Sunday, November 02, 2008

Death by Medicine

By virtue of my longstanding interest in rejuvenation research, I recently revisited Ben Best’s online research on various causes of death, and I realized that I had neglected iatrogenic causes of death as the most serious mortality risk that most people face in the United States today. To wit, according to very reliable sources, at least a million people in the United States die every year primarily because they sought professional medical help. Some of these people had serious medical conditions that might have improved with competent medical treatment, but the vast majority of these people would have lived much longer and healthier without any medical treatment at all. In other words, whether you are healthy or sick, seeking medical attention is one of the riskiest things that you can do.

The largest number of reported iatrogenic deaths – some 300,000 a year – are attributed to adverse drug reactions. Of course, this leaves open the question of how many iatrogenic deaths go unreported [PDF], and what causes those deaths. To wit, as few as five percent of iatrogenic acts are ever reported; when studies of iatrogenesis actively seek out medical error, autopsies reveal rates of 35 to 40 percent of missed diagnoses causing death. Probably the most well-reported iatrogenic cause of death is bedsores, which account for over 100,000 totally preventable deaths per year. Of course, virtually all bedsores are suffered by people who are disabled and have no choice but to submit themselves to the tender mercies of potentially negligent medical care. When you do have a choice, the best way to avoid death by medicine is by being an informed and skeptical medical consumer.

Astonishingly, many widely accepted diagnostic procedures and first line treatments do more harm than good. For instance, there is substantial evidence to indicate that mammograms tend to aggravate relatively benign forms of breast cancers and other pre-existing conditions that otherwise might never become malignant, and there is no evidence to indicate that they actually aid in early detection. Similar problems exist with prostate cancer diagnoses and treatments. But the most disturbing fact that I’ve encountered in regard to cancer treatment is that chemotherapy -- widely accepted among medical professionals as the first line treatment of choice for most forms of cancer -- is wholly ineffective against most forms of cancer and dramatically reduces the quality of life for the patients who undergo it. To wit, the typical survival rate for cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy is just over two percent. (Testicular cancer and Hodgkin’s disease are the two notable exceptions.)

To be clear, iatrogenesis is not quackery. Iatrogenesis is medical error that runs the spectrum from neglect to negligence, and it includes unnecessary exposure to contagion in medical environments, misdiagnosis, and unnecessary and/or ineffective medical procedures. Such error is typically visited upon people in times of great stress who have very little knowledge of medicine and mistakenly place their faith in other people who should know what’s best for them. Meanwhile, as alluded to above, such error goes largely unreported by doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. Sadly, adherence to medical protocols is typically very lax until after such negligence makes headlines. Soon thereafter, it’s back to business as usual.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pharmexa Testing Posssible Universal Cancer Vaccine

In a previous blog post, I asserted that the lengthening of telomeres on the ends of DNA strands would soon provide a cure for old age by rejuvenating old but healthy cells. This has already been accomplished in vitro using the enzyme telomerase, and clinical trials with humans will eventually get underway. As such, all you have to do is stay alive and stay reasonably healthy until telomerase therapy becomes a proven form of medical rejuvenation, and you will stand a 50/50 chance of living to see your 1,000th birthday without all the infirmities and superficial trappings of old age.

Telomerase was discovered by Elizabeth Blackburn in 1984, who recently received the 2006 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research along with her colleagues Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak. This discovery was the result of research driven purely by curiosity, but a few short years later it led other researchers to investigate the role that shortened telomeres played in cellular senescence. It also led researchers to investigate the role that telomerase plays in making cancer cells immortal. On this note, Pharmexa recently started clinical trials of GV1001, which targets telomerase production in cancer cells and could prove to be a universal cancer vaccine.

In sum, the ability to turn telomerase production on in healthy cells and off in cancerous cells will almost certainly end old age and cancer, something that companies like Pharmexa and Geron have been working on for quite some time. This has all sorts of implications for society, not the least of which is how health care will be delivered. To wit, telomerase therapy will almost certainly allow people to live longer and healthier, thereby dramatically reducing the exhorbitant costs of health care for the elderly in their last decade of life and making various forms of trauma (i.e., auto accidents, slip and falls, homicide) the leading causes of death.

Learn more about cancer and other medical issues online. The internet is a great place to start researching anything from cancer, to pregnancy symptoms to recognizing various symptoms of aids, and identifying whether or not you should seek further medical advice.

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