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.
Cancer is a leading cause of illness and death worldwide. In 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recorded 8.8 million cancer-related deaths and nearly twice that are diagnosed each year. Since people are living longer, cancer diagnoses is likely to continue to increase by about 70% for at least the next two decades.

Given that more cancers are likely in the developing world, the search is on for treatments  that are simple and inexpensive to manufacture. The answer may lie in herbal medicine. The problem, as always, is that while there are numerous anecdotes about those, there are few studies. 
A new study from the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine has found a connection between common household chemicals, quaternary ammonium compounds or "quats,", and birth defects, despite the fact that experts have never found evidence of harm.

Quats are often used as disinfectants and preservatives in household and personal products such as cleaners, laundry detergent, fabric softener, shampoo and conditioner, and eye drops. The research declared a link between quats and neural tube birth defects in both mice and rats and immediately sent out a press release, hoping mainstream journalists who love weak correlational studies will believe that mice are little people.
It's manna from heaven for sue-and-settle law firms; a new paper links common antibiotics, such as macrolides, quinolones, tetracyclines, sulfonamides and metronidazole, to an increased risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy.

The association was weak, but juries won't know that, because Dr. Anick Bérard, Faculty of Pharmacy, Université de Montréal, declared, "our investigation shows that certain types of antibiotics are increasing the risk of spontaneous abortion, with a 60% to two-fold increased risk." That's important, since baseline risk of spontaneous abortion is 30 percent, but the women who miscarried in this study were more likely to be older, living alone and to have multiple health issues and infections. 
The opioid epidemic has exploded into the national consciousness in the last two years. While anti-medicine groups seek to lay blame on pharmaceutical companies and doctors who give out prescriptions too easily, other groups wonder why the crack epidemic, which was far worse, got less attention, and suggest it is because addiction is exculpatory when the victims are white.
Betel quid is areca nuts mixed with betel, and sometimes tobacco, leaves. It creates a sense of euphoria so many of the 600 million users are addicted, even though it can cause harm. Quids are prepared by mixing sliced areca nuts with slaked lime (calcium hydroxide), spices, sweets and in some cases tobacco, and wrapping the concoction in leaves from the betel vine.

Quid chewing turns users' teeth bright red and forces them to spit out a lot of red saliva, which discolors local sidewalks and buildings. Quid use is addictive and leads to serious health effects including oral cancer and cardiovascular issues.
A chronic inflammatory process that may trigger cardiovascular problems could be solved by what's in a cup of coffee, according to a recent paper.

Using survey data, medical and family histories and blood samples of over 100 human participants in the Stanford-Ellison cohort, a long-term program begun 10 years to study the immunology of aging(1), has revealed a fundamental inflammatory mechanism associated with human aging and implicates this inflammatory process as a driver of cardiovascular disease and increased rates of mortality overall. Metabolites, or breakdown products, of nucleic acids — the molecules that serve as building blocks for our genes — circulating in the blood can trigger this inflammatory process, the study found.
Though opiods are getting all of the government attention, and the substitute fentanyl all of the attention in media, they are not the only substances putting people at risk. Kratom has gotten some media attention, but among users, psilocybin-containing 'magic mushrooms' are a bigger worry, with more than 10 percent in a recent survey believing their worst 'bad trip' had put themselves or others in harm's way, and a substantial majority called their most distressing episode one of the top 10 biggest challenges of their lives.
Ineffective drugs are generally a bad idea - natural medicine, osteopathy and homeopathy are not considered medicine because they can't demonstrate efficacy, and chemotherapy drugs are expensive so the standard is higher.

But when it comes to the devastating brain tumor called glioblastoma multiforme, some patients have benefited from treatment with a class of chemotherapy drugs that two previous large clinical trials indicated was ineffective against the disease. The chemotherapy drugs block the growth of new blood vessels in the tumor and the patients lived an average of about one year longer than those who were given other classes of chemotherapy drugs.
When the oddly-named Baby Boom generation (the "boom" happened in 1946, after soldiers returned from World War II, it wasn't an entire generation) were young, it was the age of "Reefer Madness", with kids involved in manslaughter, suicide, and a whole bunch else thanks to marijuana.