The death of a medical student who took a banned slimming pill, dinitrophenol, commonly called DNP, raises the point that most, if not all, slimming pills that are currently available, are a major hazard to health. In fact, to date, the US FDA has only approved two new weight-loss pills (in 2012) after the previous approval of Xenical in 1999. Such are the difficulties faced by pharmas in securing approval for a safe and efficient medicine to lose weight.
23 year old Sarah Houston, a medical student at Leeds University,England, died after taking DNP in an attempt to lose weight in September last year. DNP had already been linked to 62 deaths around the world in a study published last year in The Journal of Medical Toxicity.
DNP is illegal for human consumption but is still available commercially to make make dyes,other organic chemicals, wood preservatives and herbicides. It was originally used as a diet pill in the 1930s but the presence of severe side-effects such as an undue rise in body temperature (hyperthermia) which can be fatal has resulted in its ban since.
A shocking fact which emerged following this tragedy is that DNP is still being sold online as a diet pill. In Sarah’s case. she had bought them via the internet from a trader in Spain. My advice: scrutinise the ingredients of any nonprescription diet pill carefully and avoid disreputable sources.
At one time, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was routinely prescribed to any woman reaching menopause and asking for it, in an effort to prevent fractures,osteoporosis, dementia and other chronic diseases.
That was fine but recent developments have advocated the reverse – only women with severe symptoms of menopause like flushing,headaches and excessive sweating are given a short course to relieve the symptoms. Otherwise, HRTs are now not advised at all.
What is the evidence for the change in stance? The US funded Women’s Health Initiative, known as WHI, was halted in 2002 when initial results showed women taking a combination of estrogen and progestin had a higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke than women who received a placebo( or ‘dud’ pill). This marked a drastic shift in opinion, so that now, these combination pills are no longer advocated. Indeed, even oestrogen-only pills are now taboo.
You can find more facts about HRT here:
For alternatives to hormone therapy, see here: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/women/pht_facts.pdf
The fact that the Mediterranean Diet has led to lower rates of heart disease, stroke and cancer has been known for decades; and the latest study highlighted over the media recently (see here) is on the back of several similar studies done over the years. I had written about one such study in an earlier blog posting in 2008 (see here).
So how many more studies do we need before the guidelines on healthy eating habits are changed by governments from the low-fat high carbohydrate that is so widely advocated? Even in those countries where a greater awareness of what constitutes healthy eating exists, the end-product may not be what the consumer paid for – olive oil is adulterated and/or filtered, garlic is taken as a pill than a freshly-crushed clove and even red wine is not aged and commercially processed so that it is lacking in polyphenols.
The Mediterranean Diet – low in saturated fat and high in fiber and monounsaturated fat - includes vegetables, whole grains, fish, legumes, fruit, and moderate red wine, if so inclined. The main cooking fat is olive oil – pure unfiltered virgin olive oil is preferable, although the quality varies quite a bit commercially.
It is interesting to note that this oil has been around since time immemorial and its benefits mentioned by most of the world’s major religions, whether its the Muslim Hadith (“Consume olive oil and anoint it upon your bodies since it is of the blessed tree”), the Catholic church (“Oil of the Sick”) or the Jewish Talmud which states that frequent consumption of olive oil is good for one’s memory.
But behind the benefits of this diet, a more stark message is revealed: that the typical ‘Western Diet’ is the antithesis, with processing, additives and chemical substitutes causing many of the lifestyle diseases it is supposed to prevent.
- Mediterranean diet proven to reduce risk of heart disease (newsfixnow.com)
With the Euro 2012 soccer finals in progress, its quite understandable when episodes of violence, real or simulated, occur on the field, or even nearby( as the riots after the Russia-Poland game showed). But when this extends into the home, then its a cause of public concern.
Research by BBC News has found there was a surge in domestic violence reports to police during the 2010 World Cup.Police in England noted that reports of domestic violence increased by some 29% during games when England played in the recent 2010 World Cup. The police expect a similar increase in domestic violence during the current Euro finals and have placed themselves on alert, apart from publicising awareness in the media and working together with related agencies like Domestic Violence UK.
Chris Hancox, from White Ribbon UK, which campaigns against violence to women, said: “If someone’s football team loses, that’s no reason to take it out on anyone, particularly the person they’re supposed to love.” But the reality is quite the opposite: arguments about the amount of television watched, alcohol intake, jealousy due to people spending more time with friends and an increase in money spent could lead to an increase in tensions.
Many would agree that alcohol by itself does not cause domestic violence, but could be the catalyst, especially when there is disinhibition after excessive alcohol and deeper emotions begin to surface.
So what does the Football Association (FA) has to say about it? It said it could not comment on what was not a footballing matter. Is that really a fair statement?
- Football and domestic violence (bbc.co.uk)
There was a time not too long ago when doctors could cure a patient with gonorrhoea (aka the clap) with their eyes shut. But then this was the pre-HIV days when this disease stood centre-stage among sexually-transmitted diseases.
With the attention diverted to HIV and AIDS, the disease was practically unheard of in the media. What really happened was that Neisseria gonorrhoeae (aka gonococcus), the bacteria causing this disease, continued to proliferate quietly without the bells and whistles, not making the headlines because it was so easily treated with the wide array of modern antibiotics that were readily available. Up to now, that is.
The World Health Organization(WHO) warned yesterday of a spreading resistance to drugs used to treat the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhoea.
Millions of people with the condition may be at risk of running out of treatment options unless urgent action is taken, the United Nations agency said.
Up till now, the germ had developed resistance to many antibiotics which had been used over time; so much so, the current mainstay is the use of cephalosporin group of antibiotics, in particular ceftriaxone. But , there now emerges reports that even this antibiotic has proven useless. Left untreated, gonorrhoea causes infertility in men and women and may add considerable healthcare costs if left untreated.
WHO has called for greater vigilance on the correct use of antibiotics and more research into alternative treatments for so-called gonococcal infections, which is quite understandable, as research for new antibiotics have taken a back-seat in recent years. Meanwhile, for individuals, the best way of not contracting the disease is of course having a regular partner or abstinence, failing which condom usage has proven effective.
Took me some time to compile this list, so here goes:
The Best Doctors
1.Drs Beutler, Hoffman and Steinman
These three were the winners of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Medicine and the impact of their research will be felt for many years to come.
In essence, they discovered receptor proteins in the body that can spot bacteria and other microorganisms and then activate the body’s innate immunity to defend itself. These dendritic cells activate the T cells which then produce antibodies which attack the invading germs.
Their studies determine how clinicians prevent and treat infection, inflammatory diseases, and cancer in the future. Strangely enough, one of them, Dr Steinman (right,above pic) himself died of cancer of the pancreas before he won the award. This disease was one of the potential beneficiaries of his research.
2. Dr Valentin Fuster
This Spanish cardiologist, who is the Head of Mount Sinai Heart Centre in New York, is the only person to be awarded the top research awards from all the four main cardiovascular organisations.
He is best known for his profound contribution towards the understanding and prevention of atherothrombosis and was the first to have highlighted the role of platelets in acute coronary syndromes. In other words, how heart attacks happen-see below.
Lung cancer specialist at one of the top cancer centres in the world, Memorial Sloan-Kettering in Houston,Texas, he was recognised for his dedication and compassion in his professional work and volunteer efforts by being awarded the inaugural ASCO Humanitarian Award .
He has built homes for families in Hyde Park, New York, gone to Costa Rica to build a basketball court and a church and made several trips to assist with earthquake relief in Haiti; and helped with relief efforts in Biloxi, Mississippi after it was hit byHurricane Katrina.
Of course, to the unsung heroes out there,those who have toiled without bells and whistles, well done for being a credit to your profession!
- Remembering Ralph Steinman (06880danwoog.com)
Couldn’t help recalling that last year, quite a number of physicians made the headlines..so here’s my list of the Dr Jekylls and Dr Hydes of 2011.
The Worst Doctors
1. Conrad Murray,MD
Physician to the King of Pop.. in November he was sentenced to 4 years in jail for his conviction on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the pop star’s death. There wasn’t much substance in his defence once he admitted to using propafol injected intravenously into Michael Jackson’s veins so as to enable him to sleep at home. What was worse was that this drug is normally used in a hospital setting with the patient hooked on close monitors; using it otherwise (at home) constitutes negligence and inappropriate use.
2. Gerald J Klein, MD
Gerald who? Well, he was one of 14 Florida doctors indicted in August 2011 for illegally distributing opioid analgesics such as oxycodone and sedatives like Xanax. Drug addicts and dealers would queue in their clinics to sell or receive drugs illegally under the pretext of valid medical reasons. Opioid analgesics were dispensed and prescribed on an assembly line basis, paid for with cash and credit cards. Clinic employees hauled their money to the bank in large garbage bags. This way, each doctor netted USD 1 million yearly. “Drug dealers in white coats”, said the FBI.Read more here.
3. John R McLean,MD and others
The Maryland cardiologist was convicted on 6 charges of healthcare fraud relating to insurance claims that he had filed for doing unnecessary coronary angiograms and angioplasties (invasive test and treatment of blocked heart arteries), as well as for ordering unnecessary tests and making false entries in patient medical records. In November, Dr. McLean was sentenced to 8 years in jail.
The buck does not stop here in Maryland – already two other cases are being heard (see here and here) of similar cases where cardiologists have done unnecessary procedures on otherwise well patients, in return for unethical financial rewards.
In the next blog entry, I will name the best doctors of 2011.
- U.S. Drug overdose deaths are increasing (psychologytoday.com)
When Currys, the British high-street electricals chain advertised that it was selling a brand-new netbook at a giveaway price of 10% of its retail price, it was inundated with customers quite naturally at what was ‘the bargain of the century’.
However it turned out that an incorrect price was put on Currys’ website by a member of staff who mistakenly missed off the last digit.
The retailer said that it was unable to sell the laptop for the amount shown online and has emailed or telephoned all the customers who tried to buy it to explain and apologise. At this point, many customers felt that they were within consumers’ rights to insist that the retailer honour its promise and deliver nonetheless.
But they did not reckon with the fine print in its terms and conditions on its website which made clear that if an item was priced due to human error, then the price does not hold.
And what was the human error? Currys blamed it on fat finger syndrome.
This condition has made headlines several times recently. Of note was the tokyo trader who, in 2006, mistakenly keyed in a transaction order which inadvertently cost him USD 18 million.(see here). In essence, this syndrome refers to the invocation of a unwanted secondary action due to (a) one’s finger being bigger than the envisioned touch zone, or (b) accidental inaccuracy in the fine motor movements of one’s extremities. In simple terms, accidentally pressing an unwanted key on a keyboard. Quite common nowadays with mobile phones being as small as it is!
According to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department in San Jose, California which issued the death certificate, the immediate cause of death of the Apple CEO was listed as respiratory arrest with the underlying cause “metastatic pancreas neuroendocrine tumor”.
-he passed away at home, 3pm on October 5.
-no autopsy was performed.
- he was buried at a non-denominational cemetery in Santa Clara County on Oct. 7.
The conclusions that can be drawn from the death certificate implies that the neuroendocrine cancer of the pancreas (the rarer form of cancer of the pancreas) presumably spread to the rest of the body (stage 4) despite the liver transplant in 2009 to remove cancer cells in the liver. This is much in keeping with the seriousness and malignant nature of this type of cancer, where the survival rates are less than 4% after 5 years (less than 4% of sufferers live beyond 5 years).