Fit to be Tied

Fit to be Tied

Outraged, fuming, exasperated, irate – it’s all part of the territory for anyone who writes about alternative health care.

Over the past year I found plenty of good reasons to rant about misleading research, underhanded drug company practices, absurd regulatory abuses, and general malfeasance. It seems there will never be a shortage in these departments, but it does help to pipe up and grouse about it. So here’s a quick review (with direct links) to my six favorite rants of 2006. Every item here received 5 out of 5 stars on my “Rant-O-Meter.”

Want poisonous gas with that?

If you went to a butcher and picked out a cut of meat, you might think he was joking if he asked if you’d like some carbon monoxide with that. But it’s no joke. In 2004 the FDA approved the practice of packing meat with a variety of gases, including carbon monoxide. Sound crazy? You’ll think it’s doubly crazy (and doubly unsafe) when you find out why stores are doing this to our meat. I’ll also tell you which grocery chains have rejected this bizarre and potentially dangerous preparation method.

“Go Fish”

Air quotes required

Anyone who was born yesterday will enjoy this heart-warming fairy tale about how drug companies work tirelessly to help “educate” our elected officials. Here’s just one choice tidbit: Pharmaceutical reps picked up the tab to send lawmakers to Puerto Rico and Brazil so that congressmen could better understand “complicated technology and specialized research.” (Feel free to insert sarcastic air quotes around “technology” and “research.”)

“Day at the Beach”

Simply appalling

You won’t find a more direct assault on our freedom to make our own health care choices than this one. Women take note: One of the most effective and safest ways to address symptoms of menopause may be outlawed so that a drug giant can continue to monopolize the hormone replacement therapy market with a product that’s been shown to be dangerous time and time again.

“Where’s the Shame?”

Devil in the details

The nutrition information panel that appears on all processed foods has been a welcome innovation. Too bad the USDA allows food manufacturers opportunities to fudge the facts. Two revealing examples demonstrate that sometimes numbers do lie and word definitions can be tweaked to mean whatever you want them to mean.

“Beef Baloney”

Bad behavior

Here’s one for anybody who still believes the FDA is a diligent watchdog, faithfully protecting the public from harmful foods and drugs. When the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) sent a survey to nearly 6,000 FDA scientists, about 1,000 replied. Twenty percent said they had been “asked explicitly by FDA decision makers to provide incomplete, inaccurate or misleading information to the public, regulated industry, media, or elected/senior government officials.”

“Backstage Tour”

Profile in courage

From spring to autumn of this year we followed the plight of Abraham Cherrix, the 15-year-old boy with Hodgkin’s disease who was subjected to harsh and insensitive treatment by child services “do-gooders” when he refused to undergo chemotherapy. Abraham’s story is far from over, but events took an unexpected upturn late in the summer.

“Restoring Calm”

See also “Plant Life”

In tomorrow’s e-Alert I’ll change gears and look at the six most important health tips of 2006. In the meantime, here’s an item that qualifies as both a rant and a health tip.

A daily low dose of aspirin is typically suggested for patients after a stroke or a heart attack. But does this therapy really lower the risk of a second event? One study shows that it may actually RAISE the chances of an additional stroke or heart attack.

“Buffing the Halo”