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ASPIRIN NOT WITHOUT ITS DANGERS
Aspirin has many benefits, but it must be appropriately prescribed. For many years, I have recommended that it should not be given casually to prevent clots in older persons without first testing platelet function. Many doctors suggest its use without any evidence that there is a need to increase the bleeding time, nor do they test to make sure the aspirin is having the necessary effect. A recent study in the British Medical Journal (DOI:10.1136/bmj.38476.471088.3a) supports my concerns: a model study of the impact of aspirin in 20,000 men and women suggests that between 165 and 528 fewer people would die from coronary heart disease if they took low doses of aspirin, but between 86 and 238 more would die from a major gastrointestinal bleed. “Overall death rates from the two causes were not significantly different” (New Scientist May 28, 2005, page 16)
PUT “ICE” ON YOUR PHONE
The acting police chief in Madison, Connecticut has come up with a marvelous idea that everyone with a cell phone should immediately implement. Create an entry in your phone book and label it “ICE”, for “In Case of Emergency”, with the number of your spouse, mother, sibling, best friend, physician, or whoever. In case of an accident or other emergency where you might not be able to respond, rescuers can then get information that might be lifesaving right from your phone. A list of drugs or medical conditions along with a recent history, can save time and sometimes lives when moments count.
Some phones allow a more extensive text message to be added to a phone entry, and just putting a list of drugs and conditions here could save even more time.
No need for an insecure and expensive boondoggle of a medical database that will benefit only the fat cats, 90% of the important emergency information can be on everyone’s cell phone right now at no expense.
Three rules for better health:
- Don’t drive while speaking on a cell phone.
- Put “ICE” on all your cell phones right now
- Turn off your cell phone when you come to my office!
(Thanks to acting chief Robert Stimpson for his innovative idea: I suggest you pass his idea along to all your friends, children and parents)
44 BILLION DOLLARS SPENT, NOTHING ACCOMPLISHED
To address the danger that the U.S. government perceived from bioterrorism, the Bush administration launched an unprecedented biodefence effort after 9/11. To date it has spent $44 billion - three-quarters of it aimed at protecting civilians - on new organizations, training, and buying existing remedies such as the classic smallpox vaccine. Has this massive spending made Americans any safer? According to experts at the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh, the answer is no. Last month, they announced that the US remains unable to defend itself against any anthrax attack involving more than a few envelopes. http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/mg19225725.000
(Ed. Note: the infrastructure of our medical system and especially the public health sector has been destroyed by the development of the “business” model of medicine: with trillions of dollars going to worthless fat cats such as the recipients of the 44 billion dollars detailed above, it is a travesty that most hospitals don’t even have enough nurses to provide basic quality care. Why? Well of course there “isn’t enough money” to provide rational working conditions and pay reasonable wages. As a result many nurses have sought early retirement or left nursing, and students have increasingly chosen other professions. The United States could not now even respond as well as it did in the 1950’s to the polio virus epidemics. The image is from Los Angeles County hospital about 1952: iron lungs filled with patients in respiratory failure from poliovirus.)
A study of 1000 women in France found that those who worked in air conditioned offices were over twice as likely to have to see an ear, nose and throat specialist, and nearly twice as likely to have taken sickness absence as women who worked in more naturally ventilated offices. (BMJ 2004;329:529).
NEITHER TOO MUCH NOR TOO LITTLE
According to the great Chinese herbalist Li Shizhen, “Spirits and wine when drunk in the proper amount can regulate blood flow, promote circulation of qi, invigorate the mind and keep out cold”. Recent research in Finland has certainly borne out his observation that alcohol invigorates the mind. A study of 1464 men and women aged 66-79 found that those who drank either no alcohol in midlife, or who drank frequently, were twice as likely to suffer mild cognitive impairment in old age as those who drank alcohol infrequently. The bad news is that ‘infrequently’ was defined as less than once a month. (BMJ 2004;329:539).
BUT BEER OR WINE?
One bottle of beer has the same beneficial effect on plasma antioxidant activity as red wine, even though the wine contains about 20 times more polyphenols than beer. However three bottles of beer has the opposite effect, making the blood pro-oxidant. (http://communications.uwo.ca/media_newsroom/story.html?listing_id=14653)
DEER ANTLER FOR SARS
Many patients (nearly 13%) who recovered from the SARS virus developed a condition called avascular necrosis, a degenerative bone disease, as a result of the steroids they had taken. Now Hong Kong’s Baptist University reports that a Chinese herbal prescription which contains deer velvet (Lu Rong) and gecko (Ge Jie) is able to alleviate many of the symptoms. An initial study reports that of 15 patients treated, 70% experienced improvement in painful joints, 77% in vitality and 90% in depression. (The Standard, 24/7/04).
CHINESE MEDICINE & HAY FEVER
In a randomized blinded trial, 52 patients suffering from seasonal allergic rhinitis were assigned to an active treatment group or a control group. The active group received a semi-standardized acupuncture treatment, once a week, and an appropriate Chinese herbal formula, taken as a decoction three times daily for six weeks. The control group received acupuncture applied to non-points and a “non-specific herbal formula”. 85% of patients in the active group experienced improvement in the Global Assessment of Change scale compared to 40% of the control group. (Allergy. 2004 Sep;59(9):953-60).
ASTHMA & BETA-AGONISTS
A review of asthma studies conducted between 1966 and 2003 suggests that prolonged use by asthma sufferers of beta-agonist drugs such as Ventolin may make their asthma worse. The study authors say that patients who take the drug daily develop a tolerance and develop greater lung inflammation than asthmatics who do not use the medicines. (Ann Intern Med, May 2004; 140: 802 - 813.) The same authors also found a nearly doubled risk of cardiac events such as ischemia, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias and sudden deaths in asthmatics using beta-agonists long term. (Chest. 2004;125:2309-2321.) Meanwhile a study conducted in China childhood asthma found that cooking with gas, the use of foam pillows and damp housing were associated with an increased risk of asthma, whilst the use of cotton quilts and consumption of fruit and raw vegetables were associated with a reduced risk. (BMJ 2004;329:486,28 August, 2004).
KIDS ASTHMA & DOMESTIC CHEMICALS
Young children (3 months to 3 years) exposed to volatile organic compounds – mostly benzene, ethylbenzene and toluene – from solvents, floor adhesives, paint, cleaning products, furnishings, polishes and air fresheners, are significantly more likely (up to four times) to suffer from asthma. (Thorax 2004;59:746-751). (Ed. Note: there seems to be a lot more creepy air “freshener” ads on television. Spraying these chemicals into our breathing space is stupendously ignorant.)
TAI CHI FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
30 college students who were enrolled in this study practiced Tai Chi twice a week for an hour each time over a 3 month period. Bodily pain, general health, mental/emotional functioning, vitality and mental health were all significantly improved after Tai Chi exercise intervention. (The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, Vol. 32, No.3 (2004) 453-459).
GINSENG & WARFARIN
Ginseng appears to reduce the anticoagulant effect of coumadin, and both medical doctors and herbalists should be aware of this interaction. (Ann Intern Med, Jul 2004; 141: 23-27).
MARIJUANA FOR MS
Dronabinol, a cannabinoid extracted from cannabis, reduces pain in patients with multiple sclerosis, according to Danish research. 24 MS patients were given either dronabinol capsules or placebo for three weeks. Pain intensity was significantly lower and pain relief was higher during dronabinol treatment than during placebo treatment. Pressure evoked pain also tended to decrease, and patients reported better quality of life with dronabinol compared with placebo. (BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.38149.56697.AE ). Meanwhile the results of the UK study into cannabis and MS, first reported last year, have been revised. The first announcement of the study results suggested that whilst cannabinoids could relieve pain in MS, there was little reduction in spasticity. Longer term monitoring, however, suggests significant improvement in spasticity, leading Dr John Zajicek, who heads the trial, to suggest that cannabis might arrest the death of nerve cells in MS sufferers. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3644628.stm).
CANNABIS FOR ARTHRITIC PAIN
GW Pharmaceuticals, the company conducting the UK’s MS study, has reported positive preliminary results in its trial of cannabis-based medicines in rheumatoid arthritis. In the Phase 11 trial, statistically significant improvements are reported for morning pain at rest, quality of sleep, disease activity score and current pain. (http://www.gwpharm.com).