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Update: 08:07:2008

Acupuncture 'no help for IVF'

 There is no evidence acupuncture improves the success of IVF treatment, scientists say.

 The complementary therapy has been used for centuries in China to aid female fertility and it is now available privately via some NHS clinics.

 But the London-based researchers told a European fertility conference an analysis of 13 trials covering almost 2,500 women did not show any benefits.

 A leading acupuncture practitioner said he was convinced it could help.

 Acupuncture is the most popular complementary therapy used by IVF patients because it is thought to improve blood flow by relaxing a patient, and therefore increasing the chance of an embryo implanting.

 But a course of treatment can cost hundreds of pounds.

 Pain relief

 The experts from Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust carried out an extensive evaluation of the research carried out over the last 50 years.

 Five of the trials analysed by the team looked at the effect of acupuncture at the time of egg retrieval, while the other eight examined the benefits of giving it at the time of embryo implantation.

 There was some evidence patients undergoing egg retrieval did need less pain relief if they had acupuncture, they told the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting in Barcelona.

 However, neither group of studies showed any difference in pregnancy rates between those given true acupuncture, those given a sham version and those given nothing.

 Dr Sesh Kamal Sunkara, who led the work, said the team had looked at the evidence on acupuncture because women undergoing IVF treatment needed to know if it could help them.

 "Sitting in an IVF clinic every day, we are faced with women asking if they should have acupuncture.

 "We are looking at women who are vulnerable. They want to do everything possible to improve their chances of pregnancy."

 Dr Sunkara said that, based on the evidence she had analysed, she would not advise her patients that having the therapy could improve their chances of having a baby through IVF.

 But Paul Robin chairman the Acupuncture Society, said: "I'm really surprised by these findings.

 "I've been treating people for twenty years and in my experience treatment does seem to improve their chances of becoming pregnant.

 "This study has shown that there's no proof that acupuncture can help - so that suggests that there should be lots more studies to examine the question.

 "I'm convinced it can help."

Update: 09:06:2008

You May Want to Rethink the Use of Medical Marijuana

 Are you suffering from a condition that lends the option to use marijuana for medical treatment?

 As helpful as it may be, there may be a new reason to think twice about using the substance. While there are now a dozen states that offer the substance for medical use, patients have recently been denied organ transplants because of their previous use of the drug, even though it may have been legally obtained and approved for treatment.

 Timothy Garan, a 56-year-old musician, was removed from an organ recipient list because of his use of and dependency on marijuana, as well as other medical conditions. Some feel marijuana use could potentially prevent the organ transplant from being a success. His family physician had been prescribing the drug for pain relief, to help with his appetite, and as a sleep aid. Ganan is suffering from Hepatitis C which destroys a patient's liver. There is no guarantee that a new liver would not eventually be infected with Hepatitis.

 It seems that when a transplant committee is determining who to place on the transplant list there are very high standards. One of those is to consider the patient's likeliness of alcohol or drug use, along with a host of other factors such as if the patient has other health problems. Alcohol can contribute to many liver problems, while drug use could potentially hinder the transplant recipient's recovery.

 A hospital transplant committee must consider the whole picture in determining the best choice for a recipient. In this case, they didn't only consider the fact that Garan had grown dependent on the drug, but had to consider his other medical conditions.

 Given the combination of these two factors, in addition to his failing liver, his chances of a successful surgery were questioned, and therefore the liver may not have been used for the best benefits.

 The nation's transplant system is run by The United Network for Organ Sharing, but they leave it up to the individual hospitals to determine the parameters around transplant candidates for their hospitals. Since marijuana has now been legalized by twelve states for medical use, but is still illegal by federal law, hospital committees have new hurdles to think through when setting their standards for the organ donation system. They must decide parameters around the situation of someone having used marijuana prescribed by a doctor and whether this will count against them when being chosen for transplant surgery.

 Transplant recipients usually have to take medications to suppress their immune systems to help prevent infections. Marijuana seems to affect the immune system and could potentially make someone more likely to develop infections, one of the main causes of death in transplant recipients. Patients suffering from liver failure may retain marijuana for a longer time because of the failing state of their liver. The liver is a filter that removes substances from the body. When someone has a failing liver this could potentially lead to the drug staying in the body for days. Marijuana is a natural substance and has several side effects, such as sleepiness, and effects memory. Due to the drug being a natural substance it could potentially carry germs such as aspergillosis, a fungus that has the potential to cause pneumonia.

 There have been situations where some hospitals' organ donation committee has rejected applications where there are signs of substance abuse regardless of the reason. However, there are some that would allow six months of non-use and then will allow a patient to reapply. Currently there are about 98,000 patients on the organ transplant waiting list and only 6,000 receive transplants annually.

 Hospitals feel that if someone were using a substance drug, even if marijuana is one of the least addictive drugs, it may be difficult for patients to no longer use the substance after transplant surgery. Use of the substance after surgery may harm the new organ and affect the way that a patient's body reacts to the transplant. While it is hard for patients who are being denied transplants due to their past or present use of drugs, hospital committees have a hard task to determine the best scenario for an organ. They must consider all aspects of situations and choose the best candidate for each organ.

Alternative Medicine, also called unconventional medicine, therapeutic practices, techniques, and beliefs that are outside the realm of mainstream Western health care. Alternative medicine emphasizes therapies that improve quality of life, prevent disease, and address conditions that conventional medicine has limited success in curing, such as chronic back pain and certain cancers. Proponents of alternative medicine believe that these approaches to healing are safer and more natural and have been shown through experience to work. In certain countries, alternative medical practices are the most widely used methods of health care. However, many practitioners of modern conventional medicine believe these practices are unorthodox and unproven.

By some estimates 83 million United States residents use alternative medicine, spending more than $27 million a year. Reports from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia also indicate a widespread interest in alternative therapies (Good alternative medicine, Herbal alternative medicine).

A special report prepared for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Alternative Medicine: Expanding Medical Horizons, categorizes alternative medicine practices into six fields. The first field, mind-body intervention, explores the mind’s capacity to affect, and perhaps heal, the body. Studies have shown that the mental state has a profound effect on the immune system, and these studies have provoked interest in the mind’s role in the cause and course of disease. Specific mind-body interventions include meditation, hypnosis, art therapy, biofeedback, and mental healing (Good alternative medicine, Herbal alternative medicine).

Bioelectromagnetic applications, the second field of alternative medicine, make use of the body’s response to nonthermal, nonionizing radiation. Current uses involve bone repair, nerve stimulation, wound healing, treatment of osteoarthritis, and immune system stimulation (Good alternative medicine, Herbal alternative medicine).

The third field is alternative systems of medical practice. Each of these systems is characterized by a specific theory of health and disease, an educational program to teach its concepts to new practitioners, and often a legal mandate to regulate its practice. Examples include acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathy (Good alternative medicine, Herbal alternative medicine).

Touch and manipulation are the mainstays of the manual healing methods, which constitute the fourth field of alternative medicine. Practitioners of chiropractic and massage therapies such as Rolfing structural integration believe that dysfunction of one part of the body often affects the function of other, not necessarily connected, parts. Health is restored by manipulating bones or soft tissues or realigning body parts (Good alternative medicine, Herbal alternative medicine).

The pharmacological and biological treatments that make up the fifth field of alternative medicine consist of an assortment of drugs and vaccines not yet accepted in mainstream medicine. Compounds such as antineoplastins (from human blood and urine) for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), various products of the honey bee for arthritis, and iscador (a liquid extract from mistletoe) for tumors have not been scientifically evaluated because of the expense of conducting safety and effectiveness studies (Good alternative medicine, Herbal alternative medicine).

Throughout the ages people have turned for healing to herbal medicine, the sixth field of alternative medicine. All cultures have folk medicine traditions that include the use of plants and plant products. Many licensed drugs used today originated in the herbal traditions of various cultures, such as the medication commonly used for heart failure, digitalis, which is derived from foxglove. In the United States, herbal products may be marketed only as food supplements. Since they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no guarantee of their purity or safety. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4 billion people, or 80 percent of the world’s population, use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care (Good alternative medicine, Herbal alternative medicine).