Homeopathic vaccines and other mysteries questioned

Homeopathic vaccines are being questioned in Australia; meanwhile Queensland sponsors a conference on complementary medicine.

Homeopathic vaccines have been criticized in Australia:

Writing in the The Australian on the weekend, prominent pharmacy consultant Ron Batagol criticised the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for allowing the sale of homeopathic vaccines which, he claimed, could lead to life threatening situations if they were relied upon.

"One shudders to think of the danger that pharmacists and other health professionals could, however unwittingly, be complicit in, even legally liable for, if they don't advise parents to seek medical advice where this is clearly warranted, or suggest appropriate, symptomatic treatment with a pharmacy-based over-the-counter medication in the first instance, rather than selling or, heaven forbid, recommending homoeopathics for use by children or infants," Mr Batagol wrote.

"So, I have just one question for our health regulators: how do you sleep at night knowing you continue to allow homoeopathic products to be legally peddled in the healthcare marketplace as substitutes for effective therapeutic treatment for the most helpless and vulnerable members of the community, our children?"

However, Dr Morrow said the onus was on the individual to decide whether to take a homeopathic vaccine.

"Individuals do have a right to make a choice," she said.

"The issue becomes not the availability of homeopathy but in the way in which it is used by individuals. We don't believe that complementary medicines should be an alternative to Western medicines. We believe that it should be complementary to Western medicine but in one sense it really is up to the individual to use the tools that are available to them in the best possible way."

Despite that, Dr Morrow signalled that the TGA did have a role to play in curbing the promotion of homeopathic vaccines.

"I remain unconvinced that the TGA has a role to play in telling people to be vaccinated or not," she said.

"I believe that is a professional issue and not a production issue per se, although homeopathic medicines should not be advertised for vaccination use."

CAM recommendations are given for combatting or preventing the H1N1 swine flu virus:

A. Many of us, professionals and lay people alike, are concerned about the second wave of H1N1 flu. People at risk will most likely receive a specific H1N1 vaccine; for the rest of the community, health experts recommend washing hands frequently, wearing masks if concerned about exposure, and staying home when sick.

There are other effective strategies we can use to strengthen our immune system, and prevent or minimize the effects of the flu. Use of a full spectrum of natural noninvasive approaches can greatly enhance your ability to prevent and recover from illness.

At the Department of Complementary and Alternative Medicine clinic at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, we blend the best of all worlds to provide a whole-person approach to ailments.

My area of interest and experience is Ayurvedic medicine, the ancient tradition of India, as effective today as it was 5,000 years ago. Ayurveda holds that incomplete and ineffective digestion leads to accumulation of toxins, decreasing the strength of the immune system and rendering the individual more prone to infections. Therefore proper diet is crucial to maintaining health and preventing illness.

General lifestyle recommendations to strengthen the immune system and prevent the flu:

• Drink plenty of warm fluids.

• Get enough rest and sleep.

• Wash hands frequently and vigorously for at least 20 seconds.

• When in cold or rain, keep warm — particularly your head, neck and feet.

• Gargle with salt water to prevent sore throat.

Diet recommendations:

• Warm soups, such as chicken-with-herbs soup. Your grandmother was right: Chicken soup is effective in minimizing symptoms of the flu. Recent research at the University of Nebraska confirmed that homemade or readymade chicken soup is effective in decreasing symptoms and speeding recovery by decreasing congestion and inflammation in the respiratory tract.

• Fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains, as they contain antioxidants, which boost the immune system.

• Garlic has long been used as a natural antibiotic antiviral agent.

Get your vitamins:

• Vitamin C. The human body does not produce this vitamin, present in many fruits and vegetables. The Cochrane review, the most respected evidence-based database, reported that research results regarding the role of vitamin C in preventing colds and flu are inconclusive, however there is evidence for its benefit in decreasing the length and severity of illness.

• Multivitamins, including A, B-complex and E. Recently there has been growing evidence of the important role of vitamin D in regulating the immune system and decreasing inflammation.


• Chinese herbs: ginseng-astragalus combination.

• Ayurvedic herbs: guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), chyavanprash (an herbal formulation), ashwaganda (Withania somnifera, sometimes called "Indian ginseng"), amlaki (Emblica officinalis), tulsi (Ocicum sanctum) and others.

• Yin chiao, a safe herbal flu remedy, has been used in China for hundreds of years. Take when the first symptoms appear and continue up to four days if necessary.

• Echinacea, a Western herb, is used extensively to minimize symptoms of colds and flu. It's best to use early, as soon as symptoms appear. The Cochrane report graded the evidence for its use as inconclusive.

Additional recommendations:

• Ginger tea, in combination with other spices.

• Avoid dairy products, as they tend to promote mucus production, except for yogurt, and lassi (yogurt diluted with water), which enhances immunity.

• Acupuncture or specific Ayurvedic breathing techniques may be helpful.

Dr. Tamar Hoffmann, assistant clinical professor, Department of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai'i, is board-certified in internal medicine and a certified Ayurvedic practitioner. This column is for information only. Consult your health practitioner for medical etc.

 Colorado vets receive awards including for practices involving CAM for animals:

Colorado State University Veterinary Staff Receive Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Veterinary Medicine in Colorado

FORT COLLINS - The Colorado Veterinary Medical Association honored several members of Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at its recent annual conference.

Dr. Susan Lana, an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences and chief of the Clinical Oncology Service at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, received the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association’s annual Outstanding Faculty Award. Dr. Narda Robinson, an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences and director of the Center for Comparative and Integrative Pain Medicine, received a CVMA President’s Award for championing a balanced approach to complementary medicine in veterinary medicine. Maura Green, a veterinary technician in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, was honored with the 2009 Veterinary Technician of the Year Award.

Dr. Lana’s nominators noted that she is a role model for faculty, particularly in her clinical and teaching roles. She has helped develop CSU’s relationship with the National Cancer Institute’s Clinical Oncology Trials Consortium. Lana also oversees the tumor tissue archiving facility at the Animal Cancer Center which provides research materials for collaborators within CSU and around the country.

Dr. Lana has recently taken on oversight of the Animal Cancer Center's consultation service, which provides more than 3,000 free consultations to clients and referring veterinarians seeking advice about cancer in pet animals.

The President’s Award, which honored Dr. Robinson, recognizes individuals who contributed to CVMA in a special way and whose contribution caught the attention of the CVMA president. Dr. Robinson is both a veterinarian and an osteopathic physician, bringing unique insight into the worlds of animal and human medicine.

Robinson “is a long-time supporter of CVMA in many different efforts... and is the founder and director of the Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians Program,” said Dr. Jed Rogers, who nominated her for the award. “This wildly successful program is something CVMA is proud to support. She is a national leader in the development of complementary and alternative medicine in our profession. She is ever generous with her time and talents. The insight and perspective she provided this year as CVMA articulated the model for animal chiropractic helped assured that what we created was rigorous, appropriate, credible, focused on the protection of our patients, and based on science and evidence.”

Green came to Colorado State University in 1980 when she was hired as the first and only critical care unit technician. Many of the CCU techniques, protocols and policies that she created then are still used today. She authored a chapter in “Vet Clinics of North America,” detailing how to organize a critical care unit, and gave lectures and wet labs nationally to inspire the formation of critical care at other universities.

In 1998, Green recognized the need for a blood donor program at CSU and single-handedly created a foster parent program for blood donors in which veterinary students would adopt race track greyhounds and bring them to the hospital every month to donate blood. Years later she created a community-based volunteer donor program with more than 100 donor cats and dogs enrolled to donate every two months, for which she received the Outstanding Achievement Award in Creativity from CSU.

An autism study produces surprising results:

Genome-wide study of autism published in Nature

Combining family- and population-based approaches sheds new light on the potential roles of both common and rare forms of human genetic variation

In one of the first studies of its kind, an international team of researchers has uncovered a single-letter change in the genetic code that is associated with autism. The finding, published in the October 8 issue of the journal Nature, implicates a neuronal gene not previously tied to the disorder and more broadly, underscores a role for common DNA variation. In addition, the new research highlights two other regions of the genome, which are likely to contain rare genetic differences that may also influence autism risk.

"These discoveries are an important step forward, but just one of many that are needed to fully dissect the complex genetics of this disorder, " said Mark Daly, one of the study's senior authors, a senior associate member at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and an associate professor at the Center for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). "The genomic regions we've identified help shed additional light on the biology of autism and point to areas that should be prioritized for further study."

"The biggest challenge to finding the genes that contribute to autism is having a large and well studied group of patients and their family members, both for primary discovery of genes and to test and verify the discovery candidates," said Aravinda Chakravarti, professor of medicine, pediatrics and molecular biology and genetics at the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins, and one of the study's senior authors. "This latest finding would not have been possible without these many research groups and consortia pooling together their patient resources. Of course, they would not have been possible without the genomic scanning technologies either."

Autism is a common neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social, behavioral and communication abilities. Compared to other complex diseases, which are caused by a complicated mix of genetic, environmental and other factors, autism is highly heritable — roughly 90% of the disorder is thought to be genetic in origin. Yet the majority of autism cases cannot be attributed to known inherited causes.

Modern approaches that harness genome-scale technologies have begun to yield some insights into autism and its genetic underpinnings. However, the relative importance of common genetic variants, which are generally present in the human population at a frequency of about 5%, as well as other forms of genetic variation, remains an unresolved question.

To more deeply probe autism's complex genetic architecture, a large multinational collaboration led by researchers at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital, Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere devised a two-pronged, genome-scale approach. The first component makes use of a family-based method (called "linkage") that analyzes DNA from autism patients and their family members to detect portions of the genome that harbor rare but high-impact DNA variants. The second harnesses a population-based method (known as "association") that examines DNA from unrelated individuals and can expose common genetic variants associated with autism and which tend to exert more modest effects.

"Given the genetic complexity of autism, it's unlikely that a single method or type of genomic variation is going to provide us with a complete picture," said Daly. "Our approach of combining multiple complementary methods aims to meet this critical challenge."

For their initial studies, the researchers examined roughly half a million genetic markers in more than 1,000 families from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) and the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) repositories. Follow-up analyses were conducted in collaboration with the Autism Genome Project as well as other international groups. "We are deeply grateful to all of the patients and their families who made this work possible," said Daly.

The researchers' results highlight three regions of the human genome. These include parts of chromosomes 6 and 20, the top-scoring regions to emerge from the family-based linkage studies. Although further research is needed localize the exact causal changes and genes within these regions that contribute to autism, these findings can help guide future work.

The other major result, this one flowing from the population-based analyses, is a single-letter change in the genetic code known as a single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP (pronounced "snip"). This common variant lies on chromosome 5 near a gene known as semaphorin 5A, which is thought to help guide the growth of neurons and their long projections called axons. Notably, the activity or "expression" of this gene appears to be reduced in the brains of autism patients compared to those without the disorder.

"These genetic findings give us important new leads to understand what's different in the developing autistic brain compared with typical neurodevelopment. We can now begin to explore the pathways in which this novel gene acts, expanding our knowledge of autism's biology," said co-lead author Lauren Weiss, a former postdoctoral fellow who collaborated with Daly and his colleagues at MGH and the Broad Institute. Weiss is now an assistant professor of psychiatry and human genetics at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

Although the Nature paper identifies a handful of new genes and genomic regions, the researchers emphasize that the findings are just one piece of a very large — and mostly unfinished — puzzle. Future studies involving larger patient cohorts and higher resolution genomic technologies, such as next-generation DNA sequencing, promise to yield a deeper understanding of autism and its complex genetic roots.




This work was supported by the Autism Consortium, the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, NARSAD, the National Center for Research Resources, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Simons Foundation as well as other funding agencies.

Paper cited:

Weiss LA, Arking DE, The Gene Discovery Project of Johns Hopkins & the Autism Consortium. A genome-wide linkage and association scan reveals novel loci for autism. Nature DOI:10.1038/nature08490.

About the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard was founded in 2003 to empower this generation of creative scientists to transform medicine with new genome-based knowledge. The Broad Institute seeks to describe all the molecular components of life and their connections; discover the molecular basis of major human diseases; develop effective new approaches to diagnostics and therapeutics; and disseminate discoveries, tools, methods and data openly to the entire scientific community.

Founded by MIT, Harvard and its affiliated hospitals, and the visionary Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe L. Broad, the Broad Institute includes faculty, professional staff and students from throughout the MIT and Harvard biomedical research communities and beyond, with collaborations spanning over a hundred private and public institutions in more than 40 countries worldwide. For further information about the Broad Institute, go to www.broadinstitute.org.

About Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital, established in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with an annual research budget of more than $500 million and major research centers in AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, human genetics, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, regenerative medicine, systems biology, transplantation biology and photomedicine. For more information, visit www.massgeneral.org.

Speaking of CAM in Australia, there's a big conference coming up in Queensland:

An international conference to be held at The University of Queensland later this month is set to scrutinise research into complementary medicine (CM) and its role in health care.

The Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Health, the Hon. Mark Butler will open the conference.

National and international members of the Network of Researchers in the Public Health of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NORPHCAM) will converge on the UQ St Lucia campus for the event on October 17 and 18.

"The idea of the conference is to develop research that directly addresses health policy and health service delivery challenges and opportunities associated with complementary medicine," the Executive Director of NORPHCAM, Associate Professor Jon Adams said.

"It will also look at their increasing integration alongside conventional medical provision, and provide a platform to allow researchers and practitioners to communicate effectively."

Over two days a number of presentations and workshops will focus on how researchers and practitioners can better collaborate and look at exploring the potential role of complementary medicine in healthcare policy, practice and delivery.

"To date, attention has focused upon niche areas of research and no one has stepped back and looked at the whole picture, reflecting on the wider consequences of CM practice and use within the health care system," Associate Professor Adams said.

The conference will be held at St Leo's College, St Lucia Campus, UQ.

To register, visit NORPHCAM at http://www.norphcam.org

University of Queensland

Michael H CohenMichael H Cohen
The Los Angeles / San Francisco / Bay Area-based Michael H Cohen Law Group provides healthcare legal and FDA legal & regulatory counsel to health & wellness practices and ventures, including health technology companies (medical devices to wearable health and nanotech), healthcare facilities (from medical centers to medical spas), and healthcare service providers (from physicians to psychologists).Our legal team offers expertise in corporate & transactional, healthcare regulatory & compliance, and healthcare litigation and dispute resolution, in cutting-edge areas such as anti-aging and functional medicine, telemedicine and m-health, and concierge medicine.Our Founder, attorney Michael H. Cohen, is an author, speaker on healthcare law and FDA law, and internationally-recognized thought leader in the trillion-dollar health & wellness industry.