Thursday, September 17, 2009

We must curb Scotland’s drink problem, says BMA boss

Is this the ultimate do-gooder nonsense? Nothing will separate the Jimmies from their whisky and beer. Getting drunk and sticking shivs into one another on Saturday night is a grand old Scottish tradition -- particularly in Glasgow, where half of Scotland's population lives. Amusing that the Scottish doctor quoted below admits that he himself likes a drop

Alcohol now pervades everyday life and has become the hidden problem of middle-class, leafy suburbs, according to the new leader of Scotland’s doctors. Brian Keighley, the new chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, said yesterday that issues with alcohol affected hard-working, respectable citizens who were drinking at home just as much as it did those receiving ASBOs on Friday night.

In the wake of a controversial report from the BMA supporting alcohol restrictions, Dr Keighley made clear how compelling the argument had become. He said: “If you look at what’s happening in terms of per capita consumption, it’s clear that we have a growing problem, and that’s not just about the people you want to serve ASBOs on a Friday night. “This is about the fact that alcohol is now next to the butter and the vegetables. The stigma about buying alcohol has gone, it’s now a normal part of everyday life.

“We know that people who are ostensibly good citizens — hard working, all the rest of it — are drinking more and more at home and we know that consequently the amount of cirrhotic liver disease is going up year on year. There were figures last week to say that in one in 15 surgical deaths alcohol was significantly involved.”

Dr Keighley, 61, who has been in general practice for 37 years in Stirlingshire and was also a police surgeon, spoke of the irony of being warned by the BMA, 30 years ago, not to prescribe barbiturates: “Now the most prevailing drug in Scottish society is that of alcohol and it’s more hidden in the sense that it’s everywhere, in the urban centres and the leafy suburbs like Bearsden. It’s all over Scotland.”

The BMA’s research, by the University of Stirling, called for a ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship of sport and music events — such as T in the Park — in order to address the soaring cost of alcohol-related harm. It calculated that the drinks industry spent £800 million a year promoting alcohol in the UK. Dr Keighley said other measures to restrict alcohol consumption, such as warning labels on the bottles, did not work.

Irresponsible marketing and pricing were the issue. “We are finding that people are front-loading before they go out — front-loading on alcohol bought from supermarkets that is actually cheaper than a bottle of water. That can’t be right. “The BMA are not killjoys. We are not against alcohol. I don’t know many teetotal doctors. But it’s not up to us. We have a duty to lay in front of the general public the facts, and now, whilst we can say what we think should happen, it’s up to the public.

“There has also been criticism of our stance on advertising at social, cultural and sporting events. Well, society will have to decide. It just may not the most sensible thing to associate sport with things that actually militate against the ability to carry out those sports. It’s like putting the fox in charge of the chickens.”

Dr Keighley said a change in culture towards alcohol was essential. “Things have changed about the acceptability of drinking, about drinking in public and drinking to excess. We know people think we are conniving with the nanny state, but the people who criticise us are not the people doing what I’ve done which is to go to fatal road accidents or see the drunks in the police station or work in casualty.

“To be honest I would like to see more restrictions and more and more government interference. I would like to see a change of culture, but also by a realignment of the attitude of the public towards alcohol through education and through fiscal means.”


Key master gene that can KILL cancer identified by British scientists

This sounds like a two-edged sword. What boosts the fight against cancer could lead to auto-immune diseases -- such as diabetes and asthma. Not a very promising approach

A 'masterswitch' in the body's battle against cancer has been identified by British scientists, raising hope of new treatments. The key gene triggers the production of blood cells capable of fighting - and killing - tumour cells. The cells form part of the body's natural armoury against disease and we all have some.

But making more could bolster our defence, saving some of the 155,000 lives lost each year to cancer in the UK. The findings could also shed light on the immune system's role in other conditions such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Infusions of natural killer cells donated from volunteers are already given to some cancer patients. However, because they come from another person, they are not a complete match and so do not work as well. The discovery of the 'master-switch' - a gene called E4bp4 that causes 'blank' stem cells to turn into natural killer cells - paves the way for a drug to boost the patient's own stock of the cells.

Researcher Hugh Brady, of Imperial College London, said: 'The natural killer cell was like the Cinderella of the white blood cells, we didn't know very much about them. 'We knew a little bit about how they work but we didn't know where they came from. 'We stumbled on this when researching childhood leukaemia. We thought the gene was involved in that. It turns it probably isn't but it has a very important role in the immune system. 'With a bit of serendipity we have found the key to the pathway that gives rise to natural killer cells.'

To investigate the role of the gene, Dr Brady genetically engineered mice who lacked it. The mice made other types of blood cell as normal but did not make any natural killer cells. This proves the gene to be pivotal in the production of natural killer cells, which fight viruses and bacteria as well as cancers, the journal Nature Immunology reports.

The researchers are now hunting for a drug that could increase cancer patients' production of these natural killer cells, and, it is hoped, their odds of beating the disease. A drug that boosts natural killer cell numbers is likely to be especially powerful against breast, bowel, lung and blood cancers. However, it would have to through numerous lengthy health and safety trials before reaching the market.

The benefits of the breakthrough do not end there. Rogue natural killer cells have been implicated in diseases in which the immune system attacks the body, including diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Further study of the gene's role could shed new light on these conditions. Abnormally high levels of natural killer cells have also been implicated in recurrent miscarriages.

Dr Brady said: 'Since shortly after they were discovered in the 1970s, some scientists have suspected that the vital disease-fighting natural killer cells could themselves be behind a number of serious medical conditions when they malfunction. 'Now finally, we will be able to find out if the progression of these diseases is impeded or aided by the removal of natural killer cells from the equation. 'This will solve the often-debated question of whether NK cells are always the "good guys", or if in certain circumstances they cause more harm than good.'



Acne treatment said...

Good Post!

Lena said...

Hah, I know a lot of Scottish people who love to get quite drunk, but I wonder if the numbers have been inflated by looking at alcohol sales in Scotland compared to population. Surely tourists buy an awful lot of whisky and local ales thus increasing the statistics!