Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

F.D.A. Approves Drug Derived From Goat’s Milk

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 6, 2009

The newest product made from goat’s milk is not a tangy cheese, but a drug that could prevent fatal blood clots.

Ushering in a new era of both agricultural and pharmaceutical technology, the Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the first pharmaceutical product made in the milk of genetically engineered animals.

The 200 goats, which are assiduously cared for at a secure farm in central Massachusetts, contain a human gene that causes them to produce a human blood protein in their milk. After the goats are milked, the protein can be extracted for sale as a drug.

Such “pharm animals” as they are sometimes called, could become a way of producing biotechnology drugs at lower cost or in greater quantities than the existing methods, which are to extract them from donated blood or to grow genetically engineered cells in steel tanks.

For instance, the protein being made in the goat milk, antithrombin, is now derived from donated blood plasma. But it is sometimes unavailable because of a shortage of plasma donations.


#50 Rock and Roll

Posted in Humorous, Stuff God Hates by Skepdude on October 20, 2008


Prepare thyself, he who reads this, to tremble and quake before the Incredible Word of God, as written by THE LORD HIMSELF!

Rock and Roll music is evil and must be destroyed! It comes from the Devil and is perpetrated upon mankind by his minions. It corrupts the youth and I, The Almighty Lord, hate it with all of My Might.

Rock and roll music leads to drug and alcohol abuse, fornication, fights, riots, murder, masturbation, rape and suicide – all in that order. Its gyrometric rhythms create a longing for that which is forbidden, such as anal sex and dancing.

It causes disorganized behavior and dirtiness. It makes people not shower and want to roll around in the mud. It is enjoyed by filthy, abortion-loving, draft-dodging* hippies.

Rock and roll was invented by Satanus in 1948, shortly after his attempt to take over the world with his Kraut-Jap-Wop atheist army failed miserably. He gave up trying to defeat the Armies of Me and chose instead to focus all his attention on warping human minds through entertainment. He has been far more successful in this arena.

Since its inception, rock and roll has encouraged humans to engage in all manner of evil behavior. It awakens the gloomy slut inside every woman. It awakens the angry loner inside every man. Also, it sounds shitty.

It’s repetitive, and the lyrics suck gigantic monkey balls. It’s almost as if rock songs are written by complete imbeciles attempting to sound poetic for the sake of fame.

In My Divine Opinion, humans should listen only to hymnals glorifying Me, and marching anthems which make them good at organized war.

Compare the lyrics of that most magnificent of songs, The Battle Hymn of the Republic:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Now compare the glory of those verses with the abject idiocy of these rock and roll lyrics from Stairway to Heaven:

And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.

See what I mean? You see how putrid those lyrics are? Is it any wonder rock music causes children to kill themselves?


* I had plans to create so many new splendid dead soldiers out of those damned-dirty-hippies.


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There’s Drugs in Those Drugs

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on August 4, 2008

My beef with herbal concoctions is not that they cannot work (like homeopathy or therapeutic touch) but that they are not properly regulated. Herbs contain chemicals that can have a pharmacological action in the body, can alter metabolism, have toxicity, and can interact with other drugs. In other words – they are drugs. They are simply not purified and quantified, and most countries do not require testing for herbs similar to pharmaceuticals. So they are unreliable drugs.

But another dirty little secret of the supplement industry is the occasional use of actual known drugs in supplement preparations to give it a real and quantifiable effect. The most common example of this are diet supplements, which commonly contain stimulants. I recently surveyed all the diet supplement products at my local grocery store and almost all of them had some form of caffeine as a major ingredient. It used to be common for such products to contain ephedra (another stimulant) – until it was banned by the FDA for causing cardiac deaths.

Read the rest of this entry at the “Neuorologica” blog.

Conscientious objector or deserter?

Posted in Denialism, Medicine by Skepdude on August 4, 2008


The discussion we’ve had since Friday regarding the Bush administration’s latest foray into theocracy brought up some interesting points. We discussed implications of the draft regulations including likely limitations on access to safe and effective birth control. But there is another issue here that disturbs me greatly.

Last week we talked a little bit about medical ethics. I’m not an Ethicist (Mike! Are you reading?), but I am a “practical ethicist”, as are all health care providers. How do ethics inform the discussion of what care we can or cannot provide?

First, let’s take the gloves off for a moment. What is a “pharmacist”?

A pharmacist is a trained professional with an expert knowledge of medications. In the retail setting, their primary role is to dispense medications, but their actual role is far greater. Pharmacists check patients’ records for drug interactions, counsel patients on how to properly store and take medications, and communicate with doctors regarding potential problems with prescriptions. Pharmacists are not, in most settings, the patient’s clinician, and do not have the same type of (ethical) relationship to their customers as doctors do with their patients. They are, at the simplest level, technicians and scientists who help maintain the safety and integrity of patients’ medications. It is a great responsibility—one small mistake on the part of a pharmacist can kill, and one small mistake caught by a pharmacist can save a life.

When a pharmacist receives a prescription from a physician that they believe may pose a threat to a patient, they call the doctor. For example, if I were to write a prescription for levothyroxine 125mg daily, the pharmacist would call me up to see if I meant micrograms rather than milligrams (125 mg is a helluva lot of this drug). If I tell the pharmacist to shut up and dispense the damned drug as written, they might refuse to pending further research, discussion, etc. This often happens with opiates. I may prescribe a cancer patient a very large dose of morphine and the pharmacist will call me to confirm. I’ll explain that they have been on this dose and tolerated it well, and the pharmacist will likely be satisfied that I know what I’m doing.

A pharmacist that receives a properly written prescription for a medication that any reasonable doctor would consider safe may not ethically refuse to fill it. The doctor and patient are the ones who make the decision on what meds are proper. In this case the pharmacists only remaining job, after checking for allergies and drug interactions, is to fill the legal prescription. If they don’t wish to do that, they should be fired, just as the check-out clerk would be fired for refusing to ring up a candy bar (and no, it doesn’t matter how fat the customer is). It has come up frequently that pharmacists sometimes refuse to fill birth control pills. This is unconscionable. The doctor and patient have a clinical relationship; the pharmacist in this instance is an intermediary, and could theoretically be replace by a sophisticated vending machine. Hmmm….


The relationship between physician and patient is a bit more complicated. There is an asymmetry in the power relationship—anything the doctor says and does is potentially coercive. The doctor and the patient both count on this asymmetry—a patient goes to the doctor for advice, a doctor hopes their position of authority will help persuade the patient to do what is necessary (more on this issue of autonomy vs. paternalism here).

If a doctor tells a patient that smoking is dangerous, the patient is likely to believe them and will treat the words differently than if they had come from someone else. The same goes for a doctor’s opinions. If I tell my patient that I love Obama and that voting for McCain would ruin the American health care system, I’m probably using my influence in a bit of a shady manner. If a young woman comes to me wishing to terminate a pregnancy, and I tell her it is tantamount to killing a child, it means something very different to her than if she sees it on a billboard. If I oppose abortion, and feel I wish to be a “conscientious objector”, to share that with the patient is no longer an act of conscience, but an act of coercion. It is a desertion of my duty as a physician. I have patients who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. I give them very detailed information about the medical (not moral) consequences of their beliefs, but I stop there.

Doctors are activists—activists for the rights and needs of our patients, to which we subsume our own values to a great extent. This is one of the great challenges of medicine, and if you’re not up to the task, it’s time to get out.