The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Mother Nature’

“IT’S NOT NICE TO FOOL MOTHER NATURE” (PART ONE)

If you’re old enough you may remember the Chiffon Margarine commercials featuring a rather annoyed Mother Nature who was irritated that this new man-made product tasted so similar to the butter which the world had been consuming for years.  As with all other foods and drugs which are sold in America, the FDA has the responsibility of evaluating and passing on the safety of these products.

The Food and Drug Administration has its origins in the year 1862 when the Department of Agriculture was entrusted with the responsibility for conducting chemical analyses of various agricultural products.

The actual agency was officially established in 1930 as an outgrowth of the Pure Foods and Drug Act which Congress passed in 1906.  The FDA has an extremely long history of trying to make sure that the foods and drugs which enter our supply chain are safe and beneficial.  So how are they doing?

I don’t remember if the catch phrase, “Bald is beautiful,” started when the late Telly Savalas played Kojak on television but at one point you heard that statement (notably expressed by bald and balding men) whenever someone discussed hair and hair loss.  In light of recent developments regarding drugs that are intended to reverse this process, perhaps we should change the phrase to, “Bald is safer.”

The following is excerpted from a Yahoo News story:

Kevin Malley was almost 30, and he was starting to lose his hair.  He went to his doctor to see if there was a way to keep from going bald, and his doctor prescribed Propecia.

“I looked young for my age, so I wanted to hold off my hair loss for a little bit,” Malley said.  “I didn’t plan on taking Propecia for more than a year.”

Malley started taking the drug in May 2011, and by October he was completely impotent and had no sex drive whatsoever.  His body changed, even his genitals shrank, and he slipped into a mental fog that he just couldn’t clear.  His doctor told him the side effects would go away if he stopped taking the drug, so he did.  But nothing changed.

“I kept expecting the side effects to go away, but they did not, they only got worse,” he said.

Malley is not alone.  A new study published today in the Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests that for some men, the sexual side effects of Propecia may last for months to years, even after they stop taking the drug.

Researchers from George Washington University interviewed 54 men under age 40 who reported side effects for three months or more after taking Propecia, also called finasteride, to treat their hair loss.  None of the men reported have any sexual, medical or psychiatric problems before they took the drug.  Some of the men took the drug for a few weeks, others took it for years, but all of them reported side effects such as erectile dysfunction, decreased sexual drive, problems with orgasms, shrinking and painful genitals, even some neurological problems, such as depression, anxiety and mental fogginess.

Propecia was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1997, and at that time Merck noted that a few men reported sexual side effects during clinical trials of the drug.  On its website, the agency said those side effects were resolved when patients stopped taking the drug.

But the agency received more than 400 reports over 13 years from consumers reporting sexual dysfunction, and nearly 60 men reported that those side effects lasted longer than three months after the men stopped the medication.

In a statement, Merck said no evidence has proved a causal relationship between Propecia and long-lasting sexual dysfunction.

But researchers say many physicians who prescribe finasteride are likely not aware that the side effects of the drug may haunt patients for years.

“These things just get handed out left and right for any urinary symptoms,” said Dr. Ryan Terlecki, an assistant professor of urology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, who has prescribed the drug for some of his patients with enlarged prostates.

Terlecki said the findings about long-term side effects from the drug are alarming, but more research will likely be needed before doctors can know for sure that the symptoms are completely attributed to the drug.

Steven Rossello, 29, said his doctor made no mention of the potential for any sort of side effects from finasteride when he prescribed it to treat Rossello’s hair loss in 2010.

“That’s what really makes me mad.  He never mentioned any side effects, not to mention that they last forever,” Rossello said.

But after four months of taking Propecia, Rossello said he began suffering anxiety and crippling depression, along with the drug’s sexual side effects, and decided to stop taking the drug.

But his symptoms only got worse.  He was demoted from his job as an investigator for the Department of Homeland Security in Texas after his symptoms were evaluated by a psychiatrist, who pronounced him unfit for duty.  Rossello said the psychiatrist was unfamiliar with the neurological side effects of Propecia.

Abdulmaged Traish, a professor of biochemistry and urology at Boston University School of Medicine, said scientists are just beginning to investigate finasteride’s effects on the brain and nervous system.

“We are just beginning to venture in that direction.  It might be in the next five to 10 years that we may find there’s more to this story than we know now,” Traish said.

Apparently the FDA has determined that only about three percent of patients who take finasteride experience the symptoms described in this story.  Perhaps their conclusion is that is an “acceptable casualty rate,” when we consider the drug’s benefits for the remainder of the population.

But this story is hardly unique.  There are countless drugs which have been approved by the agency and which have now been recalled as being unsafe – and a concurrent number of class action law suits which have been filed because the general public was prescribed these medications.

Let’s think about the process of how a drug gets approved as a clue to why this might happen.  The research for developing the drug and the various stages of testing it are left to the pharmaceutical company.  They have a responsibility to conduct their tests in an ethical and scientific manner and then present their results to the FDA to evaluate.  Literally, billions of dollars can go into the development of a particular drug – an investment that is no small matter – and in the case of smaller companies can mean the difference between life and death.

As I said, these companies are supposed to complete their testing in an ethical and scientific manner and I’m sure that most tests are conducted that way.  But when money is involved, sometimes even the highest theoretical standards might take a back door to the “root of all evil.”

Even assuming that a drug company meets its fiduciary responsibility to the FDA and ultimately to the public, let’s consider if that is sufficient.  A typical drug, once it has been developed might endure five years of rigorous testing.  Few side effects are noted in these tests – and those results are passed along to the FDA which, seeing nothing harmful, approves the use of the drug for the stated condition.

Consider the use of cigarettes.  We know that long-term use of tobacco, however it is ingested, has serious adverse consequences – lung cancer and emphysema being two of the most obvious.  Yet if we evaluated cigarettes in the same way we evaluate new drugs using a five year time horizon, we might well conclude that there is really nothing harmful in smoking a couple of packs a day.

In other words, neither the company who has developed the drug nor the FDA really knows what, if any, the long-term consequences of taking it will be – just as we had no idea what the consequences of using DDT were.

Being un-PC I decided to begin this two part series by discussing an issue which might potentially  affect my male readers.  But ladies, take heart.  You’re up next.  What I hope that you take away from these two posts is that we’re all probably better off taking a natural rather than a man-made approach to health, diet and wellness.

Otherwise, we’re playing Russian Roulette with our lives – and Mother Nature is loading the chambers.

THE DARK SIDE

When “Star Trek” was in its original incarnation, one episode told the story of a planet that was seeking admission to The United Federation of Planets.  As part of this process, the Prime Minister of the planet and his daughter were beamed aboard the USS Enterprise.

The planet seemed as though it would be a good candidate for admission.  They were a civilized people who had ended wars among themselves centuries earlier.  Murder was unheard of among the inhabitants of this distant world.  Disease had been eradicated.

But then as now, politics had evolved very little.  The Prime Minister’s real objective was not admission into the Federation, but rather that his daughter might be exposed to a virus from these star wanderers which she could then take back to her planet and infect the population which had grown far beyond its world’s ability to support.

She indeed contracted a disease and despite Dr. McCoy’s best efforts to convince her that he could cure her of it, she chose instead, on behalf of the people of her world to return and martyr herself, infecting the population so that they might through the deaths of billions regain the balance between man and nature.

This was an eerie and disturbing episode.

So what do pollution, cutting down the rain forests, children dying of starvation and all the other myriad human and ecological problems we face have in common?

The answer, whether you believe in global warming or not, is humanity.  There is no question that we have had the biggest impact on the ecology of our world of any species that has ever walked the earth.  And at the heart of the problem is the fact that we have “been fruitful and multiplied” far more than the planet can handle.   We might have fulfilled that part of the Biblical injunction, but we have certainly failed in another – “that we be good stewards of the earth.”

For a moment I’m going to delve into the murky world of conspiracy theory.  I am going to assert for purposes of discussion that a group, we’ll call them “the Illuminati” exist and that they are truly the master manipulators in our “Deus ex machina” world.  They are the puppeteers and it is our strings they are pulling.

Enter the AIDS virus.  Was this a freak of nature – or was it engineered by man with the express intent of lowering the earth’s population?  “Test it out on the gays – no one really likes them anyway,” went the conversation at one of this group’s meetings.  “After we find out if it’s effective we can introduce it to those who are really our targets – the colored races.”

If that meeting ever took place, as “illuminated” as these people are they would seem to have failed in their mission.  “Only” thirty million people have died since the infection began – which, while a staggering number, still represents a small fraction when considering a total population in excess of seven billion.

Yet the statistics from Avert – an organization dedicated to raising awareness about how to avoid and combat the disease worldwide give some credence to the theory that the targets are indeed races of color.

According to them there are, as of 2010 approximately 34 million worldwide who are living with HIV/AIDS.  Of those a staggering 22.9 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa and another 5.3 million in the rest of Africa and in Asia.  In other words, over eighty-five percent of those with HIV/AIDS are people of colored races.

Is this merely a coincidence?  Perhaps.  We could also argue that many of these people are less educated about the cause of the disease and therefore are not taking the steps necessary to prevent infection.  Or that they are poorer and do not have access to things that are available to sexually-active individuals in the more affluent parts of the world.  Both of those statements are probably true.

But if we assume this is the way AIDS came into existence, how can we support the idea of a conspiracy on the parts of the world’s most “intelligent” people when the outcome certainly did not meet their goals?

Enter short term motivation.  Even the most brilliant of us can be distracted from our ultimate goal by monetary enrichment.  And the amount of money that has been spent combatting this plague has been of Biblical proportions.  Could something as simple as plain old-fashioned “greed” explain the cause for this apparent failure?  I’ll leave that to you to decide for yourself.

Getting away from conspiracy theories and returning to mankind’s relationship with the earth,  Mother Nature may be filling in the blanks in helping us return to a relationship of harmony with her.  It’s called the Chagas Virus – a disease affecting nearly 8 million people in Central and South America.

The number of people who are infected is growing in the same exponential way as HIV/AIDS did in its early years.  It is caused by a blood-sucking parasite – and while far less lethal than AIDS is spreading in epidemic proportions.  It has been referred to as The New AIDS of the Americas.

If humanity is going to survive the journey on the road of our very short history as master of our planet, we are going to have to set aside our sense of domination and replace it with an appreciation for the world which sustains us.  Only then will we be able to emerge from the dark side and with a new vision and respect enter the light.

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