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141 thoughts on “A Foolish Consistency

  1. weing says:

    I still think the point of this post is that we are susceptible to influence by big pharma and in the case of pec by big CAM quacks. I would not reject studies by big pharma but evaluate them on their own merit. At least big pharma does R&D. The only R&D the big CAM does is in marketing as they know their treatments are worthless. They’ve duped enough politician idiots to waste the taxpayer’s money trying to test their useless treatments.

  2. Fifi says:

    Pec – “Oh, so you have an excuse. And your mother probably isn’t old and sick, if she is still working. It’s easy to pass judgment on others when you have it easy. See how you feel about it some day if you’re working full time and people expect you to take days off every time your mother has a doctor appointment. See how you feel if you’re trying to live a normal life, but have to constantly be ready for emergencies. If you deal with all that perfectly, then you might be qualified to judge others.”

    Once again you seem to be going to great lengths to paint yourself as a victim. (Though, as was discussed in the initial post, we can all fall prey to the subversive and seductive influence of advertising so in that sense we can all be “victimized” if we choose to consume without being aware of what we’re consuming and how advertising and marketing – be it by an “alternative” or the mainstream, or in-person or via a glossy add – influences us then we truly are giving up some of our power.) You went on about how your mother had been sick for decades, no one suggested that you should have gone to every appointment (that’s a little bit hysterical and hyperbolic to even assume) only that if you mother had been sick for decades that it was kind strange that you hadn’t been more involved.

    My mother is 70 this year, so she’s old but not sick. She takes care of herself and has her whole life so she’s still very active and mobile. Fitter than lots of 30 year olds, though she’s slowed down in some way. We all do various things to help her out and support her choices. If and when she’s sick and needs us to more actively take care of her then we do what’s needed in a way that doesn’t make her feel like she’s an inconvenient burden. Seems only fair and hardly a burden anyway since she took care of all of us. When you love people, you take care of them.

    Two of my closest friends died of AIDS (and many other friends as well) so I’ve actually had the experience of nursing someone through a very ugly degenerate disease as they die. They were both young (as we all were at the time) and simply unlucky enough to catch the virus when it first emerged in the 80s. Back before doctors new much about the disease at all, back before people even knew to protect themselves. It was, and still is, terribly sad (and more than a bit gruesome and horrifying at times). So, really, while I think it sucks for your mother that she has hypertension and depression, I’m not crying a river for you since you’re healthy (from what you say) and we all have various family issues we have to deal with because that’s what being an active part of family is. That you, despite your talk of holistic this and that, paint yourself as a victim rather than recognizing that you contribute to the condition of not only yourself but your family and the society you’re a part of, seems kind of antithetical to walking your own talk.

  3. pec says:

    I did NOT say or imply I am a victim, or that my mother is a victim. I care about my health and also have been fairly lucky with it. My mother is a typical American who trusted her MDs too much. It was just an example, and I have plenty of examples of other friends and relatives.

    You can SAY you will take care of your mother if she gets sick. I doubt you have really thought about it. If she were in a very serious condition it would be a full-time job. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have siblings around but mine are far enough away to impose guilt but not to share it. But even if you have helpful siblings, I doubt you could handle it unless you are rich and retired by then.

    “if you mother had been sick for decades that it was kind strange that you hadn’t been more involved.”

    How the heck do you know how involved I was? I said I had not researched her medication. That was supposedly her doctor’s area, not mine. I found out that Neurontin is a horrible drug after discovering my mother half dead. Then there were several months I did not pay attention because of my own health crisis, and having to work full-time. I was pretty shocked to discover her MD had her on Lyrica. It was obvious something was very wrong with her, and that’s why I went to that appointment. He denied it all, completely. There was no possibility of communication.

    After the appointment I told her to stop the Lyrica. Just stop. I don’t care what the doctor said. He is wrong.

    That was the first time I dared to over-ride an MD’s decision regarding a relative or friend. Now I have more confidence in my skepticism.

    The experience got me started doing some web research on various medications, and also led me to this blog and some others like it. The attidute of materialist MDs is pretty amazing at times.

  4. pec says:

    And by the way my mother did stop the lyrica because she trusts me more than her MD. She seems to be a lot better. I told her that if he gives her any other drugs to tell me about it right away.

  5. pec says:

    And besides Fifi, if you were working long hours as an MD and raising a family, I suspect you would not be nursing your friends who had AIDS.

    It’s easy to brag about your great self-sacrficing acts, harder to acknowledge all that you have not done, and could not have done.

    No matter what I have done for my mother, no one ever sees it as enough. If I do a lot or a little, it’s all the same. If I sacrificed everything and wound up broke and sick myself, everyone would assume that was my own failure.

    You know absolutely well that you would never sacrifice your physical or financial health and your future security, or that of your family, if your mother needed your full-time assistance.

    I know this is completely off-topic, but the hypocrisy surrounding this subject is tremendous.

  6. Dacks says:

    “Have you ever heard a patient, or patient’s relative, praise their doctor for extending life several months? Probably not very often.”

    Pec, I don’t know what planet you live on. All I can say is I’m glad we’re not related.

  7. trrll says:

    And it’s yet another example of the reductionist, non-holistic approach. MDs noticed a correlation between high blood pressure and artery disease. Never stopping to think the high blood pressure might be a result, rather than a cause, they raced ahead and declared war on high blood pressure.

    Do you just make this stuff up out of whole cloth? It wouldn’t have taken much time to acquaint yourself from the actual facts of the matter. As you’d have learned if you’d bothered to do your research, doctors have been aware from the beginning that high blood pressure could be a consequence of artery disease. The realization that it also contributed to the worsening of the disease (such positive feedbacks are not uncommon in disease processes) came after large clinical trials examining the effects of reducing blood pressure by a variety of methods yielded substantial improvements in survival.

  8. apteryx says:

    Weing writes:

    “I would not reject studies by big pharma but evaluate them on their own merit. At least big pharma does R&D. The only R&D the big CAM does is in marketing as they know their treatments are worthless.”

    Then if manufacturers DO fund scientific studies, including clinical trials where that is possible, you will NOT reject positive results out of hand, but evaluate them on their own merit?

    Fifi – You aren’t, by any chance, Ann Coulter? If you were, perhaps you might set up a special book-signing deal for folks on this blog?

  9. Fifi says:

    pec – “And besides Fifi, if you were working long hours as an MD and raising a family, I suspect you would not be nursing your friends who had AIDS.”

    Um, you really don’t actually read do you? I’m not an MD and never claimed to be, both my parents are (my mother’s also a psychologist, and my father used to do research so I grew up immersed in the world of medicine). I’ve worked in a medical clinic, guiding people in making lifestyle changes actually. Just because you’re bitter and angry about having to look after your mother doesn’t mean everyone else approaches these kinds of situations the same way that you do. I’ve actually made the sacrifices you talk about to look after dying friends – obviously in the context of my own life and career, and the lives and deaths of my friends. I don’t regret a moment of it simply because they were moments spent with people I love, at a time when they really needed to be loved and cared for. I’m very aware of how precious both time and love are, I don’t waste either hating what I’m doing or blaming others for my personal situation.

    And, related to your earlier assertions that people dying from chronic diseases don’t care about an extra month or two – you couldn’t be more incredibly wrong from what I’ve witnessed (real death decisions tends to be quite different than people’s idle speculations when they’re healthy).

  10. pec says:

    I don’t believe you dropped your career every time someone needed to be taken care of. I think you are exaggerating. Either that or you’re wealthy, or supported by a husband, and don’t have to worry about employers. It’s a very different world for people with a career.

  11. pec says:

    And I AM NOT bitter and angry about taking care of my mother. I obviously can’t take care of her full-time in addition to a job. I don’t know what would happen if she needed someone with her at all times. The people I know who dealt with that situation had plenty of money to hire health aids. That is, their mothers had plenty of money. I don’t know anyone who spent their own money, or who gave up their career or neglected their family, so they could be a full-time care-taker for a sick parent.

    No one talks about this, except to act superior and judgmental. Meanwhile their parents have enough money to pay for assisted living or full-time aids.

  12. pec says:

    “your earlier assertions that people dying from chronic diseases don’t care about an extra month or two”

    I am sure you knew what I meant. Some people might hang on desperately to life no matter how terribly they are suffering, but others would not. I’m sure you know that.

    And what I meant was pretty obvious. A few months is NOT meaningful medical progress. You are on the wrong track if you think life will be prolonged just a little more by each new drug, until terminal cancer patients wind up with normal life spans. That is fantasy.

    What people would really like from medical science is a cure for cancer. They would like cancer researchers to figure out how the various cancer diseases work, leading to something that would allow cancer patients to recover their health. So they could stop being patients and stop needing treatments.

    Anything that results in progress toward THAT kind of goal would be meaningful. Prolonging life a little does not mean you are going in a hopeful direction. And considering the bias of drug research, the benefit might be even less than what is claimed.

    And in case you still can’t understand the difference — I am NOT saying no one cares if a cancer patient lives a little longer. Many of them might care, and their relatives might care. And it certainly makes the medical industry happy — prolonging the life of millions of patients, all of them on expensive drugs, for several months could mean billions in profit.

  13. weing says:

    So the BIAS of drug research makes them unable to prolong life to any meaningful degree? I have a problem following that but I guess it’s like the ceiling, over my head. I’ll grant you that I won’t be happy until researchers figure out a way for curing various diseases so we can recover health for at least 200-300 years. And what would be even better if all that research was done for free. I mean, those researchers, they don’t have families that they have to take care of. They don’t need living expenses. They can stay in the labs all day. All that they need, reagents, electricity, heat, computers, etc. are all free.

  14. weing says:

    apteryx,
    That’s what I thought I said.

  15. trrll says:

    I am sure you knew what I meant. Some people might hang on desperately to life no matter how terribly they are suffering, but others would not. I’m sure you know that.

    So for those who find that life is still worth living, even with the discomfort of the disease, is it not a significant accomplishment to afford them the choice? While this a limited achievement, there is no evidence that any “holistic” treatment does any better, or even as well.

    And what I meant was pretty obvious. A few months is NOT meaningful medical progress.

    Meaningful to whom? It seems to me that for those people who would like to live a few months longer, and those who find that the chemotherapy also relieves pain and improves quality of life, it could well be highly meaningful. So what makes your judgement of what is “meaningful” superior to that of people who actually do have cancer?

  16. pmoran says:

    Not only that, but the “few months longer” is a mean, or average outcome. Some remissions will be considerably longer. It is the hope of these that sustains a lot of seemingly futile use of chemotherapy. Yes, there is a real risk of doing harm to some, but that can be limited by using chemotherapy on a 2-3 month trial basis initially.

  17. pec says:

    “those who find that the chemotherapy also relieves pain and improves quality of life”

    Oh yes, chemotherapy makes people feel just wonderful. If they enjoy vomitting.

  18. weing says:

    pec,
    I wish you luck and hope you never have to face the reality of chemotherapy. What I’ve seen in reality verifies the saying “A drowning man will clutch at a razor.”

  19. apteryx says:

    Weing-
    There seem to be three mutually contradictory arguments simultaneously made against herbal research, rather parallel to the arguments against global warming – for which there is more, indeed overwhelming, evidence, I hasten to note. 1. There have been no studies. 2. The study results have all been negative. 3. The positive studies are all “low quality.” Low quality can include being no larger than the researchers had money for, being done by non-Americans, being published in second-tier journals, or being funded by the manufacturer. In Germany, manufacturers are both pressured to do studies, and rewarded for doing so. There is a lot of data there. Some people who happily accept the results of Big Pharma-controlled studies reject the results of these studies because they were funded by manufacturers of botanicals. I am glad to hear that you are not one of those people.

    I have not stuck my oar into the argument about whether extension of existence at all costs is a good thing. People in different cultures tend to have very different beliefs and it’s not possible to label any of those beliefs as “right” or “wrong.” (I.e., the viewpoint of the American MD should not be privileged.) If a longer dying process is what an American really wants and can pay for, that’s their prerogative. My own personal feeling is that I would never accept chemo that had a significant likelihood of inflicting crippling organ damage, or worse, “chemo brain” on me. I’d rather go out a little sooner but still myself. Given that we all have to die at some point and miss whatever “significant life events” follow, will people really be happier if they spend their families’ last dollars clinging to life in a hospital bed, or would they be happier if they spent the time remaining resolving their personal issues and accepting the fact of death?

  20. pec says:

    weing,

    Yes I wish you luck with that also. And I hope you never get eaten alive by an alligator either.

    You know, if the current cancer treatments can be compared to clutching at a razor, maybe the cancer industry should stop singing its own praises so loudly.

  21. pec says:

    And I also want to mention that not everyone clings to life so desperately. Some people think of death as being as natural as birth, something to be accepted with grace. Yes, of course we are all afraid of the totally unknown, and evolution has provided us with a powerful survival instinct that makes it hard to let go.

    But I think this obsession with prolonging the intense suffering of a terminal patient just a while longer is madness. It’s as crazy as the “right to life” movement.

  22. apteryx says:

    pec wrote:

    “this obsession with prolonging the intense suffering of a terminal patient just a while longer is madness. It’s as crazy as the “right to life” movement.”

    I have often wondered why the people who are most convinced that a glorious afterlife awaits them are the same people who think the most must be done to make sure everyone sticks around in this world for as long as possible, whether they want to or not. (Surely Terri Schiavo would have been happier in Paradise than in that bed?)

  23. weing says:

    pec,
    I refer to CAM treatments as the razor. A life vest be more analogous to chemotherapy. You are mistaken that chemotherapy only prolongs the agony of dying, unless you have some weird Buddhist notion that all is pain. Fortunately, no one will hold you in the future to your decisions made now when you are healthy.

  24. pec says:

    “I have often wondered why the people who are most convinced that a glorious afterlife awaits them are the same people who think the most must be done to make sure everyone sticks around in this world for as long as possible, ”

    It’s probably because of their belief that “life is sacred.” But it’s an irrational interpretation of that belief. Life may be sacred, but it’s also temporary.

    I think seeing loved ones die is probably harder than accepting our own death. The Schiavo case was really about heart-broken parents who were unable to give up hope. It’s understandable, but not necessarily best for the patient.

    I hope they will find a way to use brain imaging technology to communicate with that kind of patient. Then they could actually ask them if they want to be kept alive indefinitely.

  25. nscout says:

    Here’s a little tidbit to add. I’m in the employment business, and our clients include pharmaceutical companies in search of reps. The pharmas dance beautifully around EEOC regulations, but in essence their requirements state, “Do not expect us to consider anyone who is not youthfully attractive.”

    No doubt some pharmas employ reps who aren’t essentially models. They seem to be the exception, though, and they’re certainly not the first choice of pharmas deciding whom to send to physicians’ offices.

  26. weing says:

    It’s a known fact. We call them eye candy.

  27. trrll says:

    Oh yes, chemotherapy makes people feel just wonderful. If they enjoy vomitting.

    Again, you are making the error of thinking everybody is the same. But people are individuals, and respond differently to these drugs. Not everybody experiences terrible nausea, and nausea when it occurs can often be managed with antinausea medications. The people who continue taking chemotherapy for relief of symptoms do so because it makes them feel better, not worse.

    I’ve known people who decided that the chemotherapy was worse than the cancer. I’ve known people who decided otherwise, either because it made them feel better, or because they were willing to tolerate it for a while because they felt that the life extension was worth the symptoms. The key point is that it is not for you, or anybody else, to tell them that they are only “prolonging their suffering.” That judgement is theirs to make, not yours.

  28. pec says:

    trrll,

    Even if everyone agreed that a brief extension of life is worth tremendous expense and possible suffering, the fact remains that this sort of research is probably not leading us towards a healthier future. It is not leading towards a deeper understanding of cancer. It is very short-term and limited.

    I doubt that most people understand what limited results are being obtained from such expensive treatments. The cancer industry’s PR makes it sound glorious. People feel safe, “knowing” that if they ever get cancer it will probably be cured by the great new medications.

    Everyone knows someone who has been “cured” of cancer. What they don’t know is that most cancers that are found early would probably have never resulted in death or disease. The chemotherapy, surgery and radiation get all the credit, even though no one knows if they had any effect at all.

    The point is not that it’s wasteful to spend such a large percentage or our medical budget on briefly extending the life of terminal patients. We all may disagree on about that. The point is that this is not a promising direction for research. Well it may be promising for drug companies, but not for patients.

  29. David Gorski says:

    It is not leading towards a deeper understanding of cancer.

    Define “deeper understanding of cancer.”

    From my perspective, our understanding is getting better by the year, which is why I want to know just what on earth you mean here.

  30. weing says:

    “What they don’t know is that most cancers that are found early would probably have never resulted in death or disease.”

    Not true. The patient has to be willing to undergo the eradication of the tumor. Oh, and I thought you were against screening or going for checkups. How do you expect to find cancers early?

    The chemotherapy, surgery and radiation get all the credit, even though no one knows if they had any effect at all.”

    Again not true. Do you expect faith healing? Or just waiting for the random spontaneous remission to occur?

    A lot of diagnoses that used to be terminal no longer are. Is your beef that the pharmaceutical companies make a profit? I, on the other hand, hope they make a profit and pour that money into more R&D so that more diseases will be curable and no longer terminal. If they don’t make a profit, you can forget finding newer and better medications and treatments. If the medication allows the patient to remain living well and productive, I see that as a win for the patient and a win for the pharmaceutical company. If the medication makes the patient so sick that he/she doesn’t want to take it and dies, it’s lose lose for both.

  31. pec says:

    weing, you are wrong. David Gorski has linked to an article, by an MD, which explains what I already had known. Most cancer goes away, or never progresses, even with NO medical treatment. Most people who get cancer never know it. At least in the past, before early diagnosis they never knew it.

    Now many people are diagnosed and treated, and they never get sick or die from cancer. But this would have also been the case if they were never diagnosed or treated.

    Maybe early diagnosis and treatment do save the lives of a small percentage of all who are treated. Maybe not. We don’t know.

    I am NOT saying early diagnosis and treatment are worthless. I am saying we don’t know what value they may have, and therefore the cancer industry should STOP using statistics to mislead us.

  32. weing says:

    You talkin bout prostate, man. That hain’t all of em. Suit yourself.

  33. weing says:

    pec,
    You are an excellent example of the truth of the saying ” A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

  34. pec says:

    I know you don’t like to hear what I am saying. But if you read the article, you will see that, according to mainstream medicine, it is correct.

  35. pec says:

    It would be nice if Dr. Gorski would remind us of that link, if he still has it.

  36. yeahsurewhatever says:

    “You are absolutely wrong. Geneticists assume any DNA they don’t understand is “junk” with no function.”

    Hi pec. YOU are absolutely wrong. And apparently you’ve never even met someone who has seen a geneticist.

    There is a clear, distinct, well-defined and trivially-demonstrated difference between intron and exon DNA. It has nothing to do with whether its function is “understood”. It is a matter of scientific fact that vast regions (90% even!) of DNA have no biological function, and they are not even READ by the cell for protein synthesis. No operation is done on them. They are skipped. Moreover, these regions of DNA are vulnerable to random genetic drift, because there is no evolutionary pressure on them one way or another, because they confer no advantage or disadvantage.

    You are repeating what I can only asssume is weak propaganda from ignorant sources who do not understand the state of the art, and you are drawing from information that has never been correct in any decade, so to call it merely outdated comes wide of the mark. It is simply wrong and ridiculous. I can’t guess at your agenda, and I really don’t want to. It’s a mostly incoherent tirade with no clear purpose.

    Your understanding of science is profoundly lacking. One of the most famous and intriguing cases of junk DNA is the fact that humans can get scurvy, despite having a nearly-complete gene which in most other mammals allows them to endogenously synthesize ascorbic acid from glucose. In mice, this same gene codes for an enzyme called L-gulonolactone oxidase. In humans it’s broken, an intron, is not parsed, and does nothing. It’s junk DNA.

    So now you’ve embarrassed yourself in front of physicians AND in front of genecitists. I wonder how many other groups you’ve embarrassed yourself in front of in the intervening 7 months, and who you’ll embarrass yourself in front of tomorrow.

  37. yeahsurewhatever says:

    Also, the above comments by Robert W. Donnell about this article might seem to offer a reasonable counterpoint, but perusing his blog itself will show that he has a far deeper philosophical commitment to big pharma than he is letting on. He is being dishonest, and his points here are designed merely to open the door of sympathy and “reasonable doubt”. When it comes to the question of big pharma interfering in CME, his blog is a series of straw man arguments, character assassinations (he blasts Arnold Relman, of all people), and appeals to authority.

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