Good news, bad news and more bad news on vitamins

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6

The headline in the Wall Street Journal read, “New Study Gives B Vitamin a Boost” and the first sentence in the article was, “Bring out the niacin.” It turned out that a vitamin — even only a prescription formula — produced better results than Merck‘s new cholesterol-lowering medicine, Zetia.

That was according to a 208-patient trial whose results were announced this month at the annual scientific meeting of the American Heart Association. Score one for the people who have say that vitamins support good health. The smart folks will not claim that niacin lowers cholesterol, but they can leave a copy of the article laying about.

Wait, there is something better. What product and in what dosage? Has it been patented? Uh, no. It’s called a placebo and its effect is often greater than any drug or nutritional supplement, scientists tell the Associated Press. Example: In tests of a new drug to relieve lupus symptoms, about a third of patients felt better when they got dummy pills instead of the drug. What’s more, Michael Perlis, a psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, says that he does not know of any herbal remedies for insomnia.

Darn. And it gets worse. A study published in the Nov. 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association raised concerns that high does of folic acid could increase the risk of developing cancer. That could impact the more than $1 billion that is spent annually on B vitamins. Maybe consumers will think they are as better off popping Pez than a prescription pill or Internet-catalog vitamin. All a person has to do is believe that the little candy will make him or her better, and it will.

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Joel B. Rothman represents clients in intellectual property infringement litigation involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, defamation, trade libel, unfair competition, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and commercial matters. Joel’s litigation practice also includes significant focus on electronic discovery issues such as e-discovery management and motion practice relating to e-discovery.

Joel B. Rothman represents clients in intellectual property infringement litigation involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, defamation, trade libel, unfair competition, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and commercial matters. Joel’s litigation practice also includes significant focus on electronic discovery issues such as e-discovery management and motion practice relating to e-discovery.

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2 Comments

  1. David A. Mark said:

    Item #3 was more complicated than that. It was done in Norway, 70% either current smokers or former smokers, and combined folic acid at 800 ug/d with vitamin B12 at 400 ug/day. The study saw an uptick in all cancer but that was mostly due to lung cancer and not colorectal cancer; earlier studies had seen upticks in colorectal, breast and prostate cancer, but no mention of lung. Within the JAMA study the authors note that all got the same doses, but only those that responded with a high serum folate were at higher risk. And then, two days after the JAMA article, a different study by Wu et al in AJCN reported a trend for lower recurrence of adenoma after years of folic acid at 1000 ug/d, with a better response in the subset that had started with low serum folate. Clearly, the consequences of folic acid fortification and supplement taking are confusing, complex, and likely involve a genetic component.

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