Washington Post
Shankar Vedantam
March 18, 2009

The study would come to be called "cursed," but it started out just as Study 15.

It was a long-term trial of the antipsychotic drug Seroquel. The common wisdom in psychiatric circles was that newer drugs were far better than older drugs, but Study 15's results suggested otherwise.

As a result, newly unearthed documents show, Study 15 suffered the same fate as many industry-sponsored trials that yield data drugmakers don't like: It got buried. It took eight years before a taxpayer-funded study rediscovered what Study 15 had found -- and raised serious concerns about an entire new class of expensive drugs.

Study 15 was silenced in 1997, the same year Seroquel was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat schizophrenia. The drug went on to be prescribed to hundreds of thousands of patients around the world and has earned billions for London-based AstraZeneca International-- including nearly $12 billion in the past three years.

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SCEC stands for Solidarietà che Cammina - Solidarity that walks. It is a complementary currency that is designed to start its life circulating in common with the official currency, the Euro.

It is adapted to the Italian situation, where alternative currencies are looked upon as competition to the official one. So SCEC defines itself as a complementary currency. It circulates together with the official currency.

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SCEC is in the form of a discount chit denominated in Euro equivalents (in denominations of 0.50 Euro, 1, 2, 5, 10 and 50 Euro). It is distributed for free and acquires value only when used. Businesses and professionals agree to give a discount to buyers who pay (in part) with SCEC, usually around 20 %, but ranging mostly between 10 and 30 %.

A full description of the project in English - a bit lengthy but certainly of interest - is available here:

http://www.arcipelagoscec.org/doc/ArchipelagoSCECproject1.pdf

SCEC is putting first emphasis on actually supporting local production and commerce over imports from far away and world wide commerce by multinationals. The currency makes local exchanges more convenient for people who use the system, as they get a break by virtue of getting substantial discounts on the normal price.

The SCEC, once issued, stay in circulation and can be spent at any business or professional that adheres to the program and states how much discount they are willing to give. In this way, SCEC is tax neutral - no tax is to be paid on it as it is merely a discount.

Users of course, who are not subject to value added tax (VAT) when buying/selling second hand goods or exchanging favors and transactions in the social area can use SCEC to replace the official Euro currency in these direct exchanges.

SCEC is a discount as far as the government is concerned, but it is a fledgling alternative currency as far as the users are concerned.

It favors local commerce and as it gets more and more accepted, future uses might even include the payment of rates or (local) taxes.

An electronic system to run side by side with the currently available paper currency is in the planning stage. This would work like any bank account. You can make transfers to other users of the system, and you can convert paper into electronic or electronic into paper, if so desired.

Organizationally, SCEC is organized as a non profit "archipelago of several islands" which are the regional associations that are independent of each other, but agree to use the same kind of currency and to exchange information on who are the member businesses and professionals who accept SCEC as part payment for their goods or services.

SCEC are issued periodically and equally to all participants in the system, in exchange for a voluntary contribution intended to defray the costs of printing and administration.

Loans in SCEC to participating businesses are possible. They are given as an advance on future distribution of the currency. Once someone has received a loan they will not receive any future SCEC distributed to others, until they are "caught up" and are once again eligible to receive the normal distributions. Anyone entering the system gets 100 SCEC to start trading. To get more, they have to either wait for another periodic distribution or have to start giving some kind of service for which they accept SCEC in payment.

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The West Georgian
Cass C. Carter
March 11, 2009

Crimes against humanity and nature have been committed and hidden on the back pages of newspapers around the world. The Monsanto Corporation, with the help of corporation-friendly judiciaries around the world, has been systematically aiming for complete agricultural hegemony through abusive litigation, aggressive lobbying and questionable patent law interpretation.

In case you don't know who Monsanto is, they were founded in 1901 and helped introduce caffeine into Coca-Cola. Not too bad for the average college student, but their major spring board into becoming one of the top 10 chemical producers in the United States was the manufacture of DDT, which was a major cause in endangering the bald eagle, and Agent Orange, which was used in Vietnam and whose effects on both American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians are so notorious.

Monsanto is listed as being a "potentially responsible party" for 56 EPA "Superfund" sites, where there is a high risk of danger to human life due to toxic waste contamination, and that's just in the United States alone.

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WDDTY
12 March 2009

A large consignment of seasonal flu vaccine, which was due to be circulated to 18 European countries, has been infected with deadly live avian flu virus. Had the contamination not been detected, the vaccines may have started an avian flu pandemic, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

The World Health Organization is carrying out investigations at the Austrian research facility of Baxter International, the pharmaceutical company, where the contamination happened. Baxter has confirmed that the consignment contained live H5N1 virus, which causes avian flu.

A researcher in the Czech Republic discovered the lethal contamination when laboratory ferrets that he had injected with the H3N2 flu vaccine suddenly died. The H5N1 virus becomes lethal as an injection only when it is mixed with H3N2, a process known as reassortment.

The WHO investigation team says it doesn’t have evidence to suggest that Baxter had deliberately reassorted the two viruses, but “what remains unanswered are the circumstances surrounding the incident in the Baxter facility,” a WHO official said.

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The Wall Street Journal
By Sarah Rubenstein
March 11, 2009

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We've followed plenty of controversies around drug trials, from ghostwriting to keeping quiet about unflattering results. But the latest news is particularly eye-popping: A prominent Massachusetts anesthesiologist allegedly fabricated 21 medical studies involving major drugs. Yikes.

Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., has asked several anesthesiology journals to retract the studies, which appeared between 1996 and 2008, the WSJ reports. The hospital says its former chief of acute pain, Scott S. Reuben, faked data used in the studies.

Some of the studies reported favorable results from use of Pfizer's Bextra and Merck's Vioxx, both painkillers that have since been pulled from the market. Others offered good news about Pfizer's pain drugs Lyrica and Celebrex and Wyeth's antidepressant Effexor XR. Doctors said Reuben's work was particularly influential in pain treatment and that they were shocked by the news.

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Age of Autism
March 06, 2009

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Spanish girl Managing Editor's Note: In case you missed this report in The New York Times... Gardasil continues to wreak havoc on girls. This story is from Spain where the vaccine was pulled for a short period and then re-instated (perhaps the check from Merck cleared?)

From the website TypicallySpanish.com The families of the two girls from Valencia who have been admitted to the Clínico Hospital in the city after having an adverse reaction to the cervical cancer vaccine, have called for the intervention of the Health Minister, Bernat Soria, after both girls once again suffered convulsions on Wednesday afternoon.

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Physorg.com
March 6th, 2009 in Chemistry / Analytical Chemistry

Revered in India as "holy powder," the marigold-colored spice known as turmeric has been used for centuries to treat wounds, infections and other health problems. In recent years, research into the healing powers of turmeric's main ingredient, curcumin, has burgeoned, as its astonishing array of antioxidant, anti-cancer, antibiotic, antiviral and other properties has been revealed.

Yet little has been known about exactly how curcumin works inside the body.

Now, University of Michigan researchers led by Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy have discovered that curcumin acts as a disciplinarian, inserting itself into cell membranes and making them more orderly, a move that improves cells' resistance to infection and malignancy.

"The membrane goes from being crazy and floppy to being more disciplined and ordered, so that information flow through it can be controlled," said Ramamoorthy, a professor of chemistry and biophysics. The findings were published online March 3 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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NewsWithViews.com
By Byron J. Richards, CCN
March 6, 2009

In a stunning and unexpected 6-3 ruling the right-leaning Supreme Court went against the wishes of the last president, took the wind out of the sails of health care reform of the current president, sent irresponsible Big Pharma a major wake up call, and bluntly told the arrogant FDA that they are indeed not above the rule of law. It is a major victory for every American citizen.

Central to the issue is a power struggle between the federal government and states, which in this situation meant the federal government authority to pre-empt your state rights to sue if you are injured by a drug. The FDA, acting on behalf of the Bush administration and on the side of Big Pharma, has helped tie up thousands of drug injury lawsuits across the country. The FDA, who is supposed to be protecting consumers from drug injury and ensuring a correct risk/safety picture for any person taking a drug, was instead trying to shirk their responsibility and simply claim that Americans had no right to sue.

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By Bruce E. Levine, AlterNet
March 3, 2009

Eli Lilly & Company's rap sheet as a public menace is so long that for Lilly watchers to overcome the "banality-of-Lilly-sleaziness" phenomenon, the drug company must break some type of record measuring egregiousness. Lilly obliged earlier this year, receiving the largest criminal fine ever imposed on a corporation.

If Americans are ever going to revoke the publicly granted charters of reckless, giant corporations -- well within our rights -- we might want to get the ball rolling with Lilly, whose recent actions appalled even the mainstream media. And with Lilly's chums, the Bush family, out of power, now might be the right time.

On January 15, 2009, Lilly pled guilty to charges that it had illegally marketed its blockbuster drug Zyprexa for unapproved uses to children and the elderly, two populations especially vulnerable to its dangerous side effect. Lilly plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and agreed to pay $1.42 billion, which included $615 million to end the criminal investigation and approximately $800 million to settle the civil case.

One of the eight whistle-blowers in this case, former Lilly sales representative Robert Rudolph, says the settlement will not completely change Lilly's business practices, and he wants jail time for executives. "You have to remember, with Zyprexa," said Rudolph, "people lost their lives."

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The New York Times
By GARDINER HARRIS
March 4, 2009

WASHINGTON — Federal health officials and prosecutors, frustrated that they have been unable to stop illegal kickbacks to doctors from drug and device companies, are investigating doctors who take money for using these products.

For years, prosecutors rarely pursued doctors because they believed that juries would sympathize with respected clinicians. But within a few months, officials plan to file civil and criminal charges against a number of surgeons who they say demanded profitable consulting agreements from device makers in exchange for using their products.

“What we need to do is make examples of a couple of doctors so that their colleagues see that this isn’t worth it,” said Lewis Morris, chief counsel to the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. “We want to send the message to the physician community — particularly surgeons — that you can’t do this.”

The move against doctors is part of a diverse campaign to curb industry marketing tactics that enrich doctors but increase health care costs and sometimes endanger patients. Taken together, the new measures are likely to transform the relationship between medicine and industry.

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