No wonder alcoholism diagnoses are rising

The ‘work hard, play hard’ medical student who burns the candle at both ends, consuming prodigious quantities of alcohol before an early morning anatomy class, has long been a staple of university life.

But a new survey carried out for the British Medical Journal suggests this stereotype is now little more than a myth.

Merely one in ten future doctors currently exceed the Government’s recommended weekly alcohol limit, and a quarter profess themselves to be completely teetotal.

It’s going to get worse too.

What fun about peanut allergy

Australian researchers have made a breakthrough in the treatment of peanut allergy in children.

A small clinical trial conducted at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has led to two-thirds of children treated with an experimental immunotherapy treatment being cured of their allergy. Importantly, this desensitisation to peanuts persisted for up to four years after treatment.

Give them a tiny and then rising amount of the crucial protein and the body trains itself.

Hmm, so, now, about hormesis……

Now they want price regulation of sweets

Shoppers in Scotland buy cheap snacks containing almost 110 tonnes of sugar every day, according to research.

Experts at the charity Cancer Research UK calculated that the equivalent of 4.3 million chocolate bars or 3.1 million cans of cola was being purchased each day at discounted prices in Scotland.

The figures heap further pressure on the Scottish government to bring in regulations restricting discounts such as buy-one-get-one-free on sweet snacks when it announces its obesity strategy this autumn.

Nothing will ever satisfy these fanatics. We should therefore cut to the quick and tell them to fuck off now.

Prediction is difficult

Experts have said families and loved ones are being needlessly worried after new research showed the tool over-predicted the chances of death more often than not.

The so-called “surprise question”, encourages doctors to ask themselves “Would you be surprised if this patient were to die in the next few months, weeks, days?”

A wide scale analysis by University College London found that more than half of those predicted to die within a specific time lived longer than expected.

More than half meaning what? 55%?

Not that bad I would have thought as an average of guesses.

Eh? Other way around, surely?

Doctors must stop telling patients to finish an entire course of antibiotics because it is driving antimicrobial resistance, a group of eminent specialists has warned.

Patients should be encouraged to continue taking medication only until they feel better, to avoid the overuse of drugs, experts from bodies including Public Health England and the University of Oxford are now advising.

Current guidance from the NHS and the World Health Organisation says it is essential to ‘finish a course’ of antibiotics to avoid triggering more virulent forms of disease.

Stopping early means there’s a chance that some of the bug will have been exposed to the antibiotic but not deaded by it. Increasing the chance of resistance, no?

Maybe Woody Allen was right – brown rice kills and steaks cure.

I wonder

The NHS paid out more than £1bn in damages for medical negligence last year – a record high, fuelled by maternity blunders, official figures show.

Patients groups said the figures showed the need to improve safety in hospitals, with particular concerns about the rising costs caused by catastrophic errors in childbirth.

Would be very interesting to find out how much of this is about the insistence upon “natural” childbirth, wouldn’t it?

Blood contamination

There’s something of a problem here:

What happened?
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, people with the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia in the UK were given blood donated – or sold – by people who were infected with the HIV virus and hepatitis C.

How many people became infected with these viruses as a result?
According to Tainted Blood, the group that has been campaigning for decades for recognition of the wrongs done to the haemophiliacs and pressing for compensation, 4,800 of them were infected with hepatitis C, a virus that causes liver damage and can be fatal. Of those, 1,200 were also infected with HIV, which can cause Aids. Half – 2,400 – have now died.

How did the blood become contaminated?
In the 1970s, people with haemophilia began to be given “factor concentrates” to treat their symptoms, which included severe pain and potential organ damage. Drug companies found they could take the clotting factors out of blood plasma and freeze-dry them into a powder. There was a big demand, which led to pharmaceutical companies seeking substantial supplies of blood. In the United States, prisoners and people who were addicted to drugs were among those paid to give their blood. Unfortunately, the donations were all mixed together, which increased the chances that any virus would contaminate many batches of factor concentrate. The main problem was with a product called Factor VIII.

In the 70s we didn’t know about HIV. We didn’t identify Hep C until 1988 or so. Which is the problem here. It’s entirely possible that there was official mumbling and fumbling once things were known – we are not great fans of the idea of government efficiency around here. Compensation and treatment issues might also be a concern. For example, we do finally and recently have a reasonable, if horribly expensive, treatment for Hep C. Do they get it whatever the NHS says about costs?

But the basic problem here? A treatment was devised for haemophilia, no one knew the dangers, bad things happened. That basic problem, whatever the subsequent handling, isn’t actually anyone’s fault. It’s rather like Knightian Uncertainty in economics. Well, shit, that didn’t work, did it?

Yep, callous. But what should have been done differently? No, not with hindsight, but what should have been done with the knowledge at the time? Haemophilia left untreated?

Seems fair really

Nurses have been told to shape up so they are fit enough to do their job and to set an example to patients, in new standards from their regulator.

Amid spiralling obesity levels, the watchdog’s new rules for the first time say that Britain’s 650,000 nurses and midwives have a “professional responsibility for adopting a healthy lifestyle”.

More than half of NHS staff are obese or overweight, contributing to a £5bn annual bill for the health service on conditions caused by obesity.

Nurses will be told they must “maintain a level of personal fitness and wellbeing required to meet people’s needs for mental and physical care,” amid concern that too many are too unfit to carry out physical tasks.

Physician heal thyself and all that.

Wonder what the punishment for breaching professional standards will be though…..

Finally, a decent use for 3 D printing

I’ve long been very puzzled by this enthusiasm for 3 D printing. Partly because I simply do not share the usual male joy at tinkering. I don’t program for exactly the same reason. Nor play with engines etc. Just isn’t me at all.

But I’ve also found it terribly difficult to think of things which people would both want and which would not be better/cheaper through he normal mass manufacturing routes. And now someone has worked that out:

However, having learned how far lighter limbs could be created on a 3D printer, he began to experiment in his garden shed.
He has now set up Team UnLimbited, which creates customised ‘cool’ limbs for children, featuring their choice of colour and pattern.
The father of three said: ‘We’ve done Iron Man designs, Harry Potter, Lego and Spider-Man. The key is making something the child actually wants to wear and feels is cool enough to show their friends.

Customised prosthetics. Full marks there, full marks, for the man and his shed.

Action brings reaction – I’m sure Marx said something about this

The maker of Marlboro cigarettes has been accused of trying to sidestep new UK laws on plain packaging by rolling out durable tins that look just like ordinary cigarette packets.

Philip Morris, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, came under fire from MPs and anti-smoking campaigners on the eve of the biggest change in tobacco regulation since the smoking ban.

From Saturday, retailers will no longer be able to sell branded cigarette packets, as a 12-month grace period to allow tobacco firms to phase out old cartons comes to an end.

Instead, retailers will only stock plain packets featuring graphic pictures designed to deter smokers. They will also no longer be allowed to stock packets of 10 cigarettes or smaller sizes of rolling tobacco, as part of a package of measures designed to limit the appeal of smoking.

In the run-up to the change, Philip Morris has distributed tin containers, the same size as a 10-pack of cigarettes, to convenience stores around the country. The tins, which were available at chains including Sainsbury’s, Londis and Budgens, are printed with Marlboro branding, and feature deterrent pictures and the message “Smoking kills”.

It’s always, but always, second and third order effects which trip these people up, isn’t it?

Just shoot them

Fast food should be banned from buses and trains, as part of efforts to “nudge” the public out of round-the-clock snacking, obesity experts say.

The call for radical restrictions, in an attempt to reset social norms, came amid warnings that “guzzling on the go” is fuelling Britain’s weight problem.

Experts at the world’s largest obesity conference urged politicians to make sweeping changes to limit the availability of junk food on public transport.

We’re moving smartly past second hand obesity here and into third hand:

Professor Jason Halford, from the European Association of Obesity, urged British politicians to back a ban, saying it would help shift people away from a culture of endless snacking.

He said other cities should follow Manchester’s Metrolink tram system, which already has such restrictions. Other obesity experts said passengers would be grateful to be saved either from tempting aromas – or the “nauseating” smell of junk foods late at night.

My scientific analysis here is that these people aren’t getting laid enough. People with even adequate sex lives just would not fuss so.

Have any of these people ever been to Southern Italy?

A Mediterranean-style diet could cut the risk of obesity by almost half according to a major new study.

The research on 16,000 people found a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and olive oil cut the chance of becoming dangerously overweight by 43 per cent.

It’s not exactly known as the home of the thin and elegant now, is it?

Middle and upper class Italians perhaps but the poor not so much at least.

Quite remarkable really

Switching daily beer for water cuts risk of obesity, study finds
Researchers from Spain also find that swapping one sugary soft drink for water each day cuts risk of obesity by 15%

Ingesting fewer calories reduces your weight.

Astonishing, isn’t it?

Eating their own

Advising women not to drink when pregnant is “sexist” and causes “needless anxiety”, senior academics have said.

Pregnancy charities and researchers have called for a change to the “alarmist” official Government guidelines, which warn expectant mothers to avoid alcohol completely.

They say the policy has no basis in evidence and ends up “stigmatising” women and excluding them from society.

If they’d not got hysterical on the subject in the first place then they wouldn’t have to do this now, would they?

Up next, dementia no bar to remaining a pilot

NHS nurses with dementia should be allowed to carry on working, according to the profession’s top body.

The Royal College of Nursing voted overwhelmingly yesterday in favour of making dementia a special case when interpreting rules on whether a medical diagnosis signalled the end of a career. The move aims to keep experience, skills and knowledge in the NHS, nurses said,

Rather the point or dementia is that you can’t recall that experience, isn’t it?

But no matter, forgetful pilots up next. No, don’t worry, we know it won’t be a problem. RyanAir has been forgetting where airports are for decades now.

And now for something true

Don’t bother with a low salt diet – it may not lower your blood pressure after all, study finds
Researchers followed more than 2,600 men and women over a period of 16 years
They discovered that consuming less salt wasn’t linked to lower blood pressure
New findings call into question salt limits recommended by dietary guidelines

Quite, that’s one of the things kidneys are for, regulating salt levels.

You only need one word to understand this report

Saturated fat does not increase the risk of a heart attack by clogging up arteries, three cardiologists have said in a challenge to medical thinking, sparking a furious backlash.

In an editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine the cardiologists also write that relying on foodstuffs marketed as “low fat” or “proved to lower cholesterol” to avoid heart disease is “misguided”.

A key previous research study, they say, “showed no association between saturated fat consumption and all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, CHD mortality, ischaemic stroke or type-2 diabetes in healthy adults”. Instead they say that a Mediterranean-style diet and 22 minutes of walking a day are the best ways to prevent heart problems.

The paper co-authored by Pascal Meier, a cardiologist at University College London and editor of the journal BMJ Open Heart; Rita Redberg, the editor of the American journal JAMA Internal Medicine; and Aseem Malhotra

And when we reach that word Malhotra we can stop because we know the whole thing is bollocks.

Doesn’t even matter if they’re right, it will be woo and bollocks.

The Lancet’s being an unbiased and reputable journal here then, eh?

You can’t buy time – except, it seems, in America.

Increasing inequality means wealthy Americans can now expect to live up to 15 years longer than their poor counterparts, reports in the British medical journal the Lancet have found.

Researchers said these disparities appear to be worsened by the American health system itself, which relies on for-profit insurance companies, and is the most expensive in the world.

Their conclusion? Treat healthcare as a human right.

“Healthcare is not a commodity,” wrote US Senator Bernie Sanders in an opinion article introducing the issue of the journal, which is devoted to inequality in American healthcare. “The goal of a healthcare system should be to keep people well, not to make stockholders rich. The USA has the most expensive, bureaucratic, wasteful, and ineffective healthcare system in the world.”

Sanders, like authors of the lead report, called for single-payer health insurance or what Americans might know as “Medicare for all”, a reference to an existing public health program for older Americans.

An actual consideration of health care financing systems would be useful of course. But I doubt the Singapore system gets a look in, does it?