Three steps for the FDA, too many for Everest climbers, and other wonders

Rolling deadlines have kept me from the blogging desk, but I can occupy it long enough now to call out a few items that either haven’t received as much coverage as they might have — or that have gotten several interesting hits.
• At Huffpost, Jeanne Lenzer and Shannon Brownlee offer the FDA a three-step program:

Step One: Admit that you are currently powerless over the industry you are supposed to be regulating. You have let Big Pharma take over your life. You have become dependent on drug company money that comes from the Prescription Drug Fee User Act (PDUFA) of 1992, and over the years you have grown too cozy with the industry officials. Admit it.

They follow this half-facetious fun by adding to the present line of presumed candidates for FDA commissioner some of their own suggestions — an intriguing set of people whose contibutions to date should strengthen the hand of whoever does get the nod.
• Speaking of which: the Wall St. Journal Health Blog and Furious Seasons take helpful looks at an Dept of HHS Inspector General report that takes the FDA to task for poor review of conflicts of interest in researchers conducting clinical trials of drugs and devices under FDA review. Furious Seasons adds a piece on a Lancet Neurology study that finds

that antipsychotics used to treat Alheimer’s and dementia in the elderly may double the risk of death in these patients. Use of these drugs in treating the elderly is off-label, but is nonetheless a huge proportion of antipsychotic sales, especially in the US, and has led to numerous lawsuits.

• Wired Science, which produces an amazingly rich stream of reports, oddities, and perspectives, digs out a call by George Washington in his inaugural address for valuing and encouraging science and literature.

• A SciAm story touches on a New England Journal of Medicine study that poked Everest climbers and found their blood oxygen levels were just 70 percent ; normal is in the mid to high-90s, while 70ish at sea-level “would only be seen …in people who were in cardiac arrest or dead.” As Doug Fields explained in a Mind Matters post a while back, high-altitude climbing takes a real toll on the brain; this extremely low O2 level suggests why. On the other hand, that the climbers can function at and survive such low O2 levels suggests their physiology is undergoing som amazing compensatory changes as they acclimate.
• Jonah Lehrer publishes an article — and then a blog post — about walks in nature improve not just mood and health but cognition.
• And Neuroanthropology, a one-year old site that I have found one of the richest new blog offerings, put up a set of best-of-it-own lists of astonishing depth, breadth, and quality NN is fast becoming one of the liveliest and thought-provoking science blog sites on the net.
I hope to get to tend some other subjects nuggets requiring more space in the next few days.

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