It's only fair to share…

Research on mammography, an application for a new hamburger outlet and female “Viagra” would seem to have little in common but surprisingly there is a common theme.

A recent review of mammography screening was reported as confirming it as a “life saving” screening procedure. As a headline this looks good. The reality is far less appealing. Consider 100 women screened every two years from age 50 to 70. Two will have a cancer found that would not otherwise have been found whilst 200 will have at least one false positive result. Thirty will have a needless biopsy and 15 will be over diagnosed, meaning they have been diagnosed with something that would never have affected them.

This does not make for such a good headline.

In the USA mammography and related treatments are a $4 billion industry. In Australia breast screening is also a multi million dollar industry, which is always very quick to attack, anyone who questions the “life saving” message.

The reality is that screening mammography can do more harm than good. Women have a right to be informed of the risks and benefits of screening so they can make a decision on what is best for them. The current badgering to go and get a test is of far greater value to the screening industry than to women.

The facts do not support the public health rhetoric.

It is always easy to bash the golden arches. An application to open a new outlet in a suburb of Perth was, as usual, opposed by all and sundry. I make no comment on amenity or traffic. But the old chestnut about fast food outlets causing childhood obesity was trotted out.

In South Los Angeles a ban was placed on opening new fast food outlets in 2007. Yet between then and 2012 the rate of obesity increased the most in the area where the ban was in place. Maybe this was co-incidental but there was certainly no drop. In other words banning new outlets did not have any effect in reducing weight in the area.

Once more the facts do not support the public health rhetoric.

It is interesting that those who claim to be scientific and wanting to use best evidence are happy to ignore evidence when it does not support their beliefs.

And lastly we have the so-called female Viagra. The drug Flibanserin, has been knocked back twice by the FDA. This is on the very simple basis that it has little positive effect and significant side effects.

But a campaign called “even the score” promoted and funded by the manufacturer has succeeded in changing this. The arguments became more about “equity” and “fairness” than effectiveness. Because men have Viagra women should have something.

There is so much wrong with this that it is hard to know where to start. I recommend you click the link to the article on “astroturfers”. Viagra does not influence libido, it allows blood to flow more freely to the penis if a man is in the mood. Flibanserin is supposed to increase libido. The trials have shown about an increase of 0.5 sexually satisfying events per month.

And whereas Viagra is taken as needed, Flinbanserin will need to be taken daily. Side effects include nausea, dizziness and fainting due to low blood pressure. Alcohol (which of course is never associated with sex) may make the side effects worse. The drop in blood pressure has the potential to be fatal.

Yet who cares about all that in the face of a campaign based on political correctness?

Again, who cares if the facts do not support the beliefs?

So we find once more that medical “science” is far from that. If you have a belief, and the ear of government then you push it for all it is worth. If you want your drug approved, whip up a gullible rent a crowd to pretend to be patient advocates.

But there is no need to despair. You do not need to buy into this nonsense. Do your own research and be highly questioning of health claims. Especially if they claim to be life saving, come from zealots, or are backed by big pharma.


Dr Joe Kosterich M.B.B.S is an author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, who wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life. He is a regular on TV – 9 Network Australia, and radio stations 6PR and 4BC as well as maintaining a website and this blog which provides health information. He is the health ambassador for locally grown fresh potatoes. Dr Joe also gives practical motivational health talks for the general public and organisations where he is known as “An independent doctor who talks about health”.