nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
See here for more discussion.

Saturday, February 7, 2009



JAMA editorial calls on Obama to include anti-obesity measures in stimulus bill.

The Los Angeles Times (2/3, Roan) Booster Shots blog reports on "an editorial published [Tuesday] in the Journal of the American Medical Association " in which writers argue "that the Obama administration's economic stimulus plan, now being debated in the Senate, should include investments in infrastructure to decrease obesity. The idea is that improvements in public health would decrease obesity-related health and economic costs (estimated at $100 billion per year) and would position Americans to become more economically competitive, …. Both "obesity and public health are likely to worsen" if the investments are not included, they (the authors) conclude.


Doc D:  This is why the economic stimulus plan had such a hard time.  Obesity is so far down the list of items that could improve the economy as to be laughable.  Think of the food industry:  if people don’t overeat…all those food workers who will be laid off.   Seriously, I don’t think there’s a single member of Congress that didn’t realize the need for a focused financial overhaul, but everybody wanted to tack on their own special interest.  Despite nibbling away at the most egregious spending, it’s still almost as huge as in the beginning.  If you think you’ve heard the last of the $200 million to repair the National Mall from Inauguration Day, you’re mistaken…it will just be hidden somewhere else.  Democrats found the bill a field day for their markups, and Republicans found a way to barter for future pork of their own.  What happened to “no more politics as usual…”?



San Francisco City Attorney Files Lawsuit Against State Over 'Gender Ratings' for Individual Health Plans [Jan 29, 2009]

      San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the state of California alleging that the state is discriminating against women by allowing health insurers to impose so-called "gender ratings" when determining premiums for individual health plans, the Los Angeles Times reports. The lawsuit contends that California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner (R) and Cindy Ehnes, director of the California Department of Managed Health Care, approved the gender ratings rule, which allows insurers to take an individual's sex into account when setting premiums, and women in the state are being charged up to 39% more for health insurance coverage than men as a result. The lawsuit claims the rule should be declared unconstitutional.

Darrel Ng, a spokesperson for the insurance department, said, "The Legislature explicitly lists gender as one of the factors to be considered. Until the Legislature changes the laws or the courts decide differently, we will uphold the law." According to state law, "Unless otherwise prohibited by law, premium, price or change differentials because of the sex of any individual when based on objective, valid and up-to-date statistical and actuarial data or sound underwriting practices are not prohibited."

Doc D:  I have mixed feelings about this.  Mostly I come down in favor of the lawsuit, but I’m not sure how equitable it is to always rate gender groups the same.  Risks of breast and prostate cancer are not equal between men and women (duh); most cases of lupus are women, almost all cases of hyperactivity disorder are men.  I can go down a long list of illnesses whose risk is very different between genders.  Does it all even out in the end?  I’m not sure there’s a way to calculate that.  However, if I was running an insurance company and saw that pay-outs for women were substantially higher than for men overall, or even in most age groups, I would ask myself if it was good business to rate them the same.  There are some studies that show that medical expenditures are greater for women, that “usage rates” for medical care are greater in women, etc.  But, others would dispute the results…and you might see why:  not many men have post-partum healthcare needs, for instance.  But even when you correct for these, some difference in usage remains…and the argument goes on and on….


Encoding Human Sexual Chemosensory Cues in the Orbitofrontal and Fusiform Cortices by Wen Zhou and Denise Chen

Psychology Department, Rice University, Houston, Texas 77005

Abstract:  Chemosensory communication of affect and motivation is ubiquitous among animals. In humans, emotional expressions are naturally associated with faces and voices. Whether chemical signals play a role as well has hardly been addressed. Here, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging to show that the right orbitofrontal cortex, right fusiform cortex, and right hypothalamus respond to airborne natural human sexual sweat, indicating that this particular chemosensory compound is encoded holistically in the brain. Our findings provide neural evidence that socioemotional meanings, including the sexual ones, are conveyed in the human sweat.  [The Journal of Neuroscience, December 31, 2008, 28(53):14416-14421]

Doc D:  What the heck is all that about?  Well, I looked up a description of this study, and you’ll be interested to know that two grad students waived four odors under 19 womens’ noses, and measured brain activity.  One of the odors was “aroused male sweat.”  Apparently this particular aromatic delight led to a different brain response.  I don’t know whether to laugh, or be grossed out.  I mean, how did they get the test product?  Never mind…I don’t want to go there.


Medical quote of the Day:

The origin of all science is in the desire to know causes; and the origin of all false science and imposture is in the desire to accept false causes rather than none; or, which is the same thing, in the unwillingness to acknowledge our own ignorance. –William Hazlitt [1778-1830]           




Nature Note:     Parents Agonize over Treatment in the Womb   Doctors have long been able to use imaging technology to diagnose serious fetal problems, including anatomical deformities and irregular heartbeats, and sometimes even treat them in the womb. …As the number of conditions that can be addressed grows, more and more families and their doctors are facing tough tradeoffs that come with such interventions. Some considerations: How should the potential benefit for the fetus be weighed against any possible long-term consequences for the baby, and any risk posed to the mother (e.g., radiation exposure)? And, as it becomes possible to diagnose many more genetic disorders in the womb, should prenatal treatment be used only for life-threatening ailments or also for afflictions, such as ambiguous genitalia? (Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2009)


Recommended Reading:

--Voodoo Science, The Road from Foolishness to Fraud, by Robert Park.  The author is chairman dept of Physics, U of Md.  Very entertaining book that tells great stories about cold fusion, perpetual motion machines, homeopathy and the like…and why the media exposes us to such nonsense.  5-stars.


Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own.  Quotations from Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report ( © Kaiser Family Foundation), PND News Briefs – Texas Edition ( © 2008, Physician's News Digest, Inc.), AMA Morning Rounds (© U S News Custom Briefings), and other sources in the public domain.  As always, you may share this column, with appropriate attribution (here and in the text) included.




What I'm Reading - Updated 3 May