Leisure, Lifestyle & Wellness
Magna Carta Libertatum Medica
How drug companies influence scientists and institutions to tell lies
 
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on.”— Winston Churchill
 
Magna Carta was the original charter forced on to the King of England by a group of his own subjects calling themselves the feudal barons to pare his unlimited powers by law to protect their own interests, way back in 1215AD. The charter mandated King John to proclaim certain liberties and accept that his will was not arbitrary. This eventually led to the creation of the 13th century English parliament, the mother of all parliaments, they claim. 
 
In place of the feudal barons of the 13th century, we have the drug barons today—much more powerful with today’s rulers than the former were with the Kings of England. In place of the Kings of those days, the drug barons have the watchdogs to oversee their crafty designs for the good of mankind. One such body, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) in England recently showed interest in expanding the indications for statins and was also mulling over the idea of allowing this dangerous drug for sale across the counter! By sheer coincidence, a very powerful drug baron in the UK was getting ready (with billions of statin tablets in stock) with its Magna Carta to NICE!
 
Around the same time, a few ‘landmark’ studies giving a big boost to the drug company’s efforts (funded by the latter) surfaced. What a coincidence again! On 14th April, a ‘great’ study got to see the light of day in the International Journal of Cardiology claiming that statins may help stave off dementia! The study does not mention that cognitive defect is one of the common side-effects of statins and is well recorded. The study was small, done in an obscure university in Taipei. On 8th April, The Journal of Sexual Medicine, published another study, again funded by drug companies, and from an unknown university, which showed how statins could overcome erectile dysfunction! The researchers also ‘claimed’ that statins could cure hypogonadism. On 17th March, a big study from the Imperial College London claimed that statins have no side-effects at all.
They went a step further, to say that the placebo tablets had side-effects in the study but not statins!
 
It is unusual for authors of scientific journals to make recommendations for drug use in their paper. The Imperial College ‘scientists’ went as far as calling upon the drug companies to say in their label that statins have NO side-effects at all.  Money makes man sink to the pits of moral nihilism. The current guidelines mandate doctors to ‘offer’ statins to those that have a 20% risk of heart attacks in the next 10 years. The new expected guidelines from NICE are expected to lower that limit to almost 1 in 10 people in the world (10%). The drug companies will be eternally grateful to NICE for being nice to them! 
 
Statins were introduced initially to lower blood cholesterol by blocking a very useful and powerful enzyme in the patient’s liver, where statins are produced by the human body. By artificially blocking that enzyme, we are concurrently also blocking many other vital products made in the liver. One of them is mavalonic acid. A doctor who has seen a patient with congenital mavalonic acid deficiency—who looks like a dehydrated ghost of a human child—will never be able to prescribe this poison. Blocking enzymes in the liver is a myopic reductionist science. 
 
Every single large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT) on cholesterol-lowering drugs, beginning with the cholesteramine in the 1950s, to the latest statin studies, while effectively lowering the blood fat reports, have killed more people in the long run compared to a placebo! If a doctor keeps his/her eyes open, we see a lot of non-alcoholic liver cirrhosis these days. Is it a punishment we are getting for being very liberal in using and abusing reductionist chemical drugs in therapeutics? Oliver Wendell Holmes was dead right when he wrote: “If the whole materia medica was to be thrown into the bottom of the sea, it would be that much good for mankind and that much worse for fishes.” This was written when only a handful of drugs were available. Now there are thousands, most of which are not studied over a long period to see the real side-effects.
 
“There are three types of lies—lies, damn lies, and statistics.”Benjamin Disraeli 

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COMMENTS

Suresh

3 years ago

If statins are not the answer then what is? How do we reduce cholesterol levels to below 200?

REPLY

Prakash Bhate

In Reply to Suresh 3 years ago

Control what you eat and exercise regularly. In 6-8 months although you will not become Mr Universe, you will certainly be fit and fine. My old Yoga teacher used to say "One who eats one meal a day is a yogi, two meals a day - bhogi and three or more, a rogi"

Will there be any food stalls, khau-gallies after 14th August?
FSSAI's dictate on mandatory licence for road side food vendors, suppliers and transporters, like Mumbai's famous Dabbawala, would force them to down shutters forever as majority of them will not pass the stringent norms
 
Hot-steaming tea at your favourite chai stall, delicious-spicy street Chinese, garma garam vada pav, refreshing sugar cane juice, khatti-mithi pani puri, thandi lassi and chaas, fried kanda-bhujiya, cheesy Indian franky, hand-made chocolates by your neighbourhood auntie, or the all time favourite bread pakoda. WAIT. These mouth-watering items, a part of  long-struggling India's Unincorporated may not exist anymore. It may even be time to bid farewell to the khau gallis and dabbawalas present in every corner of India with the new law set to slaughter them. 
 
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), a central regulator, has extended the deadline for food business operators (FBO) to obtain a license and registration to 4 August 2014. But it is still unclear as to how many of these food stall owners would survive the proposed license-raj. According to a report by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), “…the enforcement of this Act in the present form, it will lead to the closure of over 17 lakh Indian food industries and will force unemployment on over 20 million people.” 
 
The idea of licensing and registration for FBOs mooted by FSSAI under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, is aimed at preventing food adulteration. However, implementation of this regulation would require extensive administration and bureaucracy which is time-consuming and costly. This too is only likely to breed more corrupt practices due to the massive discretionary powers of the officials than prevent food adulteration. 
 
FSSAI license/ registration has been made mandatory for every hawker, kiosk or stall—whether your neighbouring mithaiwala or a multinational McDonalds'. Post 4th August, all of them are required to obtain a FBO license. 
 
FBOs are defined as “Any undertaking private or public, for profit or not” carrying out any of the activities related to any stage of manufacturing, processing, packaging, storage, transportation, distribution of food, imports and including food services, sale of food or food ingredients”. 
 
The license under the FSSAI Rules and Regulations 2011 was to be obtained with effect from 5 August 2011, but the deadline was postponed to August 2012 and now again to 4 August 2014. 
 
Under this regulation, already licensed FBOs operating under now repealed Acts and Rules such as the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA) need to convert their license or registration to the new rules under Section 31 of the act. The license fee is Rs2,000 and it will be issued only after a Food Safety Officer visits the manufacturing, processing and transporting units and certifies that it meets FSSAI standards. The penalty for non-compliance is 100 times more than that under the PFA act and could go up to Rs5 lakh or imprisonment of up to six months under Section 63 of the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006. 
 
Given the stringent provisions and the fact that the government provides no amenities to road side food sellers (many operate only in the evening or night after shops have closed), they are unlikely to meet FSSAI standards and will probably, have to shut down and become victims of endless harassment and extortion by government officials. 
 
Aamchi Mumbai cha vada-pav, road-side chai, street-corner bakery, pani puri, traveller's favourite roti-rolls etc are all likely to get out of the market if this law comes into force unless the the new government elected at the Centre furiously takes a reverse. One wonders if the most efficient enterprise in India, the dabbawala, which has been awarded the six sigma for service would also need a license, since he would fall under the definition of FBO for transporting food. Will the dabbawala’s rough-and-ready travel in the luggage van of suburban trains meet FSSAI’s hygienic standards? Or will the rule see selective application and exemptions?
 
With rising inflation and high costs and taxes at regular eateries, most of India’s working as well as middle class, at least in Mumbai, depends on road-side food that is served up by tiny entrepreneurs, who put up temporary stalls at breakfast, lunch and dinner time. This is especially true of large cities like Mumbai. Licensing and registration will kill these businesses, merely with the additional cost and compliance burden. What is worse, the government will contribute nothing to their lives or business other than harassment. Will a FSSAI license make them eligible for bank loans at the rates available to organised industry? Of course not. By forcing the industry to go underground, the government will not only harass hawkers but also their vast population of customers. It is probably this realisation that ensures that the deadline gets pushed back so often.

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Life with Dad – Rahul Singh on Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh was best known for his trenchant secularism, his humour, and an abiding love of poetry. But how was he as a father? Rahul Singh shares reminscences about life with his famous father
 
Renowned journalist Khushwant Singh passed away recently, just after he started his 100th year. The family moved from Lahore in Pakistan, after the partition riots. Khushwant Singh, a barrister, who obtained a law degree from London used to practice law at that time, but gave up after moving to New Delhi and joined the diplomatic service. But after several international assignments  and a stint in All India Radio, he turned to jounralism and writing.  In this interview, his journalist son Rahul Singh, reminscences about life with his famous father with Harsh A Desai.
 
Harsh A Desai (HAD): Rahul, Khushwant passed away recently at age of 99. He changed several jobs lived in several countries including England, France and Canada. Can you tell me what that was like? 
Rahul Singh (RS): Well living in many countries including India, Pakistan and three you have mentioned was disruptive but very fulfilling. My dad was a great believer in children being independent and even at the age of seven I used to go alone to school by tube in London and I used to distribute newspapers to earn some pocket money. It was also fulfilling that you met children with different backgrounds and it helped build character and you learned about different cultures. I also went to Doon School for a few years but did not like that. Unusual things happened to me. I started losing my English when I started studying in a French Lycee in Paris and my father had to hire an English tutor for me.  
                                                 
HAD: Your Dad was a very frank person and sometimes very blunt. What was he like in private life?
RS: He was far more conservative than what people think. He was liberal to the children of his friends but he was far more conservative where his family was concerned. He was a strict disciplinarian with his family. I remember an occasion before I went to Cambridge a group of us had gone to a party and were supposed to return by ten o’clock. But the party went on and on the parents of a girl in our group kept calling our home. My father gave me a big dressing down when I came home. Dad was very conscious of honour and keeping up appearances. 
 
Dad was very keen on nature. We used to go to Kausali and he loved the birds and the trees and he used to be part of bird watchers society in Delhi and i used to go out bird watching with him. Believe it or not, he and I used to go on shooting expeditions those days in Delhi and shot rabbits , partridge, wild boar and deer. This was in our young days, but it stopped later. Dad loved walking; he used to walk from Shimla to Kausali and Kausali to Kalka, a distance of more than 70 kms. He played tennis till he was 85 with friends at the Delhi Gymkhana.                                   
 
HAD: Tell me about his Lahore days. As a lawyer, he seems to have become disenchanted with the law and lawyering. Is it true that his mother thought he would make a good lawyer because he was argumentative?
RS:  Dad was basically a very straight and honest person. One of the people he admired till the very end was Mahatma Gandhi, who was completely honest and would reveal himself to anybody. The other person he admired greatly was Mother Theresa. He admired people who gave to society.Though Gandhi was also a lawyer, dad’s experience as a lawyer was very negative. He did not think that lawyers were serving society, they were out just to make money and he became disillusioned with it. Also, he was not successful. He did not get many briefs and he admitted that he lived off his father, who bought him a house in Lahore and supported him. That is when he decided that he would start out on his own and joined the diplomatic service, but he got disillusioned with that also. I was too young to remember about his law days because he stopped being a lawyer when I was seven.
 
HAD: I hear that Mohammed Ali Jinnah had offered him judgeship if he returned to Pakistan?
RS:  He may have been tempted but he did not take up the offer. The person he admired immensely and who is a very good friend was the person called Mansoor Kadir – an outstanding and straight lawyer. Dad always said, when he was in a dilemma he would go to Mansoor Kadir and ask him what to do. The partition embittered many people against Pakistan but that never happened to Dad and he was actually very fond of Pakistan and Pakistanis .
 
HAD: What was his relationship with his father who was a legendary builder and among other things was responsible for building South Block in Delhi?
RS: His relationship with his father was very formal. They did not confide in each other; actually his father was closer to my mother.
 
HAD: Your father became the legendary editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India. Did his fame cast a long shadow on your career in journalism though you did pretty well yourself ?
RS: Not really. By the time he joined the Illustrated Weekly of India, I had been assistant editor in The Times of India for five years. To avoid any conflict of  interest, I left the Times to become Editor of the Readers Digest. I had quite a fulfilling career of my own and became the Editor of the Indian Express in Mumbai and The Sunday Observer among others so there was no shadow so to speak.
 
HAD: Did his decision to support Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi during the emergency cause any conflict between you and him?
RS: The whole family was critical of him but he tends to get emotionally involved and was politically naive. He acted from his heart and genuinely believed that Sanjay Gandhi was trying to improve the country. My mother, my sister and I were all unhappy and I had to convince the Readers Digest of India to remain in India because every article was being censored by the government.  I don’t think the Illustrated weekly was being censored as it was not a political magazine but he did convey to the Prime minister that censorship was wrong. I believe that the Prime minister Morarji Desai put pressure on the owners of the illustrated weekly not to renew his contract after the emergency. Mr Ram Tarneja suddenly told him that he should resign one next day because it was  believed that he was going to write an editorial.  
 
HAD: I was told that you created quiet a stir when you cut off your hair and your beard so much so that your father removed all your photographs from his house.
RS: I and my sister Mala did not have a religious upbringing and Dad, although he was agnostic, held the symbols of Sikhism close to his heart. When I first decided to cut my hair, I was dissuaded by my mother. She told me that there would be a big controversy because my father was writing the history of Sikhs and the conservative Sikhs were already opposed to my father writing it. But in 1968 when I turned 28 and was in England I had a rash on my neck and my doctor told me it was caused by the sweat from my turban. So I went to Vidal Sassoon and he lopped off my hair. It was the first time he did it. My mother was very upset and my Dad when he saw me told me to put on my turban.
 
HAD: I am told your grandfather was so upset that he wrote you out of his will .
RS: Actually not. My grandfather left the family house in Janpath to me but when the Will was read out my Grandma was very shocked and my father relinquished the bequest on my behalf.
 
(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)

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COMMENTS

Alan Horowitz

2 years ago

excellent article/ thanks

Alan Horowitz

2 years ago

excellent article/ thanks/

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