1. The FDA's hit parade of big "oops" stories

    The FDA's hit parade of big "oops" stories

    The FDA has all the usual flaws that go hand-in-hand with any government bureaucracy. The difference is that when the FDA fouls up, people die. The organization has been getting a lot of flak lately, from more than just me.

    It's about time people started to notice.

    Most of the FDA's critics recognize, as I often point out to you, that the Administration's failures are rooted in its close ties and associations (often financial) with the medical industry. A perfect example of this conflict of interest is the 1992 Prescription Drug User Fees Act, which requires the FDA to approve or deny new drug applications by major pharmaceuticals within a certain time - or else they have to refund "application fee" monies paid by the pharmaceutical companies. Obviously, the rush job isn't doing anyone any good.

    The FDA has approved too many drugs that ultimately had to be pulled from distribution due to serious side effects - i.e., THEY WERE KILLING PEOPLE. Even the government's own General Accounting Office determined that the process set in motion by this act has coincided with an up-tick in the percentage of drugs that ultimately needed to be withdrawn from the market. Coincidence? Hardly.

    After ranting and railing so often against the FDA, I just wanted to remind you all of some of the Administrations' biggest gaffes. While major drugs being pulled from the market are worthy of lead stories on the 11 o'clock news, too often the stories about "minor" drugs that get pulled are tucked away in places where they're easy to miss unless you're me, who lives for this sort of stuff.

    Here's the FDA's "hit parade" of big "oops" stories.

    1. Vioxx - I'm sure you're familiar with this infamous anti-inflammatory. Merck had to pull Vioxx off the global market in 2004 after a clinical study demonstrated that it significantly increased the risk of cardiovascular "events" such as heart attacks and strokes.
    2. Bextra - Like Vioxx, this prescription painkiller caused an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Pfizer pulled it off the market in the U.S. a year after the Vioxx fiasco in 2005.
    3. Cylert - Abbott pulled the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) drug off the U.S.
      market in 2005 after the FDA discovered 13 cases of liver failure. Turns out that Cylert patients have a 25-percent higher rate of liver failure compared to the general population.
    4. Baycol - This cholesterol-lowering drug caused users to suffer from a much higher rate of rhabdomyolysis - a debilitating muscle ailment that can be fatal. There were 31 reported deaths that were directly linked to Baycol, and it was yanked off the market in the U.S. in 2001.
    5. Palladone - This slow-release narcotic painkiller by Purdue Pharma was pulled off the market in the U.S. in 2005 because it was found to cause side effects like depression and even coma when mixed with alcohol.

    This small handful of examples of FDA foul-ups within recent years (there are more - this list could've been much longer) should serve as a wake-up call for every single one of us. In spite of the FDA, neither food nor drugs are any safer.

    FDA leaves cancer-causing foot gel on the market

    Even the most seemingly innocent drugs can carry fatal side effects. The FDA just announced a study showing that the foot gel Regranex could be causing cancer. And yet, amazingly, Regranex is still on the market!

    The prescription foot gel is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson and is often used by diabetics who develop leg and foot ulcers that are difficult to heal.

    Apparently, diabetics who'd been prescribed the gel three or more times were at increased risk of death from cancer. With incredible gall, the spokesperson for J&J insisted that Regranex is safe when used as directed. What? This is a topical foot gel-if these people are applying it to the sores on their feet and legs, they ARE using it as directed. Should any foot gel be capable of giving you CANCER!? Does this make sense to you?

    Obviously there's more to this story. But if I were you, I wouldn't wait for the FDA to do the banning - ban Regranex from your medicine cabinet immediately.

  2. Has the obesity epidemic been blown out of proportion?

    Has the obesity epidemic been blown out of proportion?

    Before I get into today's topic, let me ask you a question: Do you think there are more fat people now than there used to be?

    I just read an article that made me think that maybe we're not as fat as we think we are. Oh, don't get me wrong - you don't have to strain your eyes to see that more than a few Americans could stand to drop a pound - or 10. But a new and incredibly controversial study is calling the obesity epidemic a bunch of B.S.

    The man who has dared to come out and say that "the obesity epidemic has absolutely been exaggerated" is Dr. Vincent Marks, emeritus professor of clinical biochemistry at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom. And while I don't agree with everything he says, I love the fact that he's saying it. Hey, I've got to give credit to an iconoclast who's cut from the same cloth I am, right?

    Here's a doctor who's out there contradicting the long-held and cherished beliefs of the mainstream medical community - just like me. And since my "wrongheaded" views are routinely found to be correct upon further review, I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't at least give Dr. Marks the credit I believe he deserves.

    Marks questions the data upon which the current claims about an obesity epidemic are based, and doubts that being fat is the root cause of health ailments like cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

    There's a very good reason I'm in Dr. Mark's corner - one of the examples his opponents points to as "proof" that he's wrong is diabetes. The article quotes Dr. James Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado, who says that "Type two diabetes rarely happens in people who aren't obese."

    But as I've pointed out on more than one occasion, obesity doesn't cause diabetes, and diabetes doesn't cause obesity. What obesity and diabetes have in common is that they can both result from the excessive intake of sugar and starch-based substandard foods.

    I'm not alone. Others have leapt to the defense of Dr. Marks, notably Eric Oliver, a political science professor at the University of Chicago and author of the book Fat Politics. Oliver says that blaming obesity for heart attacks and diabetes is just a red herring, and that there are other factors in these maladies -- like exercise, diet, and genetic predisposition to disease. These are all harder to pin down than your weight - which can be easily measured. I'm inclined to agree with Oliver.

    Marks has a few more points to make

    He also points out, in typical contrarian fashion, how shoddy research and the fast-and- loose interpretation of statistics are used to prop up popular notions about weight. Being English, Marks's battleground is the U.K rather than the U.S., but when he attacks the so-called cold-hard facts that led to the British government's warning that "nearly half of Britain" would be obese by 2050, it makes you wish he'd come take a closer look at our numbers. Marks noted that there was "relatively little change" in Britain's national weight averages from 1993 to 2006.

    These aren't baseless theories that Marks espouses-they're backed by research. In 2005, a CDC study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that overweight people typically live longer than so-called "normal weight" people. (A conclusion which, by the way, was reached by more than a dozen other studies.) As you can imagine, the mainstream medical community went into immediate damage control mode, attacking the research's legitimacy.

    Indeed, it's a known fact that, statistically, fat people have better odds of surviving heart attacks (some theorize that the hearts of overweight people often work harder and are therefore better conditioned to endure stress).

    I could go on in my support of Marks. When you really get down to what he's saying, it's not as outrageous as the article makes it out to be. We are such a society of extremes and absolutes that we often refuse to believe that the world of health - like the rest of the world - is painted not in black or white, but in shades of gray.

    Not once does Marks advocate that fatter is better. He merely points out that there's been some needless and wrong-headed hysteria about the apparent death sentence that can be brought on by a couple of extra pounds. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's willing to take a stand with an unpopular opinion. If the medical community loses people like Marks (and myself), it could lead to big trouble. It's essential for doctors to keep an open mind.

  3. Seizing morning - or "mourning" disease

    In the last Daily Dose, I told you about a few ways to avoid mosquito bites…but I didn't mention what a lot of readers must have concluded is the most obvious (and easy) way to avoid mosquito bites: Simply staying inside.
  4. All-natural wonder drug decreases Parkinson's risk

    According to a study published in The American Journal of Epidemiology, drinking ¾ of a cup of black tea 23 times a month may decrease the risk of developing Parkinson's disease by 71 percent.
  5. TV show speaks out against vaccines

    Apparently, the incredibly powerful American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) actually wanted ABC to cancel the pilot episode of their new drama series "Eli Stone" because it "perpetuates the myth that vaccines can cause autism."
  6. FDA OK's cloned food

    Scientists have discovered a new way of testing for breast cancer that could make the mammogram a thing of the past-and it's about time.
  7. What your spit can tell you about breast cancer

    Scientists have discovered a new way of testing for breast cancer that could make the mammogram a thing of the past-and it's about time.
  8. Don't quit your day job: Nightshift linked to cancer

    A new study has re-affirmed the old medical suspicion that night work can shorten your life.
  9. Heart protection

    Nitrite- and nitrate-rich foods can actually have a beneficial effect on your heart.
  10. Bad breath means good health

    Garlic increases the body's production of hydrogen sulfide, which helps protect against deadly cancers in the breast, prostate, and colon.

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