Monthly Archives: November 2007

Vaccines and Money, It’s All About The Profit

There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding vaccines and autism as well as whether flu shots really benefit anyone. For years, the pharmaceutical industry has bemoaned how vaccines didn’t make them any money so they were really for the benefit of the people. Oh really?  Click on this link to an industry newsletter and find out why this isn’t really the case (you don’t need to buy the report for $1600, just read the abstract).

The “global market” is poised to reach $21 billion dollars by 2010 and they are going from just targeting children to going after adults and the elderly. The U.S. is their biggest market – yeah for us 🙁  – followed by Europe. I guess since they are failing miserably at bringing new, safe and effective drugs to market to deal with real health issues, they need to create a new market to supposedly prevent diseases (cancer being their #1 target). Unfortunately, we won’t know whether these vaccines won’t create other diseases or other problems that will only crop up years from now.

Do you even know what is in the vaccines?  Supplements and foods have to list all their ingredients on the label but for some reason, vaccines don’t. While this video is quite humorous, it is a very serious issues. Would you really want to be injected with formaldehyde, mercury and ether?  I know I don’t.

Cancer and Supplementation – Bad Journalism, Poor Writing, Lousy Science

The November 3-9, 2007 issue of the British science magazine New Scientist has an article about Ten Ways to Avoid Cancer. Some of the suggestions like reducing body fat, getting more physical, lowering the intake of red meat, alcohol, junk foor and preservatives are all excellent. One, startled me. It was a suggestion to avoid nutritional supplements. I had to see the report that would make this claim.

The study put out by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research is called Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective. I read over the reasoning behind the suggestion they made that supplements cause cancer but I really fail to see how they came up with that reasoning. All I could find was references to a few studies that implicated beta-carotene to an increased risk of cancer in smokers (wow aren’t they a major risk group already?), selenium and calcium actually being protective. How a journalist can make a sweeping statement like avoiding supplements when the recomendation was “Aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone” and that they even qualified that by saying that “This may not always be feasible”.

Where do those two quotes state to avoid supplements?  In reality, the notion that you can get all the nutrients you need from your diet is an absolute myth. The foods we get at the market today do not have the kind of nutritional backbone they claim. Supplementation is essential to even meet the needs of a non-stressed, healthy person much less someone living in the toxic world we do.

The only real caution the panel makes is that supplements shouldn’t be used to “prevent” cancer. Now I disagree with them on that but that is no where near saying to avoid them to prevent cancer.

Shame on the New Scientist for so twisting the report so much. Bad journalism equals misleading data which causes panic and harm to the general public.

Another Kevin Trudeau Scam

You would think by now the FDA would have gotten this guy out of the public eye but no, he keeps coming backing scamming people with so-called super products like Eden PM Sleep Support. Instead of honestly telling people what the product is, he masks it by using the full technical name for the amino acids in it and makes it sound mystical.

Here is the scoop on Eden PM –

  • Proprietary THP – tetrahydropalmatine a herbal extract that has shown ability to calm the nervous system but he uses a very small amount (2mg), much lower than the study by HM Chang and PPH But which was at 100 to 200 mgs.
  • 2-Aminoethanesulfonic acid – A fancy name for the amino acid taurine which is relatively inexpensive and is a good calming agent.
  • 2-amino acetic acid – Another fancy name for the cheapest amino acid on the market, Glycine.
  • Acetyl-3-Hydroxy-4-Trimethylaminobutoanyoate – Yup the long name for Acetyl-L-Carnintine

As is typical with Mr. Trudeau he wrapped a simple combination with relatively cheap ingredients into a extremely high priced scam. While the product is ok, the price is ridiculous – $104.90 for two bottles or $69.95 for one bottle.  Save your money and buy some melatonin, taurine or 5-HTP (5-hydroxytrytophan) for a lot less.

Cost of Health Care – Time is Running Out To Gain Control

In a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, Drs. Pater Orszag and Philip Ellis talk about the problems with our health care system that no candidate for the Presidency of the United States is truly addressing. It is nice to talk about universal healthcare but we can’t do it on the backs of our children and destroy our economy. They propose  two simple (if that is possible) measures to begin to reign in our medical costs.

First off, there is little strong research on treatment comparisons between expensive and cheaper therapies. One example I always use is how insurers are willing to cover the expense of the drug Nexium® which can run hundreds of dollars a month over Prilosec® which is over-the-counter and runs under $50 a month. Why? For two reasons one is that the pharmaceutical industry is more about profits and less about improving the health of people. The second issue the authors bring up is that there is no incentive to cut costs.

At my last few lectures, I noted that insurance companies have no reason to cut costs as long as payments, in the form of your health insurance premiums are greater than costs. The incentive is actually to perform more expensive procedures because the higher the cost, the higher the premiums charged and the more money there is to enrich the stockholders and meet Wall Street’s expectations. If their profit margin is to make 18% for each dollar they spend because they will only charge you more in premiums, what procedure would you think they would want to pay for, one for $1,000 or $100? Yup, the more expensive one.

While I am not a big fan of government intervention, it is imperative it happens here before economic disaster occurs. The idea that industry and the free market will benefit society and that trickle down economics benefits the greatest number in our society are two ideas who need burial. Trickle down is what George Bush Sr. once called “voodoo economics”. Free market is a nice idea, but the bottom line is that excessive greed does not benefit the greatest number of people when it comes to medical care.

Incentives to cut costs, independently measure efficacy in treatment protocols, not just those limited to pharmaceutical models needs to be put in place. We don’t need another male libido drug, we need better treatment for staph, tuberculosis and other deadly diseases that may not be financially enriching for the pharmaceutical industry.

We need more preventive health care, more dietary interventions to stem the tide of obesity and we need to stop the rampant polluting of our environment by greedy, profit above all businesses. We do these things and bite the bullet and we will save our future. Will we? I seriously doubt it unless we elect a leader with enough personality to have the populace back the reforms necessary.

DNA Testing of Stool for Bacterial and Parasitic Markers – Unanswered Questions

The latest lab test being marketed heavily is a DNA Stool test for bacterial and parasites. While the theory of testing for pathogens using their DNA signatures sounds real good, is it necessarily ready for use, especially as a way of determining treatment protocols?  I for one am not sold on the idea yet.

A couple of issues come up that I haven’t heard adequate answers for.  Here are my main problems with this test:

  • If we find the DNA for a bug, yet it was dead before we ingested it, does this warrant treatment?  Obviously no but how do the labs determine if it is alive or not. An answer I heard was that they deal with it but how?  I’d be interested in knowing.
  • If our body already is dealing with a bacterial or parasitic pathogen and the DNA is picked up, do we deal with it or not?  Remember, overuse of antibiotics or other medications may lead to the development of resistant strains.
  • How accurate and specific is the test? I have not been convinced that it is that accurate as the DNA of pathogenic bacteria is often times very similar to non-pathogenic ones.
  • Quantification of bacteria and parasites is another issue. Does the lab have anyway of saying that the bacteria level is high, low, normal or not. There is a claim that there is a developed reference range but how? What if the infection level is high but not much DNA sloughs off?  What if a lot of DNA from a particular bug is found but there isn’t a high level of infection?

These issues do happen according to the literature I have reviewed so are we ready for the clinical use of this test or do we need more research? My feeling is that more research is needed before we abandon the gold-standard of stool testing, which is culturing. Why drop a very well respected and time-tested methodology for something that has not been shown to actually be superior?  This is akin to trying Nexium® because it has a 3% better efficacy than Prilosec® but is 10 times more expensive.

Another issue I have is that when we treat for a bacteria or parasite, the treatment often times kills more than just the specified “enemy”. When we use antibiotics or even natural treatments, we run the risk, and often times do, kill both beneficial and pathogenic species. Caution is the concept to remember here. The beneficial bacteria are extremely important in a healthy immune response, detoxification of xenobiotics, creation of nutients from food and more.

The use of genetic testing is a sexy concept but some labs seem to be way ahead of the practicality curve here. Just because a test is new and is accompanied by hot marketing doesn’t mean it’s time to abandon what works.

I would be real interested in hearing from the experts who claim DNA stool testing is the best and how they would respond to my concerns.

West Nile Virus – Solution Worse Than the Disease?

Between January 1st and October 16th, 2007 there were a total of 3,022 cases of West Nile Virus in the United States according to the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (published by the New England Journal of Medicine). Seventy-Six cases resulted in death of the infected individual. If you believed the media hype about it, you would think tens of thousands of people were infected and it was a major infectious threat to all Americans.

The hysteria surrounding the disease has caused us to use millions of gallon of pesticides to kill the mosquitos who carry the disease. My real concern here is how much damage to human health have we caused through the use of insecticides to stop a disease which may not be as hyped.  According to one bit of research I’ve seen, fully 80% of the people near those infected were also found to have West Nile Virus but had no symptoms at all. It could be that the aggressive spraying has held back the infection rate but my suspicion is that the government has gone way overboard and caused untold damage to the population especially children and the unborn.

Get Smarter – Feed The World is a site that you can go to and increase your vocabulary and at the same time help world hunger. The organization donates ten grains of rice for each word you take a quiz on. That may not seem much but in the past month and a half, they have managed to donate 1,712,371,750 grains.  Not bad for such a short time.

Here is what they are about (from their website):

FreeRice is a sister site of the world poverty site,

FreeRice has two goals:

  1. Provide English vocabulary to everyone for free.
  2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

This is made possible by the sponsors who advertise on this site.

Whether you are CEO of a large corporation or a street child in a poor country, improving your vocabulary can improve your life. It is a great investment in yourself.

Perhaps even greater is the investment your donated rice makes in hungry human beings, enabling them to function and be productive. Somewhere in the world, a person is eating rice that you helped provide. Thank you.

Heliobactor Pylori – Beneficial as Well as Pathogenic

In my recent lecture swing around the U.S., I mention that H pylori, a common bacteria which has been implicated in stomach ulcers and cancer, may have a number of beneficial relationships to the human body. Another one has just been found that is a bit surprising.

According to a study led by Dr. Martin Blase of NY University School of Medicine, children who had H pylori in their stomachs, were 53% less likely to have asthma than those without the bug. Turns out, the overuse of anitbiotics may be killing the bacteria which our bodies may use as a primer for our immune systems early on in life.

My theorm is that many of these so-called pathogenic bacteria, may in fact be an intricate part of what makes us humans and that instead of killing them all, we need to control their overgrowth but allow some amount of them to help us control our health. The newest field of endeavor that has this belief is part of the Microbiome Project where researchers are looking into the symbiotic relationship between parasites, bacteria and viruses and human evolution and health. Turns out we are more than just a single entity but a conglomoration of many organisms working together. The research was published recently in Nature magazine.

Prostate Biopsies? An Unneeded Procedure? An Alternative is Available.

For any man over the age of 40 who goes to his physician, a simple blood test known as a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) is done to look for the possibility of prostate cancer. Unfortunately, the test is quite unspecific and even if you have a high reading, between 4-10, the likelihood of having prostate cancer is still low but around 1 million men still have biopsies at that range. The problem with that is the side-effects of the procedure include incontinence and sexual dysfunction.

Of the men with higher than expected PSAs, only 20 percent turn out to have cancer which means that 80 percent have had a procedure done unneccesarily. But there is a simple test, known to the medical community for a number of years that can cut back on biopsies dramatically and it is known as the Free-PSA.  Free PSA is the antigens that are not bound to proteins. The higher the percentage of Free-PSA the lower the likelihood of prostate cancer. If the level is >25% then the risk of having prostate cancer is 5% in men between 50 and 65 and 9% in men 65-75.

The Free-PSA is around a $100 when combined with a total PSA and the biopsy is far more expensive and invasive. If you are a man and you’ve had a PSA done and it is between 4-10 and your doctor insists on doing a biopsy before running a Free-PSA, get another doctor.