clinical trial funded by the government, rather than companies, found no statistically significant benefit at all. And because clinical trials themselves suffer from potential biases, results claiming small benefits are always uncertain, says Dr. Nortin M. Hadler, professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a longtime drug industry critic. "Anything over an NNT of 50 is worse than a lottery ticket; there may be no winners," he argues. Several recent scientific papers peg the NNT for statins at 250 and up for lower-risk patients, even if they take it for five years or more. "What if you put 250 people in a room and told them they would each pay $1,000 a year for a drug they would have to take every day, that many would get diarrhea and muscle pain, and that 249 would have no benefit? And that they could do just as well by exercising? How many would take that?" asks drug industry critic Dr. Jerome R. Hoffman, professor of clinical medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Drug companies and other statin proponents readily concede that the number needed to treat is high. "As you calculated, the NNT does come out to about 100 for this study," said Pfizer representatives in a written response to questions. But statin promoters have several counterarguments. First, they insist that a high NNT doesn't always mean a drug shouldn't be widely used. After all, if millions of people are taking statins, even the small benefit represented by an NNT over 100 would mean thousands of heart attacks are prevented.

That's a legitimate point, and it raises a tough question about health policy. How much should we spend on preventative steps, such as the use of statins or screening for prostate cancer, that end up benefiting only a small percentage of people? "It's all about whether we think the population is what matters, in which case we should all be on statins, or the individual, in which case we should not be," says Dr. Peter Trewby, consultant physician at Darlington Memorial Hospital in Britain. "What is of great value to the population can be of little benefit to the individual." Think about buying a raffle ticket for a community charity. It's for a good cause, but you are unlikely to win the prize.

Statin proponents also argue that when NNTs are calculated after the drugs have been taken for just three or five years, they're misleadingly high. Pfizer says that even though only one heart attack was prevented per 100 people in its trial, "it may be a possibility that several or even all [100] benefit" by reducing their risk of a future heart attack. And the benefit grows when the drugs are taken for more years, backers believe. "It does not make sense to take a statin for five years," says Dr. Scott M. Grundy, chair of the NCEP committee that called for more aggressive statin treatment and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. "When you take a cholesterol-lowering drug, it is a huge commitment," he says. "You take it for life." Grundy figures the chances of having a heart attack over the course of a lifetime are about 30% to 50% (higher for men than women). Statins, he argues, reduce that risk by about 30%. As a result, taking the drugs for 30 years or more would bring 9 to 15 fewer heart attacks for every 100 people. So only 7 to 11 people would have to take the drugs for life for one to benefit.

Critics reply that this rosier picture requires several leaps of faith. A 30% reduction in heart attacks "is the best-case scenario and not found in many of the studies," says Wright. What's more, statins have been in use now for 20 years, and there's little evidence yet that the NNT decreases the longer people take the drug. Most important, the statin trials of people without existing heart disease showed no reduction in deaths or serious health events, despite the small drop in heart attacks. "We should tell patients that the reduced cardiovascular risk will be replaced by other serious illnesses," says Dr. John Abramson, clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School and author of Overdosed America.

In its written response, Pfizer did not challenge this key assertion: that the drugs do not reduce deaths or serious illness in those without heart disease. Instead, the company repeated that statins reduce the "risk of death from coronary events" and added that Wright's analysis was not published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

If we knew for sure that a medicine was completely safe and inexpensive, then its widespread use would be a no-brainer, even with a high NNT of 100. But an estimated 10% to 15% of statin users suffer side effects, including muscle pain, cognitive impairments, and sexual dysfunction. And the widespread use of statins comes at the cost of billions of dollars a year, not just for the drugs but also for doctors' visits, cholesterol screening, and other tests. Since health-care dollars are finite, "resources are not going to interventions that might be of benefit," says Dr. Beatrice A. Golomb, associate professor of medicine at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine.

What would work better? Perhaps urging people to switch to a Mediterranean diet or simply to eat more fish. In several studies, both lifestyle changes brought greater declines in heart attacks than statins, though the trials were too small to be completely persuasive. Being physically fit is also important. "The things that really work are lifestyle, exercise, diet, and weight reduction," says UCLA's Hoffman. "They still have a big NNT, but the cost is much less than drugs and they have benefits for quality of life."

Difficult risk-benefit questions surround most drugs, not just statins. One dirty little secret of modern medicine is that many drugs work only in a minority of people. "There's a tendency to assume drugs work really well, but people would be surprised by the actual magnitude of the benefits," says Dr. Steven Woloshin, associate professor of medicine at Dartmouth Medical School.

A good example: Beta-blockers are seen as essential in treating congestive heart failure. Yet studies show that an average of 24 people must take the drugs for seven months to prevent one hospitalization from heart failure (thus, an NNT of 24). And 40 people must take it to prevent one death (NNT of 40). "Even for medications we consider effective, we see NNTs in the 20s or higher," says Dr. Henry C. Barry, associate professor of family medicine at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

For many other drugs, the NNTs are large. Take Avandia, GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) drug for preventing the deadly progression of diabetes. The blockbuster, with $2.6 billion in U.S. sales in 2006, made headlines in 2007 when an analysis of clinical trial data showed it increased the risk of heart attacks. The largely untold story: There's little evidence the drug actually helps patients. Yes, Avandia is very good at lowering blood sugar, just as statins lower cholesterol levels. But that doesn't translate into preventing the dire consequences of diabetes, including heart disease, strokes, and kidney failure. Clinical trials "failed to find a significant reduction in cardiovascular events even with excellent glucose control," wrote Dr. Clifford J. Rosen, chair of the Food & Drug Administration committee that evaluated Avandia, in a recent commentary in The New England Journal of Medicine. "Avandia is almost the poster child for everything wrong with our system," says UCLA's Hoffman. "Its NNT is close to infinite."

Regarding Avandia, Dr. Murray Stewart, Glaxo's vice-president for clinical development, says that the evidence of its benefits against heart disease and other major complications of diabetes "is still inconclusive." But the drug has other benefits, he argues, such as delaying the need to take insulin.

When other medications widely believed to be effective were put to the test of a clinical trial, they flunked. Hormone replacement therapy didn't protect against heart disease. Anti-psychotic drugs were actually less effective than a placebo in reducing aggression in patients with intellectual disability.

The truth about drugs' effectiveness wouldn't be as worrisome if consumers and doctors had an accurate picture of the state of knowledge and could make rational decisions about treatments. Studies by Darlington Hospital's Trewby, UBC's Wright, and others, however, show that patients expect far more than what the drugs actually deliver.

Why the mismatch? Some of the blame goes to the way results are presented. A 36% decline in heart attacks sounds more dramatic and important than an NNT of 100. "It comes as a shock to see the NNT," says Dr. Barnett S. Kramer, director of the office of medical applications of research at the National Institutes of Health. Drug companies take full advantage of this; they advertise the big percentage drops in, say, heart attacks, while obscuring the NNT. But when it comes to side effects, they flip-flop the message, dismissing concerns by saying only 1 in 100 people suffers a side effect, even if that represents a 50% increase. "Many physicians don't know the NNT," says Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, a pediatric cardiologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and a fan of using NNTs.

The whole statin story is a classic case of good drugs pushed too far, argues Dr. Howard Brody, professor of family medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The drug business is, after all, a business. Companies are supposed to boost sales and returns to shareholders. The problem they face, though, is that many drugs are most effective in relatively small subgroups of sufferers. With statins, these are the patients who already have heart disease. But that's not a blockbuster market. So companies have every incentive to market their drugs as being essential for wider groups of people, for whom the benefits are, by definition, smaller. "What the shrewd marketing people at Pfizer and the other companies did was spin it to make everyone with high cholesterol think they really need to reduce it," says Dr. Bryan A. Liang, director of the Institute of Health Law Studies at the California Western School of Law and co-director of the San Diego Center for Patient Safety. "It was pseudo-science, never telling you the bottom-line truth, [which is] that the drugs don't help unless you have pre-existing cardiovascular disease." The marketing worked, Liang says, "even in the face of studies and people screaming and yelling, myself included, that it is not based on evidence."

Pfizer replies that the industry is "highly regulated" and that every message in ads and marketing "accurately reflects Lipitor's labeling and the data from the clinical trials."

Drugmakers, however, do make sure that the researchers and doctors who extol the benefits of medications are well compensated. "It's almost impossible to find someone who believes strongly in statins who does not get a lot of money from industry," says Dr. Rodney A. Hayward, professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. The NCEP's 2004 guideline update garnered headlines by recommending lower targets for bad cholesterol, which would put more Americans on the drugs. But there was also a heated controversy in the medical community over the fact that 8 of the 9 experts on the panel had financial ties to industry. "The guideline process went awry," says Michigan State's Barry. He and 34 other experts sent a petition of protest to the National Institutes of Health, saying the evidence was weak and the panel members were biased by their ties to companies.

The appearance of conflict of interest is "very important to organizations like ours, and we are all taking it seriously," responds NIH official and NCEP coordinator Dr. James I. Cleeman. "But the facts of the science were entirely correct."

Yet Cleeman's confidence is not universally shared. To statin critics, Americans have come to rely too much on easy-to-grasp health markers. People like to have a metric, such as cholesterol levels, that can be monitored and altered. "Once you tell people a number, they will be fixated on the number and try to get it better," says University of Texas' Brody. Moreover, "the American cultural norm is that doing something makes us feel better than just watching and waiting," says Barry. That applies to doctors as well. They are being pushed by the national guidelines, by patients' own requests, and by pay-for- performance rules that reward physicians for checking and reducing cholesterol. "I bought into it," Brody says. Not to do so is almost impossible, he adds. "If a physician suggested not checking a cholesterol level, many patients would stomp out of the office claiming the guy was a quack."

Yet Brody changed his mind. "I now see it as myth that everyone should have their cholesterol checked," he says. "In hindsight it was obvious. Duh! Why didn't I see it before?"

Cholesterol is just one of the risk factors for coronary disease. Dr. Ronald M. Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at the Oakland Research Institute, explains that higher LDL levels do help set the stage for heart disease by contributing to the buildup of plaque in arteries. But something else has to happen before people get heart disease. "When you look at patients with heart disease, their cholesterol levels are not that [much] higher than those without heart disease," he says. Compare countries, for example. Spaniards have LDL levels similar to Americans', but less than half the rate of heart disease. The Swiss have even higher cholesterol levels, but their rates of heart disease are also lower. Australian aborigines have low cholesterol but high rates of heart disease.

Moreover, says MSU's Barry, cholesterol-lowering medications other than statins "do not prevent heart attacks or strokes." Take Zetia, which blocks absorption of cholesterol from the intestines. Marketed by Merck and Schering-Plough, the drug brought in $1.5 billion in 2006, with sales climbing 25% in the first half of 2007, says IMS Health (RX). The companies combined it with a statin to create a drug called Vytorin, with over $2 billion in sales in 2007.

In an eagerly awaited trial completed in 2006, the companies compared Zetia plus a statin with a statin alone in patients with genetically high cholesterol. But the drugmakers delayed announcing the results, prompting scientific outrage and the threat of a congressional investigation. The results, finally revealed on Jan. 14, showed the combination of Zetia and a statin reduced LDL levels more than the statin alone. But that didn't bring added benefits. In fact, the patients' arteries thickened more when taking the combination than with the statin alone. Skip Irvine, a spokesman for the joint venture, says the study was small and insists there's a "strong relationship between lowering LDL cholesterol and reducing cardiovascular death."

If cholesterol lowering itself isn't a panacea, why is it that statins do work for people with existing heart disease? In his laboratory at the Vascular Medicine unit of Brigham & Women's Hospital in Cambridge, Mass., Dr. James K. Liao began pondering this question more than a decade ago. The answer, he suspected, was that statins have other biological effects.

Since then, Liao and his team have proved this theory. First, a bit of biochemistry. Statin drugs work by bollixing up the production of a substance that gets turned into cholesterol in the liver, thus reducing levels in the blood. But the same substance turns out to be a building block for other key chemicals as well. Think of a toy factory in which the same plastic is fashioned into toy cars, trucks, and trains. Reducing production of the plastic cuts not only the output of toy cars (cholesterol) but also trucks and trains. In the body, these additional products are signaling molecules that tell genes to turn on or off, causing both side effects and benefits.

Liao has charted some of these biochemical pathways. His recent work shows that one of the trucks, as it were—a molecule called Rho-kinase—is key. By reducing the amount of this enzyme, statins dial back damaging inflammation in arteries. When Liao knocks down the level of Rho-kinase in rats, they don't get heart disease. "Cholesterol lowering is not the reason for the benefit of statins," he concludes.

The work also offers a possible explanation of why that benefit is mainly seen in people with existing heart disease and not in those who only have elevated cholesterol. Being relatively healthy, their Rho-kinase levels are normal, so there is little inflammation. But when people smoke or get high blood pressure, their Rho-kinase levels rise. Statins would return those levels closer to normal, counteracting the bad stuff.

Add it all together, and "current evidence supports ignoring LDL cholesterol altogether," says the University of Michigan's Hayward. In a country where cholesterol lowering is usually seen as a matter of life and death, these are fighting words. A prominent heart disease physician and statin booster fumed at a recent meeting that "Hayward should be held accountable in a court of law for doing things to kill people," Hayward recounts. NECP's Cleeman adds that, in his view, the evidence against Hayward is overwhelming.

But while the new analyses may rile those who have built careers around the need to reduce LDL, they also point the way to using statins more effectively. Surprisingly, both sides in the debate agree on the general approach. For anyone worried about heart disease, the first step should always be a better diet and increased physical activity. Do that, and "we would cut the number of people at risk so dramatically" that far fewer drugs would be needed, says Krauss. For those people who still might benefit from treatment, a recent analysis by Hayward shows that statins might better be prescribed based on patients' risk of heart disease, not on their LDL cholesterol levels. The higher the risk, the better the drugs seem to work. "If two patients have the same risk, the evidence says they get the same benefit from statins, whatever their LDL levels," Hayward says.

Ways to fine-tune this approach may be coming soon. The company that first sequenced the human genome, Celera Group (CRA), has found a genetic variation that predicts who benefits from the drugs. Perhaps 60% of the population has it, says Dr. John Sninsky, vice-president of discovery research, and for everyone else, the NNT is sky-high. "It does not relate at all to your cholesterol level," Sninsky adds.

If the drugs were used more rationally, drugmakers would take a hit. But the nation's health and pocketbook might be better off. Could it happen? Will data on NNTs, the weak link to cholesterol, and knowledge of genetic variations change what doctors do and what patients believe? Not until the country changes the incentives in health care, says UCLA's Hoffman. "The way our health-care system runs, it is not based on data, it is based on what makes money."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hazardous Chemical in Our Canned Food

Report: Hazardous Chemical in Our Canned Food

Andrew Schneider
Senior Public Health Correspondent

AOL News (May 18) -- The health hazards of bisphenol A are well documented, but now scientists report that the chemical used in the coating of cans to protect food from corrosion and bacteria is pervasive in the canned goods on our kitchen shelves.

Researchers collected 50 cans of food from pantries in 19 states and Ontario and analyzed them at a top food safety lab in San Francisco. BPA was found in 92 percent of the samples, according to a 24-page study called "No Silver Lining," which was released today by the National Workgroup for Safe Markets.

The top level of BPA was 1,140 parts per billion -- believed to be the highest level ever found in the U.S. It was detected in Del Monte French Style Green Beans from a pantry in Wisconsin, the report said.

Other high scorers included Walmart's Great Value Green Peas from a store in Kentucky, and Healthy Choice Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup from a pantry in Montana, according to researchers from the coalition of more than 17 public and environmental health organizations.

"Our study details potential exposure to BPA from not just one can, but from meals prepared with canned food and drink that an ordinary person might consume over the course of a day," Mike Schade, a co-author of the study, told AOL News.

The investigator for the Center for Health, Environment & Justice added that the study showed that "real-life meals involving one or more cans of food can cause an individual to ingest levels of BPA that have been shown to cause health effects in laboratory animal studies."

The unopened cans of fruits, vegetables, beans, soups, tomato products, sodas and milk were sent to Anresco Laboratories to determine the concentrations of BPA in the food within the can. Only the food and not the packaging was tested.

The selection of canned food and drink represents a menu that an ordinary North American person might consume over the course of a day.

"It takes as little as one serving of canned foods to expose a person to levels of BPA that have been shown to cause harm in laboratory animals. This is especially troublesome if the person eating the canned foods is pregnant, because fetuses are especially vulnerable to BPA's effects," report co-author Bobbi Chase Wilding, organizing director of Clean New York, told AOL News.

Hundreds of studies -- by both government and academic researchers -- have shown that exposure of animals to low doses of BPA has been linked to cancer, abnormal behavior, diabetes and heart disease, infertility, developmental and reproductive harm, obesity and early puberty, a known risk factor for breast cancer. Also, BPA exposure is particularly of concern for pregnant women, babies and children.

The researchers warned that in addition to the risk of BPA in canned food, people are also exposed to the chemical composite in common products like polycarbonate water and baby bottles, 5-gallon water coolers, and printer inks, toners and thermal receipt paper (used by most gas stations and supermarkets) where BPA can rub off paper onto our hands and into our mouths.

What you pay for the food and where you buy it appears to have no impact on the presence of the contaminant. This study also shows that BPA levels in canned food cannot be predicted by the price of the product, the quality or relative nutrition value of the product, or where it was purchased.

In related action, Sen. Dianne Feinstein today repeated her demand for a ban on BPA in food and beverage containers. The California Democrat wants the ban included in the Food Safety Modernization Act, a bill moving through the Senate that looks at important external food contaminants like E. coli and salmonella, but not at packaging additives like BPA.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Research Links Pesticides With ADHD In Children

Research Links Pesticides With ADHD In Children

CHICAGO (AP) - CHICAGO (AP) — A new analysis of U.S. health data links children's attention-deficit disorder with exposure to common pesticides used on fruits and vegetables.

While the study couldn't prove that pesticides used in agriculture contribute to childhood learning problems, experts said the research is persuasive.

"I would take it quite seriously," said Virginia Rauh of Columbia University, who has studied prenatal exposure to pesticides and wasn't involved in the new study.

More research will be needed to confirm the tie, she said.

Children may be especially prone to the health risks of pesticides because they're still growing and they may consume more pesticide residue than adults relative to their body weight.

In the body, pesticides break down into compounds that can be measured in urine. Almost universally, the study found detectable levels: The compounds turned up in the urine of 94 percent of the children.

The kids with higher levels had increased chances of having ADHD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a common problem that causes students to have trouble in school. The findings were published Monday in Pediatrics.

The children may have eaten food treated with pesticides, breathed it in the air or swallowed it in their drinking water. The study didn't determine how they were exposed. Experts said it's likely children who don't live near farms are exposed through what they eat.

"Exposure is practically ubiquitous. We're all exposed," said lead author Maryse Bouchard of the University of Montreal.

She said people can limit their exposure by eating organic produce. Frozen blueberries, strawberries and celery had more pesticide residue than other foods in one government report.

A 2008 Emory University study found that in children who switched to organically grown fruits and vegetables, urine levels of pesticide compounds dropped to undetectable or close to undetectable levels.

Because of known dangers of pesticides in humans, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits how much residue can stay on food. But the new study shows it's possible even tiny, allowable amounts of pesticide may affect brain chemistry, Rauh said.

The exact causes behind the children's reported ADHD though are unclear. Any number of factors could have caused the symptoms and the link with pesticides could be by chance.

The new findings are based on one-time urine samples in 1,139 children and interviews with their parents to determine which children had ADHD. The children, ages 8 to 15, took part in a government health survey in 2000-2004.

As reported by their parents, about 150 children in the study either showed the severe inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity characteristic of ADHD, or were taking drugs to treat it.

The study dealt with one common type of pesticide called organophosphates. Levels of six pesticide compounds were measured. For the most frequent compound detected, 20 percent of the children with above-average levels had ADHD. In children with no detectable amount in their urine, 10 percent had ADHD.

"This is a well conducted study," said Dr. Lynn Goldman of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a former EPA administrator.

Relying on one urine sample for each child, instead of multiple samples over time, wasn't ideal, Goldman said.

The study provides more evidence that the government should encourage farmers to switch to organic methods, said Margaret Reeves, senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network, an advocacy group that's been working to end the use of many pesticides.

"It's unpardonable to allow this exposure to continue," Reeves said.


On the Net:



Thursday, May 13, 2010

deep corruption of health care reform process

Resignation of top Pharma lobbyist reveals deep corruption of health care reform process
by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The President and CEO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Billy Tauzin, recently announced that he will be resigning from the organization on June 30, 2010. The organization, which represents top drug companies like Pfizer and Merck, has been one of the primary backers of the Democrats' health care reform legislation, making Tauzin's resignation a significant setback.

Considered by many as a vital catalyst for getting the legislation passed, Tauzin guided PhRMA into a deal with the Obama Administration and top Senate Democrats to pay $80 billion over 10 years in the form of price cuts and other concessions in exchange for the 30 million or more new customers who would be added to the government insurance plan.

The agreement would have garnered significant new profits for the $315 billion drug industry but with Tauzin's leadership coming to a close, the entire scheme could fall apart.

"PhRMA played a key role and without Billy Tauzin, who is trusted by both parties, there … it doesn't help the cause for getting the reform through," lamented lobbyist James Thurber, head of the Center for Congressional and Presidential studies at American University.

In 2009, PhRMA spent over $26 million lobbying for the deal, but according to some insiders, there were allegedly issues between him and other executives in the company that led to his resignation. Others claim that he railroaded the company's efforts by squandering money and upset members.

The bigger story here is the fact that supposed health care "reform" is being steered by the pharmaceutical industry which has been salivating at the prospect of gaining millions of new customers. Since such "reform" will be entirely controlled by the government, which is controlled by industry lobbyists, the new health care system would be run entirely by drug companies!

The current system is broken and in need of true reform, but what drug companies have been concocting behind the scenes in cooperation with the Obama Administration would only make things worse by eliminating all freedom of choice in healthcare.

Big Pharma already exerts significant control in the current system which is dominated by corrupt insurance giants but under the government option, the drug industry would have full control over dictating what kinds of treatment Americans could receive. Pharmaceutical drugs would most certainly be the method of choice.

True reform would unhinge the revolving door between government and Big Pharma, dismantle the corrupt insurance system, and give freedom of choice back to individuals where it belongs.

Sources for this story include:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Enhancing the Placebo

Enhancing the Placebo
The placebo effect is, potentially, one of the most powerful forces in medicine. The challenge is to harness that power in a reliable and systematic way.

First, what is the placebo effect?

It’s the improvement in health that some patients experience because of the feeling that they are receiving medical care. A classic example comes from drug trials. Suppose patients are randomly divided into three groups: those who get no treatment, those who get the drug that’s being tested, and those who get the placebo treatment — typically a pill that looks and tastes like the drug, but doesn’t contain it, or any other active ingredient.

The idea is that the “no treatment” group shows how many people would have gotten better by themselves; the “placebo” group shows any effect of participating in medical rituals (like taking pills); the “drug” group shows any effect of the drug over and above the effect of medical rituals. Simple.

Or not. Different studies of the placebo effect report wildly different results. One survey of 117 trials of two ulcer drugs found that, depending on the trial, patients in the placebo group had anywhere from zero to a 100 percent recovery rate.

The drugs also varied in their effectiveness from one trial to the next; sometimes patients on the placebo did better than those on the drug. Intriguingly, the results varied from country to country, with Brazilians showing no placebo effect and Germans having a strong one. Why? No one knows, but it doesn’t appear to be because of anything inherently German: trials of drugs for hypertension found a weaker placebo effect in Germany than in other countries.

The problem is that humans are not machines, and emotions are not abstractions. Hope and expectation, anxiety and fear, trust and suspicion — these cause physiological changes in the brain that can interact with drugs, changing their effects.

This is even true for a drug like morphine. Yes, it’s a powerful painkiller. But it’s far more powerful if a doctor marches in, tells you he’s going to give you morphine, and injects you, than it is if it is administered secretly by a hidden machine.

Differences in hopes and fears, and the resulting physiological changes, may explain why the placebo effect varies so much: individual experiences matter. Some people are more anxious than others, or may find the thought of a particular disease especially alarming. Moreover, in different cultures, similar diseases may be treated with different degrees of gravity.

Expectations around medical rituals may also explain why placebos tend to be more powerful if the pills are expensive or you take them several times a day; why injections and exotic machines are more powerful than pills; and why surgery is more powerful than injections. (In placebo surgery, the patient is anaesthetized, cut, and sewn back up again, but no manipulation is done. For obvious reasons, there have been few tests of this. But when it has been done, it has often produced good results for the patients.)

However, the most reliable source of a strong placebo effect appears to be: the doctor.

Placebo treatments are more powerful if your doctor believes in them. They are also more powerful if the doctor tells you so. In one study, for example, patients who had just come out of surgery were given a saline infusion, and — whenever they asked for it — the pain killer buprenorphine. However, some patients were told the saline infusion was a powerful painkiller, others that it might be one, while a third group wasn’t told anything. Over the course of three days, those in the “know-nothing” group asked for more buprenorphine than those in the “maybe” group, who in turn asked for more than those told they were getting a real drug.

Which highlights a problem. Since deception of patients is unethical, some argue that the placebo has no place in the actual practice of medicine.

But the matter is more nuanced. As the morphine example shows, the placebo effect also enhances “real” treatments. So the key is to figure out how to maximize that enhancement without lying. One idea would be to deliberately increase the element of formal ritual in medicine. Studies of “alternative” therapies show that strong placebo effects can be induced by ritual. Indeed, in mainstream medicine, surgery is the treatment most surrounded by ritual; perhaps this is one reason it appears to be the most powerful placebo.

To be sure, many questions still need to be answered. But one thing is clear. It’s time we stopped treating the placebo effect as a nuisance — something that rational humans shouldn’t have. Instead, we must learn to purposefully enhance its power.

(For details on sources, please see the notes attached to the online version of this column.)

Olivia Judson, a columnist for, is a research fellow in biology at Imperial College London.

Drug side effects "neglected, restricted, distorted and silenced" by drug companies

Drug side effects "neglected, restricted, distorted and silenced" by drug companies
by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) New research shows that information on potentially lethal side effects of the blockbuster painkiller Vioxx was "neglected, restricted, distorted and silenced" by pharmaceutical giant Merck, writes London-based physician and author John Briffa in The Epoch Times.

Vioxx was first approved for sale in 1999 and quickly became a top seller. Yet according to an analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, clear evidence existed by 2001 that the drug increased the risk of cardiovascular thrombotic events, including heart attack, stroke and death. This evidence was contained in studies conducted by and for Merck.

"Most of the information we are using in this study was never published, or if it was published, they never included the key safety data," co-author Harlan Krumholz said.

It has been proven Merck promoted Vioxx through the popular industry practice of ghostwriting articles and scientific studies for publication in respected medical journals. In addition, a recent article in the British Medical Journal shows that the company employed tactics designed to "neutralize" and "discredit" doctors who tried to raise concerns about Vioxx.

Yet Merck still insists that it did not know about the heart risks of Vioxx until 2004, when it voluntarily withdrew the drug from the market.

Practices like those Merck used to promote Vioxx are widespread in the drug industry, as revealed by numerous recent lawsuits against companies for concealing drug side effects, illegally promoting drugs for off-label uses, and using questionable marketing techniques.

Briffa notes that Merck may now be engaged in an attempt to save the image of the cholesterol-reducing drug ezetimibe (also marketed as Vytorin), which does not appear to reduce the risk of heart attacks but may actually increase the risk of cancer death.

"Never mind, though, because it appears Merck has managed to find some scientists who claim that this association is likely to be due to chance, even though the stats show it's very unlikely to be due to chance," Briffa writes. "Let's hope history isn't repeating itself."

Sources for this story include: .

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer

New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer

The President’s Cancer Panel is the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream, so it is astonishing to learn that it is poised to join ranks with the organic food movement and declare: chemicals threaten our bodies.

The cancer panel is releasing a landmark 200-page report on Thursday, warning that our lackadaisical approach to regulation may have far-reaching consequences for our health.
I’ve read an advance copy of the report, and it’s an extraordinary document. It calls on America to rethink the way we confront cancer, including much more rigorous regulation of chemicals.
Traditionally, we reduce cancer risks through regular doctor visits, self-examinations and screenings such as mammograms. The President’s Cancer Panel suggests other eye-opening steps as well, such as giving preference to organic food, checking radon levels in the home and microwaving food in glass containers rather than plastic.

In particular, the report warns about exposures to chemicals during pregnancy, when risk of damage seems to be greatest. Noting that 300 contaminants have been detected in umbilical cord blood of newborn babies, the study warns that: “to a disturbing extent, babies are born ‘pre-polluted.’ ”

It’s striking that this report emerges not from the fringe but from the mission control of mainstream scientific and medical thinking, the President’s Cancer Panel. Established in 1971, this is a group of three distinguished experts who review America’s cancer program and report directly to the president.

One of the seats is now vacant, but the panel members who joined in this report are Dr. LaSalle Leffall Jr., an oncologist and professor of surgery at Howard University, and Dr. Margaret Kripke, an immunologist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Both were originally appointed to the panel by former President George W. Bush.

“We wanted to let people know that we’re concerned, and that they should be concerned,” Professor Leffall told me.

The report blames weak laws, lax enforcement and fragmented authority, as well as the existing regulatory presumption that chemicals are safe unless strong evidence emerges to the contrary.
“Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety,” the report says. It adds: “Many known or suspected carcinogens are completely unregulated.”

Industry may howl. The food industry has already been fighting legislation in the Senate backed by Dianne Feinstein of California that would ban bisphenol-A, commonly found in plastics and better known as BPA, from food and beverage containers.

Studies of BPA have raised alarm bells for decades, and the evidence is still complex and open to debate. That’s life: In the real world, regulatory decisions usually must be made with ambiguous and conflicting data. The panel’s point is that we should be prudent in such situations, rather than recklessly approving chemicals of uncertain effect.

The President’s Cancer Panel report will give a boost to Senator Feinstein’s efforts. It may also help the prospects of the Safe Chemicals Act, backed by Senator Frank Lautenberg and several colleagues, to improve the safety of chemicals on the market.

Some 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and they include Democrats and Republicans alike. Protecting ourselves and our children from toxins should be an effort that both parties can get behind — if enough members of Congress are willing to put the public interest ahead of corporate interests.

One reason for concern is that some cancers are becoming more common, particularly in children. We don’t know why that is, but the proliferation of chemicals in water, foods, air and household products is widely suspected as a factor. I’m hoping the President’s Cancer Panel report will shine a stronger spotlight on environmental causes of health problems — not only cancer, but perhaps also diabetes, obesity and autism.

This is not to say that chemicals are evil, and in many cases the evidence against a particular substance is balanced by other studies that are exonerating. To help people manage the uncertainty prudently, the report has a section of recommendations for individuals:
Particularly when pregnant and when children are small, choose foods, toys and garden products with fewer endocrine disruptors or other toxins. (Information about products is at or

For those whose jobs may expose them to chemicals, remove shoes when entering the house and wash work clothes separately from the rest of the laundry.
Filter drinking water.
Store water in glass or stainless steel containers, or in plastics that don’t contain BPA or phthalates (chemicals used to soften plastics). Microwave food in ceramic or glass containers. {my added note--caution: plastic lids in microwave}
Give preference to food grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers and growth hormones. Avoid meats that are cooked well-done.
Check radon levels in your home. Radon is a natural source of radiation linked to cancer.