Lucky breaks, wasting money, talking about suicide, and more…

FSM Friends news & articles

Ten years on, Professor Ian Frazer recalls ‘lucky’ discovery of cervical cancer vaccine“Speaking at the World Science Festival in Brisbane, co-inventor of the vaccine Ian Frazer said he was simply in the right place at the right time. “I just happened to be in the right lab in Melbourne, with the right people around me and the right prompt,” he said. “That’s the other thing about science, it’s a lot of hard work but … also, you have to have luck.”

Working alongside Chinese virologist Dr Jian Zhou, Professor Frazer and his team developed Gardasil, which protects against 70 per cent of the HPV infections that cause cervical cancer. “We realise now that about 20 per cent of cancers are caused by virus infections,” Professor Frazer said. “We picked a winner … because we picked a cancer that was caused by an infection. It’s much easier to prevent an infection.””

Why we are suing CVS: The Center for Inquiry in the US is suing drug retailer CVS for knowingly stocking useless homeopathic products next to evidence-based medicines in their stores. The situation in the US mirrors that here, where many people accessing homeopathic products buy them at a pharmacy, not from a naturopath/other ‘professional’. If pharmacies stopped stocking these products we would likely see a decline in their use. If successful, this lawsuit may mark a changing tide in pharmacy retail.



Vaccine-refusing community drove outbreak that cost $395K and sickened babies: This is why we vaccinate. Sure, we get vaccinated to protect ourselves but to also protect those unable to be vaccinated: babies and people with compromised immune systems. If most people are immunised, there are very few individuals to pass an infection around. This goes by the unfortunate name of herd immunity. Unfortunate because people valuing their independence (libertarians) rebel at the thought of being “one of the herd”. This article also brings up the notion of charging vaccine refusers to pay for public health measures to control disease outbreaks. I don’t see it happening, but it points up that vaccine refusal not only endangers lives, particularly babies, but also costs us money. It’s a special kind of selfishness.

Why your vitamin habit is a pointless waste of money: Unless you have a diagnosed vitamin deficiency (or think you may be at risk of developing scurvy), there is little benefit to the majority of available vitamin supplements. (But even if you’re really worried about scurvy, try an orange instead!)

High-sugar drinks, diet causing dental decay among young people: We see people in their 30s and 40s who sit at their desk in an office and sip on soft drink throughout the day instead of drinking it in one go. If you do drink such drinks, don’t just sip on soft drink or juice, it’s better to drink it all at one go and have it at meal times rather than between meals. Have water between meals.

How to ask someone you’re worried about if they’re thinking of suicide: There are two types of evidence on this issue. The first comes from studies that ask people about suicidal thoughts and then assess whether this causes them further distress or increases their suicidal thoughts. In one US study, a large group of high school students was randomly assigned to either fill out a questionnaire about suicidal thoughts or not. The researchers found no increase in suicidal thoughts or depressive feelings in the days following answering these questions. In fact, the students who were most at risk of suicide (because they were depressed or had previously attempted suicide) experienced a small decrease in suicidal thoughts and depression.

There were similar findings from a study of Singaporean adults. The researchers randomly assigned participants to answer questions about suicidal feelings and reasons for living or dying, or to a control group that answered questions on quality of life. No ill effects were found of asking about suicide, and a few of the participants commented that participation in the study gave them the chance to share suicidal feelings for the first time.

The second type of evidence is based on the advice of suicide experts who are either mental health professionals who work with suicidal people, or those who have been suicidal in the past and taken on an advocacy role. Both types of experts agree that talking about suicidal thoughts can be a relief to a suicidal person. It allows them the chance to talk about their problems and feel that somebody cares”

Selenium supplements increase diabetes risk, review study confirms: Researchers say the common supplement’s benefits are unproven, while risks are clear.


Great moments in Health and Science

The invention of the Portable Glucometer. What is a Glucometer? For those of us without diabetes it can be hard to appreciate just how important it is for safety and peace of mind being able to quickly and easily monitor your blood sugar levels. To those with diabetes however, it can sometimes be the difference between life and death.


Today’s abused health concept

Medical Marijuana. Marijuana beliefs outstrip evidenceIt’s promoted as a seeming panacea that can cure whatever ails you. While [it contains] potentially useful medicinal compounds, in general the medical marijuana movement vastly oversells the promise. There is no reason to think that marijuana has special healing properties. Often the claims made are dependent on e subjective self-report, not on high quality evidence. There are no double-blind placebo controlled trials. Most published studies are retrospective, or uncontrolled observational studies. As the authors above conclude, the plausibility is there, but the current state of evidence only supports doing clinical trials, not recommending its use.

The history of using addictive psychoactive drugs to treat chronic pain is not a good one. They tend not to be effective long term, and just make the chronic pain worse and more difficult to treat. You cannot simultaneously accept the preliminary evidence on efficacy and reject the preliminary evidence on risks. Marijuana MIGHT be useful, but much more research is needed before the current claims of benefit can be respected.