MD vaccine message: Do as I say, not as I do

An article in a recent issue of the AMA News points out an embarrassing problem facing the medical industry. Its own members — medical doctors and medical health care workers — are failing to getting vaccinated, even though they urge the public to do so. The problem is getting to severe that some medical organizations are suggesting the vaccines be a mandatory condition for employment.

National Vaccine Information CenterThe April 1, 2010 issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that, as of mid-January, only 37.1% of health professionals had gotten their influenza A (H1N1) vaccine — and only two-thirds thought the shot was safe.

Although 80.9% said they felt the seasonal flu vaccine (as opposed to the H1N1) was safe, only 61.9% had received their 2009-10 vaccine.

“A concern about side effects is one reason health care employees decline vaccines…” reported Christine S. Moyer in the AMA News article, posted online Sept. 13, 2010.”Other reasons include fear of contracting an influenza or influenza-like illness from the immunization, perceived ineffectiveness of the vaccine and a belief that the flu is not a severe disease.”

The medical response was to consider forcing health care workers to subject themselves to the vaccine shot in order to keep their jobs. “Despite educational efforts, we have 40% to 70% immunization rates that are woefully inadequate,” said Michael L. Butera, MD, an alternate member of the AMA House of Delegates who spoke on behalf of Infectious Diseases Society of America at the AMA meeting last year. He suggested that mandates may be “the only way to achieve” the goal of universal vaccination. At that time, the AMA chose to vote against the mandate but may reconsider at this year’s meeting.

The fact that the medical industry feels it has the right to tell people what drugs they MUST take in order to hold a job, attend school or engage in certain activities infuriates me, and scares me as well. Where do we draw the line in the sand and say “no more!”? When are we going to insist that we be allowed to make our own decisions about our health care?

I urge everyone to join a vaccine awareness organization such as the National Vaccine Information Center and do whatever you can to raise awareness of the vaccine issue and work to safeguard our right to control our own bodies!

Yoga: the feel good exercise

I’ve often written about the benefits of yoga, mostly centering on how much it can help improve health and wellness, flexibility and stamina. I sometimes forget that yoga can also offer tremendous emotional and psychological rewards.

Yoga classA recent study that appeared online at The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine was an interesting reminder of that “hidden benefit.” Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) found that yoga may be superior to other forms of exercise in its positive effect on mood and anxiety. The study is the first to demonstrate an association between yoga postures, increased GABA levels and decreased anxiety.

The researchers set out to contrast the brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels of yoga subjects with those of participants who spent time walking. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other widespread anxiety disorders.

The researchers followed two randomized groups of healthy individuals over a 12-week long period. One group practiced yoga three times a week for one hour, while the remaining subjects walked for the same period of time. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopic (MRS) imaging, the participants’ brains were scanned before the study began. At week 12, the researchers compared the GABA levels of both groups before and after their final 60-minute session.

Each subject was also asked to assess his or her psychological state at several points throughout the study, and those who practiced yoga reported a more significant decrease in anxiety and greater improvements in mood than those who walked. “Over time, positive changes in these reports were associated with climbing GABA levels,” said lead author Chris Streeter, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at BUSM.

According to Streeter, this promising research warrants further study of the relationship between yoga and mood, and suggests that the practice of yoga be considered as a potential therapy for certain mental disorders.

SOURCE: “Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study,” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0007. Abstract online.

Kids can be amazing!

As the father of two grown daughters, and the grandfather of small children, I know how amazing kids can be and how incredibly “adult” they can act when called upon to do so. Still, every time I watch this video, I’m stunned by how intelligent even a five-year-old can be. I wonder sometimes if we stunt their intellectual and emotional growth by assuming they’re “just kids” and expect so little of them. I’m not saying we should treat them like small-sized grownups, but we need to remember that they’re often capable of far more than we realize, as you’ll see when you watch this:

Johns Hopkins e-mail

When I first read the e-mail, my hopes soared.

The message supposedly reported on a new “cancer update” from Johns Hopkins University, in which they disavowed chemotherapy and radiation therapy and even surgery as “treatments” for cancer, and suggested nutrition and other natural preventive measures as alternatives.

johns hopkins university
Gilman Hall at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

Too good to be true, I thought! Sure enough, it was. I’m really trying to be positive in outlook about these kinds of announcements because almost daily things are showing a decided trend toward the alternative health care universe. But, in this case, a check with Snopes revealed that the message is one of the urban legends that arise out of a widespread desire for such news to be true. The e-mail report generated so much interest that Johns Hopkins had to issue a disclaimer, stating: “Information falsely attributed to Johns Hopkins called, ‘CANCER UPDATE FROM JOHN HOPKINS’ describes properties of cancer cells and suggests ways of preventing cancer.  Johns Hopkins did not publish the information, which often is an email attachment, nor do we endorse its contents.”

They even went on to claim: “Traditional therapies, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, work. The evidence is the millions of cancer survivors in the United States today who are alive because of these therapies. We recognize that treatments don’t work in every patient, or sometimes work for awhile and then stop working, and there are some cancers that are more difficult to cure than others.”

It’s hard to imagine, in this day and age where so much is being discovered about the damage done by radiation and chemotherapy, that any “legitimate” medical institution could continue to praise these approaches so highly. At the very least, they might have conceded that the perceived “benefits” of such radical (some say barbaric) practices are extremely small compared to the risks and side effects.

Several medical research papers have concluded that most types of cancer do not respond positively to chemo or radiation therapies. Naturally, these papers receive little publicity, particularly compared to the “breakthrough” articles for research funded primarily by drug companies.

One such article is the 1992 paper by Dr. Ulrich Abel, a German biostatistician who spent 10 years as a statistician in clinical oncology. He found that:

“Apart from lung cancer, in particular small-cell lung cancer, there is no direct evidence that chemotherapy prolongs survival in patients with advanced carcinoma. Except for ovarian cancer, available indirect evidence rather supports the absence of a positive effect.

“In treatment of lung cancer and ovarian cancer, the therapeutic benefit is at best rather small, and a less aggressive treatment seems to be at least as effective as the usual one. It is possible that certain sub-groups of patients benefit from the treatment, yet so far the available results do not allow a sufficiently precise definition of these groups.

“Many oncologists take it for granted that response to therapy prolongs survival, an opinion which is based on a fallacy and which is not supported by clinical studies. To date, it is unclear whether the treated patients, as a whole, benefit from chemotherapy as to their quality of life.

“For most cancer sites, urgently required types of studies such as randomized de-escalations of dose or comparisons of immediate versus deferred chemotherapy are still lacking. With few exceptions, there is no good scientific basis for the application of chemotherapy in symptom-free patients with advanced epithelial malignancy.”

The actual report has been so well suppressed that it’s nearly impossible to locate. Yet, the interest in his findings has increased so much in recent years that the National Institutes of Health National Library of Medicine included a synopsis of his findings on its pubmed.gov site.

Naturally, I’m disappointed (but not surprised) that the e-mail stating a change of heart of Johns Hopkins wasn’t true.

But I’m hanging on to it. Someday, it will be true.

Putting life in perspective

By Terry Rondberg

Whenever a problem crops up that seems like a BIG DEAL, I watch this video from NASA.

Astronomers pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at absolutely nothing and left it there, first for 10 days then for 11 days. What they found in that “nothingness” was nothing short of  incredible. Watch.

It definitely puts life in perspective.