Dr Gigi Chow

Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

Another Big Pharma Blunder Goes NOTICED???

In Big Pharma on November 30, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Two days after Thanksgiving, The Washington Post published a huge exposé article on the dangerous anti-diabetic drug Avandia and the willingness of the drug maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to knowingly allow thousands of innocent lives to suffer and perish. The drug was associated with 83,000 heart attacks in the US alone along with other adverse cardiovascular conditions such as elevated cholesterol and strokes.The article also exposed some of the tactics used by the pharmaceutical giant to suppress negative data and publicity.

Here are some of the highlights:

Avandia was an anti-diabetic drug that was approved by the FDA May 1999. About a year after approval, GSK received research data from a small internal study suggested that Avandia might raise “bad” cholesterol levels more than a competitor and therefore the drug could cause adverse cardiac outcome. This was just the beginning of myriad indications for years to come that suggested negative associations between Avandia and increased cardiovascular risks such as elevated cholesterol levels, heart attacks, and strokes.

Interviews, FDA documents and e-mails released by a Senate investigation indicate that GlaxoSmithKline withheld key information from the academic researchers it had selected to do the work; decided against conducting a proposed trial, because it might have shown unflattering side effects; and published the results of an unfinished trial even though they were inconclusive and served to do little but obscure the signs of danger that had arisen.

  • When an analysis showed a sign of danger-Avandia raised bad cholesterol levels more than the competitor the company decided to drop the subject. “The study results support a ‘no-go’ decision,” the internal report concluded, meaning that a full trial would not be conducted.
  • The researchers even warned one another against sharing the results of the preliminary study.
  • “Per Sr. Mgmt request, these data should not see the light of day to anyone outside of GSK,” said an internal e-mail that was widely reported after it turned up in the Senate investigation.

But as more people went on the drug, the picture on cardiovascular risk began to get clearer.

In 2003, the World Health Organization had issued the company a warning that drugs of this type might be associated with heart trouble. Then, in 2005 and 2006, GSK conducted an examination of records from more than 14,000 patients and concluded that Avandia raised the risk of coronary blood flow problems by about 30 percent, the Senate investigators said.

When the company was ordered by the FDA to study potential dangers, it arranged a trial in which danger signs were muffled, or missed completely.

In their article for New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most if not the most prestigious medical journals in the world, the authors focused mainly on the fact that Avandia had performed the best: it was able to control blood sugar for the longest period compared to other generic anti-diabetic drugs. It was later found that the trial was funded by GSK and each of the 11 authors received money from the company.

Avandia is not the only drug that was approved and promoted at the expense of patient safety, other blockbuster drug such as Vioxx and Celebrex involved a similar dangerous quid pro quo.Vioxx, a drug manufactured by Merck was featured positively in the NEJM and was approved by the FDA. Yet 5 years later, it was discovered that the authors of the research had omitted key incidences of heart troubles, creating misleading conclusions about the drug’s safety. When the drug was finally pulled off the market, it had already caused 27,000 heart attacks and cardiac-related deaths.

I thought this article was great in that it highlighted how deep the connection is between what is considered “good” science (let’s face it when research is published in the NEJM, it is considered excellent and rigorous in the medical community) and the huge pockets of big pharma. What was also great was that the article was on the front page of The Washington Post when articles like this seldom deserve this kind of attention. What I thought a bit lacking in the exposé was the comfy and cozy relationship between big pharma and the FDA. More than 140 million Americans take at least one prescription drug in any given month, and they rely on the FDA to ensure those drugs are safe. That trust, as the story of Avandia illustrates, is a gamble. Nevertheless, the article veraciously emphasized the ability of big pharma such as GSK to influence science, medicine, decisions, and lives.

To read the Washington Post article, go to:


7 Ways to Cancer Proof Your Home

In Natural Cancer Prevention on November 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm

7 Ways to Cancer Proof Your Home

With the exception the radon removal, these are all pretty simple steps to a safer home and better health.

What can be done about the rise of thyroid disorders?

In Diet, Environment, Hormonal Health on November 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm

By Gigi Chow N.D.

Thyroid disorders are increasingly common. According to statistics by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), approximately 27 million Americans have a thyroid disorder. 1 in 10 Americans, more than the number of Americans with diabetes and cancer combined, suffer from thyroid disease. Yet, half remains undiagnosed because initial signs and symptoms are vague, ambiguous, and often seen in various disorders. The underlying factor in very common disorders such as infertility, hair loss, irregular menses, constipation, fatigue, weight gain, elevated cholesterol, anemia, or depression may be a malfunctioning thyroid. Fortunately, our current understanding of thyroid disorders shed light on actions we can take to maintain a healthy thyroid.

It is well-established that most thyroid disorders are autoimmune. The body’s tissues, here the thyroid, are attacked by its own immune system via the production of antibodies. These antibodies can in turn cause the thyroid gland to be hyperactive, hypoactive, or inactive. Because autoimmune diseases as a whole affect disproportionately women, hormones are seen to play an important role in autoimmunity. Furthermore, it is observed that women with conditions involving hormonal imbalances such as endometriosis and PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) are more susceptible to thyroid disorders. Therefore, ensuring that hormones are balanced is one way to maintain adequate thyroid function.

Autoimmunity may also arise from a very interesting phenomenon known as molecular mimicry. Molecular mimicry describes a type of biochemical forgery in which protein sequences in bacteria, viruses, foods, or other foreign substances are similar or identical to sequences in human tissues. The immune system recognizes these mimicking sequences as foreign and mounts an immune response (a cross-reaction) to both the mimicking sequences and sequences in human tissues. Research has implicated cross-reactions with wheat and milk proteins in autoimmune diseases. Because not everyone who consumes these proteins will develop autoimmune cross reactions, it is a very good idea to obtain tests for food allergies and intolerances in order to determine suspicious foods that might trigger these reactions.

Iodine deficiency is a well-known cause of hypothyroidism. Iodine is an element that is essential for the production of thyroid hormone. Treatment of iodine deficiency by the introduction of iodized salt virtually eliminated goiters due to iodine deficiency in the 1920s in industrialized nations. Yet, a state of iodine deficiency can be created by many common consumer products.

Everyday consumables such as flour products, pesticides/herbicides/fungicides, synthetic perfumes, drinking water, and toothpaste contain halogens. Halogens are a group of highly active chemical elements that include bromine, chlorine, fluorine, and iodine. Bromine, chlorine, and fluorine readily displace iodine; this makes iodine less available to the thyroid gland for the production of thyroid hormones causing hypothyroidism. These halogens may also mimic the actions of iodine; this leads to the production of excessive thyroid hormones, leading to hyperthyroidism. Chlorine and fluorine are commonly found in tap water, toothpaste, and non-stick cookware. Bromine is a chemical frequently used in pesticides/fungicides, fire retardants, and many flour products. Eating unbrominated flour products and organic foods, reducing the use of synthetic chemicals and non-stick cookware, and purchasing a good filter to minimize chlorine and fluorine from drinking water are simple ways to lessen halogen exposure and ensure optimal thyroid function.

The thyroid gland produces hormones that influence essentially every organ, tissue, and cell in the body; it plays an important role in regulating metabolism and calcium balance. This article hopefully sheds light on actions that we can take to optimize the functioning of this very important gland.

Seafood Lovers Beware

In Diet, Environment on November 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm

If you eat a lot of fish, more likely than not you’re eating something that was raised on a farm and hauled in from thousands of miles away. According to NOAA, we import about 86 percent of the seafood we consume, about half of which comes from from aquaculture. And just because you find it in a gleaming supermarket fish case or on a well-presented restaurant plate doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat.

Over at Bloomberg Businessweek, there’s a pretty startling piece on the sanitary conditions on some of those farms. In Vietnam, farmed shrimp bound for the US market are kept fresh with heaps of ice made from tap water that teems with pathogenic bacteria, Businessweek reports. Tilapia in China’s fish farms, meanwhile, literally feed on pig manure—even though it contains salmonella and makes the tilapia “more susceptible to disease.” Why use hog manure as feed? Simple—it’s cheap, and China’s tilapia farms operate under intense pressure to slash costs and produce as much cheap tilapia as possible.

Harmful bacteria like salmonella aren’t the only potential health problem associated with Asia’s fish and shrimp farms. There’s also the threat of residues from the chemicals farm operators use to control those pathogens. Like US meat farmers, Asia’s shrimp farmers rely heavily on antibiotics, traces of which can stay in the shrimp. And many of the antibiotics in use on Asia’s fish farms are banned for use in the United States for public health reasons.
Read more.

Can Foods Affect Colon Cancer Survival?

In Diet on November 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

A new study suggests that what you eat may affect your chances of surviving colon cancer.

The research is among the first to look at the impact that specific nutrients have on the likelihood of disease recurrence in people with colon cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer death in the United States. It found that people treated for Stage 3 disease, in which tumor cells have spread to lymph nodes, had greatly increased chances of dying of it or experiencing a recurrence if their diets were heavy in carbohydrate-rich foods that cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin.

The patients who consumed the most carbohydrates and foods with high glycemic loads — a measure of the extent to which a serving of food will raise blood sugar — had an 80 percent greater chance of dying or having a recurrence during the roughly seven-year study period than those who had the lowest levels. Stage 3 colon cancer patients typically have a five-year survival rate of about 50 to 65 percent.

Read more.