Friday, September 28, 2012

Harvard hits out at valium and related drugs

Predictable:  It's popular so it must be bad.  The risk reported was small and it's just correlational rubbish anyway.  Some people with physical illness probably had trouble sleeping and needed pills because of it.  But their premature death was most likely caused by the illness, not the pills taken to cope with it.  Just the usual profound ignorance of basic statistics and logic that we find in the medical literature.  They should all read "How to lie with statistics" and revise their thinking accordingly.  It's profoundly disappointing to find Harvard involved in such intellectually disreputable "research" but given the Leftism of the place is hardly surprising.  Leftists prioritize their hatreds over the facts

The journal article is here.  If they had just reported their results without any inferences it would be reasonable enough but they actually draw policy inferences from it!

For reference, the title of the article  is "Benzodiazepine use and risk of dementia: prospective population based study".  It is also striking that they combined users of different types of benzodiazepine.  Why?  The two drugs have different classes of users and clearly should have been treated separately.  Would it be that the effects observed were so weak that they could get significance only by combining the two classes of drugs?  What a nasty mind I've got!

Sleeping pills taken by more than a million Britons significantly increase the risk of dementia, researchers warn today.  Pensioners who used benzodiazepines – which include temazepam and diazepam [Valium] – were 50 per cent more likely to succumb to the devastating illness, a Harvard University study found.

Academics believe the side effects of the drugs may be so harmful that doctors should avoid prescribing them.

Around 1.5million Britons are believed to be taking the pills at any one time and more than 10million prescriptions are handed out a year.

The researchers also estimate that up to 8 per cent of the over-65s have used them within the last few years to treat insomnia or anxiety.

But there is growing evidence that they have serious side effects and a number of studies have linked them to falls, memory problems, panic attacks and early death.

Academics from Harvard University in the US and the University of Bordeaux in France discovered that over-65s who had taken the drugs within the last 15 years were 50 per cent more likely to get dementia.

The drugs can only be obtained by a prescription. They work by changing the way messages are transmitted to the brain, which induces a calming effect.

But scientists believe that at the same time they may be interfering with chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters, which may be causing dementia.

Professor Tobias Kurth, who works jointly at Harvard University’s School of Public Health and the University of Bordeaux, said: ‘There is a potential that these drugs are really harmful. ‘If it is really true that these drugs are causing dementia that will be huge. But one single study does not necessarily show everything that is going on, so there is no need to panic.

‘These drugs certainly have their benefits and if you prescribe them in a way they should be prescribed they treat very well.’

The study, published today in the British Medical Journal, involved 1,063 men and women over the age of 65 for a period of 20 years in south west France. Initially none of the participants had dementia and no one was taking benzodiazepines.

The researchers followed them up after 15 years and found that 253 had developed dementia. They worked out that out of 100 not taking the drug, 3.2 would be expected to get the illness.  But among 100 patients on these drugs, 4.8 would get dementia – a significantly higher proportion. The patients had taken the pills at least once – over the course of a week or so – at some point in the previous 15 years.

The study concluded: ‘Considering the extent to which benzodiazepines are prescribed and the number of potential adverse effects, indiscriminate widespread use should be cautioned against.’

In the last 20 years the number of prescriptions for benzodiazepines has fallen by 40 per cent, largely due to concerns that patients were becoming addicted.

But they remain one of the most commonly used drugs and there are fears some patients are taking them for far too long.

A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘This is the not the first time it has been suggested that these drugs could have a negative impact on cognition. With this long-term study adding to the evidence, it emphasises how important it is we properly monitor how treatments for anxiety or sleep problems are used.’


Pre-clinical trials show new drug can stop type 2 diabetes in mice

A NEW drug has stopped type 2 diabetes developing and prevented its progression in pre-clinical trials.  The results, from four animal trials, have been described as promising by the researchers who hope eventually it will become a key weapon in the obesity epidemic.

Austin Hospital Professor of Medicine Joe Proietto said type 2 diabetes was caused by too much fat in the body, which eventually led to insulin resistance.

The therapy aims to block Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor B (VEGF-B) which controls the transport and storage of fat in body tissues.  "If you block the VEGF-B signalling, you stop the fatty acids from accumulating in the tissue and type 2 diabetes developing," said CSL researcher Dr Andrew Nash, who wrote the paper.  "It's a very important breakthrough. Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions."

The drug, developed by CSL, will now progress into toxicity tests and human trials.

Dr Nash and Prof Proietto said there were no adverse outcomes in the mice, but if the drug was successful it would take up to 10 years before it became available to the public.

The research was published in the Nature journal.


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