Category: Second Column

US ranks 35th in ‘Amenable Mortality’

“National levels of personal health-care access and quality can be approximated by measuring mortality rates from causes that should not be fatal in the presence of effective medical care (amenable mortality).” That is the premise of a paper published by the Lancet May 18 that took into account the capabilities of poor, middle-income, and wealthy countries.  The United States was found to rank 35th. The lead author, Christopher J.L. Murray of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, calls the finding “an embarrassment, especially considering the U.S. spends $9,000 per person on health care annually.”  The U.S. exceeded many wealthy...

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Happy Birthday, Carl Linnaeus

 May 23, 2017   Carl Linnaeus was born on this date in Uppsala, north of Stockholm, in 1707.  Last July, James Prosek, a painter and writer, retraced part of the journey that Linnaeus made at age 25 to Swedish Lapland. At the outset, Prosek found something “distasteful” about the binomial nomenclature that categorizes plants and animals by genus and species. As he recounted in the  New York Times: I think what bothered me was his hubris. Before binomials, names of plants in books were lists or strings of words that formed a kind of nuanced description. Plants and animals already had...

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Remembering Tod Mikuriya, MD

Tod Mikuriya, MD, who organized the group now known as the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, died 10 years ago this month at his home in the Berkeley Hills. He was 73. The cause was cancer, diagnosed originally in his lungs. (He had been a cigarette smoker for more than two decades. He quit in the 1970s.) His friend Michael Aldrich said the essential thing about Tod as a physician was that “he believed his patients.” Tod grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania. Because his father was born in Japan and his mother in Germany, he and his sisters were cruelly...

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Drinking Beer Linked to Arrhythmias, Diet Soda to Stroke

Tachycardia —a temporarily accelerated heart rate— is a well-publicized adverse effect of smoking marijuana. Infrequent users are more prone to the response than regular users.    Tachycardia is also a side effect of drinking  beer —even a moderate amount, according to a study by University of Munich researchers published April 25 in the European Heart Journal. Data was collected from 3,016 legally sober volunteers at the 2015 Octoberfest. They were given smartphone-based electrocardiograms and breathalyzer tests. (Those with a blood alcohol level of 3.00 g/kg or more —above the legal limit in Germany— were excluded.)    “The lively atmosphere in a beer tent,” the authors acknowledge, “deviated from...

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‘Entourage Effect’ debated in Scientific American

On April 20 Scientific American ran a piece by Angus Chen asking, “Is Marijuana’s ‘Entourage Effect’ Scientifically Valid?” “Industry players” Mowgli Holmes of Phylos Bioscience and Ethan Russo of Phytecs say yes, but “most scientists” like Margaret Haney of Columbia University and Barth Wilsey of UC San Diego say evidence is lacking. Haney, an Addiction Specialist, claims that the anecdotal evidence is  slanted: “The large majority of what’s being said is driven by anecdotal marketing. These guys are really trying to make money.”  Meg Haney’s only goal is to help suffering humanity. The Columbia University Department of Psychiatry lists...

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