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Medical mailbox.

When the smoke clears at Dow Chemical Company next year, the firm may have a lot fewer cigarette-smoking employees, thanks to the innovative Stop Smoking and Save program (SSS) that has won them the Benjamin Franklin Award.

Dow's freeport, Texas, division has 7,000 employees, of whom 2,178 are smokers. More than half the smokers have expressed their desire to quit smoking and are signing up for SSS in hopes of winning prizes, including one of several fabulous trips-for-two to exotic destinations.

To be fair, the company is inviting ex-smokers to join the fun as well. They can be eligible for prizes, too, by taking a smoking employee as a buddy and seeing to it that he or she does not smoke during the year. At the end of each smoking-free month, the smoker (now, hopefully, becoming a nonsmoker) and his buddy mayput their names in a monthly drawing for smaller prizes. At the end of the year, names will be drawn for the grand prizes. The more smoking-free months, the bigger the chance of getting a prize! Anyone who has reverted to smoking at the end of the year is ineligible to win a trip. As an added aid, any smoker who wishes may purchase a 96-pack box of Nicorettes for $5 (one-fourth the retail cost). The money is donated by Dow to the prize fund.

Nicorette is a nicotine-containing gum, available by prescription, that helps reduce the desire to smoke. It is being introduced in the United States this month by Dow.

Besides the gum, employees will also be using stop-smoking kits provided by the American Lung association. The employees are taking this project seriously and will submit to periodic checks with a carbon-monoxide-measuring device that will tell if they have been cheating. When they blow into a little balloon, those who aren't smoking will show only 8 parts per million or less of carbon monoxide, whereas smokers will kick it up to 30 or 40 parts per million carbon monoxide, Dow reports.

Our congratulations, with the Benjamin Franklin Award, go to Merrell Dow and to this program. May the best nonsmokers win! Even those who fail to capture a grand prize will still be winners.

For years U.S. doctors have been able to offer their smoking patients little more than advice and encouragement to help them shake their cigarette habits, but beginning this month, physicians have a new tool to aid them. They can prescribe a nicotine resin complex called Nicorette that has already been used in Europe and Canada for a number of years. Nicorette is manufactured in Sweden and marketed here by Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., a division of the Dow Chemical Company. It's the first such prescription product approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Nicorette is a chewing gum that provides blood levels of nicotine via absorption through the lining of the mouth. By chewing the gum when they feel like having a cigarette, smokers can experience a reduction of their nicotine-withdrawal symptons while avoiding the dangers of smoke inhalation: carbon monoxide, irritating gases and cacinogenic tars.

The gum contains no sugar. Its 2 mg nicotine content per piece (about the amount in two cigarettes) is derived from tobacco plants. Suspended inan ion exchange resin, the nicotine is released slowly as the gum is chewed.

Most smoking-cessation programs up to now have been able to focus only on removing the psychological components of cigarette addiction, but with the use of this gum, the actual physiological addiction to nicotine can also be diminished. Evidence has shown that this product can double the success rates of smoking-cessation programs, and in a double-blind study, twice as many participants who were chewing nicorette quit as did those who chewed a placebo that was only flavored with nicotine.

This quick nicotine fix may be just what the doctor ordered for some of the 55 million Americans who, despite all warnings, continue to smoke.

A Case for the Blues

A woman in Indianapolis just had surgery for removal of her kidney stones because she was afraid her Blue Cross insurance might not pay for the lithotripter surgery-free removal of her stones. Blue Cross and other insurers have not said they will pay for this procedure. Yet, if you asked all of the urologists in the country which method would be the safest, the easiest on the patient's health and would get her back to work faster, there would be a 100 percent concurrence that hands down, it would be the lithotripter.

This is an open letter from the Kidney Stone Formers Club to Blue Cross/Blue Shield and all similar organizations. Dear Health Insurers:

Rarely does such an opportunity occur to save money for the insurer and simultaneously curtail pain and suffering by avoiding surgery for the patient.

The average kidney-stone surgery probably costs in the area of $10,000. The new lithotripter now in operation in Indianapolis costs the patient less than half that because there is no surgery invoved. Urologists who make their living doing the kidney-stone surgeries are unanimously endorsing the brilliance of the new method, and it has been proved to be safe and effective in more than 1,000 cases in Germany.

Why should any persons be forced to undergo a less safe and more costly method of removing their stones only from fear that Blue Cross/Blue Shield or another insurer wouldn't pay for it because it is still classified by the FDA as an "investigational" announcement to all of your branch offices that you will cover lithotripsy as an alternative to surgery while the procedure is pending FDA trial in the United States.
 Sincerely yours,
 Cory SerVaas, M.D.
 Kidney Stone Formers Club

We urge all of our Kidney Stone Formers Club members and their friends to send a copy of our letter to their heath insurers to make sure that they realize the urgency of such a decision. Kidney-stone attacks can come on suddenly, and they're not elective surgery when they do.

There are 36 stone patients on the waiting list at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Other centers in Boston, Houston and Gainesville, Florida, have ordered the equipment. Stones must be in the kidney and less than 2 centimeters (slightly less than an inch) in diameter to be eligible for removal in the United States. Larger stones are being pulverized in Germany.

Herpes and Heart Attacks

Recently our old enemy, herpes, has once again raised its ugly head. Dr. Earl Benditt of the University of Washington in Seattle has found genetic material from a herpes virus in diseased human arteries removed during bypass surgery. Dr. Joseph Melnick, of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, found another of the herpes viruses in human arteries proided by Dr. Michael DeBakey, who had removed them during bypass operations.

Dr. Douglas Cines of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has told us he discovered in lab tests that antibodies and other substances produced by the body's immune system will clump onto arterial cells that have been infected with herpes viruses. The antibodies will not stick to cells that have not been infected.

And at Cornell University, researchers found that chickens fed a high-fat diet would develop severe hardening of the arteries if infected with a herpes virus. The virus they used is called Marek's disease virus, a leukemia-like disease found in chickens.

If atherosclerotic plaques are forming because of fat and the herpes virus, then we believe that a high-lysine/low-arginine diet might help prevent these plaques from forming and lessen the risk of heart attack.

We know that tribal Africans who don't eat our food don't have heart attacks even though they experience stress. An excellent diet for lowering cholesterol is the diet consumed in many Third World countries where maize, mealie meal, all forms of corn and other grains and vegetables are the primary food. These people don't have atherosclerosis problems. Unfortunately this diet is low in an amino acid, lysine, whic some physicians are finding prevents herpes recurrences. We know a growing number of reputable physicians have successs in preventing recurences of cold sores caused by the herpes virus simply by having their patients adhered to a high-lysine/low-arginine diet. Usually this involves taking supplemental lysine.

If cholesterol plaques in vessels are triggered by the herpes virus, then consuming a high-lysine/low-arginine diet with high-fiber/low-fat foods might be the best of all worlds. Again, the theory that the herpes virus just might be responsible for initiating the cholesterol plaques is yet unproven, but to be on the safe side, we're encouraging the use of high-lysine corn and lysine supplementation. A high-lysine diet can replace a meat dish without the danger of the protein deficiencies of regular corn.
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Title Annotation:includes smoking program, smoking-cessation gum, Blue Cross insurance, herpes research
Author:SerVaas, Cory
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:column
Date:Apr 1, 1984
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