Weekend Reading

Heroin and Cocaine lozenges will make anyone's throat feel better.

Heroin and Cocaine lozenges will make anyone’s throat feel better.

It’s hard to believe that summer is actually winding down here in North America. Summer vacations are wrapping up and school is starting soon. The header image from today’s post is from i09, Gorgeous Vintage Advertisements for Heroin, Cannabis and Cocaine. Here’s some additional posts worthy of your attention: Continue reading

Why the fight against antivaccinationists is important

dana_mccaffery

The risks we face in our lives have been utterly transformed by vaccines. With the exception of clean water, no other health intervention has been as effective: More than 20 million lives in the past 25 years have been saved. Our parents and grandparents faced the risk of illness and death from diseases like smallpox, diptheria, and polio as a fact of life. Mass vaccination completely eradicated smallpox, which had been killing one in seven children. Polio is next.  Public health campaigns have also eliminated diptheria, and reduced the incidence of pertussis, tetanus, measles, rubella and mumps dramatically. More than 100 million infants are now immunized against the most common preventable childhood illnesses each year, saving more than 2.5 million young lives each year.

Yet as long as there have been vaccines, there has been those that oppose them.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time outlining the tactics and tropes of the antivaccine movement as well as considering ways in which health professionals and science advocates can improve the way they respond to antivaccinationism. And this battle continues, after over 100 years of immunization, and over two dozen diseases becoming vaccine-preventable.

Debating antivaccinationists can be dispiriting, especially if you’re a health professional. Getting personal insults in your email regularly isn’t encouraging. Your peers may not share your understanding of the issue, and your passion for it. Personally, I see  vaccine advocacy as part of public health advocacy, and part of my responsibility as a health professional, a science advocate and a parent. I’ve spent a lot of time along with my fellow bloggers at Skeptic North and Science-Based Medicine discussing the tactics of the antivaccine movement, and helping to educate and motivate. There is evidence that antivaccinationists can influence vaccination decisions.  There are four main tactics that they use:

  • Skewering the science of vaccine safety and efficacy, while trying to create legitimacy for unfounded or discredited theories of harm.
  • Shifting the hypotheses and the villain, from MMR, to thimerosal, to other “toxins”, and more recently, “too many, too soon”.
  • Censoring criticism, whether it’s at Age of Autism, Mothering.com, or other antivaccine sites that delete comments or restrict access to their events.
  • Attacking the opposition – whoever is an advocate.

How do antivaccinationists attack? Viciously. Imagine you’re the parents of a child that died of a vaccine-preventable disease. And you’ve used this tragedy to publicly advocate for improved vaccination programs, which could have prevented the death of your child. What do you think the response would be? If you’re Toni and David McCaffery, parents of of Dana McCaffrey, this isn’t a thought exercise – it’s exactly what happened. Dana died at four weeks old of pertussis (whooping cough). The reaction from antivaccinationists? Heinous: Continue reading

Weekend Reading

Keep the heat on Health Canada: www.bannosodes.org

Keep the heat on Health Canada: http://www.stopnosodes.org

Here’s what’s keeping this pharmacist engaged and sometimes outraged:

Health Canada explicitly puts the financial interests of homeopathy manufacturers above broader public health goals. From the BC Medical Journal, Health Canada licenses homeopathic vaccines:

Remarkably, at the same time as Health Canada focuses on influenza education, flu shots, and other proven prevention measures, that same body has licensed 10 products with a homeopathic preparation called “influenzinum.”[8] According to providers, in­fluenzinum is for “preventing the flu and its related symptoms.”[9] Homeopathic vaccines are available for other infectious diseases as well. Health Canada licenses homeopathic preparations purported to prevent polio,[10] measles,[11] and pertussis.[12] Health Canada continues to assure Canadians that it tests products for safety and efficacy before allowing them to enter the market. All approved homeopathic products are given a DIN-HM number. The website states, “A NPN or DIN-HM means that the product has been authorized for sale in Canada and is safe and effective when used according the instructions on the label.”[13]

Pharmacist John Greiss compares Health Canada and the FDA and their action on opiates. The results are striking and reiterate the question above: Is Health Canada putting public health objectives above manufacturers? Continue reading

It Takes a Village – Skepticism in this Small Town

In my last post, I introduced myself as a pharmacist in a small-ish town, eager to combat the growing acceptance of pseudoscience into the mainstream.  I love living where I live for a multitude of reasons.  But I’ve found it rather challenging to wave the flag of skepticism.  I have no problem displaying my preference for science-based medicine at my workplace, but outside of work a rather large road-block has emerged – social isolation.  While I have found a few kindred spirits in a public health nurse and a high school science teacher, they, too, remain relatively quiet about their skepticism.  I decided a few months ago to push the boundaries, and learned the hard way why others have been forced to keep quiet. Continue reading

Tylenol: Safe painkiller, or drug of hepatic destruction?


This is somewhat of an update to a prior post.
What do Tylenol, Excedrin Extra Strength, Nyquil Cold & Flu, Percocet, Vicodin, and Anacin Aspirin Free have in common? They all contain the drug acetaminophen. Taking multiple acetaminophen-containing drugs can be risky: while acetaminophen is safe when used at appropriate doses, at excessive doses, it is highly toxic to the liver. Take enough, and you’ll almost certainly end up hospitalized with liver failure. Acetaminophen poisonings, whether intentional or not, are a considerable public health issue. In the USA, poisonings from this drug alone result in 56,000 emergency room visits, 26,000 hospitalizations, and 458 deaths per year. [PDF] This makes acetaminophen responsible for more overdoses, and overdose deaths [PDF], than any other pharmaceutical product.

Last week, Johnson & Johnson announced that it’s lowering the maximum recommended daily dose for its flagship analgesic, Extra Strength Tylenol, from 8 tablets per day (4000mg) to 6 tablets per day (3000mg). Why? According to the manufacturer,

The change is designed to help encourage appropriate acetaminophen use and reduce the risk of accidental overdose.

Continue reading

Salt: More confirmation bias for your preferred narrative

Death in a bottle? Or harmless food enhancer?

Judging by the recent press reports, the latest Cochrane review reveals that everything we’ve been told about eating salt, and cardiovascular disease, is wrong:

The New York Times: Nostrums: Cutting Salt Has Little Effect on Heart Risk

The Daily Mail: Cutting back on salt ‘does not make you healthier’ (despite nanny state warnings)

Scientific American: It’s Time to End the War on Salt

Sometimes it’s possible to completely miss this point. And that’s what’s happened here.

Continue reading

What’s infecting us?

In the long run, our odds of death are 100%. But what’s going to kill us? I really like this nice graphic from National Geographic, using stats from the US National Safety Council, which illustrates the big killers.

Source

I find this graphic fascinating. Of course it doesn’t include every way to go – just some of the most and least common ways. It would be fascinating to see how this graphic has changed over time. Consider this: Continue reading

Time for some #vaxfax

Anti-vaccine advocates have declared November 1-6 to be Vaccine Awareness Week, and intend to use the week to spread unfounded fear about vaccines. Here in Canada, we already had our own Immunization Awareness Week, but I’ll happily take up the antivax challenge. I’ll be joining other science advocates to counter-detail the fearmongering and outright misinformation that usually erupts from those indifferent to public health. Here’s an excerpt of the release from Mercola and the National Vaccine Information Center:

In a long-scheduled joint effort to raise public awareness about important vaccination issues during the week of November 1-6, 2010, Mercola.com and NVIC will publish a series of articles and interviews on vaccine topics of interest to Mercola.com newsletter subscribers and NVIC Vaccine E-newsletter readers.

The week-long public awareness program will also raise funds for NVIC, a non-profit charity that has been working for more than two decades to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and protecting informed consent to vaccination.

The November 1-6 Vaccine Awareness Week hosted by Mercola.com and NVIC will follow a month-long vaccine awareness effort in October that was recently announced on Facebook by parents highlighting Gardasil vaccine risks.

The six-week-long focus this fall on vaccine issues will help raise the consciousness of many more Americans, who may be unaware that they can take an active role in helping to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths and defend the legal right to make voluntary vaccination choices.

Keep an eye on Science-Based Medicine and Skeptic North for more details and blog posts. An aggregator will be set up to collate articles, and I’ll link to it once it’s online. On Twitter, you can follow discussions with the #vaxfax tag. And if you want to get started, PalMD has is responding to an article that attributes infertility to vaccines.