Tag Archives: social media

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Pot Luck

An article appeared on social media about a group of parents using cannabidiol (CBD) for their children’s epilepsy. Unlike the usual reports of people using marijuana and subjectively reporting “improvements”, this group of patient advocates went and filed an Investigational New Drug (IND) with the FDA. Don’t get me wrong – I support the medical (and recreational) use of marijuana, but heretofore the real scientific data available has been extremely thin. Rather than going on Silk Road to get a bunch of medicine then post wonderful stories on social media, this group created a real clinical trial in cooperation with FDA and a company named GW Pharmaceuticals which supplied a pure oil formulation of CBD. This is a very important development in patient-driven access to investigational drugs. Far better than the usual DIY projects (even the handful started by yours truly), this type of project can deliver real, verifiable, and scientifically-accepted results.

The body contains cannabinoid receptors both in the CNS and periphery. The most well-known cannabinoid ligand is THC (a CB1 agonist) which is responsible for the euphoric psychoactive effect in marijuana. Both natural and synthetic cannabinoids long been of interest in treating disease. What’s of most interest in medicine are the anti-inflammatory effects of CB2 agonists such as cannabidiol or CBD. Endogenous CB2 receptors are upregulated in the spinal cords of SOD1 transgenic mice. CBD agonists show symptomatic improvement in several inflammatory diseases. There is evidence that CB2 receptors are upregulated in response to the inflammatory microglial activation in ALS. Several studies have shown that CB2 agonists have a beneficial effect in transgenic SOD1 mice. This data shows that more work, perhaps in in human patients, is warranted.

Alternative medicine is very popular in the ALS Community because, frankly, there is nothing currently available proven to extend the lives of PALS. Unfortunately most experiments are done without adequate objective observation and recording of data. Instead all that is reported are vague descriptions of improvement, skewing any rational perception of the particular alternative medicine. This causes more desperate patients to attempt the alternative with the same lack of adequate reporting.

This post, however, is not about calling for an IND for CBD (which would nevertheless be a good idea). The point here is to spotlight that a group of patients and/or advocates got together to do an experiment outside of an institutional clinical trial. They led the way and did it themselves while preserving the valuable objective data. They created their own hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. This is the ultimate expression of DIY Medicine, done properly and openly. Any other method is a waste of time, money, and health.

There is actually much more opportunity than just experiments with speculative alternative medicine. Hope exists for the approximately 60% of living PALS who don’t qualify for clinical trials. That hope is the FDA Expanded Access Program (EAP). PALS should request EAPs for those investigational treatments which have passed the Phase 2 endpoint requirements of safety and suggested efficacy. Furthermore, they should support efforts to bring EAPs to the ALS Community. Living, even for the healthy, requires hope. We, the ALS Community, like everything else we have accomplished, must create our own hope by being pioneers and responsible citizen scientists.

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Outta Tsai’t!

I would like to give a little blog-love to my [Facebook] friend and a fantastic artist Francis Tsai. I came to know him through the ALS community and very soon became a fan of his art. When I learned he was selling prints online to help finance his care, I purchased a couple.

The first one I purchased was one he did prior to onset called “Trixie”:

This was a gift to a friend who collects pin-ups. My next purchase was a much more recent one called “Horned”, which sports Francis’ motto “Adapt – Survive – Prevail”:

The thing I really enjoy about “Horned” is that it completely (and very literally) illustrates Francis’ motto. Not content with just fading away, he got a computer and some software and created it using only his eyes!

Francis truly exemplifies the willpower of PALS and the clever use of technology to overcome the physical limitations which come with advanced ALS. A person is the result of his/her mind, NOT the physical body. With a little willpower and some appropriate technology, PALS retain purpose and personal productivity and quality of life remains high.

Surf on over to Francis’ DeviantArt and StorEnvy sites (linked in the images above) and check out his art. While you’re there, purchase a couple of prints. The money goes to a worthy cause and they make great gifts!

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On Monday of last week, this excellent PSA was released by Team Gleason. It was shown on the big screens inside the Superdome but needs to be shown repeatedly on major network television (ie ABC/CBS/NBC). Please watch, share with friends, and send to your local network television stations. This is the kind of message that needs to get in front of the eyeballs of America. This is the celebrity action we have been asking for. Now let’s do our part in getting it out there.

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Technology is extraordinary. The level of communication made possible today by technology is unprecedented. This ability is also available for people with extreme disability (I wrote this purely with eye movement to distribute to the world…).

Part of the explosion of communication technology is the invention of social media. This especially has allowed people like myself who were previously called “shut-ins” to virtually travel around the world and socialize. The benefit has already helped PALS.

Tonight the social media giant Facebook helped save the life of another PALS. I was watching TV with my caretaker when a PALS messaged me on Facebook saying her caretaker wasn’t answering her alarm and asking me to call her house phone to alert the caretaker. I could have called using my web-based Google Phone but asked my caretaker to use my house phone to call. We were one of a few others calling, but in the end the caretaker was alerted and the PALS’ needs were met.

Technology rocks.

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I was recently alerted to a blog called Science-Based Medicine which had a post that was rather critical of me. The post was written by David Gorski, a managing editor of Science-Based Medicine. If you read the post, you can probably understand why I took a little umbrage to Dr. Gorski’s characterization of my efforts. Below is my response to him, shared here for my readers’ convenience.

“I find your attempts to discredit me by dissembling most curious for a chap claiming to champion honest science. First of all, the multiple conflations between NP001, my personal project, and MMS are deliberately misleading. The only relationship between the three is that they contain some amount of sodium chlorite. MMS is a rather high concentration that is broken down to chlorine dioxide by the citric acid with which it is mixed. NP001 is a very low concentration of sodium chlorite delivered intravenously. My oral delivery is the same concentration as NP001, with at best about 30% delivery of NaClO2 to the blood after gut passage (according to FDA publications on animal exposure). My project (https://sites.google.com/site/alschlorite/) was intended more as an open-label experiment for people who didn’t qualify for the Phase 2 trial and in the absence of an Expanded Access Program (which some of us are working on for during the Phase 3).
NP001 and its cousin WF10 have excellent safety and tolerability in multiple studies and the case for sodium chlorite having the desired immune modulation is extensively covered in PubMed despite your claims to the contrary (please see http://www.ericvalor.org/?p=86 for an easy guide through a few of the publications by Dr. Michael McGrath, the inventor). And despite your casting doubt as to the integrity of Neuraltus by pointing at a lack of publication in PubMed, the record on clinicaltrials.gov clearly shows that Neuraltus has satisfied thus far all FDA requirements to move forward in the regulatory process for NP001 and another candidate drug (http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?term=neuraltus). Further, I trust the results published on Patients Like Me done by my friend known online as Persevering (http://www.ericvalor.org/?p=42). We have good reason to believe that our correlation between side-effects and live drug is accurate. I won’t reveal that right now because NP001 still has trials to go and I don’t want to pollute the subject pool.
I didn’t just guess about NP001 and run to buy a bottle of MMS like you insinuate here. I did a careful review of literature by Dr. McGrath, including email with Dr. McGrath himself. I had other sources of information which explicitly stated that sodium chlorite indeed was the active ingredient in NP001. I then worked with a chemist with years of experience using sodium chlorite in the water purification industry to examine feasability and safety. Congratulations on your own discovery, but you could have emailed me for documentation (I am quite easy to Google).
The lithium project (in which I participated) was not a collection of anecdotes but rather a self-reported trial using the standard measuring tool of the time – the ALS Functional Rating Scale or ALSFSR. This is the same questionnaire used in neurological clinics. Karen Felzer did a fantastic job analyzing the data. Unfortunately the data showed futility, like the official trials that followed ours.
The lithium project (http://alslithium.atspace.com) was organized because all other ALS organizations expressed no interest in testing the fantastic report making headlines. We patients therefore took it upon ourselves to make an initial, admittedly unofficial, trial to test the report. We knew that the results would not be as reliable as a real clinical trial, but our results would be enough to carry on further to a real clinical trial if the findings in the study paper were real. Shamed by our effort, other organizations hastily constructed trials which proved our findings. Even years later, organizations were burning precious money doing real trials when they could have looked at our results and not wasted precious time which could have been spent on other studies.
My reports are not a figment of my imagination as you suggest. Go to my site listed above and look at the video evidence I have posted. My doctors have also physically seen the improvements, much to their surprise. Although I don’t make ANY claim of definitive evidence, I do take my effort quite seriously and soberly.
The real story here, which you ignore or dismiss, is patient empowerment. For too long have we been isolated and told to just wait to die. We can use technology now to organize and, more importantly, mobilize. We now can and will take action to promote OUR agenda, not the feeble selfish agenda of certain advocacy organizations which do very little beside provide employment for their directors.
We are trained in highly-skilled technology trades. We might not be doctors, but we are engineers trained to research and resolve highly complex problems. We are capable of learning and comprehending complicated concepts. We understand the limits of our abilities and, further, that without our efforts the pace of the fight against disease is much too slow for people living today. And we have no delusion that anything we are doing is intended to replace clinical trials. Rather we intend to augment and push forward the actual science.
I will let Jamie Heywood respond further on behalf of PLM.
– Eric N. Valor”

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Pet The Petition

A few months ago, I posted about publishing companies trying to charge for access to research studies paid for by taxpayers. Today my friends at The Doctor Weighs In posted about a way for each of us to really make a difference in this fight.

The White House has an online petition system where citizens can weigh in on issues before the President. If the petition gets 25,000 “signatures” within 30 days of it being created, it will be presented to the President where it must become part of the policy discussion. This is a great way for We, The People, to address and direct our government (especially in these times of corporate-captured government).

There is a petition currently in circulation to demand that scientific research paid for with taxpayer dollars remain freely accessible to anyone wishing to read it. The current signature count is just shy of 16,400 and I strongly urge my readers to sign and share this petition by email and/or social media. Working together we can ensure our intellectual property isn’t stolen and we are then charged for its return by the very thieves who stole it.

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All Alone

It’s the middle of ALS Awareness Month. Individuals have been doing an excellent job of pushing awareness in their local circles. This includes pet groomers holding awareness and fundraising events,


people putting up extensive Pinterest boards,

ALS can affect everyone

and people creating their own video PSAs


in an attempt to reach out to and educate others who aren’t already personally affected by ALS.
I would like to call special attention to my friends at Bed & Biscuits who are doing a local event at their store. Owner Laurie Chadwick and husband moved to Oregon to care for their son Rob after he was diagnosed with ALS. She keeps her business going and does the event mentioned above a few times a year. This is a truly remarkable effort and I hope my readers in the area would take their furry (non-human) children down for a nail trimming to support this event.
There is a lot of action happening by PALS, CALS, and friends. There are even concerned corporate entities trying to make a difference. What is noticeably absent is a national effort by a certain representative organization. This multi-million dollar annual budget organization went to the trouble of creating a rather good PSA featuring Jason Alexander (of “Seinfeld” and other famous work). However, instead of pushing it aggressively on national television, the organization asks those it represents to send around a link via email and social media. This half-baked distribution strategy is clearly unacceptable and example of how the organization works in every area of its operations. This organization can be better, should be better, and we should demand that it be better.
It’s National ALS Awareness Month. Crippled and dying people and their families are exerting considerable energy trying to help themselves. Organizations that collect millions of dollars in donations (approximately half of it from the estimated 30,000 PALS alive during any given year) should be doing more to educate the general public than their individual constituents.

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It’s ALS Awareness Month. As per usual, certain advocacy agencies are content with passive website pages and extolling their constituents to do the heavy lifting of spreading the word (a practice that has dramatic fall-off beyond the tiny individual circles of family and close friends). The agencies bleed enough contributions from the constituency to pay salaries and provide token services (with no consistency between Chapters). Meanwhile, The general public is still unaware and uninformed about the deadly lottery that is ALS.

Up until very recently, ALS was a disease of silence. As Person(s) with ALS (PALS) progressed, they lost their abilities to communicate and mingle in their communities. Very quickly they were shut away in homes or hospitals to die in mute angst with a capable mind trapped in an inert body.

With the advent of social media, as well as the technology of mobile computers with eye-tracking input systems and text-to-speech synthesis, PALS are able to compete on an even footing in cyberspace with more physically capable people. Many of these PALS are in serious medical conditions such as near total paralysis with some on mechanical ventilation via tracheotomy. As the astrophysicist and PALS Stephen Hawking said, “My body may be crippled but my mind is free.” Tech-savvy PALS are able to use combinations of technology to dramatically increase their standard of living, to contribute to research about the disease, and even band together to lobby government to speed up access to promising pharmaceuticals. As wonderfully-explained in a recent forbes.com article, “Technology is the cure” (thanks to Steve Saling for coining that phrase).

On a personal note, technology is saving my life. Many years ago my father was in the US Air Force flying support missions for the Apollo moon flights. On occasion I would be in ARIA control watching technicians tending to walls of huge computers. I thought that was the neatest thing ever. Years later, I was blessed to turn a childhood hobby (began when I commandeered my dad’s IBM PC in 1980) into my career, and I now have in front of me more computing power than all the Apollo vehicles combined.

When I was diagnosed, I knew that my ability to communicate was going to disappear. Knowing that hands-free computer technology existed, and already having a long-term presence in “cyberspace”, I knew that I would be able to be social and productive as my physical ability declined. This was paramount in my decision to accept mechanical ventilation. Without the ability for my mind to escape my physical confinement, I would have years ago allowed myself to succumb to ALS. Instead I have remained active and have had the extraordinary privilege to meet and participate in the global ALS Community.

Unsatisfied with the level of advocacy and awareness generated by organizations with that as their claimed mission, PALS in the global ALS Community are taking it upon themselves to increase awareness and advocacy, and are placing pressure on those representative organizations to change old operating procedures. Other organizations representing other medical conditions are very vocal and aggressive in public awareness (the foundation of funding and national priority for research) and this new group of PALS demand commensurate action from the organizations representing them. The new computer technologies, mobile devices with apps, and ubiquitous connection to the Internet and social media allows PALS to congregate, exchange ideas, and mobilize. No longer are they shut away and forgotten.

This month, are aware or are you just a ware for fundraising that does little?

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Public Service Announcement

This is a little video I put together. It was a bit of work to do with my optical tracking system. I need your help getting it distributed so please share via Facebook, Twitter, email, whatever.

Some may wonder why I didn’t mention the ALS Association (ALSA). ALSA to this date refuses to mount a national PSA campaign like other more successful organizations, so I did my own. The two organizations I did mention I feel are more effective. But this is really about awareness so please help me and many others get the word out.