Friday, September 10, 2004
1. SUPPLEMENTS: ANCIENT CHINESE WISDOM - OR A DEADLY HERBAL SCAM?
Two years ago WN related the tale of PC-SPES, a mixture of seven Chinese herbs sold by Botanic Labs to promote "prostate health" (WN 06 Sep 02). WN learned about it from Paul Goldberg, editor of the Cancer Letter, a Washington publication. Sunday's Washington Post carried a front-page account of the PC-SPES disaster with new details. Thanks to the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994, PC-SPES was marketed without testing, since no claim was made that it could cure any disease (WN 09 Apr 04). But it seemed to work as well as prescription drugs for prostate cancer. That's because the mish-mash of herbs was laced with prescription drugs. Patients were grateful to have a "natural" product. At least they were until their penis shrank and their breasts grew. It seems PC-SPES included a synthetic estrogen. There was also a problem with blood clots, but Botanic fixed that by adding warfarin, a blood thinner widely used as rat poison. We'll come back to passage of the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act.
2. CLIMATE CHANGE: THE CONFERENCE BOARD STARTS PAYING ATTENTION.
A non-profit organization of some 2,000 major corporations from around the world, the Conference Board is best known for monthly surveys of consumer confidence and economic indicators. But on Tuesday, it issued a report Climate Change: Clear Trajectory - Haze in the Details, warning that "businesses that ignore the debate over climate change do so at their peril." The report concludes: "The Earth - for whatever the exact reasons - is on a trajectory toward an ever warmer climate. This cannot be avoided at this point, but the trajectory can be jiggled and potential risks associated with the warming can be mitigated. Ultimately the trajectory could be reversed." The political climate for acknowledging warming is improved. Just two weeks ago, the U.S. Climate Change Program submitted its report to Congress, putting the blame squarely on increased greenhouse gases (WN 27 Aug 04).
3. NASA: HURRICANES ON THE CAPE AND A ROUGH LANDING IN UTAH.
The shuttle fleet, it seems, is not safe even in its hanger on Earth. The Genesis mission was to be the first sample return since Apollo 17. It had been collecting solar wind particles for three years, but its parachute failed to deploy and it crashed in the Utah desert. Whether any data can be salvaged is not clear.
4. NIH: FREE PUBLIC ACCESS TO AGENCY FUNDED RESEARCH IS PROPOSED.
The move could drive some journals out of business and bankrupt scientific societies that depend on journal profits. But given society's rising expectations of access, change seems inevitable.