Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Public Health Kind of Tuesday

1. Vitamin supplements offer no helpbut maybe harm: In the fallout of research indicating Vitamin E as a risk factor for prostate cancer, doctors are telling patients to stop taking multivitamins. Toren Finkel, head of NIH’s Center for Molecular Medicine, said that it’s completely intuitive to take vitamin supplements, although clinical data “pretty consistently show[s] no benefit.” That’s not to say all vitamins are bad – there are some whose actions and purposes we understand a bit better, like Vitamin D and calcium and prenatal supplements. But, the take home message remains: Don’t worry if you’ve missed your daily dose of multivitamins.

2. Vaccines for Substances Abuse: Two scientists were recently awarded “visionary” grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop vaccines against nicotine and methamphetamine.  Both drugs – which are expected to go into clinical trials within five years – stimulate the production of antibodies that would bind the target drug, forming compounds too large to cross the blood brain barrier. These vaccines could be life-changing for the estimated 22 mil drug abusers in the US, as well as for the $84 bil annual cost of addiction between health care, lost earnings, crime, and accidents.

California Medical Association Calls for Legalization of Marijuana: At their recent annual meeting, the state medical organization adopted the position of marijuana legalization. This marks the first major medical association in the US to adopt this position. The group acknowledges the touchy subject, but argues from both scientific and political perspectives: 1) If we’re worried about uses of cannabis, we need to legalize it to test it; and 2) We need to legalize it to regulate it.

4. Nasty Bugs Lurk on Cell Phones: A study out of the UK found that 92% of cell phones have bacteria (including E. coli) on them. Next step, maybe: Do people text on the toilet? My advice is to break out those Clorox wipes, friends. 

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