Food for Thought: Weekly Wrap-Up
Rationing medicine already is clinical reality in Germany, reports this week’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). Christina Hucklenbroich features a representative survey among the members of the German Society for Hematology and Oncology (DGHO) about therapeutic decisions in treating cancer patients. According to the survey, 59% of the responding 345 oncologists said that they abstain from treatment options if they think the therapeutic benefit is too small as compared to the cost of treatment. However, 19% responded they even refrain from therapeutic options for cost reasons even if the treatments provide an additional, considerable benefit to the patients.
Michael Feld also in FAZ reports on a study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers and the Darmstadt Economics Research Institute Wifor that Germany will be lacking 56,000 physicians and 140,000 nursing staff by 2020, a situation that will hit the eldery most. The author, a practicing physician, states that the situation is not only caused by lack of money but also by disappearing values like charity, social responsibility and a sense of honor.
Focus magazine this week features a study from the University of Michigan giving rise to concerns that taking dietary supplements and OTC medications to stimulate the immune system can be counterproductive in patients with autoimmune diseases. The study demonstrates in animals that a strong immune response to common cold viruses can exacerbate inflammations and even lead to asthma attacks while the infection with a weaker immune system proceeds without complications.
Die Welt reports about clinical results on a new test for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) communicated by the University of Leipzig. The test is based on radiolabeled Florbetaben which is injected into the blood stream. The substance binds to beta-amyloid peptides in the brain, and binding can be assessed using PET imaging. Thereby, AD can be diagnosed up to 15 years before onset of the disease. The paper does not mention, however, that the (preliminary) results are from an international multi-center Phase III trial sponsored by Bayer Schering Pharma that was designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of florbetaben (BAY 94-9172) developed by the company. PET images are compared to corresponding histo-pathological specimens. Details will be published in the next issue of Lancet Neurology.
Christian Meier, Aitziber Romero and Dino Trescher in Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) maintain that industry is trying to block attempts to regulate nanotechnology products. While the EU Commission prefers to define nanotechnology products by counting the number of particles smaller than 100 nanometers, industry wants a definition by determining the fraction of the particles contributing to the mass of the product. The authors, which claim that nanotech products bear all sorts of unforeseen health and environmental hazards, say that this is an attempt by industry to reduce the number of products defined as being nanotechnology.
The Economist makes a case in how food poisoning by EHEC, salmonella and other dangerous bacteria can be effectively prevented: radiating food. Irony is that it was Germany, the country currently suffering from the worst and most deadly EHEC epidemic ever, that vetoed a proposal by the European Commission to allow radiation for a greater range of food and at higher doses, e.g. for sprouts which caused this year’s epidemic, in 2000. However, the author doubts the epidemic will change the German government’s attitude for fear to upset Germany’s influential Green movement.
Last not least, comics are becoming increasingly popular among biotech companies and researchers. Silver Spring, MD based biotech company United Therapeutics chose to publish its annual report as a comic book, while researchers from the Department of Neurosurgery of Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf published a retrospective study on traumatic brain injuries in comics, analyzing more than 700 head injuries in the Asterix comic books: “Although over half of patients had an initially severe impairment of consciousness after TBI, no permanent deficit could be found. Roman nationality, hypoglossal paresis, lost helmet, and ingestion of the magic potion were significantly correlated with severe initial impairment of consciousness (p ≤ 0.05).”