Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Are Mothers-To-Be Unwittingly Passing BPH and other chemicals to their Unborn babies? And When Will the FDA Wake Up To These Dangers?

Consider these sobering facts:

* Children exposed to both tobacco smoke and lead are 800 percent more likely to develop ADHD.
* Childhood exposure to lead can cause permanent brain damage to those genetically susceptible. No region of the brain is spared.
* Adults with an average age of 21 who had been enrolled as infants in the Cincinnati Lead Study had IQ deficiencies as well as histories of juvenile delinquency and criminal arrests.
* Baby boys whose mothers used insect repellants in the first three months of pregnancy were at an increased risk of a birth defect called hypospadias (the urethra, which carries urine from the bladder to the opening of the penis, is shortened).
* A study of pregnant women by the Washington Toxics Coalition learned that:
o Every woman tested had been exposed to Bisphenol A (BPA), which is linked to a number of adverse health effects. BPA has been found in the lining of nearly every kind of food container, baby bottles, dental sealants and composite fillings, among other products.
o Every woman tested had been exposed to at least two — and in some cases, to as many as four — perfluorinated chemicals. Known as Teflon chemicals, these are used in manufacturing nonstick cookware.
o Every woman had been exposed to mercury, which is known to harm the development of the brain in the unborn.
o Every woman had been exposed to at least four phthalates, which are linked to adverse health effects. Phthalates are used to make fragrances last longer and also to soften plastic in personal-care products, shower curtains, baby toys, etc.

The Seattle Post Globe published a story about one mother who took part in the Washington Toxics Coalition study. Trained as a midwife, while pregnant she walked a 3-mile trail twice a week, swam weekly, took prenatal yoga classes, tried to eat mostly organic foods and avoided any scented lotions or other personal-care products. And yet, she rated the worst among the women tested for Teflon chemicals. An advocate of breast-feeding, she now worries that while breast-feeding to insure optimal nutrition for her infant son, she will pass chemicals along to him in her breast milk as she did, unwittingly, through her placenta.

Johns Hopkins University’s study of cord blood samples from 20 newborns revealed hundreds of chemicals, this from cord blood most of us would expect to be uncontaminated. With only about 200 of the 80,000 chemicals in our environment having been tested for their effects on humans, the American population is unknowingly taking part in an experiment. Dr. Phil Landrigan of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine has warned the medical community that 1 in 6 American children is now behavior- or learning-disabled because of exposure to chemicals. To add to this gloomy picture, studies have shown that genes are turned on or off by environmental factors, so future generations will also be impacted.

All children deserve the best protection we can provide, but the government is failing to shield our most vulnerable population — the unborn — from chemicals in the environment.

Why Genetically Engineered Crops Threaten Your Health

If you listen to political talk-radio, you may have been puzzled by recent ads about seeds. Why would anyone be concerned about access to seeds? Because approximately 82 percent of the global seed supply is patented and owned by a handful of big corporations. Just six companies — DuPont, Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF and Dow — control about 75 percent of the global agro-chemical market .

British consumers were amazed to learn from a report released by the British Royal Society that nearly two-thirds of the soy imported into the United Kingdom is genetically engineered. The majority of Brits and Americans are totally unaware that they are buying and eating foods made from GMO crops.

There has been no long-term testing of the impact genetically engineered crops have on humans or on the environment. We simply don’t know if the recent increases in allergies, asthma and other diseases that affect the immune system are related to the consumption of foods from GMO crops. The effect of GMO foods on our genetic map and the genes of future generations remains a mystery. The phenomenon of fish changing sex (among other abnormalities in wildlife reproduction) may or may not be related to the growing of GMO crops on U.S. farmlands. But it has been proven that GMO crops have modified traditional maize in Mexico.

A joint report from the Organic Center, the Union for Concerned Scientists and the Center for Food Safety reveals that the adoption of genetically engineered cotton, soy and corn has simultaneously increased the use of pesticides in the United States. What’s the connection? Large numbers of farmers are now raising corn, soy and cotton that have been genetically engineered to tolerate being doused with more and more weed killer. The first 13 years of commercial use of GMO crops have resulted in the overall use of pesticides on U.S. farms swelling by 318 million pounds.

Accelerated use of herbicides has caused super weeds to emerge, weeds resistant to pesticides. Because super weeds cost more to control, farmers face greater expenses in the long run. Add to this the fact that we simply don’t know the ultimate effect of super weeds on plant and wildlife.

The Organic Center predicts that in 2010, GMO corn seed prices could be as much as three times higher than prices for conventional corn seed. GMO soy seed prices are expected to be 42 percent higher than the original 1996 GMO soy. The medical toll remains unknown.

Sen. Charles Grassley Asks Tough Questions of Leading Medical Schools

Ten of our nation’s top medical schools were given until Dec. 8, 2009, to respond to two tough questions posed by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the leading Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. Grassley expressed his concern that “any attempt to manipulate the scientific literature, which can in turn mislead doctors to prescribe treatments that may be ineffective and/or cause harm to their patients, is very troubling.” He was referring to the practice of drug companies and manufacturers of medical devices paying academic researchers for the use of their names on articles promoting the use of these firms’ products, articles written by someone else. In addition, Grassley fears the practice raises costs for taxpayers.

In his letter to the medical schools, Grassley asked:

* What is your institution doing about professors who engage in ghostwriting? and
* How does ghostwriting differ from plagiarism by students?

He also asked if these institutions have written policies regarding ghostwriting and how they respond to allegations that faculty members have failed to disclose funds received from drug and medical-device firms when drafting manuscripts for publication. Kudos to Sen. Grassley for bird-dogging shoddy research and dishonest journalism!

JAMA Publishes Flawed Studies Linking Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 to Cancer

The Natural Products Association (NPA) and the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) have both voiced outrage over the publication of “Cancer Incidence and Mortality after Treatment with Folic Acid and Vitamin B12” in the 11/19/09 issue of JAMA. The leading researcher on this study, Dr. Marta Ebbing of Norway, is quoted as saying, “Folic acid fortification and supplementation may not necessarily be as safe as previously assumed.

In response, Andrew Shao, Ph.D., vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at CRN, declared: “The real headline of this study should be that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer…” . Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., NPA’s vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, said: “[T]wo flawed studies are combined to yield one larger flawed study. This does not seem to be in the best interest of medical science or public health”.

Among the numerous flaws in the research are:

* Both of the trials in this study were designed to assess the effects of folic acid and B12 on cardiovascular disease, not on cancer.
* Between 2001 and 2005, as people started taking folic acid, the United States actually saw a decrease in cases of cancer. According to CRN, “It is inappropriate to reach firm conclusions based on such limited data, especially in the face of vast evidence showing benefit for folic acid supplementation.”
* Most of the subjects in both trials were taking beta-blockers and statins; some were taking ACE inhibitors and diuretics. The study fails to analyze how these combinations of drugs relate to the risk of cancer.
* Design flaws caused one of the two trials to be terminated early.
* The factorial design of the other trial may have been too complex.

Friday, December 18, 2009

United we are stronger’—ANH announces merger

ANH Press Release: ‘United we are stronger’—ANH announces merger

PRESS RELEASE – for immediate release

18th DECEMBER 2009

Two leading natural health campaign organisations are formally merging as of today. The Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), based in Dorking, UK, and the American Association for Health Freedom (AAHF), of Washington DC, have merged to form the Alliance for Natural Health International (ANH International). The new organisation is headed up by internationally acclaimed scientist and activist, Dr Robert Verkerk. The organisation’s headquarters will be in Dorking, UK, which will remain the base for ANH International’s European activities, now to be conducted through ANH-Europe. The Alliance for Natural Health USA (ANH-USA), under the leadership of attorney Gretchen DuBeau, will continue to operate out of its Washington DC base, although its activities will be closely coordinated with that of ANH International. The merger joins two powerful, results-orientated natural health organisations that have long advocated for natural and integrative medicine.

Dr Verkerk and his co-workers at ANH-International have been at the forefront of moves to reduce the impact of the increasingly far-reaching and stringent European regulatory system. This system threatens to decimate clinical nutrition, nutritional therapy, non-European healthcare traditions such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda as well as the leading-edge of the health food sector across the 27 Member States of Europe. European regulation is also acting as a key regulatory template influencing many countries around the world, as well as global standards and guidelines for food products issued through the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The ANH has pioneered the use of ‘good science’ and ‘good law’ as the key principles in establishing a legal and scientific framework appropriate to the continued and expanded use of natural and sustainable approaches to healthcare.

Known for its longstanding efforts to protect integrative practitioners from unjust prosecution for utilising natural healing modalities and ensuring consumers have continued access to the natural healthcare options of their choice, ANH-USA brings an arsenal of lobbyists and more than 50,000 advocates dedicated to shifting the medical paradigm from an exclusive focus on surgery, drugs and other conventional techniques to an “integrative” approach incorporating food, dietary supplements and lifestyle changes.

“United we are stronger”, said Dr Robert Verkerk. “Europe has one of the most restrictive systems which we badly need to liberalise,” continued Dr Verkerk, “while the US represents one of the most liberal systems, which we must ensure is not lost. Together, we handle both sides of the issue. Many consumers and natural health advocates have criticised the lack of cooperation among natural health campaigners. We hope today marks a permanent change.”

Gretchen DuBeau, executive director of ANH-USA, commented, “We are thrilled about the merger. The opportunity to join forces with a top-notch, international natural health organisation increases our strength in moving towards a sustainable, integrative medical model.”

ANH International is committed to sustainable approaches to healthcare. It strongly believes the existing orthodox medical paradigm, based around the over-use and abuse of pharmaceutical drugs, can no longer be countenanced. Its lack of respect for biological principles, born out by poor efficacy and huge costs in terms of side effects, is just one expression of this.

According to ANH International, preventative medicine is too often incorrectly defined by the use of increasing amounts of drugs, earlier and earlier in life, even in childhood. The concept of sustainable healthcare is about genuine prevention, particularly chronic disease prevention. Chronic diseases represent the single greatest burden on healthcare systems around the world and it is well accepted that they are largely preventable through dietary and lifestyle changes, rather than the use of drugs.

Drawing on the legal, scientific and policy expertise of its US and European offices, as well as its affiliates around the world, ANH International will work tirelessly and with even greater effectiveness to help stimulate a fundamental shift in the orthodox western healthcare paradigm. The new paradigm, built on the principles of sustainability, needs to work harmoniously with biological systems, rather than against them.

Given the imminent threats to natural health in many parts of the world, and the urgency of required action, ANH-International, and its two regional offices, is looking to expand significantly its reach among consumers, practitioners and companies in the natural health field. New or substantially revised campaign websites have been launched which hope to facilitate this process. Companies or practitioners, or even volunteer members of the public, wishing to collaborate with any of the organiations should contact their nearest regional office.


For further information, please contact Meleni Aldridge, Executive Coordinator, ANH-International; ph: +44 (0)1306 646 600, email: or Gretchen DuBeau, Executive Director, ANH-USA; ph: +1 202 467 1988, email:

About the Alliance for Natural Health International?

The Alliance for Natural Health International (ANH-Intl) represents an international non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting natural and sustainable approaches to healthcare. It upholds that the integrative medicine and functional medicine models, as well as many traditional healthcare systems that have evolved over millennia, are more appropriate means of dealing with today’s health challenges than the current dominant western medicine model, which is over-reliant on the use of pharmaceutical drugs. The ANH is working collaboratively to help facilitate the development of scientific and legal frameworks appropriate to natural healthcare.

Find out more



Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) in the Crosshairs of Congressional Healthcare Reform

The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal has sounded the alarm about a bill proposed by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., a bill that could cripple consumer-driven healthcare saving accounts plans. According to the editorial, not only does the Reid bill change the tax provisions to make HSAs less desirable, but its regulations threaten the very existence of the savings accaounts that have given consumers a more active role in managing their own spending on health.

For the many Americans who choose to purchase a high-deductible, major medical plan but with the opportunity to put aside tax-free dollars to be used toward deductibles or other medical expenses, maintaining access to HSAs is clearly an issue of freedom of choice issue. HSAs also make healthcare less susceptible to political control. Tell Sen. Reid to leave HSAs alone!

$500 million to be Spent Lobbying Congress on Healthcare Reform

In 2009, drug companies, medical device firms, insurance companies and other players in the medical industry will spend a record $500 million to influence the congressional vote on healthcare reform.

Before the passage of healthcare reform tackling the issue of pharmaceutical companies’ sky-high profits, the drug industry has been raising prices.

Four House leaders (Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y.; Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif.; Pete Stark, D-Calif.; John Lewis, D-Ga.) and one senator (Bill Nelson D-Fla.) have called for two separate investigations into drug-company pricing.

“They are trying to influence the people who have the power,” states Josh Israel of the Center for Public Integrity. Now is the time to make your voice heard by Congress. Your voice is priceless when raised to elected officials debating key issues, including healthcare freedom of choice.

Electronic Medical Records Don’t Reduce Healthcare Costs

President Obama insists that electronic medical records will help cut healthcare costs, and as part of the February 2009 economic stimulus bill, Congress has offered $19 billion in incentives to adopt them. But Sue Blevins of the Institute for Health Freedom has continually warned that EMRs could endanger privacy and freedom of choice.

Add to this the fact that researchers at Harvard University, publishing in The American Journal of Medicine, wrote that administrative costs rose when hospitals switched to EMRs. Lead author Dr. David Himmelstein stated: “Our study finds that hospital computerization hasn’t saved a dime, nor has it improved administrative efficiency.”

Has anyone sent a copy of this journal to the members of Congress?

Integrative Healthcare Included in Senate Healthcare Bill's Language

The American Association for Health Freedom (soon to be The Alliance for Natural Health-USA thanks to our merger with The Alliance for Natural Health) has worked for months to gain recognition for integrated healthcare in President Obama’s Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) plan (part of the stimulus bill) and in multiple iterations of healthcare reform legislation. We have been assisted by many friends on the Hill ranging from Senator Harkin, a Democrat, to Congressmen Ron Paul, a Republican. We are now very grateful to Senators Mikulski and Conrad, who at our urging worked with other senators to modify the current senate healthcare bill to include representation for the integrative medicine community.

The CER Commission established by the bill would determine areas of national medical priority and commission research to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of various treatments for particular conditions. The stated intent is to determine the best treatments and then provide this information to policymakers, clinicians, healthcare payers, and the public to better inform healthcare decision making.

First established in the stimulus bill, CER is controversial for good reason. Any such government body will very likely be captured by special interests such as drug companies, medical equipment manufacturers, or the AMA. It may also lead to a one-size fits all system of medicine. Knowing that the CER program is a non-negotiable item for both President Obama and Congress, we have been working to ensure that any system created to fund and evaluate medical treatments will at the very least provide an even playing field for integrative medicine. In a best case, CER would also fund research about non-patentable and thus largely ignored natural treatments.

Thanks to Senators Mikulski and Conrad, along with other friends, the senate healthcare bill now requires that the CER board include at least one integrative healthcare practitioner along with healthcare consumers, physicians, private payers, and pharmaceutical and diagnostic manufacturers. It also includes, as appropriate, experts in integrative health and primary prevention strategies on the CER advisory panel. This marks the first inclusion of integrative medicine in any federally designed program. While we have miles to go, these are powerful first steps.

Other important provisions in the senate healthcare bill include the following:

Inclusion of a “Sense of the Senate” that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) should restructure their scoring of integrative medicine. Currently, when scoring legislation to determine the cost of a bill, the CBO assumes the cost of preventive services are realized initially and are not offset by later savings. For example, nutritional counseling is seen solely as a cost, not as a way to prevent and control diabetes, thereby saving billions. Although Sense of the Senate expresses the Senate’s opinion rather than creating law, this is a strong statement about the need to restructure CBO accounting, and one we hope the CBO will seriously consider.

Establishment of a National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council to develop a national preventive and integrative healthcare strategy. The council will be advised by a group of experts required to include diverse health professionals including integrative health practitioners who have expertise in preventive medicine. The national plan also mandates a list of national priorities on health promotion to address lifestyle behavior modification including proper nutrition. Again, the senate has mandated the inclusion of integrative health practitioners in yet another program that, should the bill pass in this form, will strongly influence the direction of our health system. We are also pleased to see true prevention, such as nutrition, included in the list of priorities.

Group health plans and issuers offering group or individual health insurance coverage are required to report on whether coverage benefits under healthcare plans includes wellness and health promotion activities. The bill states that wellness programs may include personalized services that may be geared toward smoking cessation, weight management, stress management, physical fitness, heart disease prevention, healthy lifestyle support, and diabetes prevention. While there is no requirement these preventive services be covered by healthcare insurance, the suggested areas of inclusion within wellness coverage is a step in the right direction.

We wish these provisions were all there is to talk about in the Senate bill. Despite the victory described above, there are still many really bad features of the bill, features that we have discussed before, including:

Electronic health records – All qualified health-benefits plans are required to use electronic health records set up in such a way as to gut your privacy and jeopardize doctors’ use of integrative therapies. The plan also includes unique health plan identifiers - each of us will have a cradle to grave unique ID number that will track medical history. Thanks to the electronic health records mandate, this information will be available with the click of a mouse.

Cost-Sharing is prohibited for preventive services. A strict reading of the definition of “cost-sharing” may prevent out-of-pocket payment for medical services that are supposedly “available” under qualifying health insurance. This means that you may not be able to pay privately for what you want but is not specifically covered under the policy. This kind of restriction already exists with Medicare. If you want more than Medicare provides, it is illegal for your Medicare doctor to provide it.

Mandated healthcare coverage – You can no longer choose the healthcare options that work best for you. You must now purchase coverage that is defined by the government. Individuals who do not have or buy this qualifying coverage will be taxed on their annual tax return. And, of course, those that fail to pay their taxes will go to jail.

Catastrophic and similar packages will no longer be available to anyone over the age of 30. These packages have enabled people to buy natural healthcare on their own while still being covered for major medical. This vital option will disappear for many of us.

Cap on Flex-Spending Account (FSA) contributions at $2,500 - Currently, the contribution level is unlimited. This is another way to make natural medicine more expensive for consumers.

Medicine Cabinet Tax - Americans would no longer be able to purchase over-the-counter medicines with their FSA, Health Savings Account (HSA) or Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA).

Increase in the non-qualified HSA distribution penalty from 10 percent to 20 percent. This makes HSAs less attractive and paves the way for HSA pre-verification.

Likely long-run elimination of HSAs – The Senate bill is confusing about HSAs, possibly intentionally so. The real intent may be for them to disappear completely because they won’t be able to comply with mandated policy requirements.

The Senate bill also uses various “smoke and mirrors” ways of appearing to pay for itself, but we will leave that part of the story for the financial experts.

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the merged healthcare bill this week. As always, we’ll keep you updated with the latest developments and opportunities to take action and make your voice heard in the healthcare debate!