Health News Horrors

Here's a roundup of the health news that made us stop, spit out our coffee, and read twice.

By Teresa Dumain from Reader's Digest Magazine | June 2012

Health News HorrorsIllustration by David Pohl
Horror Headline: Phony Drug Trial Misleads Cancer Patients

“It was a false, counterfeit clinical trial exploiting human beings.” Walter Jacobs didn’t mince words when he spoke to CBS’s 60 Minutes about the Duke University trial that his wife, Juliet, joined in 2010. She had stage IV lung cancer, and this was her last shot at treatment. Researchers at Duke University said they had discovered how to match the best chemotherapy to a patient’s genetic makeup, reported 60 Minutes. The advanced experimental treatment promised to be the holy grail in cancer care, offering patients a better chance of survival, even at advanced stages.

But when other scientists set out to verify the research that led to the clinical trial, they found many errors. They even suspected that lead researcher Anil Potti, MD, a rising star in the cancer research community, had somehow reversed the data and that some patients could be getting the worst drug for their tumor. After it was discovered that Dr. Potti had falsely claimed he was a Rhodes scholar, authorities stopped the trials.

“It became clear that there was no explanation other than there was a manipulation—a manipulation of the data and a manipulation of a lot of people’s trust,” Joseph Nevins, PhD, a genomics professor and scientist who worked with Dr. Potti at Duke, told 60 Minutes. Medical journals began retracting Dr. Potti’s papers, and two lawsuits were filed last year. Of seven patients named as plaintiffs, only two are alive today. Juliet Jacobs died three months after she joined the trial.

Duke has apologized for the trial (although it says no patients were harmed because all received the standard of care in chemotherapy). Potti, who said he didn’t know improper information had been included in the research, resigned from Duke and faces an investigation into research misconduct.

Horror Headline: Heart Attack Mistaken for Publicity Stunt

Heart attack at the Heart Attack Grill: At a Las Vegas eatery where diners don hospital gowns and the menu offers “bypass” burgers and “flatliner” fries, it’s no wonder people thought a patron having a heart attack while eating at the Heart Attack Grill earlier this year was a stunt. It wasn’t.

Owner Jon Basso told CBS News that many restaurants serve unhealthful food; he’s just honest about it. And could eating one “triple-bypass burger” really cause a heart attack? “Maybe,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “Because of acute effects on blood flow, one very unhealthful meal can precipitate a heart attack in someone with coronary disease.” In this case, the patient survived, but so did the restaurant’s tongue-in-cheek marketing. “It’s supposed to be ‘funny’ that they serve ‘heart attack food,’ but when you or someone you love has a heart attack, I’m pretty sure it’s not funny—at all,” says Dr. Katz.

In related news, as part of a promotion earlier this year, the Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino in Hallandale Beach, Florida, awarded gamers 10 cents of free slot machine play for each pound they weighed. And if visitors wanted to fatten up before weighing in and earn more cash, they could help themselves to free Krispy Kreme doughnuts provided by the casino, reported the Sun Sentinel. The number of treats you’d have to eat to earn just $1 of playtime: 180.

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

Sending Message
how we use your e-mail

Your Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus