Marijuana medical benefits – large review finds very few

Marijuana medical benefits

Most states in the USA, and many countries across the world have passed legislation that allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Some of this legislation is dependent on various claims, many of which appear to be based on weak or nonexistent scientific evidence. Of all of the purported marijuana medical benefits, only a handful are supported by real evidence.

This review, Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda (pdf, which can be downloaded for free by registering or can be found online here), published by the influential and prestigious National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, examined more than ten thousand scientific studies that involved cannabis and various medical conditions. The value of such a review is that it examines not only the quantity of evidence supporting a claim but also the quality of such evidence. In the end, it gives much more weight to high-quality evidence.

I know many comments will drop on this article that “you haven’t read that incredible study published in Journal of Weed and Cancer Cures” – that misses the point. The National Academies is a highly respected institution, made up of the most respected scientists in the USA. And the committee that created this review is made up of leading public health, cancer, epidemiology, pharmacology, and psychiatry, all fields germane to understanding clinical and basic scientific research into cannabis.

Moreover, a review like this does two things – it gives more weight to well done clinical trials and pre-clinical studies, and it eliminates poorly done and biased studies. This is how science works – examine ALL of the evidence before coming to a conclusion. Pseudoscience, on the other hand, is to have a conclusion, like “weed cures cancer,” and only seeking evidence that supports that preordained conclusion.

Furthermore, and this cannot be stressed enough, this review is not opinion. It is not belief. It is not cherry picking. It is a critical analysis based on thousands of studies published in peer-reviewed journals. This is not published in a pro-cannabis website that cherry picks, misinterprets, and overrates a one-off study in an obscure journal. The report is over 400 pages long – most of you will not read even a few pages, because it is a dense scientific review written by some of the top scientists in the USA. Before you denigrate the study, I would suggest you read it carefully.

To save you time from reading the 400+ page opus, which I did, I divided up the medical evidence from strong to none of the evidence in support of benefits and of risks from smoking cannabis. Not to bury the lede, but there are only three conditions for which there is strong, overwhelming evidence benefits of marijuana. Just three. Continue reading “Marijuana medical benefits – large review finds very few”

HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis – 2 million doses show no link

hpv vaccine and multiple sclerosis

We keep reading false claims about Gardasil, like some link between the HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis. It is important that we, those who support vaccines, keep focusing on the huge studies that support the facts about the safety of the vaccine.

Despite the established effectiveness of the HPV vaccine in preventing the HPV infection and subsequent HPV-related cancers, the internet rumors about the dangers of the vaccine sometimes feel like it wins the day.

Remember, despite what you read on pseudoscience website or from anecdotes on the internet, there are really only a few ways to prevent cancer. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink alcohol. Stay out of the sun. Keep a very healthy (read low) weight. And get your HPV (and hepatitis B) vaccines.

This post is going to discuss a seminal article about the safety of vaccines – an epidemiological study of over 2 million young women to determine the incidence of neurological disorders in HPV-vaccinated vs. unvaccinated groups. This powerful study tells us one thing – that the continued claims about Gardasil causing all these weird neurological issues is not supported by unbiased, scientifically analyzed, peer-reviewed articles. And head’s up, there appears to be no evidence supporting a link between the HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis.

Let’s discuss.

Continue reading “HPV vaccine and multiple sclerosis – 2 million doses show no link”

Canola oil causes Alzheimer’s disease? Dubious evidence

Canola oil causes Alzheimer's disease

Food fads make me want to scream, cry, and hide in a cabin in the mountains. MSG is safe. And high fructose corn syrup is just an awful name for sugar. And only a small number of people have a real gluten sensitivity. And now a new paper has caused the internet to explode with the trope that canola oil causes Alzheimer’s disease.

This new internet meme is based on a peer-reviewed article published in a real journal. But as I have written time and again, just because an article seems like it has sterling credentials, it doesn’t mean the article is above criticism. We’ll get to this article below.

As expected, all of the usual suspects in the pseudoscience world have jumped on board with clickbait headlines like, “Scientists finally issue warning against canola oil: Study reveals it is detrimental to brain health, contributes to dementia, causes weight gain.” I always find it ironic when a pseudoscience pushing website believes in scientists when it supports their belief.

Of course, we need to take a look at this whole issue. Here’s my spoiler alert (but please read the whole article) – there is little evidence that canola oil causes Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or dementia. You can use it safely. Continue reading “Canola oil causes Alzheimer’s disease? Dubious evidence”

Vaccines cause multiple sclerosis? No link found in a large scientific review

Vaccines cause multiple sclerosis

There are so many anti-vaccine religious tropes about the safety of vaccines, that it is often hard to keep them all straight. One of the current ones is that vaccines cause autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Does scientific evidence support the hypothesis that vaccines cause multiple sclerosis?

Well, I have written about whether vaccines cause multiple sclerosis before, and based on the scientific evidence (see here and here), there simply was no link between them. Of course, with the anti-vaccine religion, evidence be damned, they will stand by their claims. All I can do is repeat myself with more and more evidence, refuting their claims.

There is a new review of the evidence of whether vaccines cause multiple sclerosis, and once again, they found nothing. And once again, I will review the evidence to see if there is something to the claims of the anti-vaccine religion. I should give a spoiler alert, but you all know what’s coming. Continue reading “Vaccines cause multiple sclerosis? No link found in a large scientific review”

LeRoy neurological disorders – PANDAS, vaccines, and whatever?

leroy neurological disorders

In spring 2012, I had written a few articles about a mystery neurological ailment that had struck about 20 teenagers at a high school and surrounding area in LeRoy, NY, a small town about 30 minutes from the city of Rochester. They suffered tics that mimicked Tourette syndrome, but was never diagnosed as such. Most of them have recovered, although two new cases have appeared. It’s been five years, so let’s update the news about the LeRoy neurological disorders.

I first wrote this article in 2013, yet it continues to be one of the top read articles on this blog. I’m not sure why, it may be because the outbreak was blamed on many factors that cross paths with internet conspiracies about health. Like vaccines.

Since this article about the LeRoy neurological disorders is so popular, I decided to update it (and clean up the huge number of broken links). I have also looked at the recent news about “outbreak,” and I will post links to some of the more intriguing hypotheses here.

Entering the Way-back Machine, let’s see what has happened in the past, just to catch everyone up. Continue reading “LeRoy neurological disorders – PANDAS, vaccines, and whatever?”

Marijuana treatment of PTSD and chronic pain – probably does not work

marijuana treatment

I’ve written extensively about marijuana treatment for various diseases. For example, using it to prevent or treat cancer? No clinical evidence support its use. In fact, a large review of published science on medical marijuana showed little evidence of it having a clinical benefit except for just a few conditions, one of which was chronic pain.

Apparently, there is little scientific evidence to draw conclusions about the benefits and harms of marijuana treatment for patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain, according to two studies published recently in the respected journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Let’s take a look at these two articles and determine what they say about marijuana treatment of PTSD and chronic pain. Continue reading “Marijuana treatment of PTSD and chronic pain – probably does not work”

Polio-like illness emerging in California – not vaccine related

polio-like illness

Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus, a human enterovirus, that spreads from person to person invading the brain and spinal cord and causing paralysis. Because polio has no cure, the polio vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and the only way to stop the disease from spreading. In a case study that will be presented at the 2014 American Academy of Neurology meeting, researchers report the discovery of a polio-like illness that has been found in a cluster of children from California over a one-year period.

This outbreak isn’t a result of anyone’s refusal to be vaccinated against polio, since all of the children in this study had been previously vaccinated against the poliovirus.

The United States last experienced a polio epidemic in the 1950s, prior to the introduction of the polio vaccine 60 years ago. Today, polio has been eradicated from most of the planet, as the number of worldwide polio cases has fallen from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 223 in 2012—a decline of more than 99% in reported cases.
Continue reading “Polio-like illness emerging in California – not vaccine related”

Gardasil causes behavioral issues – more myth debunking

Gardasil causes behavioral issues

This article has been updated and can be found here. The comments for this article have been closed permanently.

I could have a full-time job just debunking the rumors and myths about the HPV cancer-preventing vaccine, Gardasil. I’d bet one year of my Big Pharma Shill Income™ that the anti-vaccination gangsters make up more junk science about Gardasil than all other vaccines put together. And now, bogus claims that Gardasil causes behavior issues – time for a critical analysis.

This new claim about Gardasil arises from an article, “Behavioral abnormalities in young female mice following administration of aluminum adjuvants and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil,” published in the well respected, relatively high impact factor, journal Vaccine. When it was first published, my thoughts were that the editors of Vaccine missed something. Given that it’s been “temporarily removed,” I guess they did.

But let’s look at this claim with our critical thinking skills, which most of the readers here have.

Continue reading “Gardasil causes behavioral issues – more myth debunking”

Review of Trace Amounts – bad science and conspiracies

trace amounts

Opponents of legislation to tighten school immunization requirements have been promoting a movie called Trace Amounts to legislators and others. They seem to think this movie proves a link between thimerosal – a mercury-based preservative in vaccines – and autism. It shows, in their view, that our vaccine program is corrupt and harmful through and through, and hence is an argument against vaccine mandates. The movie, however, shows nothing of the sort. There is no new evidence in it, and it simply repeats old and disproven claims.

Continue reading “Review of Trace Amounts – bad science and conspiracies”

National Football League and concussions – let’s review

National Football League and concussions

On 25 December 2015, Concussion, a movie about the National Football League and concussions to its players, will premiere in theaters in the USA. The movie is about Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist, who, while working as a neuropathologist at the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Coroner’s Office examined the brains of several deceased National Football League (NFL) players. He was the first to publish findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in American football players.

For those of you who ignore the sport, or find it an American curiosity, it is a very violent sport where 160 kg (about 350 lb) men, running and moving at the speed of world class Olympic athletes, hit other men moving at the same speed.

The game is complex (don’t even think that these young men are stupid, they have to memorize and quickly read hundreds of play combinations just for one game), much like an intricate ballet. Those who belittle the sport don’t understand its elaborate and convoluted movements combined with its brutal and gladiatorial combat.

It’s also a huge business. The National Football League owns Sundays, generating revenue in excess of US$12 billion from TV contracts, merchandise sales, and licensing. It’s difficult to tell what profits it generates (it’s a private “non-profit” corporation), but it’s estimated to be around $1 billion per year.

Put it another way, the second most valuable sports franchise in the world is the Dallas Cowboys, who are estimated to have a value of around US$3.2 billion. Just as a comparison, for those of you who are not Americans, the most valuable sports franchise in the world is the soccer team, Real Madrid, which is valued at US$3.26 billion, just slightly ahead of the Cowboys.

The NFL is such a powerful economic force, that they are very careful with their image, despite ongoing issues with domestic violence and other problems. It was amusing to watch how ESPN, the USA’s leading cable sports network, dealt with the movie about the National Football League and concussions since the network paid the NFL over US$15 billion for TV rights for the next few years. ESPN is reluctant to criticize the NFL for anything, but it also needs advertisers like the promoters of the new movie.

But this isn’t about sports per se. Let’s look at the science behind the claims made by Dr. Bennet Omalu. Let’s look at the credibility of these claims and refutations.

Continue reading “National Football League and concussions – let’s review”