Archive for the 'Health' Category

Flat Earth – the second largest geographical method in the world

February 23rd, 2009

It’s very easy to be the second-largest anything in the world, when the first largest group is defined as everything that’s actually relevant, and you’re defined as everything else.

A very large forum/bulletin-boards website here in Israel, Tapuz (Hebrew only), recently opened a new forum about Classical Homoeopathy.

That by itself is fine. I mean, they do discuss pure nonsense in the forum, even dangerous nonsense given that they recommend to people not to take proper medical care for their problems, but a forum about homoeopathy can be expected to discuss homoeopathy.

What amused me was the launch publication they did in their other forums. They posted links to this new forum, with a text that can be roughly translated as:

Want to be exposed to the wonders of homoeopathy, the second largest healing method in the world?

And, well, technically it’s pretty correct. There’s the first largest healing method, being science-based medicine, that covers all sub-healing-methods that can be proven to work and heal people. And then there are the other healing methods, in this case grouped under the term Homoeopathy[1], the ones that give people a healing chance which is equivalent to the random chance of spontaneous recovery, or to the healing from a placebo effect.

Since all you have are the two options, it’s pretty obvious that the second is, by definition, the second largest of its kind in the world.

Being technically correct doesn’t make that statement semantically correct, though.

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  1. Yes, I’m aware that Homoeopathy is just one kind of woo pretending to be medicine, and not the whole basket of them. In this case, however, the forum seems to happily deal with the others as well, and they clearly refer to it as anything besides actual medicine[back]

There is an expiration date on medical privacy

January 23rd, 2008

There are a lot of debates about privacy, and about the balance between privacy and research (or possibly privacy and anything else of utility that can be derived from the private information).

Of all the areas of privacy, one of those where people object the most to violations of their privacy is in health and medical information. You’d be very hard-pressed to find anyone willing to disclose diseases, health problems, and medical examination reports.

And when disclosure of private information occur, people get the most annoyed, or concerned, when it comes to children. It may involve a lot of over-sensitivity, but it’s still the case.

Well, now there’s a new service, for any interested researcher, or any interested Internet user with some free time and a little curiosity. A website that allows to browse a comprehensive set of complete and full, uncensored, medical records from a large hospital for children.

You can search and browse by the real full names of the children[1]. You can get the full diagnoses, what diseases the doctors found when examining these children. For some of the children you can get the full case notes of the doctors who checked the sick children. You can see what were the treatments and medication given to each of these children, and whether they helped.

And you can even get the full, and real, physical home address of the patients. The people who digitized the information on the site actually invested quite a lot to make sure that the addresses are correct and, for example, none of the street names would be misspelled.

Sounds lovely, does it?

So why isn’t there a huge outcry over it? A major violation of privacy and data protection laws. Not to mention children. And it didn’t even hit the news. Why?

Because the details are from 1852 to 1914. Meaning that youngest patients would potentially be 94 years old now. Certainly in no condition to care, or complain, if they’re even alive. Just some interesting past cases for research.

I’m sure their children won’t mind at all that mom’s chronic illnesses are online for everyone to see. Mom is dead, so there’s no point in keeping her secrets, right?

Welcome to Small and Special, the site showing you all the gritty details from the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, in Britain.

A unique database lies at the heart of the Small and Special website. It is based on the information contained in the In-Patient Admission Registers from Great Ormond Street Hospital for the period 1852 to 1914, which have survived intact. The Registers have been carefully transcribed and indexed to allow flexible and accurate searching of this important resource. Users can search for children by name (first and last names), age, sex, and address. Other searchable fields include date of admission and discharge, admitting doctor, outcome of treatment and subsequent referrals (if any).

The database is supplemented by a collection of scanned images from 14 volumes of patient case notes of the founding physician, Dr Charles West. The case notes, which cover a period between 1852 and 1874, contain a wealth of information on the treatment and management of sick children in the mid-Victorian period.

Some of the information is accessible freely. For the rest you need to register. But the registration is easy, free, and they don’t require that you’d prove (or even claim to be) you are a researcher, doctor, or anything.

And what does it say about the future? About my own medical records, or yours? We trust[2] in doctor-patient confidentiality. In privacy laws. In that even if the doctor has to share the details with insurance companies, none of them could, or would, ever just list everything on the Internet for the curious masses.

Anyone having these expectations of privacy about your medical and health records? Just wait about a hundred years or so, and we’ll see. We most definitely will see. Everything. Free for searching and browsing.

After all, our friends in Kingston University are still working:

This outstanding resource will be further enhanced by the inclusion, at a later date, of the surviving Registers for Cromwell House (the Hospital’s convalescent home at Highgate), from 1869 to 1910.

Amusingly enough, when you register to the site they have a privacy policy, and they clearly state they won’t share your personal details with anyone. Which is admirable, and I wish more online services would be so clear about their privacy policy. It’s just that, well, they’d keep my name and email secret, but don’t feel any problem with showing me the names, addresses, medical history, and diagnoses, of many many past-children who never thought to agree to release it.

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  1. Some of the names have been anonymised. This is a minority of them. I’m not sure what were the criteria to choose. And even for the anonymous ones, you still have a full home address, just not the name[back]
  2. Want to trust, anyway?[back]

Espresso overdose

August 30th, 2007

People suffering the side effects of drug-overdose, that’s something that becomes all too common. Both for medicine, and for “recreational” drugs.

But overdosing on espresso, now that’s something that you don’t hear about every day.

Jasmine Willis, 17, developed a fever and began hyperventilating after drinking seven double espressos while working at her family’s sandwich shop.

That’s a lot of espresso. And the effects seem quite severe:

She developed a fever and began struggling to breathe after being sent home by her father.

“My nerves were all over the place. I was drenched. I was burning up and hyperventilating. I was having palpitations, my heart was beating so fast and I thought I was going into shock”

The teenager, who was allowed home after a few hours of observation, suffered side effects for days afterwards and now says she cannot stand the sight of coffee.

She did have some excuse for drinking so much espresso… She thought the cups she drank were regular (i.e. short) espressos, not double. An interesting point, but it suffers from a couple of problems:

  1. Seven cups of espresso are a heck of a lot, even if they’re short espressos. So she thought she was fine because she was only drinking an extreme amount of coffee, and not a massively extreme amount? Even seven short espressos would finish up most people.
  2. She was working there. The family’s shop. So it’s natural to assume she was making these espressos herself, on the machine in the shop. Very very hard to miss the fact that you’re getting doubles when you make them[1] yourself.

At least she finished this alive and well. Hopefully she’ll go easy on the espressos from here on.

Seven double espressos… Yikes!

Some quick background-info on espresso

For those not familiar with basic espresso terminology:

  • Short – the “basic” espresso. Single amounts of coffee and water.
  • Long – Single amount of coffee (as in Short), double amount of water[2].
  • Double – Twice the amount of coffee, twice the amount of water. Like pouring two short espressos together. Yes, that’s exactly what the word double would imply.

The amount of water in a short espresso, and this is important, is supposed to be very very small. It’s amazing how many times you can ask for an espresso in a restaurant, and get a whole cup[3] of coffee…

The espresso should also be served straight away, while it’s still hot, and you can still see the thin layer of foam on the top.

Basically: too cold – too bitter, too much water – too bitter. Simple, really.

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  1. well, press the selection buttons, at the very least. I don’t know what machine they’re using, and how automatic it is.[back]
  2. You’d think it would dilute the coffee taste, but in practice it just makes the espresso taste more bitter[back]
  3. The fault of two things, mainly. The cluelessness on the side of the people calibrating the machines, and serving the coffee. And the misguided idea that customers are happier when you give them more, so maybe they’d prefer a large full cup rather than a small and nearly empty one[back]

Medical patients and the drug problems they don’t have

September 6th, 2006

Some people don’t understand that using drugs, not to mention very large amounts of serious drugs, can have side effects. Bad side effects, I mean, not just seeing the pretty colours.

Like the guy from this story, coming to the ER totally out and in shock. But his friend is sure it’s not related to the tons of drugs he’s on because… he does that often and usually doesn’t react badly. So sad it’s actually very funny.

I personally saw an event that went in a totally different direction, a few years ago. A patient came to an ophthalmologist, to have his eyes examined, because they were red and itching.

In the examination it looked like he had acute conjunctivitis[1]. A viral infection. And yes, it’s easy to tell the different kinds of conjunctivitis apart, usually. It’s surprising in how many obviously different ways, under magnification, the tissue can react, when all you see without magnification is red and some swelling.

The doctor gave him a prescription for steroidal drops to reduce the inflammation[2]. And also gave him the usual explanations on how to avoid infecting others in the meantime.

A real problem, and he received treatment. Nobody questioned him about what happened, or hinted in any way that his problem may be anything else than the viral infection it was.

And yet before he left the guy felt the need to explain that his eyes are red because he has a problem, not because he’s been smoking marijuana. He said that he doesn’t smoke drugs. In case it wasn’t clear enough, he further clarified that it’s not just that he doesn’t smoke, it’s that he doesn’t do drugs at all. And he repeated that therefore his eyes are not red because of drug use. Can’t be, since he isn’t smoking or using any.

He repeated that several times, stressing the point. Before he calmed down, and left, the doctor had to assure him that he believes him, and that the eyes have another legitimate reason to be red.

Of course, marijuana does other things beside making people’s eyes redder. And just because there’s something else that makes the eyes red, doesn’t mean there’s no marijuana in the body anyway. Just saying.

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  1. Inflammation of the conjunctiva, the white part of the eyes[back]
  2. Germs are easy, there are plenty of good antibiotics. Viruses are harder, usually you just reduce the symptoms and wait until they die off by themselves after a couple of weeks[back]

How poisonous are peach seeds?

July 28th, 2006

This post was triggered by someone reaching here with the search “What is inside peach seeds that’s poison”. I almost decided to laugh about it like on all other silly search phrases leading here, but then figured I should at least check if maybe it’s not silly.

And it turns out that peach seeds actually contain Cyanide, in the form of Amygdalin.

Is that a problem? Well, theoretically yes, but not really.

The amounts aren’t very big, with “One hundred grams of moist peach seed contains 88 mg of cyanide,
while an equivalent amount of apricot seed holds 217 mg.”

A single peach fruit of course doesn’t have nearly as much as a hundred grams of seed. But how dangerous is that amount, as a high level reference?

If they’re not talking about pure cyanide, but about the Amygdalin, not at all. The thing is used in anti-cancer medications (doesn’t work, BTW) in higher amounts, and studies found no side-effects in taking 500mg three times a day. Which would be about 1.7Kg of just the peach’s seeds per day. Not realistic.

If they’re talking about the pure cyanide extracted from it, that’s more dangerous. But still not that big a deal. Research shows 10.8mg per Kg of body weight per day is NOAEL (i.e. known to be safe). So for a petite person weighing 50Kg this would be about 610g of peach seeds, per day. And that’s before any adverse effects of long-time usage appear, and still very far from chocking and instant death.

People rarely eat a peach seed by mistake, usually the pit/stone is too tough to open and expose the seeds. And it’s too large to be swallowed whole by a person. So a seed will only be eaten when the stone is cracked, and one accidentally slips out, and accidentally swallowed.

Compared with the massive amount of seeds a person will have to eat to get to the critical level, I’d say it’s not that big a concern. Heck, eating 600g of whole peaches a day would be a hard task. So that amount of just the seeds? The boredom and frustration, not to mention the horrible taste, will kill a person first.

Or am I missing something?

Glasses are for improving eyesight, not creating it

July 9th, 2006

A worker came to the office today to take some measurements for a modification we requested.

At some point he squinted at his measurement meter and complained that it’s hard to read.

Naturally enough, my boss suggested to him that maybe it’s time for him to get glasses. A rather obvious idea given that the guy is noticeably over 40, and doesn’t wear distance glasses. Statistically speaking he’s well past the stage when he began to need reading glasses.

But instead of saying it may indeed be time, he denied the need for reading glasses. Why? Because, as he said “I can still see. I just can’t see well”.

Which is very odd. If he couldn’t see at all, glasses would likely not help him a single bit. Glasses are supposed to help improve eyesight. His eyesight is, as he admitted, deteriorating. And this fits the job description of glasses perfectly.

Except that in his eyes (pun intended) the purpose of glasses is apparently different. With his attitude almost nobody would wear glasses at all. Even half-blind people would eschew them, since they can still see. Just the totally blind ones will consider glasses, but that will rarely do them any good.

Interesting attitude. But as long as he only makes himself suffer, that’s his own problem.

TVs are bad for kids

June 27th, 2006

This time the concerns about TVs are not because of the content, or excessive viewing time. No. It’s because TV sets can physically fall on small kids[1] and injure them.

On the face of it the claim does make some sense. TVs, especially ones from home-cinema sets, are big and heavy. But they’re not so big that a child climbing on them won’t have an effect. So if a kid climbs on the TV set the TV can fall, and it will likely fall on the child. That, in turn, can certainly cause an injury.

But this ignores what I think is a pretty big problem. The child, and a very young and small child at that[2], has to climb on the TV set first.

In order to do that the child will have to be able to reach the TV. From a position they can start climbing from. Assuming the average toddler can’t pull him/herself up without at least a little help from the leg muscles, that means the TV set will have to be placed very low.

And TV sets aren’t placed very low. People usually watch TV sitting. Sitting in chairs or sofas, not on a mat. And not just lying on the floor. So having a TV located at a height and location where a 3 years old kid can climb on it… sounds highly unlikely.

And somewhat negligent from the parents’ side, who otherwise probably went around baby-proofing nearly everything else in the house. True, a TV isn’t exactly the knife drawer, but parents should notice any piece of furniture with a top low enough that the kid could climb on.

Beyond that, these two articles include some more puzzling and suspect statements (emphases in quoted text are mine).

Contrast one article:

An estimated 2,300 children each year are injured by falling TVs and are sent to the emergency room because of their injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

With another:

U.S. emergency room doctors treated 2,600 children younger than 5 who were injured by falling televisions in 2005, said Arlene Flecha, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The numbers, allegedly coming from the same source, don’t match up. Those are 300 kids who are either invented, or unaccounted for, straight up. With this level of accuracy here, how reliable is the rest of the info supposed to be?

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center studied data on ER visits for 26 children – aged 1 to 7 years old – admitted to the ER after being hit by a falling television between November 2003 and October 2004. One-third of the children sustained injuries serious enough to be admitted to the hospital and stayed for between one to four days.

Wow. Those researches studied a huge data pool of hundreds and hundreds of cases, and… No, wait, scrap that. 26 cases? That’s supposed to be research??

How big is the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center? According to the homepage:

UT Southwestern Medical Center physicians conduct more than 2.1 million outpatient visits and treat thousands in our affiliated hospitals.

So out of more than 2.1 million patient’s records, they had a whooping 26 cases of kids injured by a falling TV? Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear they had a similar number of patients who were struck by lightning.

Though of course there are two different, and mutually exclusive, problems with this tiny amount. Either these are not all the kids hit by falling TVs that they had, in which case whatever analysis they do on this group probably tells us nothing, or these are all the kids they had who were hit by falling TVs, in which case there are too few of these altogether in order for the analysis to tell us anything.

Although nearly two-thirds of the TVs in the study were in the 20-inch to 30-inch range, the researchers said they could not determine whether size had anything to do with the hazard.

” ‘The bigger the TV, the worse the injury’ makes sense, but we don’t know,” Ota said. “We don’t have enough cases.

Of course they couldn’t determine anything. Which didn’t prevent them from releasing all sorts of statistics. Lots and lots of factoids, all meaningless. Remember, with this sample size every kid is almost 5% of the cases. It’s not realistic to infer any sort of connection from that.

Eighty-five percent of the TVs fell from a height of between two and five feet above the floor.

The range between two and five feet[3] is huge. They may as well just say that the falling TVs… fell.

It’s also disconcerting. 0.6 meters is very low for a TV. And 1.5 meter is taller than the average 7 years old kid, so how did the kid climb on the TV exactly? If a kid climbs up to a 1.5 meters high table, the kid can fall and get injured regardless of whether there’s a TV there or not.

It also makes me curious about the other 15% (almost 4 whole kids) who were injured by TVs allegedly located either even lower than 0.6 meters above the floor, or higher than 1.5 meters above the floor. That’s very high, so it would be even harder for the kids to reach. And quite uncomfortable to watch, requiring cranking the neck up towards the screen, from most chairs.

“More aggressive education to warn parents about the risk of injury must be implemented so that more families will take the time to display their televisions safely,” researcher Dr. Robert Todd Maxson, an assistant professor of pediatric surgery at UT southwestern and medical director of the pediatric trauma service at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, said in a prepared statement.

Yes, because there aren’t plenty of other things for parents to worry about. Things that actually have a statistically insignificant chance of affecting their kid.

The Dallas researchers propose that warning labels be put on TVs to make more parents aware of the hazard.

Because nothing looks better, or more relevant, on a TV set than a big label stating “WARNING: Climbing on this television can be hazardous to your health”. Sure. I’m convinced.

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  1. assuming these small kids actually try to climb on the TV set.[back]
  2. The articles discusses kids younger than 7 years old, median age about 3.3 years.[back]
  3. about 0.6 to 1.5 meters.[back]

Going out for a smoke

November 26th, 2005

I don’t smoke, and I hate the stench of smoking. Many people, at least those who don’t smoke themselves, do too.

So for a smoker who craves another cigarette, it is usually considered polite to go outside for that smoke. Smoking a cigarette inside a building is very rude, as the smoke reaches everywhere, takes very long to dissipate, and can get the stench into furniture and clothing. When going outside, most of the smoke disappears into the atmosphere, and when the smoker gets back in they usually don’t carry with them anything more than really bad breath.

This is so common, that for many smokers it becomes automatic. When they feel they need a cigarette, they take one, and head outside. Usually they’re even nice enough not to actually light the thing until they’ve cleared out of the building.

On some cases, though, this habit isn’t always the best idea, though the exceptions are pretty rare:

Sellies was traveling on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to the east coast city of Brisbane on Saturday when the incident occurred at the start of a three-week Australian vacation with her husband, the court heard.

She walked toward one of the aircraft’s emergency exits with an unlit cigarette and a lighter in her hand and began tampering with the door, prosecutors said. But a flight attendant intervened and took Sellies back to her seat.

A very simple rule, actually: If you can’t go outside, don’t go outside to smoke. And if you can’t go outside, and can’t smoke inside, don’t smoke.

I’d go as far as to say just don’t smoke ever, in general, but that’s beside the point, and the relevant people won’t listen to me anyway, so I’ll pass.

Defense lawyer Helen Shilton told the court Sellies was terrified of flying and had taken sleeping tablets with alcohol before takeoff.

Shilton said Sellies has no memory of what happened on the flight and that she has a history of sleepwalking.

In her defence, the women probably really was totally drunk at the time. On the other hand, I’m not sure being totally drunk on a flight is such a great behaviour either.

There once was a cat

August 15th, 2005

During one of the days of the international opera program, I noticed something thin and black dangling out of one of the drainpipes near the conservatorium.

At a first glance it appeared that a cat was resting in the drainpipe. A second look made it obvious that the cat wasn’t just temporarily resting, but was busy starting on it’s eternal rest.

Since it’s both not something nice to see, and a potential health hazard, I informed someone from the conservatorium staff who seemed in charge of the building and maintenance. He told me that it will be taken care off on the morning of the following day. He further explained that the city is doing some works in the surrounding parks, so some things aren’t looked after well enough in the interim.

The next time I was there, a few days later, I forgot to check out on the ex-feline. But I was there again about two weeks afterwards, and decided to take a look to make sure they dealt with it.

On the plus side, there was no black cat stuck in the drainpipe.

On the minus side, there were parts of a cat’s skeleton stuck there… So I assume this was not taken care off by the city’s maintenance or health crews…

At least by that point it was no longer a health hazard. Nor was it an aesthetic problem, since the tail isn’t dangling out of the pipe any more, and nobody can see the remains without peeking in purposefully.

I’ll probably be in the area again in a few months, so I’ll go over to take a look. In the meantime, rest in peace, kitty.

Sun(less)glasses

August 10th, 2005

While driving yesterday I stopped at a red stoplight, and took a quick look at the cars around me.

The car directly to my right had four people. A driver who was a mature men, someone I didn’t quite see on the seat next to him, and an older women with a young girl in the back seat.

Both the driver and the young girl were wearing dark sunglasses. The older women didn’t wear a pair, and I’m not sure about the person next to the driver.

Which so far sounds pretty normal, doesn’t it? Why is that interesting? Well, there’s just one little detail I didn’t mention yet, a detail which makes all the difference. You see, this was on my way back home from work. At night. When it was dark outside.

Why would anyone wear sunglasses in those conditions, especially while driving, is beyond me. Two people, that’s even less likely, since it practically rules out the few remaining possibilities (Like maybe someone being after a medical check, by an ophthalmologist, which included pupil dilators. But even in that case, while the few lampposts may have a strong glare, it would still be incredibly hard for the driver to see the road when wearing sunglasses).

And if anyone wonders how I was able to see inside that car in the dark, that was because the intersection did have a few weak lampposts next to it, and the car was right next to mine.

One eyed for the day

July 4th, 2005

I woke up this morning with pain, and redness, in my left eye. Originally I thought maybe it was some small and meaningless foreign body, and tried to wash the eye a few times, but that didn’t seem to help.

I went to see an eye doctor (A very good one, who also happens to be my father , so we’re in good relations), who found a few abrasions on the cornea. The shape fits something that sprayed into the eye, rather then the more likely cases of accidental brush against the pillow, or the blanket. Which is odd, since nothing sprayed into my eyes yesterday evening, or when I woke up today.

In any case, I got some antibiotic ointment, and the eye was bandaged. Bandaging eyes in this cases is done to help keep it closed. The abrasions on the cornea are like an open wound, and blinking the eyelid over it is like brushing against a skin wound, not something that assists healing. The ointment helps if whatever caused the abrasion was infected, but that’s not the main purpose. It is to grease the abrasion, so whenever eyelid flickers occur they will cause less damage, and so that airborne infections won’t reach the abrasion when the eye is open.

According to the law in Israel, it’s legal to drive a car if one eye can see 6/12 (That’s like 20/40 as usually measured in America. What matters is the ratio, and this means that from a distance of 6 meter you can see what an average person would from a distance of 12 meters, that is, double the distance). So if one eye is blind, and the other lets you see half as well as an average person, you can drive a car. So said the legislatures, and who am I to argue?

Let me tell you, though, that’s very hard. And my open eye has a better visual acuity than 6/12. What I mainly lost was the depth perception, since using a single eye makes it impossible to sense depth. It’s only possible to approximate, and deduce. There are plenty of visual cues that can be used, based on size, shadows, and so on. But it’s not at all the same as looking at something and just knowing it’s distance from something else. When the brain cannot superimpose two slightly different images, it can’t convert the differences to distance.

So the very short drive home from the clinic was difficult. I drove extra carefully, and extra slow, keeping excessive distance from every other car. Actually, if everyone drove like that all the time, we’d have a lot less traffic accidents. But driving like that because you have to, that doesn’t improve things. I certainly had no intention of taking a longer drive to work in this condition. And the fact that it’s entirely legitimate for everyone to drive like that is crazy. Once they get used to not having real depth perception, I assume drivers will drive just as fast and close as other drivers. That’s dangerous.

It’s also amazing how much different things look. My unbandaged eye sees perfectly well, so I’m not getting pictures which are worse than what I usually see. But everything feel different. Even 2D flat images, like from the computer monitor, books, and television, which I can see and read clearly, feel less… substantial, or realistic, I’m not sure what the exact term would be. Very annoying.

But luckily the thing should heal quickly, and either tomorrow, or the day after, I should be back to using two eyes. In the land of the blind the one eyed man may be king (assuming nobody dethrones him once the electricity goes out at night, but let’s not argue with a classic quote), but in the land of the two eyed men he has some obvious disadvantages…

Can damage your health

June 26th, 2005

Many food items sold today aren’t particularly healthy, and contain unhealthy ingredients. Many of them are also quite fatty. And this is certainly a part of a general problem of health and obesity problems in the population. And since recent studies show that there are lots of fat Israeli kids, it was only a matter of time until someone would decide that solutions should be legislative.

A couple of weeks ago there was a law proposal, regarding publicity/commercials for food items meant for minors. The proposal suggests forming a committee that will examine food items, based on specified criteria. And foods which will be found to be “unhealthy” will have all sorts of publicity limitations, like being shown on TV only at late hours, preventing celebrities from endorsing them, and so on.

Plus one thing which I find amusing: Any such commercial will have to include a disclaimer stating that “Excessive consumption of this product damages the health”. Now, the statement is entirely valid and true. It’s just that even if you take the healthiest food around, an excessive consumption of it will certainly damage your health. An excessive consumption of anything will damage the health. So putting such a disclaimer won’t do anything except convince people that it’s just hogwash meant to frighten them, and they need to pay no attention. Plus, well, it’s just so absurd that it’s funny. If they put those disclaimers there, they should start putting them on bottled water ads as well.

Their criteria also limit sugar (Yep, the proposal says “sugar”, not “carbohydrates”. I wonder how will all those “sugar-free” foods containing Sorbitol and such will fare. It’s not technically “sugar” even if it turns to sugar once you metabolize it, and food sellers have been playing that game for a while) and fats based on the percentage of their caloric input in the food. I find that odd. It means that if you take the same item that contain certain amounts of fat which makes it just borderline, and then add a little sugar that will not pass the sugar limit, this food will suddenly become healthy. Is that amazing, or what?

Adverse reaction

June 7th, 2005

I saw the Canadian Adverse Drug Reaction Monitoring Program (CADRMP) Adverse Reaction Database, and decided to go and take a look. It is supposed to be a compilation of reports about adverse reactions to various drugs and food products, and so can be a useful tool in assessing drug and food safety.

The main page has a link near the bottom to some documentation (mainly they want to make sure people had a chance to read that the information is from reports, and so they’re not legally responsible if anyone stakes their lives on it, and all the rest of the disclaimers. But also some general explanations about the database and usage). Once you open it, the bottom of that page gives the option to either search online, or download the thing.

I decided to run a search, and got to a search screen with a myriad of fields. I decided to search by name, and discovered that you can’t search by names, just browse by them. There’s a link, which opens an index page of the first letter of the name. Clicking on a letter opens an index page of drugs/ingredients starting in that letter.

So I picked Insulin 30/70, to see what adverse reactions were reported as associated with it. There was just one report, with the outcome listed as unknown, and the involvement of this Insulin in the incident as suspected.

So I clicked on the link to open the full report. The amount taken was listed as 3000 IU of insulin. For reference, a diabetic person injecting insulin would use total daily amounts in the ranges 30-80 IU. We’re talking something like taking a two month’s amount in one sitting. No wonder there were some, er, adverse effects.

Later in the report they list the exact adverse effects suspected caused by the usage. In this case those were hypokalaemia (low level of potassium in the blood. Not sure how that got there), hypoglaecemia (low blood sugar levels. I’d have been shocked if it wasn’t there after injecting so much insulin), and… the best adverse effect of them all… suicide attempt.

Now the thing is, there is no way whatsoever to get so much insulin into you accidentally. The largest vials and cartridges on insulin sold for diabetics do not contain these amounts. So the suicide attempt must have been the reason, not the effect. So yes, it’s pretty adverse, but I hardly think someone trying to kill themselves should have the suicide attempt listed as a result of the drug used…

The report was made by a pharmacist in a regional centre. Which I don’t quite get, because that would mean the guy bought his insulin, and then went straight ahead to inject everything there and then near the pharmacy. Makes no sense. Then again, suicide attempts rarely do.

And one note to Health Canada: Make all the site pages pass info in the URI instead of in cookies, so it would be possible to link to inside pages, please.

Puncturing holes in Acupunctures

May 14th, 2005

Those invisible and unexplainable points in the body, which have such a tremendous medical effects if you stick a needle into them, despite them not being noticeably different from any other point? Well, yet another research shows that acupuncture doesn’t help, this time a study that demonstrates how acupuncture is no more effective than placebo for reducing migraines.

Shocking, isn’t it?

My own personal familiarity with acupuncture is very slight. I did know a doctor once who took acupuncture courses, and then started providing services using acupuncture in things like obesity treatment. I didn’t follow up on his patients, so I can’t say, but during that time he was a bit chubby himself, so you can guess just how good that worked.

Via Bob Park from What’s New, who put this best:

Acupuncture is
widely touted for treating migraine, but in 12 sessions over 8
weeks, sham acupuncture, in which the needles are inserted in the
“wrong” points, was just as effective as inserting them in the
“correct” points. This should greatly simplify the training of
acupuncture specialists. Just stick the damn needles anywhere.

Obvious medical complaints

April 27th, 2005

It brought back some amusing (now) memories, to read this, about a patient who came to the doctor complaining that he’s hungry before he eats. Yes, serious brain power there, probably.

I recalled similar incidents from my dad’s clinic (He works as an ophthalmologist, and there were a few years when I worked with him, part secretary and part just dealing with the terrible new computer programs that he was forced to use). We had quite a few people (I distinctly remember at least three totally separate cases, and there were probably more) coming in complaining that “my eyes hurt when I do this”…

With doing this being looking upward very strongly. Try that, look up, now look more up, now try looking even more up… See? Hurts! So they came to the doctor to get examined.

One of them didn’t just say “do this” and demonstrated, but actually said “when I’m looking all the way up, or all the way to the side, for at least several seconds… “. So my father gave him the wonderful bit of medical advice “Don’t do that”.

Amazingly, the guy was a bit fazed. Usually my father’s bedside-manners are very good, though, so he didn’t leave it at that, but gave an overly polite and detailed explanation about the physiological range of movement of the eye, and what not…

I seriously think it’s a pity doctors aren’t allowed to treat patients like the imaginary Dr. House does on TV. There were quite a number of times I know I really wanted to. And I pity all the actual doctors, who have to go through these things all the time

We had another one who complained that her eyes started to water if she looked in the direction of the sun. I kid you not.