Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Pharmaceuticals For All

Big Pharma has been trending this direction for a long time: marketing medicines to people who don't need them and who have nothing wrong with their health. It's all part of a ploy to position prescription drugs as nutrients -- things you need to take on a regular basis in order to prevent disease.

The FDA recently gave its nod of approval on the matter, announcing that Crestor can now be advertised and prescribed as a "preventive" medicine. No longer does a patient need to have anything wrong with them to warrant this expensive prescription medication: They only need to remember the brand name of the drug from television ads.

This FDA approval for the marketing of Crestor to healthy people is a breakthrough for wealthy drug companies. Selling drugs only to people who are sick is, by definition, a limited market. Expanding drug revenues requires reaching people who have nothing wrong with them and convincing them that taking a cocktail of daily pharmaceuticals will somehow keep them healthy.

All this is, of course, the greatest quackery we've yet seen from Big Pharma, because once this floodgate of "preventive pharmaceuticals" is unleashed, the drug companies will be positioned to promote a bewildering array of other preventive chemicals you're supposed to take at the same time. Did you take your anti-cancer pill today? How about your anti-diabetes pill? Anti-cholesterol pill? Don't forget your anti-Alzheimer's pill, too.

Medications are not vitamins

The very idea that these drugs can somehow prevent a person from becoming sick in the future strains the boundaries of scientific credibility. Only natural therapies like nutrition can prevent the onset of disease, not patented chemicals that don't belong in the human body in the first place.

The logical argument of the drug companies who push these "preventive" prescriptions is essentially that the human body is deficient in pharmaceuticals, and that deficiency can only be corrected by taking whatever brand-name drugs they show you on television. Forget about deficiencies in zinc, or vitamin D, or living enzymes; what your body really needs is more synthetic chemicals!

The FDA agrees with this loopy logic. And why wouldn't it? Subscribing to this pharmaceutical delusion is an easy way to instantly expand Big Pharma's customer base by tens of millions. Overnight, the market for Crestor ballooned from a few million people with high cholesterol to the entire U.S. population of 300 million people.

If Crestor can help healthy people be healthier (which it can't, but let's play along with this delusion for the sake of argument), then it's only a matter of time before they start adding Crestor to infant formula. I mean, why not? If it's so good for healthy people, then it must make babies healthier, too, right?

So let's add Crestor to sports drinks. Let's sprinkle it into the iodized salt supply. Let's drip it into the municipal water! (Don't laugh: This idea of dripping cholesterol drugs into the water supply has already been suggested by more than one doctor.) Let's merge the pharmaceutical supply with the food supply and charge people prescription drugs prices for "functional" foods laced with these chemicals!

Pharmaceutical deficiency

That's really where all this is headed. When medicines are approved as preventive "nutrients" for the human body, it's only a matter of time before the industry starts talking about your "pharmaceutical deficiency."

Not taking any medications? You have a pharmaceutical deficiency, and it needs to be corrected by taking more prescription drugs. But don't bother with actual nutrition, because nutrients have absolutely no role in preventing disease, the FDA claims. No nutrient has ever been approved by the FDA for the prevention or treatment of any disease whatsoever.

The message from the FDA is quite clear on this: Nutrients are useless, and you should eat medications as if they were vitamins.

Patented Big Pharma chemicals, after all, provide all the nutrition you'll ever need!

Source - Natural News

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Medical Journalism Suspect

Doctors and researchers are beginning to question the outlandish claims being made by the media in response to alleged breakthroughs in cancer research. In an editorial published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI), several doctors expressed concern that news pieces fail to accurately reflect the truth concerning drugs and scientific studies.

Drs. Lisa Schwartz and Steven Woloshin from the Center for Medicine and the Media at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in New Hampshire, along with Dr. Barnett Kramer from JNCI, examined media claims about a new anti-cancer drug called olaparib that was reported on in the acclaimed New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). Though the study was uncontrolled and preliminary, some sources were claiming it as the most important cancer breakthrough in ten years.

Another report exaggerated study findings concerning alcohol and cancer risk. In response to a study that showed a two-percent increase in breast cancer risk from drinking one alcoholic beverage a day versus not drinking at all, one media source produced a headline that said, "A drink a day raises a women's risk of cancer", with no mention of the important details in the article. Perhaps a simple oversight, the coverage failed to accurately assess the truth and may have needlessly scared readers concerning alcohol consumption.

Coverage concerning pharmaceutical drugs is often the most inaccurate. Aside from the fact that many drug studies are corrupted from the start because of who is bankrolling them, negative findings are often omitted from the results while miniscule benefits are highlighted as breakthroughs. The intensity and rate of severe negative side effects from pharmaceutical drugs is routinely left out of mainstream reports concerning drug study results.

Some of the most common drugs for which exaggerated and inaccurate claims are made include antidepressant medications, statin drugs, and vaccines. Not only are they typically ineffective at performing the task for which they are prescribed, they are highly dangerous and come with significant side effects.

Since many medical journals themselves omit important study details, it is no wonder that coverage problems are occurring. Editorialists at JNCI are encouraging editors of medical journals and journalists to utilize a tip sheet they created that will assist in gathering accurate, thorough information concerning study findings. It offers assistance in knowing what questions to ask, interpreting data and statistics, and indicating the existence of study flaws and limitations in reports. They hope that improvements in the way journalists research information will lead to more accurate reporting.

Source - Natural News

Monday, December 07, 2009

My Way

Mexico's Upcoming Collapse?

I’ve been predicting the collapse of the Mexican Nation-State since 2006. It turns out that was a bit premature. But with violence flaring, the potential for collapse in Mexico is once again in the headlines. Oil production continues to fall, border violence is up, and the government is preparing for a showdown with the drug cartels. I’ll argue below that the government will keep the wheels on through 2009, but that the Mexican state will collapse shortly thereafter, ushering in the beginning of the end of the Nation-State.

It’s been difficult to read a paper or watch the news recently without hearing about the growing troubles in Mexico. The US military’s Joint Forces Command issued their Joint Operating Environment 2008 report recently that listed Mexico and Pakistan as the most likely states to collapse in the immediate future (PDF, see p.35 for analysis of Mexico). Even 60 minutes ran a segment about the rising drug violence.

Of course, readers are probably already aware that a root cause of the problems in Mexico is the precipitous decline of Mexican oil production and an even faster decline in the level of oil exports. Add to that declining remittance incomes being sent home by migrant workers in America, declining tourist revenues, and lower revenue per barrel of oil exported, and the Mexican state is experiencing a severe financial crunch.

While the fiscal stability of the Mexican state is impacted by continually declining oil production and oil exports that are declining even faster, this impact is mitigated to some extent because PEMEX hedged the majority of its oil production through 2009 at roughly $70/barrel. Depending on the price of oil in 2010, Mexican oil revenues stand to drop off a cliff as PEMEX loses hedge coverage.

Does this mean the Mexican state is finished? The current crack-down by the Mexican military and federal police is, I think, best seen as a last-ditch effort to save the state. But it is also evidence that, by the very existence of this pitched battle, the state retains enough viability to pose a threat, and therefore to be targeted.

In military theory, pitched battles are only consciously joined by both sides when both have an incentive to risk the main body of their force—-either because they think they can win a decisive victory or because they are running out of the political, logistical, or economic ability to sustain their army in the field and must seek a decisive action while they can.

Clearly the drug cartels smell blood—-and tactics like forcing the resignation of the Juarez police chief by killing one or more police officers every 48 hours demonstrate their desire for a decisive engagement. Additionally, the motivation behind a recent truce among rival drug cartels may be to facilitate a joint offensive against the government.

In my opinion, the Mexican government is seeking a pitched battle for the second reason—with their oil hedges only in place through 2009, and with oil production, remittance income, and tourism dollars poised to continue a sharp decline, the state may not have much more than a year of financial viability in which to cripple the drug cartels.

While a pitched battle may be politically expedient for the state, I think the cartels are too widespread and deeply ingrained to be defeated militarily. Salvation for the Mexican state will require regaining the long-term ability to compete with the cartels as a provider of social order and economic activity—-something that cannot be gained on the battlefield. At a minimum, in order to finance its ongoing viability, the state needs significantly higher oil prices to increase export revenue or a rapid recovery in the US to generate an increase in remittance income. Given the current economic climate, the occurrence of both of these seems highly unlikely—-there is simply no way of knowing where the tipping point lies, whether either one of these factors, or both, can save the Mexican state from eventual collapse. And without a renewed fiscal foundation, the eventual collapse of the Mexican state seems inevitable…

Impacts of Increasing Instability in Mexico

First, the increasing instability in Mexico will have a significant impact on PEMEX’s ability to maintain the necessary levels of investment to minimize production declines. This creates a positive feedback-loop: faster declines mean more financial difficulties, more instability, and less investment, precipitating even faster declines. In 2009, PEMEX plans capital expenditures of roughly $20 Billion. Traditionally, due to laws that prevent foreign ownership of many categories of natural resources, PEMEX has relied on debt to finance capital expenditures. More recently, PEMEX has also been pushing for a reform to the Mexican oil law that would allow foreign companies an ownership stake in Mexican projects in exchange for investment. Regardless of whether PEMEX pursues debt or equity financing, instability in Mexico’s property rights regime—-certainly including the potential for governmental collapse—-will seriously hamper these efforts.

Certainly the impact of disintegration in Mexico will have an impact north of the border. There is already a clear spill-over in criminal activity in border states. At some point, the national security threat to the United States will bring calls for intervention—but are there any effective options? The sprawling yet dense cities and mountainous rural terrain of Northern Mexico should give any military planners pause, especially in light of recent American experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some commentators have even suggested that Mexico, not Iraq or Russia or Afghanistan, will be the defining national security challenge of the Obama administration.

The potential impact on Mexican oil production seems clear. More superficially, the situation in Mexico gives commentators of all stripes something to worry about. The spill-over of drug violence seems to preoccupy most mainstream talking-heads, but a few commentators have traced these problems back to their roots—and see a much more troubling threat. Specifically, the troubles in Mexico are an early sign of the failure of the Nation-State model. I’ve written about this extensively, and my intent here is not to re-hash my critique of the Nation-State system: if you’re interested, here’s an academic paper on the topic. The key is that the trends pulling Mexico apart at the seams are ubiquitous—-Mexico is merely facing this perfect storm first. As the Nation-State dominos begin to tumble next--Pakistan perhaps, then Iraq, then Russia, then Italy, then China, then Indonesia, etc.—-the pressure on the rest will grow. And many of the most threatened states are also the most critical to global oil exports.

While I don’t think Mexico—in its current form—has many years left, I hope I’m wrong. It’s a beautiful country (especially if you can get outside the Americanized hotel zones), with a vibrant culture. It may even prosper in a post-peak world under some different form of social and political organization. And a token state-shell may last for decades (another global trend, I suspect)—after all, the cartels will probably be happy to delegate parts of the social contract to the “sovereign.” But, for all practical purposes, the Mexican state won’t survive to see 2012.

Source - Jeff Vail