In the August 2009 issue of Life Extension Magazine, there is an article Turning on Immortality: The Debate Over Telomerase Activation written by two researchers in the field of telomere aging in which they debate the merits of using TA-65 derived from Chinese astragalus herb by TA Sciences to rebuild telomere length and improve health and lifespan.
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Debate about Access to TA-65 and Telomere Therapy
One of the authors, William Andrews, is the CEO of a competitor of TA Sciences, the company behind TA-65. Intriguingly, he is also a customer and using the TA-65 Patton Protocol himself. He takes the position that TA-65 is a reasonable option for people to use to attempt to extend their lifespan and improve health.
Scientist Michael West takes the position that healthy people should not do this as the risk are not well enough understood yet, but people near the end of their lifespan should be allowed to use TA-65. West doesn’t in any way advocate a ban on TA-65, but it is easy to see how his words could be twisted by irresponsible parties to make it appear otherwise. Alarmingly, his argument goes along similar lines to how another health supplement, pyridoxamine, was recently banned by the FDA even though it has far lower risk and far more substantial data backing its efficacy and safety.
As you may recall, I’ve covered the TA-65 Patton Protocol and telomere aging topics previously in other articles and believe that the telomere theory of aging has substantial basis to it. While telomere shortening doesn’t appear to explain all aging, it explains very well some of the things that go wrong in the body due to aging. It also appears from early data that TA-65 does extend telomere length, that this may be having beneficial health effects, and that there is a plausible argument for why it is safe for use with no more solid data to show otherwise.
A Basic Human Right: Making Informed Healthcare Choices
It’s my view that nothing is 100% certain and that we as healthcare consumers should be able to make informed choices about our health without undue interference by the government. This means that if we are induced to make choices by fraudulent means, that should be punishable criminally and civilly. However, our making choices regarding our own healthcare paid for with our own money with no dishonest information being used to sway us should not ever be banned.
Yet the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) seeks to ban and regulate medicine and nutritional supplements for its own power and profit of its industry friends to the detriment of American patients and taxpayers. Medicines that work aren’t available, and those that are cost too much. People die unnecessarily and taxpayers foot the bill for inferior health care because of the corruption of the FDA.
I’m concerned that scientists such as Michael West who are well-intentioned and cautioning healthcare consumers to tread carefully while further information is collected on new drugs, supplements, and treatments will provide ammunition and moral support to the enemies of American health and civil rights at the FDA.
People make risk versus reward choices every day. Even taking a drink of water is potentially dangerous. It could be contaminated with something that could kill you. So people decide to get water from sources they believe are more reliable than drinking from the rain water puddle next to gasoline pump at which they are fueling up their cars.
TA-65 certainly isn’t yet “proven” as safe as water from a well-reputed purified water vendor. But it is derived from the herb astragalus which has been used for thousands of years in China for medicinal purposes with no obvious ill effects. There are also dozens of users of TA-65 who have so far not been shown to suffer any ill effects. TA Sciences makes it very clear that they are early in their research and the long-term benefits aren’t proven and long-term side effects aren’t yet known. They aren’t trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes.
People should be able to freely choose whether or not they use supplements such as TA-65 as part of their personal healthcare.
Alcohol and Tobacco: Legal But Deadly
Even if you are skeptical of the claims and science involving TA-65 and telomere therapy, there is no reasonable way to claim it is as dangerous as many other substances that are legally sold in the US which have killed millions of people. Consider for instance alcohol and tobacco. They are proven by common experience and hundreds of studies not only to cause cancer, liver damage, brain damage, and other adverse health effects to their users, they are indisputably responsible for the deaths of millions of non-users, too. DUI incidents, second-hand smoke, and distracted drivers puffing away kill many tens of thousands of Americans every year. These products have been in use killing people for hundreds of years. They don’t even have any plausible claim of significant benefits for people versus derivative substances such as resveratrol, quercetin, and grape extracts which appear to have health benefits without the mortality of alcohol.
As for tobacco products, the only people they are good for are the FDA and tobacco companies. There are some tobacco promoters who try to argue that tobacco smoking is beneficial to health. See the web page Therapeutic Effects of Smoking and Nicotine for an example. I imagine that somebody could also produce studies that show weak cyanide solutions introduced into metropolitan water supplies would produce health benefits, too. It would be unsurprising if it killed off unhealthy people early so they didn’t develop Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological degenerative diseases. Still, does that mean there’s merit to poisoning people involuntarily as second-hand smoke does? I think not.
I’m all for personal freedom of choice. If people want to ruin their own health in the privacy of their own rooms away from their children by abusing alcohol and tobacco alone in private, so be it. Nobody could seriously consider banning all the ways in which people can harm themselves. After all, they could just as easily take a knife to their wrists and would that justify banning all knives? But banning harming innocent bystanders who haven’t chosen to harm themselves is another matter entirely. I’m all for that as people should not be free to hurt others with impunity.
Substances With Plausible Health Benefits Should Not Be Banned
If incredibly damaging substances such as alcohol and tobacco that kill non-users aren’t banned, there is absolutely no logical reason to be banning TA-65 or other health supplements which show promise of improving health and likely won’t kill anybody besides their immediate users if something were to go very unexpectedly wrong.
Yet the FDA has moved to ban supplements that are safe and effective and have been on the market for years. Take for instance the vitamin B6 variant known as pyridoxamine. Research shows that it is safer than the pyridoxine form of vitamin B6 that could cause peripheral neuropathy in high doses. Pyridoxamine is found in many food products:
Pyridoxamine occurs naturally in fish, chicken, walnuts, carrots, eggs, and other foods. People ingest small quantities each day. The FDA apparently feels so empowered that it thinks it can by proclamation ban an ingredient people obtain in their normal diet.
By defining the safest form of vitamin B6 (pyridoxamine) to be a “new drug,” the FDA has once again capitulated to pharmaceutical financial interests at the expense of the public’s health.
Pyridoxamine is a natural substance much like TA-65, but it is even more common with more research backing up its safety and efficacy. It’s been show by research to be beneficial for preventing glycation of proteins that causes accelerated symptoms of disease and aging, particularly in diabetics. So why is FDA banning pyridoxamine? Because a pharmaceutical company wants to use it as a primary active ingredient in a new drug and they won’t be able to make a profit on their drug if anybody can buy pyridoxamine inexpensively from health supplement makers.
FDA Takes Away Choices For Power, Control, and Profit
The real reason behind the FDA totalitarianism behind banning pyridoxamine isn’t protecting the health of Americans. It’s more likely an intent to prevent the use of alternative health treatments so as to maintain power and control of that agency at the expense of American lives and to drive money into the pockets of big pharmaceutical companies that pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the FDA for drug approvals. Additionally, this self-serving behavior supports the friends and families of FDA employees with lucrative employment for biomedical researchers who spend several years trudging through the FDA approval process at the cost of $1 billion or more for a blockbuster drug while people are dying due to the delay.
If the FDA will ban pyridoxamine, a substance that can be beneficial inexpensively to hundreds of millions of Americans suffering from diabetes and diseases related to protein glycation, then what is to keep them from banning TA-65 which could be beneficial to all Americans since we are all aging? If TA-65 really works well and TA Sciences and its competitors can bring down the prices of telomere lengthening products substantially, these products could be a boon to the health of nearly everybody. Yet in the corrupt eyes of the FDA, that alone would be a reason to ban them. If people live longer but don’t get as sick, pharmaceutical companies won’t have as much money to spend on FDA drug approvals and the FDA won’t have as much power.
Healthcare Reform Must Address FDA Problems
Sadly, even despite the astronomical costs in money and lives, the FDA frequently doesn’t get it right anyway. The agency manages to approve drugs such as Vioxx that kill many people even though the drug studies showed such risks existed and the FDA ignored them. Meanwhile, it prevents people from accessing safe drugs and supplements that have more science and practical experience behind them.
As US President Ronald Reagan said:
Taking that a step further, it’s just as reasonable to say that the 21 most frightening words in the English language are “I work for the FDA and we’re here to ensure the bankruptcies and early deaths of you and your fellow Americans.”
If President Obama wants to reform healthcare to improve access and reduce costs, one of the central items on the agenda must be the repurposing of the FDA. The agency doesn’t do its job, takes away our basic rights to make our own healthcare choices, and drives up the costs for all of us so much that our nation is going broke on healthcare that is inferior in results to the healthcare available in many other industrialized nations that spend less per capita.
It is time that the FDA simply get out of the business of approving drugs and instead collect and make information available to American citizens on those drug, how they are made, how they have been tested, known side effects, known hazards, etc. in a fashion that enables patients and doctors to make their own choices. We deserve accurate information and free choices, not misleading and domineering as the FDA presently does.
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