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Saturday, November 27, 2004

Global Killer on the way - H5N1 variant

Flu Pandemic Inevitable

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Every country in the world must come up urgently with a plan to deal with an inevitable influenza pandemic likely to be triggered by the bird flu virus that hit Asia this year, a top global health expert said on Friday.

"I believe we are closer now to a pandemic than at any time in recent years," said Shigeru Omi, regional director for the Western Region of the World Health Organization (WHO).

"No country will be spared once it becomes a pandemic," he told a news conference.

"History has taught us that influenza pandemics occur on a regular cycle, with one appearing every 20 to 30 years. On this basis, the next one is overdue," he said at a conference of 13 Asian health ministers trying to figure out how to avoid one.

"We believe a pandemic is highly likely unless intensified international efforts are made to take control of the situation," he said of the H5N1 avian flu virus, which has defied efforts to eradicate it in several Asian countries, including Thailand.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Surprise origin of stomach cancer

BBC NEWS | Health | Surprise origin of stomach cancer

Stomach cancer may not originate from the tissue of the organ itself, but from bone marrow cells, researchers have found.

The cells appear to migrate to the stomach to try to repair damage caused by a bacterial infection.

The finding challenges many of the previous assumptions about how cancers originate, and could lead to new treatments, the scientists say.

This was an unexpected finding, which may lead to a re-evaluation of current assumptions about how all cancers originate. -- Professor Timothy Wang

Stomach cancer has long been associated with infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which is also known to cause ulcers.

It was thought that the bacteria irritated the lining of the stomach wall, causing tissue damage, inflammation and stimulating the cells to become cancerous.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Profiles in History

Profiles in History

The Only Nude Signed Photograph of Marilyn Monroe, Original Costume Design Sketch of Marilyn's Famous Dress from ``Seven Year Itch,'' to Be Auctioned by Profiles In History

Business Wire - Twenty-nine of Bill Travilla's "Long Lost Collection" of high-style costumes sketches of dresses and gowns created for Marilyn Monroe and other legendary stars go up for auction Friday, December 10th, 2004, by Profiles In History, the number one company in the world for live and simultaneous Internet Hollywood memorabilia auctions. This collection of sketches is highlighted by the single most famous dress in Hollywood history -- the billowy, white crepe halter-top dress and sunburst-pleated skirt he created for Monroe for her classic subway wind scene in the 1955 Billy Wilder film "The Seven Year Itch," which exposed Marilyn's legs and thighs to the world. Ranked as the most important costume design ever created for film, it is expected to sell for between $80,000 and $100,000. Profiles in History will be offering an vintage "touring" copy OF THE DRESS ITSELF, created by Travilla.

The Travilla Collection, long thought to have been lost in a devastating fire in Travilla's loft in downtown Los Angeles in 1990, was salvaged by his friend and business partner Bill Sarris. Also included are sketches for gowns created by him for Jane Russell, Claudette Colbert, Greta Garbo, Gwen Verdon, Joanne Woodward, Debbie Reynolds, Judy Garland, Lana Turner and others.

This unique collection is the centerpiece among almost 500 movie and television memorabilia items to be auctioned. Continuing to feed movie fans' hungry appetite for all things Marilyn, Profiles In History will offer bidders the opportunity to own the ONLY signed, nude photograph of Marilyn Monroe, autographed to Mr. Travilla.

As with previous Profiles In History auctions, bidders attend in person or bid by phone or fax, or by simultaneous live internet hookup through eBay Live Auctions (http://www.ebaylive, which reaches buyers around the world.

Highlights of other memorabilia items to be auctioned include: Original John Alvin poster art for "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," estimated to sell between $100,000 and $150,000; a complete vintage costume of H.R. Pufnstuf, estimated to sell between $25,000 and $35,000; Don Knotts Deputy uniform shirt from "The Andy Griffith Show," estimated to sell for between $10,000 and $12,000; Johnny Carson's historic monologue curtains from "The Tonight Show," estimated to sell between $30,000 and $40,000; Mel Gibson's hero broadsword used in "Braveheart," estimated to sell between $10,000 and $12,000; and many more one-of-a-kind collectables.

Who needs cheese toasties when real iconic work is up for sale?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Three Must Have Firefox Extensions for Blog Readers and Writers

Three Must Have Firefox Extensions for Blog Readers and Writers

The Firefox browser is an amazing product in its own right that's packed with great features like tabbed browsing, but it's even more powerful when you install optional extensions. Here are three that are well worth the install for both busy blog readers and writers...

Most avid blog readers and writers fill out online forms - lots of them. This is especially true for avid commenters. But when you're writing in such a public forum and your name is attached to it, spelling counts...a lot! That's why I use SpellBound. It adds a customizable spell check function to Firefox. I run it everytime I am filling out an online form.

If you haven't discovered Bloglines, make it a point to do so. Bloglines is a powerful Web-based RSS news reader/aggregator. It's one of my favorite online tools. One of the site's great features is that it can alert you whenever one or more of your favorite blogs has been updated. The Bloglines Toolkit puts these alerts right in your Firefox status bar. It also enables you to check to see who's blogging about any Web page you're visiting. This feature alone comes in handy again and again. It lets me know if I am blogging about something before anyone else has!

Last but not least is ScrapBook. This incredible extension lets you save all or even just a tiny part of a Web page to your hard drive for offline viewing/searching...with all of the formatting intact.

I use this to cache all of my Bloglines feeds to my hard drive for offline-viewing when I am traveling and away from a live connection.

These three are just a sampling. Other productivity enhancers that are worthy of a look are the Google PageRank Status and SearchKeys.

by Steve Rubel, Micropersuasion Weblog

Monday, November 22, 2004

Russell Beattie Notebook - Jacek Rutkowski - MSMobiles

Jacek Rutkowski

Threadwatch -- An interesting commentary from Russell Beattie in his notebook about cyberstalking and his ongoing experience of it by an eejit called Jacek Rutkowski, author of this email to Andrew Orlowski of the Register;

Subject: I will attack you in cyberspace
you have exaggerated by making "fun" of Beth Goza's weblog! if you will not apologize her publicly (in the ) and admit publicly that you was wrong, then I will publish negative information about you at and I will ensure that it will be apppearing at FIRST PLACE in after typing "Andrew Orlowski" and clicking search!

More email ...

Some satire from the Register about 'Poland's cultural ambassador', Jacek Rutkowski

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Grilled Cheese Sandwich Fever Grips eBay

The revered cheese toastie

A grilled cheese sandwich bearing the likeness of the Virgin Mary is back on ebay. A woman says she made the sandwich ten years ago. And after taking a bite, she says she noticed the likeness of the Virgin Mary and saved the sandwich.

Ebay took the item off its auction site Sunday night thinking it was a joke. But the woman says the sandwich is no joke and bidding started again Tuesday.

Lots of people are now having fun with their own cheese sandwich items on eBay

I think it looks like Dolly Parton, myself ...

Friday, November 12, 2004

Hepatitis B vaccine and the risk of multiple sclerosis

WHO - "Recombinant hepatitis B vaccine and the risk of multiple sclerosis"

Why is the issue of an association between hepatitis B vaccination and multiple sclerosis surfacing again?

The possible role of vaccination against hepatitis B in the occurrence of multiple sclerosis (MS) is being raised again as a result of the recent publication of a new study (Hernan et al., Neurology , 2004), which revives questions raised ten years ago.

American Academy of Neurologists --

Hepatitis B vaccine may be associated with increased risk of multiple sclerosis

The popular hypothesis that the hepatitis B vaccine is associated with an increased risk of multiple sclerosis has been scientifically corroborated through a prospective study of patients in the United Kingdom. Results of the study, and a related editorial, are reported in the September 14 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

More than 350 million people worldwide are chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus. Of these, 65 million will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer – approximately 5,000 per year in the United States. The hepatitis B vaccine, considered one of the safest vaccines ever produced, is more than 95 percent effective in preventing chronic hepatitis B infection, and is the first vaccine against a major human cancer.

In 1996, about 200 cases of MS (and other central nervous system demyelinating disorders) following hepatitis B vaccination were reported in France, prompting the French government to suspend routine immunization of pre-adolescents in schools. The potential link between vaccination against hepatitis B and an increased risk of MS has since been evaluated in several studies, with limited success.

Miguel Hernán, MD, DrPH, of Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, led a team of researchers in conducting a study using the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) in the UK. The GPRD tracks many aspects of healthcare utilization, treatments, and adverse events in the UK, and comprises five percent of the UK population, or three million Britons, with data starting from 1987.

Using the GPRD, researchers identified patients who had a first MS diagnosis recorded between January 1993 and December 2000, and immunizations data was obtained from the computer records. “Our analyses include 163 cases of MS and 1,604 controls,” noted Hernán. “We estimated that immunization against hepatitis B was associated with a three-fold increase in the incidence of MS within the three years following vaccination.”

Hernán cautions that any considerations regarding the administration of hepatitis B vaccine must take into account the large benefits derived from the prevention of a common and potentially lethal infection. “Our study cannot distinguish whether the vaccine hastens the onset of MS in persons destined to develop the disease years later, or whether it causes new cases of MS in susceptible individuals. It is also important to stress that 93 percent of the MS cases in our study had not been vaccinated,” concluded Hernán. Further research is required to determine the reasons for the association between hepatitis B vaccine and MS.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 18,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, autism and multiple sclerosis.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

State Executions -- the NHS in Britain

If you live in the UK and, like the majority, rely on the National Health Service, you may want to read your medical notes hanging at the end of the hospital bed.

Whether you know it or not; whether you believe it or not; up and down the country, little discussions take place. Sometimes these discussions involve the victims family and sometimes they don't. So should you happen to have a tidy pile of cash stashed away and you see your 'concerned relatives' having discussions with a doctor, make sure you check your medical notes for terms that involve the phrases, "Do not resucitate," and "Do not intervene,".

If you want to die because you have had enough of life or an illness, fair enough. If you want to live, understand that your fate is being decided not by you, but by those around you. Those 'concerned relatives' who like the look of your bank balance will nod gravely and say, "I think it's for the best, doctor," when asked whether to keep you alive or not.

The cruelest by far is "Do not intervene," since this means you will not receive food or water unless you can actually force it down your throat all by yourself. Should you be unfortunate enough to require hydration in the form of a drip or nasogastric tube, forget it. You will be left to die of dehydration.

If you can drink by yourself but need help with food, for example, via a tube-feeder, you will be allowed to starve to death.

"Do not resucitate," is the kinder of the two since it only means you will be left to die should you have, say, a heart attack. No 'code-blue' for you.

You don't have a say in the matter unless you happen to stumble on the phrases in your notes. No-one is allowed to tell you.

When an animal is sick and requires dispatching, a humane way of doing the job so the animal does not suffer is found. It is quick and painless.

Humans who live in the UK and fall into the clutches of the NHS when they are too frail and ill to be able to fend for themselves are being denied the basic human right to food and drink. Welcome to 21st Century Britain.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Gary Firm Files Suit Against Merck & Walgreens

Firm Files Suit Against Merck & Walgreens

Friday November 5

PRNewswire -- Today the nationally known law office of prominent attorney Willie Gary filed suit against drug giant Merck and Walgreens. Attorneys are representing a Martin County, Florida man who says he's lucky to be alive after repeatedly using Vioxx. Mark Tomlin was prescribed Vioxx for neck pain and without having any health issues, he suddenly had heart failure at the age of 49. Tomlin survived the heart attack, but doctors say he suffered so much damage that his life expectancy is in serious jeopardy.

"I have 100-percent blockage in an artery which is behind my heart and it's too risky for doctors to operate," Tomlin said. "I'm nervous to do anything, because it could kill me."

The suit, which was filed this morning in St. Lucie County, claims that Merck & Company knew that Vioxx could increase the chances of heart attack and stroke, but did nothing to warn doctors or the public. It goes further to state that not only did Merck intentionally hide the dangers from doctors and patients, but Merck actually spent $100 million a year on aggressive marketing campaigns which continually touted the pain reliever as totally safe.

"Three years ago the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) sanctioned Merck because they were misrepresenting Vioxx as a safe drug with no real risks," said attorney Madison McClellan, Willie Gary's partner. "And now we have a father and husband whose life is going to be cut short, because Merck wanted to gain market share ... that's just greed and they need to pay."

In 2003, Vioxx sales totalled $2.5 billion. On September 30, 2004 Merck pulled Vioxx from the market, and it is no longer being sold. McCellan says they have also attained internal emails which prove Merck knew all along the dangers of Vioxx.

"They told everyone that it was a miracle drug, but it was actually a nightmare," said McClellan.

For more information about this suit, contact Tom McNicholas at (772) 263-1567.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Merck and Class Action Lawsuits on the way ...

Vioxx heart risks apparent for years

Anna Gosline

12:16 05 November 04

NewScientist -- Scientific evidence of increased heart attack risk associated with popular arthritis drug Vioxx was available as early as 2000, say Swiss scientists, although the drug was only withdrawn in September 2004.

Merck & Co, Inc, pulled its product from the market on 30 September after participants in a clinical trial of Vioxx’s effects on colon cancer started to show increased risk of heart attack.

But after analysing the results from 18 randomised clinical trials and 11 observational studies - many completed before 2001 - Peter Juni at the University of Berne, Switzerland, and his colleagues believe that the decision could have been made much earlier.

“If we can do this kind of analysis, it’s difficult to see why it wasn’t done by the drug company or the licensing authorities years ago,” says co-author Matthias Egger.

By the time it was withdrawn, an estimated 80 million people worldwide had taken Vioxx (rofecoxib). A memo posted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its website on 2 November 2004 suggests that Vioxx may have contributed to almost 28,000 heart attacks in the US between 1999 and 2003.

But Merck dismissed the validity of the new study, published on Friday, saying Merck had been “vigilant in monitoring and disclosing the cardiovascular safety of Vioxx and that the company absolutely disagrees with any implication to the contrary”. A scientific critique, published by Merck in response, questions the methodology of the new study.

Questions of interpretation

Indications of Vioxx’s potential risks surfaced in 2000 from Merck’s study of the drug’s gastrointestinal side effects, dubbed VIGOR, say the Swiss team. The study compared Vioxx with naproxen, another type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat arthritis.

VIGOR found that participants on Vioxx were five times more likely to have a heart attack than those on naproxen. However, the result was interpreted as a reflection of naproxen’s protective effect on heart health because, like aspirin, it reduces blood clotting.

“Naproxen would have had to reduce the risk of myocardial infarction by 80% to have explained their results. If that were true, I think we would know about that by now,” says Egger.

Juni and his colleagues pulled studies from published and unpublished trials from the FDA’s database. All together they represented more than 20,000 patients. They found a two-fold increase in heart attack risk. And this was not dependent on dose.

They also found no evidence to suggest that short exposures to Vioxx were without risk - contrary to the previous suggestion that heart attack risk increased only with long-term use.

“Health catastrophes”

Furthermore, Egger suggests that many participants in Vioxx trials were at much lower risk of cardiovascular disease than the elderly population who generally uses arthritis medication. Given a representative population’s profile, Vioxx could raise the risk of heart attacks by up to eight times, they suggest.

But Merck says the study’s conclusions are “based on an analysis that violates the basic principle of meta-analyses to combine ‘like with like’”. It asserts that the “inappropriate combining” of data by the team “invalidates the results and conclusions” of their analysis.

In a commentary accompanying The Lancet article, editor Richard Horton calls the licensing and use of Vioxx “public health catastrophes”, and called for further investigations.

“Why clinical investigators studying Vioxx did not do more to raise concerns is a fair question that needs to be answered,” he writes. “But in doing so, we must not diminish the importance of the covenant of trust that society has established with powerful commercial and governmental institutions. For with Vioxx, Merck and the FDA acted out of ruthless, short-sighted, and irresponsible self-interest.”

Journal reference: The Lancet (early online publication)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

'Ethnic drug' raises fears over race and genetics

'Ethnic drug' raises fears over race and genetics - Telegraph

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
(Filed: 01/11/2004) :: Story in full below

The development of the first 'ethnic drug' could reignite the race debate and even cause harm without a deeper understanding of the genetic basis behind such medicines, a professor warned yesterday.

Next month the American Heart Association will be given details of a major trial on black people of the heart failure drug BiDil, which was ended prematurely because the results were so encouraging.

The company NitroMed hopes to market the drug to African-Americans next year, if it gets regulatory approval, but the collision of race and genetics in medicine is stirring unease.

Yesterday Prof David Goldstein, of University College London, argued that, while "some medicines do work differently in different racial groups", there was a danger of oversimplifying the situation.

He was worried that race and ethnicity were "crude simplifying labels" for the genetic differences between people and that misinterpretation could lead to the inappropriate use of such drugs. Differences in the genetic make-up of people within a racial group mean that they could react differently to a drug. "We need to dig deeper to find out what causes these differences and then test for the genes involved, not market drugs on the basis of race," he said.

See microbiologist murder links