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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Layoffs Cause Stress, Trauma, and Health Problems....Duh.

We're funding a lot of research lately, or highlighting past research, that shows there are bad consequences when people get laid off, or lose their jobs.  What a shocker!  I had no idea.

If you think this is really groundbreaking, you can go here, or here, or here, and read all about the startling conclusions.

I wonder when we're going to do a study that shows having no legs makes it hard to walk upright?

Maybe we could make a dent in the federal deficit with the funds that go to research like this.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own
Lactose Intolerance Over-self-diagnosed

The National Institutes of Health think that too many people have diagnosed themselves, or that their doctor has diagnosed them, with lactose intolerance, a condition where the individual develops symptoms upon oral ingestion of lactose-containing products (i.e., milk, and milk-containing products).  It's true that this is one of those things where some people are REALLY intolerant and others are just mildly annoyed by it....and everywhere in between.  The classic symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal pain, and gas.  Some people just get a little gassy when they drink milk...that's probably not intolerance.

To be really intolerant, I would assume that any source of lactose would precipitate the symptoms.  However, I've frequently seen patients who profess to be intolerant, but have no trouble eating ice cream.  Consequently, we probably spend a lot more on soy products than we need to.

So, the NIH is probably right.  But do you care?  If drinking or eating certain things bother you, wouldn't it be better to just forget the consensus statements of experts and avoid the product?  We used to have this joke about military medicine that people would frequently come to the doctor and say "Doc, it hurts when I do this," and the therapeutic advice would be, "well, don't do that."  But, sometimes that makes sense.

Bottom line, if you think you're intolerant, are.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Update on the President's Health Care Reform Proposal

Two new things I've noticed through a closer reading of the proposal.

1.  I said that the Cornhusker Kickback, giving Nebraska a free ride on Medicaid, was not in the bill.  That's true:  the President's proposal extends the free-ride to all the states.  Wow.  Talk about big federal bucks.
2.  A new element:  the proposal includes a Health Insurance Rate Authority, which will "help States determine how rate review will be enforced and monitor insurance market behavior."  In essence, this will be a price control board.  This must be a political move, since price controls have a bad name among economists.  Nixon once said that the price control list he implemented (hailed by all at the time) was the biggest policy mistake he made:  it feels good for a time, but eventually makes the problem worse.

There's a nice page on "Republican Ideas" included in the bills and Obama's proposal.  Some of the details of what they list there are a little fuzzy for me, but I think you have to take it with a grain of salt:  I seem to recall that some of the items listed were co-sponsored by both parties, and some were minor changes to elements already in the bill.

As you've probably seen from the news media, there's a lot of huffing and puffing in anticipation of the summit tomorrow, and threats of "reconciliation" and "blocking" of voting.  Let's hope for the best.

Doc D
Beginning Signs of Autism Seen in Mid-Infancy

In another blow to the Society of Irrational Autism Beliefs, this study showed in a prospective way that infants who are later diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder have indications of the disorder developing as early as 6 months of age in some, but not statistically significant for the group until 12 months.  The progression continues up to 36 months--the end point of the study.    Note that MMR (the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine), thought by some--fervently--to be a cause of autism, is not given until 12-15 months (see the American Academy of Pediatrics schedule).

The measures the researchers thought significant were those which match with older autistic children:  frequency of gaze to faces, shared smiles, and vocalizations.  In simpler terms, these are signs of declining social communication.  Results were statistically significant in the autism-bound group for gazes and vocalizations at 12 months, not until 18 months for smiles and social engagement.

Of particular importance, this study showed that those infants affected had the same communication skills from birth through their early months as the normal group.  So, what we are seeing with autism is not something present at birth, but occurring later, as a loss of ability.

In a separate editorial, there was discussion of how few of the parents noticed these changes (through surveys) as they were occurring.

Despite my jab at the vaccine deniers, this is an important piece of work.  It forces a re-thinking of the complex nature of this spectrum of disorders:  what ability are we born with, but gets destroyed, and by what?

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own

Monday, February 22, 2010

Health Care Summit

The President's proposal for the Summit this week was released today and is found here.  A quick scan looks like more spending and taxes than the Senate plan it appears to be based on.  I can't find the Nebraska deal anywhere, so maybe that's been removed.  I couldn't tell about the others:  Louisiana, Florida, Connecticut., etc.

In case you're interested.

Doc D

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Who run Barter Town?"

Mel Gibson fans will recognize the reference to Mad Max.  The real question to ask is "who runs healthcare?"  I said I wouldn't be writing about this because my disgust meter was pegged.  But the quotation below is getting a lot of press.

The following quotation is from page 26, Sec 101, para (h)(2),  of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, as passed in the House and submitted to the Senate:

     "If the Secretary estimates for any fiscal year that the aggregate amounts available for payment of expenses of the high-risk pool will be less than the amount of the expenses, the Secretary shall make such adjustments as are necessary to eliminate such deficit, including reducing benefits, increasing premiums, or establishing waiting lists." [emphasis added]

The Secretary in question is Health and Human Services.  Note that she may act unilaterally and without review or further authorization.  Also, "high-risk pool" roughly refers to those who are uninsured or can't get insured, i.e., the ones we want to target with the bill.

Some people see this as allowing for the hard choices that have to be made to control costs, and necessary for a sustainable plan.  Others say that this builds in a method to limit care ("rationing"), without considering the needs of the individual. 

See what you think.

Doc D

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Factoid:  H1N1

The CDC reports that in the first nine months since the H1N1 virus appeared  over 18% of Americans have contracted the disease.

That's 57 million illnesses.

Along the way there were 257,000 hospitalizations...and 11,960 deaths.

Doc D

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Aspirin Reduces Breast Cancer Recurrence

This study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology is getting a lot of press.  The link is the original report, which--unlike some studies--is decipherable, but data-rich.  If you want to read a Popular Press version of what the study showed, go here.  Like most news accounts, you have to accept the writer's view of what's important and what gets included...and some implications get left out because they aren't "newsy."

The data analysis looks pretty good, and the relative risk comparison is fairly straightforward.  There were over 4K women in the study.  They were followed from as far back as 1976, and for as short a time as from 2002, to 2006.  That's OK, although it would be better if all study participants had been followed for 10 or more years.  NOTE:  these were women who already had been diagnosed with the disease:  the study makes no claim about primary prevention. 

Results suggested that taking 0-1 aspirin per week showed no benefit, while taking 2-5 a week elicited a drop in recurrence up to 50%.  That's not a small difference.  I couldn't find anywhere in the article where they indicated it was important when, in relation to the date of diagnosis, the person began taking the aspirin.

Now for the caveats:  (1) it may be that women who took aspirin share some other propensity, or another medical condition, that could account for the effect.  (2) Also, when you're looking back many years, there is the possibility of "recall bias".  Remembering how many aspirin you took per week three decades ago may be like remembering what you ate on a particular day in 1980.  (3) Lastly, aspirin has a complicated history as a medical treatment, and significant side effects:  the cost-benefit element should be considered.  Parenthetically, if the treatment benefit comes from aspirin's anti-inflammatory effect, as some researchers have hypothesized, then other anti-inflam's should work, too...maybe.

Bottom line, before subscribing to this belief, particularly if you've had a neoplastic lesion, talk to your doctor.  My sense, as a non-specialist, is that it's a judgment call.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Seniors Need Less Sleep? Not So Fast...

This study of so-called deep sleep, appearing in the Journal Sleep (natch), suggests that the older you get the less sleep you need.  However, there's a lot of individual variation, so even the oldest of the three age groups studied (66-83) sleep only 43 minutes less on average (overall, including the deep part).

I guess I can live with that.  But, it's counter-intuitive for me.  When I was in the youngest study group (20-30), which was about (deleted) years ago, I could work 48 hours straight without a nap.  Nowadays, I have to work harder at staying asleep, and if I don't get enough sleep, I develop fangs.

The real take-away is that sleep disturbances may not be related solely to age.  It can be due to stress, depression, medical illness, medications, apnea, etc.  If you're not rested, look for an answer...without something interfering, we automatically get what we need.


Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Reducing Stroke Risk?  Forget Those Gummi Bears and Get a Snickers.

USA Today has an article discussing some recent studies, one of which appears to show that eating one "serving" of chocolate a week reduced the risk of stroke by over 20% (N=44K subjects).  Another study showed a reduction of 44% in stroke risk with 50 grams of chocolate a week (N=1100) compared to those weird non-chocolate eaters.

Well, as a confirmed chocoholic, I'm tempted to just take this on faith and run with it.  I've been eyeing those malted milk balls on for a while (I mean, 5 pounds for only $24.20!...and these puppies are heavy duty:  by comparison Whoppers are chocolate-free). 

But sadly, there's a third study that showed no benefit.   And, depressingly, even if chocolate does have some beneficial effect here, it may be that healthier people tend to partake of the King of Sweets, and the benefit may have nothing to do with the chocolate (say it aint so).  The final blow is that I can't read the original studies, and have no info on how the effect was measured, and for how long, etc.  (Maybe a "serving" of you-know-what would make me feel better).

So, stick around.  Maybe we can nail this down to our endorphin benefit in the near future.  I could live with only 50 grams a week...maybe.  Plus, there are studies that show there are other things chocolate does that may be helpful, like increasing satiety. 

So, they can use my tax dollars for this research...just keep me in the loop.  'Cause I'm ready.

My shopping cart on NutsOnline already has the malted milk balls cocked and loaded.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Random Thoughts on Randomness, or the Fallacy of Uniform Randomness.

There's another situation--in California, of course--where people are getting very confused about detecting clusters of disease and what a random pattern of disease distribution looks like.

Here's the story.  The residents of a small town of 1400 (Kellerman, CA) noted that there had been several birth defects and three infant deaths over a two year period.  The town is close to the "largest hazardous waste landfill in the West." 

Ipso facto, right?  Gotta be the reason...

So, the Terminator ordered a study by the EPA.  They came in, took a look at the cases, and compared what was occurring in other similar towns that didn't have a hazardous landfill nearby.  The investigators found that "the rate of birth defects in Kettleman City from 1987 to 2008 was only slightly higher than that of neighboring towns and in surrounding counties."  Due to the low numbers, I suspect that this means there was no statistical significance.  Further, there was no pattern to the hazards that could explain the cases that were alleged to be due to the landfill.   Let me say this differently:  specific toxic chemicals cause specific defects.  You don't see a toxic compound that can cause any kind of problem.  I once had a patient who alleged that the anthrax vaccine made him throw-up, and his regurg glowed in the dark (I'm not kidding).

No.  Sorry.  There's no biological plausability for flourescent puke.  The truth goes like this:  vinyl chloride causes liver cancer--it doesn't cause fibromyalgia, arthritis, pneumonia, or the heartbreak of psoriasis.  Whenever you see a cluster of cases that show a broad range of diseases and symptoms, you have to match them up to one or more specific hazards that can cause those symptoms.   They couldn't do that in Kellerman.

The reaction to the EPA's report was typical:  "that can't be right."  There's more to the story here, and I refer you to the link.  They did find arsenic in the water supply, but...I hate to tell you this...if your water comes from well water, that's not unusual.  See the article if you need more.

The fallacy of reasoning that's involved here turns upon how we tend to think about random events.  Many of us think that if bad stuff is sort of evenly spread over the landscape, then it's random.  But that's not random, that's uniform.  A truly random landscape will show gaps, and spots of increased bad stuff, which actually confirms that there is a random process at work.

This is called the clustering illusion, or the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy (click the link; this article is one of my favorites).

Now, nothing here means that there isn't a public health problem at work.  It just aint what the residents think it far.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Risk of Cancer from 2 Sodas a week?

A researcher at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health has "studied the dietary habits of more than 60,000 adults in Singapore for 14 years," finding that risk of pancreatic cancer is almost doubled for those subjects who drank 2 or more sugared soft drinks a week.  The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a journal of the American Association of Cancer Research.  I'm not familiar with either the journal or the group.  Note that among the 60K subjects we're talking about only 140 cases of cancer occurred...not hens-teeth rare, but much less common than the risk of driving a car.  The hazard ratio was 1.87, which is respectable enough, but the confidence interval was very broad (1.10-3.15).  The lower end of the interval is near to "1", which means no increased hazard.  I'm leary of studies whose statistics aren't tight.

Interestingly, they looked at juices (and "other dietary items"...I don't know what, this was only an abstract), and found no association with cancer.  The author, who is a specialist in "the dietary causes of disease" speculated that juices are served in smaller portions, have less sugar and contain other things.  It appears they cloned in on sugar pretty quick, not considering other things in soft drinks.

I don't know what juices Singaporeans (?) drink, but most juices I've tasted are so sweet it makes your tongue curl.  Maybe not in Singapore.

Also, for some reason they didn't invoke the perfect experimental control:  sugar-free sodas.  If sugary sodas increase risk and sugar-free don't...voila! 

Didn't happen.

One last comment before I wrap up:  I'm not aware of an accepted specialty in Dietary Caused Disease, although he could just have an interest in this New Age subject.  But it sounds like one of those fringe things.

In summary, this is a good way to waste 14 years worth of research (tax?) dollars in Singapore.  Maybe it's a great place to vacation. 

We need a better study than this.  Drinking a lot of sodas (i.e., >1 a day),  probably isn't a great idea.  I don't think we've nailed down the kidney stone formation relationship yet, but there's some connection between that and sodas.  But, I'm not convinced that 2 a week is the threshold for pancreatic cancer risk.

Doc D

Opinons are entirely my own

Saturday, February 6, 2010

If a Few Neurons Fire, Am I a Person?

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week reports a small subset of patients in a persistent vegetative state who exhibit "willful" brain activity when given "mental imagery tasks."  If you want the technical gobbledy-gook, they "used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess each patient's ability to generate willful, neuroanatomically specific, blood-oxygenation-level–dependent responses during two established mental-imagery tasks", blah, blah blah...  There's a lot of technical detail in this report, which I will spare you, so read it and decide for yourself.

There are some problems with how this study was designed.  I'll mention only one:  the researchers measured responses in the patients that were "reproducible but inconsistent."  Huh?  I assume they mean that they got a specific response, but sometimes didn't get anything.  If they mean that sometimes they got a different response, then it undermines the specificty.  Even if the explanation is the former, does this mean that the patients were aware only some of the time?  Anyway, let it go, Jim, let it go...

Remember the Edgar Allen Poe horror story "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar?"  A hypnotist puts a man into a suspended hypnotic state at the moment of death, so the mind lives on in the deceased body.  I saw this story in a Vincent Price film as a kid and it scared the crap out of me.

The stituations aren't really parallel but the ridiculous notion that you can make the mind live on, makes the point that we can't really know what's going on in someone's head.  Further, every time I hear somebody discussing how animals have language because they can do matching task with colors, (Bobo is red, hungry is green, therefore red-green means "I'm hungry"),  I get confused. Who knows what a gorilla is really thinking,  if anything?

And finally, who knows what reproducible neuronal firings imply about being conscious?  It's going to take a few more hundred studies to bring this one in from The Twilight Zone.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own
What's a Nostrum?

I've been asked why the title of this blog is "Nostrums".  So, I put in a definition below the header.  The point is, I'm not interested in giving health advice (take a vitamin, this diet or that, etc).  The niche this blog explores is the gap between the significance, or value, of what gets done or published in the academic literature, or in the news media, and how that issue is portrayed.  Too often, both media and academia will over-estimate what's been accomplished:  the data won't take you that far, the study was poorly done, or the policy proposal has unintended consequences.  Worse, a good piece of work is often ignored.  I want to go back to the roots: the data and the common sense of what we hear in terms of new science and new policy. Then take that info and analyze it in such a way that it's informative and entertaining.  This almost never gets done.  Everybody could peel back the layers and see for themselves if they had the time, but who does?

Plus, it lets me get some real gripes off my chest.  Almost thirty years of being careful  to reflect the policies of the Air Force or keep my opinion to myself, has left me with a lot of pent up commentary.  Grrr.

This is a dull post.  If this furschenlugginer blog host would allow it, I would put this in an "About" link.  Sorry.

Doc D

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Update on the medical blog

Medical newsletter recipients:


The blog is up and running.  It will include the type of things you have seen before:


  1. Articles of interest (from media and academia)
  2. News that Abuses  (alerts and actions relevant to medical)
  3. Medical Quotations
  4. Recommended reading  (loosely related…maybe)


There won’t be items from each category every day, but my goal is to put up at least 10 things a week.  I put up 5 today, but…well…my enthusiasm is not linear.


Those that gave feedback, many thanks. 


Note that you can subscribe (at the site, look for the link), or just check here, Nostrums…by Doc D, whenever and if ever…


Doc D

Medical Quote

     I fancy it must be the quantity of animal food eaten by the English which renders their character insusceptible of civilisation.  I suspect it is in their kitchens & not in their churches that their reformation must be worked, & that Missionaries of that description from hence would avail more than those who should endeavor to tame them by precepts of religion.
--Thomas Jefferson [1743-1826]
Letter to Mrs John Adams, Sept 25, 1785
Life Cycle of a Vaccine

Great webpage by the Centers for Disease Control.  It explains why we go through cycles of disbelief and crazy notions about vaccines.  Note that this is a model but it fits with what we've seen historically with real vaccines.  I've reviewed the data on polio and measles, and used them in lectures: they both follow the pattern above.

If you can't read the labels, Red is disease, Blue is vaccine, and Green is side effects.  The key thing is to see how at stages 4, 5, and 6, that, as the disease goes away, people stop taking the vaccine, and the disease comes back.  This is a psychological phenomenon:  "there's no threat any more, why should I take the vaccine?"  Consequently the irrational scare stories start to gain traction...until the disease re-emerges and people start going "uh-oh, the disease is back." 

Sadly, the attention span of human populations is sometimes so short that we've seen multiple cycles of re-emergence.  Measles is a great example here, too:  we're still seeing swings because pseudo-science causes part of the population to decline the MMR vaccine, until press reports of outbreaks in universities catch their attention again...and again...and again..  We're probably stuck with measles for a long time due to cognitive dysfunction.

Sometimes we're our own worst enemy.

For a more complete explanation, see the original webpage.

By the way, the President's new budget cuts funding for anthrax vaccine development.  Have a nice day when the next bio-attack occurs.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own
Another Problem for Members of the Church of Herbs and Supplements

A study of women who were followed over an 8-year period has found that vitamin C supplementation, particularly in high dose and long duration, may increase the risk of age-related cataracts. The study included 24,593 women aged 49-83 years from the Swedish Mammography Cohort (follow-up from September 1997 to October 2005). The researchers used a self-administered questionnaire to collect information on dietary supplement use and lifestyle factors. (from Quackwatch)

The study controlled for hormone replacement thereapy, so it wasn't that, sports fans.  They also compared steroid users, and multi-vit users (containing C) to the high dose C group, and eliminated those as contributory factors. 

Don't get me wrong.  Vitamin C may do some good things with intermittent high use.  I've had "some" patients who were prone to bladder infections that "may" have benefited from taking C (along with the antibiotic, not without it).  It's hard to quantify and I didn't do a controlled study.  Vitamin C acidifies the urine, which germs don't cotton to.

Doc D

Opinions entirely my own

The popular TV home shopping channel QVC, one of the world's largest multimedia retailers, has agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it made false and unsubstantiated claims about For Women Only weight loss pills, Lite Bites weight-loss food bars and shakes, Bee-Alive Royal Jelly, and Lipofactor Cellulite Target Lotion. (reported on Quackwatch)

(Received a Worst Claim Award in the Slim Chance Awards on the Health Weight Network.  See their other Slim Chance awards here.  Scroll halfway down the page.)

Doc D
Chill-Out Those Extra Fat Pounds

I ran across this article in the New York Times (Feb 3), which reports that several companies are pursuing fat-removal strategies that don't involve surgery.  In this case, called "cryolipolysis", a cooling device is applied to areas where fat cells hang out.  Those fat cells then give up the ghost and die.  Hooray!

I'm constantly amazed by how far people will go with diet-related health and appearance issues.

Here's what I think you need to know:  there's no good data right now that shows this stuff does anything.  If anything, there is feedback from patients (who plunked down the cash for the treatments) that it didn't do squat  (no pun intended).  More important, the FDA has not approved of any of them:  in fact, there's no information from which the FDA can make a determination.  So don't look for The Truth anytime soon.

I've watched the schemes for weight reduction come and go for over three decades (remember the grapefruit diet which turned out to be dangerous and had harmful drug interactions?  And the mucous diet? yuck).  I have never found any better advice than "eat fewer calories, burn more calories."  As far as the type of calories, only one word:  "balance".  Don't stop using butter, but don't eat only organic brown rice, either.

And, remember that according to some studies, those individuals who are thin and super-fit have a slightly higher mortality rate.  No joke.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own

UPDATE:  The NYT article linked above appeared in the "Fashion" section of the newspaper.
Don't Forget to Take Your Tax Deduction for Sex-Change Surgery

A US Tax Court has ruled that costs incurred in "sex-change operations and procedures" are tax-deductible.  The decision is an interesting one from a policy perspective, and was the product of a divided court (8-5-3).  Whatever your beliefs about sex-change procedures, the decision floats to the surface of a complex sea of rulings and regulations on sexual identity-related medical treatment.  I mention only a couple.

Critics of healthcare reform have pointed out that the disparity in costs between states comes about in part by what each state requires its insurers to cover:  to wit, in New York, a high-premium state, the insurance board requires coverage of sex-change operations.  This cost is then shared by all participants.  If you don't want to pay this cost, tough luck:  you can't get a policy from out-of-state.

By contrast with this court decision, reported here (Bloomberg, Feb 3), breast augmentation is not tax-deductible.  The distinction the court and others have made is that augmentation is an appearance issue, and having surgically created sex characteristics is not.  On the other side of this argument, I offer my personal clinical experience that for many women breast appearance is an important aspect of their identity, and potentially a serious mental health issue--the seriousness of which was a major factor in the search for surgical treatment of breast cancer that did not involve radical mastectomy.  Also, I have had gay and lesbian patients, not seeking sex-change, who don't consider themselves to be strictly attracted to the same sex, but more that they are a different-sex person in a same-sex body.  On the other hand, possibly they did not accurately apprehend their feelings and were searching for an alternative explanation.  Does this decision incentivize those individuals to re-consider their identity?

I'm treading on some very sensitive issues, and it's important to point out that I have no firm opinion one way or the other.  My clinical experience may be slanted, I'm not female, and can't hope to experience these situations.  As a policy issue, however, it's fascinating to consider the shifting boundaries and trends involved as we search for social justice in a cultural and political melange.

So, in an effort to get us to step back and not become too grim and polarized, I offer the following tax scorecard in jest:

Gonads 1, Boobs 0.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Another "Natural" Miracle Cure:  Fish Oil

A study reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found here, showed that if you're at "very high risk" of a psychotic break, omega-3 fish oil can delay the onset of full-blown psychosis, up to 12 months.

But before you run down and buy these horse pills, you should know that they only had a study population of 81 people, and to be at "very high risk" means that you're already having symptoms of psychosis, or you've had a transient psychosis already.  This is one of the those Grain Of Salt studies, where it's better to wait and see.  My guess is there's a 50-50 likelihood that this will pan out to be something useful...for pre-psychotics.

And note that a psychosis and such  (most definitions include some reference to loss of contact with reality).   There's no data that suggests that any kind of oil (including hemp, ahem...) can treat what most of us experience:  anxiety, stress, depression, etc.

So, watch yourself for those "risk" symptoms, like hallucinations, and a feeling that the paranoids are after you.  Fish oil may be your cup of tea...or oil.  Personally, I think I'm hearing voices, saying "Don't do it..."

Plus, if I'm going off the deep end, why delay it...get it over with.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own

New, updated, but not improved (maybe) medical newsletter

Medical newsletter recipients:


I’ve starting posting medical and health policy commentary again.  It will be in a blog format now.  You can just read it or subscribe to it….your choice.


For those who would like to receive it by email, when posts are published, let me know and I’ll add you to the list.


For those who only read the blog when they want to, it’s now open to the public (do I need an attorney now?), you can just go to here to Nostrums by Doc D.  Feel free to share the address with those who might be interested.


I don’t have comments turned on except for members.  I’m still learning how to do this…  If you have suggestions for clarity, readability, etc, I welcome them.


Doc D


PS:  I’m not going to be talking about healthcare reform much anymore.  I’m too disgusted…maybe.


Can a human gene be patented?

Medical groups, patient support groups, the ACLU, and others filed suit today to disallow companies who isolate human genes from patenting their results.  USA Today reported the suit against Myriad Genetics, and the University of Utah Research Foundation, who have "isolated the DNA sequence for the BRCA1 and...the BRCA2 genes," which have been linked to breast and ovarian cancer, and "Myriad sells a test for the genes."

There's an argument here between plaintiffs and defendant.  Myriad argues that the patent is for "isolated DNA molecules" and the testing technique rather than the gene itself.  However, it seems to me that the DNA and the gene are one and the same.  Companies patent their tests all the time, but they don't patent the reagents that are used to perform the test.  This will be an interesting issue to watch.

Parenthetically, it seems strange to patent a sounds like trying to get a patent on a finger, or a spleen.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own.
British medical journal Lancet retracts 10 year old study linking autism and vaccine.

This is important, because for the last decade it's the only study that the autism activists have been able to point to that supports a linik between the childhood-onset malady and the mumps-measles-rubella (MMR) vaccine.  Supporting authors repudiated the study years ago, but the main author did not, and has made a living off of scaring parents.  Lancet, long overdue in retracting the study, has finally determined, after a second investigation, that not only was this a poor study, it was conducted fraudulently and unethically.  You can read the paper here but unfortunately the title isn't clear in describing what it's talking about and you have to register to read the free article.

With several other well-designed studies contradicting this link, and this final blow, the autism-vaccine activists are left with no substantive argument.  Maybe now we can press on to more important concerns, and quit wasting research money fighting phantoms.

Doc D

Opinions entirely my own.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Update Feb 02, 2010

I will be starting up the posting pretty soon.  Stand by...  Doc D


What I'm Reading - Updated 3 May

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