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Healthy Skepticism International News

July 2010

Ralph’s Raves

31 Oct 2009

Healthy Skepticism member Ralph Faggotter is a GP and a talented artist. He is also prone to submit challenging and amusing raves to the Healthy Skepticism membership. Three follow. Ralph’s raves carry a warning: over-generalizations ahead.

Flibanserin and Why Women have Sex

12 Jun 2010

The media campaign to promote flibanserin seems to be well underway here in Oz with brochures coming in the mail and sexperts being interviewed in the medical mags about the widespread nature and seriousness of Acquired Female Sexual Hypoactive Desire Disorder with all the hallmarks of a classical ‘Selling Sickness’ campaign (it was one of the conditions predicted by Moynihan and Cassels in 2005 to be promoted).[1]

I am a little dubious though as to whether it will really take off. For success, millions of women must be convinced that their current median level of sexual desire is a problem.

Now anyone who has been reading magazines, especially those targeted at younger women like ‘Cleo’, will know that these magazines have been actively promoting the idea that women generally have a naturally high level of sexual desire and all the ramifications of this. I think the argument runs like this:
“Men and women are equal, therefore women have the same innate level of sexual desire as men and they shouldn’t try to suppress it.”

In spite of this 40 year long campaign by the media, my impression (as an impartial observer of course!) is that the vast majority of women don’t buy this argument and continue on accepting that they have (on average) a somewhat lower level of sexual desire than most men and are perfectly content in this knowledge.

This differential gives women bargaining power in a relationship.

Men mostly have sex because they desire it and are driven to it in spite of whatever sacrifices that may entail along the way. For men sex is largely an end in itself. For women however, the situation is much more complicated and always has been. Sex is often a means to an end. That end may be something close to sex - comfort, expressing feelings of love, feeling emotionally or physically secure, feeling wanted, feeling desirable, or simply for financial security, social status reasons, keeping the partner happy, keeping the relationship together, making babies, making one’s friends jealous, directly in exchange for money etc etc.

The relationship between the sexes has always been something of a game in which, as part of the unspoken contract, women pretend to have a higher level of libido than they actually do and men generally are easily persuaded to buy into this fantasy without really understanding it. Women however do understand it, are generally quite pragmatic in their approach and therefore would see no obvious place in these arrangements for a drug which claims to increase their libido.

An advertising campaign aimed at women may well fall flat.

Therefore, if I were running the advertising campaign for flibanserin, I would be targeting not women, but their male partners, who will see a window of opportunity here to get more sex per unit of time, if only they can persuade their girlfriends to take the drug - in the same way that alcohol and ecstasy are currently used - but with all the ‘legitimate authority’ of the medical profession cheering them on.


1. Moynihan R, Cassels A. Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients. Nation Books, NY. 2005

Medicating the normal

30 Jul 2009

This website gives the game away. -

“In the UK, the average total cholesterol level is 5.7mmol/l.
The levels of total cholesterol fall into the following categories:
• ideal level: cholesterol level in the blood less than 5mmol/l.
• mildly high cholesterol level: between 5 to 6.4mmol/l.
• moderately high cholesterol level: between 6.5 to 7.8mmol/l.
• very high cholesterol level: above 7.8mmol/l.”
See the problem?

You can have a well below average cholesterol level of say 5.2 and yet still be defined as having a ‘mildly high cholesterol level’

Why can’t doctors see that this is nonsense? Who gets to choose these definitions which mean that at least 70% of the population are classified as having a condition called ’ hypercholesterolaemia’ ?

This is a giant con. The path labs are in on it too. Every measureable variable in medicine is quantified and presented in conjunction with a reference range of normality EXCEPT CHOLESTEROL and CHOL: HDL which are presented as a desirable upper limit which is below the average for the population! (Note, there is no lower limit given, though very low cholesterol levels would mean the body could not function properly for long - why doesn’t this count?)

Here is a lab report from one of my patients -
“Total Cholesterol     *5.7   mmol/L (< 5.5 desirable)
Triglycerides           1.0   mmol/L (0.3 - 2.0)
HDL                   0.7   mmol/L (0.9 - 2.0)
Calculated LDL chol   1.7   mmol/L (0 - 3.7)
Chol/HDL ratio         3.4     (< 3.5 desirable)
Comment: mild hypercholesterolaemia”

So what does the patient think when they see this? - “Help! I’m going to die from this. Give me some pills quick!”

Which is exactly what the system is designed to make them think.

The labs, the pharmaceutical companies, the pharmacies and the medical profession all take their cut with every cycle as the patient is endlessly processed around and around the system from lab to doctor to chemist to lab to doctor to chemist…

And after doing this for years on end, after wasting all this time and effort and money and angst, their life expectancy remains unaltered!

The ever-changing drug

12 May 2010

One aspect of the whole influenza vaccine issue which really bothers me (and is rarely mentioned) is this: If you imagine the contents of the vaccine to be a kind of pharmaceutical, then the chemical composition of this pharmaceutical changes dramatically from year to year. There may be dozens, perhaps thousands of changes to the organic chemical structure of the molecule(s) in the vaccine every year, and no-one knows what they actually are.

Every year the vaccine, which is a novel pharmaceutical, is approved by regulatory agencies all over the world on the basis of very limited testing, both temporally and numerically -perhaps a few hundred test cases for a couple of months, with the only measure of efficacy being a surrogate one. So there is no direct evidence that the vaccine actually works, and long-term or rare adverse reactions are not assessed. The vaccine is automatically approved under political pressure to get it out in time and then immediately distributed for mass use.

There is such a short window of time in which to prepare, test, manufacture and distribute the vaccine every year that it is literally impossible to do the kind of proper evaluation on it which would be regarded as essential before the release of any other pharmaceutical. And yet this unique exception is permitted, otherwise the flu vaccine could not exist. To do proper evaluations would take years and the vaccine would be redundant before it could be found to be safe or otherwise. So this exception to normal safety standards, and its associated risks, is made and will continue to be made every year into the indefinite future. Furthermore, by 2-3 years after a particular flu vaccine’s release, everyone has forgotten about that particular vaccine, and there is no attempt to assess its real world ongoing effects. Hence we have a progressively growing list of compounding unknown consequences.

Imagine if this same logic was applied to a regular pharmaceutical. If we take a proton-pump inhibitor for example - such as omeprazole, and change it to a chemically different compound by substituting a chlorine atom for a hydrogen atom, then the regulatory authorities will rightly treat this as a totally novel compound. They will demand that the pharmaceutical company provide as much trial data as they did originally for omeprazole.

Imagine if the company tried to say:
“This is the new omeprazole. Let’s call it ‘omeprazole 2010’ for this year, and we will assume that its physiological properties are the same as ‘omeprazole 2009’. We gave it to a few people for 2 weeks and no-one died, so it should do the job. And by the way, next year we are going to release ‘omeprazole 2011’, which will be slightly different again but in some undefined way.”

This would not be accepted, so why should it be for the flu vaccine in which there are many more (undefined) changes to the complex molecules in the medication?

Simply for the sake of convenience, is the answer.

Personally, in the absence of direct and overwhelming evidence that the flu vaccine is saving a large percentage of lives, I can’t see why it should be allowed at all!



HS Int News index

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