Dr. Eric Topol, a Cleveland cardiologist, one of the earliest critics of Vioxx, has learned the hard way that being outspoken and having integrity can carry a heavy price when speaking out.
In 2004, Dr. Topol published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association that first raised concerns that Vioxx, a painkiller, could cause cardiovascular problems.
During one of the class action lawsuits against Merck, the maker of Vioxx, Dr. Topol was called to testify. He reportedly accused Merck of scientific misconduct by misrepresenting its own laboratory findings about the drug's safety.
Less than a week after this testimony, Dr. Topol was fired as chief academic official of a medical college in Cleveland. The reason given by college officials was 'administrative reorganization.'
Dr. Topol was quoted in a newspaper report as saying his firing was a direct consequence of his outspokenness. "The hardest thing in the world is just trying to tell the truth, to do the right thing for patients, and you get vilified. No wonder nobody stands up to the (drug et al) industry."
Now we have the AMA, quoting on their web site that it is the organization that is helping doctors help patients.
The AMA is calling for measures to reduce sodium intake in U.S. diet and urges the FDA to revoke "generally recognized as safe" status for salt in an effort to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease.
"Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of Americans. People who reduce dietary sodium intake are taking an important step in preventing future health problems," said AMA Board Member and practicing cardiologist J. James Rohack, MD. "We hope these recommendations will encourage food manufacturers and restaurants to modify their current practices of adding unhealthy amounts of sodium to their products."
The standard pitch for decades has been that excess sodium greatly increases the chance of developing hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Research shows most Americans consume two to three times the amount of sodium that is healthy, with an estimated 75 to 80 percent of the daily intake of sodium coming from processed and restaurant foods.
"Just one cup of canned soup can contain more than 50 percent of the FDA recommended daily allowance," explains Dr. Rohack. "A serving of lasagna in a restaurant can put a diner over their recommended daily sodium allowance in just one meal. These examples stress the importance of a national reduction in the amount of sodium in processed and restaurant foods."
The recommendations adopted today include:
* urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revoke the "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) status of salt and to develop regulatory measures to limit sodium in processed and restaurant foods;
* calling for a minimum 50 percent reduction in the amount of sodium in processed foods, fast food products and restaurant meals to be achieved over the next decade;
* working with appropriate partners to educate consumers about the benefits of long-term, moderate reductions in sodium intake;
* discussing with the FDA ways to improve labeling to assist consumers in understanding the amount of sodium contained in processed food products and to develop label markings and warnings for foods high in sodium.
The AMA is confident the implementation of these recommendations would reduce sodium intake, result in a better educated consumer, and eventually lower the incidence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in this country.
Now if you try to go to the core of this issue you find some very interesting things. *Some studies show it might be 'chloride' that is the culprit.
*Some studies show that it is the processing of salt, when heated to 1400 degrees F that drives out impurities, minerals, and any water in the compound that makes 'salt' the problem.
The AMA and obviously the FDA and perhaps the USDA have not looked at the food industry to take a more active role in addressing all the 'salt' in food and other consumer products. Then we have the upcoming artificial salt flavoring approved for consumption by humans without any labeling requirements. No one has look at soda. The AMA recently tabled the issue to limit the intake of soft drinks, so perhaps the pressure is on the medical mafia to ignore this source of dietary sodium.
You know you gotta start reading the labels.
And, just maybe the AMA oughta start paying more attention to the work of one of their own, Dr. John Laragh, who believes that salt is a critical factor in health.
It is true that pigs often eat their young. You might ask why, and when you do you find that the answer lies in having too little salt. You also might ask about al those salt licks used for animal health. Then you could ask just why animal studies are looked at so akin to humans. And I suppose the string could go on for more than a few miles on this one.
So where do I think this should go?
Just maybe to the use of natural salt*, you know, the funny looking stuff that is often in color but no matter the form, still is replete with precious minerals not burned out by processing.
This is just another call from me to say "Hey!" "How about reading some labels..."
It might just be that easy.
*natural salt information is readily available from the Leaflady
and look for her acclaimed book - The Road to Health Natural Care Series: Blood Pressure Care Naturally