The Healthy Skeptics February 2021 Newsletter
A. These are amazing and challenging times
B. How to navigate the information overload
C. Yes. There are still people claiming that the pandemic is a hoax.
II. Vaccine update
A. Facts and folly
B. Q & A
III. Therapeutics update
A. Monoclonal antibodies
C. What to avoid
IV. Altea Health Sciences
A. Philosophy and mission
B. Research and product development
V. Product News
A. MMIS: Even stronger
B. New and improved MOJO for Dogs, with a new name
C. February sale items
2. CBD-280 Cream
3 Relief XL Pain Gel
D. Coming in March
2. Name this exciting product contest
Over 500 new people signed up for this newsletter after a FaceBook post where I explained how RNA vaccines work. This promoted a barrage of comments from people who claimed – without evidence – that the two RNA vaccines in use today:
- lower antibody levels and make the infection worse
- cause permanent damage to your DNA
- contain aborted fetal tissue and mercury
- are part of a global population control conspiracy
None of these alarming statements are true, yet they proliferate on social media because lies generally travel farther and faster than truth. I coined the term webaloney in 2006, when I saw how rapidly fake health information spread on FaceBook. Natalie and I started The Healthy Skeptics in 2016, with the tag line: What to Explore, What to Ignore. At that time, there were only a handful of fake health sites. Today, there are hundreds, dumping webaloney into your news feed or inbox. Every time you click on one of their “news reports” to hear about a spectacular “breakthrough,” or a hidden danger (like your microwave oven or electric toothbrush) these sites make money. The result is that I believe social media is useless as a source of accurate and meaningful health information. So our new tag line is:
What’s your plan?
Our plan is to spend more time and energy serving our Members and subscribers. There’s a mountain of information produced every day that needs to be evaluated and reported. No one knows everything, but together we bring 70 years of academic, research and clinical experience to the effort. Feel free to disagree, but come with evidence, preferably from published biomedical research. Best place for dialog is Stephen’s email: StephenCherniske108@gmail.com. Let’s get started.
Yes, there are still people posting that COVID-19 is a hoax. Usually, they start by claiming that 99.5% of people survive, so what’s the big deal? Feel free to cut and paste this reply:
First of all, the 99.5% is a number someone invented. The exact mortality rate of COVID-19 in the United States isn’t yet known. Outcomes depend on many factors, from the level of strain on the health care system to an infected person’s health history and age. Generally, the number accepted by health experts is a 1% mortality rate. To some, that may sound trivial, but a 1% mortality rate means that it’s 10-times more lethal than the seasonal flu. A 1% mortality rate means between 700,000 and 1.5 million dead – roughly the population of Washington, D.C., on the low end or the entire population of Hawaii on the high end.
- Vaccine Update
Of course we should be concerned. These vaccines, as well as a number of promising treatments, have been rushed to market in response to rising death rates and overwhelmed health care systems. As I have stated in previous newsletters, Natalie and I are carefully tracking side effect and efficacy data on the vaccines. So far, adverse events and efficacy are the same as observed in the clinical trials.
- About 80 percent report pain at the injection site
- About half report tiredness and headache
- Less than one-third (30 percent) experience muscle pain
- Most side effects occur within two days of getting the vaccine and last about a day.
- Side effects are more common among people 55 years or older.
- Side effects are more common after the second dose.
- People with a history of allergies, especially severe reactions known as anaphylaxis, should be monitored for at least 30 minutes after being vaccinated.
Q: What about the video of a nurse who got Bell’s palsy after getting vaccinated?
A: Bell’s palsy is a condition that causes a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face. It can occur when the nerve that controls your facial muscles becomes inflamed, swollen, or compressed. It can be caused by a viral infection, a pinched nerve resulting from injury or a vaccine. Importantly, it usually resolves in days or weeks, as the inflammation subsides, and there is no indication that the rate of Bells palsy is higher in people who are vaccinated compared to the general population.
REF: West J Med. 2000 Oct; 173(4): 266–268. Clinical Evidence. Bell’s palsy. Anthony Marson and Rodrigo Salinas
Q: I read that the Moderna vaccine was equally effective at half the recommended dose. Can I request that?
A: You read it right. Data from Moderna’s phase II clinical trials demonstrated that people between the ages of 18 and 55 who received two 50-microgram doses showed an “identical immune response” to the standard of two 100-microgram doses. Unfortunately, there is disagreement about what to do with that information. Operation Warp Speed Chief Advisor Moncef Slaoui likes the idea because it would stretch the available vaccine supply. The National Institutes of Health just announced that it will work with Moderna to further examine the efficacy data. But the FDA has rejected the idea of halving the dose. In a statement released January 9, the agency said that while changing the dosage is worth future consideration, “suggesting changes to the FDA-authorized dosing or schedules of these vaccines is premature.” Bottom line: you cannot request a half-dose at this time.
Q: Will the vaccines work against the new mutated SARS-CoV-2 strains?
A: So far, the answer appears to be yes. There are three separate variants that are being tested. One from the U.K, another from South Africa, and most recently a variant from Brazil. The more transmissible U.K. strain doesn’t seem to affect the efficacy of the vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna at all. But the South Africa and Brazil variants share a trio of particularly worrisome mutations.
New data from Moderna suggest that vaccine-induced antibodies do not bind to the South African variant as well as they do to the common North American virus, but they still provide meaningful protection. That’s because the vaccine usually stimulates many times more antibodies than the minimum necessary to protect against infection.
Moderna is currently looking into how an additional shot of its vaccine or an updated booster based on the South Africa strain could provide better protection. Stay tuned.
Bottom Line: We have been co-evolving with pathogens since the beginning of time, in a cat and mouse drama that, more than a few times, nearly wiped out our species. We’re still here NOT because of modern medicine (barely a century old) but because of the incredible resilience of the human immune system.
It’s incredibly disappointing to see – week after week – so little attention paid to ways to support natural immunity. There are sparse reports on the importance of Vitamin D, but no guidance is given regarding testing for blood levels. Without knowing your serum vitamin D level, there is no way to determine the proper dose needed to maintain this critical vitamin/ hormone in the optimal range. Research strongly supports this to be from 45 to 95 ng/mL . For an in-depth view, read The Metabolic Plan, chapter 6: Illness, Immunity and Metabolism. For the month of February, we’ll send you a free copy with any product order over $200.
For our latest anti-viral nutrition recommendations go here:
III. Therapeutics Update
- Monoclonal Antibody infusions
REMINDER: Natalie and I do not receive any remuneration from any drug company. We do not own stock in Eli Lilly or Regeneron. This is important information about two drugs that are showing promise in keeping COVID patients out of the hospital. MABs have been used in the treatment of President Trump and a raft of Congresspeople and celebrities. The federal Government (Dept. of Health and Human Services) has given more than half a million doses to hospitals and medical facilities nationwide. But the states have been slow to use these infusions because they are new. And anything new requires… accurate information and education. That includes hospital administrators, doctors, nurses and now you.
What are MABs and how do they work?
In response to infection, your immune system produces antibodies. Some antibodies attack the pathogen directly. Other times, the antibody tags the pathogen so that other immune cells will destroy it. Early in the COVID pandemic, scientists searched for antibodies in the blood of survivors. I’m happy to report that some individuals that we counseled were part of this discovery process. Once the researchers learned how these anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies worked, they went to work to create identical synthetic antibodies that could be given to infected individuals to limit the severity of the infection. When Phase I clinical trials confirmed efficacy, they then developed the technology to make billions of copies. Thus the name mono-clonal antibodies. If you’re freaked out by the idea of producing synthetic proteins, please understand that synthetic proteins (including hormones, drugs and even some nutritional products) have been in use for decades.
Who are candidates for this infusion?
Until last week, only people with a positive COVID antigen test who were showing symptoms, were eligible. A new study was just conducted with Eli Lilly’s drug, bamlanivimab, to see if the drug could stop infections before they started. It was an unusual experiment: In trucks equipped with mobile labs, medical staff sped to nursing homes the moment a single infection was detected there. As soon as the workers arrived, they set up temporary infusion centers to administer the drug.
Our take: We have first-hand evidence from trusted colleagues that bamlanivimab is extremely effective for infected individuals, with marked symptom improvement in less than 24 hours. But its preventive use should be limited to the extremely vulnerable, such as nursing home patients.
Are there side effects?
As with any IV infusion, there can be irritation or pain at the injection site. In addition, the activation of immunity may produce fatigue and a transient fever. Importantly, only a single infusion is normally needed.
What’s the difference between a COVID vaccine and a MAB infusion?
MAB drugs provide passive immunity by giving the body antibodies that act against the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein. Vaccines provide active immunity by stimulating the body to generate its own antibodies. Also, MAB drugs are designed to start working faster than vaccines, whereas vaccines provide more long-lasting protection.
Where do I go to learn if I am a candidate for a MAB infusion?
Contact your health department. They will direct you to a hospital or infusion center. If you are a doctor, hospital or urgent care center and want to participate in this HHS program, contact your state health Department. In Washington state, the MAB coordinator is Jennifer Dixon. Jennifer.Dixon@doh.wa.gov
For more detailed information:
This antiparasitic agent, developed by Merck & Co., has been used in veterinary medicine for more than 30 years. It has a wide spectrum of activity, high efficacy and wide margin of safety.
The first formulation for human use was launched in the 1980’s, when Merck discovered that ivermectin was effective against onchocerciasis, a parasitic infection that causes disfiguring skin lesions and blindness.
SC Editorial: For centuries, onchocerciasis or river blindness plagued wide areas of Africa, Central and South America. As soon as clinical trials were completed, Merck announced that the drug would be provided at no cost to treat onchocerciasis, anywhere in the world, for as long as it was needed. To date, Merck has donated over 12 billion doses and brought relief to hundreds of millions. Mention this when someone harps on the evils of Big Pharma.
I was given Ivermectin after returning from New Guinea in 1983. Concerned about its safety, I looked into the mode of action, and was relieved to find that it did not work by poisoning the parasite, but by boosting immunity and interfering with the replication of a wide variety of organisms.
Fast forward to the Covid-19 pandemic when some brilliant epidemiologists, noticed extremely low SARS-CoV-2 infection rates in countries where ivermectin was widely used. Now, association does not prove cause and effect, but ivermectin had already been used against several RNA viruses including Zika virus, Influenza A, Newcastle disease virus, Chikungunya virus, Yellow fever, Dengue fever, and Japanese encephalitis. So research teams went to work. In June, 2020, ivermectin was shown to reduce mortality in hospitalized patients.
REF: ICON (Ivermectin in COvid Nineteen) Study: use of ivermectin is associated with lower mortality in hospitalized patients with COVID-19. SSRN. 2020 Jun 16 doi: 10.2139/ssrn.3631261. Rajter JC, et al.
Importantly, it was found to be effective at a low dose (15 to 20 mg 2-3 times a day) in the early stages of infection.
REF: Heidary F, Ivermectin Gharebaghi R. a systematic review from antiviral effects to COVID-19 complementary regimen. J Antibiot (Tokyo) 2020;73:593–602. doi: 10.1038/s41429-020-0336-z.
After which at least one progressive medical group started including ivermectin in their standard COVID protocol.
Bottom line: There have been a number of off-label drugs touted for the treatment of COVID-19, most notably hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug. In that case, adverse side effects and questionable efficacy silenced promotors. Ivermectin, on the other hand, has a long history of use for a wide variety of pathogens. It has a remarkable safety profile, is effective at low doses, and is dirt cheap. What’s more, it has been used successfully both to treat and prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection.
How to get a prescription for Ivermectin
On January 27, I called my primary care provider to request a prescription. I was told that new drug prescriptions require a doctor visit, and that a doc (not my PCP) could see me the next day. So off I went on Jan 28th armed with all of the supporting research, including the clinical protocol already being used by a large medical group in Virginia. I knew the exact drug, the precise dose and was willing to pay out of pocket.
The doc listened to my request, glanced at the published research, and announced that the FDA has not approved ivermectin for Covid-19. “I’m aware of that,” I replied, “but you are allowed to prescribe the drug for off -label use, and you have the safety and efficacy data in your hands.”
Needless to say, I did not walk out with a prescription. But I believe that this is worth pursuing. If enough well-informed people show up with reliable biomedical data, we might be able to find progressive doctors willing to write prescriptions. Fortunately, ongoing research continues to add to the safety and efficacy data.
Warning: A few “enterprising” doctors are charging outrageous sums – like $500 for a “consultation” – after which they write you a prescription, which the pharmacy in your state may or may not fill. AVOID.
Bottom line. Health care should always be about risk vs reward. Whether or not a particular intervention is FDA approved or “standard of care,” doctors should base decisions on the risk/ reward ratio. In the case of ivermectin, the risk is nearly zero, since large doses have been safely used with tens of millions of people. At the same time, smaller doses have been shown to mitigate Covid disease severity and might even be used to prevent infection.
- Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2021 Jan;57(1):106248.
A COVID-19 prophylaxis? Lower incidence associated with prophylactic administration of ivermectin
Martin D Hellwig , Anabela Maia
Full text available here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33259913/
- Trials. 2020 Jun 8;21(1):498. The SARS-CoV-2 Ivermectin Navarra-ISGlobal Trial (SAINT) to Evaluate the Potential of Ivermectin to Reduce COVID-19 Transmission in low risk, non-severe COVID-19 patients in the first 48 hours after symptoms onset: A structured summary of a study protocol for a randomized control pilot trial. Carlos Chaccour, et al
Results just published (prior to peer review)
The effect of early treatment with ivermectin on viral load, symptoms and humoral response in patients with mild COVID-19: a pilot, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial
Carlos Chaccour, Aina Casellas, et al.
Summary: All subjects had COVID symptoms when recruited. Half received a single oral dose of ivermectin (400 mcg/kg: roughly 25-30 mg). The other half received placebo. The ivermectin group had lower median viral loads at days 4 and 7 post treatment as well as lower median IgG titers at day 21 post treatment. Loss of sense of smell (Hyposmia/anosmia) and cough were less frequent in the ivermectin group.
Conclusion: Among patients with mild COVID-19 receiving a single 400 mcg/kg dose of ivermectin within 48 hours of fever or cough onset, there was a marked reduction of anosmia/hyposmia, a reduction of cough and a tendency to lower viral loads and lower IgG titers which warrants assessment in larger trials.
Full text available here:
We do NOT recommend:
Two new drugs, called tocilizumab and sarilumab, currently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, are getting a lot of press.
Why: Hyper-inflammation, whereby the immune system goes into overdrive and causes organ damage, is how Covid-19 tends to kill. Corticosteroid drugs like dexamethasone have been used, but adverse side effects become serious and more numerous with long-term use. Tocilizumab and sarilumab are IV drugs touted to be more effective because they selectively target IL-6, a protein that stokes the immune response and has been prominent in patients with Covid-19.
What the popular press – and even medical news – fails to mention is that the best clinical trial conducted so far demonstrates only modest efficacy (a moderate reduction in ventilator use) but a higher rate of death in the treatment group compared to placebo.
“Death from any cause by day 28 occurred in 10.4% of the patients in the tocilizumab group and 8.6% of those in the placebo group.”
REF: Tocilizumab in Patients Hospitalized with Covid-19 Pneumonia. N Engl J Med 2021; 384:20-30. Carlos Salama, et al.
Now, the $64,000 question: Is there a natural compound that is known to reduce IL-6; that has been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus; and does not increase one’s odds of dying?
Most of you know the answer:
Here are two (of more than a dozen) published studies to share with your doctor.
- Mech Ageing Dev. 1997 Feb;93(1-3):15-24.
IL-6, DHEA and the ageing process James K, et al.
- J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Jun;83(6):2012-7. Serum DHEA and DHEA sulfate are negatively correlated with serum interleukin-6 (IL-6), and DHEA inhibits IL-6 secretion from mononuclear cells in man: possible link between endocrinosenescence and immunosenescence. R H Straub, et al.
Too early to tell
A compound called Aplidin, from a rare marine sea squirt, is now in the news as a potential COVID-19 treatment. Researchers say it is 27.5 times more effective than remdesivir in human cells in the lab. Of course, it’s a long journey from a petri dish to a human clinical trial. And so far, all we have is a study with mice. One potential disadvantage: it would have to be administered in a hospital. Full text available here:
Altea Health Sciences
We are partners devoted to providing accurate and actionable information to health conscious individuals. Natalie is a board-certified Family Medicine physician and I’m a research biochemist. You can check us out at: https://my2048.com/about-us/ or https://TheHealthySkeptics.com.
All of our videos are archived on My2048.com, and a VIP Membership option is available on TheHealthySkeptics.com
Please consider our products.
We are small, and choose to remain small in order to better serve our health seeker community. We have no desire to compete with Amazon or your local health food store. So you won’t find a long list of vitamins, minerals and conventional products. Instead, we specialize in unique and cutting edge products that you won’t find in health food stores.
Well, there is one exception. When it became clear that COVID-19 disease included an extremely high risk for abnormal clotting, we went looking for a premium fish oil product that we could recommend to our members. Purity and potency were the main concerns. Product had to be free of lead, mercury and PCB’s and that had to be guaranteed by third party testing. Regarding potency, we were looking for a product that provided at least 900 mg of EPA and 600 mg of DHEA per three capsule dose. We found a few excellent products but were surprised by the price, and thought we could do better. We ended up contracting with the largest fish oil producer in Iceland, and are now able to offer 90 gelcaps of Icelandic Omega-3 fish oil for $24.50 retail, and Member price: $22. In a two-pack, the cost is only $22.50 retail and $19.98 for Members.
NOTE: Membership is available for $99/year at TheHealthySkeptics.com, which gives you product discounts and free shipping). Since we also offer CBD products on that site, the checkout uses an e-check system known as Green.money. Since some of our customers don’t have checking accounts, and some prefer to use a credit card, we created My2048.com. That site offers all of the Healthy Skeptics / Altea products except the CBD products, and uses a standard credit card checkout.
- MMIS (Multi-mushroom Immune Support)
We were able to obtain a reliable supply of Turkey Tail concentrate, botanical name: Coriolus versicolor. This medicinal mushroom, like the other MMIS ingredients, has a five thousand year history of use, as well as a mountain of published research. We were able to add 100 mg of Coriolus concentrate per capsule, with only a slight increase in price:
Retail: $39.95 for 60 capsules
MMIS Ingredients: Each capsule provides:
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) 200 mg
- Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) 100 mg
- Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) 100 mg
- Turkey Tail (Coriolus versicolor) 100 mg
- Pure 1,3/1,6 Beta glucan 60 mg
NEW! MMIS Canisters available February 15.
Ordinarily, we recommend 2 capsules of MMIS per day to keep your immune system “on its toes,” and 4 capsules at the first sign of infection. But these are not ordinary times, and customer reports of remarkable benefits from higher doses gave us the idea of providing this product in a canister.
One canister is equal to 3 botttles of capsules. One level tsp = 4 capsules.
Stir a tsp into a glass of hot (not boiling) water or add to any beverage or soup.
Upgrade and new name for Mojo for Dogs
We were unable to obtain a trademark for Mojo for Dogs. So the new name is Doggysterone™. In addition, we have replaced the cranberry seed extract with a more powerful antioxidant from Aronia berry.
The research support for Aronia is stellar, including a wider variety and much higher amounts of polyphenols even compared to blueberry. By the way, we’re also using Aronia now in Joint Venture, and here is a recent study on the anti-viral benefits of Aronia:
Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2013 Oct 11;440(1):14-9. Aronia melanocarpa and its components demonstrate antiviral activity against influenza viruses. Sehee Park, et al.
February Sale items
The February theme (in keeping with New Year resolutions) is “Up your Game.” And to make exercise easier and more enjoyable, nothing beats
1. KYSO™ (Knock Your Socks Off).
KYSO is a powdered sports beverage that safely dilates blood vessels and improves circulation to muscles, heart and brain. For full product description, go here:
Enjoy a 10% discount on KYSO single or three-pack through March 1st.
2. CBD 280 Cream
And if you’re going to be more active or training harder, we want to make sure you don’t experience stiffness or soreness the next day. So enjoy a 10% discount on CBD 280 Cream through March 1st.
3. Relief XL Pain Gel
And a 20% discount on Relief XL pain gel.
Retail: $23.95 or a three-pack for $65.00
Member: $19.95 or a three-pack for $55.00
Coming March 1st
X•Altea™ A powdered superfood with clinically proven benefits:
- Mind, mood and Vital Energy: from:
- 330 mg of Arginine Alpha-ketoglutarate
- 2 mg Pyridoxal-5-phosphate
- 10 mg CoQ10
- 580 mg Inositol
- 2,000 mg D-Ribose
- 500 mg organic beet concentrate
Antioxidant and anti-inflammation from 2,000 mg of Altea’s best-in-the-industry superfruit concentrate, including:
- Maqui berry
- Jabuticaba berry
Mix 3 Tbsp (30g) in a shaker bottle with 600 mL warm water. Shake well. This makes six 100 mL servings. Adults can drink one or two servings per day. Can be refrigerated for up to 7 days.
For a single serving, add 1 rounded tsp (5g) to a glass of water or the beverage of your choice.
* Name this exciting product contest
If you have read The Metabolic Makeover, you know that Natalie and I consider fitness to be the cornerstone of health, wellness and longevity. Virtually all of our products are designed to make exercise easier and more enjoyable, and to relieve any discomfort that may result.
This new product is a unique approach to the multiple needs of athletes and weekend warriors over 40:
- Zen focus: with Alpha GPC (L-Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine) and guarana. NOTE: both ingredients have been found (at doses provided) to enhance memory, concentration, mood, information processing speed and reaction time.
- Joint comfort: with Univestin™ and Amlexin™, two patented, clinically proven plant based anti-inflammatories)
- Prevention of over-use injuries (by reducing inflammation)
- Vital Energy: from Arginine Alpha-ketoglutarate, guarana and CoQ10
Each capsule contains:
- Alpha GPC 100 mg
- Univestin™ plant-based anti-inflammatory: 75 mg
- Amlexin™ plant-based anti-inflammatory 75 mg
- Arginine Alpha Ketoglutarate 200 mg
- Guarana 75 mg
- CoQ10 10 mg
Instructions for use:
Take one or two capsules about 30 minutes before exercise or competition. Do not take after 4:PM
NOTE: First level benefits (focus, energy) will be experienced right away, but second level benefits (joint comfort, memory, cognition) may take a few days and are cumulative.
Our focus group (men and women age 40 to 70) had fantastic results. We have production scheduled for February 15. Label is ready for printing, so we need a name NOW. Send your product name idea to StephenCherniske108@gmail.com with subject line CONTEST. If we choose your name, you win a three month supply of this life-changing product.