Thursday, December 31, 2009

Next RAC meeting announced

Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(91outcomes.blogspot.com) - The next meeting of the Congressionally chartered U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC) is scheduled for March 1st-2nd, 2010 in Washington DC.

Two additional RAC meetings will be held in 2010.  Another will be held in Washington, DC on June 28th and 29th, 2010.

The final RAC meeting for 2010 will be held in Boston on November 1st and 2nd, 2010.

Additional information about the meetings is available on the RAC website:  http://www1.va.gov/RAC-GWVI

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Inquest Granted for another dead UK victim of Gulf War Syndrome

Written by Mike Laycock, The [York, UK] Press

(YORK, UK ) -- THE frustrated parents of York Gulf War veteran Terry Walker are hoping an inquest into his death will finally be held next year, some three years after he died.

Ted and Hazel Walker, of Wheldrake, say they have still not heard any news about when the hearing will take place to investigate Terry’s death in May 2007. The father of two was 48 when he died shortly after a failed heart transplant in Newcastle.

An inquest was originally scheduled to be held in Newcastle in December 2007, but was postponed at the 11th hour by the coroner at the request of the Walkers.

They had been horrified after discovering it was only set to examine the failure of the transplant operation, and not the preceding years of illness which they blamed on Gulf War syndrome.

The coroner had said he did not feel issues of Gulf War syndrome should properly arise as part of the inquest proceedings, but the Walkers claimed Terry had only needed the operation because of years of ill health and stress caused by the condition, and they wanted medical witnesses to be called to speak about it.

They were convinced the former lance corporal’s exposure to radiation and inoculations in the Gulf War was the root cause of his death.

The Press launched a ‘Justice For Terry’ campaign following his death, after revealing his war pension had been cut by 60 per cent before he died. His parents believed the stress caused by this had been another factor behind him suffering the heart attack which prompted the transplant.

The newspaper successfully campaigned for Terry’s family to receive the full pension to which they were entitled.

Mrs Walker said today of the inquest date: “We have not heard anything whatsoever. We just have to be patient and sit and wait for it to be held. There’s nothing we can do.

“It’s frustrating because we cannot settle anything. We are on pins all the time. It’s going to bring it all back.”

The couple have said despite the delays, they would not regret delaying the original hearing – provided the delay eventually resulted in a full and comprehensive inquest.

A coroner’s officer said there was no news yet as to the setting of a date for the inquest.

Iraq Veteran’s Experiences Rhyme with those of 1991 Gulf War

6 years after Iraq, hexavalent chromium exposure weighs on veteran

Written by Julie Sullivan, The Oregonian 
(ROCKAWAY, Ore. - December 28, 2009) -- The Naylor living room is all playroom, cleared to toddle, cuddle and roll. But when Dad's home, the children often head to the back bedroom to play quietly with Mom.

Six years after Guy Naylor returned from Iraq, he can't stand the clamor of his own family. The soft-spoken dialysis technician shouted at other drivers so often, his family moved to Rockaway to escape Portland traffic. The medic who ran every day has gained 80 pounds. Joint pain wakes him. He coughs so much, his patients constantly ask if he has a cold. He swallows nine different medications a day. Up from none.
"He doesn't seem like a 40-year-old man," says his wife, Toniann. "He seems 60."

Naylor is being treated for post-traumatic stress and exposure to hexavalent chromium, an industrial chemical and well-known carcinogen that soldiers unwittingly faced while guarding war contractors. He's one of 278 Oregon Army National Guard soldiers who were notified of possible exposure while serving at or near the Qarmat Ali water-treatment plant in 2003. Fleeing Iraqi troops loyal to Saddam Hussein had dumped the orange industrial chemical across the property.

Since the Oregon Guard's notified Naylor "out of the blue" last February of his exposure, he has taken all the recommended steps. He's been examined by the Portland Veterans Affairs environmental physician. He's enrolled in the Gulf War Registry.

The list includes the 112,515 veterans whose confounding symptoms are linked to tours in the Gulf in 1990-91 and in Iraq since 2003. Naylor's symptoms are a chief reason why the VA wants to track all Qarmat Ali veterans separately, flagging their records and studying them over time.

But naming Naylor's issues doesn't make living with them any easier. The weight of Naylor's war, like many combat veterans, is being shouldered almost entirely by his family.

"Everyone is supposed to be happy now because the spouse is home and everyone is together, putting the pieces back together again," says his wife, Toniann Naylor, 31.

"But the pieces no longer fit."

When Guy Naylor's Forest Grove unit was called up seven years ago, Capt. Jon Van Horn chose Naylor for a senior medic position. Naylor was a Portland native who had served in the Oregon Guard since 1987, combating fires and floods. He'd been an active duty soldier, in Korea and for two years at Walter Reed Medical Center. He worked as a kidney dialysis technician at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. He was a married father of four. He was, Van Horn says, experienced, dependable, motivated and upbeat.

Their unit was among the first Oregon troops into Iraq, and they paid for the honor. Hygiene and air quality was so bad at their first Kuwaiti camp, soldiers suffered bloody diarrhea and could not safely exercise for all the burning industrial pollutants. Naylor, who'd also been trained as a machine gunner, was among the small number of Oregon soldiers sent to guard Kellogg Brown & Root employees working on Operation Restore Iraqi Oil. Small teams traveled to the Iraqi border, jumping into KBR vehicles headed to the oil fields.

One stop was the Qarmat Ali water-treatment plant, where the soldiers stayed outside while KBR contractors worked indoors. Months later, the Indiana Guard replacing Oregon troops learned the orange dust coating their clothing and boots at the plant was a corrosion fighter that contained the carcinogen, hexavalent chromium. 

Last year, KBR employees and Indiana soldiers accused managers at the Halliburton subsidiary of deliberately withholding that information in order to restore the oil flow and earn millions in completion bonuses.

At the plant, Naylor both suffered and treated fellow soldiers for the coughs, sinus problems and headaches that he blamed on sand and dehydration.

After Naylor's unit left Qarmat Ali in June 2003, their problems persisted at a base outside Baghdad where they confronted other problems. "We saw terrible things. None of us were prepared for the local stuff," says Van Horn, a physician assistant at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center who specializes in trauma.

The medics would treat Iraqi families who came to the gate for care, sometimes with children who'd been dipped into boiling water for punishment. The scald victims were usually girls as young as 9 months. The child abuse haunted the soldiers, especially Naylor and other fathers, says Van Horn. "We were treating the kids at the gate for burns that would have landed them in a burn center here."

Naylor was also miserable in the 150-degree heat with stinging rashes on his back and chest. The first time he jumped from a troop truck, the weight of his body armor drove him to his knees. But he was also a superb medic, according to his supervisor, Staff Sgt. Rob Stevens, who said Naylor saved a soldier who'd been hurt in a Humvee rollover.

But Naylor never got comfortable in combat. "I was afraid all the time," he admits, and he worried constantly about his family back in Oregon.

He had met his wife at work at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, where Toniann, a single mom, was attracted by his calm and steady devotion. But at his homecoming in 2004, Naylor snapped at their kids.
"It was an instant change," she says. "I kept waiting for him to come back to his old normal self. It me took three years to realize that wasn't going to happen."

Sixteen soldiers from Naylor's unit have sued KBR for knowingly exposing them to hexavalent chromium. They join Guard soldiers from Indiana, West Virginia and South Carolina who say they suffer breathing and stomach problems, and are at a higher risk of cancer. At least three soldiers who served at Quarmat Ali have died of cancer, including Nicholas Thomas of Happy Valley. KBR has denied harming troops. KBR argues that no injury is linked to chemical exposure at the water treatment plant.

Complaints from KBR employees and Indiana Guard arose during Senate hearings on Iraq contract abuses in 2008. That led to the Oregon connection, virtually unknown until it was reported in The Oregonian last January. Shortly after, the Oregon Guard sent letters to soldiers who served at or near Quarmat Ali.

At least five others Oregon soldiers are expected to join the suit this week, bringing the total to 21, says Portland attorney David Sugerman. Attorneys are wrangling over whether KBR is subject to the jurisdiction of Oregon courts.

Meanwhile, Naylor has not had the time or the energy to join the suit, much less learn much about it. He puts 500 miles a week on his pickup commuting to St. Vincent's for his $35,000-a-year job. He works three 12-hour days, sleeping at his parents' home in Forest Grove, then returns home for long weekends. Older children Brett, 18, and Sierra, 15, live mostly with Naylor's first wife. Toniann stays home with Amyann, 13; Kayla, 7; Dominic, 5; and Joey, 14 months.

The family has felt the brunt of the war. When Naylor first came back from Iraq, he drank. He erupted in explosive rage. He was exhausted. As his mood steadily darkened, he threatened to drive off a cliff. He tried sawing through his arm with a knife and was hospitalized in the VA's psych unit, diagnosed with bipolar disorder that doctors told him emerged after his traumatic experiences in Iraq.

He's being treated by a VA psychologist and therapist, has stopped binge drinking, and medication has stabilized his mood. But like all rural veterans, access to PTSD experts with combat experience is limited.
Physically, his symptoms seem to mirror problems associated with hexavalent chromium: He takes medicine for high blood pressure and a racing heart and severe acid reflux. He still has short-term memory problems and severe sleep apnea.

And Dominic, now 5, conceived within a week of his homecoming has been diagnosed with autism. Naylor fears a connection to his Iraq service. 

"I have a lot of guilt," Naylor says, "thinking maybe I brought something home."

Toniann refuses to blame her husband. She concentrates on surviving. The couple drained a pension fund and sold his CPR training equipment on eBay to help Santa Claus. They marvel they are still together and agree it's for the kids. They even supported his oldest son, Brett, whose dream has been to join Naylor's former Oregon Guard unit.

Van Horn, Naylor's medical commander in Iraq, says he was shocked when he first saw Naylor back at headquarters in Forest Grove after their return.

"Something got sucked out of him," Van Horn says. Naylor retired from the Guard in March, after 22 years.
Van Horn says for all the talk of the Greatest Generation, Naylor's generation faces the same issues as soldiers in World War II, Korea and Vietnam did. War is hell. And then you take it home.

"But I'm proud of Guy. Whatever his issues are, he's remained functional. He's returned to society, he's gone on with his life. He's carrying his load. And he has not quit.

"He has not quit."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Study suggests link between Gulf War desert dust, ALS

Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(91outcomes.blogpost.com) - A scientific study by Paul Cox, Renee Richer and their colleagues being published this month suggests that microscopic toxins and bacteria contained in the dust of the Persian Gulf region may be spike in ALS that occurred among veterans in the first several years that followed the 1991 Gulf War.

Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae is one of the components of the desert sands in the Persian Gulf region, particularly Qatar, according to the researchers.  When the sand is disturbed by military vehicle and other man-made activity, the cyanobacteria-containing dust becomes airborne.

The study authors found that it was biologically plausible that airborne dust particles containing cyanobacteria, accompanied by cyanotoxins, including one in particular – BMAA – could be at the root of the ALS spike among veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.

According to the study’s conclusions:
We suggest that inhalation of BMAA, DAB, and other aerosolized cyanotoxins may constitute a significant risk factor for the development of ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
  • LINK to the study abstract.

PRESS RELEASE: Kucinich Wins $8 million for Gulf War Illnesses Research

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), has issued the following press release:

WASHINGTON - December 17 - Efforts by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to continue to help ailing veterans of the first Gulf War paid off yesterday when he won the inclusion of $8,000,000 for Gulf War Veterans Illnesses (GWVI) in H.R. 3326, the Defense Appropriations spending bill.

"One in four veterans of the first Gulf War suffers from Gulf War Veterans Illnesses. We absolutely cannot allow the research to be stopped. That is even more true recently as research has advanced dramatically in the last few years," said Kucinich

Congressman Kucinich has consistently led the bipartisan Congressional effort to maintain this critical research. His most recent letter was signed by 26 Members of Congress including the bipartisan leadership of the Veterans' Affairs Committee and Health Subcommittee as well as members of the Appropriations Committee and Armed Services Committee.

"We have a responsibility to find treatments for the soldiers who continue to pay a heavy price for their service over 15 years later. We cannot leave them behind," added Kucinich

Last year, the 454-page report by the Congressionally-mandated Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses concluded that the extensive scientific evidence now available yields three conclusions: Gulf War illness is real, was caused by toxic exposures during the war, and there are no currently effective treatments.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

VA: Shinseki Gives Holiday Message to Veterans

The following is a holiday message from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki:
===============================
On Christmas Eve, 1776, General George Washington met with his war council in Buckingham, Pennsylvania, to finalize what he hoped would be a “brilliant stroke,” a turning point in America’s War for Independence—the crossing of the ice-clogged, storm-swept Delaware River, culminating in a surprise attack on Trenton, New Jersey. Nothing less than the future of this newly-declared republic rested on its successful outcome.
The challenges were overwhelming. Many of General Washington’s troops were ill, low on food, poorly clothed, and suffering through one of the bitterest winters on record. Outnumbered and pressed to the limits of human endurance, the American Army was not fit to take on the professional British Army and its Hessian allies, warmly encamped across the Delaware. So remote and unthinkable was such audacity that complacency and lowered guards gave rise to opportunity.
As General Nathaniel Greene described him, Washington “. . . never appeared to so much advantage as in the hour of distress.” That would have aptly described the entire Continental Army that Christmas Eve. Within 24 hours, at midnight on the 25th of December, 1776, Washington executed the crossing of the Delaware, and the rest is history: Washington’s “brilliant stroke” tipped the scales in the War for Independence.
From that Christmas of 1776, American men and women in uniform have spent many Christmases on battlefields in Europe, Africa, throughout the Pacific; on the Korean Peninsula and in Vietnam; and from Kuwait to Iraq and Afghanistan.
This season, we gather with our families and friends in a Nation free to celebrate in the custom of our choosing, by whatever name or tradition it is known, thanks to the long and unbroken line of patriots whose courage and sacrifice continue to secure the blessings of freedom and liberty upon our grateful Nation.
To our 23 million Veterans, to our 298,000 VA employees, and to our men and women of the Armed Forces so far from home, we send best wishes for a joyous Holiday Season and heartfelt thanks for the selflessness of your service.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Study Confirms Higher Rates of Brain Cancer Among Some Gulf War Veterans

Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(91outcomes.blogspot.com) - A study published in September has again shown that the rates of brain cancer deaths is significantly elevated among some Gulf War veterans.

The VA study, led by Shannon Barth and Han Kang, showed that veterans in the Khamisiyah cohort exposed following the demolition to low levels of sarin and cyclosarin nerve agents, and possibly mustard gas, were among those with an increased risk of brain cancer.

Gulf War veterans exposed to smoke from burning Kuwaiti oil wells were also at the elevated risk level.

The study, “Neurological mortality among U.S. veterans of the Persian Gulf War: 13-year follow-up,” was published in the September 2009 edition of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Research Findings: Chronic Health Symptoms Caused by Pesticide Exposure, Worse with Greater Exposure

Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(Washington, DC - November 2, 2009) - Neurological symptoms are caused by exposure to pesticides and are made worse with certain kinds of pesticide exposure and duration of exposure, according to scientific research presented today in Washington, DC by Dr. Freya Kamel, staff scientist with the Chronic Disease Epidemiology Group of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

In the presentation before the Congressionally chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses (RAC), entitled, "Chronic health effects from pesticides: results from the Agricultural Health Study," Dr. Kamel noted that scientific findings found early evidence of neurological dysfunction related to pesticide exposure--especially organophosphates--before the appearance of apparent clinical signs normally identified during a physician's neurological examinations.

Exposures during the 1991 Gulf War to high levels of highly concentrated forms of two organophosphate pesticides, DEET and permethrin, in conjunction with exposure to Pyridostigmine Bromide (PB), a nerve agent protective pill, were identified as causes of Gulf War Illness in a 2008 U.S. Government scientific report showing that Gulf War Illness is real.

Groups of neurological symptoms identified in Dr. Kamel's team's research included affect, cognition, autonomic and motor function, and vision.

Affect:

* Anxiety (52%)
* Irritability (37%)
* Depression (27%)


Cognition:

* Memory (24%)
* Concentration (20%)


Sensory:

* Numbness or paresthesia (27%)
* Poor night vision (12%)
* Blurred or double vision (10%)
* Changes in taste or smell (6%)


Motor:

* Twitches (17%)
* Weakness (15%)
* Poor Balance (12%)
* Tremor (11%)
* Difficulty Speaking (4%)


Autonomic:

* Nausea (27%)
* Loss of appetite (18%)
* Excessive sweating (17%)
* Fast heart rate (15%)


Other:

* Headache (68%)
* Fatigue (58)
* Insomnia (43%)
* Dizziness (28%)
* Loss of consciousness (2%)


According to Dr. Kamel, acute, high level pesticide poisoning has long been recognized as having severe acute symptoms and likely long-term issues resulting from those exposures. However, this study was a cross-sectional study that began with 90,000 pesticide workers and their families and looked at chronic effects of long-term, lower-dose exposures to pesticides and had profound results.

The study, based on Phase I data, was restricted to applicators who completed a take-home questionnaire and collected symptom and exposure data at the same time, a potential study weakness. However, the study also examined participants' exposure levels and to different types of varied widely, identified by Dr. Kamel as, "an advantage, because we were comparing those with high level exposures to those with low level exposures."

The results suggested that neurologic symptoms are associated with cumulative exposures--exposures over time that have added up--to moderate levels of organophosphate and organochlorine insecticides and suggested permanent residual damage caused by these exposures. The cumulate lifetime use of insecticides is associated with increased risk of having greater than 10 of the measured symptoms in the prior year.

With regards to functional pesticide groups, negative health outcomes were linked primarily to insecticide and herbicide agents, and less so to fungicides and fumigants. However, there was a strong association with fungicides and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of progressive blindness.

With regards to insecticide chemical groups, organophosphates were heavily linked to negative health outcomes, while organochlorines and carbamates were associated with negative health outcomes in about half the cases. Pyrethroids, the last of the four insecticide chemical groups, was associated with negative health outcomes in about one-fifth to one-fourth of the cases.

DEET and permethrin, two pesticides used commonly at high concentrations by 1991 Gulf War troops, are organophosphates, as is Agent Orange, an herbicide used widely during the Vietnam War and linked to a host of serious, negative health outcomes among veterans of the Vietnam War and the indigenous Vietnamese population.

Parkinson's Disease, a neurodegenerative disease with early symptoms that include tremor, slow movement, and postural instability, along with soft voice and small handwriting, was also associated with pesticide exposures.

Dr. Kamel's research focuses on environmental determinants of neurologic dysfunction and disease, in particular, neurodegenerative disease.

Kamel received a B.A. in mathematics from Brandeis University and a Ph.D. in biological sciences from SUNY-Binghamton. She did research in neuroendocrinology as a postdoctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University and then as an assistant professor at The Rockefeller University and the University of Wisconsin. She received an M.P.H. in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She joined the Epidemiology Branch at NIEHS in 1989, and currently serves as an epidemiologic consultant for the National Toxicology Program, an associate editor of the American Journal of Epidemiology, and a member of the editorial board of Environmental Health Perspectives.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

OPINION: David Winnett on the Health Risks of Modern Warfare


The tools of modern warfare are vastly more effective now than in previous wars. They are more precise and infinitely more lethal, and some pose great risk to those who employ them. Case in point is depleted uranium - or DU.

DU is a byproduct of enriched uranium, a highly radioactive substance. Since 1991, the United States has used DU in the manufacture of protective armor plating for tanks and armored combat vehicles, as well as heavy armor-piercing ammunition. We not only shield our combat vehicles with DU, we also fire DU-coated ammunition at enemy vehicles, with quite deadly effect.

Since the use of DU began, a heated debate has continued over the long-term health risks. Upon impact, DU is vaporized. The resulting microparticulate is distributed throughout very large areas of the battlefield. If ingested, there is a risk of kidney, liver, heart or brain damage. The Department of Defense's own studies have demonstrated genetic, reproductive and neurological damage in rodents exposed to DU. If ingested [or inhaled] , DU can remain in the human body for a lifetime, wreaking havoc on internal organs and the central nervous system.

DU was first used in combat during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Now, thousands of veterans of that war suffer from permanent, life-altering chronic illnesses. Is this mere coincidence? After the war, Veterans Affairs saw a huge increase in disability claims submitted by Gulf War veterans. Yet no one was able to identify a cause. Many veterans were deemed to be experiencing psychosomatic illness, the VA blaming the complaints on post-traumatic stress disorder. Most were told, "It's all in your head."

For 15 years I have lived with intermittent bouts of blurry vision, sore muscles often accompanied by uncontrolled twitching of major muscle groups, hand tremors and frequent bouts of extremely debilitating fatigue. I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, neuro-myalgias and chronic fatigue. I have an unexplained scar on my right kidney and an enlarged liver, yet I am not overweight, have never been a smoker and my alcohol intake has always been moderate.

DU is not the only suspected cause of Gulf War illnesses. Other possibilities include exposures to low levels of sarin gas accidentally released into the atmosphere during the demolition of seized Iraqi ordnance, multiple vaccinations, non-FDA approved anti-nerve agent pills, smoke from burning oil wells and heavy use of pesticides. Regardless of the cause, let's use these experiences to reduce the chances of future battlefield exposures, and to work toward improving the quality of life for those permanently afflicted by battlefield hazards.

In 1994, a law authorized the VA to grant "presumption of service connection" for certain symptoms associated with the Gulf War. Qualifying symptoms for compensation include: fatigue, rashes, muscle pain, joint pain, neurological symptoms, respiratory symptoms, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal symptoms and cardiovascular symptoms. When these symptoms cannot be attributed to a known illness, they are to be considered "undiagnosed illnesses," and presumed to be the result of exposures in the war.  [Editor's Note:  Three "ill-defined"  conditions are also presumptive for Gulf War veterans, including Fibromyalgia (up to 40%), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (up to 100%), and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (up to 30%)].


The law begins, "The Secretary may pay compensation ." The problem lies in the word "may." VA centers across the country are permitted to interpret the law as they see fit. They "may" award compensation, or they may not. The majority of Gulf War-related disability claims are denied. Approval rates also differ from one VA region to another.

Fewer than 4,000 of the 670,000 Americans who served in the Gulf War have been awarded the disability rating prescribed in the law. Yet the VA's own "Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses" reported last year that one in four veterans are sick. Using VA's numbers, that's 167,500 sick veterans. Tens of thousands have been rated with post-traumatic stress disorder, yet less than 4,000 veterans, including myself, have been awarded the "undiagnosed" rating.  [Editor's Note: VA's estimates are between 175,000 and 210,000 (25-34%) of the 696,842 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War have chronic multi-symptom illness (CMI) commonly known as Gulf War Illness or Gulf War Syndrome.  The most current studies show that only about 10 percent of veterans of the 1991 Gulf War have PTSD, an extremely low rate when compared to earlier and later wars.  Data release by VA last week shows that of more than 220,000 claims filed, just over 15,000 Gulf War veterans have been service-connected by VA for one or more unexplained or undiagnosed conditions.]


The ground war lasted 100 hours. The number of post-traumatic stress ratings far exceeds what would be expected for such short duration. Instead of being referred to neurology or the infectious diseases department in the VA, these veterans have been directed to psychiatry. Many more have given up hope that they will ever obtain assistance from the government that sent them to war. Some have taken their own lives.

Far too many have been unjustly denied medical and disability benefits. For that reason alone, the law should be amended. The word "may" should be changed to "shall." Those who served in the Persian Gulf War are heroes, one and all. This disenfranchisement of so many courageous American veterans must end immediately.

Regardless of the cause of Gulf War illnesses, Americans should demand that their elected representatives continue to provide annual funding for Gulf War illness research through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, and to hold the secretary of Veterans Affairs accountable for fairly and consistently administering disability claims submitted by Persian Gulf War veterans.

A free nation has a moral obligation to ensure that its injured or ill veterans are made whole again to the fullest extent possible through a compassionate system of disability compensation and proper medical treatment, no matter the cost.

--David K. Winnett Jr. is a retired Marine Corps captain and the chairman of funding development for the National Gulf War Resource Center (www.NGWRC.org). He lives in Torrance, Calif..

Monday, November 9, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Gulf War, other Veterans Eat Free this Veterans Day at Applebee's

Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(91outcomes.blogspot.com - November 4, 2009) - Gulf War and all other veterans and currently serving members of the U.S. Armed Forces eat free this Veteran's Day due to a special promotion by the Applebee's restaurant franchise.

Applebee's website includes details of the promotion that is being repeated this year after a reported success in 2008.

The promotion is good only on Vetereran's Day, which this year is on Wednesday, November 11, 2009.

For currently serving military servicemembers need only show their military identification card or a current leave and earnings statement (LES).  For veterans, a retired military identification card, veterans service organization membership card, or even a picture in uniform while serving.  Federal VA health enrollment identification cards should also be accepted.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

VA Announces Creation of a 'Holistic', Internal Gulf War Veterans Task Force


Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(Washington, DC - November 3, 2009) - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has created a “holistic” internal task force related to meeting the needs of veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, according to VA Chief of Staff John Gingrich, who chairs the task force.

In a public briefing today before the Congressionally chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, Gingrich noted the failings of the VA with regards to Gulf War and other veterans.  “Gulf War veterans’ perceptions of VA is that it is bureaucratic, slow to respond, has uncaring staff, is dysfunctional, has poor databases, and is failing veterans,” said Gingrich, but in announcing the creation of the task force said, “We are trying to get it right.”

According to Gingrich, the goal of the internal VA task force on 1991 Gulf War veterans, which is already up and running, is to, “conduct a comprehensive review of all VA programs and services that serve this cohort of veterans.”

He said the task force’s charge is to challenge all assumptions and identify gaps in services and opportunities to better serve this veteran cohort.   He expects results-oriented recommendations to decisively advance VA’s efforts to address 1991 Gulf War veterans’ needs, with the desired end state being a coherent, comprehensive and facts-based action plan which considers and integrates appropriate viewpoints from stakeholders, subject matter experts, and advisory committees on Gulf War veterans.

The announcement that the task force had been created seemed to echo the comments earlier this year by VA Secretary Eric “Ric” Shinseki , who told the nation’s veterans In a series of speeches before the nation’s veterans service organizations between July and September 2009, “We are asking why, 40 years after agent orange was last used in Vietnam, this secretary is still adjudicating claims for service-connected disabilities related to it.  And why, 20 years after Desert Storm, we are still debating the debilitating effects of whatever causes Gulf War Illness.  Left to our present processes, 20 or 40 years from now, some future secretary could be adjudicating service-connected disabilities from our ongoing conflicts.  We must do better, and we will.”

In a military career spanning 30 years, Gingrich served in a variety of command and staff positions including commander of a U.S. Army Field Artillery Battalion in Operation Desert Storm. 
Appointed in January 200 as Chief of Staff, he works closely with the Secretary and Deputy Secretary in managing day-to-day operations of the federal government’s second-largest Cabinet department, with some 286,000 employees in VA medical centers, clinics, benefits offices and national cemeteries throughout the country. 

TASK FORCE SCOPE

According to the VA, the new 1991 Gulf War veteran task force’s efforts will include:

  • Defining all key areas of review
  • Consulting key experts and relevant stakeholders and reports.
  • Capturing the issues, data, as wells as program and performance info to inform decisions.
  • Looking holistically at issues and opportunities to advocate for the veteran.
  • Identifiying as a priority effect, initiatives that enhance identification and Treatment of this cohort’s undiagnosed and unexplained illnesses.

TASK FORCE ACTION PLAN

The VA's 1991 Gulf War veteran task force action plan has several components, all due January 31, 2010 according to Gingrich, including the following:
 

DATA SHARING:   The task force will prepare a white paper on data sharing between VA and DOD.

OUTREACH:  The task force will prepare a white paper with the goals of leveraging lessons learned to reconnect to this cohort.  The white paper will address the creation of a new VA campaign to conduct outreach to 1991 Gulf War veterans to learn more about the best ways of communicating with them, including what these veterans want to know.  VA will conduct a literature review and other background info about what makes this cohort unique demographically and what sources of information these veterans use to educate themselves on issues of importance to them, and is conducting national calls.

BENEFITS:    To date among the 696,842 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, VA has processed 250,897 claims, with 220,541 awarded service-connected disability compensation, including  15,181 approved for one or more undiagnosed illnesses.  
  • Benefits Access Goal: expand outreach and education to Gulf War veterans.
  • Benefits Claims Adjudication Goal: Timely presumption of service-connected disability.  The task force will identify how VA will look for higher rates of illnesses among deployed versus non-deployed veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, establish population–based connections between specific military deployment and long-term health effects through prospective studies initiated prior to and immediately post-deployment.    The  current process requires a review of all existing science.  Meanwhile, veterans’ perceptions are that the current process detached from their concerns and experiences, so the goal is to shorten the claims adjudication timeline while still employing appropriate scientific evidence. 
CLINICAL CARE:  Provide holistic care for Gulf War veterans that addresses the whole veteran.  One possibility would be to apply the existing VA post-deployment integrated care model developed and used for veterans of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The model is of a post-deployment health clinic that includes primary care, social work, and mental health.  Additional services include those of the suicide prevention coordinator, pain clinic, compensation and pension, polytrauma, orthopedics, dental, women’s health, and rehabilitative medicine and prosthetics.

CLINICAL TRAINING:  This is a Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses action plan item, which the task force will provide recommendations to enhance.  The review process will include content review, a field clinician focus group survey, development of design and modularization, a restructuring and rewriting of the current clinician guide, testing the new guide, and making the new clinician guide available on VA Intranet in April or May 2010.    

COMMUNICATION & TIMELINESS:  Tracking the health of veteran over time is important for providing timely info about the relationship of past exposures and health.  There is an identified need to establish surveillance studies, which the task force will address in its recommendations.

Monday, November 2, 2009

VA's Cancelled Gulf War Illness Research Was Even More Promising that Previously Known, Early Studies Show


Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(Washington, DC - November 2, 2009) - Stunning new findings related to 1991 Gulf War Illness chemical exposures and potential treatments were revealed in a presentation today by Dr. Robert Haley, director of the $75 million Gulf War Illness research funding program at the University of Texas-Southwestern in Dallas, Tex. that was discontinued by the federal VA due to a contract dispute. 

Dr. Haley's studies, comprising more than 200 researchers at six universities, had developed an animal model of Gulf War chemical exposures, determined their effects on brain functions, and were making initial strides in unlocking treatments for the brain damage caused by the Gulf War chemical exposures. His research also revealed serious health consequences for one Gulf War chemical previously thought to be safe.


Three Gulf War chemicals were selected for study study in order to determine their effects on brain function, including:

  • Chlorpyrifos (CP), a pesticide highly used in the Gulf War including in flea collars worn by many Gulf War troops to ward away biting sand fleas. 
  • Pyridostigmine Bromide (PB), a pill taken by about 250,000 Gulf War troops to help sustain life after exposure to soman nerve agent, a key chemical warfare agent in the Iraqi chemical warfare arsenal at the time. PB has been implicated in a number of scientific studies as causally linked to the chronic multi-symptom illness, commonly known as Gulf War Illness, which affects between one-fourth and one-third of the 697,000 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War. 
  • DFP, a good surrogate for Sarin, a potent chemical warfare nerve agent released in March 1991 at Khamisiyah, Iraq by U.S. demolitions teams, shortly after the war's conclusion. The U.S. Department of Defense contacted about 100,000 in the mid-1990s to notify them that they had been exposed to low-levels of sarin and cyclosarin nerve agents and possibly mustard gas when a"pl ume" lasting for three days following the detonations drifted over and exposed U.S. Gulf War troops. While the two letters sent to troops by DoD downplayed the risks of the exposures, numerous scientific studies have shown that rates of chronic multi-symptom illness, brain cancer, and other serious health effects are much higher among the Khamisiyah group than in other deployed Gulf War veterans.

Mouse Model

The first phase of the studies was to develop a mouse model of the effects of exposure to Gulf War chemicals on the brains of the laboratory mice. The mouse model study was conducted by providing laboratory mice with repeated low-dose exposures to Gulf War chemicals such that it was followed by the appearance of brain dysfunction lasting at least three months. The goal was to work out what was the exposure "recipe" that cuases delaysd, chronic changes in the laboratory mice. Once determined, the model would then be validated, and treatments would be developed.

According to Dr. Haley's presentation, that work has been successful in several areas.

One of the intermediate goals was to establish the brain penetration of a range of doses of the Gulf War chemicals, and that was accomplished. It was already known that CP and Sarin (DFP) readily crossed into the brain and caused damage. However, one of the study's surprising findings was that about 10 percent of the dose of PB--a drug used currently and for many decades in the treatment of myasthenia gravis, a neurodegenerative condition that results in extreme muscle weakness and failure--crosses into the brain. Until now, it had been believed that PB did not cross the blood-brain barrier. 


ALS 

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, has been shown to have occurred at excessively high rates among Gulf War veterans and at far younger ages than is normally seen. The studies revealed that PB reduces the number of neurons in key areas of the brain, and that the PB and CP Gulf War chemicals were linked to ALS in the mouse models.

The findings suggest that CP exposures led to damage to the mitochondria in the cells, making individuals more susceptible to a highly problematic cycle of oxidative stress that may result in serious or even fatal neurological diseases, including ALS. 

Brain Cancer 

The studies revealed that PB stimulated negative effects in the brain more so than CP or sarin (DFP), and led to the development of a factor that leads to brain cancer.

Brain cancer in Gulf War veterans has been shown to exist at at least twice the rate of non-deployed Gulf War era troops, but there has been no explanation before now for what might be the causative factors.

The studies demonstrated that there is an initial, dramatic neuroinflammatory response in the mice, and that it diminishes over time. However, at the stage at which the studies were terminated by VA, it was unable to be determined what the effects of that final state might be, including whether it might still be capable of producing symptoms. 

Mitochondrial Effects 

Another of the studies was to show the toxic effects of Gulf War chemicals on the brain's neurons, the brain's building blocks. The study revealed early levels of damage, but was terminated by VA before it could reveal whether there was in fact damage to the cells and the powerhouse of the cells, mitochondria. If this damage was taking place, it was intended for the study to determine if the mitochondrial damage could potentially be treated by Coenzyme Q10, a substance produced naturally by the body and critical for the proper functioning of the cells.

"We are now at the point where we could be conducting studies that could help stop the neurological damage in ill Gulf War veterans where it is, or possibly even begin to reverse it," said Dr. Haley. 

What Next? 

"We are now at the point where we could be conducting studies that could help stop the neurological damage in ill Gulf War veterans where it is, or possibly even begin to reverse it," says Dr. Haley.

Yet, VA officials in the new administration do not seem willing to reverse the termination of the contract that funded Dr. Haley and his roughly 200 colleagues engaged on what can only be termed a massive effort aimed at successfully unlocking the chemical causes of, and treatments for Gulf War illness.

"I never believed that PB was part of this," said Dr. Haley. "I always believed it was sarin, sarin, sarin, possibly with the addition of chlorypyrifos or some other organophosphate [pesticide]. However, the evidence is clear and undeniable -- PB is a dangerous chemical."

One ill Gulf War veteran member of the committee, Anthony Hardie of Madison, Wis., stated his personal frustation with the VA's decision to cancel Dr. Haley's contract. "I have heard from Gulf War veterans across the country who are equally angry at the VA's crass decision to cancel your promising research program," he said.  "I hope that people [in the VA] know how wrong this decision was," he said.

Another Gulf War veteran member of the Committee, Marguerite Knox, from Columbia, S. Car., questioned if PB may still be carried currently by U.S. troops in the event of exposure to sarin or other nerve agents.

New Research Findings Link Gulf War Veterans' Neuropsychological Dysfunction with Gulf War Exposures


Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(Washington, DC - November 2, 2009) - In a presentation today before the Congressionally chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses (RAC), Dr. Roberta White, the committee's scientific director, presented scientific research linking Gulf War hazardous exposures and health outcomes in individuals exposed to neurotoxicants.


Neurotoxicants, a class of chemicals that includes pesticides and chemical warfare agents, were common hazardous exposures during the 1991 Gulf War linked to Gulf War veterans' illnesses and described in depth in a 2008 U.S. Government report that found that Gulf War Illness is a real neurological condition affecting between one-fourth and one-third of the 697,000 U.S. veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.

Dr. White, a neuropsychologist and chair of environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health, presented scientific research that linked the Gulf War exposures to neuropsychological dysfunction.

According to Dr. White's research, individuals exposed to neurotoxicants such as the pesticides and low-level chemical warfare agent exposures of those serving in the 1991 Gulf War, "can have abnormal or within normal range [of neuropsychological testing] results but still have critical functional issues in daily life, especially with people who were high functioning [before their Gulf War exposures].


Dr. White noted that that this meant that those exposed had neuropsychological dysfunction, rather than the neuropsychological deficit that most current neuropsychological testing is designed to measure.

The research studies found that the cluster of neuropsychological dysfunction symptoms among Gulf War veterans included:

  • Mood changes/fatigue
  • Motor dysfunction
  • Visual-constructional deficits
  • Visual memory/learning retrieval issues
  • Attention/executive working memory issues
It was noted that language function was generally intact.

"Some also have Parkinsonian symptoms," added Dr. White.  However, they do not respond to dopaminergic replacement, a standard Parkinson's disease treatment, "so this is not [typical] Parkinson's Disease."

One of the veterans in attendance, former U.S. Air Force Major and flight nurse Denise Nichols of Denver, Col., noted that most Gulf War veterans were high functioning before their exposures. 

Anthony Hardie, an ill Gulf War veteran member of the RAC from Madison, Wis. agreed, commenting that, "most Gulf War troops were at least high school graduates, as compared to today's military, where in 2008, only about four in five new enlistees in the U.S. Army were high school graduates."


Hardie also recommended that VA begin using its new Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) compensation criteria for Gulf War veterans with this neuropsychological dysfunction.
 

Several ill Gulf War veterans in attendance agreed that the dysfunction identified by Dr. White's research mirrored their own experiences and those of other ill Gulf War veterans they know.

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Third Congressional Hearing on Gulf War Illness Research Postponed


Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(Washington, DC - November 2, 2009) - The Congressional hearing on recommendations for future directions of Gulf War veterans' illnesses health research, originally scheduled for this Wednesday, November 4, has been postponed.

The hearing will be rescheduled at a future date.

Two previous hearings in the series have been held by the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which have highlighted significant issues with VA and Department of Defense Gulf War illnesses research conducted to date.



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Canadian Gulf War Veteran Expresses Concern on behalf of Fellow Canadian Gulf War Veterans 'Who Are Also Ill'


Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(Washington, DC - November 2, 2009) -
Traveling on her own to speak before a federal U.S. committee hearing of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses (RAC) in Washington, DC, Louise Richard, a Canadian Gulf War veteran from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, expressed concern for her fellow Gulf War veterans.

"We're ill too, and we deserve answers, too, but for some reason the Canadian Government has utterly failed us."

Richard stated that she was informed by Canada's Surgeon General that, "there are too few of you to worry about."

Richard expressed gratitude for the RAC's work, and work be U.S. veterans advocates, including Denise Nichols of Denver, Colo.

Study Finds Subtle Declines in Motor Speed, Sustained Attention in Gulf War Veterans

Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(Washington, DC - November 2, 2009) - In a public presentation today before the federal Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses by Dr. Rosemary Toomey, science has found that Gulf War deployment is associated with subtle declines of motor speed and sustained attention.  The evidence further suggested that the toxicant exposures influence these functions, and that symptoms of depression also influence attention.

Shortly after the end of the 1991 Gulf War, many U.S. Gulf War veterans reported cognitive issues that they believed to be related to their Gulf War service.  The cognitive issues could not be related to physical brain injury or known disease processes.

The study found scientific evidence that 1991 Gulf War toxicant exposures led to impaired motor speed and deficits in sustained attention.

The presentation, entitled, "Neuropsychological functioning in the VA National Health Survey of Gulf War Veterans," included the results of the National Health Survey of Gulf War veterans and their families, which was coordinated through Chicago's Hines VA Medical Center. 

Khamisiyah exposure was also found to be related to decreased motor speed.

It was noted that self-reported exposure variables did not explain the symptoms. 

Toomey is an Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Harvard Medical School Department Psychiatry, and an active researcher with the Psychology Department at Boston University, the Harvard Institute of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Genetics, and the Boston VA Medical Center Research Service. 

Laser Acupuncture May Help Alleviate Symptoms in Ill Gulf War Veterans, Mayo Clinic Study Suggests


Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(Washington, DC - November 2, 2009) - In a public presentation today before the Congressionally chartered federal Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, which oversees the federal government's scientific research efforts across the federal government, Dr. Peter Dorsher of the Jacksonville, Fla. Mayo Clinic provided a novel assesment of how fibromyalgia works, and scientific evidence for a potential treatment, laser acupuncture.

His study assumes that the conditions associated with fibromyalgia result from an imbalance or instability of the autonomic nervous system, the body's command center than includes breathing, heartrate, perpiration, digestion, and other "automatic" bodily functiong.  The conditions related to fibromyalgia include migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, insterstitial cystitis, endometriosis, idiopathic urethritis, chronic prostatitis, and temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ).

His findings noted that satisfactory, well-tolerated treatments for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome have been sparse to date.  He noted some similarities between fibromyalgia, a presumptive condition for veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, and Gulf War Illness.

His successful study findings testing laser acupuncture in people with fibromyalgia suggest that this stimulation of the autonomic nervous system offers a potential way to reduce the symptoms and thereby improve the quality of life for veterans with Gulf War Illness as well. 

He also noted that the treatment is pain-free, and essentially risk free, and may result in restoring the autonomic nervous system to its original balance.

One of the Gulf War veterans in the audience supported the concept of acupuncture in relieving some Gulf War Illness neurological symptoms, stating that after her Gulf War service, she had numbness and loss of feeling in her arms and legs that was restored after five months of (non-laser) acupuncture.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gulf War Veteran Killed by Police After Calling VA Suicide Hotline

Posted at the Salisbury Post 

(Salisbury, N.C. - October 27, 2009) - This is the text of District Attorney Bill Kenerly's statement saying that no criminal charges would be filed against Officer Preston Gene Houpe in the shooting death of Christopher Dupree Kluttz.

"At approximately 4:30 a.m. on February 6, 2009, Christopher Dupree Kluttz died at his residence as the result of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen. On duty Spencer Police Officer Preston Gene Houpe fired the fatal shots. The Spencer Police Department and the District Attorney's office requested that the State Bureau of Investigation investigate Mr. Kluttz's death. I have reviewed the S.B.I. investigation and have concluded the evidence indicates that Officer Houpe did not violate the criminal law as it relates to the use of deadly force.

"Christopher Dupree Kluttz was a former Spencer Police Officer and a disabled veteran of Desert Storm. He lived alone at his residence in Spencer. During the early morning of February 6, 2009, Mr. Kluttz called the National Suicide Hotline, where the call taker noted that he was apparently intoxicated. At 1:55 a.m. the Veterans Administration telephoned Rowan County Communications and requested that the Spencer Police Department contact Mr. Kluttz at his residence in Spencer to investigate his welfare.

"Officer Preston Gene Houpe was the patrol officer on duty when the Veterans Administration request was received by the Spencer Police Department. Officer Houpe responded to Mr. Kluttz's residence at approximately 2:03 a.m. He entered the residence and spoke with Mr. Kluttz. Officer Houpe assessed Mr. Kluttz to be safe and left the residence at approximately 2:37 a.m. At that time Officer Houpe returned to his regularly assigned duties.

"In the course of his patrol duties Officer Houpe drove his marked Spencer Police vehicle past Mr. Kluttz's residence again at approximately 4:00 a.m. Officer Houpe stated that, as he approached the Kluttz residence in his vehicle, he saw Mr. Kluttz on the front porch of his house. Mr. Kluttz was cursing and speaking loudly, and Officer Houpe told him to "calm down". Officer Houpe followed Mr. Kluttz into the residence as Mr. Kluttz continued to curse. Inside the residence Officer Houpe talked with Mr. Kluttz, at one point suggesting that Mr. Kluttz place a telephone call to a friend. About 4:28 a.m. Mr. Kluttz placed this call. During the telephone conversation the friend heard Mr. Kluttz tell Officer Houpe to get out of his house. Mr. Kluttz then gave the telephone to Officer Houpe, who told the friend to call Mr. Kluttz's parents. The friend called Mr. Kluttz's father at approximately 4:30 a.m. and informed him of the situation. His father left his residence in route to the residence of Christopher Kluttz.

"While still in Mr. Kluttz's residence and before Mr. Kluttz's father arrived, Officer Houpe called for "routine" backup. This request was made in response to Mr. Kluttz's belligerent comments, including a threat to shoot the Officer. Officer Houpe relates that, at this point, Mr. Kluttz entered the kitchen of his residence, was heard to open a drawer, and returned armed with a butcher-type knife. Officer Houpe requested "urgent" backup, and during this call Officer Houpe can be heard to shout, "Drop the É" (inaudible, possibly "gun"). As Mr. Kluttz threatened Officer Houpe and approached him with the knife, Officer Houpe fired three shots, fatally injuring Christopher Dupree Kluttz. During an additional request for "urgent" assistance Officer Houpe can be heard telling Mr. Kluttz to "stay down". Officers of the Salisbury and Spencer Police Departments, Rowan County Deputies, and Emergency Medical personnel responded immediately and found Officer Houpe in the residence, and Mr. Kluttz deceased.

"Christopher Dupree Kluttz was found lying in the doorway that connects the dining room to the kitchen of his residence. A large chrome-bladed knife with a black plastic handle was lying on the dining room floor about four feet from Mr. Kluttz. Three .40 caliber cartridge casings were found in the dining room, and three .40 caliber bullets were recovered from Mr. Kluttz's body. The casings were fired in Officer Houpe's issue weapon; however, the recovered bullets were too distorted for a conclusive match to his pistol. A kitchen drawer and the chrome-bladed knife were examined for latent fingerprints; however, there were no identifiable latent prints noted or developed on either item. The medical examiner did not find either gun powder soot or stippling in connection with Mr. Kluttz's wounds.

"The death of Christopher Dupree Kluttz, a former police officer and veteran, is particularly unsettling and unfortunate. However, after reviewing this very thorough investigation, I have determined that no criminal charges will be filed against Officer Preston Gene Houpe for the shooting death of Christopher Dupree Kluttz."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another Gulf War Veteran Dead: "He Was Sick When he Came Home from Kuwait"


Written by Bill Bell, Whittier Daily News.

(Whittier, Calif. - October 23, 2009) - Those closest to him called him "Skeeter." 

A strapping, healthy 6-foot water polo player in high school, Clinton Marvin Hammitt Jr. enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps right after graduating from Pioneer High School in 1987. 

In 1990, Skeeter was deployed to the Gulf War, called Desert Storm, and was discharged in 1991. 

Hammitt worked his way up from a restaurant job at the former El Patio on Greenleaf Avenue to becoming the owner of Steel Press Printing, which did most of the printing for the city of Whittier and its Police Department, said his sister, Renee Hammitt Mendoza. 

Then on Aug. 20, he died at the age of 40. 

"He was sick when he came home from Kuwait," said Renee, one of his five older sisters. Even now, there is no definite diagnosis of the cause of his death, said Renee. 

She said Veterans Hospital doctors worked on his blood disorder over the years and kept Hammitt and his family advised of their progress on a weekly basis. 

The most recent information was that Hammitt's disorder most likely was something called TTP (thrombolic thrombocytopenic purpura), a blood disorder that could be related to parasites, oil well fires or nerve gas, but possibly could also be unrelated. 

"Skeeter was handsome, funny, had a million friends and turned out to be an outstanding businessman," Renee said. 

Hammitt was born Feb. 27, 1969, in Montebello to Clinton Marvin Sr. and Helen Hammitt. The family moved to the unincorporated west side of Whittier where Skeeter attended Phelan Elementary school and Katherine Edwards middle school prior to Pioneer High. 

He was cremated and interred with military honors at Riverside National Cemetery. 

Besides his parents and sister, Renee, he also leaves a 7-year-old son, and his other sisters, Joy Hammitt of Cedar Creek, Utah, Lynne Nay of Los Angeles, Denise Hammitt of Wilmington and Julie Arredondo, and 12 nieces and nephews.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Last of Three Congressional Hearings on Gulf War Illness Scheduled


(91outcomes - October 23, 2009) - The U.S. House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Mitchell (D-Ariz.) will hold a Subcommittee Hearing titled "Gulf War Illness: Where Do We Go From Here?"

The hearing will be held on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

CYPRESS BIOSCIENCE: Low-Dose Savella Helps Chronic Pain

Editor's Note:  Fibromyalgia, a condition characterised by chronic widespread pain common in Gulf War veterans, is one of three presumptive conditions for VA service-connection for veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.  The other two are Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).


Cypress Bioscience Press Release.


(New York and San Diego - October 17, 2009) - Forest Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: FRX) and Cypress Bioscience, Inc. (NASDAQ: CYPB) today announced that Savella® (milnacipran HCI) 100 mg/day (50 mg twice daily) demonstrated statistically significant and clinically meaningful concurrent improvements in pain, patient global assessment, and physical function, according to results from a large-scale, Phase III clinical trial that will be presented on Tuesday, October 20, 2009, at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA. 100 mg/day is the recommended dose of Savella. Savella is a selective serotonin and norepinephrine dual reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this year for the management of fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain and decreased physical function, afflicting as many as six million people in the United States. The study showed statistically significant and clinically meaningful concurrent improvements in pain, patient global assessment, and physical function, among patients receiving Savella treatment of 100 mg/day, as compared to a placebo treatment group, when measured by patient-reported outcomes assessed in composite responder analyses. These results at the 100 mg/day dose are consistent with those of previous clinical trials that have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of Savella at doses of 100 mg/day and 200 mg/day.


"Fibromyalgia is a common, chronic pain disorder that can be associated with an array of debilitating symptoms, so it is important that treatments manage the multiple symptoms of fibromyalgia and improve function," said lead investigator, Lesley M. Arnold, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.


Study Details

 
This Phase III, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 1,025 fibromyalgia patients was designed to further evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of Savella 100 mg/day. Patients were randomized to receive Savella 100 mg/day (n=516) or placebo (n=509) and underwent four to six weeks of flexible dose escalation, followed by 12 weeks of stable-dose treatment followed by a two-week randomized, double-blind discontinuation phase.
 

This study, like other phase III fibromyalgia studies of Savella used a composite responder analysis as the primary endpoint. This endpoint required individual patients to demonstrate concurrent and clinically meaningful improvements in multiple domains using validated measures, including pain (visual analog scale), patient global assessment (patient global impression of change), and physical function (Short Form-36 Physical Component Summary).
 

In this study a greater proportion of patients in the Savella treatment arm (100 mg/day) as compared with placebo treatment, at 3 months, experienced at least a 30% reduction in pain from baseline and also rated themselves as "very much improved" or "much improved" based on the patient global assessment. In addition, a greater proportion of patients treated with Savella as compared with placebo treatment met the criteria for a treatment response as measured by concurrent improvements in pain, patient global assessment, and physical function. Some patients who rated themselves as globally "much" or "very much" improved experienced a decrease in pain as early as week 1 of treatment with a stable dose of Savella that persisted throughout the study.
 

“These data confirm the benefits of Savella in managing fibromyalgia,” said Dr. Marco Taglietti, President of Forest Research Institute. “Patients receiving Savella showed simultaneous improvements on multiple measures of fibromyalgia, including pain, patient global assessment, and physical function.”

Savella was generally well tolerated in the study. The most common treatment emergent adverse events observed during the placebo-controlled trial included nausea, headache, constipation, hot flush, dizziness, insomnia, hyperhidrosis, palpitations, fatigue, tachycardia, and hypertension. The majority of adverse reactions reported were mild to moderate in nature.


 
About Savella
 
Savella was approved by the FDA on January 14, 2009, for the management of fibromyalgia, a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain and decreased physical function that afflicts as many as six million people in the United States. Savella is a dual-reuptake inhibitor that, in vitro, preferentially blocks the reuptake of norepinephrine with higher potency than for serotonin, two neurotransmitters thought to a play a central role in the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Savella is marketed by Forest and its licensor, Cypress Bioscience. Pierre Fabre, who originally developed and sells milnacipran outside the U.S., licensed the rights for North America to Cypress Bioscience.


Please visit www.savella.com for safety and other information.


For more information about Cypress, please visit the Company's website at www.cypressbio.com.




To learn more about the Pierre Fabre group, visit www.pierre-fabre.com.

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DECISION RESOURCES: Cymbalta and Lyrica Most Prescribed for Fibromyalgia, but Neither as First Line


Cymbalta Is the Agent Most Likely to Lose Patient Share to Savella Over the Next Two Years, According to a New Report from Decision Resources

Patient-Flow Models Will Need to Take Into Account That the Highest Percentage of Patients Take Lyrica Before Adding or Switching to Cymbalta




(Waltham, Mass. - October 21, 2009) - Decision Resources, one of the world’s leading research and advisory firms focusing on pharmaceutical and healthcare issues, finds that although the majority of surveyed U.S. physicians prescribe Eli Lilly’s Cymbalta and Pfizer’s Lyrica for the treatment of fibromyalgia, neither agent has the majority of its uses in the first line. In the case of Cymbalta, surveyed rheumatologists report that 37 percent of their prescriptions for the drug are in the first line; in the case of Lyrica, 32 percent of prescriptions for the drug are in the first line.

“None of the fibromyalgia agents we surveyed physicians about has the majority of its uses in the first line. Surveyed rheumatologists told us that similar percentages of their prescriptions for amitriptyline and cyclobenzaprine are in the first line compared with their prescriptions for Lyrica or Cymbalta, likely because amitriptyline and cyclobenzaprine have a long history of use in the treatment of fibromyalgia (albeit off-label) and are available as inexpensive generics,” stated Andrea Buurma, analyst at Decision Resources.

The new Treatment Algorithms in Fibromyalgia report also finds that Cymbalta is the agent most likely to lose patient share to Forest Laboratories/Cypress Bioscience’s Savella by 2011. Savella was recently launched into the fibromyalgia drug market in April 2009. However, Cymbalta is currently the only agent that is approved for both fibromyalgia and depression and therefore it will continue to be surveyed physicians’ drug of choice for fibromyalgia patients with comorbid depression.

By combining patient-level claims data with physician survey data, this report can be used to build patient-flow models and analyze the assumptions driving these models. Patient-level claims data show that more patients turning to Cymbalta as a second-line or later therapy are prescribed the drug after Lyrica than vice versa. These data suggest that Cymbalta is positioned behind Lyrica; a likely scenario given Cymbalta was approved for fibromyalgia one year following Lyrica’s approval.


About Treatment Algorithm Insight Series

Decision Resources combines in-depth primary research with the most extensive claims-based longitudinal patient-level data from IMS Lifelink: Health Plans Claims database to provide exceptional insight into physicians' prescribing trends and the factors that drive therapy product choice, from diagnosis through multiple courses of treatment, for a specific disease.


About Decision Resources

Decision Resources (www.DecisionResources.com) is a world leader in market research publications, advisory services and consulting designed to help clients shape strategy, allocate resources and master their chosen markets. Decision Resources is a Decision Resources, Inc. company.

About Decision Resources, Inc.


Decision Resources, Inc. is a cohesive portfolio of companies that offers best-in-class, high-value information and insights on important sectors of the healthcare industry. Clients rely on this analysis and data to make informed decisions. Please visit Decision Resources, Inc. at www.DecisionResourcesInc.com.

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