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Alan Cassels

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  1. Posted October 20, 2020 Image: A coronavirus testing facility Are we headed to dangerous levels of overdiagnosis by interpreting a test in a way that labels people as sick and infectious when they may be neither? Go to story
  2. Are we headed to dangerous levels of overdiagnosis by interpreting a test in a way that labels people as sick and infectious when they may be neither? EIGHT MONTHS INTO THE PANDEMIC, here are some BC numbers to think about: 5,071,000: Population of BC (est. 2019) 38,471: Typical number of BC deaths in a single year (2019) 132: Number of BC deaths, on average, everyday. (est. 2019) 274: Number of days between Jan. 15 and Oct. 14, 2020 36,168: Estimated number of total deaths in BC between Jan 15 and Oct 14, 2020 250: Number of deaths in BC attributed t
  3. Posted September 28, 2020 Image: Mask wearing in crowded spaces has become the norm. Mask or no mask? It depends...Go to story
  4. The science is thin whereas the symbolism is strong. ONE OF THE MORE FASCINATING THINGS that COVID-19 has brought us is a lot of pandemic-related discourse around masks. Wearing a mask seems like a fairly simple, non-invasive and inexpensive intervention to prevent the spread of a virus. Yet the virulence of arguments made on both sides of the issue is so forceful, and, at times, self-confident, it’s worth digging into the evidence to see what lessons we might find partly because I am a firm believer in the adage that all technology bites back. I’ll wear a mask when I’m sandin
  5. Posted August 10, 2020 As many people stop seeking medical help during the pandemic out of fear of catching the virus, fewer people may die as the result of adverse drug reactions to prescription medicine. Go to story
  6. Many people have stopped seeking medical attention during the pandemic out of fear of catching the virus at a doctor's office or clinic. As a result, fewer people may die from adverse drug reactions to prescription medicine. WHEN YOU WITHHOLD MEDICINE, people die, right? Well, not quite. We are currently living in a massive medical experiment that may reveal a number of surprises. Down the road, as researchers look back and parse through what happened in the year 2020, they will undoubtedly discover a goldmine of evidence of the impact of the pandemic—both th
  7. ...working on it.... Did you know there are over 500 trials registered with the USFDA that are recruiting patients for COVID-19 trials? Most of those are drug trials and so the race for treatments has never been this intense.
  8. Posted June 9, 2020 Photo: Healthcare worker administering a vaccine. Vaccines often seem to be in their own special, sacred category of pharmaceuticals, yet the science is often far from settled. Go to story
  9. Vaccines often seem to be in their own special, sacred category of pharmaceuticals, yet the science is often far from settled. THERE’S NEVER BEEN A VACCINE FOR A HUMAN CORONAVIRUS and yet a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 seems to be the holy grail we’re all waiting for. If so, we could be in for a very long wait. Vaccine development is tricky and the kind of immunity that most would find acceptable—protecting against excess deaths and sickness—may never be achieved. There has never been an effective vaccine for a coronavirus, so to think we’ll develop one within 12-18 months, as exper
  10. May 15, 2020 Photo: Psychiatric drug expert Kim Witczak Media messaging that there’s a mental health epidemic could indeed lead to one—and cause other health problems. Go to story
  11. FIFTEEN YEARS AGO while writing our book Selling Sickness, Ray Moynihan and I probed deeply into the pharmaceutical industry’s involvement in the development and marketing of a little known condition called “social phobia.” Apparently, some people are so nervous in social situations that they rarely leave their house. Public speaking? Definitely out of the question for social phobics. While the extreme form of that condition could certainly be debilitating for some, with the financial might of one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, and the FDA approval for paroxetine (Paxil
  12. March 5, 2020 Thoughts around overdiagnosis after a visit to a medical specialist. A FASCINATING STUDY was published last month in Australia. It may not have got much press here in Victoria, but confirmed a lot of what the world is learning about overdiagnosis. That study, carried out by Paul Glasziou and colleagues, compared the year 1982 to 2012, analyzing changes in lifetime risks for prostate, breast, renal, thyroid cancers and melanoma. They concluded that 18 percent of all cancers diagnosed in Australian women (11,000 diagnoses each year), and 24 percent of those i
  13. September 2015 Vancouver Island’s aging baby boomers, coupled with stretched budgets and operating rooms, have created a perfect storm for timely access to needed joint surgery. SIXTY-EIGHT-YEAR-OLD Nancy Tienhaara, who works in marketing for a Victoria software company, felt she needed a new knee but couldn’t get it. The pain, she recalls, was unbearable and X-rays showed there was very little cartilage in her knees. Walking was difficult and painful. After seven weeks of waiting, she finally got in to see an orthopaedic surgeon. But she didn’t hear what she wanted to hear: S
  14. October 2013 Are we ready for the consequences of a province-wide colon screening program? THE SIGN ON THE FRONT OF THE PODIUM said it all: “Screening Saves Lives.” It was April of this year and Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid was speaking at a very important event. After a three-year pilot study in several communities around BC, she was announcing the official start of the new Provincial Colon Screening Program which was going to be unrolled on Vancouver Island this summer, before moving on to the rest of the province. As she was announcing that program, few might have pre
  15. March 2013 Health researcher Alan Cassels explores the context—and theories—surrounding the unprecedented and unexplained destruction of independent drug evaluation in BC. WHEN I MET ROBERT BROWN FOR COFFEE a couple of years ago he had something to show me. It was a sample of a new drug called Pradax (dabigatran) that his doctor had given him. It was the first in a new class of drugs prescribed for people with atrial fibrillation (AF), a relatively common condition that can increase one’s risk of having a stroke. The standard script for AF is warfarin, a widely used blood-thin
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