GSK ‘paid Polish doctors bribes’

UK drug company GlaxoSmithKline is facing a criminal investigation in Poland for allegedly bribing doctors, BBC Panorama has discovered.

Eleven doctors and a GSK regional manager have been charged over alleged corruption between 2010 and 2012.

A former sales rep said doctors were paid to promote GSK’s asthma drug Seretide.

The company said one employee had been disciplined and it was co-operating with investigations.

If the allegations are proved, GSK may have violated both the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It is illegal for companies based in either country to bribe government employees abroad.

‘Financial gains’

A former sales rep for GSK in the Polish region of Lodz, Jarek Wisniewski, said: “There is a simple equation,” he said. “We pay doctors, they give us prescriptions. We don’t pay doctors, we don’t see prescriptions for our drugs.

“We cannot go to doctors and say to them, ‘I need 20 more prescriptions’. So we prepare an agreement for them to give a talk to patients, we pay £100, but we expect more than 100 prescriptions for this drug.

“It’s a bribe,” Mr Wisniewski said, confirming that although on paper the payments were for educational services, the doctors understood very clearly that they must produce a certain number of prescriptions in return.

Panorama: Find out more

BBC Panorama logo
  • Panorama – Who’s Paying Your Doctor?
  • BBC One, Monday, 14 April, at 20:30 BST

The Lodz public prosecutor found evidence in documents given to doctors by GSK to support claims of corrupt payments in more than a dozen different health centres where there was no evidence “patient education” had taken place.

Spokesman Krzysztof Kopania said: “We have evidence that in more than a dozen cases it was a camouflaged form of a bribe.

“In return for the financial gains the doctors would favour the product proposed by the pharmaceutical company and they prescribed that medicine.”

One doctor has already admitted guilt, been fined and given a suspended sentence. He said he accepted £100 for a single lecture he never gave, but only under pressure from a GSK drugs rep.

He told Panorama: “They kept tempting, and I am just a man.”

Reprimanded and disciplined

The company said a GSK training programme to help improve diagnostic standards and medical training in respiratory disease was run by doctors in Poland from 2010 to 2012.

A statement said: “These sessions were delivered by specialist healthcare professionals who, based on contracts signed with GSK, received payments appropriate to the scope of work as well as their level of knowledge and experience. The provision of sessions under this programme was agreed with the Polish healthcare centres.

“Following receipt of allegations regarding the conduct of the programme in the Lodz region, GSK has investigated the matter, using resources from both inside and outside the company. The investigation found evidence of inappropriate communication in contravention of GSK policy by a single employee. The employee concerned was reprimanded and disciplined as a result.

“We continue to investigate these matters and are co-operating fully with the CBA [Poland’s Central Anticorruption Office].”

In 2012, GSK paid $3bn (£1.9bn) in the largest healthcare fraud settlement in US history after pleading guilty to promoting two drugs for unapproved uses and failing to report safety data about a diabetes drug to the Food and Drug Administration.

Last December, the company announced it was making major changes to its incentive schemes after a damaging corruption scandal in China.

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security has claimed that between 2007 and 2010 GSK funnelled three billion Chinese yuan (£300m) through travel agencies.

It said it would end direct payments to doctors for promotional talks and stop setting individual targets for its sales reps as part of a wider effort to improve transparency.

10 inventions that owe their success to World War One


WW1 inventions (clockwise from top left): paper tissues; sun lamp; tea bag; zip; vegetarian sausage; wristwatch

1. Sanitary towels…

A material called Cellucotton had already been invented before war broke out, by what was then a small US firm – Kimberly-Clark. The company’s head of research, Ernst Mahler, and its vice-president, James, C Kimberly, had toured pulp and paper plants in Germany, Austria and Scandinavia in 1914 and spotted a material five times more absorbent than cotton and – when mass-produced – half as expensive.

They took it back to the US and trademarked it. Then, once the US entered the war in 1917, they started producing the wadding for surgical dressing at a rate of 380-500ft per minute.

Kotex ad from 1930s

But Red Cross nurses on the battlefield realised its benefits for their own personal, hygienic use, and it was this unofficial use that ultimately made the company’s fortune.

“The end of the war in 1918 brought about a temporary suspension of K-C’s wadding business because its principal customers – the army and the Red Cross – no longer had a need for the product,” the company says today.

So it re-purchased the surplus from the military and created a new market.

“After two years of intensive study, experimentation and market testing, the K-C team created a sanitary napkin made from Cellucotton and fine gauze, and in 1920, in a little wooden shed in Neenah, Wisconsin, female employees began turning out the product by hand,” the company says.

The new product, called Kotex (short for “cotton texture”), was sold to the public in October 1920, less than two years after the Armistice.

2. … and paper hankies

Marketing sanitary pads was not easy, however, partly because women were loath to buy the product from male shop assistants. The company urged shops to allow customers to buy it simply by leaving money in a box. Sales of Kotex did rise but not fast enough for Kimberly-Clark, which looked for other uses for the material.

In the early 1920s, CA “Bert” Fourness conceived the idea of ironing cellulose material to make a smooth and soft tissue. With much experimentation, facial tissue was born in 1924, with the name “Kleenex”.

3. Sun lamp

In the winter of 1918, it’s estimated that half of all children in Berlin were suffering from rickets- a condition whereby bones become soft and deformed. At the time, the exact cause was not known, although it was associated with poverty.

How WW1 changed medicine

Michael Mosley
  • A doctor in the city – Kurt Huldschinsky – noticed that his patients were very pale. He decided to conduct an experiment on four of them, including one known today only as Arthur, who was three years old. He put the four of them under mercury-quartz lamps which emitted ultraviolet light.

As the treatment continued, Huldschinsky noticed that the bones of his young patients were getting stronger. In May 1919, when the sun of summer arrived, he had them sit on the terrace in the sun. The results of his experiment, when published, were greeted with great enthusiasm. Children around Germany were brought before the lights. In Dresden, the child welfare services had the city’s street lights dismantled to be used for treating children.

Researchers later found that Vitamin D is necessary to build up the bones with calcium and this process is triggered by ultraviolet light. The undernourishment brought on by war produced the knowledge to cure the ailment.

Child under a sun lamp, 1920sChild receiving sun lamp therapy in the 1920s

4. Daylight saving time

The idea of putting the clocks forward in spring and back in autumn was not new when WW1 broke out. Benjamin Franklin had suggested it in a letter to The Journal of Paris in 1784. Candles were wasted in the evenings of summer because the sun set before human beings went to bed, he said, and sunshine was wasted at the beginning of the day because the sun rose while they still slept.

Signpost between Jones and Jackson county, South Dakota, marking the start of the central time zone
A county border in South Dakota marking one of several time zones in the US

Similar proposals were made in New Zealand in 1895 and in the UK in 1909, but without concrete results.

Innovation in Britain

A British tank in WW1

It was WW1 that secured the change. Faced with acute shortages of coal, the German authorities decreed that on 30 April 1916, the clocks should move forward from 23:00 to midnight, so giving an extra hour of daylight in the evenings. What started in Germany as a means to save coal for heating and light quickly spread to other countries.

Britain began three weeks later on 21 May 1916. Other European countries followed. On 19 March 1918, the US Congress established several time zones and made daylight saving time official from 31 March for the remainder of WW1.

Once the war was over, Daylight Saving Time was abandoned – but the idea had been planted and it eventually returned.

5. Tea bags

The tea bag was not invented to solve some wartime problem. By common consent, it was an American tea merchant who, in 1908, started sending tea in small bags to his customers. They, whether by accident or design, dropped the bags in water and the rest is history. So the industry says.

tea bag in cup

But a German company, Teekanne, did copy the idea in the war, and developed it, supplying troops with tea in similar cotton bags. They called them “tea bombs”.

6. The wristwatch

It is not true that wristwatches were invented specifically for World War One – but it is true that their use by men took off dramatically. After the war, they were the usual way to tell the time.

Cartier Tank watch
Cartier Tank watch owes its name to WW1

But until the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, men who needed to know the time and who had the money to afford a watch, kept it in their pocket on a chain. Women, for some reason, were the trailblazers – Elizabeth I had a small clock she could strap to her arm.

But as timing in war became more important – so that artillery barrages, for example, could be synchronised – manufacturers developed watches which kept both hands free in the heat of battle. Wristwatches, in other words. Aviators also needed both hands free, so they too had to throw the old pocket watch overboard.

Mappin and Webb had developed a watch with the hole and handles for a strap for the Boer War and then boasted of how it had been useful at the Battle of Omdurman.

But it was WW1 which really established the market. In particular, the “creeping barrage” meant that timing was everything. This was an interaction between artillery firing just ahead of infantry. Clearly, getting it wrong would be fatal for your own side. Distances were too great for signalling and timings too tight, and, anyway, signalling in plain view meant the enemy would see. Wristwatches were the answer.

The company H Williamson which made watches in Coventry recorded in the report of its 1916 annual general meeting: “It is said that one soldier in every four wears a wristlet watch, and the other three mean to get one as soon as they can.”

Even one of today’s iconic luxury watches goes back to WW1. Cartier’s Tank Watch originated in 1917 when Louis Cartier, the French watchmaker, saw the new Renault tanks and modelled a watch on their shape.

7. Vegetarian sausages

You might imagine that soy sausages were invented by some hippy, probably in the 1960s and probably in California. You would be wrong. Soy sausages were invented by Konrad Adenauer, the first German chancellor after World War Two, and a byword for steady probity – dullness would be an unkind word.

During WW1, Adenauer was mayor of Cologne and as the British blockade of Germany began to bite, starvation set in badly in the city. Adenauer had an ingenious mind – an inventive mind – and researched ways of substituting available materials for scarce items, such as meat.

Vegetarian sausages

His began by using a mixture of rice-flour, barley and Romanian corn-flour to make bread, instead of using wheat. It all seemed to work until Romania entered the war and the supply of the corn flour dried up.

From this experimental bread, he turned to the search for a new sausage and came up with soy as the meatless ingredient. It was dubbed the Friedenswurst or “peace sausage”. Adenauer applied for a patent with the Imperial Patent Office in Germany but was denied one. Apparently, it was contrary to German regulations about the proper content of a sausage – if it didn’t contain meat it couldn’t be a sausage.

Oddly, he had better luck with Britain, Germany’s enemy at the time. King George V granted the soy sausage a patent on 26 June 1918.

Adenauer later invented an electrical gadget for killing insects, a sort of rotary apparatus to clear people out of the way of oncoming trams, and a light to go inside toasters. But none of them went into production. It is the soy sausage that was his longest-lasting contribution.

German chancellor Konrad Adenauer photographed in 1967Konrad Adenauer, towering figure in post-war German politics… and inventor of the vegetarian sausage

Vegetarians everywhere should raise a glass of bio-wine to toast the rather quiet chancellor of Germany for making their plates a bit more palatable.

8. Zips


Ever since the middle of the 19th Century, various people had been working on combinations of hooks, clasps and eyes to find a smooth and convenient way to keep the cold out.

But it was Gideon Sundback, a Swedish-born emigrant to the US who mastered it. He became the head designer at the Universal Fastener Company and devised the “Hookless Fastener”, with its slider which locked the two sets of teeth together. The US military incorporated them into uniforms and boots, particularly the Navy. After the war, civilians followed suit.

9. Stainless steel

We should thank Harry Brearley of Sheffield for steel which doesn’t rust or corrode. As the city’s archives put it: “In 1913, Harry Brearley of Sheffield developed what is widely regarded as the first ‘rustless’ or stainless steel – a product that revolutionised the metallurgy industry and became a major component of the modern world.”

More from the Magazine

Soldiers in WW1

The British military was trying to find a better metal for guns. The problem was that barrels of guns were distorted over repeated firing by the friction and heat of bullets. Brearley, a metallurgist at a Sheffield firm, was asked to find harder alloys.

He examined the addition of chromium to steel, and legend has it that he threw away some of the results of his experiments as failures. They went literally on to the scrap heap – but Brearley noticed later that these discarded samples in the yard had not rusted.

He had discovered the secret of stainless steel. In WW1 it was used in some of the new-fangled aero-engines – but it really came into its own as knives and forks and spoons and the innumerable medical instruments on which hospitals depend.

Stainless steel cutlery

10. Pilot communications

Before World War One, pilots had no way of talking to each other and to people on the ground.

At the start of the war, armies relied on cables to communicate, but these were often cut by artillery or tanks. Germans also found ways of tapping into British cable communications. Other means of communication such as runners, flags, pigeons, lamps and dispatch riders were used but were found inadequate. Aviators relied on gestures and shouting. Something had to be done. Wireless was the answer.

Radio technology was available but had to be developed, and this happened during WW1 at Brooklands and later at Biggin Hill, according to Keith Thrower a specialist in this area of historical research.

By the end of 1916, the decisive steps forward had been made. “Earlier attempts to fit radio telephones in aircraft had been hampered by the high background noise from the aircraft’s engine,” writers Thrower in British Radio Valves: The Vintage Years – 1904-1925. “This problem was alleviated by the design of a helmet with built-in microphone and earphones to block much of the noise.”

Air traffic control tower and plane

The way was open for civil aviation to take off after the war. Chocks away.

Google invests in more robots.

Google is taking a stake in a Silicon Valley-based robotics company that has yet to reveal its first product.

Savioke’s work may be under wraps, but it has announced plans to begin customer trials of a service industry-targeted machine this year.

Google has acquired eight other robotics companies outright over the past year.

Its latest investment may be relatively small but experts say that it should boost confidence in the sector.

Savioke has disclosed a total $2m (£1.2m) of seed finance, which includes cash from other sources in addition to an undisclosed sum from Google Ventures, the search giant’s investment arm.

Helping automatons

Savioke was only established last year. However, its chief executive, Steve Cousins, has previous experience in the sector, having launched the PR2 robot – a machine targeted at robotics software developers wishing to try out their code.

Savioke’s founder previously helped launch the PR2 robot

“We have decided that it is time for robots to become available widely in the service industry,” Mr Cousins told the BBC.

“We’re not ready to quite disclose what we are going to be doing, but we believe the technology is ripe and this industry is largely untapped.

“There’s a few examples of robots in hospitals that are extensions of a surgeon, but what we are looking at is a little bit more what people traditionally think of as robots – autonomous entities that can do things on their own and can help people out.”

Although he declined to say which sectors would be targeted, his company’s website lists hotels, elderly care facilities, hospitals and restaurants as possibilities.

Previous stake in Nest

Mr Cousins was keen to stress that the deal involved Google Ventures – a unit that operates independently of the rest of the California-based company and whose stated goal is to fund the “best companies” rather than ones that are strategic to Google’s other operations.

However, GV’s previous stake in Nest ultimately resulted in Google paying $3.2bn to add the smart thermostat-maker to its main business, and Mr Cousins did not rule out the possibility of his company following a similar path.

“In the end, what we want to see is robots out in the world helping people,” he said.

“So, whatever ‘exit strategy’ leads us to that goal is what we are all about.”

Excited investors

Google’s interest in robotics was preceded by that of Amazon.

The web retailer paid $775m in 2012 to buy Kiva Systems, a company specialising in robots used to move goods in warehouses.

Kiva Systems
Amazon bought Kiva Systems, the maker of orange warehouse robots that move goods

Venture capitalists said the two big companies actions’ were now fuelling interest from others.

“One of the big questions when you do a robotics deal had always been who is going to buy it if this thing doesn’t go public,” said tech investor Paul Kedrosky.

“It was never obvious. Now that Amazon and Google have self-identified as acquirers, it makes doing robotics deals pretty exciting.”

Google’s Schaft robot won a Pentagon robot challenge last year

Mike Maples, co-founder of Floodgate Ventures, agreed the sector had become more attractive.

“In the last few years, it has become clear that the computer industry is no longer primarily about computers – whether it’s post-PC devices, internet of things, self-driving cars, wearables or robots – an entirely new digital industry is emerging where computers fade into the background but digital is everywhere,” he said.

“Google’s move into robotics will make it even more attractive to start-up investors because it accelerates the creation of a new category of opportunities.”

British engineering company Dyson recently announced that it was investing £5m in a robotics lab at Imperial College London.

One roboticist said he expected more deals would follow.

“It’s pretty clear that with an ageing population there is a fantastic business opportunity for creating technology that is not only going to improve people’s quality of life but also extend their working lives,” said Prof Chris Melhuish, director of Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

Hereditary trauma: Inheritance of traumas and how they may be mediated .

Etreme and traumatic events can change a person — and often, years later, even affect their children. Researchers of the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich have now unmasked a piece in the puzzle of how the inheritance of traumas may be mediated.

Extreme and traumatic events can change a person — and often, years later, even affect their children. Researchers have now unmasked a piece in the puzzle of how the inheritance of traumas may be mediated. The phenomenon has long been known in psychology: traumatic experiences can induce behavioural disorders that are passed down from one generation to the next. It is only recently that scientists have begun to understand the physiological processes underlying hereditary trauma

The phenomenon has long been known in psychology: traumatic experiences can induce behavioural disorders that are passed down from one generation to the next. It is only recently that scientists have begun to understand the physiological processes underlying hereditary trauma. “There are diseases such as bipolar disorder, that run in families but can’t be traced back to a particular gene,” explains Isabelle Mansuy, professor at ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich. With her research group at the Brain Research Institute of the University of Zurich, she has been studying the molecular processes involved in non-genetic inheritance of behavioural symptoms induced by traumatic experiences in early life.

Mansuy and her team have succeeded in identifying a key component of these processes: short RNA molecules. These RNAs are synthetized from genetic information (DNA) by enzymes that read specific sections of the DNA (genes) and use them as template to produce corresponding RNAs. Other enzymes then trim these RNAs into mature forms. Cells naturally contain a large number of different short RNA molecules called microRNAs. They have regulatory functions, such as controlling how many copies of a particular protein are made.

Small RNAs with a huge impact

The researchers studied the number and kind of microRNAs expressed by adult mice exposed to traumatic conditions in early life and compared them with non-traumatized mice. They discovered that traumatic stress alters the amount of several microRNAs in the blood, brain and sperm — while some microRNAs were produced in excess, others were lower than in the corresponding tissues or cells of control animals. These alterations resulted in misregulation of cellular processes normally controlled by these microRNAs.

After traumatic experiences, the mice behaved markedly differently: they partly lost their natural aversion to open spaces and bright light and had depressive-like behaviours. These behavioural symptoms were also transferred to the next generation via sperm, even though the offspring were not exposed to any traumatic stress themselves.

Even passed on to the third generation

The metabolism of the offspring of stressed mice was also impaired: their insulin and blood-sugar levels were lower than in the offspring of non-traumatized parents. “We were able to demonstrate for the first time that traumatic experiences affect metabolism in the long-term and that these changes are hereditary,” says Mansuy. The effects on metabolism and behaviour even persisted in the third generation.

“With the imbalance in microRNAs in sperm, we have discovered a key factor through which trauma can be passed on,” explains Mansuy. However, certain questions remain open, such as how the dysregulation in short RNAs comes about. “Most likely, it is part of a chain of events that begins with the body producing too much stress hormones.”

Importantly, acquired traits other than those induced by trauma could also be inherited through similar mechanisms, the researcher suspects. “The environment leaves traces on the brain, on organs and also on gametes. Through gametes, these traces can be passed to the next generation.”

Mansuy and her team are currently studying the role of short RNAs in trauma inheritance in humans. As they were also able to demonstrate the microRNAs imbalance in the blood of traumatized mice and their offspring, the scientists hope that their results may be useful to develop a blood test for diagnostics.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ETH ZurichNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Gapp K, Jawaid A, Sarkies P, Bohacek J, Pelczar P, Prados J, Farinelli L, Miska E, Mansuy IM. Implication of sperm RNAs in transgenerational inheritance of the effects of early trauma in miceNature Neuroscience, April 13, 2014 DOI:10.1038/nn.3695

Next-gen dairy: have you had your whey today?

In an attempt to reverse the decades-long decline of milk consumption, the dairy industry is churning out new, and in some cases revolutionary, ways for consumers to get their dairy.

Next-gen dairy: have you had your whey today?

 I met the director of the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a few members of his staff. Behind me was a bookshelf filled with titles such as Wisconsin Cheesecyclopedia and Advanced Dairy Chemistry. And in the middle of the table was an aluminum bowl filled with ice and drink options, including eight-ounce bottles of milk with a Wisconsin Badgers logo, sourced from the dairy cattle center next door.Here’s what I remember about dairy when I was a kid: A glass of milk at dinner, Kraft macaroni and cheese, Dannon yogurt, individually wrapped slices of American cheese, and once in a while, a fancy cheese from the deli counter, like Muenster or Swiss. It wasn’t until I was sitting in a conference room in Madison, Wis., last fall that I fully understood how few choices we had just a couple decades ago.

These days, dairy products such as Greek yogurt and goat cheese are so commonplace in grocery stores that I’d forgotten they weren’t always there. Funny how we block out those dark days of relative deprivation. But the CDR crew reminded me how far we’ve come.

Now more than ever, the dairy industry – from farmers to innovation centers – is churning out new, and in some cases revolutionary, ways for consumers to get their dairy. With the attempt to reverse the decades-long decline of milk consumption comes the development of dairy products that offer the perfect combination of protein, calcium, flavor and on-the-go packaging. Some products are welcome, and some, let’s face it, are over the top and absurd. (Jellybean-flavored milk, anyone?)

But the more I poked around in the dairy aisle, the better I understood that the industry is experiencing a sea change. It used to be that going for a milk run was about as exciting as going to fill your car up with gas. And cheese was … well, that takes us back to mac and cheese in the skinny blue box. It left a lot to be desired. With expanded offerings, healthier options and a nod toward convenience, we have entered the era of Next-Gen Dairy.

Calling the cheese doctor

According to John Lucey, director of the CDR and professor of food science, Wisconsin produces one-quarter of all U.S. cheese (and half of the specialty cheeses). Dairy has a $26.5 billion impact on the state, which is home to more than 140 cheese plants and a dozen butter plants. This is the place to be if you care about dairy. And in the conference room, I found myself sitting with some of the folks responsible for its future.

“We don’t make or sell any products, but we use our knowledge to help develop products, educate and troubleshoot,” Lucey said. CDR, which is largely funded by the dairy industry, offers courses and expertise to dairy companies, startups and industry suppliers including Kraft Foods, Sargento and Emmi.



 “They’d say, ‘I’d love to come up with this new kind of product,’ and we set up a trial and do the analysis,” Lucey said. “Or a cheese-maker wants to know what will happen if he reduces sodium in his cheese, or how to lower the fat content.” When you’re a cheese-maker,  problems can arise with anything from flavor inconsistencies to problems with melting; Lucey said CDR is available, like a doctor on call. 

Take blue cheese, for example. People love the flavor, but it’s tricky on a burger or sandwich – it crumbles and it doesn’t melt well. So the team at CDR helped come up with a solution: Blue Marble Jack, a cheese that melts and slices like Monterey Jack but looks and tastes like blue cheese.

One of the biggest drivers behind cheese innovation is the demand for artisan, or specialty, cheeses. The artisan pedigree is appealing to the same types of high-end consumers who are drawn to regional craft beers and locally grown produce. In the early 1990s, a group of top chefs would have bought their high-quality cheeses in Europe. In the last five years, Lucey said, the United States  has become a net exporter of cheese, and we can buy domestic equivalents of just about any cheese that we once had to import.

“Today, we have award-winning specialty cheeses from Wisconsin,” Lucey said. “I’ve had French people come up to me and say our locally-made specialty cheeses are really good. That’s the ultimate compliment.”

With prices that can easily be eight times that of a commodity cheese like cheddar, specialty cheeses such as Pleasant Ridge Reserve (which has been named the American Cheese Society’s Best of Show and retails for $26 per pound) are responsible for increased spending in the cheese case, as well as increased consumption. According to Lucey, Americans used to eat an average of 17 pounds of cheese per person per year; today, we average 33 pounds.

Another still-exploding trend is the Greek yogurt phenomenon. Generally tangier and more concentrated than traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt contains twice the protein of traditional yogurt. CDR worked with the founders of Smári, an Icelandic yogurt, to develop a super-strained product that has triple the protein of regular yogurt, which rolled out last year.

Alan Reed, senior vice president of Dairy Management Inc., which manages the National Dairy Council, said he’s seeing a lot of Greek yogurt everything – from ice cream to salad dressing. He said the trend is still “on fire” now, but he expects it to stabilize, leaving a longer-term opportunity for high-protein products. But that begs the question: Do we really need more protein?

“Generally, Americans get more protein than they need,” said Connie Weaver, head of the nutrition science department at Purdue University. “But it’s a different story for dairy.” She said about 70 percent of our calcium comes from dairy, so she sees the Greek yogurt fad – which only makes up a small percentage of dairy – as a move in the right direction.

Weaver said if we aren’t going to drink our three cups of low-fat milk per day, beverages such as soy milk and orange juice with added calcium are good alternatives. And calcium-fortified foods are another solution, especially with kids. “They aren’t as likely to take supplements,” she said, “so you need a stealth approach.”

The new new dairy

Weaver said if a kid will only drink chocolate milk, it’s better that she has the added sugar in the chocolate versus skipping dairy altogether. The problem arises with some of these crazy flavors, like Hiland Dairy’s new milks rolling out this spring: Easter Egg Nog, Jellybean and Chocolate Marshmallow.

“The industry has to get its act together,” dairy market analyst Jerry Dryer said about some of the products that are more suited to the candy aisle. “Flavored milk is a delightful thing, and it has so much potential. But so many companies use artificial flavors, and I think that’s a no-no. You have this wholesome product, and then you put in imitation chocolate flavor, just because it lasts longer or it’s cheaper.”

Flavored milk aside, what other trends are buzzing around dairy? In addition to added protein and calcium, there’s low-sodium, a move toward clean labels with simple ingredients, convenience, domestic and local sourcing and the addition of whey beyond bodybuilder shake powder.

* In February, a company called fairlife (of which Coca-Cola is a minority investor) launched a lactose-free milk with 50 percent more protein and calcium and half the sugars of regular milk. At $4 per half-gallon, the product is to the milk market what Naked and Odwalla have been to the juice aisle: disruptive.

* Kraft, whose brands include Velveeta and Lunchables, recently launched a Philadelphia Cream Cheese spread with double the protein; Kraft Singles with no artificial preservatives; and Breakstone’s Greek Style Sour Cream with half the fat and double the calcium and protein of regular sour cream.

* Portability is a major trend. Even babies are getting into the mix, with products such as Happy Family’s Happy Yogis, freeze-dried organic fruit and yogurt drops for babies and toddlers.

* Skipping breakfast because you’re too busy? The dairy industry has countless solutions for you, because, well, it’s hard to eat yogurt in the car. The National Dairy Council is promoting grab-and-go recipes for breakfast items, including a yogurt bar filled with blueberries and Greek yogurt and a muffin-shaped combination of whole-grain bread, eggs, cheese and broccoli. A new-product competition among students last year yielded breakfast products such as Moofins ( including blueberry sausage and maple bacon cheddar), Early Qurd (a cherry and vanilla low-fat cheese) and Miss Muffet Bars (a blueberry-flavored cottage cheese and whey protein-filled bar coated in dark chocolate.

* Asia is a huge market for the U.S. dairy industry. Not only are we exporting fluid milk to China, but manufacturers are working to develop new products and uses for cheese and dairy byproducts such as whey, about half of which is exported today.



* Whey is a byproduct of making cheese – 80 percent of the proteins end up in cheese, and 20 percent end up in the whey, which is largely water. (It’s sometimes compared to crude oil – there’s lots of good stuff inside, but you have to extract it.) Whey was once spread on fields or fed to livestock, but today, the industry understands its value – it aids in muscle recovery and ranks high on the scale of nutritionally complete proteins. As a result, it’s now added to all sorts of drinks and snacks, such as Special K20’s protein water mix and Better Whey of Life’s low-fat Greek yogurt.

The most local ice cream

In the conference room at the University of Wisconsin, I asked the dairy experts whether we’d soon see a whey ice cream bar, hoping they would give me a sneak peek into their top-secret product development.

“I don’t know,” Lucey said, smiling, “All kinds of wacky ideas come across the table.”

I left the conference room and toured the dairy plant, walking by stainless steel vats that hold hundreds of pounds of milk, giant ice cream machines and contraptions that can stretch string cheese to 100 feet. I passed a hallway of industrial refrigerators that stored things like 20-pound blocks of pepper cheddar and bulk butter for the residence halls.

After the tour, I walked down the hallway, following cow-colored steppingstones. There were giant pictures of cheese in the stairwell, and I found my way to the building’s dairy store. Out front, a group of middle school children sat on the steps eating bowls of ice cream in rainbow colors. I had been hearing all day about the ice cream here, and after all the talk about high-tech dairy, I was starving and craving nothing more than a low-tech scoop.

For $1.75, I bought myself a cup of mint chocolate chip and walked to my car, catching a whiff of the nearby milking parlor. I tried eating while I was driving and ended up with minty drips on my seatbelt. This scoop of ice cream in a Styrofoam cup wasn’t compact, convenient or particularly nutritional, and there was nothing Greek about it. But it was made in the building I’d just left, from cows a couple hundred yards away, and you can’t get more local than that. And besides, as I jockeyed between the stick shift of my car, the plastic spoon and my mouth, I really wasn’t thinking about trendy dairy.  At that moment, I was only thinking that mint chocolate chip ice cream was the best and most delicious invention ever.

Researchers create roadmap for gene expression .

In  a new study, researchers from North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill and other institutions have taken the first steps toward creating a roadmap that may help scientists narrow down the genetic cause of numerous diseases. Their work also sheds new light on how heredity and environment can affect gene expression.

“Everyone has the same set of genes. It’s difficult to determine which genes are heritable, or controlled by your DNA, versus those that may be affected by the environment. Teasing out the difference between heredity and environment is key to narrowing the field when you’re looking for a genetic relationship to a particular disease,” says researcher Fred Wright.

Pinpointing the genetic causes of common diseases is not easy, as multiple genes may be involved with a disease. Moreover, disease-causing variants in DNA often do not act directly, but by activating nearby genes. To add to the complexity, genetic activation is not like a simple on/off switch on a light, but behaves more like a “dimmer switch” — some people may have a particular gene turned all the way up, while others have it only turned halfway on, completely off, or somewhere in between. And different factors, like DNA or the environment, play a role in the dimmer switch’s setting.

According to Fred Wright, NC State professor of statistics and biological sciences, director of NC State’s Bioinformatics Center and co-first author of the study, “Everyone has the same set of genes. It’s difficult to determine which genes are heritable, or controlled by your DNA, versus those that may be affected by the environment. Teasing out the difference between heredity and environment is key to narrowing the field when you’re looking for a genetic relationship to a particular disease.”

Wright, with co-first author Patrick Sullivan, Distinguished Professor of Genetics and Psychiatry at UNC-Chapel Hill and director of the Center for Psychiatric Genomics, and national and international colleagues, analyzed blood sample data from 2,752 adult twins (both identical and fraternal) from the Netherlands Twin Register and an additional 1,895 participants from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety. For all 20,000 individual genes, they determined whether those genes were heritable — controlled by the DNA “dimmer switch” — or largely affected by environment.

“Identical twins have identical DNA,” Wright explains, “so if a gene is heritable, its expression will be more similar in identical twins than in fraternal twins. This process allowed us to create a database of heritable genes, which we could then compare with genes that have been implicated in disease risk. We saw that heritable genes are more likely to be associated with disease — something that can help other researchers determine which genes to focus on in future studies.”

The study appears online April 13 in Nature Genetics.

“This is by far the largest twin study of gene expression ever published, enabling us to make a roadmap of genes versus environment,” Sullivan says, adding that the study measured relationships with disease more precisely than had been previously possible, and uncovered important connections to recent human evolution and genetic influence in disease.

The Netherlands Twin Register has followed twin pairs for over 25 years and in collaboration with the longitudinal Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety established a resource for genetic and expression studies. Professor Dorret Boomsma, who started the twin register, says, “in addition to the fundamental insights into genetic regulation and disease, the results provide valuable information on causal pathways. The study shows that the twin design remains a key tool for genetic discovery.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. The original article was written by Tracey Peake. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Fred A Wright, Patrick F Sullivan, Andrew I Brooks, Fei Zou, Wei Sun, Kai Xia, Vered Madar, Rick Jansen, Wonil Chung, Yi-Hui Zhou, Abdel Abdellaoui, Sandra Batista, Casey Butler, Guanhua Chen, Ting-Huei Chen, David D’Ambrosio, Paul Gallins, Min Jin Ha, Jouke Jan Hottenga, Shunping Huang, Mathijs Kattenberg, Jaspreet Kochar, Christel M Middeldorp, Ani Qu, Andrey Shabalin, Jay Tischfield, Laura Todd, Jung-Ying Tzeng, Gerard van Grootheest, Jacqueline M Vink, Qi Wang, Wei Wang, Weibo Wang, Gonneke Willemsen, Johannes H Smit, Eco J de Geus, Zhaoyu Yin, Brenda W J H Penninx, Dorret I Boomsma. Heritability and genomics of gene expression in peripheral bloodNature Genetics, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/ng.2951

Surge in Prescriptions for Opioid Painkillers for Pregnant Women.

Doctors are prescribing opioid painkillers to pregnant women in astonishing numbers, new research shows, despite the fact that risks to the developing fetus are largely unknown.

Of 1.1 million pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid nationally, nearly 23 percent filled an opioid prescription in 2007, up from 18.5 percent in 2000, according to a study published last week in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the largest to date of opioid prescriptions among pregnant women. Medicaidcovers the medical expenses for 45 percent of births in the United States.

The lead author, Rishi J. Desai, a research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said he had expected to “see some increase in trend, but not this magnitude.”

“One in five women using opioids during pregnancy is definitely surprising,” he said.

In February, a study of 500,000 privately insured women found that 14 percent were dispensed opioid painkillers at least once during pregnancy. From 2005 to 2011, the percentage of pregnant women prescribed opioids decreased slightly, but the figure exceeded 12 percent in any given year, according to Dr. Brian T. Bateman, an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and his colleagues. Their research was published in Anesthesiology.

Dr. Joshua A. Copel, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., said he was taken aback by the findings, which come even as conscientious mothers-to-be increasingly view pregnancy as a time to skip caffeine, sushi and even cold cuts.

“To hear that there’s such a high use of narcotics in pregnancy when I see so many women who worry about a cup of coffee seems incongruous,” he said.

In both studies, the opioids most prescribed during pregnancy were codeine and hydrocodone. Oxycodone was among the top four. Women usually took the drugs for a week or less; however, just over 2 percent of women in both studies took them for longer periods.

Rates of opioid prescriptions were highest in the South and mountain states, and lowest in the Northwest and Northeast. The differences were stark: In the study of women enrolled in Medicaid, 41.6 percent of pregnant women in Utah were prescribed opioids, and 35.6 percent in Idaho. Oregon had the lowest, at 9.5 percent, with New York at 9.6 percent.

“The regional variation really concerned me the most,” said Dr. Pamela Flood, a professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at Stanford University. “It’s hard to imagine that pregnant women in the South have all that much more pain than pregnant women in the Northeast.”

Prescribing rates for opioids vary widely among adults between states and even adjacent counties, suggesting a lack of attention to potential misuse and abuse in areas with high rates.

Pregnant women are taking unprecedented numbers of prescription drugs, not just opioids, and the safety risks are often not well understood. “Fewer than 10 percent of medications approved by the F.D.A. since 1980 have sufficient data to determine fetal risk,” said Cheryl S. Broussard, a health scientist at National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

But some doctors and scientists say they are concerned about recent research demonstrating an association between first trimester use of opioids and neural tube defects. Mothers of children with neural tube defects reported more early opioid use – 3.9 percent – than mothers of children without such congenital defects – 1.6 percent. To control for recall bias, researchers also had a group of mothers of children with other malformations, and found 2 percent reported opioid use.

“Opioid use in very early pregnancy is associated with an approximate doubling the risk of neural tube defects,” said Martha M. Werler, the senior author and a professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health. “About half of pregnancies are not planned, so that’s a big chunk of women who may not be thinking about possible risks associated with their behavior.”

Particularly at the end of pregnancy, prolonged use of opioids can also lead to addiction in infants, a problem known as “neonatal abstinence syndrome.” A 2012 study in JAMA suggested the incidence of babies born addicted is on the rise.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started a website for its Treating for Two initiative, which offers clinicians and expecting patients up-to-date guidance on medication use in pregnancy. The site aims to prevent birth defects and to minimize exposures to potentially harmful medications during pregnancy.

At this stage, Dr. James N. Martin, the director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said he was not “terribly concerned” about a possible link between first-trimester use of opioids and neural tube defects.

Still, Dr. Martin said, “we need to avoid using opioid analgesics as the first-line therapy in pregnant patients to the extent possible, because there is potential risk.”

The reasons behind the surge in opioid use are unclear. Pregnancy has always entailed discomfort. A growing fetus may place pressure on the mother’s nerves, causing sciatica. Weight gain, posture changes and pelvic floor dysfunction all can result in discomfort and pain for mothers-to-be.

Certainly, pain caused by kidney stones, a malignancy or chronic conditions like sickle cell anemia justifies opioid use in pregnancy, doctors say. Expectant women who have just had surgery might need narcotics, too.

Dr. Edward Michna, a pain specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, speculated that rising obesity rates may also be increasing the frequency of back problems during pregnancy. But he and others wondered if opioids were being prescribed when acetaminophen might have been a better choice.

In the two recent studies, opioids were used most often by pregnant women to treat back pain or abdominal pain. But in an editorial published in Anesthesiology, Dr. Flood and a co-author, Dr. Srinivasa Raja, a professor in the anesthesiology department at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, noted that back pain, abdominal pain and joint pain were not particularly helped by opioids. More often, they are ameliorated by alternatives like physical therapy.

Taking an opioid may be viewed as easier “than more time-intensive use of other therapies,” the editorial said.

Dr. Michna does not prescribe narcotics for lower back pain in pregnant women. “We don’t want to expose them to drugs that have unknown effects on developing fetuses,” he said. Instead, he said, he suggests acupuncture, physical therapy or biofeedback.

Yet, pain relief options for pregnant women are limited at best. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are rarely used, but there is evidence of potential risk to the fetus in the third trimester.

“If the pain is so severe that acetaminophen is not enough, we have no analgesic option besides opioids,” said Dr. George Saade, the director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

The Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act of 2002 has helped stoke research into safer drugs for the pediatric population, he noted. “But we haven’t had anything similar for pregnant women,” he said.

In the past 30 years, the use of prescription medicine by pregnant women in their first trimester has increased more than 60 percent, while the use of four or more medications has more than tripled, according to a 2011 studypublished in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Pregnant or not, Americans are simply pain-averse, experts say. Dr. Cresta W. Jones, an assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, specializes in helping pregnant women with pre-existing chronic pain who need to be on narcotics to manage “unbearable pain.”

But she also has patients who experience garden-variety discomforts of pregnancy, and managing their expectations is difficult.

“It’s taboo to tell a patient it’s normal for you to be uncomfortable in pregnancy,” said Dr. Jones, whose office has a policy of discouraging the use of narcotics. “We do have a lot of patient pushback. You have to approach it with empathy and understand the societal expectation in the U.S. of the immediate resolution of pain.”

How a Silly Putty ingredient could advance stem cell therapies

The sponginess of the environment where human embryonic stem cells are growing affects the type of specialized cells they eventually become, a University of Michigan study shows.

The researchers coaxed human embryonic  to turn into working  more efficiently by growing the  on a soft, utrafine carpet made of a key ingredient in Silly Putty. Their study is published online at Nature Materials on April 13.

This research is the first to directly link physical, as opposed to chemical, signals to  differentiation. Differentiation is the process of the source cells morphing into the body’s more than 200 cell types that become muscle, bone, nerves and organs, for example.

Jianping Fu, U-M assistant professor of mechanical engineering, says the findings raise the possibility of a more efficient way to guide stem cells to differentiate and potentially provide therapies for diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Huntington’s or Alzheimer’s.

In the specially engineered growth system—the ‘carpets’ Fu and his colleagues designed—microscopic posts of the Silly Putty component polydimethylsiloxane serve as the threads. By varying the post height, the researchers can adjust the stiffness of the surface they grow cells on. Shorter posts are more rigid—like an industrial carpet. Taller ones are softer—more plush.

The team found that stem cells they grew on the tall, softer micropost carpets turned into  much faster and more often than those they grew on the stiffer surfaces. After 23 days, the colonies of spinal cord cells— that control how muscles move—that grew on the softer micropost carpets were four times more pure and 10 times larger than those growing on either traditional plates or rigid carpets.

“This is extremely exciting,” Fu said. “To realize promising clinical applications of human embryonic stem cells, we need a better culture system that can reliably produce more  that function well. Our approach is a big step in that direction, by using synthetic microengineered surfaces to control mechanical environmental signals.”

Fu is collaborating with doctors at the U-M Medical School. Eva Feldman, the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology, studies amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. It paralyzes patients as it kills motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord.

Researchers like Feldman believe stem cell therapies—both from embryonic and adult varieties—might help patients grow new nerve cells. She’s using Fu’s technique to try to make fresh neurons from patients’ own cells. At this point, they’re examining how and whether the process could work, and they hope to try it in humans in the future.

“Professor Fu and colleagues have developed an innovative method of generating high-yield and high-purity motor neurons from stem cells,” Feldman said. “For ALS, discoveries like this provide tools for modeling disease in the laboratory and for developing cell-replacement therapies.”

Fu’s findings go deeper than cell counts. The researchers verified that the new motor neurons they obtained on soft micropost carpets showed electrical behaviors comparable to those of neurons in the human body. They also identified a signaling pathway involved in regulating the mechanically sensitive behaviors. A signaling pathway is a route through which proteins ferry chemical messages from the cell’s borders to deep inside it. The pathway they zeroed in on, called Hippo/YAP, is also involved in controlling organ size and both causing and preventing tumor growth.

Fu says his findings could also provide insights into how  differentiate in the body.

“Our work suggests that physical signals in the cell environment are important in neural patterning, a process where nerve cells become specialized for their specific functions based on their physical location in the body,” he said.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Use Prior to ICU Admission Is Associated With Increased Hospital Mortality.

Background:  Observational studies have found an increased risk of adverse effects such as hemorrhage, stroke, and increased mortality in patients taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The impact of prior use of these medications on outcomes in critically ill patients has not been previously examined. We performed a retrospective study to determine if preadmission use of SSRIs or serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) is associated with mortality differences in patients admitted to the ICU.

Methods:  The retrospective study used a modifiable data mining technique applied to the publicly available Multiparameter Intelligent Monitoring in Intensive Care (MIMIC) 2.6 database. A total of 14,709 patient records, consisting of 2,471 in the SSRI/SNRI group and 12,238 control subjects, were analyzed. The study outcome was in-hospital mortality.

Results:  After adjustment for age, Simplified Acute Physiology Score, vasopressor use, ventilator use, and combined Elixhauser score, SSRI/SNRI use was associated with significantly increased in-hospital mortality (OR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.02-1.40; P = .026). Among patient subgroups, risk was highest in patients with acute coronary syndrome (OR, 1.95; 95% CI, 1.21-3.13; P = .006) and patients admitted to the cardiac surgery recovery unit (OR, 1.51; 95% CI, 1.11-2.04; P = .008). Mortality appeared to vary by specific SSRI, with higher mortalities associated with higher levels of serotonin inhibition.

Conclusions:  We found significant increases in hospital stay mortality among those patients in the ICU taking SSRI/SNRIs prior to admission as compared with control subjects. Mortality was higher in patients receiving SSRI/SNRI agents that produce greater degrees of serotonin reuptake inhibition. The study serves to demonstrate the potential for the future application of advanced data examination techniques upon detailed (and growing) clinical databases being made available by the digitization of medicine.

Aspartame – A Hidden Schedule.

What? That can’t be right, you are likely thinking.

It is.

The methanol in aspartame affects the dopamine system of the brain causing addiction. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is classified as a severe metabolic poison.

Aspartame is a dipeptide molecule produced by joining phenylalanine and aspartic acid. Aspartame itself does not occur naturally but is a manufactured substance. When aspartame is consumed, it is completely broken down by the enzymes in the digestive system into the two amino acids and a type of alcohol called methanol.


Methanol is a schedule II Narcotic.

What that means:

Schedule II substances have high abuse potential and severe psychological and/or physical dependence liability. Examples of schedule II substances include narcotics, amphetamines, and barbiturates. Prescriptions for schedule II substances can never be ordered with refills and must be filled within 7 days of the date originally written.

Yet you can buy diet soda and are encouraged to drink it because it has been marketed as a health product.

According to independent doctors and researchers, aspartame can cause a range of symptoms including but not limited to:


Memory Loss

Vision Loss





Worse, it cam mimic symptoms of diseases like MS, Lupus, ADD, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

It can be dangerous to take with medications, has reactive properties when combined with MSG (mono sodium glutamate) which is found in tons of packaged foods, and will induce cravings for carbohydrates which often leads to weight gain.

So much for the myths of diet and or healthy!

 *Best Advice: Never touch a food with aspartame in it again.

*Alternate Advice: If you don’t feel ready to give up diet drinks or foods but are having any of these symptoms try a 60-day aspartame free test and see how much your health improves.