Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:
Here’s your daily dose of the latest and greatest from the world of health! We skip the sensational stories (please, no more Anna Nicole DNA testing news! There is stuff going on in the world!). Today, we bring you the most compelling, useful…and, yes, bizarre health news.
To wit: evidently, furniture may be making people obese. You’ll want to click it out, kids.
Big Pharma and Thailand: Smackdown
Abbott Labs (the same folks who proudly market unhealthy junk food to children and lie to parents about it) is furious with Thailand for having the gall to look out for its impoverished, AIDS-wracked population. If you think the situation in Africa is bad, take a look at what Abbott is doing in Thailand. Seriously, between happily creating a nation of tiny diabetics at home and knowingly keeping medicine from poverty-stricken human beings abroad, just how do these guys sleep at night? Even bees know that’s wrong.
Is Your Couch Making You Fat?
It gives new meaning to the term “couch potato”. It appears that the flame retardants used in many fabrics and furniture cushions may be contributing to insulin resistance and obesity. Click it out!
The Law of Unintended Consequences
Sometimes putting out one fire creates another. That’s certainly the case with many drug therapies. Kindergarten teachers everywhere groan: the chickenpox vaccine is losing its effectiveness.
Studiously Avoiding Vegetables? We Ace That Test!
All right! We’re #1…in avoiding fruits and vegetables. Unlike the U.K., which, despite being the country that invented fried fish and chips and such breakfast treats as canned beans on toast, manages to meet its health goals, we still vehemently refuse to eat enough salad. Well, except you, Apples. Right?
“The measures reflect a growing body of research about discrepancies between journal articles and the full results of the studies behind them. Journal editors are also responding to the escalating debate in Washington on ensuring drug side effects are properly disclosed. In the wake of the withdrawal of Merck & Co.’s painkiller Vioxx over cardiovascular side effects, some legislators are calling for tougher safety scrutiny of drugs on the market.
The JAMA study last year said articles often cherry-picked strong results to report, even if those results were in a different area than the study was designed to test. Typically scientists set up clinical trials to answer one or two primary questions — for example, whether a drug reduces the risk of a heart attack and stroke. These are called the primary outcomes. The JAMA study found that 62% of trials had at least one primary outcome that was changed, added or omitted.”
(Source: the Wall Street Journal)
UPDATE 3/25/07: We have removed our spoof image of JAMA’s cover because some of our readers have alerted us that, upon closer inspection, the thumbnail of the JAMA issue, which depicts a cartoon examination scene, contains nudity. This was a complete, unintentional oops on our part! No offense was intended. (Though we have to wonder…why on earth is JAMA putting these sorts of depictions in their cover art in the first place?)
It’s no surprise anymore that the major medical journals are plastered with pharmaceutical advertisements – after all, when was the last time you visited a doctor’s office that wasn’t drowning in pharmaceutical marketing widgets? Nor is it a surprise that the very studies in medical journals (not the advertisements) are deceptively skewed in Big Pharma’s favor about two-thirds of the time.
I would think physicians and researchers would be appalled by the replete corruption. But when your own federal government spends more time telling you that vitamins are deadly – because a handful of terminally ill patients weren’t able to stave off inevitable death with a dose of knowingly worthless synthetic E – than it does being concerned about 60,000+ deaths from one drug alone, is it any wonder? That’s a lot of people – that’s more than many entire cities!
For decent people, it’s just a natural inclination to trust authorities claiming to be both knowledgeable and ethical. After all, that’s what we’re paying them for. The problem is, the pharmaceutical companies are paying them more – to the tune of 19 billion dollars. I have no doubt that many people working in the pharmaceutical industry are there with the best of intentions. I am not against drugs necessary to improve and save lives, of which there are many successes.
But I do have a problem with an overly-lenient and largely voluntary drug approval process that is a mockery of ethical standards. Because we trust journals and doctors so implicitly, we forget that, like any business, pharmaceuticals are in it for the money. It’s just business. Sometimes, the business creates good; but increasingly, it doesn’t, and the guardians of public health – the FDA, peer-reviewed journals, physicians – are, at best, manipulated, and at worst, corrupt.
Can you imagine if 60,000 people died from, say, anything but a federally-approved pharmaceutical? Say, echinacea. Grape juice. Ketchup. Anything – imagine the outcry.
I wish this were a conspiracy theory. I wish this were a minor problem. I wish people could say, “There goes Sisson with his indignant ranting again.”
But the facts are clear:
- Pharmaceutical studies are deceptive at least 62% of the time,
- The FDA, through a combination of voluntary adherence protocols and a poorly-designed approval process that rushes drugs through and fails to adequately follow up, inherently supports unnecessary deaths,
- Major journals such as JAMA can’t claim to be independent – come on! – when their advertisers are, by and large, pharmaceutical companies,
- Result: hundreds of thousands of people are sickened or killed by drugs every year.
Can you imagine if these shenanigans went on in any other industry?
It’s like that humorous response Jack Welch gave to Bill Gates for claiming computers were more reliable than cars (an urban legend, by the way, but still entertaining).
Let’s call a spade a spade.
Is it really so “outrageous” to have a problem with drug advertisements in medical journals?
Is it that “paranoid” to demand a more rigorous FDA approval process?
Is it “off-the-wall” to be bothered by the fact that I have to wade through an avalanche of pens, post-it pads and coffee mugs from GlaxoSmithKline every time I go to the doctor? If that makes me “radical”…
We live in an advertising age – everything is brought to you by something else, and sports stadiums are named after office equipment. I can’t catch a game without being reminded to go stock up on ink cartridge refills. So it’s no surprise, I guess, that this extends to drugs. If pharmaceuticals are saving hundreds of thousands of lives annually, but at a cost of thousands of lives, let’s at least be honest about the costs in terms of human lives. Who is rational and who is emotional here? The folks questioning the disparity between the marketing and the facts, or the economically-motivated (read: fearful) folks deriding anyone who criticizes them as “radical”?
Worker Bees’ Daily Bites
Today’s news includes the return of a psuedo-scandal, proof that the FDA doesn’t care about women, and…donuts.
No, Vitamins Will not Kill You
It’s all over the news: vitamins will kill you! This is the same old scare that gets trucked out whenever there’s an FDA or Big Pharma scandal (it happened during the Vioxx debacle and again when the FDA got slammed last month). In fact, Elliott notes that there was a virtually identical story in January, and several last year…and the year before that. Each time, the same studies are brought up.
Honestly, the deja vu is annoying, so we don’t want to spend a lot of time on this pseudo scandal, but if you have any specific questions, feel free to shoot the Big Guy (that’s Sisson) a line. Simply click up yonder.
Vitamin A: it’s not an antioxidant, but people often misunderstand it to be one. No one thinks high levels of pure A is a good idea, and most high-potency vitamins that include high levels of A are giving you beta carotene, not pure A (the best multis will give you mixed carotenoids). For the record, the study that showed risk was done on smokers who were very, very sick.
In fact, this “news” out today is bandying the same old meta-analysis of many studies. Um, huh? you ask.
A quick lesson: “meta-analysis” is just a fancy way of saying “we looked at a bunch of different studies and here’s our opinion.” It’s not the best way to conduct a study, because it’s not really a study, per se – it’s an analysis of many studies which, in this case, were all conducted via different methodologies.
What’s more, in this particular case, many of the studies were based on questionnaires. If you’ve ever filled out a form detailing your caloric intake, exercise habits or sex life, you know these things aren’t exactly 100% accurate.
Here’s the sting: the majority of the studies included in ole Dansk’s report are outdated, ignore other, better studies, and generally involved really sick, elderly, even terminally ill patients.
As far as vitamin E is concerned, scientists continually scratch their heads at this Denmark meta-baloney (yeah, Denmark again…). We already know that the E in question isn’t the best for you. That’s been known for a long time. E, like the B vitamins, is really a spectrum supplement – there are eight different E’s, known collectively as tocotrienols and tocopherols.
Taking one tocopherol – the kind you’ll find in those cheap gel caps everywhere – is not a good idea and this has been known for quite a while now (and any multivitamin that uses this single form is not a multi you want to buy). The full spectrum E? Hundreds of rigorously conducted studies show proven benefits.
In short, don’t buy into the vitamin hype. The study is not news. It’s a review of studies that were conducted under inconsistent and varying conditions, on generally sick people. And it comes at time when the FDA and the drug companies are scrambling to improve their images.
Mark will be adding his thorough explanation to the Health Q&A this week, so we’ll give you the heads-up. Stick around, Apples.
The FDA Is Worse Than Your Ex
Indisputable facts: The FDA puts political pressure on its researchers. The FDA is a cushy landing pad for stressed-out former Pharma execs. The FDA tends to approve drugs based on drug companies’ own studies.
Jen and Sara report: Not only is the FDA corrupt, incompetent, and slow to change – evidently, we can now add sexist to the list.
We’re Waiting for the One with Omega-3′s
Worker Bees’ Daily Bites
All the news, none of the calories!
Garlic: Like, So Not a Superfood
An excellent study finds garlic probably doesn’t beat bad cholesterol as much as we thought. You know this is going to be 5 o’clock “news” fodder, but it’s really nothing to worry about. Garlic is still great for you because it reduces inflammation, which is arguably more significant than cholesterol.
Don’t Tell the Fuji
When sales are down, nothing provides Big Pharma with a cheery boost like telling people they need a daily OTC painkiller to help the heart. Well, this news may finally send that tired tale to the medical myth graveyard where it belongs.
Worker Bees’ Daily Bites
Mark’s Daily Apple is 100% sugar-free. Are you?
You may recall last week’s little exploration of refreshing beverages overflowing with so many calories, even Bactrian camels would be concerned. Hey, a small, fiber-rich protein shake is one thing. But these sherbet-and-sugar-water pajama parties masquerading as “healthy” fruit smoothies are just the latest health scam.
The fact that smoothie slurping has doubled is a good indicator that people want to be healthy. We dig that. Unfortunately, the typical smoothie is really just a glorified milkshake. Know the difference. And for the love of tempeh, remember to keep an eye on the seedlings! They love those sports drinks and smoothies, but no child needs that much sugar.
Big Pharma likes to see only the most favorable results published? And this is news? All right, that’s it – we feel an award coming on…
Similar exposes have recently targeted the dairy industry (ooh, milk made me lose two whole pounds!), soft drink giants (soda is a good way to get type 2 diabetes, actually) and weight loss scams (hoodia, anyone?).
It’s kind of like the news out today that black soybeans are the new miracle food. Sure, beans can be healthy, but let’s not jump all over black soybean tortillas just yet. Focus on fresh, whole, and unprocessed foods, and you’ll be doing great – really!
Bottom line: always look for information on who funded the study before you buy into the product.
Flu Cliches Bug Us
Feel guilty because you didn’t get a flu shot this year? A super-vaccine is in the works. (This is one of those things that sounds great initially. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt…)
We tend to support abstemious flu shottage unless you’ve got a weakened, tired or toddler immune system on your hands. If you can avoid yet another drug, you’re probably better off. You’re still stuck with words like abstemious, though.
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