Sunday 21st of July 2019

non-diseases to profit big pharma...


The most common chronic disease after obesity, afflicting 84 million Americans and more than 1 billion people worldwide, was born as a public relations catchphrase. In 2001, the PR chief of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) approached Richard Kahn, then the group's chief scientific and medical officer, for help with a vexing problem, Kahn recalls. ADA needed a pitch to persuade complacent doctors and the public to take seriously a slight elevation in blood glucose, which might signal a heightened risk of type 2 diabetes. Raising the alarm wasn't easy, given the condition's abstruse name, impaired glucose tolerance, and lack of symptoms.

Kahn invited half a dozen diabetes thought leaders to brainstorm at a National Institutes of Health cafeteria in Bethesda, Maryland. Surrounded by hungry federal employees, many enjoying the kinds of fatty foods and sugary drinks tied to the diabetes epidemic, they landed on a then–little-used term that seemed sure to scare patients and doctors into action: prediabetes.

“We went back to the ADA office right after lunch and started the change. Within a relatively short period of time we … eliminated ‘impaired fasting glucose’ and ‘impaired glucose tolerance’ and substituted ‘prediabetes’ in all of our literature,” Kahn says. Soon, the term was enshrined in the Arlington, Virginia, group's standards of care—widely regarded as the bible of diabetes. ADA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta declared war against prediabetes, with CDC diabetes prevention chief Ann Albright, an ADA board member from 2005 to 2009, leading the charge. The two groups labeled prediabetes a first step on the road to diabetes, which can lead to amputations, blindness, and heart attacks.

In medicine, prevention is usually an unalloyed good. But in this case, other diabetes specialists argue, medical and epidemiological data give weak support, at most, for increasingly dire prediabetes admonitions. “Nobody really thought at the time, how ‘pre’ is prediabetes for all these people?” says Kahn, who left ADA in 2009 and is now at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, and other medical authorities have rejected prediabetes as a diagnostic category because they are not convinced that it routinely leads to diabetes or that existing treatments do much good. John Yudkin, a diabetes researcher and emeritus professor of medicine at University College London, describes the ominous warnings about prediabetes from ADA and CDC as “scaremongering.”


Dubious diagnosis

Charles Piller*


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fake sciences...

Fake news is a challenge being faced by the media, politics and business alike, but it seems the scientific community too is now facing up to this too.

This week, the World Conference of Science Journalists is being held in Lausanne in Switzerland.

Bad information, misleading scientific claims and outright fakes are being put to the assembled science journalists to grapple with.


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creating addictions to big pharma...

Debbie Thompson is a grandmother of five who likes to crochet in her spare time. The 64-year-old is also an addict.

Key points:
  • Pain specialist says Mundipharma distributed misleading brochure on strong pain medications to GPs
  • The company avoided scrutiny because it opted out of Australia's self-regulatory system
  • The Therapeutic Goods Administration can't act because false advertising laws exclude marketing to GPs


The former curtain shop manager remembers the first time her GP prescribed a mild painkiller to relieve ankle pain from a slip at work. 

"The pain was like shards of glass," Ms Thompson said.

"He didn't tell me anything just 'well, this should help with pain'."

For Ms Thompson, this was the start of a two-decade "rollercoaster" that would see her taking double the recommended dose of the strong painkiller oxycodone. 

"From then on, operations, pain, meds, 19 years and I'm still suffering," she said. 

One Australian GP believes misleading practices by one global pharmaceutical company are contributing to patients like Ms Thompson becoming hooked on opioids. 

He wants the Federal Government to crack down on them. 

Pain specialist Simon Holliday said a massive loophole was allowing pharmaceutical companies to falsely advertise the purported benefits of their products to general practitioners.

He has evidence pharmaceutical giant Mundipharma has been misrepresenting the position of two major doctors' groups on how to prescribe pain medicines to those with chronic pain in order to promote their drugs.

Mundipharma is the Australian arm of Purdue Pharma, the United States company behind Oxycontin, which is facing multi-million-dollar legal challenges because of allegedly deceptive marketing practices.

Those practices have been blamed for contributing to the opioid crisis in that country.


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a wake-up call or over-servicing?

John Pahos had always eaten well and exercised daily, so when he found out he had type 2 diabetes, it came as a surprise.

Key points:
  • More than one third of hospital patients have diabetes, research suggests
  • Half a million Australians are thought to have the condition without realising
  • Diabetes Australia says Australia needs a "wake-up call" in treating the disease


"It was a bit of a shock because my lifestyle's reasonably good, so I thought if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody," he said.

He did not have any noticeable symptoms and his diagnosis was detected by doctors at Melbourne's Austin Hospital as part of a program to reduce the disease.

Research conducted through the program shows Mr Pahos is not alone. An average of 34 per cent of patients at the hospital had diabetes — and 5 per cent of those had undiagnosed type 2 diabetes which was only discovered as part of the study.

It is estimated about 500,000 people across Australia may have the disease without knowing.

"One of the wicked problems with type 2 diabetes is it's often silent," Diabetes Australia chief executive Greg Johnson said.


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Meanwhile at drug pricing headquarters...:


JACQUELINE LUQMAN Hi. This is Jacqueline Luqman with The Real News Network.

 One of the Trump administration’s key campaign promises leading up to 2020 is to reduce prescription drug prices. The idea is really popular among even GOP voters who are just as opposed to giant pharmaceutical companies price gouging prescription drugs as the progressive left is, but Trump has had some trouble getting his much-touted plans off the ground as of late. And that might be an inroad for the Democrats to seize on in 2020. So joining me now to talk about this is Wendell Potter. Wendell is a former health insurance executive, serving as head of corporate communications for Cigna before leaving in 2008 after a crisis of conscience. And now, he’s a consumer advocate and author. His newest project is, which examines how money and politics impacts millions of Americans. Wendell, thank you for joining me.

WENDELL POTTER My pleasure, Jacqueline. Thank you.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN So let’s talk about Trump’s plan for transparency in prescription drug pricing because that’s what he called it. What was this plan, and what would it have meant for consumers?

WENDELL POTTER Well among the various things that he said he would be doing along the lines of transparency, one was to require drug companies in their TV advertising to list the prices of those medications, and that’s not going to happen. There’s been a ruling that says that drug companies don’t have to do that. It’s not constitutional to require them to do that. And so, it’s not going to happen. It would have been probably meaningless in the first place. I think there’s some merit certainly in us knowing how much drug companies are charging for their medications, but the reality is that we pay varying amounts. There’s no one charge. There might be an ultimate list price for some medications but regardless of—Because so many of us have different kinds of health insurance plans. Some of us have to pay a lot out of our own pockets before our coverage kicks in. Some of us are uninsured. It’s almost a meaningless number anyway, but it’s not going to happen. That’s one thing.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN So basically, this plan that Trump touted that would drive prescription drug prices down—And as a matter of fact, he said, or one of his Health and Human Services Department officials said, that forcing pharmaceuticals to publish their prescription drug prices would shame the pharmaceutical companies into reducing their prices. So you’re saying that wouldn’t have happened, even if this ruling went in Trump’s favor?

WENDELL POTTER Oh, absolutely not. Again, there is merit in transparency and knowing how much they actually are trying to get away with and gouge us. But the reality is, they could have done it in a way that—Say for example, you actually need a medication that’s being advertised, and you want to make sure that you’re presumably getting the best medication that’s available for your treatment. A lot of people would say, well, that one that cost $50,000 is better than the one that cost $20,000. Well, I want that $50,000 drug. So, you know, we just have to keep in mind the psychology of so-called consumers or patients. So I’m not sure it would have had the intended effect. In fact, it could have been counterproductive, to tell you the truth.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN Counterproductive in what way?

WENDELL POTTER In that, they could do the advertising in such a way to say, look, our new drug or this new version of a drug, it may cost a lot of money, but it’s far superior than a competitor or a generic. And so people would probably then go to their doctor and say, look, I want the high-priced Cadillac drug, if you will, because it’s my health and my life’s on the line. So I’m not sure that that would actually serve to bring prices down, and I don’t know that—You know, the drug companies have demonstrated they’re not shamed. They can’t be shamed all that much. We’ve seen them get away. There’s been a lot of publicity about the money that they’re taking in, and the prices they’re charging for drugs that just have no bearing in reality in terms of value. It’s just, they just price them based on what they think the market can bear. So there’s been no shortage of publicity. It’s one of the reasons why Americans are outraged, but that outrage hasn’t translated into any changes in terms of pricing by the big drug companies.


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Makes the price of red-ned worth the headaches...

escaped bioweapon from cold war?...


...a year later, Bullough began to experience sudden seizures and muscle weakness, leaving him with severe difficulties walking. Over the past three years, his condition has rapidly deteriorated, leaving him unable to see, permanently bed-bound and often suffering multiple seizures at a time.

“Last May, he had a massive seizure and then his whole body was convulsing,” says Angela. “That’s the day he went blind and has never walked or seen since. He then started having back-to-back seizures; he’s in hospital once a month because they just won’t stop, regardless of how many drugs they give him. One weekend, he had 40 seizures.”

Bullough was eventually diagnosed with Lyme disease, an illness caused by various species of bacteria in the genus Borrelia that live in the guts of ticks. Once transmitted to humans, it can attack the immune system and lead to serious health complications such as arthritis, meningitis, neurological problems, even heart failure. While Lyme disease can sometimes be treated with antibiotics if detected early, not everyone responds and for patients such as Bullough who have developed chronic symptoms, there is currently no cure.

This is particularly concerning as Lyme disease appears to be on the rise, something scientists have attributed to climate change, creating conditions in which tick populations can thrive. While the disease is currently estimated to affect between 2,000 and 3,000 new people every year in the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) suspects the real figure is far higher.

But for scientists, one of the most tragic aspects of Bullough’s story, as with those of many other patients, is that it could potentially have been avoided. In the late 1990s, the first preventive human vaccine, called LYMErix, was developed and 1.4m doses had been administered by the end of 2001. The data suggests it was highly effective, protecting against the disease in almost 90% of cases.

LYMErix wasn’t perfect. It was relatively expensive, did not work in young children, only protected against one strain of Lyme disease and was only available in the US. But it appeared to be the first step towards eradicating the disease for good. Anti-vaccine fear saw it vanish from the market, however, and with that, all scientific research and investment in the field ceased.


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US Pentagon is told to investigate claims that Lyme disease is escaped bioweapon from cold war


BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 19 July 2019)
Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l4784 
The US House of Representatives has ordered the Pentagon’s inspector general to conduct a review of whether the defence department “experimented with ticks and other insects regarding use as biological weapons between 1950 and 1975.”1

The demand for a review, proposed by Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, passed easily among a raft of other late amendments to a House bill on defence spending. It must still be “reconciled” with the Senate’s version of the spending bill, but Smith said that he was confident of Senate support.

He told the House that his amendment had been “inspired by a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at US government facilities including Fort Detrick, Maryland, and Plum Island, New York, to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons.”

Biological research

Plum Island, a secure government biological research site since 1945, lies directly across a narrow stretch of water from Lyme, … 

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