Medical news in 2000

The year 2000 marked many sensational news stories. The headlines in medicine along with the politics and the discoveries that surround it, which will eventually effect us all, were nothing short of sensational.

It's certainly an exciting time to be alive. We're opening doors that will lead to increased longevity and a better quality of life. At the same time, we've grabbed a tiger by the tail. So hang on; it may be a bumpy ride.

What were those most sensational stories? They weren't on the front pages of the paper everyday. The news channels weren't running them 24 hours daily; so what were they? They can't be that important!

At the top of my list: The human gene code is now fully mapped. With further research we can now conceivably alter weak or defective genetic material within the human body, eradicating certain diseases, all well and fine. But do we fully understand this puzzle we're beginning to take apart and could we put humpty-dumpty back together again if need be. What happens if we want our unborn child to have blue eyes instead of brown, blonde hair instead of red? Where will we draw the line?

A Chinese herb combination has found its way onto the American market. Called PC-SPES, this eight-herb combo is being used most widely for men with prostate cancer, other cancers as well. Some worthy studies have shown a 60-70 percent positive results with lowered PSA levels. The Office of Alternative Medicine is looking into larger studies. The traditional world of medicine remains very skeptical. I hope they give it a chance!

The Governor of Maine passed into law a bill that would help seniors residing in the state of Maine buy their medications at more reasonable prices. The Supreme Court of that state ruled the bill unconstitutional -- surprise! Some of the state's lawmakers have now come together with their neighbors, New Hampshire and Vermont, to form a co-operative to purchase drugs for those in need in larger quantities from Canada. Now isn't that creative! Smith-Kline Beecham has banned the sale of their drugs in the state of Maine. Too bad for them. Certainly not very good PR.

Here in the Midwest, we suffered through a disastrous season of biotech screw ups. Farmers planting certain strains of genetically altered seed corn in some areas had to scrap their entire crop when the FDA did not give approval to those strains.

We also had a crop of what has come to be known to the farmers as ''match stick corn.'' The seeds altered to send everything to the ear took off well in the near-perfect spring planting season. As summer wore on with dryness, nothing was left to support the stalk and the corn simply fell over. It was slow and expensive harvesting. Do we really want genetically altered food substances?

On a more positive note, a researcher at the University of Michigan has shown that a positive emotional make-up does influence good health. Barbara Fredrickson Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, states that over time a positive outlook gives an expansive quality to a person's character and strength, as well as increasing social bonds, general well being and health.

One final note, this year continued to see a softening towards alternative, integrative therapies. Pharmacy schools are beginning once again to teach green pharmacy in response to the physician's questions regarding the use of herbal medicines. The mere fact that they refer to them as medicines is a step in the right direction. Some herbs, including Saw Palmetto, have actually made it into the hospital pharmacopoeia. Wow, that's progress.

Another indicator of such: Many traditional pain clinics managed by traditional doctors are beginning to offer acupuncture to their list of treatments. Patients are accepting and it works.

The wheels of a giant like traditional medicine turn very slowly. Be patient; it's getting better.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online January 2, 2001

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