Cystic Fibrosis Foundation:  “These results are highly encouraging; they provide scientific evidence that support our long-standing belief that targeting the underlying defect of C.F. may have a profound effect on the disease.’’

The New York Times, by Andrew Pollack  —  The gene responsible for cystic fibrosis was discovered in 1989. Now, 22 years later, a drug that tries to compensate for the genetic defect might be nearing the market.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals announced in February, that the drug, VX-770, improved lung function in people with cystic fibrosis in a late-stage clinical trial. The drug also reduced the frequency of disease exacerbations that required treatment with antibiotics.

The caveat is that VX-770 is designed to counter one specific genetic mutation that accounts for about 4 percent of cases of cystic fibrosis. Vertex is working on another drug for the most common mutation, but that one is further behind in development.

Still, the news is expected to be greeted favorably by doctors and patients and by Wall Street.

“I’ve been doing clinical trials for 30 years in C.F. and these are amazing results,’’ Dr. Bonnie W. Ramsey, a lead investigator in the trial, said in an interview.

Dr. Ramsey, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, was briefed on the results by Vertex.

The results were announced by a press release and have not been peer reviewed by experts.

About 30,000 Americans and 70,000 people worldwide have cystic fibrosis, a disease caused by defects in a gene responsible for the transport of chloride ions across cell membranes. People with the disease tend to have very thick mucus in their lungs, which leads to infections and lung damage. Many do not live past age 40.

Two inhaled antibiotics and one drug that loosens mucus are approved to treat cystic fibrosis, but nothing that directly improves chloride ion transport.

In the trial, those who received VX-770 gained 10.6 percentage points more on a lung function test after 24 weeks than those getting a placebo, a difference that statistically was highly significant. Patients continued to take either drug or placebo for another 24 weeks and the improvement was sustained. Lung function, the primary endpoint of the trial, was measured by how much a person could exhale in one second, a standard test.

Investors had been expecting around a 5 percentage point improvement. In a note to clients Tuesday evening, before the results were known, an analyst at ISI Group, Mark Schoenebaum, said that an improvement of 10 percent would be a “home run’’ that could lead to $600 million in annual sales for the drug.

Dr. Ramsey, who has received research grants from Vertex, said that some patients could perceive a 10 percentage point change in lung function. She said other results of the trial were encouraging.

These included fewer exacerbations of the disease in those who got the drug, fewer self-reported respiratory symptoms, and a gain in weight, which is good for people with cystic fibrosis, who often have digestive problems. The saltiness of their sweat — a measure used to diagnose the disease — was markedly reduced, suggesting that the drug was having an effect on chloride ion transport.

The trial involved 161 people age 12 and older, all with at least one copy of the particular mutation, known as G551D. The main side effects, Vertex said, were headache, upper respiratory tract infections, nasal congestion, rash and dizziness.

Vertex said it hoped to apply in the second half of the year for approval of VX-770 in the United States and Europe. The company is awaiting results of a second trial of the drug, this one in younger children.

Vertex has not said how much it will charge for VX-770. But since there are only about 1,200 Americans who are candidates for the drug, the price is likely to be tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Vertex, based in Cambridge, Mass., was founded in 1989, coincidentally the same year the cystic fibrosis gene was discovered. It has not yet had a big commercial success and had a $2.5 billion net loss in the last five years.

The company is hoping that by late May it will win approval to sell a new type of drug for hepatitis C, which analysts expect will be a blockbuster.

The long time needed to develop a drug for cystic fibrosis is a lesson for those expecting a quick payout from the sequencing of the human genome, which was completed a decade ago. It is not enough to know the gene behind a disease. It can take years of research to determine how a mutation actually causes a disease and then to design a drug that corrects the problem.

Vertex received $75 million in financial support from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, one of the first nonprofit disease groups to give money to companies.

“These results are highly encouraging,’’ Robert J. Beall, president of the foundation, said in a statement Wednesday. “They provide scientific evidence that support our long-standing belief that targeting the underlying defect of C.F. may have a profound effect on the disease.’’

Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

The New York Times, by Karen Stabiner  —  For the first time since 2001, the American Geriatrics Society and the British Geriatrics Society have updated their guidelines for preventing falls in older people. The update includes two notable changes: One recommends tai chi — the meditative, slow-motion Chinese exercise — as an effective way to prevent falls, while another suggests that doctors review medication use by all elderly patients, with an eye toward reducing use of those drugs that increase the risk of falling.

The earlier guidelines did not single out any particular exercise regimen and endorsed prescription reviews only for patients taking more than four medications.

Exercise is essential for any older person who can manage it, according to Dr. Mary Tinetti of the Yale University School of Medicine, a chairwoman of the panel that issued the new guidelines. Tai chi gets the nod because several trials have suggested that it seems to help reduce the risk of falling, she said, although it is possible that other forms of balance training work just as well.

Greg Fuller teaches tai chi at the Jewish Home in Los Angeles. “The basic underlying philosophy is that balance is everything,” he said. Most important for his students, whose average age is 90, tai chi involves small, slow, controlled motions.

“With beginners, we spend a lot of time working while seated, bringing attention to the proper alignment of the pelvis, chest and head,” said Mr. Fuller. Once that is accomplished, “finding strength and balance while standing is much easier.”

Even then, many students work standing just behind a chair. “The presence of the chair back within reach gives them a sense of security and confidence,” Mr. Fuller said. “They forget about the possibility of falling and concentrate on the movements.”

Confidence is important to fall prevention, according to Dr. Tinetti, who said that fear of falling can itself lead older people to cut back on activities they used to enjoy. The less they do, sadly, the less they eventually are able to do.

The geriatrics groups also have long recommended that the medication regimens of older patients be reviewed and, if possible, scaled back. Earlier guidelines called for reviewing medications only if a patient takes more than four. This time around, researchers say that all older patients ought to have their doctors review their prescriptions for any that might increase the risk of falling.

“The evidence is strongest that medications that affect the brain — these include antidepressants, sleep medications and medications for anxiety — increase the risk of falling,” said Dr. Tinetti. “There is also a suggestion, not yet proven, that narcotics and some blood pressure medications may increase the risk of falls, as well.”

The updated guidelines distinguish between a fall that requires intervention and one that might be a isolated incident. The updated criteria for getting a risk evaluation are:

  • An elderly person worried or frightened by a fall.
  • Two or more falls in the past year.
  • One or more falls with injury.
  • Repeated difficulty with balance when walking. photo

Los Angeles Times, by Shari Roan, LOS ANGELES — People who begin using zinc lozenges, tablets or syrup at the first signs of a cold are more likely to get well faster, researchers have reported. But the new findings probably won’t be the last word on the issue, which has been the subject of back-and-forth debate since the idea was first proposed in 1984.

Since that time, 18 studies have examined zinc for preventing or treating colds. Some found zinc supplements were modestly helpful; others failed to turn up any benefits.

One analysis of 14 studies, published in 2007, concluded that many of the studies were too flawed to draw any conclusions.

In the latest report, published in The Cochrane Library, an international network of experts who conduct systematic reviews of research, researchers in India evaluated 15 studies, including four papers that were performed since 2000.

The 15 studies, two of which focused on zinc to prevent colds and the rest on zinc to shorten duration of colds, involved a total of 1,360 participants ranging in age from 1 to 65. All the participants had good overall health.

Pooling the data, researchers found that people who took zinc within 24 hours of the start of symptoms were over their colds about one day sooner than people who took placebos. The analysis also found that the severity of cold symptoms was somewhat milder among people who took zinc.

Whether these results will be considered meaningful depends on whom you ask, said Dr. Kay Dickersin, a professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the U.S. Cochrane Center, one of the 12 centers around the world that facilitate the work of the Cochrane reviews. Dickersin was not involved in the research.

“I might say ‘A day less of symptoms is good, I’ll do it’ — but you might say, ‘A day is nothing, it’s not worth driving to the drugstore,’ ” she said.

Moreover, because the study designs varied widely, it’s impossible to make recommendations on what doses are optimal, what formulations are best and how long to use the products, said the authors of the analysis, Meenu Singh and Rashmi R. Das of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India.

“I think there is a need for more research so we can get a sense of how well zinc works or if it even does work,” Dickersin said.

Zinc lozenges and zinc syrup, commonly available in drugstores, are typically taken every two to three hours during waking hours for at least five days. Most products recommend a standard daily dose for cold treatment of about 30 milligrams of syrup per day or about 60 mg in lozenges.

When a zinc acetate formulation is taken in a high enough dose and started early in the onset of a cold, it’s likely to be effective, said Dr. Ananda Prasad, an expert on zinc at Wayne State University who conducted two studies, both of which showed a positive effect.

“In our studies, we only included patients who had (begun) symptoms within 24 hours,” he said. “If you don’t take zinc within 24 hours, it does not have much effect.”

But an examination of just the most scientifically rigorous of the zinc studies shows it probably doesn’t shorten colds, said Dr. Terence M. Davidson, the director of the University of California, San Diego, Nasal Dysfunction Clinic.

“The more rigorously scientific studies — where you took a group of people and gave half of them zinc and half a placebo and inoculated their nose with a cold virus — found there were no differences,” Davidson said. “I think enough research has been done to show if there is some benefit, it’s not going to be very significant.”

There also may be risks from some of these products, said Davidson, who was the first to identify harmful side effects from zinc nasal spray.

In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers to stop using three zinc-containing Zicam nasal products after receiving 130 reports about the loss of smell associated with the products. The Cochrane Library analysis did not investigate zinc nasal sprays.

Researchers don’t know why zinc may affect the common cold. It could be that zinc prevents rhinoviruses from attacking to nasal cells, slows the replication of the virus or prevents histamine release (which causes sneezing, runny nose and rash).

In the United States, colds contribute to 75 to 100 million visits to doctors each year at a cost of about $7.7 billion. Colds are among the most common reasons for absenteeism from work and school.

“Any medication that is only partially effective in the treatment and prevention of the common cold could markedly reduce morbidity and economic losses due to this illness,” Singh and Das wrote.

White Trillium Photo by Karen Bergeron

The New York Times, by Dan Frosch  —  DENVER — For more than a decade, Mark Cooper has had a bustling naturopathy practice in Colorado Springs, treating everything from chronic headaches to digestive problems to insomnia.

Mr. Cooper has a license in Montana to practice naturopathy, which uses natural herbs and remedies to treat medical conditions and which concentrates on dietary and lifestyle habits. But in Colorado he is unable to get a license because no regulatory system for naturopaths exists.

“The whole issue is fear-based ignorance,” said Mr. Cooper, who sits on the board of the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Doctors, which has proposed a bill this year that would allow naturopaths to get licenses and create training and treatment requirements for practitioners.

“Once somebody fully understands what our medical training is and what we actually do, they look at us and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I didn’t realize that,’ ” he said.

Not everyone agrees. Efforts to license naturopaths in Colorado have failed in the past, and there are committed opponents.

The Colorado Medical Society has lobbied against licensing, arguing that it would allow naturopaths to treat and diagnose illnesses in patients beyond their level of expertise.

“They want to diagnose medical conditions, and we don’t believe they are qualified and that they have the education to do that,” said Diana Protopapa, the medical society’s director of political affairs and education, adding that there is little evidence naturopathy is either safe or effective.

The other main organization opposed to licensing in the state is the Colorado Coalition for Natural Health, a group of natural health practitioners. Many members of that group did not attend one of the few accredited naturopathy colleges in the United States, and they fear they could be out of work if they were suddenly required to do so. The Colorado proposal would prohibit people who did not attend one of the schools from calling themselves naturopathic doctors.

Joanie Coffey, president of the coalition, said that the naturopaths who want a licensing system really want the same rights as medical doctors. Much like the Colorado Medical Society, Ms. Coffey says her colleagues are not qualified.

“We’re not involved in the practice of medicine. We do not use drugs and pharmaceuticals. We do not perform surgeries. That has nothing to do with naturopathy,” Ms. Coffey said.

Driven by a jump in the number of people studying naturopathy over the past few years — and an increase in those seeking naturopathic treatment — a push to create statewide licensing systems has emerged across the country.

Just 15 states and the District of Columbia license naturopaths, according to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. That process requires completion of a four-year accredited, specialized school, passing an exam and a certain amount of clinical training. This year, at least 11 states are trying to pass licensing legislation, according to the group.

Naturopaths who favor licensing say they are not interested in becoming medical doctors, and say properly trained naturopaths frequently refer patients to doctors for conditions they are not trained to treat. Moreover, they contend that it is dangerously easy to get a certificate that shows expertise in naturopathy and people need some way of discerning between a knowledgeable naturopath and a quack.

“No longer will people who don’t go to naturopathic medical school be able to hang up a shingle that says, ‘I’m a naturopathic doctor,’ ” said Karen Howard, executive director of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. “It’s a patient access and patient safety issue.”

Violet (Viola) Plant

Medicinal and edible, the flowers and leaves of viola are made into a syrup used in alternative medicine mainly for respiratory ailments associated with congestion, coughing, and sore throat. Flowers are also edible and used as food additives for instance in salad, made into jelly, and candied for decoration. Large doses of the root contain an alkaloid called violine which is emetic (causing vomiting). A decoction made from the root (dry herb) is used as a laxative. Tea made from the entire plant is used to treat digestive disorders and new research has detected the presence of a glycoside of salicylic acid (natural aspirin) which substantiates its use for centuries as a medicinal remedy for headache, body pains and as a sedative. The plants constituents are being studied and show these uses to be valid. Eugenol, Ferulic-acid, Kaempferol, Quercetin, Scopoletin, also show promise in the treatment of many kinds of cancer, arthritis, AIDS, gum disease and more. Used externally the fresh crushed leaves reduce swelling and soothe irritations. As a bath additive the fresh crushed flowers are soothing to the skin and the aroma is very relaxing.


The Ancient Greeks considered the Violet a symbol of fertility and love, they used it in love potions. Pliny recommended that a garland of them be worn about the head to ward off headaches and dizzy spells.

Syrup: Pour 1 pint of boiling water over 1 cup packed, of fresh crushed flowers and leaves cover and let stand for 12 hours. Strain and squeeze through cloth, add 2 lb. of sugar and boil for 1 hour or until syrupy. Store in glass jar. Give 1 tbs. -1 tsp. for children 2 or 3 times a day.

Tea: Steep ¼ cup dried or fresh herb in 1 cup of water for 10 min. stain, flavor to taste. Take in ½ cup doses twice a day.

Queen Anne’s Lace or Wild Carrot Plant

Photo by Deb Jackson

Queen Anne’s Lace is the wild progenitor of our cultivated carrot. It still has many of the properties lost in cultivation. If an apple a day will keep the Doctor away a wild carrot a day might keep death itself away!

Other Names:  Queen-Anne’s lace, Bees’ Nest, Bird’s Nest, Carrot, Carotte, Carrot, Wild Carrot, Yarkuki, Zanahoria Wild Carrot, Birds Nest Weed, Devils Plague, Garden Carrot, Bee’s nest plant, Bird’s nest root

Biennial herb originally a native of Southern Europe, it has become naturalized throughout the

United States and Canada.

Harvest entire plant in July or when flowers bloom, and dry for later herb use. Collect edible roots and shoots in spring when tender. Gather seed in fall.

Wild Carrot is edible and medicinal, root is edible cooked or raw, flower clusters can be french-fried for a carrot-flavored, quite attractive dish. The aromatic seed is used as a flavoring in stews and soups. Used for centuries as an alternative medicine.

This long list of chemical constituents and their activities, contained in Wild Carrot is brought to you courtesy of Dr. James A. Duke and his wonderful website. Acetone, acetyl-choline, alpha-linolenic-acid, alpha-pinene, alpha-tocopherol, apigenin, arachidonic-acid, arginine, asarone, ascorbic-acid, bergapten, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, caffeic-acid, camphor, chlorogenic-acid, chlorophyll, chrysin, citral, citric-acid, coumarin, elemicin, esculetin, ethanol, eugenol, falcarinol, ferulic-acid, folacin, formic-acid, fructose, gamma-linolenic-acid, geraniol, glutamine, glycine, hcn, histidine, kaempferol, lecithin, limonene, linoleic-acid, lithium, lupeol, lutein, luteolin, lycopene, magnesium, manganese, methionine, mufa, myrcene, myricetin, myristicin, niacin, oleic-acid, pantothenic-acid, pectin, phenylalanine, potassium, psoralen, quercetin, scopoletin, stigmasterol, sucrose, terpinen-4-ol, thiamin, tryptophan, tyrosine, umbelliferone, xanthotoxin, and a slew of other Vitamins and minerals. These constituents are known to have these activities, Analgesic, Anti-arthritic, Antidepressant, Anti-psychotic, Anti-schizophrenic, Antidote, Anti-inflammatory, Antibacterial, Anticonvulsant, Anti-diabetic, Anti-estrogenic, Anti-flu, Antihistaminic, Antioxidant, Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Anti-epileptic, Anti-anxiety, Anti-stress, Ant-PMS, Anti-hangover, Antiviral, Cancer-Preventive, Expectorant, Fungistat, Immunostimulant, MAO-Inhibitor, Sedative, Tranquilizer, Aphrodisiac, Sweetener, Pituitary-Stimulant, and more. Ongoing studies are proving this to be a very valuable plant, useful in many areas of alternative medicine, a few are Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Infertility, Asthma-preventive, most types of cancer, Diabetes, Leukemia, HIV, Spina-bifida, Migraine headache, obesity, and much more, even the common cold. Used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years as an anthelmintic, carminative, contraceptive, deobstruent, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactogogue, ophthalmic, and stimulant.

A medicinal infusion is used in the treatment of various complaints including digestive disorders, (soothes the digestive tract), kidney and bladder diseases and in the treatment of dropsy, it supports the liver, stimulates the flow of urine and the removal of waste by the kidneys. A wonderfully cleansing medicinal herb, an infusion of the leaves has been used to counter cystitis and kidney stone formation, and to diminish stones that have already formed. The seeds can be used as a settling carminative agent for the relief of flatulence and colic.

Wild Carrot leaves contain significant amounts of porphyrins, which stimulate the pituitary gland and lead to the release of increased levels of sex hormones, and stimulates the uterus. The plant is also used to encourage delayed menstruation, can induce uterine contractions and so should not be used by pregnant women. The seed is a traditional ‘morning after’ contraceptive and there is some evidence to uphold this belief. An essential oil obtained from the seed has also been used cosmetically in anti-wrinkle creams. A strong decoction of the seeds and root make a very good insecticide.

The name ‘Carrot’ is Celtic, and means ‘red of color,’ and Daucus from the Greek dais to burn, signifying its pungent and stimulating qualities. An Old English superstition is that the small purple flower in the center of the Wild Carrot was of benefit in curing epilepsy.


“Medicinal” tea: To 1 OZ. of dried herb add 1 pint of boiling water steep l0-l5 min. drink three times a day.

Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron