Archive for the ‘health’ Category
Health, healthcare, science of food, and related topics
Cautiously encouraging is better than despair, no?
Alzheimer’s disease, with its inexorable loss of memory and self, understandably alarms most of us. This is especially so since, at the moment, there are no cures for the condition and few promising drug treatments. But a cautiously encouraging new study from The Archives of Neurology suggests that for some people, a daily walk or jog could alter the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or change the course of the disease if it begins.
For the experiment, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recruited 201 adults, ages 45 to 88, who were part of a continuing study at the university’s Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Some of the participants had a family history of Alzheimer’s, but none, as the study began, showed clinical symptoms of the disease. They performed well on tests of memory and thinking. “They were, as far as we could determine, cognitively normal,” says Denise Head, an associate professor of psychology at Washington University who led the study.
The volunteers had not had their brains scanned, however, so the Washington University scientists began their experiment by using positron emission tomography, an advanced scanning technique, to look inside the volunteers’ brains for signs of amyloid plaques, the deposits that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. People with a lot of plaque tend to have more memory loss, though the relation is complex.
(click here to continue reading How Exercise May Keep Alzheimer’s at Bay – NYTimes.com.)
Can’t hurt to walk a bit every day, why not do it?
Flying is stressful enough, but getting sick as a result of traveling is even worse.
Air travelers suffer higher rates of disease infection, research has shown. One study pegged the increased risk for catching a cold as high as 20%. And the holidays are a particularly infectious time of year, with planes packed full of families with all their presents—and all those germs.
Air that is recirculated throughout the cabin is most often blamed. But studies have shown that high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters on most jets today can capture 99.97% of bacterial and virus-carrying particles. That said, when air circulation is shut down, which sometimes happens during long waits on the ground or for short periods when passengers are boarding or exiting, infections can spread like wildfire.
One well-known study in 1979 found that when a plane sat three hours with its engines off and no air circulating, 72% of the 54 people on board got sick within two days. The flu strain they had was traced to one passenger. For that reason, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an advisory in 2003 to airlines saying that passengers should be removed from planes within 30 minutes if there’s no air circulation, but compliance isn’t mandatory.
Much of the danger comes from the mouths, noses and hands of passengers sitting nearby. The hot zone for exposure is generally two seats beside, in front of and behind you, according to a study in July in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(click here to continue reading Where Germs Lurk on Planes – WSJ.com.)
and even the security check-in area is a pit of filth and disease:
You think the plane is bad? Security checkpoints harbor a host of hazards as well, researchers say.
Jason SchneiderAirport security areas can make it easy to get sick. People are crowded together, and plastic storage bins that hold personal effects are not cleaned after each screening.
People get bunched up in lines, where there is plenty of coughing and sneezing. Shoes are removed and placed with other belongings into plastic security bins, which typically don’t get cleaned after they go through the scanner.
Layers of Weakness
So, other than having a healthy immune system, what to do?
According to Scott McCartney:
- Drink lots of water. Dry air is a ideal place for viruses, and plane air has hardly any humidity. You can go so far as to spray your own nasal passages to keep them moist.
- Clean your hands frequently.
- Avoid touching the seat-back pockets. Who knows what lurks there? Likewise be wary of the tray tables. Some viral particles can live for 24 hours.
- Aim your air vent in front of your face – it can keep airborne particles from landing on you. Well, possibly.
- Avoid airline pillows and blankets – they are rarely, if ever, sanitized.
Or else, be part of the 1%, and get a private plane…
Research continues on this dread disease, so don’t draw any drastic conclusions from this one study, but interesting nonethless.
“Earlier intervention will allow us to treat patients when they have much less disability and when it could still be possible to prevent or delay such [memory] losses,” said Howard Feldman, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s vice president of global clinical research for neuroscience.
The exact causes of Alzheimer’s are still unknown, but clumps of a sticky substance called amyloid and masses of tau protein in the brain are thought to be key factors in its development. Until recently, amyloid plaques and tau tangles could be seen only in the brain upon autopsy.
But during the past decade, the identification of biomarkers—proteins and other chemicals in the brain and spinal fluid associated with amyloid and tau levels—as well as better brain-scanning technology have provided a clearer picture of Alzheimer’s in living patients and how it progresses over time.
Increasingly, the evidence suggests that amyloid, which many researchers had fingered as likely contributing to memory loss in Alzheimer’s and which has been the most popular target of experimental drugs, may be most toxic early in the disease process, before symptoms appear.
It appears to trigger a cascade that causes tau protein—which normally serves to stabilize cell structure—to break down, form tangles and kill brain cells. The tau changes, many experts now believe, are at the heart of the dementia symptoms.
In one study presented at the Paris conference, Mayo’s Dr. Jack and his colleagues examined 298 patients spanning the cognitive spectrum from normal to severe Alzheimer’s dementia over the course of a year. Using brain scans and biomarker analyses, they found little change in amyloid among patients progressing toward Alzheimer’s. But there were substantial changes in tau and brain volumes, suggesting that they change later in the course of the disease than amyloid.
(click here to continue reading Research Points to Alzheimer’s Early Toll – WSJ.com.)
Mendenhall Glacier Melt Off
Simply and unequivocally criminal. Disgustingly craven, and a lot more besides. We wrote about this travesty back in November, 2008.
The EPA’s controversial 2008 decision not to regulate a drinking water contaminant long connected to impaired brain development and decreased learning capability in infants had more to do with the interests of the Bush administration than with scientific findings regarding its safety, according to a report (146 page PDF) released Tuesday by a congressional watchdog agency, the LA Times reports.
Perchlorate is a toxin in rocket fuel and fireworks, is present in most states’ drinking water, lettuce and milk, and is found in high concentrations near current and former military bases as a byproduct of weapons testing. The E.P.A. currently says it could be contaminating the public wells supplying anywhere from 5 million to 17 million Americans. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to look into the EPA’s evaluation of the known thyroid-disturbant, and found that the path to the no-regulation decision “used a process and scientific analyses that were atypical, lacked transparency, and limited the agency’s independence in developing and communicating scientific findings.”
Instead of the EPA’s usual process—which begins with creating a work group of “professional staff with relevant expertise from across the agency”—the Agency placed a “less inclusive, small group of high-level officials” in charge of the deliberations.
These high-level members included officials who answered directly to the White House, from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. NASA and the Department of Defense were part of the board as well.
Not included in the work group was the Office of Children’s Health Protection, a bureau essentially created for this purpose, despite the EPA’s conclusion of the risk perchlorate poses to pregnant women and children. The chemical can inhibit iodide uptake, causing increased the risk of neurodevelopmental impairment in fetuses of pregnant women, and contribute to developmental delays and decreased learning capability in infants and children, according to the report.
“Everyone who’s paying attention knows that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is acutely tuned-in to the political signals coming from the White House – so tuned-in that his conversations with the executive branch have become a form of highly privileged state secret,” Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope told NBC in 2008.
The GAO report also found significant flaws in the actual testing process. The work group chose to use data from a 2005 National Academy of Sciences report, which was based primarily on the results of a single two-week clinical study which did not include infants or children younger than six years old.
(click here to continue reading Bush Administration, Not Science, Prevented Regulation of Toxin In Drinking Water | TPMMuckraker.)
Luckily, the Obama administration is a huge improvement in this area at least, and reversed this Bush era mistake last February.
Cell phones are in the news, as the latest scientific-related worry causer. Our media thrives on such scary stories, whether or not they are factually true or not. I wouldn’t throw out your cellphone just yet…
Basically, the WHO put cell phones into the Group 2B category, meaning they are “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. Aiiiieee! Sounds scary… except that word “possibly”, it turns out, needs to be understood a little more quantitatively.
I poked around some news sites (like CNN and MSNBC), and while they aren’t over-hyping it, in my opinion they aren’t being entirely fair, either. The claims I’ve seen from people linking cell phones to brain cancer make it seem as if the connection is obvious, but the results from the WHO make it clear that’s not the case. There might be a connection, but if there is it’s not terribly clear. I’ll note the studies only appear to cover a time base of ten years; it’s not possible to know what happens after, say 15 or 20 years. Even then, other environmental factors dominate such studies, making teasing out a weak signal very difficult.
You may also wish to note what other things are categorized as Group 2B possible carcinogens, including gasoline, pickled vegetables, and (GASP!) coffee. My opinion here is that while a link between cell phones and brain cancer cannot be ruled out, without a strong correlation and a numerical statement about the odds, it seems very unlikely to me that such a connection is something to worry about. I’m far more worried about the dingus in traffic in front of me gabbing to his friend on his phone and causing an accident than I am about me getting brain cancer from my own.
(click here to continue reading Why I’m (still) not worried about my cell phone hurting my brain | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine.)
According to Rupert Murdoch’s paper of record, the GOP just needs to stick to their plan of destroying Medicare, and eventually voters will flock to their side. Hmm, well, that’s an option I guess.
Republican lawmakers reaffirmed Wednesday their embrace of a controversial Medicare overhaul despite an electoral setback, ensuring the federal health program will remain a divisive issue through the 2012 election.
Republicans responded to Democrat Kathy Hochul’s Tuesday victory in a traditionally Republican New York Congressional district by saying they needed to attack the Democrats’ Medicare position more forcefully, rather than back off their own plan.
“We need to make it a choice between a do-nothing approach that will ultimately destroy Medicare, and life-saving reforms,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R., Okla.). Added Rep. Cliff Stearns (R., Fla.): “It’s a wake-up call on how you frame it. It obviously wasn’t framed right.”
Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin in a closely watched House race in western New York State. The race gained national attention when Corwin announced she favored an overhaul of Medicare.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), who authored the Medicare plan, said Democratic attacks on his plan were effective in Tuesday’s election to fill an open House seat near Buffalo. “They are shamelessly demagoguing and distorting it,” Mr. Ryan said, adding that Republicans would have a better chance to make their case over the next 18 months.
(click here to continue reading GOP Sticks to Plan on Medicare – WSJ.com.)
The GOP continued its bloody walk into the Medicare buzzsaw Wednesday, when 40 out of 47 Senate Republicans voted in support of the House GOP budget, and its plan to phase out and privatize the popular entitlement program.
The test vote failed by a vote of 57-40. But the roll call illustrates that Medicare privatization — along with deep cuts to Medicaid and other social services — remains the consensus position of the GOP despite the growing political backlash against them.
Voting with all of the Democrats against debating the plan were Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) — both 2012 incumbents — along with Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against it because it wasn’t radical enough.
Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) did not vote.
Democrats intentionally scheduled the vote less than 24 hours after a Democrat won a special election in New York’s 26th — and heavily Republican — congressional district, on the strength of defending Medicare from a GOP onslaught. The outcome of that election heightened the political stakes, but sent few Republicans bolting for the exits.
“I’ve been surprised a lot of the times about how they’re voting here,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at a press conference after the vote.
(click here to continue reading Senate Republicans Vote Overwhelmingly To End Medicare | TPMDC.)
Parenthetical point: the WSJ used to attempt to be neutral in its non-editorial pages, but since Murdoch purchased it, that’s been scrapped. WSJ now operates in the Fox News model: note how many Democrats are quoted in the above article versus how many Republicans, and also notice that half the rest is regurgitated GOP talking points. Too bad. I dropped my print subscription, but am hanging on to the online WSJ because there is good business news there, sometimes.
How did Novak Djokovic conquer the tennis world?
Maybe the answer is as simple as this: Since last year, he’s swearing off pasta, pizza, beer, French bread, Corn Flakes, pretzels, empanadas, Mallomars and Twizzlers—anything with gluten.
It’s no secret that Djokovic has had a breakout season, or that he has been, by any reasonable standard, the world’s best athlete of 2011. On Sunday, he beat Rafael Nadal in the Rome Masters, his fourth-straight win over the Spaniard. It was his second win over Nadal on clay in two weeks, and again, amazingly, he did it without losing a set. The match ran Djokovic’s 2011 record to 37-0 with seven titles.
As the French Open begins Sunday, Djokovic’s amazing streak—the longest to start a season since 1984—is threatening to push Roger Federer (the winner of a record 16 Grand Slam titles) and Nadal (the French Open’s five-time champion) off the front pages. But the transformation from odd man out to invincible overlord also is leaving gobsmacked tennis fans searching for answers. Clearly something has clicked for the Serb. But what?
Djokovic’s serve, sloppy as recently as last season, is now precise, fluid and, at times, devastating. His forehand used to break down in tense moments; now he hits winners that seem to subscribe to undiscovered laws of physics. His backhand, always solid, is now impenetrable, even with Nadal’s famously high-bouncing forehand. And then there’s the gluten.
Last year, Djokovic’s nutritionist discovered that Djokovic is allergic to the protein, which is found in common flours. Djokovic banished it from his diet and lost a few pounds. He says he now feels much better on court.
(click here to continue reading Novak Djokovic’s Gluten-Free Ascendancy – WSJ.com.)
How many low-information voters regret their votes for economy-destroying, Medicare-ending, environment-despoiling Republicans now? Even some of the Teabaggers wish they had paid a bit more attention to the lying Republicans who asked for their votes…
Katrina Vanden Heuvel reports:
It’s been a common refrain of politicians in Washington for as long as the capitol has been unpopular: “It’s good to get outside the beltway, good to go get back to the real America.” But in recent days that cliché might feel a bit stale for Republican House members, who voted last month for Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal. Inside the beltway, Ryan is called “courageous,” a “visionary,” a “serious man,” for having the bravery to put forth a budget that pays for tax cuts for the wealthy by ending Medicare as we know it. Back home in his district, he’s becoming known as the leader of the most serious assault on seniors since President Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security.
In April, Ryan was greeted, not with the outsized praise of New York Times columnist David Brooks at his town hall in Milton, Wisconsin, but instead, with sustained boos. On Friday, according to Politico, he asked police to remove a man from his town hall because the man refused to stop yelling about the impact the Ryan budget would have on Medicare.
He’s not alone. In New Hampshire, the first six questions posed to Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH) were about his vote in favor of Ryan’s budget. “I’m not surprised it’s controversial,” said Bass of his vote. But for a man who won his seat during the 2010 Republican wave by a little more than 3,000 votes, it’s an open question as to whether his career can afford such controversy.
In addition to Ryan and Bass, at least six other GOPers have faced pointed questions and outright protest at town halls, reminiscent of the tea party anger seen at Democratic town halls in 2009. Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) arrived at his town hall greeted with signs that said “Hands Off Medicare.” The meeting became so contentious that police officers intervened to quiet the crowd. The New York Times described one such town hall as approaching “near chaos.” The Orlando Sentinel described another as reaching the level of “bedlam.”
Already, some members are backing away from their votes. By the end of Charlie Bass’s town hall, he already seemed to be wavering. “If there are certain facets of the budget that are manifestly unpopular, I think that should be taken into consideration… this is the beginning of a long conversation.” How manifestly unpopular is Ryan’s plan for Medicare? A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that more than 80 percent of all Americans disapprove of cuts to the program. A whopping 70 percent of Republicans opposed them, as well, making it one of the most unpopular positions supported by a national party in modern memory.
(click here to continue reading Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare! | The Nation.)
Amusing to contrast/compare the media and fake media1 response to contentious Town Halls in 2008 versus now. I don’t recall any police throwing out teabaggers.
Still waiting for Harry Reid to schedule a Senate vote on the Ryan ridiculousness so that Senate Republicans can face similar tough questions.
And the Ryan plan doesn’t do much, really, besides shift the burden the state level…
Enter the House Republicans’ budget proposal. Instead of a commitment to insure as many people as meet the criteria, it would substitute a set amount per state. Starting in 2013, the grant would probably equal what the state would have received anyway through federal matching funds, although that is not spelled out. After that, the block grant would rise each year only at the national rate of inflation, with adjustments for population growth.
There are several problems with that, starting with that inflation-pegged rate of growth, which could not possibly keep pace with the rising cost of medical care. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal payments would be 35 percent lower in 2022 than currently projected and 49 percent lower in 2030.
To make up the difference, states would probably have to cut payments to doctors, hospitals or nursing homes; curtail eligibility; reduce benefits; or increase their own payments for Medicaid. The problems do not end there. If a bad economy led to a sharp jump in unemployment, a state’s grant would remain the same. Nor would the block grant grow fast enough to accommodate expensive advances in medicine, rising demand for long-term care, or unexpected health care needs in the wake of epidemics or natural disasters. This would put an ever-tightening squeeze on states, forcing them to drop enrollees, cut services or pump up their own contributions.
This is not the way to go. The real problem is not Medicaid. Contrary to most perceptions, it is a relatively efficient program — with low administrative costs, a high reliance on managed care and much lower payments to providers than other public and private insurance.
The real problem is soaring medical costs. The Ryan plan does little to address that. The health care law, which Republicans have vowed to repeal, seeks to reform the entire system to deliver quality care at lower cost.
(click here to continue reading The Ryan Plan for Medicaid – NYTimes.com.)
- aka Fox News [↩]
I don’t let Lupus define me. Most of the people I encounter everyday don’t know I have it. But, I do, and for the first time since I was diagnosed 10 years ago, I am speaking up.
The fall of 2000 and the beginning of 2001 was a busy time for me. I was planning a March wedding, in college full-time, had both an internship and a part-time job. For most of that time, i was feeling run down and achy, which I attributed to my hectic life. However, I then developed what looked like a rash on my legs. After a week or so, when it didn’t go away, I had it checked out by my family doctor. He referred me to a specialist, a hematologist. The hematologist examined me, ran several tests and since the “rash” was actually inflamed blood vessels, he gave me a prescription for a corticosteroid (Wikipedia: prednisone). A few days later, while with my brother picking up his groomsmen tuxedo for my wedding, my Dr. called me with the results. All the test results pointed to Lupus (Wikipedia). He told me to enjoy my wedding and I would see him again a few weeks later. That was the first (of many) occasions where I told myself to bear up and focus on the positive.
Over the years, I have seen the specialist at least twice a year and have controlled a fairly mild case of the chronic disease. I have had two, healthy children, hold a full-time job that I love and lead a fairly normal life. However, there have been many days of pain. My joints are arthritic and achy. I run low-grade fevers often. I can’t spend much time in the sun and I sometimes am so fatigued that I can’t get enough sleep. Recently, I have had new symptoms that include pain and a heavy, tingly feeling in my legs. This may be from arthritis in my spine. (I’m waiting to get some lab work back.)
Besides a handful of short rounds of prednisone over the years, the drug that has given me the most relief has been Celebrex (Wikipedia). Celebrex is classified as a Cox2 inhibitor non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It suppresses the inflammation, so fevers, arthritis, and fatigue aren’t a problem while I am on the medication.
I was recently denied coverage of Celebrex by my health insurance company, Aetna. When the nurse called me with the news, I was shocked. My first thought was: how can I live the rest of my life in pain? My doctor’s office is still fighting the insurance company, but I am starting to lose hope that the drug will ever be covered. The out of pocket cost is $180/month. Aetna has specific criteria the patient must meet for the expensive drug to be covered. One of them is having documented gastrointestinal bleeding. In other words, I have to be bleeding internally from taking cheaper medications, in order to be on a more expensive one. Make sense? No.”
I would describe our healthcare system in one word: broken. Why should anyone, including the health insurance companies, make a profit from people being sick? Why aren’t more politicians trying to change this? I don’t want to fight this problem for the rest of my life. People who are really ill don’t have the time (and many don’t have the resources) to do so.
While I know that this blog post won’t change the system or make my pain go away, it feels good to put it in words.
Well, possibly. I wonder what percentage of U.S. rice is imported from China these days?
Move aside, melamine. Cadmium-tainted rice might be China’s new scare of the season.
In a recent study, researchers from the Nanjing Agricultural University found 10 to 60 percent of the rice sold in markets in six regions contained cadmium, a heavy metal associated with high blood pressure, fluid accumulation in the lungs and a potentially fatal softening of the bones.
In some samples, the cadmium level was found to be equal to five times of the legal maximum, the researchers said.
A China Daily report on the discovery is careful to include caveats.
For one thing, the report says, the pollution is confined to a few, mostly southern, regions. For another, the samples were taken in 2007 and 2008, according to the findings, originally published in Century Weekly magazine.
(click here to continue reading China’s Newest Food Scare? Cadmium-Tainted Rice – China Real Time Report – WSJ.)
Each year, federal inspectors find illegal levels of antibiotics in hundreds of older dairy cows bound for the slaughterhouse. Concerned that those antibiotics might also be contaminating the milk Americans drink, the Food and Drug Administration intended to begin tests this month on the milk from farms that had repeatedly sold cows tainted by drug residue.
But the testing plan met with fierce protest from the dairy industry, which said that it could force farmers to needlessly dump millions of gallons of milk while they waited for test results. Industry officials and state regulators said the testing program was poorly conceived and could lead to costly recalls that could be avoided with a better plan for testing.
In response, the F.D.A. postponed the testing
(click to continue reading F.D.A and Dairy Industry Spar Over Testing of Milk – NYTimes.com.)
The FDA even says, bluntly, that they don’t give a shit about consumers:
The F.D.A. said that it would confer with the industry before deciding how to proceed. “The agency remains committed to gathering the information necessary to address its concern with respect to this important potential public health issue,” it said in a statement.
Everyone needs a bit of extra B12, especially in the winter…
Tired? Depressed? Forgetting things? Who isn’t these days?
Those are also symptoms of a deficiency of B12, a key nutrient needed to make red blood cells and DNA and keep the nervous system working right.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is officially considered rare, affecting about 1 in 1,000 Americans, according to a 2005 study. But the incidence rises with age, to about 15% of elderly people. The rate is also much higher among people who don’t eat meat or dairy products, people with absorption problems, people taking acid-blocking medications and those with Type 2 diabetes who take the drug Metformin.
…Other conditions can also interfere with B12 absorption, including celiac disease and Crohn’s disease. “I thought I was going to die in my sleep because I had so little energy,” says Ellen Icochea, a senior executive at the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had a very low B12 level along with several major medical problems. Weekly B12 injections made a dramatic difference. “It was like, ‘Wow, here’s energy!’ ” she says.
“B12 deficiency is much more common than the textbooks and journal articles say it is,” says Alan Pocinki, an internist in Washington D.C., who routinely tests his patients who fall into those categories. He also notes that since the Metformin connection was discovered only recently, some physicians aren’t aware of it. “They assume that if patients complain of numbness and tingling in the feet, it’s a diabetes issue and not a B12 issue.”
Other symptoms of low B12 include anemia, depression, dementia, confusion, loss of appetite and balance problems. Long-term deficiency can bring severe anemia, nerve damage and neurological changes that may be irreversible.
Sometimes the symptoms are subtle. Internist Linda Assatourians, one of Dr. Pocinki’s partners, says that a surprising number of her young female patients also have low levels of B12. Typically they are healthy and active, but they don’t eat much meat and they have minor mood, memory or balance problems. “When I supplement their B12, they feel better,” Dr. Assatourians says. “It’s not a controlled study, but I see a lot of them.”
(click to continue reading Tired And Confused? Vitamin B12 May Be Low – WSJ.com.)
I have a bottle of Solaray B-Complex sublinguals on my desk right now, actually.
Gee, really? What took the British Medical Journal and Lancet so long to discredit, Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children? As punishment, Andrew Wakefield should contact each and every parent who didn’t give their kid a needed vaccine, and apologize.
An influential but now-discredited study that provoked fears around the world that childhood vaccinations caused autism was based largely on falsified data, according to an article and editorial published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal.
The article, by journalist Brian Deer, found that important details of the cases of each of 12 children reported in the original study either misrepresented or altered the actual experiences of the children, the journal said. “In no single case could the medical records be fully reconciled with the descriptions, diagnoses, or histories published in the journal,” the editorial said. It called the study “an elaborate fraud.”
The original article, by British doctor Andrew Wakefield and other researchers, was published in the highly regarded journal The Lancet in 1998. The study concluded that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine—a mainstay of public health disease prevention efforts around the world—was linked to autism and gastrointestinal disorders.
The findings provoked a still-raging debate over vaccine safety and they prompted thousands of parents to forgo shots for their children. Measles outbreaks were subsequently reported in several Western countries. Several epidemiological studies conducted since the Wakefield paper by public health authorities haven’t found any link between the vaccines and autism.
The Lancet withdrew the article in January of last year after concluding that “several elements” of the paper were incorrect. But the journal didn’t describe any of the discrepancies as fraud. A British regulator stripped Dr. Wakefield of his medical license last May, citing “serious professional misconduct” in the way he handled the research.
(click to continue reading Medical Journal Says Autism Study a ‘Fraud’ – WSJ.com.)
And the British Medical Journal article, begins:
In the first part of a special BMJ series, Brian Deer exposes the bogus data behind claims that launched a worldwide scare over the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, and reveals how the appearance of a link with autism was manufactured at a London medical school
When I broke the news to the father of child 11, at first he did not believe me. “Wakefield told us my son was the 13th child they saw,” he said, gazing for the first time at the now infamous research paper which linked a purported new syndrome with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.1 “There’s only 12 in this.”
That paper was published in the Lancet on 28 February 1998. It was retracted on 2 February 2010.2 Authored by Andrew Wakefield, John Walker-Smith, and 11 others from the Royal Free medical school, London, it reported on 12 developmentally challenged children,3 and triggered a decade long public health scare.
“Onset of behavioural symptoms was associated by the parents with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination in eight of the 12 children,” began the paper’s “findings.” Adopting these claims as fact,4 its “results” section added: “In these eight children the average interval from exposure to first behavioural symptoms was 6.3 days (range 1-14).”
(click to continue reading How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed — Deer 342 — bmj.com.)
If you are curious what toxic chemicals are in your water, the New York Times took the data from the Environmental Working Group and turned it into a slick little database. Click through, and check out your community:
The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal. Examine whether contaminants in your water supply met two standards: the legal limits established by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the typically stricter health guidelines. The data was collected by an advocacy organization, the Environmental Working Group, who shared it with The Times.
(click to continue reading What’s in Your Water – Interactive Feature – The New York Times.)
Conflict of interest in the media? and in the health care industry too? Shocking!
Twenty-five out of 32 highly paid consultants to medical device companies in 2007, or their publishers, failed to reveal the financial connections in journal articles the following year, according to a study released on Monday. Multimedia
The study compared major payments to consultants by orthopedic device companies with financial disclosures the consultants later made in medical journal articles, and found them lacking in public transparency.
“We found a massive, dramatic system failure,” said David J. Rothman, a professor and president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University, who wrote the study with two other Columbia researchers, Susan Chimonas and Zachary Frosch.
(click to continue reading Consultant Fees Go Undisclosed in Medical Journals, Study Finds – NYTimes.com.)
Trust us, in other words. Or not. Since there are no real repercussions, in this field, or in others1, what is going to change?
Tom Ridge, was on MSNBC’s Hardball With Chris Matthews, offering up his own recovery plan. There were “modest things” the White House might try, like cutting taxes or opening up credit for small businesses, but the real answer was for the president to “take his green agenda and blow it out of the box.” The first step, Ridge explained, was to “create nuclear power plants.” Combined with some waste coal and natural gas extraction, you would have an “innovation setter” that would “create jobs, create exports.”
As Ridge counseled the administration to “put that package together,” he sure seemed like an objective commentator. But what viewers weren’t told was that since 2005, Ridge has pocketed $530,659 in executive compensation for serving on the board of Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear power company. As of March 2009, he also held an estimated $248,299 in Exelon stock, according to SEC filings.
Moments earlier, retired general and “NBC Military Analyst” Barry McCaffrey told viewers that the war in Afghanistan would require an additional “three- to ten-year effort” and “a lot of money.” Unmentioned was the fact that DynCorp paid McCaffrey $182,309 in 2009 alone. The government had just granted DynCorp a five-year deal worth an estimated $5.9 billion to aid American forces in Afghanistan. The first year is locked in at $644 million, but the additional four options are subject to renewal, contingent on military needs and political realities.
In a single hour, two men with blatant, undisclosed conflicts of interest had appeared on MSNBC. The question is, was this an isolated oversight or business as usual? Evidence points to the latter. In 2003 The Nation exposed McCaffrey’s financial ties to military contractors he had promoted on-air on several cable networks; in 2008 David Barstow wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning series for the New York Times about the Pentagon’s use of former military officers–many lobbying or consulting for military contractors–to get their talking points on television in exchange for access to decision-makers; and in 2009 bloggers uncovered how ex-Newsweek writer Richard Wolffe had guest-hosted Countdown With Keith Olbermann while working at a large PR firm specializing in “strategies for managing corporate reputation.”
These incidents represent only a fraction of the covert corporate influence peddling on cable news, a four-month investigation by The Nation has found. Since 2007 at least seventy-five registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials–people paid by companies and trade groups to manage their public image and promote their financial and political interests–have appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business Network with no disclosure of the corporate interests that had paid them. Many have been regulars on more than one of the cable networks, turning in dozens–and in some cases hundreds–of appearances.
(click to continue reading The Media-Lobbying Complex | The Nation.)
Corruption is endemic in our corporate culture.Footnotes: