Saturday, May 29, 2010

Jama Article about shenanigans and a loose tangent on a new vaccine

So of the articles reporting on clinical trials that didn't reach statistical significance 40% contained some "spin".  Spin being a fancy way to say lie.   Distract,  trick, deceive .... Whatever

They say in the comment section of the article (which isn't free online):

Our results are consistent with those of other related studies showing a positive relation between financial ties and favorable conclusions stated in trial reports.   Other studies assessed discrepancies between results and their interpretations in the Conclusions sections.....
The publication process in biomedical research tends to favor statistically significant results and to be responsible for "optimism bias" (ie, unwarranted belief in the efficacy of a new therapy).  Reports of RTCs with statistically significant results for outcomes are published more often and more rapidly than are those of trials with statistically nonsignificant results.  Good evidence exists of selective reporting of statistically significant results for outcomes in published articles.  

So,  not only are clinical trials showing a positive effect from a new med or treatment more likely to be published and published faster than those showing negative effects or lack of benefit but also trials get published spinning a lack of effect into benefit?  

It's not really a surprise then when medications proven to increase suicidal thinking in teens and children get marketed as safe and effective depression treatments.

Of course the same JAMA has an entire section called "from the centers for disease control and prevention".   This issue has basically an Ad for Prevnar 13.    The CDC editorial note points out that "Overall,  rates of IPD have remained stable at 22-25 cases per 100,000 since 2002."

IPD is invasive pneumococcal disease.  It means the bacteria pneumococcus got in the ear fluid, blood, lungs,  spinal fluid.   Prevnar came out in 2000 and wasn't widely available because of production problems for at least 2 years.  If Prevnar made a big impact,  then why didn't the rates drop more?

Oh but the CDC looks at a subgroup for us, children less than 5 years old,  it shows that in 2007 black children had a rate of 35.8 per 100,000 while other races was 30.7 and white children 18.4

Prevnar was famous for how it was going to eliminate the racial disparity of the infectious diseases caused by pneumococcus.

This new vaccine, Prevnar 13,  covers approximately 64% of the serotypes that cause IPD in 2007.  The previous prevnar covered about 80%.   There's no worry about testing the effectiveness of the new vaccine.   They just did some antibody studies and then backpedaled on how they measured success of that when 3 serotype-specific antibodies didn't reach target levels after 3 shots.   After 4 shots one serotype (6) still wasn't reaching the target antibody levels.

Who knows how this will translate to clinical cases of IPD.  MAYBE we will get lucky and drive the rate down further from 22-25 per 100,000.  And maybe we'll get lucky and not cause another serotype like 19A which currently tends to be multidrug resistant and difficult to cure.  And maybe the MRSA spike in children wasn't related to the effects the 1st Prevnar had on the normal nasal flora of children.

I guess we're going to find out as the experiment rolls on.

Unless the 24% uptake of the swine flu shot is any indication of the state of trust in organizations like the CDC.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Now THIS is punishment

NEW YORK (CNN) -- An online movement to boycott BP for its role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is growing at a rate of better than 25,000 names a day.
"I won't buy their gas any more. I won't patronize a company that's destroying our planet," New Jersey resident Patricia Jarozynski told CNN, one of 118,000 fans of the "Boycott BP" Facebook page as of this writing.

The truth is it's not as easy to boycott BP as activists might think because BP is one of the biggest companies on the planet with many different businesses. So, even if you're not buying BP gas you're likely a consumer. Your mechanic may be putting Castrol motor oil into your car, the soda you're drinking today may be in a can produced from Arco Aluminum and the next aircraft you board may using BP fuel and BP hydraulic fluid.

Oh really?  Well a .2 second google search alerted me to the group of 118,000 declaring their intention to boycott BP.

And right there on the front page it says

Boycott BP stations. BP brands to boycott include Castrol, Arco, Aral, am/pm, Amoco, and Wild Bean Cafe, Safeway gas. laissez le bon temps rouler pas chez Bp. roots Facebook page advocating a Boycott of bp

It's not that hard to find out which products BP profits from and punish them at a time when they are the most vulnerable.  

It's a shame that good people who work for BP and are insured by BP are going to be harmed by the fall out.   But just like with pharmaceuticals that do us more harm than good and/or are overhyped/marketed,   we have to be selfish with our health.   

Powering civilization with ancient carbon is poisoning our air and water.  Even without this spill we have to change our power source to survive.  

"There's not enough money"  

Absurd.   Money isn't real.  It's just one old concept in a medieval method of organizing society.  We wave a congressional magic wand and make 2 trillion appear to bail out financial institutions who somehow managed to lose at a rigged game.  

I'm all for punishing BP just to remind everyone how powerful a weapon the masses hold.  Especially in a consumer driven economy,  our mundane choices prop up the wealthy.   But I wish the boycott were more of an ultimatum....  

Something like "we will boycott BP until they begin applying their drilling expertise to geothermal heat mining"

Google that and look at the estimates from the US government about the potential zetajules of energy waiting to be mined in the US alone. 

In the words of Bill Murray, "which is nice"

WHEN I was a boy in Tibet, I felt that my own Buddhist religion must be the best — and that other faiths were somehow inferior. Now I see how na├»ve I was, and how dangerous the extremes of religious intolerance can be today.
Such tensions are likely to increase as the world becomes more interconnected and cultures, peoples and religions become ever more entwined. The pressure this creates tests more than our tolerance — it demands that we promote peaceful coexistence and understanding across boundaries.
Granted, every religion has a sense of exclusivity as part of its core identity. Even so, I believe there is genuine potential for mutual understanding. While preserving faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire and appreciate other traditions.
An early eye-opener for me was my meeting with the Trappist monk Thomas Merton in India shortly before his untimely death in 1968. Merton told me he could be perfectly faithful to Christianity, yet learn in depth from other religions like Buddhism. The same is true for me as an ardent Buddhist learning from the world’s other great religions.
A main point in my discussion with Merton was how central compassion was to the message of both Christianity and Buddhism. In my readings of the New Testament, I find myself inspired by Jesus’ acts of compassion. His miracle of the loaves and fishes, his healing and his teaching are all motivated by the desire to relieve suffering.
I’m a firm believer in the power of personal contact to bridge differences, so I’ve long been drawn to dialogues with people of other religious outlooks. The focus on compassion that Merton and I observed in our two religions strikes me as a strong unifying thread among all the major faiths. And these days we need to highlight what unifies us.
Take Judaism, for instance. I first visited a synagogue in Cochin, India, in 1965, and have met with many rabbis over the years. I remember vividly the rabbi in the Netherlands who told me about the Holocaust with such intensity that we were both in tears. And I’ve learned how the Talmud and the Bible repeat the theme of compassion, as in the passage in Leviticus that admonishes, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
In my many encounters with Hindu scholars in India, I’ve come to see the centrality of selfless compassion in Hinduism too — as expressed, for instance, in the Bhagavad Gita, which praises those who “delight in the welfare of all beings.” I’m moved by the ways this value has been expressed in the life of great beings like Mahatma Gandhi, or the lesser-known Baba Amte, who founded a leper colony not far from a Tibetan settlement in Maharashtra State in India. There he fed and sheltered lepers who were otherwise shunned. When I received my Nobel Peace Prize, I made a donation to his colony.
Compassion is equally important in Islam — and recognizing that has become crucial in the years since Sept. 11, especially in answering those who paint Islam as a militant faith. On the first anniversary of 9/11, I spoke at the National Cathedral in Washington, pleading that we not blindly follow the lead of some in the news media and let the violent acts of a few individuals define an entire religion.
Let me tell you about the Islam I know. Tibet has had an Islamic community for around 400 years, although my richest contacts with Islam have been in India, which has the world’s second-largest Muslim population. An imam in Ladakh once told me that a true Muslim should love and respect all of Allah’s creatures. And in my understanding, Islam enshrines compassion as a core spiritual principle, reflected in the very name of God, the “Compassionate and Merciful,” that appears at the beginning of virtually each chapter of the Koran.
Finding common ground among faiths can help us bridge needless divides at a time when unified action is more crucial than ever. As a species, we must embrace the oneness of humanity as we face global issues like pandemics, economic crises and ecological disaster. At that scale, our response must be as one.
Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world. From this perspective, mutual understanding among these traditions is not merely the business of religious believers — it matters for the welfare of humanity as a whole.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the author, most recently, of “Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together"

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chris Rock's Movie Good Hair

On a recent trip cut short by my dog getting another major abdominal surgery I saw the movie Good Hair.

That's one hell of an opening sentence eh?

Yeah I went to Canada too.  What's up with the pre-check point check point when you go over the bridge before meeting the Canadian border guards?   I think it was a group of american border guards who were bored.   But they slowed down the process more than the actual border crossing into Canada.

Any-who,  the movie is a documentary/satire of sorts.  I learned a lot watching it.  Like the chemical in hair straightener is sodium hydroxide,  more commonly known as lye.

Wiki says most over the counter products switched to less caustic bases but that "professionals" still use the older,  stronger sodium hydroxide preparations.

"Manufacturers vary the sodium hydroxide content of the solution from 5% to 10% and the pH factor between 10 and 14"

This looks like the same % found in stuff like liquid drano

Women and children put this stuff in their hair and on their scalp regularly to break down the chemical bonds that make the hair curl.   

But the big money is made in hair weaves.  Which I was surprised to learn are mostly made of human hair from India.
Many devotees also have their head tonsured as an offer. The daily amount of hair collected is over a ton.[15] The hair thus gathered is sold by the temple organization a few times a year by public auction to international buyers for use as hair extensions and in cosmetics,[16] bringing over $6 million to the temple's treasury

On the other side of the world,  Americans pay around 1000 dollars for a good hair weave.  There's all this maintenance that has to be done on the hair as well and plenty of women spend 10k dollars or more on hair a year.  

Chris Rock interviewed a bunch of celebrities including the Reverend Al Sharpton who said something to the effect that black people should make money off the sale of weaves purchased by black people.  It's interesting that women spending 1000 dollars at a time for other people's hair so they may look more "natural" is a fine business opportunity.  I guess it's ok to exploit a people if you're the same color.   

And don't think these themes are isolated to black women and curly hair modification.  Cosmetics are in general chocked full of toxic metals and petroleum chemicals.  You can't even check the ingredient list on a lot of these products because it's "proprietary".   You have to protect the patent rights of corporations before you disclose the potentially harmful toxins going on a woman's FACE.  

Which reminds me of the Walmart cadmium jewelry story.   

Anyone see this ?

Oh snap,  I put "walmart cadmium" into google and that popped up 1st in the news feed.

Just yesterday it was announced that Walmart, the huge department store chain, has finally recalled their Miley Cyrus line of jewelry after finding out that it contained dangerous levels of cadmium back in February. Although they claimed that the jewelry was not made for children, since many young girls do seek out the ‘Miley Cyrus’ name, the products were posing a danger to them which Walmart was aware of for 3 months prior to the recall. And now, as announced by the CSPC, Walmart has issued a recall on their GE coffeemakers.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced on their website that Walmart is voluntarily recalling several of their GE coffeemakers. To find out if your product is on this list check the CSPC website here. The huge headline for the site states, “Walmart Recalls General Electric® Coffee Makers Due to Fire Hazard”. It estimates that about 900,000 coffee makers are included in this recall. Also stated on this site is the following:
“Hazard: The coffee maker can overheat, posing fire and burn hazards to consumers.
Incidents/Injuries: Walmart has received 83 reports of overheating, smoking, melting, burning and fire, including three reports of minor burn injuries to consumer’s hands, feet and torso. Reports of property damage include a significant kitchen fire and damage to countertops, cabinets and a wall.”

Cadmium in the children's jewelry and now GE is selling coffee makers that burn down houses?   I wonder what the story is behind that?  I'm going to guess it has something to do with using cheap materials and slave labor,  but I'm too lazy to dig into it right now. 

But speaking of GE,   word around the campfire locally is that the mammogram center has seen a steep drop off in screening mammography the past 6 months.  Wonder how that combination of ever increasing health care costs and the recent press over the substantial harms of screening mammograms is affecting the bottom line of our mighty health care institutions.   It's stuff like that that makes it difficult to afford underground parking garage construction.  

/just sayin

For those of you wondering what happened to the hound dog;  he's recovering from a false alarm surgery.  He went into the vet for vomiting and they felt a big spleen and his xray looked funny.  After cutting him open,  everything looked normal and they left him with his spleen.  He's mighty sore but no longer vomiting.  

Monday, May 17, 2010

Richest Country on Earth

Read this is a news story today:

The United States has the highest incarceration rate on the planet - five times the world's average. A total of 2,380,000 people are now in prison. The U.S. has five percent of the world's population, but 25 percent of the world's prison population.
Minorities make up a disproportionately large share of inmates. Black males have a 32 percent chance of serving time in prison at some point in their lives

When we combine this number with the % of young people unemployed (anywhere from 30-50% currently with the recession)  and the % of young people in the military,  you end up with the vast majority of youth in this country.

Unemployed, serving in the military or in prison....

Is this really the best we can do?   This is the apex of progress?

And don't tell me military service isn't so bad.  We've been at war for damn near a decade with no end in sight.  Soldiers are killing themselves at ever increasing rates.  Hell we haven't demobilized the military since world war 2.  

Most of our youth enter adulthood unemployed, as soldiers or as prisoners.

What does that do to a society?  

The wealth distribution gap continues to grow.   Prisons,  the military and the entitlement systems are our most consistent growth industries.  

In such a land,  it matters not who is elected president.

Our root systems are corrupting.  

We will find a way of living differently because to continue as we are is suicide.

We will find a way of living differently.  

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cardiologist Stirs the Pot

Doctor says heart groups too cozy with industry

‘It's time to draw the line’ on corporate funding, says prominent cardiologist

The news article spends the 1st half of the story talking about how he got it wrong with the whole coke a cola funding some heart awareness campaign.   Let's see if we can find a copy of his speech somewhere.... 

Putting his name into google: 

He helped put the smack down on a diabetes drug that raises heart attack risk.  Wonder if that drug is related to Avandia? 

I don't know,  but Dr Nissen has also been in Avandia's business it seems

And the FDA user fees too!

Ok,  I have a new hero.  

Still haven't found a copy of his speech!