Alzheimer’s: Disease or Distraction?

July 14th, 2010

An article appearing in today’s NY Times by Gina Kolata (“Rules Seek to Expand Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s“) was naturally disturbing to me. This article didn’t read, “Rules Seek Earlier Detection of Central Nervous System Damage” but named a particular form of pre-senile dementia and, of course, only one way to combat the inevitable decline – drugs. Readers of this blog know that such drugs are not successful in half of cases. The following comment was hastily posted on that site (#138, with some hastily performed editing done here) amidst an impressive storm of doubt regarding yet another boon for that commodity known as medicine. Clamoring instead for the art and science of Medicine to increase the quality and length of our lives, other readers leaving comments appear to demonstrate that the health care debate has stimulated much scrutiny on the part of our citizenry. Mistakenly labeled as consumers of health care, we are establishing ourselves as Americans in search of our lost health.

This is another case of drug makers enlarging the pool of patients to treat without thought to the consequences of such actions. According to reports by Alan Roses of GlaxSmithKline earlier in the decade (referenced above), Alzheimers drugs—like many others– are ineffective for half of patients due to genetic diversity within the population. On the other hand, earlier identification of cognitive decline and brain cell death is extremely valuable if findings are not dropped into an overly broad overly broad category of of ‘ Disease’. The bulk of it may well be due to injury. Exposures of citizens,(not patients), to neurotoxic substances occupationally and residentially, will have to be identified and ruled out as sources contributing to declining cognitive functions. Dr. Kaye Kilburn, former professor of medicine at the Keck School and VA epidemiologist, saw that occupational asthmatics frequently displayed such signs of central nervous system decline with changes in memory, learning and motor skills. Unfortunately, he also found the majority of ‘normal control’ subjects were also showing signs of CNS degradation far earlier than age-related decline should appear. His paperback , “Endangered Brains” and a medical text on chemically induced brain damage (no financial interest) indicates that neurologists begin to look for signs of preventable, and not just premature, losses in function.

The only interventions mentioned in this news article – unless that is the fault of the reporter but I doubt it—are drugs which can actually damage the central nervous system (CNS) through hyperactivating it with anti-cholinergic pharmaceuticals. Earlier in the decade,. the EPA banned the most commonly used pesticide–Dursban–from residential use because it acted in such a manner. It killed insects through destruction of nerve cells firing themselves to death through suppression of the enzyme, acetylcholinesterase. Not only are those pesticides still in use in proximity to people but their replacement chemicals known as pyrethroids and pyrethrins also hyperactivate the nervous system by damaging neurons directly and amplified their toxicity with synergists. Those prevent the body from clearing such toxic substances from the body before they can do their killing work.
Alzheimer’s drugs would further damage the body’s ability to counter those substances. The CDC tells us our exposure to pesticides, primarily a class of neurotoxic substances, is ubiquitous. California is even now applying them aerially in the northern part of the state while many building owners have exterminators applying them 12 to 24 times per year to their buildings. Landscaping relies on numerous pesticides and herbicides with their multiplicity of actions.

It is time to stop counteracting chemical damage with more and earlier administrations of yet more chemicals. Occupational therapy to stimulate skills in decline, healthier diets and safer environments are what will halt the huge incidence of damage and disease. Technology has advanced. Exterminators have a wealth of profitable options in safer pest control now and drug makers are well aware of the hazards and limitations of various classes of drugs.

I was prematurely disabled by such substances and the cost to society of preventable illness is unsupportable.

Barbara Rubin


Corrections to the article have made by the Times after input from experts.

Categories: Newspaper Commentary, NY Times, Published

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