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:

General Science

Highly recommended: How do innovative ideas spread? by Atul Gawande, which examines the rapid adoption of anaesthesia and the slow adoption of antisepsis:

In our era of electronic communications, we’ve come to expect that important innovations will spread quickly. Plenty do: think of in-vitro fertilization, genomics, and communications technologies themselves. But there’s an equally long list of vital innovations that have failed to catch on. The puzzle is why.

This is also an excellent read from Carl Zimmer:  The Fall and Rise of Gene Therapy:

Rarely does a whole life’s work crumble in a single week, but James Wilson’s did. The first glimmer of impending ruin came on a Tuesday morning—September 14, 1999—as he sat in his office at the University of Pennsylvania. In his role as founder and director of Penn’s Institute for Human Gene Therapy, Wilson was one of the most prominent researchers in the nascent field, which sought to put genes into patients to repair their faulty DNA.

No, You Shouldn’t Fear GMO Corn: How Elle botched a story about genetically modified food.

This looks like a great new column in the New York Times: Poison Pen by Deborah Blum: Check out her inagural post, Is there danger lurking in your lipstick?

Highly recommended: Science Is Not Your Enemy from the great Steven Pinker:

This is an extraordinary time for the understanding of the human condition. Intellectual problems from antiquity are being illuminated by insights from the sciences of mind, brain, genes, and evolution. Powerful tools have been developed to explore them, from genetically engineered neurons that can be controlled with pinpoints of light to the mining of “big data” as a means of understanding how ideas propagate.

One would think that writers in the humanities would be delighted and energized by the efflorescence of new ideas from the sciences. But one would be wrong. Though everyone endorses science when it can cure disease, monitor the environment, or bash political opponents, the intrusion of science into the territories of the humanities has been deeply resented.


Alternatives to Medicine

The Delusion of Dilution: When Pharmacists Recommend Homeopathy.

Chiropractic is an alternative medicine practice with deep anti-vaccine roots, and some chiropractors advise against routine immunization. As late as 2005, more than a quarter of chiropractors in Alberta were encouraging or advising their patients to avoid vaccination. It’s become some problematic that Australia’s chiropractic regulator has ordered chiropractors to stop making antivaccine-claims. Yet they continue to do so, in quite shocking ways.

Homeopathic “remedy” manufacturer Heel Inc. changes its treatment claims and pays a $1 million class settlement. Remember, homeopathic “remedies” are completely inert. Amazingly, Heels sells about $200 million euros per year of these sugar pills.

A potent carcinogen lurks within certain traditional Chinese medicines:

“A lot of people in the lay public assume that if something is herbal or natural that it is necessarily healthy,” said Marc Ladanyi, an investigator in the human oncology and pathogenesis program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York who was not involved in the studies. “But this work very clearly shows that this natural plant product is extremely genotoxic and carcinogenic.”

You may explode reading this horrendous alt med story:

A woman accused of severely abusing her disabled teenage daughter said in a tearful jail interview Tuesday that she has no regrets about using homeopathic and naturopathic treatments she read about on the Internet, including stopping the girl’s seizure medication.


A Snapshot of the Deep Pockets of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Why parents who don’t vaccinate their kids should be sued or criminally charged:

Parents who don’t vaccinate their kids may have the most heartfelt reason in the world: fear for their own children’s safety. But the basis for that fear is simply unfounded, and their decisions are putting other kids directly at risk. The bottom line is that the government’s interest in protecting children from getting the measles should trump parents’ interest in making medical decisions for their kids.

What’s with rich people hating vaccines?:

You may not immediately peg the woman in yoga pants sipping Kombucha outside Whole Foods as a science-denier, but she might be. The anti-vaccination movement, which posits — in the face of overwhelming empirical research — that vaccines cause autism and other diseases, seems to be picking up steam in many of the country’s wealthier, educated enclaves where parents are interested in living “natural” lifestyles.

“It’s a little bit cool, it’s a little bit of a trend,” says Nina Shapiro, a professor at UCLA medical school and mother of two who wrote an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times this weekend about her growing concern with the anti-vax movement.

Older, but new to me and an excellent read: Mercury, Vaccines, and Autism: One Controversy, Three Histories.

This is excellent: Your chance of being struck by lightning is significantly greater than your risk of a reaction to MMR and Hepatitis B vaccine:

Relative Risks Vaccines

Scientific Skepticism

The Bullshit Police: “Inside a brilliant, nerdy, arrogant, sort of admirable, sort of insufferable, movement that questions everything – and wants to upend the way you live and think.”

Pharmacy Practice

Walgreens’ new policies on narcotic dispensing look reasonable to me, but have physicians up in arms. Thoughts? Backlash Against Walgreen’s New Painkiller Crackdown.

Yes. Long overdue: “Diabetic” foods should be discontinued, says Diabetes UK.

Let’s hear it for allied health professionals!


Another entry in the debate on the cost of new drugs: How Much Does Pharmaceutical Innovation Cost? A Look At 100 Companies from the excellent Matthew Herper at Forbes.

No supplement is 100% safe, says anti-doping educator to athletes. 10-30% of sports supplements are contaminated with anabolic steroids or other banned substances.

Other stuff

This is disturbing to watch: Decapitated copperhead snake’s head bites itself.

A conversation with Malcolm Gladwell about running.

Watch what a mosquito bite looks like – up close: Here’s What Happens Inside You When a Mosquito Bites.

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