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Snake oil?

Clark Stanley's Snake Oil Liniment. Before 1920.

Scientific evidence for popular health supplements depicted visually. The size of the ‘bubble’ for each supplement indicates its relative popularity, as measured by Google hits. Coloration indicates credibility of evidence. Of course, this is just the opinion of one source, but it largely parallels my own impressions from following the literature. (Information is beautiful)

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Marburg Fever Survivor Puzzles Scientists

This negative stained transmission electron mi...

“The Marburg virus had never before reached North America, as far as experts know. It is a close relative of Ebola, and the diseases these viruses cause are among the world’s most dreaded, because they can have horrific symptoms and high death rates and are easily transmitted by bodily fluids. There is no vaccine, cure or even specific treatment.

Infectious disease experts had warned for years that someday an infected person might board a plane and carry one of these deadly viruses halfway around the world, potentially exposing countless others along the way. Now it had happened.

But Ms. Barnes survived, and no one else became infected, even though epidemiologists calculated that 260 people — hospital and lab workers, friends and family — had potentially been exposed.” (New York Times )

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Uninsured Twice as Likely to Die in ER

“Uninsured patients with traumatic injuries, such as car crashes, falls and gunshot wounds, were almost twice as likely to die in the hospital as similarly injured patients with health insurance, according to a troubling new study.

The findings by Harvard University researchers surprised doctors and health experts who have believed emergency room care was equitable.” (Truthdig)

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Bending the Rules of Clinical Trials for the Patient’s Sake

Newspaper advertisements seeking patients and ...
Newspaper ad solicits research volunteers

In the current issue of the bioethics journal IRB: Ethics & Human Research, investigators from four different institutions surveyed over 700 clinicians involved in clinical trials and found that 90 percent believed that ignoring certain entry criteria was acceptable if a patient could, in their estimation, benefit from the trial. In addition, over 60 percent of those surveyed also believed that researchers should deviate from study rules if doing so might improve a patient’s care.

While bioethicists and researchers have long suspected that doctors and other clinicians might be committing an occasional protocol infraction, few if any studies have looked at the extent to which such violations occur and how they might compromise research results.” (NYTimes)

I am not a researcher but purely a clinician. I’ve never been in a position to discover whether I would compromise a research protocol to benefit a patient, but I suspect the temptation would be strong (and would limit my ability to deliver good research findings).

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Quack remedies spread by virtue of being useless

Photograph of three antique patent medicine bo...

“Eating a vulture won’t clear a bad case of syphilis nor will a drink made of rotting snakes treat leprosy, but these and other bogus medical treatments spread precisely because they don’t work. That’s the counterintuitive finding of a mathematical model of medical quackery.

Ineffective treatments don’t cure an illness, so sufferers demonstrate them to more people than those who recovery quickly after taking real medicines.” (New Scientist)

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Fatal Deer Tick Virus Raises Concern

Adult deer tick, Ixodes scapularis.

‘While deer ticks are widely know to be the source of Lyme disease, they are now linked to a death by encephalitis. “We were concerned to find this particular virus in deer ticks which are extremely common,” said Harvard University epidemiologist Sam Telford, who first discovered the virus 12 years ago.’ (WCVB Boston )

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