A reaction they cannot deny
A Danish survey has found that the MMR vaccine, given to millions of children every year, trebles the risk of a febrile seizure. The risk is greatest within two weeks of being vaccinated. Children with recurrent seizures have a 4 per cent risk of developing epilepsy (JAMA, 2004; 292: 351-7).
STATISTIC OF THE MONTH
Who trusts drug companies?
According to a Harris poll, only 13 per cent of Americans believe that pharmaceutical companies are 'generally honest and trustworthy'. This puts them on a par with the tobacco and oil industries, and 'managed-care companies' (BMJ, 2004; 329: 247).
It's the women who suffer
Researchers from Ohio State University carried out a meta-analysis of a range of studies and found that women are at least twice as likely as men to develop some musculoskeletal disorder of the upper body, such as lower back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome. Some of the studies found that women were up to 11 times more likely to suffer from one of these disorders.
Said Delia Treasler, a member of the research team, 'Any way you slice the data, women have a significantly higher prevalence for many of these disorders' (Ohio State University news release, 21 July 2004).
The Alien of the drug world
Thalidomide, the morning-sickness pill that left the newborn severely deformed, can help patients with multiple myeloma (a blood cancer) and melanoma (a skin cancer).
Given with two other cancer drugs, thalidomide works, but at a price: 26 per cent of those treated got infections, 19 per cent developed deadly bloodclots, 14 per cent saw their white cell counts drop alarmingly, and 28 per cent were constipated. Two died, and 36 per cent stopped the treatment due to side-effects.
It takes a doctor to conclude that the drug is 'useful', as one said at the end of the trial (J Clin Oncol, 2004; 22: 2532-9).