Tag Archives: friends

New Drugs – How To Assess If They’re Effective

Reading the media, many are fascinated as to the plethora of new drugs claiming to provide a ‘cure’ against diseases which hitherto were considered incurable. Why, new drugs have even pervaded the social media – pharma companies have started posting widgets on Facebook in a bid to attract readers. Recently, FDA cautioned the drug company Novartis for overstating the benefits of a drug without pointing out the ill-effects (see here).

Social Media as a Marketing Tool – even Big Pharmas Use It

 

 

This rampant form of advertising naturally may confuse the public about the efficacy of new medications. In fact, its sometimes difficult to know the validity of claims made in the media.

Here are  some tips on how to evaluate the validity of medical news items that you may come across..

  • It is a fact that competition is intense among medical journals, research bodies and medical journals to attract media attention. Media themselves compete with each other to come out with the latest. Try to read the same news from several sources. Obviously, if the item is reported in just one obscure source, it should carry less weight.
  • Look for key-words like suggestive or may (as opposed to will) as this does not always indicate a cause and effect meaning. Many people make hard-core assumptions based on such words.
  • It is the nature of scientific studies that, for a given topic, several would say one thing and a few would say the complete opposite. It is for the trained professional and their peer-groups to make an informed decision to advise consumers. Bear in mind that space is a premium with the mass media and such reports usually omit vital details which will affect accuracy.
  • Separate the wheat from the chaff..make sure the website you’re looking at is a reliable one!
  • Personally, I feel reports originating from researchers and pharma companies should not appear in the mass media without vetting by an appropriate professional body so as to convey the proper perspective to the audience at large. So if a news report originates from a known professional body, this should carry a lot of weight; as opposed to a solitary item in a nondescript health magazine.

The Commonest Cause of Child Deaths in the US

 

Infections? Prematurity? Domestic Violence? No, ladies and gentlemen, motor vehicle accidents remain the number one killer of children in the US, and probably the rest of the developed world too. To a significant extent, proper child safety seats can prevent severe injury. Here are some tips:

 

Child-Safety-Cars-800

Travelling? Keep the Germs at Bay.

holiday traveller

Its the holiday season again, and many will be embarking to distant lands.. and with it comes the risk of exposure to new bugs (currently, the Norovirus virus outbreak is the vogue. Read more here.) Seasoned business travelers know that to reduce their chances of getting sick, its best to maximize the use of soap, water and hand sanitizer and minimize the number of times they touch their face.

Abdominal pain,nausea,vomiting and diarrhoea -symptoms of Norovirus infection

Abdominal pain,nausea,vomiting and diarrhoea -symptoms of Norovirus infection

Apart from that, what about other risks? Dehydration poses a greater risk, drying out the body’s natural defenses against germs. Avoid coffee and alcohol  (no, its not a devious plan by airlines to reduce their beverage costs), which act as diuretics, and try to drink a cup of water an hour. Saline solutions can keep your nose and eyes moist, providing a barrier against germs. Dehydration makes the body’s defence mechanisms perform less efficiently and thus make the entry of germs easier.

While going around, preventing dehydration remains important, particularly in hot arid climates, where body water loss is not too obvious due to the absence of sweating.To avoid drinking contaminated water, watch out for recycled tap-water impersonating as bottled mineral water (look for a sealed cap). For that matter, possibly contaminated water could also be present in ice, uncooked salads and fruits that are eaten without peeling. These methods of reducing the odds of getting sick are important, as contaminated foods (due to agents causing infectious diseases) remain the number one killer of humans on earth.It is said that 80% of all infectious diseases are transmitted by direct or indirect human contact

Many air travellers claim they caught an infection from other passengers but, with the efficient air filtering systems of modern aircraft, where air is circulated 15-20 times per hour through efficient biofilters, chances of this happening is low unless the offending party is coughing and sneezing repeatedly within two rows of oneself.

At the hotel, I do recommend laying the bedspread aside, because it is washed rarely, and making sure the sheets are crisp and clean; if they are not, request another room. Check the mattress for bed bugs. Wipe down the telephone, night stand, remote control and bathroom with disinfectant. Disinfect the handle on the minibar fridge, and relax.

The Silky Dreamsack..a bed bug barrier

The Silky Dreamsack..a bed bug barrier

Indeed, various gadgets are available to make travelling safe – personal hand-sanitizers, personal air purifiers, UV scanners that destroy contaminants and  the Silky Dreamsack, which “puts a layer between you and suspect bedding.”

All very exotic, but I would really recommend that the only cost-effective device that you will ever need is a bottle of hand-sanitiser..and refraining from touching your eyes,face or mouth. Not forgetting the ubiquitous mineral water bottle!

Have a great 2013!2013

More Fuel To The Fire: Red Meat Leads to Cancer and Heart Disease

Its been speculated for some time..that eating red meat leads to an increased incidence of heart disease and cancer. And an analysis, published  in Archives of Internal Medicine, using data from two studies that involved 121,342 men and women, further confirms the fact that consuming red meat is associated with a sharply increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease; and the more of it you eat, the greater the risk.

People who ate more red meat were less physically active and more likely to smoke and had a higher body mass index, researchers found. Still, after controlling for those and other variables, they found that each daily increase of three ounces of red meat was associated with a 12 percent greater risk of dying over all, including a 16 percent greater risk of cardiovascular death and a 10 percent greater risk of cancer death.

The increased risks linked to processed meat, like bacon, were even greater: 20 percent over all, 21 percent for cardiovascular disease and 16 percent for cancer.

You might say that you had suspected this all along,  but the new results suggest a surprisingly strong link and further reinforce this conclusion.

The cooking method is said to play a role in causing cancers

The modus operandi for red meats and heart disease is quite clear-cut: the high saturated fats content leads to cholesterol deposition in the walls of the arteries. In the case of cancer, the mode of action is less clear-cut. Some postulated causes include:

  • the presence of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in grass-fed meat which has anti-cancer properties.
  • the mode of cooking, with preference to ‘low and slow’ and doneness.
  • chemicals (nitro compounds) used in preservation of processed meats.
  • breakdown of blood components like haem to harmful cancer-causing chemicals (read more here).

This probably why meat-eating countries like Argentina do not report high incidences of gut cancer..

 

 

Tablets Are A Health Hazard

Not the tablets that are taken by mouth…but the electronic kind.

Spam, the Cancer, Goes Into Remission

Was it my imagination, or was it real, that the size of my junk-mail box had gotten less over last week? I seem to be missing (the irony of it all) all those mails exhorting the use of various pills to make my ‘partner deliriously happy’ and  the use of one’s ‘tool’ to perform wonders which defy medical science.

Global spam levels have dropped by as much as 75 per cent following the shutdown of a US web host that spam1provided the backbone for most of the world’s spam. The web host, McColo, based in California, counted customers including “international firms and syndicates that are involved in everything from the remote management of millions of compromised computers to the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and designer goods, fake security products and child pornography via email”, The Washington Post reported.

For those techies, spammers typically use botnets of hacked computers that they surreptitiously control and use to send their spam messages. This makes it harder for them to be traced and allows spammers to harness the internet bandwidth of potentially hundreds of thousands of computers.

This appeared to be part of a multinational swoop coordinated by Interpol in nine countries targeted against internet drug peddlers. Interpol’s internet message is simple: Do not buy prescription-only medicines over the Internet without a prescription.

I can only reiterate this message because there’s no way you can prove the drugs are safe and effective. In many cases they can be harmful, when unknown chemicals may be added.

However, as in some cancers, the drop in junk mails is expected to be a temporary lull as spammers adapt and find new areas to set up their operations again, possibly in Eastern Europe. Will the cancer spread again? Will spam, the scourge of the Internet, make its reappearance?

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