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Pulse Beat

Medical developments from around the world

Pentavalent Vaccine-related Deaths
Government of India is trying to undermine the seriousness of deaths following this new vaccine which it wants to spread all over India. One wonders why the government is so keen to push this down the throat of hapless children, when doubts about the vaccine are being voiced all over the world.

One has only to find out who owns the vaccine companies?!!

Screening for Neck Arteries!
Adults should not be screened for narrowing of the neck arteries, according to a draft recommendation from the influential US Preventive Services Task Force. Narrowing of the neck arteries, formally called ‘carotid artery stenosis’, reduces blood flow to the brain and is a risk factor for stroke. “The carotid artery is the blood vessel that brings blood to the brain,” explained Dr Peter Faries, chief of vascular surgery at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “Coronary artery starts in the chest and travels through the neck until it enters the skull.” The market-driven ‘medical-scare’ system now recommends this screening routinely; but there seems to be no evidence to support this claim!

Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF)
PEMF is like a whole body battery charger. It helps to recharge the 1,000 trillion body cells by improving ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production, increasing tissue oxygenation, enhancing circulation, promoting cellular hydration, facilitating detoxification, and improving overall absorption of nutrients.  In this era of multiple unhealthy electromagnetic energy waves coming from radios, cell phones, cordless phones, computers, microwave cookers, Wi-Fi , Internet, and what have you, PEMF is like a small jumper cable on body cells to jump-start them back to health.  Our bodies are but energy; mind is also the same. The third dimension of energy comes from the earth’s geomagnetic field and the Schumann ring around the globe of Sun’s EMF.

More than 10,000 scientific papers and more than 2,000 double-blind studies have been carried out all over the world on the uselfulness of PEMF. It started in Russia and Europe. Our group introduced this in India and already more than 500 patients have undergone this therapy. We have shown this to be very useful in acute tissue damage, inflammation and many other painful conditions. For restoring health, this is a boon.
Dengue Fever
Dengue fever is caused by a family of viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. It is an acute illness of sudden onset that usually follows a benign course with symptoms such as headache, fever, exhaustion, severe muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) and rash. Presence of fever, rash, and headache (the ‘dengue triad’) is the particular characteristic of dengue. Other signs include bleeding gums, severe pain behind the eyes and red palms and soles.

Dengue can affect anyone; but it tends to be more severe in people with compromised immune systems. Because it is caused by one of five serotypes of virus, it is possible to get dengue fever multiple times. However, an attack of dengue produces immunity for a lifetime to that particular viral serotype to which the patient was exposed.

Haemorrhagic dengue is a more serious condition and requires careful management; but, by and large, dengue does not warrant any scare-mongering. Improve your immune system and dengue will not bother you.


Drug Industry: The Fix-it Business

The drug industry is trying to fix things for the apparently healthy population in the fond hope of preventing future suffering

Ionce glanced through an editorial in The Lancet titled “Could Epidemiologists Cause Epidemics?” Stimulating title indeed! As I read on, I could feel my own thoughts so beautifully articulated in the editorial. The story goes that two young epidemiologists...

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Why are healthcare costs shooting up? - II

One of the reasons is the Bayh-Dole Act of the US, which allowed academic institutions supported by Federal grants to patent and license new products discovered by their faculty in return for royalties. This has created a nexus between academia and industry and doctors today have become puppets in the hands of the drug companies.

In the second part of this two-part article, I have explained how healthcare costs are shooting up due to the nexus between drug companies and academics. Let us examine why there is such a large nexus between the academia and the “for profit’ drug industry. For one thing, even hospitals have come under the ‘for-profit’ umbrella. It is argued that ties between industry and academia are necessary for “technology-transfer”, a word invented after 1980s, when the American government passed the Bayh-Dole Act which allowed academic institutions supported by Federal grants to patent and license new products discovered by their faculty in return for royalties. This law is cited when large-scale tie-ups go on between these two institutions. We follow that rule blindly in our country. The second reason given is that academic institutions needed the money very badly. These are the main reasons why we are where we are today. The business goals of the companies influence the mission of the research institutions and also influence their final results. 

Companies try and catch doctors very young when they are still house officers. Companies’ gifts are intended to buy the goodwill of young physicians with long prescribing lives ahead of them. The situation is similar in many areas where the industry uses the talent of the academia for their research.

In India, there is the recent mushrooming of CROs (clinical research organisations). The CROs are the brokers for the western drug companies to test their new molecules in the third world countries.  Many of the Western countries have banned such studies, especially, after the Northwick Park Hospital tragedy in London where, a single drug put all the volunteers into serious near fatal unknown adverse effect, costing the hospital millions of pounds! These CROs are a menace to us as we do not have the genuine informed consent in our set up. Most of our patients are still very poor and illiterate to understand the intricacies that are built into every new drug trial! I wonder if it is ethical to do such studies at all. Who cares for ethics these days, anyway?  

In fact, there are a few “researchers” who would not have seen a single patient all their lives, but profess to the world about the drug treatment of major illnesses. The companies mainly target those diseases that are likely to be life long business for them like diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease etc. There are many guidelines all over the world for the treatment of these diseases. If one takes care to carefully scrutinise them, one quickly realises how fallacious they are. To give an example of hypertension, there are six guidelines in all: we in India are trying to have our own guidelines, in addition. If all of them are computed together they cover just about 39% of the patients. For the rest there are no guidelines. Young, but enthusiastic, a doctor gets frustrated looking at these. If any of the guidelines are not convenient to the drug companies the companies get their “great brains” to refute them and have new guidelines. This happened with the American National Guidelines for high blood pressure management some time ago.

One could take any area for scrutiny. Anti-cholesterol drugs, anti-arrhythmic drugs, heart failure drugs, anti-hypertensive drugs, anti-diabetic drugs, pain killers, anti-cancer drugs or, for that matter, many of the procedures for surgical corrections and even some of the untested technologies like coronary care units, terminal care units, flow catheters and many other areas have their loads of skeletons in their cupboards. An unbiased audit would get these skeletons out of the cupboards. In fact, in a recent article in PLOSmedicine, Richard Smith, the former editor of the British Medical Journal and the present editor of the Cases Journal in London, showed elegantly how doctors today have become just puppets in the hands of the drug company barons

“How much longer will medicine’s flagship educational events fly the colours of the drug industry”, asks Ray Moynihan, the editor of PLOSmedicine and goes on to add, “In the heart of Manhattan Island one misty morning a few years back, I watched as hundreds of psychiatrists streamed into their flagship educational event, the annual congress. Even before arriving they were welcomed by giant advertising billboards on the streets outside, plastered with the name of a major sponsor, Pfizer, the biggest drug company in the world and the maker of Zoloft, the world’s top selling antidepressant. Once inside, their first port of call was the huge exhibition hall, where well dressed salespeople moved among the high tech booths and hypnotic neon, exchanging pleasantries with doctors lining up to play video games and win prizes. And then, of course, there were the sponsored educational sessions. That year—2004—psychiatrists learnt about bipolar disorder over breakfast at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, courtesy of Eli Lilly. Over lunch at the Grand Hyatt they studied maternal depression, thanks to GlaxoSmithKline, and for dinner it was generalised anxiety disorder in the grand ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel, funded by Pfizer,” in a recent article in the BMJ.  

When the gulf between the industry and the academia narrows, as has happened now, medical students and house officers, under the constant tutelage of industry representatives have learned to rely on drugs and devices, more often than they should do. Young doctors learn that there is a pill for every ill and a surgical correction for every anatomic deviation from the normal. Faculty members could get distracted from their teaching commitments. Doctors get used to these company courtesies of receiving gifts and favours to further their continuing medical education. In this generation there is always an overemphasis on drugs and devices that could ultimately work against patient interests. The Hippocratic Oath really becomes “hypocrites’ oath”. 

It is time to do a bit of introspection before it is too late in the day for us do even that. We should see that we are not open to the charge that we are for sale. Academic medical schools should educate their students on the ills of the prevailing scenario and have to inculcate in their students the love for ethics and give them a good idea of pharmaco-economics and the ways of the business world that may be alien to them at that stage in life.

Let us not forget that 80% of the world population even today does not have any touch with modern medicine, 62% of upper middle class Americans cannot afford health insurance as the premia are sky high for them, 57% of Britons do wish to have alternative systems of medicine when they are ill, despite the fact that they have the free National Health Service. Let us also remember that patients could very well live without doctors, but doctors could never survive without patients!  For this write up I have drawn heavily from my articles published earlier on similar subjects in 2001 and 2006.

“People are never satisfied. If they have a little, they want more. If they have a lot, they want still more. Once they have more, they wish they could be happy with little, but are incapable of making the slightest effort in that direction.” - Anon.

Read part I of the article

Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London.)


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