BMJ  2004;328:485 (28 February), doi:10.1136/bmj.328.7438.485-a
Source: bmj.com
News roundup

Only 6% of drug advertising material is supported by evidence

Heidelberg Annette Tuffs

A new study of the advertising material and marketing brochures sent out by drug companies to GPs in Germany has shown that about 94% of the information in them has no basis in scientific evidence.

The study, carried out by the Institute for Evidence-Based Medicine, a private independent research institute in Cologne, evaluated 175 brochures containing information on 520 drugs, which were either sent by post or handed out to 43 GPs since last June. The study was published in this month’s issue of the drugs bulletin Arznei Telegramm (2004;35:21-3; www.di-em.de/data/at_2004_35_21.pdf).

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The European Union is discussing a Europe-wide regulation for what in legislative parlance is called "health claims", those things that can be said about a food's or a food supplement's relation to health and disease.

The EU - just as national governments - is showing a highly schizofrenic attitude in relation to this matter: On the one hand, the conncection between food and health is becoming more and more obvious - even government programs promote prevention of serious illness by healthy eating habits, we're supposed to eat ever more fruits and vegetables to get the nutrients we need to stay healthy - really difficult in the era of fast food and big macs - but on the other hand, instead of promoting and stimulating discussion about foods and their influence on health, the EU seems intent to clamp down on communication.

Any "claim", as it's called, any indication of or hint of a food's relation to health or disease prevention is to be approved, and it can only be given the official stamp "in accordance with the highest scientific standards".

Now who would profit from such a rule? Certainly not consumers who want to find out what's new on the table and what to eat to stay fit. And for sure not those who think that supplements might be part of the answer to stay healthy. As a matter of fact, it looks as if supplements - already under the gun from an earlier EU directive - will be the big losers under this new EU proposal. Unlike the food multinationals, supplements manufacturers, especially the smaller and medium sized businesses that make up the bulk of the species, will be unable to compete in the "claims" arena. They simply won't be able to tell any more what their products are good for.

Cui bono? Can you say food multinationals?

Nigel Fawkes from the UK explains what the regulation will mean for supplements.

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Bush Wants EPA to Remove Mercury as Toxic Substance
By: Josef Hebert

Associated Press
        Date: 12/02/2003

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration is proposing to abandon the idea of treating mercury as a toxic substance requiring maximum pollution controls, favoring instead a plan that allows power plants to curtail emissions through a trading system, according to internal documents and officials involved in the discussion. The cap-and-trade approach for containing mercury, a substance that can affect the nervous system, is being reviewed by the White House and is expected to be announced by the Environmental Protection Agency in the coming weeks.

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Britain - where medics still inject mercury into babies
Source: News Scotsman

FRASER NELSON

WHILE Britain has spent years worrying about links between autism and the MMR jab, a far more serious threat has been gathering - involving one of the oldest and most lethal poisons on earth: mercury.

It is a proven neurotoxin, so strong that the contents of a thermometer could pollute a small lake, yet Britain’s NHS is still using it in a cheap triple DTP jab. The defence is not that mercury makes the vaccine work better - the ingredient is used simply as a preservative, to give it a longer shelf life. UK officials say there is "no evidence" that mercury is linked to autism, and there is no cause to remove it from routine vaccinations.

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Whooping cough jab with thimerosal autism link still used in the UK
15 Mar 2004
Source: Medical News Today

UK babies are still being given whooping cough jabs which contain the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, according to research carried out by the USA Institute of Medicine.

Many countries stopped using vaccines which contain thimerosal many years ago. The UK must be on of few developed countries that continues to use it. The USA withdrew them five years ago, as did Japan, Sweden, Australia and Spain.

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Forcing medicine violates rights
Source: Sunday Gazzette Mail
Editor:

I am writing this letter to take strong exception to a letter from William F. Byrne regarding requiring people with mental illness to take their medication. The legislation he supports is simply ludicrous. Just think of the outrage that would be voiced if people with diabetes or heart disease or some other chronic disease were snatched from their homes, placed in some facility, forced to take their medication, and all this would occur without the right to representation by an attorney or other advocate. Talk about instituting a gulag right here in the land of the free and the brave. This is a clear violation of the constitutional rights of people with mental illness, and threatens the rights of all of us. What’s next?

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Regulation of drugs
A secretive system

Saturday March 13, 2004
The Guardian

At first glimpse this week's warnings from the Committee on the Safety of Medicines (CSM) that doctors should avoid prescribing Seroxat, Britain's best-selling anti-depressant drug, at higher doses than 20mg a day, looked like a regulatory body performing as it should: protecting patient interests. Alas, if only this was true. Yesterday, the curtain on an unseemly behind-the-scenes row was lifted by the resignation of Richard Brook, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, from an expert group looking at Seroxat on which he was representing consumer interests. His reason for resigning was the failure of the regulator to be more open about the threats that high doses of the drug posed.

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EDITORIAL

Bush's Medicare deceit
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Source SFGate.com

AFTER FIRST covering up and then misrepresenting the facts about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, the Bush administration is now shamelessly working to further mislead the public by staging phony "news reports" about how well the law will work.

Last November, during the heat of the congressional debate on the law, the White House reportedly threatened to fire a top Medicare official if he told the truth about the cost of what President Bush described as a $400 billion Medicare bill.

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France: Controlling Who Says What To Who

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The Proposed French Legislation to ‘Medicalise’ and Ban Psychotherapy

"This essentially repressive text is clearly inspired by the measures used for the illegal practice of medicine. We rediscover with this amendment, practically word for word, the measures within the field of medicine that permit the harassment of healthcare professionals who are not doctors (nutritionists, healers, naturopaths, osteopaths et al.) for the illegal practice of medicine. This includes the harassment of innovative doctors searching to develop new health systems and who are pursued for "unproven medical practices" or, to use the deliberately stigmatising expression of the Council of the Order of Doctors, for ‘charlatanism’. Let us not forget that these measures already make France, in the domain of medicine, a completely backward country compared to other developed countries."

Thanks to Emma Holister for this introduction and the translation into English of the excellent article by Jacques Valentin!

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Honululu Outlaws Fluoride

Council Bills and Resolutions Text

CITY COUNCIL
CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU
HONOLULU, HAWAII

ORDINANCE ______________

BILL 66 (2003)

A BILL FOR AN ORDINANCE

RELATING TO WATER.

BE IT ORDAINED by the People of the City and County of Honolulu:

    SECTION 1. Since ancient times, Hawaiians have treasured water as the spiritual fount of all life and as a precious resource that must be preserved for the benefit of all. The council finds that Oahu’s drinking water is a vital necessity of life and should be maintained free of any chemical additives, except those necessary to make it safe and potable for human consumption. Drinking water should not be used as a means for delivery of chemicals for medical or dental purposes when other alternatives are available. The purpose of this ordinance is to prohibit the introduction of unnecessary chemical additives, considered to be medication, into Oahu’s drinking water supply.

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