Friday, July 28, 2006

Is this the end of Big Tobacco?

The Chronicle printed an AP story today about an experimental nicotine vaccine. This vaccine so far has proven safe and effective in testing, but the testing is not over. It appears to still be in Phase II trials. This vaccine has been granted fast-track status by the FDA and the current trial includes 300 patients.

To quote from their site:

Tobacco use is the single leading preventable cause of death in the United States and is responsible for more than 440,000 deaths each year.(1) According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 49 million adults and 6 million teenagers in the U.S. smoke, triggering an estimated $75.5 billion in excess medical costs and another $81.9 billion in mortality-related productivity losses each year.(1) Despite widespread knowledge of tobacco's dangerous health effects, smoking continues to pose a serious public health threat as the number of teenage smokers increases and others are unable to quit due, in large part, to tobacco's addictive properties. According to the CDC, an estimated 70 percent (32.2 million) of smokers want to quit, but only 2.5 percent (1.2 million) per year succeed in quitting permanently.(2)

NicVAX is being developed to help the millions of patients in the U.S. and potentially billions worldwide who are addicted to tobacco products, or are at risk of becoming addicted.

1. MMWR - Annual Smoking - Attributable Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost and Economic Costs - United States 1995-1999, April 12,2002/Vol.51/No.14

2. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Tobacco Information and Prevention Source (TIPS). Management of Nicotine addiction Fact Sheet.

Now that is not the whole story here. A little over half a million kids (545,000) a year start smoking and a third of them will die from it from one cause or another. This is a MASSIVE public health crisis. This vaccine might be the answer. What if all kids under the age of 12 were vaccinated against Nicotine? Suppose it was 80% effective, that means that the number of new smokers per year would drop to around over 109,000. THAT is a massive impact on the cost of healthcare. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Full disclosure: After reading and writing about this, I researched the company and decided a stock purchase was in order. This is in no way a recommendation to do the same. You should come to your own conclusions. As the purchase did not occur until after reading and writing about this, there was no ownership bias coloring my writing.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

One small step for man....

Where were you 37 years ago today?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

An important health advisory for women

Ladies, an important study has found that women with a family history of Breast or Ovarian cancer who may have mutations to the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes should NOT undergo earlier or more frequent mammograms or other X-Rays. The study has found that these women are more susceptible to genetic damage due to ionizing radiation. The risk of developing cancer for those women, which is already very high in relation to women without the genetic defect, who report undergoing an x-ray more than doubled. The two genes involved, named BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, are part of the body’s genetic repair machinery. Damage to these genes means that mutations to other parts of your DNA due to ionizing radiation can lead to cancer. Instead of more frequent mammograms, the researchers suggest that women with these genetic defects should instead have MRI’s with Gadolinium contrast in order to show new vascularization of the tumor. This is possible because solid tumors excrete protiens that encourage new blood vessel growth to feed the tumor. These new blood vessels are what would appear on the MRI. MRI’s do NOT use ionizing radiation, but instead very strong magnetic fields to stimulate the hydrogen atoms to emit very weak radio waves which the machine can interpret. Gadolinium, which is very magnetic, allows the blood to radiate stronger radio waves than the surrounding tissue thereby highlighting the blood vessels.

Friday, July 14, 2006

HP and it's repair parts scam.

Today I was trying to change the printhead in a HP CP1700 printer here at work. This is a ANSI "B" or Tabloid sized (11" x 17") printer and inadvertently broke the latch mechanism. Nice little unit. Retailed for between $350 and $400. It has separate cartridges for each primary color so if you run out of cyan you don't have to go and buy a tri-color cartridge just to change the cyan. As I said, very well built/designed unit. The printheads are held in by an over-the-center latch mechanism. There is a little purple glass filled plastic part that is the bail for the latch. It could not have cost more than a buck to make, if that. It is shaped like an inverted Y with hinge pegs on either end of the Y and a slot in the upright portion. The latch mechanism has a hook that catches the slot when it is engaged. One of the hinge pegs broke off the part. The printer is now totally non-functional since the unit refuses to operate without the latch engaged.

So I start by calling HP's parts department to determine the cost of the part. They have no idea what part it is, they have no diagrams or assembly drawings, and are basically clueless. If I know the internal HP part number they can order it, but without that magic part number I'm screwed. So they transfer me to Tech Support. Tech Support says that unless the unit is under warranty they'll charge me for the call and offer to transfer me to "pre-sales" where they may be able to assist me. Pre-Sales also had no clue as to what the part number was, had no drawings or diagrams nor any way of looking them up. They give me the names and phone numbers of three "authorized repair" companies. All of them wanted to charge a minimum of between $90 and $120 bucks an hour to come out, look at the unit, go back and order the part, come back out and replace it, plus the cost of the yet to be named part.

Remember, the whole damned printer cost $350. HP doesn't want to sell me the part (which is rediculusly simple to replace) and thier "Authorized repair centers" want to charge me somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 to fix it, that is assuming the part is even available.

Screw that! I took the broken part, took a #12 ACCO Binder clip, removed one of the bent wire handles, rebent the ends a bit shorter, using the original part as a guide, clipped the ends off a bit and Viola! printer hums along fine.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Belated Birthday to Red Ink: Texas

I started this blog slightly over a year ago on 6-12-05. I am angry with myself for letting the date slip by me like that without acknowledging it in some manner. It was to be an early "birthday present" to myself. A place where when the urge arose, I could write or vent about anything I liked, and I did not have to worry about anyone else setting the agenda or meeting a deadline. A lot has happened in this last year. About this time I also found my political voice. I must admit to my secret shame, I have not always been a conservative, nor even Republican. When I was much much younger and had no idea how the world really worked, I thought myself a liberal Democrat even though I disagreed with virtually all of what democrats stood for, I just didn't know it at the time, but as time and experience passed I came to realize that I had much more in common in the conservative viewpoint than I did the liberal. I grew up in a family that voted democrat but acted and thought republican but never noticed the dichotomy, hence my political confusion. To this day most of my family still thinks they are democrats without undrstanding what a democrat actually IS. As a result I am a bit of a black sheep of the family. And like an ex-smoker turned anti-smoking zealot, I have become a bit rabid in the cause over the years. In the last year or so, I began becomming active in my local precinct. I volunteered to not only be a poll worker, but jumped in with both feet and became election judge. This year I have decided to up the ante even more. My precinct judge has had to move because she could no longer afford the massive property tax increases imposed by our supposedly conservative state government. I have decided to submit my name to replace her on the ballot as precinct judge. This too is a bit of a birthday present to myself, although it is unlikely to become effective until this November when I am officially elected. Back during the run-up to the March Primaries, Connie from BlogHouston commented to me that she thought I should run for office while we were setting up one of Dan Patrick's "Coffees". At the time I dismissed her with a comment something to the effect that I had to work for a living, there was no way I could afford to run for office. But to be honest, the precinct chair is an elected office, so actually I am doing exactly what I dismissed her for suggesting, run for office. It is the lowlyest office there is, but I guess you have to start somewhere right?