Second Wind: Frankly, fickle medical researchers get on my nerves |

Second Wind: Frankly, fickle medical researchers get on my nerves

You spend the first 50 years of your life learning what’s true and the next 50 unlearning what you learned in the first 50. Before I hit the half-century mark, I used to think that was a cynical take on life, but now, teetering on the brink of geezerhood, I think it may be true.

Let me count the ways I’ve gone into reverse: I was taught that virtue was always rewarded, that nothing bad happened to good people, and that you could trust expert opinion -after all, they were the experts and you were the intellectual peon.

And the last idea – the one about experts always being right – is what I am unlearning so rapidly that my old brain cells are shedding on the rugs. There’s a discarded opinion hanging from the back of the sofa and another on the counter in the bathroon – old opinions in the garbage and some in front of the house in a box marked “Free.”

The medical opinion see-saw

Frankly, it’s the researchers in the medical field who get on my nerves. They reverse the “truth” far too often. What we used to count on, we can’t count on any more. For how many years were we women told to take estrogen? We were all full-figured wenches in those days. Now, it’s: Don’t take estrogen. Nasty stuff.

Oh. OK.

And so we said goodbye to our C cups.

And there are the other pills that went from the medicine chest to the garbage can when they were withdrawn from the market. Our landfills are littered with discarded medicine bottles and 20 years from now there’ll probably be Vioxx in the ground water.

The latest reversal

This month one of the main “truths” about medical approaches to diabetes took a dive. The headline? “Diabetes Study Partially Halted After Deaths.” Why? An intensive effort to lower blood sugar – once thought to be a ticket to better health – actually resulted in more deaths.

“It’s confusing and disturbing that this happened. For 50 years we’ve talked about getting blood sugar very low” said Dr. James Dove, the president of the American College of Cardiology.

You said it, doc.

Not just me

Lest you think it’s just this columnist who is cranky about the pharmaceutical research trends in the USA, a 2007 Consumer’s Report on the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry said that 9 out of 10 Americans want reform in this area. They want warning labels, follow-up safety studies for already released drugs and public disclosure of all clinical trials, not just the ones that make a drug look good.

I think the people – not the experts – are on to something here. With these reforms in place, with full, honest and complete information, maybe the number of medical reversals would go down. The data would be more solid from the start.

If you want to know more, read The Truth About Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What To Do About It by Marcia Angell, M.D., former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Words for the Wise

To keep yourself healthy, find good information at and at Click on Health Research Group.

If you are diabetic, talk to your own doc about the recent news from the diabetic study and what it may mean to your treatment.

Now I don’t mean to condemn all drugs, researchers or drug companies. Who has not been helped by this industry? Think immunizations, the advent of polio shots, the antibiotics that got your fever down. But there is current skullduggery in this corporate sector and it should be addressed.

One thing to focus on: As Dr. Angell notes, drug companies now pay the FDA to review each submitted drug, about a half-million dollars for each drug and in total, a “substantial part of the FDA budget.”

Well, here’s one truth hasn’t changed in over 50 years: He who pays the piper calls the tune and if we don’t like these tunes, we taxpayers better step up to hire the piper ourselves.


Mel Walsh is a gerontologist and certifiable geezer. Her book of advice for older women, Hot Granny, is available at The Bookseller in Grass Valley and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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