Sunday, February 10, 2008

Doctors Panic And Halt Research Study

OK, this is just in from the February 7th, 2008 paper -- it doesn't actually say which paper, but I have it narrowed down to either The Ann Arbor News or The Detroit Free Press -- and it any case it was apparently nabbed from The New York Times. Onwards.
Says here they were doing a large federally-funded research study on that hot death flavor of the decade, Diabetes mellitus Type II. Somebody proved years ago that if you have Type I or "juvenile" diabetes, and you keep your blood sugars as close to normal as possible, you live longer and don't go blind and la de da. As in, DUH. So they finally got around to finding out whether that holds true for Type II or "adult" diabetes as well. I could have saved them the money, but NOBODY LISTENS TO ME.
So the article tells us they've discovered that improving blood sugars in Type II diabetics "increased their risk of death." They then go on to explain in fairish detail why that is almost certainly NOT TRUE.
The study divided 10,000 test subjects into control and experimental groups. The controls did treatment as usual, and the experimentals were clobbered with all kinds of treatments, not only to keep their blood sugar low, but to lower their cholesterol and blood pressure and every other "risk factor" we've been pounded over the head with since the Seventies. They put these wretched creatures on all kinds of pills, PLUS insulin, sometimes even the insulin pump, normally used for hard-to-manage cases of juvenile diabetes if I recall correctly. They mentioned nothing about improving people's lifestyles, like making sure they eat right and get enough exercise, moral support and rest. Do I need to remind you at this juncture that many doctors believe the Atkins Diet is healthy?
OK, so out of 2 groups of 5,000 people, over the course of over 5 years, 54 more people in the experimental group died than in the control group. Did the doctors reassess their methods? Did they ask themselves whether it's really wise to heap all these chemicals into experimental subjects, averaging age 62, who may have been sick for decades already? Did they look into how long or how effectively the goners had gotten treatment before the study started? Did they reckon on the stress and strain to the test subjects of having to test their blood and pop pills all day long, shoot up endlessly, and count out the individual rice grains and celery sticks and slices of low-carb artificial banana they were allowed to eat on a daily basis?
NO, THEY DID NOT. The docs panicked, and decided to put the remaining experimentals on the same regimes as the controls. So, basically, the study is over and I suppose they have to give the remaining federal funds back. I note with fascination that the article DOESN'T EVEN TELL US WHAT THESE PEOPLE DIED OF. Hell, it could have been anything. Maybe they fell down the stairs. In any case, if they died of anything diabetes-related, they don't mention it in the article. Which, I don't know, seems like an important point.
I'm reminded, irresistably, of the oft-quoted fact (?) that most heart attacks occur at 9 a.m. on Mondays. I just picture some 85-year-old test subject waking up one morning. He looks blearily at his vast pill organizer, his vials and syringes, his alcohol swabs, his food chart, his tasteless breakfast comprising 5 thimblefuls of different-colored Soylent crumbs...and cheering up as he reaches for the rat poison instead. Are you digging me?
Another important point: the article's author is Gina Kolata. Despite her status as a prominent health writer, she is in good odor with me because of her inability to keep her story straight. Someday I'll review her book on the 1918 flu epidemic. It's a comedy classic.


Blogger Ur-spo said...

reading medical journal papers is an art - and important too considering how things can be twisted and interpreted.

5:00 PM  

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