Continuing a series of regular updates of health and medical reading at The Conversation…
Thanks to Reema Rattan for providing this summary, which covers articles about the safety of vitamin supplements, health financing, humane approaches to preventing crime, disability services, ghostwriting of research articles, patenting of stem cell inventions, and the latest legal developments in the Vioxx case.
By Ian Chapman, Associate Professor and Senior Specialist Endocrinologist at The University of Adelaide
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has investigated the link between taking dietary supplements and an increase risk of death in older women.
I don’t know if this is a great paper because there are so many variables that the authors have corrected for: there were clear differences between the women who took the supplements and those who didn’t at baseline.
The women who took the supplements were more likely to be non-smokers; they were twice as likely to be taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT); they had higher education levels and lower body-mass index; and they were more physically active.
What’s more, they were different on every single measure of dietary intake that was reported in the paper.
By Peter Sivey, Research Fellow in Health Economic at the University of Melbourne
Going to the doctor is, in many ways, like visiting a car sales yard. The customer has a limited knowledge of the product and the supplier may have a financial incentive to over-service or overcharge.
Of course, the main difference is trust. Most people trust their doctor to do the right thing and provide appropriate medical care. But, if you throw incentives into the mix, where does this leave patients?
By Richard Fletcher, Senior lecturer in the faculty of Health at the University of Newcastle
There are hopeful signs from a number of sources that the “get tough on crime” approach is working, with politicians promising the era of more prisons and longer sentences has had its day.
Movements such as Justice Reinvestment – redirecting money earmarked for prisons to address disadvantage in communities prisoners come from – is one manifestation of a more rational and humane approach to crime.
For Aboriginal communities, where imprisonment has reached epidemic proportions, this shift is long overdue.
By Karen Soldatic, lecturer in Disability Rights at Curtin University
A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) finds the number of Australians using disability support services is increasing. But it’s uncertain how the government will provide ongoing services for these people.
People with disabilities, their families and carers have long waited for a social support system that effectively responds to their real needs.
But while the Government-endorsed National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) promises to provide effective help, other changes in disability policy seem to be removing supports for people with disabilities.
By Wendy Lipworth, post-doctoral research fellow in bioethics at the University of NSW and Ian Kerridge, associate professor in bioethics and director, Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in medicine at the University of Sydney
In 2009, medical editors from around the world gathered at a Peer Review Congress in Vancouver, Canada, to discuss, among other things, “ghost authorship” of medical research articles.
Ghost authorship of such articles involves deliberate suppression of the fact that it’s been written by someone other than the named author or authors.
In most cases of academic ghost authorship, (not to be confused with ghost authorship of sporting “autobiographies”), an article is written by a professional medical writer who is commissioned or employed by a pharmaceutical company.
The name of this ghost author is suppressed and the only names that appear on the article are those of researchers.
By Fady Aoun, law lecturer and doctoral student at the University of Sydney
The European Court of Justice has today banned patenting of stem cell inventions derived from human embryos which are capable of developing into a human being.
The court held that this exclusion from patentability is not limited to the use of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes, but also includes the use of human embryos for the purposes of scientific research.
Although the ruling follows an earlier legal opinion, it appears to have caused general dismay among scientists who now fear their research discoveries may not be commercialized into patentable inventions.
By Bill Madden, Adjunct fellow and part-time lecturer at the University of Western Sydney
The enormous medical impact of modern pharmaceuticals has on occasion been matched by some large-scale litigation regarding adverse events. The Vioxx litigation in Australia and elsewhere is one such recent example.
The Federal Court last week overturned a ruling that could have seen up to 1500 former Vioxx users who suffered heart attacks or other forms of cardiovascular disease claim compensation from Vioxx’s manufacturer Merck.
By Ray Moynihan, Conjoint lecturer at the University of Newcastle
The extent of the financial entanglement between doctors and drug companies seems to know no bounds and I think it’s vitally important that there’s more scrutiny of these relationships.
The reason people are interested in doctor-drug company relations is not because of the desire to expose doctors wining and dining habits, the reason to expose this is because it distorts prescribing patterns and it means doctors are more likely to prescribe the latest and most expensive medicines. Sometimes a good thing but other times, wasteful and dangerous.