On a warm midsummer night, a few months after my book about industrial pollution in the New Jersey town of Toms River was published, I watched a fireworks show over the Rhine River celebrating Swiss National Day. I was in Basel, the city where the chemical industry first took root more than 150 years ago.

From my vantage point on the Kleinbasel (Lesser Basel) side of the river near the fabled Middle Bridge, I could see the barges from which fusillades of rocketry were emerging with digitally choreographed precision. After the show, I strolled along the embankment and took in the nightscape as tens of thousands of Swiss reveled in the pleasures of prosperity: eating grilled bratwurst, drinking foamy cups of Feldschlösschen drawn from ice-cold kegs, and dancing to techno and American pop.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Justice Department and the Food and Drug Administration are looking into whether Ranbaxy Laboratories, one of the world's biggest makers of generic drugs, manufactured substandard HIV drugs that were administered to thousands of poor Africans under a contract with the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. But this type of tragedy has already affected American consumers.

Between November and February, 95 Americans died after experiencing an allergic reaction to heparin, the FDA has reported. The blood-thinning medication contained an active pharmaceutical ingredient from China that the FDA suggests was likely to have been "intentionally contaminated."…  Seguir leyendo »

The revelation of the medical trial in which dummy pills worked as well as famous drugs for all but the most severely depressed has understandably made both pharmaceutical companies and patients miserable. But for the individuals who placed their hopes on these drugs, there is nothing to be down about.

The depressed who felt better after taking medicine may feel like the purchasers of a medieval elixir that proved to be piss. But, apart from unstoppable calamities such as cancer and cardiac arrest, there is strong evidence that a positive outlook can improve outcome. In a television documentary last year, Professor Richard Dawkins proved that homeopathic medicine is scientific idiocy and yet that it improves the condition of numerous patients.…  Seguir leyendo »

Yesterday the journal PLoS Medicine published a study which combined the results of 47 trials on some anti-depressant drugs, including Prozac, and found only minimal benefits over placebo, except for the most depressed patients. It has been misreported as a definitive nail in the coffin: this is not true. It was a restricted analysis but, more important, on the question of antidepressants, it added very little. We already knew SSRIs give only a modest benefit in mild and moderate depression and, indeed, the Nice guidelines themselves have actively advised against using them in milder cases.

But the real story goes way beyond the question of Prozac.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por Enrique Costas Lombardía, economista (EL PAÍS, 13/11/06):

Hace pocas semanas, la Comisión Europea requirió al Gobierno español para que suprimiese las restricciones todavía existentes a la apertura y la propiedad de las oficinas de farmacia. El Gobierno rechazó el requerimiento (sin razones; sólo alegó vulgaridades, que además no venían al caso: la amplitud de la red de farmacias, la calidad del servicio y la satisfacción de los ciudadanos, como si en los países con libertad de establecimiento y competencia la población estuviera menos atendida o menos satisfecha) y defendió "firmemente" el actual estado de cosas en España. El Gobierno, pues, no ha dudado en oponerse a la Comisión Europea para mantener nuestra regulación injusta y rancia que otorga a las farmacias privilegios inadmisibles y hasta insolentes en una sociedad democrática asentada en el libre mercado y en la igualdad de derechos de todos los ciudadanos.…  Seguir leyendo »