Pharmacology

Where is Mel Brooks when you need him?

Ever since Chipotle's self-righteous claim (which isn't even true) that the company was removing GM ingredients from its food because "it doesn't align with [the company's] position," just about everything conceivable went wrong.  It's now a bit of a novelty to find a news day when they haven't poisoned someone.

The combination of two plant compounds that have medicinal properties - curcumin and silymarin - holds promise in treating colon cancer, according findings in the Journal of Cancer.

Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, which is present in spicy curry dishes, and silymarin is a component of milk thistle, which has been used to treat liver disease.


Last week, a press release reached me announcing that a Chinese herbal medicine called "Phynova Joint and Muscle Relief Tablets" and containing the active ingredient Sigesbeckia is now on sale in the UK for the first time, in Boots The Chemist: 
Sigesbeckia is the first traditional Chinese treatment granted a traditional herbal registration (THR) under the traditional herbal medicines product directive in the UK, by drug safety watchdog the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Oxford based Phynova which manufactures the product was granted the UK licence last year.

Eating a powdered food supplement based on a molecule produced by bacteria in the gut, reduces cravings for high-calorie foods such as chocolate, cake and pizza, according to a small pilot study which asked 20 volunteers to consume a milkshake that either contained an ingredient called inulin-propionate ester, or a type of fiber called inulin.

Previous studies have found that bacteria in the gut release a compound called propionate when they digest the fiber inulin, which can signal to the brain to reduce appetite. However the inulin-propionate ester supplement releases much more propionate in the intestines than inulin alone.


MINNEAPOLIS - A drug commonly used to treat pain, epilepsy, anxiety and other brain health disorders may be associated with an increased risk of major birth defects, according to a study in Neurology

The drug pregabalin is approved by the FDA to treat epilepsy, fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain, such as pain from diabetic neuropathy or pain after shingles or spinal cord injury. It is also used for generalized anxiety disorder and other mental health issues. This is called off-label prescribing.


As I am new here, it might be a good idea to briefly introduce myself. I am a physician, trained in Germany, whose very first post as a freshly-backed doctor happened to be in Germany’s only homeopathic hospital. At the time (mid 1970s), I had no idea that this experience would determine so much of my professional life.

Subsequently, I became a conventional doctor until I risked a complete career change: I went to London and worked in a research laboratory. This is when I began to think as a scientist. Later, I returned to Germany, did a PhD and, for many years, worked simultaneously as a scientist as well as a clinician.

Supplements gone awry.

Pregnant women are told they need folate to ensure proper neurodevelopment of their babies, but new research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests there could be serious risks in having too much of it.


Isotretinoin (popularly marketed as Accutane) is used to treat severe acne and has been approved in Canada since 1983. The average age of isotretinoin users in Canada is estimated to be 24 years, and half of all prescriptions are written for females, a concern because it can severely harm a fetus, causing craniofacial, cardiac and central nervous system defects, as well as a high likelihood of miscarriage or medical termination. 

Even Canada's program recommends informed written consent, two negative pregnancy tests before beginning treatment and the use of two reliable birth control methods during treatment, numerous studies in Canada and internationally have indicated poor adherence to pregnancy prevention guidelines among women taking isotretinoin. 


The smoking cessation aids varenicline (Chantix) and bupropion (Zyban) do not show a significant increase in neuropsychiatric adverse events compared to the nicotine patch and a placebo, according to data published in The Lancet.

After reports claiming varenicline and bupropion might cause adverse neuropsychiatric events, such as increased agitation, depression, hostility or suicidal behavior, the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested that both medications carry boxed warnings in their labeling, which resulted in limitation in use and thus fewer ways to quit.


When people take the psychedelic drug LSD, they sometimes feel as though the boundary that separates them from the rest of the world has dissolved. Now, the first functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) of people's brains while on LSD help to explain this phenomenon known as "ego dissolution."

As researchers report in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 13, these images suggest that ego dissolution occurs as regions of the brain involved in higher cognition become heavily over-connected. The findings suggest that studies of LSD and other psychedelic drugs can produce important insights into the brain. They can also provide intriguing biological insight into philosophical questions about the very nature of reality, the researchers say.