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DCA and Cancer August 27, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Integrative Medicine, naturopathic, Naturopathic Medicine, Research.
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DCA and it's use in integrative oncology

DCA and it’s use in integrative oncology

By: Dr. Adam McLeod , ND, BSc

Several years ago there was a huge buzz in the media about Dichloroacetic Acid (DCA) and its use in cancer1. The public was outraged that DCA could be an effective cancer therapy and that the government showed little interest because DCA could not be patented. The drug companies ignored any evidence related to this therapy because without a patent it was simply not a profitable venture. Fortunately, some private researchers raised enough money to continue studies into this simple yet effective therapy.

DCA was initially used for lactic acidosis, a condition where the blood has high levels of lactic acid. The DCA inhibits the enzyme pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase which causes a major shift in metabolism from fermentation to oxidation in the mitochondria2. In other words, it forces the mitochondria in cells to become more active. This is relevant to cancer because the survival of cancer cells depends on the mitochondria being dormant. The mitochondria are capable of triggering cell death in abnormal or damaged cells. Cancer cells are grossly abnormal and they often depend on the mitochondria being inactive.

The ultimate goal of this therapy is to activate the mitochondria and allow them to trigger cell death in the abnormal cancerous cells. The DCA will certainly help to activate these pathways but it is essential that patients also exercise. By regularly doing aerobic exercise you are also stimulating the mitochondria. The excessive energetic demands during exercise trigger the mitochondria to be more active and burn oxygen. DCA when combined with exercise significantly increases the consumption of oxygen by the mitochondria which is an indication that the mitochondria are being further activated5.

It is essential for cancer patients (not just patients on DCA) to do aerobic exercise if they are physically able to. It does not matter what that type of exercise it is, just as long as it is a moderate aerobic exercise that you are able to do on a regular basis. There is an overwhelming body of evidence which clearly shows that cancer patients who regularly exercise simply do much better than those who do not. It is possible that this mitochondrial activation could be one of the reasons for this.

Most of the research seems to indicate that DCA is more effective for cancers that are localized in the nervous system3. Although it can be used for other types of cancer, it is less indicated for cancers that do not localize to the nervous system. A very common side effect from chemotherapy is neuropathy4 and DCA should be used with caution if there are any signs of neuropathy. There are no known drug interactions with DCA except for the drug Lasix which is a diuretic. Overall DCA is a very safe therapy and there are many studies that demonstrate the safety of this therapy.

The bottom line is that DCA is an effective therapy when used appropriately. It is not a cure on its own but DCA can be a major part of an effective and comprehensive integrative cancer treatment plan. It can be administered either orally or intravenously. The oral dose is typically 15-20mg/kg and it is cycled 2 weeks on followed by 1 week off. It is extremely important to have the appropriate neurological support during this therapy. DCA is known to cause significant neuropathy and you must be monitored by a physician who is experienced with the use of DCA. Common neurological support includes NAC, Thiamine (B1) and ALA. It is essential that you consult with a Naturopathic physician who focuses in oncology to know what neurological support is best suited for you.

A Naturopathic doctor that works with oncology will take the time to look at your case and will write you a prescription for DCA if it is truly indicated. Contact Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic to see if this is the right therapy for you.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

References

1) “Cheap, ‘safe’ drug kills most cancers”. New Scientist. 2007-01-17. Retrieved 2014-08-23.

2) Stacpoole PW (1989). “The pharmacology of dichloroacetate”. Metabolism 38 (11): 1124–1144. doi:10.1016/0026-0495(89)90051-6PMID 2554095

3) Michelakis E D, et al. Metabolic Modulation of Glioblastoma with Dichloriacetate. Sci Transl Med 12 May 2010: Vol. 2, Issue 31

4) Abramowski MC. Chemotherapy-Induced Neuropathic Pain. J of the Advanced Practitioner in Oncology. 2010;1:279-283.

5) Ludvik, Bernhard, et al. “Effects of dichloroacetate on exercise performance in healthy volunteers.” Pflügers Archiv 423.3-4 (1993): 251-254.

It’s Time for a New Approach to Mammograms February 13, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Diet, Dreamhealer, Energy Healing, Health, Integrative Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine, Press, Research, Skeptics.
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By: Charles J Wright

Dreamhealer_cancer

When first introduced four decades ago, breast cancer screening with mammography was widely regarded as an important tool in the fight against a terrible disease. It seemed obvious that the earlier it could be diagnosed the more lives could be saved. Aggressive treatment, it was thought, would prevent the cancer from spreading through the body. A huge amount of research evidence since then has slowly and painfully led to a different conclusion.

It is now clear that the benefits of screening mammography have been greatly exaggerated and the serious adverse effects all but ignored in the enthusiasm to support breast screening programs. It’s time for these programs to be reconsidered.

It must be emphasized that this is the case for population screening of healthy women, not those with extra high risk factors.

This is a very unpleasant message for modern developed societies where three generations of women have been led to believe that regular mammograms will save their lives and where an enormous related industry has been built up, but it is time to face the facts.

Unscientific opinions and powerful vested interests abound on this subject, so it is essential to focus on well-conducted studies from independent sources to summarize the evidence. One of the most trusted of these, the Cochrane Collaboration, has been studying screening mammography intensively. Its most recent bulletin states that the benefit of screening 2,000 women regularly for 10 years is that one woman may have her life prolonged. Of the other 1,999 women, at least 200 will have false positive mammograms leading to biopsies and surgery, and at least 10 women will be falsely diagnosed with breast cancer and consequently subjected to unnecessary surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

This problem, called over-diagnosis, occurs when a biopsy reveals microscopic cells that are currently labeled as “cancer” by the pathologist, but with uncertain potential to cause any significant problem for the patient in the future. The “c” word inevitably causes fear and distress for the patient and an aggressive treatment plan from the doctors. This is now widely recognized, even by the U.S. National Cancer Institute which has recently recommended that these uncertain “cancers” should instead be labeled “IDLE” (indolent lesions) until research can help us differentiate those that need treatment from those that do not.

Now we have more evidence. The Canadian National Breast Cancer Screening Study published this week in the British Medical Journal, and widely reported in the international media, solidly confirms that there is no upside to breast screening healthy women in terms of mortality benefit in exchange for the downside of all the adverse consequences. In this study, 90,000 women aged 40-59 were randomly allocated to the mammography screening program or to annual physical examination only, with follow up to 25 years. The mortality was the same in both groups (500 in the first group and 505 in the second).

Adverse consequences from screening can include false negatives (a cancer is growing but missed by the mammogram), and potentially cancer-causing cumulative X-ray exposure. Not to mention the anxiety, pain and discomfort that women experience with the procedure and the huge cost of these programs to the health care system.

This new study, along with the Cochrane analysis, represent the beginning of a growing consensus among scientists and clinical epidemiologists that the evidence no longer supports population screening of healthy women with mammography. Several prominent female U.K. doctors have gone public about choosing not to have breast cancer screening, including the editor of the BMJ, the past president of the Royal College of GPs, and the professor of obstetrics at King’s College London.

Nobody can be happy about all of this disappointing news with its serious public, professional and political implications, but surely we cannot ignore it. The hope that breast screening could cause a reduction in the mortality from this terrible disease was at first well placed 40 years ago, but it is no longer possible to advocate for an intervention that carries such a tiny (if any) likelihood of benefit along with such a huge burden of harmful consequences.

The very essence of science is about seeking truth through the constant cycle of evidence, analysis and revision. In response to a hostile question, John Maynard Keynes famously remarked “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” We should heed that lesson here.

It may take a long time to dispel the false hope that has been given to women with mammogram screening, but the very least and immediate response should be the development of a mandatory consent form for women to sign before screening that distinguishes the most recent and overwhelming evidence from the current inappropriate enthusiasm. Women would then be empowered to make an informed choice.

Public health agencies should also consider a comprehensive plan for public re-education about screening mammography, followed by the gradual dismantling of population breast screening programs across the country.

Retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/now-that-we-know-mammograms-are-flawed-its-time-to-change-course/article16847982/

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Trade groups take ‘supplements save health care costs’ message to Capitol Hill December 11, 2013

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Big Pharma, Cancer, Cardiovascular disease, Diet, Dreamhealer, Experiments, Government, Health, Integrative Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine.
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Adam McLeod

By: Hank Schultz

The Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus in conjunction with the leading dietary supplement industry associations held a briefing yesterday for members of Congress to drive home the point that supplements are not only good for users’ health, but good for the nation’s health care bottom line, too.

The briefing, titled “Smart Prevention: Health Care Cost Savings Utilizing Dietary Supplements,” was held by the DSC and the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the Natural Products Association (NPA), and the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA).

The message given to Congressional staffs was backed by data gather in the recent Frost and Sullivan survey commissioned by the CRN Foundation that showed that demonstrated that supplementation at preventive intake levels in high-risk populations can reduce the number of medical events associated with heart disease, age-related eye disease, diabetes, and bone disease in the United States, representing the potential for significant cost savings.

High engagement

Mike Greene, the vice president of government relations for CRN, said the message seemed to get through.  Such briefings tend to be high traffic affairs, with Congressional staffers coming and going as competing needs arise for their time.

“Typically staff members are very busy. I was interested in the simple fact that people stayed. We weren’t talking about the health benefits of dietary supplements, but we were talking about the economic benefits of dietary supplements,”Green told NutraIngredients-USA.

Part of the meeting consisted of a presentation of the report’s findings by Steve Mister, president and CEO of CRN, and included a statement by John Shaw, executive director of NPA.

“Chronic diseases are one of the greatest contributors to health care costs in this country,” said Mister. “If we can identify and motivate those at risk to effectively use dietary supplements, we can control rising societal health care costs, but also give sick individuals a chance to reduce the risk of costly events and, most importantly, to improve their quality of life.”

The new report by economic firm Frost & Sullivan that examined four different chronic diseases and the potential for health care cost savings when U.S. adults, 55 and older, diagnosed with these chronic diseases, used one of eight different dietary supplement regimens.

Systematic review

The report, performed a systematic review of hundreds of scientific studies on eight dietary supplement regimens across four diseases to determine the reduction in disease risk from these preventive practices. The firm then projected the rates of medical events across the high-risk populations and applied cost benefit analyses to determine the cost savings if people at high risk took supplements at preventive intake levels.

The report, demonstrated that supplementation at preventive intake levels in high-risk populations can reduce the number of medical events associated with heart disease, age-related eye disease, diabetes, and bone disease in the United States, representing the potential for significant cost savings.  Calculated potential savings in health care costs ranged as high as $3.9 billion for omega-3 supplements in the reduction of significant cardiac disease events.

 “Nutritional supplements proactively contribute to the overall health and well-being of American consumers. But as we can see from this data, the benefits of supplementation are much more far-reaching,”  Shaw said.

 “I’ve always known that dietary supplements have benefits. Most people know that.  But by doing this report we’ve shown that dietary supplements can reduce health care costs as well. This information is new and its fresh and it’s interesting to see how it has been received,” Greene said.

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Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors December 5, 2013

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Dreamhealer, Emotion, Genetics, Health, Integrative Medicine, Research.
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Article by: Richard Gray

dreamhealer DNA

Memories may be passed down through generations in DNA in a process that may be the underlying cause of phobias

Memories can be passed down to later generations through genetic switches that allow offspring to inherit the experience of their ancestors, according to new research that may explain how phobias can develop.

Scientists have long assumed that memories and learned experiences built up during a lifetime must be passed on by teaching later generations or through personal experience.

However, new research has shown that it is possible for some information to be inherited biologically through chemical changes that occur in DNA.

Researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, found that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences – in this case a fear of the smell of cherry blossom – to subsequent generations.

The results may help to explain why people suffer from seemingly irrational phobias – it may be based on the inherited experiences of their ancestors.

So a fear of spiders may in fact be an inherited defence mechanism laid down in a families genes by an ancestors’ frightening encounter with an arachnid.

Dr Brian Dias, from the department of psychiatry at Emory University, said: “We have begun to explore an underappreciated influence on adult behaviour – ancestral experience before conception.

“From a translational perspective, our results allow us to appreciate how the experiences of a parent, before even conceiving offspring, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations.

“Such a phenomenon may contribute to the etiology and potential intergenerational transmission of risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

In the study, which is published in the journal of Nature Neuroscience, the researchers trained mice to fear the smell of cherry blossom using electric shocks before allowing them to breed.

The offspring produced showed fearful responses to the odour of cherry blossom compared to a neutral odour, despite never having encountered them before.

The following generation also showed the same behaviour. This effect continued even if the mice had been fathered through artificial insemination.

The researchers found the brains of the trained mice and their offspring showed structural changes in areas used to detect the odour.

The DNA of the animals also carried chemical changes, known as epigenetic methylation, on the gene responsible for detecting the odour.

This suggests that experiences are somehow transferred from the brain into the genome, allowing them to be passed on to later generations.

The researchers now hope to carry out further work to understand how the information comes to be stored on the DNA in the first place.

They also want to explore whether similar effects can be seen in the genes of humans.

Professor Marcus Pembrey, a paediatric geneticist at University College London, said the work provided “compelling evidence” for the biological transmission of memory.

He added: “It addresses constitutional fearfulness that is highly relevant to phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders, plus the controversial subject of transmission of the ‘memory’ of ancestral experience down the generations.

“It is high time public health researchers took human transgenerational responses seriously.

“I suspect we will not understand the rise in neuropsychiatric disorders or obesity, diabetes and metabolic disruptions generally without taking a multigenerational approach.”

Professor Wolf Reik, head of epigenetics at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, said, however, further work was needed before such results could be applied to humans.

He said: “These types of results are encouraging as they suggest that transgenerational inheritance exists and is mediated by epigenetics, but more careful mechanistic study of animal models is needed before extrapolating such findings to humans.”

It comes as another study in mice has shown that their ability to remember can be effected by the presence of immune system factors in their mother’s milk

Dr Miklos Toth, from Weill Cornell Medical College, found that chemokines carried in a mother’s milk caused changes in the brains of their offspring, affecting their memory in later life.

Article retrieved from:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10486479/Phobias-may-be-memories-passed-down-in-genes-from-ancestors.html

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The Radiation Warnings You Won’t Get from the Mainstream Propaganda Machine December 2, 2013

Posted by Dreamhealer in Cancer, Diet, Government, Healing, Health, Healthcare, Longevity, Pollution, Polutants, Press, social media, Television.
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Radiation update provided by Daisy Luther and co-author NinaO. This report was originally published at Inalienably Yours.

japan-radiation-dream healer

The mainstream media and the federal government will soon have the blood of the world on it’s hands.

Radiation from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant disaster in Japan is now actively in the ecosystem all along the North American west coast… even the sea weed is now radiated.  The Vancouver Sun reported one year ago that the seaweed tested from waters off the coast of British Columbia were 4 times the amount considered safe.  No further test results were released after the initial report.

The governments of the United States and Canada are not conducting tests for radioactivity – at least not to the knowledge of the public.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has agreed to continue purchasing seafood from Japan, despite the fact that the food is not being tested for radioactive contamination.  Last November, independent testing in Japan showed 65 per cent of the catches tested positive for cesium (a radioactive material).  Instead of refusing to purchase the poisoned fish, food safety agencies in both the United States and Canada have simply raised the “acceptable level of radiation.”  We can’t go offending the Japanese after promising to buy their tainted goods, now can we?

After the North American governments refused to fund testing, oceanographer Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the non-profit Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass, along with Nicholas Fisher, a marine sciences professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and other concerned scientists, managed to secure private funding for a Pacific research voyage.  The results?

Cesium levels in the Pacific had initially gone up an astonishing 45 million times above pre-accident levels. The levels then declined rapidly for a while, but after that, they unexpectedly levelled off.

In July, cesium levels stopped declining and remained stuck at 10,000 times above pre-accident levels.

This means the ocean isn’t diluting the radiation as expected. If it had been, cesium levels would have kept falling.

The finding suggests that radiation is still being released into the ocean long after the accident in March, 2011.

Less than two weeks after the tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster, Michael Kane, an investigative journalist, reported, “In the wake of the continuing nuclear tragedy in Japan, the United States government is still moving quickly to increase the amounts of radiation the population can “safely” absorb by raising the safe zone for exposure to levels designed to protect the government and nuclear industry more than human life.”

The radiation has absolutely reached the shores of North America.  Water samples from across the continent have tested positive for unsafe levels of radioactivity.  The levels exceeded federal drinking water thresholds, known as maximum contaminant levels, or MCL, by as much as 181 times.”This means that the complete ecosystem of the Pacific Ocean is now poisoned with radiation and we aren’t being warned.

Samples of milk taken across the United States have shown radiation at levels 2000 percent higher than EPA maximums.  The reason that milk is so significant is that it it representative of the entire food supply.  According to an article published on Natural News, “Cows consume grass and are exposed to the same elements as food crops and water supplies. In other words, when cows’ milk starts testing positive for high levels of radioactive elements, this is indicative of radioactive contamination of the entire food supply.”

The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, instead of refusing to prohibit the sale of tainted foods and mandatory testing of foods produced and harvested from the Pacific Coast, have simply raised the “acceptable levels”  of radioactive material in foods.

Clearly, the “it’s-all-for-your-own-good” government will not protect us, or even inform us of the dangers so we can protect ourselves, because it might dip into the pockets of the global elite, the nuclear energy industry, and the food industries.  There is big money behind this cover-up. Refusing to purchase and consume their tainted goods is the best way to fight back, while keeping our families safe and healthy.

How can we protect ourselves? First, be aware of what items are likely to be highly tainted.

1.)  SEAFOOD:  Question the origin of ALL seafood.  Fish and crustaceans from the Pacific Ocean should all be considered to be poisoned with radiation.

2.)  WATER:  The rainfall and snowfall are all radiated.  Do not drink any water that has not been filtered.   The tap water that flows from your faucet has NOT been treated to rid it of radioactive particles. A recent report from the NY Times stated, “A rooftop water monitoring program managed by UC Berkeley’s Department of Nuclear Engineering detected substantial spikes in rain-borne iodine-131 during torrential downpours …

3.) DAIRY PRODUCTS:  Milk and milk products from the West Coast states currently have the highest levels of radiation in North America.

4.)  PRODUCE:  Leafy Vegetables, Wines, Tomatoes, Strawberries….all produce from California or any other West Coast State are also likely to be tainted.

5.)  MEAT:  If a animal eats any leafy vegetable all along the West Coast, that animal has consumed radiation, and is poisoned.  This is any animal from cows, pigs, goats, sheep to wild deer and other game.

If you eat the above foods from areas with high radiation levels, you are eating radiation and feeding it to your children. Slowly the radiation levels within your body will build up.  This is PERMANENT.

Infant mortality rates across the United States have increased by more than 35% since the nuclear disaster, according to a court statement by Dr. with independent scientist Leuren Moret, MA, PhD.  A study published in The International Journal of Medicine indicates that more than 20,000 deaths right here in North America can be directly attributed to the release of radioactive material from Fukushima.

Radioactive isotopes of the type released from Fukushima have a half life of 30,000 years.  This means that we must permanently change the way we prepare our food.

  • Wash your food with soap and rinse it in filtered water. 
  • Be aware of the origins of your vegetables, fish, game and seafood.
  • Keep abreast of radiation levels to help monitor where your food is acquired.
  • Use only filtered water for drinking, cooking and ice.

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Flu Deaths reality check November 21, 2013

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Dreamhealer, Healing, Healthcare, Research.
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Adam Dreamhealer

By: Kelly Crowe, CBC News

Do thousands of Canadians really die every year from the flu? The flu folks keep saying so. I’ve already heard it repeated several times this year and flu season has just started. This is what the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a recent press release: “Every year, between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die of the flu and its complications.”

In a CBC interview a few weeks ago an editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal said: “Four thousand to 8,000  people die every year of influenza.”

It comes directly from the desk of Canada’s chief public health officer. “The flu is serious,” he tells us from his website. “Every year, between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die of the flu and its complications.”

Did you ever wonder how they know that? The fact is, they don’t know that. “This is a scientific guess. This is not the truth,” Dr. Michael Gardam, director of the infection prevention and control unit at the University Health Network in Toronto and a longtime flu watcher, told me.

The fact is, no one knows how many people die after being infected with the flu virus. The death estimates are not based on body counts, lab tests or autopsies.

“I think people may have the misconception that every person who dies from the flu is somehow counted somewhere, and they’re not,” Gardam said.

The “2,000 to 8,000” numbers are based on computer models — a statistical guess that comes out of the end of a mathematical formula that makes a range of assumptions about death and flu.

“They’re tossing it into a big computer and they’re churning out estimates,” Gardam said as he scribbled numbers on a white board to show me how the models work.

One model counts all respiratory and circulatory deaths — that’s death from heart and lung failure — as flu deaths.

“As an upper limit, they are looking at everybody who died of a heart and lung problem,” Gardam said. “So you could imagine this could include people who died of a heart attack that had nothing to do with flu, but the feeling is that anybody who died of flu should be captured in there, plus a lot of other people.”

At the lower end of that model they count the number of deaths officially listed as “influenza” on the death certificate, plus all deaths from pneumonia — even though not all pneumonia is caused by flu.

“That is going to include obviously people who died specifically of those, but it might miss people who died of influenza but who didn’t get tested, for example,” Gardam said.

Data can include deaths by poison

Another model assumes that every extra death that happens in the winter is a flu death. At the risk of oversimplifying, this is the basic formula of that model: winter deaths (minus) summer deaths = death by flu virus.

That includes winter deaths from slippery sidewalks, snowy roads, freezing temperatures, plus all the winter heart failure, lung failure and deaths from cancer. In the language of the computer model, all excess mortality in winter is considered “death by flu.”

The model extrapolates that the flu virus will cause more deaths across all causes, including “disorders of the nervous system,” stroke and “disorders of the digestive system.” Which means that according to the model, flu causes 33 more “accidental falls” every year, 18 more “accidental poisonings,” and 68 more deaths from “psychotic conditions.” But what does flu have to do with deaths from accidental poisonings or accidental falls?

‘If they don’t collect that information, how do they know that their policies will work? This is called faith-based medicine.’— Dr. Tom Jefferson

How reliable are the computer model estimates? “I don’t think they’re reliable at all,” Dr. Tom Jefferson told me. He is a Rome-based researcher with the Cochrane Collaboration, and he spends his days reviewing all the research on acute respiratory infections and vaccines. He said hard data on flu deaths “are difficult to get hold of for obvious reasons. So enter modelling, which is nothing more than guesswork, highly sensitive to the assumptions you feed into the model. ‘Give me a model and I will make it say whatever you want,’ a colleague of mine always repeats.”

The models are only as good as the data sets that are fed into them. And death can be complicated. If someone already extremely fragile with heart or lung disease is tipped over the edge with a flu infection, is that a flu death, or a heart death or a lung death? Which database gets to claim it?

“The only mortality estimates which have any credibility are those based on post mortem examinations and tests which were done before death,” Jefferson said.

Flu death statistics not collected

In a perfect world, the flu death statistic would be based on an actual count of confirmed deaths after infection with the flu virus. But that’s difficult to do, because autopsies are almost never done, lab tests for the flu virus are rarely done, and someone could die from the complications of flu even though the virus is no longer detectable in their bodies.

The numbers we do have don’t even come close to the computer estimates. In Statistics Canada’s “deaths and mortality” table, under “cause of death: influenza,” there were only about 300 deaths a year between 2000 and 2008. Public health officials don’t trust that number. They believe it underestimates the true death toll from flu.

But Jefferson believes the models overstate the risk from influenza. “There are no real figures on deaths from influenza. They don’t collect that information,” he said. “So if they don’t collect that information, how do they know it’s a threat? And if they don’t collect that information, how do they know that their policies will work? This is called faith-based medicine, not evidence-based medicine.”

Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease expert at Toronto’s University Health Network, says estimates of the number of flu deaths each year “vary a great deal depending on which research paper you read.” (CBC)

“Could the deaths be being caused by other pathogens? It’s an important question,” Dr. Kumanan Wilson told me. He holds the Canada Research Chair in public health policy at the University of Ottawa. He’s also a hospital clinician who has seen many flu seasons.

“We see lots of people coming in with upper respiratory infections and we don’t know what causes it. Sometimes if they are really sick, we’ll test for influenza. We rarely test for anything else.”

One of the few attempts to check the accuracy of the models in assessing flu deaths was done by one of Wilson’s master’s students, and her thesis is interesting reading.

Using data from three Ottawa hospitals over seven flu seasons, Tiffany Smith did two things. First, she counted the patients who died from flu, according to a doctor’s diagnosis. Then, using one of the official flu modelling methods, she ran a computer model to see how close the actual body count matched the statistical estimates. Her result? The statistical model predicted eight times as many deaths from flu as there were actual clinical cases.

“I have found evidence to suggest that point estimates of influenza burden generated using statistical models may not be reliable,” she concluded, “and that more research is required to understand the limitations of this methodology.”

Remember, that’s an unpublished thesis, not a peer-reviewed study. But Wilson said it was a well done paper that posed some important questions.

Flu models versus counts

Getting back to the question of how deadly influenza really is, fate did offer up a chance to check the model predictions when the flu pandemic hit in 2009, and the world faced a new influenza threat called H1N1.

Back then a flu expert told me that the pandemic would be a rare opportunity to check the true death toll from flu, because, for the first time, there was widespread lab testing, a national reporting system, and all eyes were on potential flu-related deaths. The final count: 428 deaths, which is much closer to the seasonal average of around 300 recorded in the vital statistics tables than to the 2,000 to 8,000 deaths estimated for the average flu season by the computer models.

So how did the models rate after a real life test? “The predictive models of 2009 of influenza have actually been a complete failure,” respiratory-infection expert Jefferson said.

“Ranges like 2,000 to 4,000 or even 8,000 influenza-related deaths a year are thrown around each flu season, and policy decisions and flu shot campaigns are based on these numbers,” Michael Gardam told me. “I think it is important for us to remember that these numbers are estimates and certainly not written in stone. These numbers vary a great deal depending on which research paper you read.”

There’s another point to consider here. Using death estimates is the scariest way to talk about the risk from flu, because 8,000 thousand sounds like a lot of deaths. But if you ask, “8,000 deaths out of how many people?” suddenly the risk seems much smaller. In fact, it would be 8,000 deaths among 35 million Canadians. In other words, in a normal flu season, about  0.02 per cent of Canadians are in danger of dying from the flu, using the highest estimate. Another way to look at it is this: 99.98 per cent of Canadians will not die of flu this year.

Undermining flu campaigns

So are the statistical models exaggerating the death toll from flu? “Not enough people have been asking these questions,”  the University of Ottawa’s Wilson said. “These are complicated models. There are multiple ways to calculate the information. Five different analysts with the same data can come up with five different estimates. It depends on how they calculate base line risk, how they define when the season begins, how to run the model. There are lots of potential variables in the model that will influence your answer.”

Influenza prevention has become an industry fuelled by poor science, says Dr. Tom Jefferson. (CBC)

For proof of how models keep changing their estimates, look back at Canada’s flu files. More than a decade ago, flu was estimated to kill about 500 to 1,500 Canadians every year. But in 2003 Health Canada changed models, and the estimates jumped to “700 to 2,500 per annum.” The 2,500 deaths at the upper end of that range quickly became the lower end, when an even newer model was tried in 2007, pushing the upper limit to 8,000 based on the severe flu seasons of 1997 to 1999.

“Influenza prevention has become an industry fuelled by poor science and propelled by conflicted decision makers,” Jefferson said. “This is the significance of the upward creep that you have been witnessing and the chasm that now exists between policy makers and evidence.

“The proof of what I am saying is in the answer to the question: How many die every year? Answer: maybe 300 or maybe 9,000. We are not sure. If you do not know, how can you have such a costly policy and most of all how can you evaluate it?”

When I asked him if there are consequences from over-stating the mortality impact of flu, Jefferson answered: “Yes. Scaring people justifies evidence-free policies. Yes, no one knows exactly what the threat is. The only certainty are the returns for industry.”

Wilson is concerned that overstating deaths could undermine the annual flu campaign. “I think this is a potential risk,” he said. “It’s a good idea to try to capture the number of deaths. People just need to reflect the fact that there is a lot of uncertainty in these numbers and that has not necessarily been conveyed. Even if the estimate is 1,000 or 2,000, it’s a big number. A more conservative approach might be better to convince people it’s a real disease that we have to take seriously.”

One expert I talked to suggests that at least some of the cost of the annual flu campaign should be directed at finding out how much death the virus actually causes every year, by using a system of doctors and hospitals to track laboratory confirmation of flu infections and flu mortality.

The flu virus has lots of ugly company in the winter — less famous viruses such as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus); the ubiquitous cold bugs, including the coronavirus and the adenovirus; as well as Streptococcus pneumonia and all of its bacterial friends. Influenza is certainly one of the nastiest viruses in the group. It also happens to be the only one with a vaccine.

“You’ve got to wonder: The stuff we’re attributing to influenza, how much of that is actually true and how much of that is other viruses? We don’t know because they haven’t been studied,” University Health Network’s Gardam said.

Just 1 death this year

For the record, how many official deaths from flu have been reported so far this year? One.

And finally, as promised, here’s the official response I received  from the Public Health Agency of Canada:

Q1. How are the numbers derived? (i.e., how is it counted? are there any statistical models?) The number of flu related hospitalizations and deaths is not a straightforward estimate, given that influenza is such a non-specific illness and its diagnosis is under-reported. Patients with influenza complications or an exacerbation of their underlying chronic medical condition are often not reported as influenza related.

PHAC has taken data collected by Statistics Canada and hospital discharge records from the Canadian Institute of Health Information and applied statistical techniques to provide an estimate of influenza related deaths.

Q2. Are the numbers an average over the last 10 years? Have the numbers stabilized?

As previously indicated, it is difficult to assess the true burden of influenza in terms of incidence, deaths and hospitalization. However, it is estimated that, on average, the flu and its complications send about 20,000 Canadians to hospital every year, and between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die.

Q3. Why is it important to inform Canadians about  these death statistics?

Reporting on these death statistics informs Canadians that infection with influenza can be severe and in some cases result in death. Hence, Canadians should get their seasonal flu shot to prevent infection and to practice infection control measures such as hand washing, cough etiquette and staying home when sick to prevent spread.

Article retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/health/story/1.1127442

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Drug slows brain cancer April 23, 2009

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Adults facing a death sentence from the most aggressive form of brain cancer may now find a brighter future, thanks to a groundbreaking discovery by University of Calgary researchers. Read More…. 

 

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