Monday, October 09, 2006

New brain injury drug

A sleeping pill credited with the miraculous recovery of comatose patients overseas is giving new hope to victims in Australia. The drug zolpidem, marketed in Australia as Stilnox, is commonly prescribed as a treatment for insomnia. But after several bizarre cases, where a drug that should make people fall asleep instead roused them from a deep coma, it is being hailed as a "miracle pill".

The first case involved a car accident victim in South Africa, who amazed doctors in 1999 when he awoke from a five-year coma after his GP prescribed zolpidem as a sedative to treat persistent bouts of restlessness. Several similar cases have since been recorded in South Africa and a clinical trial is under way, with the drug given to almost 200 patients with varying degrees of brain injury. It is thought that when used on coma patients, zolpidem may activate dormant brain tissue next to damaged brain tissue, leading to patients waking up.

Australian brain-injury surgeons, support groups and patients' families are pushing for Australian research to assess for use on coma patients. Brisbane-based neurosurgeon Terry Coyne said the drug had the potential to help a huge number of coma patients. "There are a lot of people who survive brain injuries and remain in a persistent vegetative state, so there is a potential target population if there is a proven benefit from the treatment and no adverse affect," Dr Coyne said. "It is something that is promising . . . and it could be great."

Brain Injury Association of Queensland spokesman John Dickinson said the latest discovery had given hope to victims' families. "Every day, you stand vigil over your son or daughter, waiting for them to wake up," Mr Dickinson said. "The emotional cost to the family is enormous. The level of stress and anguish is unimaginable, so any medication that would assist somebody to wake up earlier, for that reason alone, there is a lot to be gained by pursuing it."

The drug has been shown to significantly improve speech, motor functions and concentration in stroke victims, head injury victims and oxygen-deprived patients, such as near-drowning cases.

The father of one coma patient in Brisbane, who asked not to be named, said anything to end the agony of the daily vigil to his son's bedside was a "fantastic" prospect. He said his family was devastated after his son received severe brain injury three months ago in a traffic accident in Brisbane. "It is gut-wrenching and incredibly sad," he said. "I didn't know it was possible for a bloke over 50 to cry so much. "I am absolutely in favour of any sound research in anything that will help brain-injured people."


"Healthy" diet does no good

With more than 160,000 participants, the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) tracked postmenopausal women for seven to 12 years looking at, among other things, the value of menopausal hormone therapy, a low-fat diet, and calcium and vitamin D supplements. UCLA participated in the study under the direction of Howard Judd, M.D., now professor emeritus of obstetrics/gynecology.

Some of the still-emerging results have been stunning. In 2002 and 2004, the WHI abruptly halted its two hormone studies after concluding that the risks- including breast cancer and stroke-outweighed the possible benefits in preventing heart disease.

Other conclusions have been less momentous. One finding suggests that a diet lower in total fat did not significantly reduce the incidence of breast cancer, heart disease or stroke, nor reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in healthy, postmenopausal women. As for calcium and vitamin D, WHI findings suggest that these supplements in healthy postmenopausal women provide modest benefits in preserving bone mass and preventing hip fractures in certain groups of women, but do not prevent other types of fractures or colorectal cancer.

Should women throw away their hormone therapy (as many abruptly did), eat all the fat they want, and chuck the calcium? Not so fast, experts say. Seeking guidance from a personal physician, who can interpret the findings and apply it to a woman's needs and risk factors, is the sensible road to take. UCLA geriatrician Elizabeth Whiteman, M.D., notes, "We look at the data and really try to individualize the information for that specific woman-what are her risk factors and goals? "It's key for patients to talk to their doctor about any family history of dementia, stroke, colon cancer and heart disease."


'Diet' cocktails more intoxicating: "Having your alcohol with a sugar-free artificially sweetened mixer may cut calories, but it will also make you drunker, a study suggests. The problem, Australian researchers found, is that drinks made with "diet" mixers pass through the stomach more rapidly and, therefore, make blood alcohol levels spike particularly high. The findings, published in the September issue of the American Journal of Medicine and reported earlier this year at a medical conference, are based on an experiment with eight healthy young men. The volunteers had their blood alcohol levels measured repeatedly in each of two conditions: once after having a vodka beverage made with a sugary mixer, and once after drinking the same amount of vodka with an artificially sweetened mixer.... The difference in peak blood alcohol levels was "striking," the researchers said, and showed that a drink's alcohol content wasn't the only factor people should consider. In general, women's blood alcohol levels soar higher than men's after drinking the same amount alcohol, and the rsearchers warned women might be particularly drawn to diet mixers in order to cut calories."


Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? [/sarcasm].


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