Monday :: Jun 12, 2006

No Drs. Luddite Of The Cross

by pessimist

A while back, I mentioned that Mrs. P's mother is dying of cancer. She's not in much pain - yet - but the doctors have told her that she's down to two choices: chemotherapy, which has only a 30% chance of extending her life for a brief period filled with sickness and a long list of nasty side effects - or call the hospice and get ready to go.

Mrs. P's family is coordinating the settling of her affairs, and we will soon be gathering to send her on her final journey.

In the course of discussing her condition with the doctors, however, it came out that Mrs. P's grandmother died of a similar course of cancer. It began as cervical cancer, and then erupted into all sorts of fast growing tumors which spread all over her body. The fact that the cancer in both women followed a very similar course and timetable indicates a genetic propensity toward the disease. As Mrs. P has already been treated for 'suspicious cervical lesions', she is naturally quite concerned, especially as our daughters Zookeeper and Diva could be next.

There is good news tonight! ... and some not-so-good news which affects the good. We'll do the Holly Golightly thing and start with the good.

Vaccine for cervical cancer approved

By Gardiner Harris, The New York Times

JUNE 9, 2006

U.S. drug officials have announced the approval of a vaccine against cervical cancer that could eventually save thousands of lives each year in the United States and hundreds of thousands in the rest of the world.

Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of death in women across the globe, affecting an estimated 470,000 women and killing 233,000 each year.

In the United States,
about 9,710 women contract cervical cancer each year,
and some 3,700 die from it.

Called Gardasil, the vaccine guards against cancer and genital warts caused by the human papillomavirus [HPV], the most common sexually transmitted disease. The vaccine prevents lasting infections with two human papillomavirus strains that cause 70 percent of cancers and another two strains that cause 90 percent of genital warts. It is the culmination of a 15-year effort that began at the National Cancer Institute and a research center in Australia, and health officials described the vaccine as a landmark.

"This is a huge advance," Dr. Jesse Goodman, director of the Food and Drug Administration's biologics center, said Thursday. "It demonstrates that vaccines can work beyond childhood diseases to protect the health of adults."

This is where the bad news comes crashing in: "NObody expects the Christian prohibition!"

Federal vaccine experts are widely expected to recommend that all 11- to 12-year-old girls get the vaccine, but the vaccine's reach could be limited by its high price and religious objections to its use.

Let's look at the cost issue first. It's not as bad as it looks initially, though it still faces difficulties:

Merck, Gardasil's maker, said that a full, three-shot course will cost $360,
making Gardasil among the most expensive vaccines ever made.
Along with tobacco-use screening and aspirin in heart patients, vaccines remain the most cost-effective medical intervention available. Private health insurers will almost certainly cover the vaccine for 11- and 12-year-old girls, although older women may have to pay for it themselves.
But Gardasil's price could put it out of reach for most women in poor countries and even some in the United States who lack private insurance. A federal program is expected to provide the vaccine to 45 percent of the children in the United States for whom it is recommended. But state programs that cover other children are having trouble buying other expensive vaccines.
Still, scientific and budgetary issues are much more likely to determine Gardasil's uptake. Three shots must be given over six months. Such a schedule is routine among infants, but preteens are tougher to corral into doctors' offices.

Difficult, maybe. Impossible, no. That is, unless someone interferes with the process. You already know who that 'someone' is:

Some religious groups say that they support the vaccine but oppose mandatory vaccination laws because cervical cancer is caused by a sexually-transmitted virus.

Who the hell said anything about it being mandatory???? NO ONE!

A panel of independent vaccine experts brought together by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to decide June 29 who should get the vaccine. The panel will almost certainly avoid suggesting that states make vaccinations mandatory. Public health officials invariably assess voluntary vaccination efforts before attempting mandatory ones. The panel is likely to recommend vaccinations for all 11- to 12-year-old girls, while agreeing that girls as young as 9 or women as old as 26 can get the vaccine if they wish.

Unless your head is stuck up your 6th Century ass, you yourself have been the beneficiary of immunizations by the Public Health System. Did you and your children not get immunized against measles, mumps, rubella, polio, TB, and numerous other viruses? Of course you did! HPV is just another virus whose spread can be prevented, and there is a clear need to do so:

In the United States, about 20 million people are infected by the human papillomavirus each year. By the time women reach the age of 50, 80 percent have been infected.

Are you going to try to tell me that 80% of the women and/or their partners are promiscuous?

Just try! The Family Research Council's own web site claims:

Married couples

· A nationally representative survey of 884 men and 1,288 women published in the Journal of Sex Researchfound that 77 percent of married men and 88 percent of married women had remained faithful to their marriage vows.

[Michael W. Wiederman, "Extramarital Sex: Prevalence and Correlates in a National Survey," Journal of Sex Research 34 (1997): 170.]

· A 1997 national survey appearing in The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States found that 75 percent of husbands and 85 percent of wives never had sexual relations outside of marriage.

[E. O. Laumann et al., The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1994 ): 216.]

·  A telephone survey conducted for Parade magazine of 1,049 adults selected to represent the demographic characteristics of the United States found that 81 percent of married men and 85 percent of married women reported that they had never violated their marriage vows.

["Sexual Habits of Americans Have Changed Dramatically in Ten Years: New National Survey Finds Both Men and Women More Committed and Caring" PR Newswire (August 4, 1994).]

So let's cut the crap! Just like all those other diseases you were immunized against, timely immunization against HPV is vital to the health of the women in your life:

A Merck spokeswoman said that Gardasil, which was approved for girls and women from 9 to 26 years of age, would be available in doctors' offices by the end of June. But if girls have already been exposed to those strains, the vaccine has no effect, so health experts want the vaccine given before girls have sex. The median age at which girls have sex is 15.

The need for the cure is clearly NOT a liberal/conservative dichotomy:

Liberals in Congress and elsewhere have for months warned that the Bush administration and other religious groups should not interfere with Gardasil's approval or required use.
In response, many conservative groups have made statements supporting the vaccine.

So what gives you pseudo-religious types - you who preach how Christian you are while your actions scream HYPOCRITE! - the right to deny my daughters the means to protect themselves from a disease which would otherwise kill them even if they are in one of your committed relationships - as their ancestors were???

Gene Gerard: Religion Running Roughshod Over Cancer Science
By Gene Gerard,
Jun 11, 2006

Gene Gerard has taught history, religion and ethics for 14 years at several colleges in the Southwest and is a contributing author of the forthcoming book Americans at War (Greenwood Press). He writes a political blog for the world news website OrbStandard.

From a public health perspective, we can't continue to allow conservatives to depict science as a cultural bogeyman.

The Food and Drug Administration advisory panel approved a vaccine for the human papilloma virus (HPV) last week. The vaccine appears to be 100% effective at protecting against the most prevalent viruses that cause cervical cancer. While public health professionals view the vaccine as miraculous, many conservative organizations oppose it on the grounds that it might encourage promiscuity among adolescent girls. Now that the FDA has approved the vaccine, conservatives are already working feverishly to limit or even prevent its use.

Despite the benefits of the vaccine, conservative organizations began to rally against it last year. One of the most vocal opponents was the Family Research Council. The council, according to its mission statement, 'promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.'

Last October the council's president, Tony Perkins, spoke against the vaccine. "Our concern," he said, "is that this vaccine will be marketed to a segment of the population that should be getting a message about abstinence. It sends the wrong message." He went on to say that he would not vaccinate his 13-year-old daughter.

And Perkins would rather she died of HPV-induced cervical cancer than risk giving her the idea that sex in any form - even marital - just might be a good thing!

Yet another organization that promotes abstinence is the Physicians Consortium. The head of the consortium, Dr. Hal Wallis, is also critical of the vaccine. In his opinion, "If you don't want to suffer these diseases, you need to abstain, and when you find a partner, stick with that partner."

Earth to Dr. Hal Wallis: Mrs. P's grandparents each had exactly ONE sex partner in their whole lives. This puts the lie to both your specious assertion above and this next below:

The founder of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse also opposes the vaccine. This organization was formed "to promote the appreciation for and practice of sexual abstinence (purity) until marriage." Leslee Unruh, the organization's founder, stated firmly, "I personally object to vaccinating children against a disease that is 100% preventable with proper sexual behavior."

What about a disease that has nothing to do with sex? Would you still oppose treatment, even for ailing children?

To quote Gene Wilder in Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother: LIAR!

Two moms take on the Luddite-in-chief

June 11, 2006

When scientists finally discover a cure for juvenile diabetes, what do you say we officially name it the "No Thanks To George W. Bush Treatment"?

Come to think of it, a "No Thanks To Bush Cure for Parkinson's" sounds about right, too. So does a "No Thanks to Bush Spinal Cord Injury Repair Regimen," a "No Thanks to Bush Vaccine for Alzheimer's" and - for good measure - a "No Thanks To Dick Cheney Cure for Heart Disease."

Whom might we thank, at least in part, if and when these great advances are made?

I nominate two New York moms: Susan Solomon and Mary Elizabeth Bunzel. Spurred by their sons' juvenile diabetes, these ladies managed to round up a dream team of topnotch scientists. Then, last month, they opened the country's first independent, nonprofit stem cell research lab.

The lab is dedicated to precisely the kind of cutting edge medical research Bush brought to a near standstill five years ago, leaving sick people and their loved ones in the lurch.

"It's as if someone said, 'We can treat your cancer - but only with the drugs that were available in August 2001," says Solomon of the executive order signed by Bush.

That order banned federal funding for the study of new human stem-cell lines.

[T]he Bush ban has had what Harold Varmus, president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, calls a "chilling effect." Some grad students started avoiding the field, says the Nobel laureate, knowing that they wouldn't be able to get federal grants. Some institutions did the same. The dampening effect was so great that even here in a city of more than 25,000 scientists, Varmus estimates there are only 30 to 50 labs studying new stem-cell lines.

This was driving the two moms crazy. "We looked at each other and said, 'This is ridiculous! This is New York!'" recalls Solomon, who quit her media consulting job to start the New York Stem Cell Foundation.

After she and Bunzel figured out the big names in the field, they started inviting them to conferences. The idea was to rekindle excitement about a field in danger of stagnating. "These interactions were extremely effective," says Varmus.

So were the moms. "We called everyone we know," says Solomon, and hit them up for money.

It took less than $10 million to open the lab
that now serves as a safe haven for scientists -
in an undisclosed location.

Call it an underground railroad for stem cell research. The lab's first project? Understandably, it's a study of diabetes. The moms deserve that much. After all, they have given the city, and science, and all of us who will ever be touched by illness so much more.

No thanks to Bush.

Nor all you asshole Christians who talk your faith a whole lot more than you walk it. What Would Your Savior Do?

To all of you so-called Christians who would allow your beliefs to interfere with the advancement of medical science, I have an announcement to make.

If your ancient beliefs cause the death of even one of the women in my life by your denying them a viable treatment because you don't believe in it, you will regret it. You will be the itch, bitch, and you may address me as Mr. Scratch.

I will begin by making you watch, restrained and helpless, as one of your loved ones painfully disolves into a stinking mass of ooze while I hold the cure just out of their reach.

Then I will get mean.

You have been warned.

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