Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 12, 2005

Evidence shows new heart drug is safe, effective

Although we respect Troy Duster's opinions regarding race-based medicine, we must take issue with his assertion that the newly approved treatment to which he refers, BiDil, and the premise upon which it is based are flawed ("Race and medicine," Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 2).

Research from the African-American Heart Failure Trial (A-HeFT) established the benefit of BiDil based on prior research that showed strong response in blacks, nearly four times as strong as the effect seen in nonblacks.

The control population in A-HeFT received the best available therapy for heart failure. When BiDil was added to current, standard therapy, striking benefits were observed.

This is clinical science that is true and not, as Mr. Duster suggests, faulty.

Our greater concerns, however, are with Mr. Duster's statements regarding risks related to BiDil.

No treatment is without risk, but context is needed. Heart failure is a serious illness, and the benefits seen with BiDil establish a new and effective treatment not only for black patients but potentially for many others as well.

If patients in A-HeFT were defined in any manner other than race, there would be little discussion about concern for safety. The dialogue would focus instead on access to the medication.

To refrain from using this therapy until a largely academic argument is settled would only add to the pain and suffering of a patient population that has often experienced disparate and ineffective health care.

We invite the debate on the place of race in medicine, but let's not let it restrict the care for patients in need.

Dr. Gary Puckrein

Dr. Clyde Yancy

Washington

The writers are, respectively, the executive director of the National Minority Health Month Foundation and a professor of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Personnel inquiry a partisan sham

House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller have reached new heights in hypocrisy with their recent letter on the investigation of the Ehrlich administration's personnel practices ("Firing inquiry won't be partisan, say legislators," Aug. 5).

They requested that people not judge the committee before it meets, yet two members of the committee, Sens. Brian E. Frosh and Paula C. Hollinger, have been quoted as calling the firings "illegal."

How dare Mr. Busch and Mr. Miller ask that we reserve our opinion about the committee when its members can't even fake impartiality.

Moreover, Mr. Busch and Mr. Miller tell us that the committee wants to investigate in "an attempt to ensure the quality of the state work force." Yet they continue to refuse to investigate the state's history of hiring.

If this is the first investigative committee of its kind in 25 years, I'd expect that the committee would be impartial, comprehensive and balanced in investigating firing as well as hiring.

But it is just the opposite.

Bryan Shuy

Olney

New law won't end energy dependency

The president and his press secretary tell us the energy bill just signed into law will help us gain independence from foreign oil sources ("Energy bill is signed by Bush," Aug. 9). It does nothing of the sort.

There is not a word in the bill about improving gas mileage of cars or their fuel-efficiency standards.

There is no recognition that there are people actively working on these problems and solutions right now.

There is nothing to relieve the human effects upon global climate change.

There is nothing to help drive gas prices down.

What is in the bill is more major giveaways to the president's cronies in the oil business.

When will we citizens wake up and do what is right?

Joan K. Parr

Baltimore

Quick-fix mentality is ruining medicine

As a physician who has watched the slow demise of my profession at least in part because of the aggressive, reckless nature of the pharmaceutical industry as a whole, I think The Sun's editorial "Popping pill pushers" (Aug. 8) put the issue in the proper perspective.

This quick-fix mentality of patients and doctors has to be redirected to meet the realities of health care as we move toward a multidisciplinary approach to preventive care and treatment of illnesses that addresses biological and behavioral issues.

Frankly, I am tired of people coming to me asking for the "pill of the month" to cure their ills.

Care comes from sensible diagnosis and consistent follow-up, not 30-second sound bites.

Dr. Joel Hasmman

Reisterstown

Voting machines need a paper trail

I hope other states will follow Maryland's lead and study the electronic voting machines ("State to hire two universities to study Diebold voting machines," Aug. 3).

It is obvious to me that there should be random manual checks of election machine results.

Today's electronic voting machines may be fallible in ways we can only imagine. Furthermore, these machines may not exhibit evidence of tampering.

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