Insulting intelligence or just not having any

The 'natural' medicine industry is a huge market. For some reason or another, more and more people are seeking alternative or complementary treatments. The most common reasons seem to stem from a distrust of conventional medicine (said medicine, see video below). Unfortunately this distrust is most likely a result of a lack of understanding of the scientific method and how it is applied to clinical science. It is not unusual to hear people accuse pharmaceutical companies of only wanting to line their pockets. Of course one would have to be ignorant to assume that pharmaceutical companies are angels, but one would have to be equally ignorant to assume they are only focused on profit. Any logical person can make the simple observation that products produced by pharmaceutical companies save lives. It is really that simple. Furthermore, if we consider the implications of producing products that don't work, or worse yet, cause harm, the companies that produce them would held accountable. That is the bottom line.

Yet despite the clear evidence, both that which everyone can observe on their own, as well as the scientific evidence required before a product can be sold as medicine, people still want alternatives. A pet peeve of mine is the 'natural' vs 'synthetic' argument wheeled out by skeptics (said denialists just like the climate change ones). The fact that a huge proportion of medicine (the stuff that works) is either directly derived from natural sources or synthesised from naturally occurring compounds makes that argument redundant. I personally think that it is ironic that advocates of 'natural' treatments and supplements accuse pharmaceutical companies of dubious practices rarely have any evidence that the 'natural' products do what they claim to.

Here is a perfect example of how 'natural' advocates tend to shy away from evidence. I recently found pamphlet from safe, a 'natural' products company in Australia. The front page of the pamphlet has a brief section entitled Essentials of Informed Choices. It goes on about how we are in charge of our own health which can involve the use of supplements. Supplements are a tricky subject and depend entirely on what the supplement is and what health benefits they are supposed to have, and of course if it has actually be shown to do what it says it does. However, in the "[seven] factors to consider when looking for a quality health supplement" provided, not one of them suggests that you should actually find out if it is indeed effective at improving health. See the advice below.

  • Is it organically grown?
  • What temperature is used during manufacture?
  • Does it contain any sugars, artificial sweeteners, colours or additives?
  • Is it manufactured in Australia or overseas?
  • Does the label offer comprehensive contact details?
  • Is the company sustainably focused?
  • Is it manufactured/packaged in registered premises?

The first point is fine but there is no evaluation of what is good about being organic. What if it is a mineral?
Second point is again vague and you are given no indication of the importance of temperature. I know that temperature can affect certain compounds such as, proteins. But, how in a general sense does it matter?
I love anti-sugar 'naturalists'. Sugar (and other carbohydrates) are an essential source of energy for our bodies to perform metabolic tasks. Sure, an excess of sugar is not great if we don't use up the energy it provides, but sugar is not the evil substance as made out by so many. Like all things, it is best in moderation. Artificial sweeteners are again not as evil as some make them out to be. Claims about cancer have generally been shown to be false. Moreover, it is very unlikely, in the developed world at least, that you will get fed toxic doses of anything because of strict food control agencies. Ironically, the 'natural medicine' industry is often exempt from these controls. I see this as problematic and contradictory to claims about 'western' medicines which are subjected to scrutiny.
The fourth point is odd and again there is no advice given on how to make a judgement based on where the product is made. Presumably they mean that Australian products are the best ones. I suspect that that is untrue.
The fifth point is probably the most useful in terms of finding out the efficacy of the product because if contact details were provided you could ask the manufacturer. Although I imagine that they would spin some woo webs.
Sustainability is important, but again not useful in terms of my personal and immediate health benefits that may or may not be gained from the product.
Finally, a registered premises is important, but rather than giving confidence in the products efficacy you can be confident that it won't harm you. That's good.

So all in pretty useless advice if you want to know if something actually works or not.

Note: I have place the term 'natural' in scare quote throughout. See here for an explanation. 

41 comments:

Easyriding Eagle said...

I think it's a long bow being drawn in your "perfect example" criticism of 'natural' remedies based on the evidence you produce of one pamphlet by one company. I would suggest rather that this is a very imperfect example. I agree with points you make.

'Natural' medicine has been used by many cultures for a long, long time, and very effectively in many cases. But because drug companies cannot control the manufacture and distribution of many of these products, they are a very strong lobby against the use of anything not produced by them. (I am lumping large drug companies into my 'they' and 'them' labels).

I can mention many FDA, TGA (or any other national regulatory agency) approved drugs like Thalidomide; Avandia (where GSK manipulated the results of their trials - definite shades of "The Constant Gardener" here); Vioxx; diethylene glycol; the SMON Scandal to mention just a few. Control of drug approval, at least in the USA and Australia, is fundamentally flawed as the regulatory bodies depend on funding from the drug companies for their operations.

But we only have to look at arguably the biggest money spinner of all for drug companies, which is their propensity to produce drugs that alleviate (or control) symptons, but do not cure the underlying cause. I'll mention 2 examples:
1 - the increasing diagnosis of ADD and ADHD, and the prescription of Ritalin and similar drugs to control these. Reports are easily found of these symptoms being controlled through diet and personal attention (including parental attention); and conversly there are growing reports of adults having long-term negative outcomes when being on these drugs as children.
2 - Chemotherapy. I have had reason to research this on a small scale, and for the last 15 to 20 years there have been repeated reports of research facilities identifying 'markers' that can attach to cancerous cells, thereby creating the opportunity to develop targeted chemo drugs that attack the 'marked' cancer cells specifically. This would result in far smaller and more effective doses of chemo being prescribed. None of these research breakthroughs have made it to martket. I believe that it is simple because the drug producers either control the research (through funding) or buy the rights to the reasearch findings. These projects then get consigned to 'didn't deliever an acceptable outcome basket'. Lets face it, why would any company produce a product that will decimate sales of one of it's most profitable lines (chemo drugs), and all the accompanying drugs that are prescribed for the chemo side-effects. See if any of these ever get produced:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/sep/12/cancer-drugs-fewer-side-effects
http://www.breakthrough.org.uk/media_centre/news_views/chemotherapy_test.html
http://www.cleaningforcancer.org/easyblog/entry/chemotherapy-breakthrough-reduced-side-effects.html
http://greaterthanlapsed.tumblr.com/post/10163250880/chemotherapy-breakthrough-could-dramatically-reduce

Jarrod said...

Firstly I agree that it certainly seems like I have extrapolated from a single pamphlet and it may not be the 'perfect' example that I claimed. However, it demonstrates the point that there is no suggestion that consumers should actually ask if the product is effective. 'Natural' treatment advocates very rarely produce any evidence of efficacy from legitimate and rigorous randomised controlled trials. Instead they point to testimonies. Testimonies are in no way evidence, they are anecdotal. An obvious problem arises because no service provider (in any field, not just ‘natural’ medicine) is likely to advertise examples of their products/services not being effective. Therefore, only positive effects are ever published. It is completely uncontrolled. Without properly controlled conditions we cannot know that the outcomes are a result of the treatment prescribed. This is predicted by the link I provided to the "red-flags of quackery", as is the claim about "[‘n]atural' medicine [being] used by many cultures for a long, long time and very effectively in many cases." Many cultures do many things to treat ailments and many of them don't work. It is not a strong argument for ‘natural’ treatments. Surely a better argument is to demonstrate definitively that the treatment works?
The allegation that drug companies restrict access to treatment or only treat symptoms is very bold and suffers from two major flaws. Firstly, drugs produced by pharmaceutical companies cure millions of people from disease every year. That is a fact and cannot be disputed. Secondly, many diseases are incurable so symptomatic relief is a significantly positive gain. ADHD, for example lacks a cure so drugs, along with behavioural therapy are consistent with this. Only a negligent health care professional would prescribe Ritalin (or any other stimulant) without providing additional support or direction on a holistic approach including behaviour treatments and recently diet. Nonetheless, in a review of ADHD treatments, medication alone was more effective than any other treatment ALONE, but a combination of medication and behavioural treatment performed best. Of course we cannot always rely on our doctor to know everything (they are human) so there are numerous support groups for conditions like ADHD that provide informed and well evidenced assistance.
Your example of cancer treatments puzzles me. If a drug company produced the most effective treatment for cancer would they not stand to make a bucket load of cash? According to US statistics, the incidences of cancer have increased over the last ten years (interestingly cancer mortality rates have decreased). So what we know is that cancer exists and will continue to exist. It is generally a disease of time (i.e. your chances of getting it increase with time). People are living longer now than ever before (an artefact of good quality modern health care based on scientific research). That means cancer rates will probably continue to increase. That means the demand for cancer treatment increases. The obvious result is that drug companies who produce the best cancer treatments make the most money.
Also, just a quick comment on one of the articles you link to. The Guardian article was published in September 2011. It refers to preliminary findings in mice. It takes time to get from the mouse to human stages of trials let alone to drugs being approved for safe use in humans. There is no way that all cancer researchers are dishonest. Your implication that valid cancer treatments never make it to production suggests that they are. It seems to me very unlikely that drug companies could keep that under wraps.

Easyriding Eagle said...

This is just an brief reply, but firstly, I see you didn't address the other side of the coin: "I can mention many FDA, TGA (or any other national regulatory agency) approved drugs like Thalidomide; Avandia (where GSK manipulated the results of their trials - definite shades of "The Constant Gardener" here); Vioxx; diethylene glycol; the SMON Scandal to mention just a few. Control of drug approval, at least in the USA and Australia, is fundamentally flawed as the regulatory bodies depend on funding from the drug companies for their operations." Please do so in a future blog, so we can get some balance. Maybe you would like to include discussion on the point that "NO U.S. DEATHS FROM VITAMINS: Over a twenty-seven year period, vitamin supplements have been alleged to have caused the deaths of a total of eleven people in the United States. A new analysis of US poison control center annual report data indicates that there have, in fact, been no deaths whatsoever from vitamins . . . none at all, in the 27 years that such reports have been available." and juxtapose this with research by Ralph Nader in the mid 90's that showed that 300,000 Americans were killed ecery year through negligent medical and prescription procedures.

But back to drug companies, and the BUSINESS of cancer. Firstly, some very personal examples:

1) A 79 year-old acquaintance has just started chemotherapy treatment, acknowledged not to be curative, but palliative, by the treating medical doctors. Why? His quality of life under chemo, and his age in his general state of health, will be significantly reduced. So he may now live to 80 years instead of 79.5 yrs. But the treating physicians and the chemo-producing drug company will all get their $$ in this extension of the man’s life, regardless of quality.

2) A close relative, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and having the tumour and lymph node (clear) removed, was advised by the chemo oncologist to embark on a 2-year regime of chemo and follow-up drug treatment. His statistics that he based his recommendation on were as follows: for every 100 women of that age/health profile with that cancer, the following applied: 15% will die from the cancer no matter what treatment they have, 65% will have either have no ongoing impact or be affected whether they have chemo or not, and in the remaining 20% chemo will extend the disease-free period in 20% of these people. In other words, out of the whole 100 people, chemo has a demonstrated positive effect in 4 people only (20% of 20%). So they actively sell chemo treatment to 100 people knowing that it can only help 4 and knowing that in 65% of the cases the chemo is unnecessary. There was NO advice on diet, lifestyle or other factors that can have a positive effect on the patients life expectancy.

3) I don't personally know any person who has been cured of cancer through chemo, but I do know people who have received expensive chemo treatment and not been cured. Fortunately for most of them their costs have been borne by the health service.

Easyriding Eagle said...

Continued...
Now to address some other specifics:
The guardian article - that is an illustrative example. The first article of that sort I could trace when I did research 7 years ago was in 1996, and there was a regular stream of them, yet they all 'disappear'. I could have used an example from 2000 (I didn't have the ref at the time) from the London Times, 7 Sept 2000, page 10 when another breakthrough was announced (incidentally. one that had been known for over 20 years). This has been suppressed. Also, the (British) Telegraph 7 Sept 2000 p 14 (reporting Dr Deonarain); BBC April 1999 reporting work of Prof Monica Hughes.

But this probably can be traced back to attitudes like this: In 1982, Dr Richard Crout of the FDA made his agency's position extremely clear, when he said: "I never have and never will approve a new drug to an individual, but only to a large pharmaceutical firm with unlimited finances".

You make the point: "However, it demonstrates the point that there is no suggestion that consumers should actually ask if the product is effective." In the case of the most recent drugs prescribed to me I was told "We will try this and see how it works, but if you have x y or z side effects we can try something else, or give you something to overcome the side effects". Did I feel like my physician new if it would work? NO. In my age group I personally know quite a few people on bloof pressure medication, and in almost every case it has been a trial and error approach to find the 'best' drug and the 'best' dose. Not confidence inspiring when these are 'known to work and have been through rigorous trials'. Another close relative diagnosed with high cholesterol, immediately prescribed drugs. When we discussed it she decided to change some dietary habits, and within 3 months all was fine. If she had followed the physicians advice she would probably still be taking the cholestorol managing drug.

You said: "An obvious problem arises because no service provider (in any field, not just ‘natural’ medicine) is likely to advertise examples of their products/services not being effective. Therefore, only positive effects are ever published. It is completely uncontrolled. Without properly controlled conditions we cannot know that the outcomes are a result of the treatment prescribed." But who does the controlling? For example, "Approximately 10–20% of all research and development (R&D) funds are estimated to be spent on questionable studies, which are characterized by misrepresentation of data, inaccurate reporting, and fabrication of experimental results." extract from : http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08989629208573811

I'm out of time now, but I ask that you view this video and let me know what you think: http://vimeo.com/24821365

The bottom line to me is: Drug companies make far more money keeping people alive and treating symptoms than they do by curing them. (A study reported in Queensland in the early 90's showed that 80% of health care costs apply in the last 5 or so years of life. This had frightening implications, and one 'logical' path to save costs was to just stop treating old people. The study was suppressed and never again saw the light of day. I only got to see it because I was in a Government agency that was asked to comment).

Easyriding Eagle said...

Here are some more links to consider:

The Burzinsky Movie - more info: http://www.burzynskimovie.com/

Quackwatch on Burzinsky. Notice that they don't mention any of his successful treatments nor Burzinsky's success against the govt agencies trying to discredit him (and steal his research work): http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Cancer/burzynski1.html

Dr. Richard J. Ablin, a research professor of immunobiology and pathology at the College of Medicine, University of Arizona (Tucson) says that it (the PSA Test) is a “profit-driven public health disaster.” Dr. Ablin is the physician that invented the PSA test back in 1970. http://www.itwire.com/science-news/health/37569-doctor-that-invented-psa-test-says-no

Paul McBride said...

Easyriding Eagle:Please do so in a future blog, so we can get some balance.
Or... you could consider the OP to be a balance to all of the people who are untroubled by using 'natural' and 'good' as synonyms, and don't bother with evidence-based approaches.

You mention vitamins for some reason. Sure, vitamins may not be currently known to be the cause of any deaths in the US, but on the flip side, vitamins can't be used to treat the things that pharmaceuticals can - only dietary deficiencies. And even then, one would be much better advised to eat a proper diet. So, what is the point? In any case, are vitamin supplements actually more 'natural' than Amazon-derived pharmaceuticals?

You seem to buy into some deep conspiracy about cancer treatments, but I tell you this: if a drug company came up with a cure for cancer, they would become immensely rich. Obscenely rich. Once you understand cancer, you understand its inevitability. Said company would profit from enormous numbers of people, and in the future, probably several times in their life.

Easyriding Eagle said...

Paul, I only mentioned vitamins as an example to illustrate this point - there have been, and are currently, attempts in some countries to limit the sales of vitamins to being prescription only. The example was to juxtapose the irony of this - "...that 300,000 Americans were killed every year through negligent medical and prescription procedures" yet this same system wants vitamins controlled as some sort of "poison". The flip side you mention is killing people, through incompetence and negligence. In answer to your question 'What's the point' - that's the point.

Further you said "...but I tell you this: if a drug company came up with a cure for cancer, they would become immensely rich. Obscenely rich. Once you understand cancer, you understand its inevitability. Said company would profit from enormous numbers of people, and in the future, probably several times in their life."
I don't believe you have any idea how well I understand cancer, and there does not have to be an inevitability to a cancer diagnosis. This is what 'modern, western' medicine would have us believe - the same 'modern, western' culture that delivered us wonderful pesticides like DDT, wonderful pruducts like asbestos (with it's myriad of uses, and cancers), wonderful grugs like Thalidomide, to name just a few.

Following later are some current examples, but first - drug companies are already immensely rich. Overall, their profit margins are higher than similar turnover companies, and you can tell me all you like, I counter with telling you this - unless drug companies can patent a treatment or a cure, they will not research it. If a drug company comes up with a cure from a natural source that CANNOT be patented, they WILL NOT develop it because they will not become rich - rather, their ongoing cash flow from selling symptomatic treatments would dry up.

Here are the more current examples, just to show it happens just as much today as ever before:

"AstraZeneca has settled another batch of Seroquel liability suits. The drugmaker agreed to pay $150 million to resolve about 6,000 cases claiming AZ knew Seroquel could cause diabetes but didn't adequately warn patients about that risk, sources tell Bloomberg. The deal brings the Seroquel settlement total to almost $350 million.

On average, the latest settlement allocates about $25,000 to each plaintiff, Bloomberg's sources said, more than twice the $11,000 average payout in a $198 million settlement of 17,500 claims last year. That deal, announced last summer, dispensed with some two-thirds of the 26,000 Seroquel claims outstanding in U.S. courts, the company said at the time. Now, with the latest deal, some 4,000 claims are yet to be resolved.

Seroquel is one of the atypical antipsychotic meds that hit the market with plenty of fanfare, promising effective treatment of psychiatric problems with fewer side effects than older meds. But the drugs proved to carry their own risks, especially the potential for weight gain and diabetes. And as drugmakers broadened the list of uses for these treatments--Seroquel, for example, is also approved as an add-on treatment for major depression--sales grew apace, making them some of the best-selling drugs in the world.

Seroquel is far from the only atypical antipsychotic facing lawsuits from patients. Johnson & Johnson is fighting hundreds of claims that its Risperdal drug led to such health problems as diabetes, and Eli Lilly confronts similar litigation over its atypical product Zyprexa. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca and Lilly have agreed to pay $520 million and $1.4 billion, respectively, to settle federal allegations that they promoted these meds for off-label use; J&J has disclosed that it's negotiating to settle a similar probe."

Read more: AZ agrees to $150M Seroquel settlement - FiercePharma http://www.fiercepharma.com/story/az-agrees-150m-seroquel-settlement/2011-02-17#ixzz1pW60AJo2

Jarrod said...

Easyriding Eagle, the thread has somehow dengrated into you providing a handful of anecdotes and conspiracy theories. The point I was trying to make was that natural treatments are, as mentioned by Paul, somehow equated with being good because they are natural. Bee stings are natural and so are rattle-snakes but I don't let them bite and/or sting me. In addition, I wanted to point out that making claims about the efficacy of products without evdidence to back those claims up is misleading. Clinical science is not perfect and as I mentioned in the post "one would have to be ignorant to assume that pharmaceutical companies are angels". Nonetheless, I again emphasise that mdescine saves lives. Why you continuously ignore this baffles me. You also insult all the great work that clinical scienctists do to improve our quality of life. I cannot understand how you can possibly think that all the people who research medical treatments are dishonest and trying to line their own pockets. Scientists are not in it for the money; it does not pay well enough for that to be the case.
I will not address any of your specific points here but will reserve that for an entirely new post when I have some time to work on it.

Paul McBride said...

EE says"The flip side you mention is killing people, through incompetence and negligence. In answer to your question 'What's the point' - that's the point."

Well, then I'm afraid 'the point' is irrelevant, and somewhat incoherent. If the main problem is negligence in medical care, then you can't blame the drugs. If the main problem is the safety of the drugs used, then you can't compare their risks to vitamins.

Natural health product companies who tell everyone they need to be taking vitamins every day to stay healthy are no better than drug companies who say the cure to every problem is a pill. Both industries are self-serving, and are addressing a range of problems that might also be addressed with diet and lifestyle changes.

I don't believe you have any idea how well I understand cancer, and there does not have to be an inevitability to a cancer diagnosis.

Sure, I have no idea of how well you understand cancer, as you haven't discussed your knowledge of cancer here.

Here's what I understand of cancer and its inevitability. Let's see how much we agree.

Cancer is a complex disease (of course) but the best-supported theory of its cause is the accumulation of DNA mutations in the cells of your body. These mutations can be accelerated through lifestyle choices. For example, drinking alcohol can cause mutations in mouth tissue. Smoking causes a range of cancers, but most notably lung and throat cancers. This is because these products are mutagenic: they tend to induce DNA mutations in the cells they contact. More generally, somatic mutations can be induced by diet: excessive calories produce reactive oxygen species in cells' mitochondria. These can be utilised by the body under exercise, but it they are not, they react with cellular molecules, including DNA during DNA's replication phase. This also induces a series of specific DNA mutations.

These and other factors accelerate mutations in the cells of our body. However, in every cell replication there is risk of DNA mutation. Although cells have error-checking mechanisms that reduce the number of mutations that occur, these mechanisms are biologically imperfect. Once these uncorrected errors occur, they are in your body for good (or at least while the tissue bearing these mutations is in your body). The errors are compounded by new errors that occur the next time your cells divide. And so on. This is why many types of cancer increase in frequency with age: the accumulation of mutations.

Mostly, these mutations are harmless. Most of our DNA can tolerate mutations without becoming dysfunctional. However, sometimes these errors affect cells' abilities to regulate cell division. These cells begin to locally increase in number, unhampered by our normal regulatory processes, and affecting the body's ability to perform other functions. Cancer has occurred. Because the cancer is genetically derived, it is localised to the particular cells that bear the triggering mutations. This is why cancers can be removed.

Genetic therapies that target cells that produce tell-tale metabolites that indicate cancer are advancing, which is exciting. And there have been some useful breakthroughs in the early detection of cancer. However, the nature of cancer is what makes it effectively inevitable. We cannot currently escape the somatic mutations that are cancer's precursors. We can only learn better what to do when they occur and cancer results.

Easyriding Eagle said...

@Jarrod: Your opening paragraph "The 'natural' medicine industry is a huge market. For some reason or another, more and more people are seeking alternative or complementary treatments. The most common reasons seem to stem from a distrust of conventional medicine (said medicine, see video below)." As an opening statement this is provocative (good) but 10 minutes of research would have probably given you reasons why there is this distrust, and why more people are seeking natural alternatives.

Yes, the 'natural' med market is huge, but the 'conventional' med market is bigger still. The distrust of 'conventional' med is well founded. I've backed this with researched info on deaths caused by 'conventional' med. There is no corresponding evidence of deaths through 'natural' med. I have illustrated how 'conventional' med has caused death and deformities and long-term health issues through prescribing drugs that have been through "the scientific method and how it is applied to clinical science"; and how drug companies have paid $millions in compensation due to their admitted lies and deceit.

I viewed the video you referenced. While it was cleverly produced and presented, it's just a mocking parody presenting someones thoughts. Did you view the video I referenced? I don't believe so, as the evidence provided in that video of a specific drug company, and government regulatory agency, stealing another person’s intellectual property and patents would have warranted some comment.

Do 15 min of desk-research on ‘The Constant Gardener’ story if you haven’t seen the movie. It's based on a novel, which is based on a real life situation that took place in Africa. "The Pfizer drug, Trovan was used in a clinical trial in Nigeria. By the time the trial ended, 200 children were disabled and 11 were dead. This led to a lawsuit from the Nigerian government over informed consent in Kano, Nigeria."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Constant_Gardener

Then read a synopsis of this book "Medical Apartheid won the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_Apartheid - quote: "Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present is a 2007 book by Harriet A. Washington."

Yes, many of us distrust 'conventional' med for very, very good reasons.

I disagree strongly with your assertion that "the thread has somehow dengrated (sic) into you providing a handful of anecdotes and conspiracy theories." If you choose to ignore facts that’s your choice, but in limited space I have provided many links to facts, not anecdotes, that support my points of view.

If you made your point about 'natural' med (I prefer the terms complementary treatments or remedies) as a stand-alone point, then we may have focussed discussion on that point. When you compared it to 'conventional' med you willingly or not invited further comparison of the two approaches, including how many people each one kills per year, how much compensation each has paid out, etc.

Simply put, I see the growth in the natural approach as recognising and responding to people’s desire to have more control over their health, addressing their own health through preventative approaches, or remedial approaches with minimal side effects and dangers.

Consider this: would you rather buy a slightly imperfect peach/banana/apple etc at the local farmers market (natural) than a 6-month cold stored artificially ripened insecticide-spray-protected yet perfect looking supermarket equivalent. (And yes, scientists have researched the chemical sprays to say they are safe - like DDT - and the artificial ripening agents and the irradiation process, and researched the introduction of genetically modified fruit to keep it looking good)

Easyriding Eagle said...

@Paul: EE says "The flip side ... In answer to your question 'What's the point' - that's the point."

Well, then I'm afraid 'the point' is irrelevant, and somewhat incoherent. ...”

The issue here is ‘conventional’ medicine, which includes both the act of treatment and the products used in treatments (drugs) are killing 300,000 people pa in the USA in the mid 90’s (researched by Ralph Nader); ‘natural’ med is doing nothing of the sort.

What is irrelevant or incoherent about that?

But let’s look closer to home.

An emailed response to the British Medical Journal by Ron Law, Executive Director of the NNFA in NZ and member of the NZ Ministry of Health Working Group advising on medical error, gave some enlightening information on deaths caused by drugs and medical errors.

He notes the prevalence of deaths from medical errors and also from properly researched and prescribed medications in Australia and NZ (reminding us that the US is not alone), and cites the following statistics and facts: Official Australian govt. reports reveal that preventable medical error in hospitals is responsible for 11% of all deaths in Australia (about 1 in 9 deaths). If deaths from properly researched, properly registered, properly prescribed and properly used drugs are added along with preventable deaths due to private practice it comes to a staggering 19%, almost 1 of every 5 deaths.

NZ figures are very similar: “Restated, the equivalent of NZ’s second largest city (Christchurch) has been killed by preventable medical error and deaths from properly researched, properly registered, properly prescribed and properly used drugs in Australasia in the past decade.

More than 5 million people have been killed by Western medical practice in the past decade (Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, and NZ) and 20 million killed or permanently maimed."

Yes, this is referenced from a blogging site (from 2009), but I suggest that it's a blogging site with considerable reputation and credibility (Possibly more than this site)
http://besthealth.com.au/drugs-and-medical-errors-killing-one-of-every-five-australians/

Let's not restrict ourselves to blogs. Let’s look at official NZ Govt sites notifying of the withdrawal of previously tested and approved drugs, such as Paradex or Capadex, withdrawn from sale/prescription in NZ Dec 2009, almost 4 years after similar action in the UK, for (amongst other reasons):
"Deaths related to dextropropoxyphene overdose have occurred within 1 hour of ingestion and before medical intervention could be obtained.
Prescribing restrictions introduced in 2006 have failed to ensure that these medicines were only used in patients for whom the benefits are likely to outweigh the risks.
Overall the risks of these medicines exceed their benefits."
Source: http://www.medsafe.govt.nz/hot/alerts/dextropropoxyphene.asp

Or from Oct 2011 (and a Coroners investigation cannot be called anecdotal) (http://www.newsinferno.com/pharmaceuticals/pradaxa/new-zealand-pradaxa-deaths-under-investigation/33568) "A NZ coroner’s investigation has been initiated into deaths linked to the blood thinner, Pradaxa. The most recent death … brings the total number of NZ patients who have died after taking Pradaxa to 5 said TVNZ....Pradaxas availability increased…after Pharmac - the Pharmaceutical Management Agency of New Zealand - announced it was fully funding the blood thinner following a drug company deal valued at upwards of $155 million over five years, said TVNZ. ...although Pharmac claims that Pradaxa was fully evaluated before being added to its formulary, medical director Peter Moodie told Radio New Zealand that Pharmac was aware of the bleeding risks linked to Pradaxa.

Despite what Pharmac says, some experts say the agency did not sufficiently advise physicians about Pradaxa prior to its being marketed for general use. It was rolled out very rapidly without a lot of forethought and planning …"

I'll address your other points later.

Jarrod said...

@Easyriding Eagle
Again, I think you are straying further from the point of my post. And again I emphasise "one would have to be ignorant to assume that pharmaceutical companies are angels." Nonetheless, despite the points you make about loss of life from medical negligence it does not change the fact that medicine saves lives. Should we not take advice and treatment from medical professionals and go back to eating herbs and spices, drilling holes in our heads and bloodletting to cure disease? As has been stated several times, we live longer and healthier lives than ever before BECAUSE of evidence based medicine, DESPITE the issues you have raised. You make some valid points about issues related to harm caused by SOME drugs, but the benefits of modern medicine overwhelmingly outweigh the costs. I agree that it is clearly a tragedy for the individuals who are adversely affected by negligence and/or unsafe treatments. However, if we consider the net gain from medical treatment based on scientific investigation we see immense benefits.
'Big Pharma' are no different to any other large organisations. I think that there is a more fundamental problem with modern economics and the seemingly insatiable need for economic growth. I think this is where you have gone wrong. I may be reading it wrong, but in your comments you come across as anti-science. It is not science that is the problem. It is how the knowledge that science generates is used that is a problem.
You suggest that I "invited further comparison of the two approaches, including how many people each one kills per year, how much compensation each has paid out.' But what about how many lives each save per year. For example, if we consider dietary supplements we find very little evidence that they have any significant net positive effect in reducing the incidences of disease. However, when we consider science-based medicine we find strong evidence of a positive net gain in both the eradication of disease (e.g. vaccinations) and highly successful reductions in the symptoms of chronic (incurable) disease. Please don't bring up that drug companies only treat symptoms and not diseases. Many diseases are currently incurable and many will likely stay that way because their root cause is inescapable. Of course it is possible to prevent many diseases through good diet and exercise but this is not new and has been the core of main stream medical philosophy for a long time.

Paul McBride said...

EE:"The issue here is ‘conventional’ medicine, which includes both the act of treatment and the products used in treatments (drugs) are killing 300,000 people pa in the USA in the mid 90’s (researched by Ralph Nader); ‘natural’ med is doing nothing of the sort. What is irrelevant or incoherent about that?"

It is unfair to conflate human error and the inherent safety or otherwise of conventional medicine. Human error is unfortunate, but can be reduced simply by better training and less pressured work environments. Mistakes by natural heath practitioners are less likely to lead to death because they deal with problems like people feeling a bit tired in the afternoon, rather than removing brain tumours, or treating cardiac arrest.

Let's accept the 300,000 figure above. One simple act of Western medicine - vaccination against smallpox - has alone prevented more deaths per annum than this. In the 18th century, smallpox was killing 400,000 people per year in Europe, while the European population was 150 million - about half the population of the US. So this is the equivalent of 800,000 deaths in the US per annum prevented by the eradication of smallpox. And this is before we consider all of the other deaths prevented by vaccination against other disease. And then all of the day-to-day medical treatments that prevent deaths continuously in every hospital in the world. Car crashes, heart attacks, strokes.

Conventional medicine: it works.

Paul McBride said...

EE:"Yes, this is referenced from a blogging site (from 2009), but I suggest that it's a blogging site with considerable reputation and credibility (Possibly more than this site)"

Credibility? That site is run someone who practices a mixes ancient Chinese medicine with quantum physics (ahem, bullshit) and someone else who facilitates "the magic of transformation". Whatever that means.

Really, there was no need for the slight of Jarrod's blog at the end there, but in any case I'm gonna go out on a limb and say you were wrong on the credibility front.

Jarrod said...

Wow, I feel the need to echo Paul's comment on the credibility of that "blogging site". Those people are kooks. I have never claimed any higher level of credibility and I am not endorsed by anyone or anything. Let us look at one of their sweet treatments called kinesiology. Look at the outrageous claims they make about what it treats. You would have to be completely stupid to think that you can be cured of candida by kinesiology. There is no evidence that it does anything so I am going to say they have little to no credibility.

Easyriding Eagle said...

So how do you judge the credibility of any blogging site, and whether it is run by 'kooks'. Is it by how long it has survived? How many followers it has? The (arguably) crazy claims it makes? How many links on it's blogroll?

Good - you took the bait and looked at that site - at last acknowledging you have looked at least one of the many references. That site does arguably have more credibility than this one, and my very statement acknowledges that there is 'an argument' - maybe right, maybe wrong. The references in this blog to (kook) Tim Minchin and his credibility can also be argued.

There is just so much in this particular blog to take issue with. From a recent post by Jarrod: "'Big Pharma' are no different to any other large organisations. I think that there is a more fundamental problem with modern economics and the seemingly insatiable need for economic growth." WRONG - other large organisations do not financially control the panels which authorise the use of their products. In Australia the TGA is captive to the funding derived from 'Big Pharma', notwithstanding the fact that is is ostensibly a govt agency. Similarly in the USA where the FDA is captive to the funding derived from 'Big Pharma', notwithstanding the fact that is is ostensibly a govt agency.

You are correct here: "I think this is where you have gone wrong. I may be reading it wrong, but in your comments you come across as anti-science. It is not science that is the problem. It is how the knowledge that science generates is used that is a problem." I agree with you and I am not saying that science is the problem; but how it is used.

But I am also saying that this branch of science (medical research and the spplication of that knowledge) is captive to 'big pharma' through the suppression of useful findings that cannot be patented and commercialised, and the misuse of other knowledge (like the current attempt to find other on-prescription uses for Viagra as that patent is about to run out).

And contracted with this, your downplaying of the role that complementary treatments and remedies play.

PS - what is your thought on what I said earlier: "Consider this: would you rather buy a slightly imperfect peach/banana/apple etc at the local farmers market (natural) than a 6-month cold stored artificially ripened insecticide-spray-protected yet perfect looking supermarket equivalent. (And yes, scientists have researched the chemical sprays to say they are safe - like DDT - and the artificial ripening agents and the irradiation process, and researched the introduction of genetically modified fruit to keep it looking good)"

Easyriding Eagle said...

@Paul - yes, the smallpox vaccine is a great advance, but NOT the 'simple act' you claim; The development of the smallpoc innoculation and then vaccine actually backs up my claims that 'natural' remedies should not be discarded. It is stated that as early as 430BC smallpox sufferers were nursed/treated by smallpox survivors, as they were immune. Various forms of innoculation (not vaccination) were in place throughout Africa, India, China and Europe even before the 18th century.

My contention is this: If the scientists of the day did not first look at the 'traditional' methods of treatment (and innoculation), some of which worked, and some that didn't, then we could say they were negligent and there endeavours were incomplete. Read about it here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1200696/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox_vaccine also tells how this was used long before Dr Jenner came on the scene.

But let's look at some other diseases too:

Scurvy, that had a varying death rate - cured by getting people to eat Vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables. A 'natural' medicinal approach that totally eliminated the need for scientific research and expensive patents, etc.

Pellagra - reported death rate of 97%. Essentially cured through Vitamin B3. "The traditional food preparation method of corn (maize), nixtamalization, by native New World cultivators who had domesticated corn required treatment of the grain with lime, an alkali. It has now been shown that the lime treatment makes niacin nutritionally available and reduces the chance of developing pellagra. When corn cultivation was adopted worldwide, this preparation method was not accepted because the benefit was not understood. The original cultivators, often heavily dependent on corn, did not suffer from pellagra. Pellagra became common only when corn became a staple that was eaten without the traditional treatment." Read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pellagra

Beriberi - caused throigh a deficiency of Vitamin B1 "Beriberi is rare in the United States because most foods are now vitamin enriched." Yes, eating enough food with the right vitamins prevents this.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001379/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beriberi

Of course there are more examples too.

Jarrod said...

I am sorry but anyone who claims to use "a method of healing that encompasses the ancient knowledge of Chinese medicine – married to the as yet only partially understood mysteries of quantum physics – encapsulated in computer technology – the Avatar" is a crazy person. What does that even mean? It is a string of words that are supposed to sound weighty but carry none what-so-ever. The same goes for the rubbish they call Kinesiology. It is an abstraction of the study of mechanics in the body. It is meaningless and has been shown to not work or be repeatable in controlled conditions. Sorry but they are kooks.
Tim Minchin on the other hand is a comedian, he makes no claims to heal people with quantum woo and so is not subject to the label kook in the sma way that the Best Health lot are. He is an entertainer (and a damn fine one at that) who uses evidence to take the piss (quite rightfully) out of REAL kooks.
I suspect your claim about other large companies not having an influence on the registration of their products is wrong actually. Although I am not going to spin a conspiracy theory here. Oil companies, for example, have horrendous ethical histories, as do companies such as Monsanto.
I do not see what relevance your question about fruit has. Personally I choose locally grown produce but don't see what your point about GM and DDT have.

Paul McBride said...

EE, finding what works and learning from what doesn't is the bread and butter of science and the reason why we live past 40, many of us enjoying long stretches with no worse health problems than the odd cold or flu.

You contend that medical scientists are negligent if they do not consider every alternative treatment that is offered. However, the onus is not on conventional medicine to demonstrate whether each and every idea proposed has merit. The onus is on those who advocate for a particular treatment to do so based on sound support, and provide evidence if none exists. Evidence should be good quality. Anecdotes are a weak, provisional, form of evidence, whereas gold-standard clinical trials are compelling.

You listed a few diseases that are the result of vitamin deficiencies. It is worth considering that the reason we know that they are caused by vitamin deficiencies is western medical science. Yes, sailors made sure they had limes on board their vessels to prevent scurvy, and other such pragmatic remedies have gone before. But the specific link to vitamin C is purely a scientific one. Science provides us the detail to best address and prevent problems like vitamin deficiencies. And science also informs us why we are one of very few mammals that are susceptible to scurvy - it is borne out of our evolutionary history (the ancestor of the haplorhine primates, which include humans, lost the ability to synthesise vitamin c through a DNA mutation in GULO, the last step in the synthesis pathway. Breaking the pathway did not result in scurvy for the ancestor almost certainly due to a fruit-rich diet).

By the way, the bulk of vitamin C production is handled by a couple of large pharmaceutical companies like Merck and is produced either by industrial fermentation or artificial synthesis, and not squeezed out of citrus or berries. I guess when the world gives you lemons, you make lemonade rather than dietary supplements.

In the end, this all comes back to Jarrod's original point. We need evidence to make good decisions about what treatments to use. The criteria for such decisions should not place greater importance on the presence or absence of artificial sweeteners than on whether or not they work.

p.s. you never addressed my discussion of cancer, which was in response to your claim that cancers are not inevitable.

Easyriding Eagle said...

@Paul - I haven't forgotten my statement that I'll return to the cancer link - I will.

P: "But the specific link to vitamin C is purely a scientific one." NO, it's a NATURAL one. Yes, proved by science, but the natural link was there long before science proved it. This is partly my point: natural stuff is there - science tries to claim ownership - commercial exploiters seek to exploit. I am not arguing about science, but am highlighting where I see science misused, particularly when captive of commercial interests (maybe a helpful comparison, maybe not: how do you feel about Cadbury seeking to patent the colour purple, or Harley Davidson seeking to patent the sound their motorbikes make? Both apply science: this colour is made up of X+Y-Z in a specific ratio, but that occurs in nature anyway. A sound can be analysed scientifically, but it also occurs naturally, but the commercial misuse of science seeks to patent this naturally occuring phenomenon)./

Consider this: "By the way, the bulk of vitamin C production is handled by a couple of large pharmaceutical companies like Merck and is produced either by industrial fermentation or artificial synthesis, and not squeezed out of citrus or berries. I guess when the world gives you lemons, you make lemonade rather than dietary supplements."

Would it not just be easier to have people eat whole, complete foods? Why have a need to manufacture vitamin C when it is freely available in natural food?

The world has given us lemons, and major pharma companies like Merck would rather make $$ by providing a 'scientific' solution rather than encourage people to eat better.

Oh, I know why - because science has modified the whole food so it lasts longer, looks better; so the commercial interests ensure it sells for more $; and along the way has sacrificed some of the natural goodness that was in the food. So now science identifies how to make an additive/supplement to replace the lost goodness, and the commercial interests exploit this.

Paul McBride said...

Me:"But the specific link to vitamin C is purely a scientific one."

EE:"NO, it's a NATURAL one. Yes, proved by science, but the natural link was there long before science proved it.

For that to be your response, you can't have read what I wrote. To repeat: treating scurvy with certain foods was known to work in a pragmatic way, but it had no link to vitamin C specifically. Therefore, the value in science was in determining the specific cause, which allows for specific treatment - which is applicable to all disease, and not just vitamin deficiencies.

If your problem is with the commercialisation of science, you should have said so from the start. In this case, it is predominantly the capitalist model of health care that concerns you, not the application of science to understanding human health. In this, I think you'll find, we all share concerns. But the so-called natural health industry is also trying to wring money out of people in the same way. In their case they do so by claiming effectiveness of treatments without evidence, which was the point of the OP.

"I am not arguing about science".
Well, you repeatedly blame 'science' for things you dislike, even in this post ("Science has modified the food", "Merck would rather make $$ by providing a 'scientific' solution"). So it sounds a hell of a lot like you are arguing about science. If you're not you should reconsider your phrasing.

"Would it not just be easier to have people eat whole, complete foods? Why have a need to manufacture vitamin C when it is freely available in natural food? The world has given us lemons, and major pharma companies like Merck would rather make $$ by providing a 'scientific' solution rather than encourage people to eat better."

I agree, as I stated in my very first comment above - the only problem being you can't just "have" people eat well, they need to make that choice for themselves. There's no shortage of good information on eating well out there. But people make bad choices. This means there's still a place for dietary supplements as a subobtimal alternative.

The other side of this is that you now seem opposed to the supplements/vitamins industry, that you'd earlier supported. You had referred to vitamin supplements as "natural med", to be contrasted with western medicine. And you lamented a big pharma conspiracy against them:

"Over a twenty-seven year period, vitamin supplements have been alleged to have caused the deaths of a total of eleven people in the United States...there have, in fact, been no deaths whatsoever from vitamins . . . none at all, in the 27 years that such reports have been available"

So whether vitamin supplements are the victim of some big pharma conspiracy or actually a part of a big pharma conspiracy depends on which post of yours we read.

Easyriding Eagle said...

@P: ""I am not arguing about science".
Well, you repeatedly blame 'science' for things you dislike, even in this post ("Science has modified the food", "Merck would rather make $$ by providing a 'scientific' solution"). So it sounds a hell of a lot like you are arguing about science. If you're not you should reconsider your phrasing."

Yes, science has modified the food, but corporations and governments are making the $$. Merck isn't science - Merck is one of the corporations that is sometimes mis-applying, sometimes misusing and sometimes ignoring science in the interests of making more $$.

Paul, I thought I had made it clear when I said earlier (March 24): "I agree with you and I am not saying that science is the problem; but how it is used." and later in that same post: "But I am also saying that this branch of science (medical research and the spplication of that knowledge) is captive to 'big pharma' through the suppression of useful findings that cannot be patented and commercialised, and the misuse of other knowledge..."

I think the above phrasing is simple, unequivocal and easy to understand.

I also think these extracts show my position is not anti-science. I don't think any of these comments are anti-science (work out for yourself what they are 'anti'):

March 4: "...But we only have to look at arguably the biggest money spinner of all for drug companies..."

March 12: "But back to drug companies, and the BUSINESS of cancer. Firstly, some very personal examples..."

March 12: "The bottom line to me is: Drug companies make far more money keeping people alive and treating symptoms than they do by curing them..."

March 18: "Following later are some current examples, but first - drug companies are already immensely rich. Overall, their profit margins are higher than similar turnover companies, and you can tell me all you like, I counter with telling you this - unless drug companies can patent a treatment or a cure, they will not research it. If a drug company comes up with a cure from a natural source that CANNOT be patented, they WILL NOT develop it because they will not become rich - rather, their ongoing cash flow from selling symptomatic treatments would dry up..."

March 22: "WRONG - other large organisations do not financially control the panels which authorise the use of their products. In Australia the TGA is captive to the funding derived from 'Big Pharma', notwithstanding the fact that is is ostensibly a govt agency. Similarly in the USA where the FDA is captive to the funding derived from 'Big Pharma', notwithstanding the fact that is is ostensibly a govt agency."

And lastly, to Jarrod on March 24 read the whole paragraph): "...I agree with you and I am not saying that science is the problem; but how it is used."

As regards vitamin supplements: I am neither for nor against them, and I believe people have a free chaoice. Personally, I take some where I believe that my dietary intake may be insufficient and I'm unable (or too lazy) to access foods that contain what I lack. I am against big pharma making $ out of vitamin supplements and trying to control the supply of same. "So whether vitamin supplements are the victim of some big pharma conspiracy or actually a part of a big pharma conspiracy depends on which post of yours we read." - yes, vitamins can be both. If they are easily manufactured and profitable, big pharma makes them. If they are not, big pharma claims 'unsafe, unproven ...etc) and tries to get them controlled.

Easyriding Eagle said...

You might be interested in this decision reported today:

"THE US Supreme Court has thrown out a lower court ruling allowing human genes to be patented, a topic of enormous interest to cancer researchers, patients and drug makers.

The court overturned patents belonging to Myriad Genetics Inc of Salt Lake City on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Myriad's BRCA Analysis test looks for mutations on the breast cancer predisposition gene, or BRCA. Those mutations are associated with much greater risks of breast and ovarian cancer.

The American Civil Liberties Union has been arguing that genes couldn't be patented, a position taken by a district court judge but overturned on appeal." Read more here: http://tools.goldcoast.com.au/stories/51367931.php

But the above is not a great report on the topic, and this gives a far better overall picture (this was before the latest court ruling): http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/25/business/despite-gene-patent-victory-myriad-genetics-faces-challenges.html?pagewanted=all

"...The latest controversy concerns a supplemental test that Myriad is offering.

In 2006, Professor King and colleagues published a paper showing that Myriad’s test, known as the Comprehensive BRACAnalysis, actually failed to detect a significant number of genetic alterations in the two genes.

Myriad then developed a test for these alterations. But instead of incorporating it into its main product, it offered it as a supplemental test at a price of $700. Many insurers do not pay for it, and therefore many women do not get it...." Illustrating the hijacking of science in the interests of commercial gain.

And there is a crossover between science and commerciality here, and I put forward that some of the founders of have switched from being scientists working to this end: "Our goal, at Myriad is to make a difference in patient’s lives and for the past twenty years, the Company’s strategy has been guided by this mission" to being focussed on the commercial outcomes.

"The founders of Myriad are Mark Skolnick (Adjunct Professor in the Department of Medical Informatics at the University of Utah), Walter Gilbert (1980 Nobel Laureate in chemistry and Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University) and Peter Meldrum (past President and CEO of Agridyne and current CEO and President of Myriad Genetics, Inc) and Kevin Kimberlin of Spencer Trask & Company" (sourced from Wikipedia)

Easyriding Eagle said...

@P “Here's what I understand of cancer and its inevitability. Let's see how much we agree.” “Cancer is a complex disease (of course)” – Agree

“but the best-supported theory of its cause is the accumulation of DNA mutations in the cells of your body” – partially agree. This apparently ignores the metabolic issues, which is where we differ mostly. This possibly summarises our respective positions:

“Until a couple of years ago, the usual introduction sentence to any undergraduate course on ‘mechanisms of carcinogenesis’ could have been: ‘cancer is a genetic disease driven by the sequential accumulation of mutations and epigenetic alterations in genes regulating growth control, apoptosis, replicative senescence, DNA repair and angiogenesis’. Today, there are many chances that the course would start by stating that ‘cancer is a metabolic disease’.

This is not to say that the previous, genetic version of cancer definition has suddenly become obsolete. Nor does it imply that cancer biology is just discovering the long-known associations between diet, metabolism and cancer risk. Rather, what is taking place is a progressive conceptual change that could be cheekily summarized as ‘molecular biology is re-discovering biochemistry’. As perfectly stated by Bayley and Devilee in this issue, ‘the long neglect of metabolism in favour of molecular and genetic approaches to cancer is now giving way to the realization that understanding of the primary cellular processes specific to tumour cells is essential to real progress’.”
From: Current Opinion in Oncology: January 2012 Volume 24 Issue 1 p56–57 CANCER BIOLOGY: Ed by Pierre Hainaut and Amelie Plymoth

Your discussion about “These mutations can be accelerated through lifestyle choices…. Cancer has occurred.” I generally agree with, BUT the mutation rate for most genes is low making it unlikely that the numerous pathogenic mutations found in cancer cells would occur sporadically within a normal human lifespan. This creates a paradox – if mutations are such rare events then how is it possible that cancer cells express so many different and similar types and kinds of mutations, why are they increasing so rapidly in some population groups and far more slowly, if at all, in others?

I believe that science would better serve humankind through researching these issues:

1: what is causing the mutations?

2: what is inhibiting the body’s natural ability “to regulate cell division”.

3: what are the factors in population groups where cancers are less prevalent?

You state “Genetic therapies that target cells that produce tell-tale metabolites that indicate cancer are advancing, which is exciting. And there have been some useful breakthroughs in the early detection of cancer.”

How sad that we are subject to an ever increasing range of carcinogens in our environment, through the commercialisation of science (in everyday items like household cleaners, pesticides, paints and solvents) and at the same time decreasing nutritional value of our diets (through foods that last a long time but are nutritionally deficient, increased processing of food).

So, our big disagreement.

“However, the nature of cancer is what makes it effectively inevitable. We cannot currently escape the somatic mutations that are cancer's precursors. We can only learn better what to do when they occur and cancer results.” Your last 2 sentences are so sad to me – I take this to mean: it’s inevitable, it will happen, only then let’s learn.

For me: “Emerging evidence, however, questions the genetic origin of cancer and suggests that cancer is primarily a metabolic disease.” (from Cancer as a metabolic disease. Thomas N Seyfried* and Laura M Shelton http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/7/1/7 )
And as such greater attention should be paid to the metabolic factors and influences, including prevention, and less on the symptomatic treatment, and ‘the business of cancer’.

Easyriding Eagle said...

Relevant to food, nutrition and cancer prevention/treatment:

A research result just published:
"A study by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention investigators reveals that breast cancer survivors who eat more cruciferous vegetables may have improved survival. The study of women in China was presented by postdoctoral fellow Sarah J. Nechuta, Ph.D., M.P.H., at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in Chicago, Ill.

Sarah J. Nechuta, Ph.D., M.P.H., postdoctoral fellow, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center
“Breast cancer survivors can follow the general nutritional guidelines of eating vegetables daily and may consider increasing intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as greens, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, as part of a healthy diet,” said Nechuta."
Reference: http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/news/releases.php?release=2395

And one from last year:
"...Women who ate the most soy food, at more than 11.83 mg isoflavones per day, had a 27 percent reduced risk for breast cancer recurrence, compared to those with the lowest intake level (3.68 mg per day or lower). High soy food intake was also associated with a slightly reduced risk of mortality, although these results did not reach statistical significance. ..."

Sarah Nechuta, postdoctoral research fellow at VICC, is first author of the study, which included investigators from Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif., Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Mass., Moores UCSD Cancer Center, University of California San Diego, and the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Shanghai, China.

The research was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which combines the resources of several National Cancer Institute-funded studies.
Source: http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2011/04/soy-foods-breast-cancer-survivors/

Easyriding Eagle said...

Borrowing from the bloggers title "Insulting Intelligence, or just not having any" and adding the "business" of medicine into the mix, as well as the incompetence of government that approves and pays for medicines, this is both an intellectual and economic insult to us:

PBS paying '10 times market price of drugs' by: Sue Dunlevy From: The Australian April 03, 2012 12:00AM

THE government could save about $1 billion a year if it better managed the nation's medicine subsidy scheme, a Melbourne University academic says.

Health economist Philip Clarke told The Australian yesterday the price of the nation's biggest-selling medicine, the anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor, plummeted by $8 a script when it gained a generic competitor on Sunday, but the government was still paying 10 times the market price. It could save $590 million in the next 18 months if it paid the $5-per-script price New Zealand pays, Professor Clarke said.

On Sunday, the government cut the price it pays for 1000 different generic drugs, which will drop by as much as $15 a packet for patients. But Professor Clarke said these new lower prices were still up to 80 per cent higher than the market price.

The price of the 40mg version of the anti-cholesterol pill simvastatin plummeted by 55 per cent and the taxpayer is now paying $22.68 a month for the drug -- 10 times more than the $2.83-per-script price one generic drug company, Ranbaxy, is charging chemists.

The clot-busting medicine Plavix dropped from $51 per script to $36 at the weekend, but Professor Clarke said the price was about $4 a month in New Zealand. His argument was backed by Britain's Health Department, which does an annual survey comparing the prices of medicines in 13 developed countries. It found that Australia was paying 39 per cent more for medicines than Britain.

In 2010, only two countries, Germany and the US, paid more for medicines than Australia, the survey found.

The problem is that the government sets the price it pays for medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and these prices are well in excess of what the drug companies and medicine wholesalers charge.

The Department of Health has been trying to rectify the problem using a price-disclosure process that captures data on the prices chemists pay for medicines.

Medicines Australia chief Brendan Shaw said the medicines industry had delivered almost $2bn worth of savings to the government in price cuts at the weekend and could not wear further budget cuts.

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/health/pbs-paying-10-times-market-price-of-drugs/story-fn59nokw-1226316887643

Jarrod said...

@EE you say "Relevant to food, nutrition and cancer prevention/treatment". You following comment is exactly what I am talking about when it comes to evidence. They have shown (although importantly in the second case not with significance) that certain dietary choices can reduce your chance of breast cancer. They have provided evidence so I see no conflict with my thesis.

I see no relevance in your following comment in relation to the OP. What is your point in relation to the OP? If it has none why post it?

Easyriding Eagle said...

Jarrod - the relevance is this: People are every day paying $millions for prescribed medicines that are either overpriced and/or not necessary and/or prove to actually be harmful over time. This blind trust in conventional medicine, and the proposition that we should trustingly accept it, is, in my view, "Insulting intelligence, or just not having any."

My post just tries to show how blindingly trusting sheeple are, trusting that governments and medical science/big pharma will 'do the right thing by them', when actually both governments and medical science/big pharma are quite happy that we pay excessively for conventional medicine (taxpayers pay tax, which subsidises the cost of over-priced and over-prescribed medicines).

Hence my opening comment in that post: "Borrowing from the bloggers title "Insulting Intelligence, or just not having any" and adding the "business" of medicine into the mix, as well as the incompetence of government that approves and pays for medicines, this is both an intellectual and economic insult to us"

Apologies for not making the link obvious, and I hope this clarifies.

Jarrod said...

Sorry but that is not an obvious link, or a link of any sort. The original post was about how natural health products are sold with particular claims about what effects they have without any formal evidence that the products are indeed effective. "[T]rust in conventional medicine" is not blind if we have evidence that it works. How much Australians pay for drugs vs. the rest of the world has nothing to do with that. If you have a bone to pick with your government about the price you are paying for drugs take it up with them in an Australian forum. It does not further the discussion about evidence based medicine to comment on that here. Moreover, what do you care if you have a distrust of drugs? Just drink a herbal tea, that should be just as effective.

Easyriding Eagle said...

OK - I'll try spell it out in simpler terms, and use an example where I know the details of intimately, and had personal discussions with all the people and conventional medicine practitioners involved:

In my post of March 12 I summarised a personal experience with a Breast Cancer diagnosed relative. Even though the conventional medicine recommended route after surgery to remove the tumour (chemo and radiation treatment) had a proven benefit in only 4% of cases (the oncologists own words), he strongly recommended this course of treatment (at a cost to the health system of between $50k and $150k, depending on suplementary drug regime to counter side effects, including heart damage, possible skin irritation, hair loss, chemo brain, and other effect).

So, evidence-based benefit in only 4% of cases, and this benefit is only "that it extends the disease-free period". Yet he downplayed the negatives, including the side effects mentioned above.

This example is consistent with experiences that others share with regards to health issues that people experience in the second half of life

In my view, anyone who embarks on a 'conventional medicine' course as advised by practitioners of conventional medicine just because it is 'evidence based' claimed 'that it works' (NOW - my addition) either has little or no intelligence; and conventional medicine insults our intelligence by expecting that we believe them (as 'we' did with Thalidomide, Avandia, Vioxx, etc - as mentioned previously - hence the NOW I added earlier - so many 'safe' treatments now have negative effects in the future).

My reference re drug costs and how much Australia pays uneccesarily to the benefit of Big Pharma - this parallels many western countries with government-funded health care (maybe even NZ). I suggest that intelligent thinking would question why this is so rather than accept 'that they know best'. And it does further the discussion re evidence based medicine, as there are proven cases of big pharma manipulating results, both as regards efficacy of their products and safety of their products (ask any Thalidomide-affected family; or Pradax-affected family in NZ; families affected by Seroquel-induced suicides/suicide risk). This manipulation of results keeps their profit-stream flowing, with the complicity of the government control agencies they effectively control.

Easyriding Eagle said...

Jarrod, in your original post you said: "The most common reasons seem to stem from a distrust of conventional medicine (said medicine, see video below). Unfortunately this distrust is most likely a result of a lack of understanding of the scientific method and how it is applied to clinical science."

No, this distrust is because of an understanding that big pharma are more interested in profits ahead of people, treatment ahead of cures. This obscures the scientific methods and clinical science. Every week there is new evidence, such as this being reported today:

AN Arkansas judge fined Johnson & Johnson and a subsidiary more than $US1.1 billion ($1.07 billion) today for downplaying and concealing risks associated with the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal.
Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled that Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc and its parent company must pay $US5000 for each of 240,000 Risperdal prescriptions the state health coverage program paid for during a three-and-a-half year period, accounting for the bulk of the penalty.
A jury on Tuesday found the companies liable.
Arkansas sued the companies alleging they misled doctors about Risperdal's side effects.
State attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in an emailed statement that the ruling "sends a clear signal that big drug companies like Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals cannot lie to the (US Food and Drug Administration), patients and doctors."
Janssen said in an emailed statement that evidence showed it acted responsibly, and it pledged to appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court if Judge Fox denies a motion for a new trial.
Risperdal, introduced in 1994, is a "second-generation" antipsychotic drug that earned Johnson & Johnson billions of dollars in sales before generic versions became available several years ago.
The US Food and Drug Administration in 2004 forced the company to revise the drug's labelling to reflect increased risk of strokes and death in elderly dementia patients, seizures, major weight gain, onset of diabetes and potentially fatal high blood sugar.
Dozens of states have since filed lawsuits making claims similar to those in Arkansas.
A South Carolina judge upheld a $US327 million civil penalty against Johnson & Johnson and Janssen in December. Texas reached a $US158 million settlement with the companies in January.

Source: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/breaking-news/johnson-johnson-fined-11bn-in-risperdal-case/story-e6freonx-1226324609466

NOTE specially these words: "...sends a clear signal that big drug companies like Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals cannot lie to the (US Food and Drug Administration), patients and doctors."

Easyriding Eagle said...

Jarrod, here is a current news report, and an extract. If you read the comments made by readers you will probably get another insight into why so many people distrust conventional medicine.

"NEARLY 100 years after antibiotics were discovered, a study has found most Australians are confused about when they should take them and how they work.

And this ignorance could be putting our health at risk, doctors say, with deadly superbugs on the increase because of our inappropriate use of the drugs.

A study by the National Prescribing Service found four out of five Australians expect to be given antibiotics for ear, nose, throat or chest infections.

The chief executive of the service, Lynn Weekes, said many such infections were viral, so antibiotics did not help them, or they would resolve independently anyway....

In the past, antibiotic-resistant bugs were mostly seen in hospitals, but they was now spreading through the community. One particularly virulent strain, ST93-MRSA-IV, had been picked up in Queensland in 2003 but now accounted for more than half of NSW golden staph superbugs."

Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/health/why-antibiotics-can-be-health-risk-20120419-1xa34.html

Easyriding Eagle said...

Another example of drugs previously administered as being safe, and having passed the required testing regimes, but now found to have a link to cancer in children:

"Fertility drugs can more than double the chances of children born to mothers who struggle to get pregnant developing leukaemia, a study has shown.

Children were 2.6 times more likely to become ill with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common type of childhood leukaemia, if their mothers had been treated with ovary-stimulating drugs.

They had a 2.3-fold increased risk of suffering the rarer form of the disease, acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).

Children conceived naturally after their mothers tried for more than a year to get pregnant had a 50 per cent greater-than-normal likelihood of developing ALL.

But no heightened risk of childhood leukaemia was associated either with in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) or artificial insemination.

The French scientists cannot yet fully explain their findings, the first to show a specific link between use of fertility drugs and childhood leukaemia.

Study leader Dr Jeremie Rudant, from the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health at the French research institute INSERM in Villejuif, Paris, said: "It has always been hypothesised that assisted reproductive technologies may be involved in the onset of childhood cancer as they involve repeated treatment at the time of conception and or manipulation of the sperm and egg. And it is now established that a majority of acute leukaemia have a pre-natal (pre-birth) origin.

"The findings indicate that more research is now needed to investigate more closely the link between specific types of fertility drugs and what role the underlying causes of infertility may play in the potential development of childhood leukaemia."

Dr Rudant presented the results at the Childhood Cancer 2012 conference in London, hosted by the charity Children with Cancer UK."

But until someone researched the increased rate of childhood illness and corrolated it with apparently 'safe' other factors, scientists could (wrongly) claim that there is no cause for alarm. I am thankful there are scientists who will study correlations like this, specially in childhood diseases.

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8456433

Easyriding Eagle said...

Back to the causes of cancer, for a moment:

INFECTIONS CAUSE ONE IN SIX OF LL CANCERS WORLDWIDE: IARC
A
Worldwide, 2 million (16.1%) of the total 12.7 million new cancer cases in 2008 are attributable to infections. This fraction is higher in less developed countries (22.9%) than in more developed countries (7.4%) and varies 10-fold by region from 3.3% in Australia and New Zealand to 32.7% in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a landmark study of infection-related cancers published today in The Lancet Oncology1.
“Many infection-related cancers are preventable, particularly those associated with Helicobacter pylori, hepatitis B and C viruses and human papillomaviruses,” the authors say. “Together, these four main infections are estimated to be responsible for 1.9 million cases, mainly gastric, liver, and cervical cancers,” they add.
Cervical cancer accounted for about half of the infection-related burden of cancer in women, and in men liver and gastric cancers accounted for more than 80%.
Of the 7.5 million deaths from cancer worldwide in 20082, an estimated 1.5 million were from cancers due to infections.

Sourced from http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/TLO-INF-May2012-Eng.pdf

Jarrod said...

I have two comments to make on Based on "your" comment.

1. While some cases of cancer are caused by infection (16.1%), it is still a relatively small proportion. That means that most cancers are the likely result of cumulative mutations that directly, or indirectly, influence cell growth and/or death.

2. The report from WHO and the study it links to demonsrates that science-based medicine (e.g. vaccinations) can and does reduce infection related cancers. This is clearly evident in the significant difference between rates of such cancers in developed (0.4 million cases)and developing countries (1.6 million cases).

I fail to see what your point is re the OP. You have argued against science-based medicine but now present evidence of a strong positive health effect of science-based medicine. Do you see any contradiction?

Easyriding Eagle said...

Jarrod, the above post was to illustrate the error of PMcB posting on March 18:
"...Cancer is a complex disease (of course) but the best-supported theory of its cause is the accumulation of DNA mutations in the cells of your body..." and "...Because the cancer is genetically derived, it is localised to the particular cells that bear the triggering mutations. This is why cancers can be removed.

Genetic therapies that target cells that produce tell-tale metabolites that indicate cancer are advancing, which is exciting. And there have been some useful breakthroughs in the early detection of cancer. However, the nature of cancer is what makes it effectively inevitable. We cannot currently escape the somatic mutations that are cancer's precursors. We can only learn better what to do when they occur and cancer results."

It illustrates that some/many/all? cancer has preventable causes, including this example of cancers attributable to infections. There are far better ways to prevent infection than to vacinate against it (also cheaper = not so profitable for those who benefit from the business of medicine).

PMcB also makes these errors "...it is localised to the particular cells that bear the triggering mutations. This is why cancers can be removed." - I can only WHAT? to this statement having been exposed to many non-localised and localised cancers that CANNOT be removed; and later "...We cannot currently escape the somatic mutations that are cancer's precursors." - if this is try, why use the vaccines?

As regards this comment of yours "...You have argued against science-based medicine but now present evidence of a strong positive health effect of science-based medicine. Do you see any contradiction?" I suggest you have not comprehended my post of March 25 (an extract):
Yes, science has modified the food, but corporations and governments are making the $$. Merck isn't science - Merck is one of the corporations that is sometimes mis-applying, sometimes misusing and sometimes ignoring science in the interests of making more $$.

Paul, I thought I had made it clear when I said earlier (March 24): "I agree with you and I am not saying that science is the problem; but how it is used." and later in that same post: "But I am also saying that this branch of science (medical research and the spplication of that knowledge) is captive to 'big pharma' through the suppression of useful findings that cannot be patented and commercialised, and the misuse of other knowledge..."

I think the above phrasing is simple, unequivocal and easy to understand.

I also think these extracts show my position is not anti-science. I don't think any of these comments are anti-science (work out for yourself what they are 'anti'):

March 4: "...But we only have to look at arguably the biggest money spinner of all for drug companies..."

March 12: "But back to drug companies, and the BUSINESS of cancer. Firstly, some very personal examples..."

March 12: "The bottom line to me is: Drug companies make far more money keeping people alive and treating symptoms than they do by curing them..."

and later on April 6.

No, I don't a contradiction as I am arguing against the misuse and misapplication of science.

Easyriding Eagle said...

Why some people don't trust Science, and those who use/misuse science:

Secret files expose thalidomide cover-up

The company behind a drug that disfigured thousands of newborn babies worldwide ignored and covered up warnings about its damaging effects, a report says.

Hundreds of Australian babies were among those harmed by the German-made sedative and morning sickness treatment thalidomide.

Never-before-published excerpts of files from thalidomide maker Grunenthal obtained by Fairfax explicitly warn about the drug's potential to harm foetuses, Fairfax says.

The company has always maintained the thalidomide tragedy was unforeseeable and it had acted in accordance with the scientific knowledge and prevailing standards of the 1950s.

Advertisement Fairfax says the Grunenthal files expose a 50-year cover-up.

The effects of taking thalidomide during pregnancy included newborns with severe physical deformities.

The Grunenthal files reveal German medical professionals had been telling the pharmaceutical giant of their concerns about the link between thalidomide and children's deformities for up to two years before the drug was banned in 1961.

One company file shows eight Grunenthal employees or their family members had deformed children between 1959 and 1961.

The company told doctors there was no information suggesting the drug was unsafe, Fairfax says.

Grunenthal continues to deny any culpability as it fights a compensation claim lodged by 130 thalidomide victims in Australia and New Zealand.

Source: http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/secret-files-expose-thalidomide-coverup-20120726-22s8t.html

Easyriding Eagle said...

And the evidence against Big Pharma mounts: "
Drug and vaccine manufacturer Merck was caught red-handed by two of its own scientists faking vaccine efficacy data by spiking blood samples with animal antibodies. GlaxoSmithKline has just been fined a whopping $3 billion for bribing doctors, lying to the FDA, hiding clinical trial data and fraudulent marketing. Pfizer, meanwhile has been sued by the nation's pharmacy retailers for what is alleged as an "overarching anticompetitive scheme" to keep generic cholesterol drugs off the market and thereby boost its own profits.

The picture that's emerging is one of a criminal drug industry that has turned to mafia tactics in the absence of any real science that would prove their products to be safe or effective. The emergence of this extraordinary evidence of bribery, scientific fraud, lying to regulators and monopolistic practices that harm consumers is also making all those doctors and "skeptics" who defended Big Pharma and vaccines eat their words."

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/036417_Glaxo_Merck_fraud.html#ixzz22LMwvZSV

Easyriding Eagle said...

Chemotherapy can backfire and boost cancer growth: study
(AFP) � 2 days ago
PARIS � Cancer-busting chemotherapy can cause damage to healthy cells which triggers them to secrete a protein that sustains tumour growth and resistance to further treatment, a study said Sunday.

Researchers in the United States made the "completely unexpected" finding while seeking to explain why cancer cells are so resilient inside the human body when they are easy to kill in the lab.

They tested the effects of a type of chemotherapy on tissue collected from men with prostate cancer, and found "evidence of DNA damage" in healthy cells after treatment, the scientists wrote in Nature Medicine.

Chemotherapy works by inhibiting reproduction of fast-dividing cells such as those found in tumours.

The scientists found that healthy cells damaged by chemotherapy secreted more of a protein called WNT16B which boosts cancer cell survival.

"The increase in WNT16B was completely unexpected," study co-author Peter Nelson of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle told AFP.

The protein was taken up by tumour cells neighbouring the damaged cells.

"WNT16B, when secreted, would interact with nearby tumour cells and cause them to grow, invade, and importantly, resist subsequent therapy," said Nelson.

In cancer treatment, tumours often respond well initially, followed by rapid regrowth and then resistance to further chemotherapy.

Rates of tumour cell reproduction have been shown to accelerate between treatments.

"Our results indicate that damage responses in benign cells... may directly contribute to enhanced tumour growth kinetics," wrote the team.

The researchers said they confirmed their findings with breast and ovarian cancer tumours.

The result paves the way for research into new, improved treatment, said Nelson.

"For example, an antibody to WNT16B, given with chemotherapy, may improve responses (kill more tumour cells)," he said in an email exchange.

"Alternatively, it may be possible to use smaller, less toxic doses of therapy."

Copyright � 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.

Source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gFc7yPJHmW-aZnlAT7k6qrAKYt3w?docId=CNG.945b2a3907990e6013ce343d3f70dfe5.101#

Easyriding Eagle said...

Testing what we think we know:

BY 1990, many doctors were recommending hormone replacement therapy to healthy middle-aged women and P.S.A. screening for prostate cancer to older men. Both interventions had become standard medical practice.

But in 2002, a randomized trial showed that preventive hormone replacement caused more problems (more heart disease and breast cancer) than it solved (fewer hip fractures and colon cancer). Then, in 2009, trials showed that P.S.A. screening led to many unnecessary surgeries and had a dubious effect on prostate cancer deaths.

How would you have felt — after over a decade of following your doctor’s advice — to learn that high-quality randomized trials of these standard practices had only just been completed? And that they showed that both did more harm than good? Justifiably furious, I’d say. Because these practices affected millions of Americans, they are locked in a tight competition for the greatest medical error on record.

The problem goes far beyond these two. The truth is that for a large part of medical practice, we don’t know what works. But we pay for it anyway. Our annual per capita health care expenditure is now over $8,000. Many countries pay half that — and enjoy similar, often better, outcomes. Isn’t it time to learn which practices, in fact, improve our health, and which ones don’t?

To find out, we need more medical research. But not just any kind of medical research. Medical research is dominated by research on the new: new tests, new treatments, new disorders and new fads. But above all, it’s about new markets.

We don’t need to find more things to spend money on; we need to figure out what’s being done now that is not working. That’s why we have to start directing more money toward evaluating standard practices — all the tests and treatments that doctors are already providing.

There are many places to start. Mammograms are increasingly finding a microscopic abnormality called D.C.I.S., or ductal carcinoma in situ. Currently we treat it as if it were invasive breast cancer, with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Some doctors think this is necessary, others don’t. The question is relevant to more than 60,000 women each year. Don’t you think we should know the answer?

Or how about this one: How should we screen for colon cancer? The standard approach, fecal occult blood testing, is simple and cheap. But more and more Americans are opting for colonoscopy — over four million per year in Medicare alone. It’s neither simple nor cheap. In terms of the technology and personnel involved, it’s more like going to the operating room. (I know, I’ve had one.) Which is better? We don’t know.

Let me be clear, answering questions like these is not easy.

Read the full article from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/opinion/testing-standard-medical-practices.html?_r=1&smid=fb-share

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