Thursday, 27 January 2011

More harm than good?

‘Are statins effective for the millions of people who take them?’ asked the BBC last week in response to recent research findings proposed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The Daily Telegraph website claims that millions of patients are taking statins 'needlessly', with an apparently greater potential to experience more harm than good. Whilst talking to an older relative prescribed Simvastatin for primary prevention during the week, my opinion on the matter was asked.

A collection of evidence based medicine, lipid lowering drugs, research skills critical appraisal and patient counselling lectures sprung vaguely to mind. After the briefest of conversations with my housemate and fellow third year pharmacy student, I came to the earth shattering conclusion ‘it’s probably fine’. But when isn’t this sort of thing a somewhat grey area? If there’s such a thing as exact science I doubt we’ll find it when weighing up the risks/benefits of using statins for primary prevention.

After attending a workshop on cardiovascular risk assessment this week, I told my aforementioned relative to check out two equally crude cardiovascular risk calculators online. Have a look yourself (try or ), or play with the epic smiley face patient decision aid tools found here .

I can’t face delving into hard facts and numbers to investigate the matter further. However, I did scroll down the heated (by no means representative) barrage of online responses to the Telegraph’s slightly sensationalist take on things. It's clear that media attention of this nature has a direct implication for pharmacy practice. Patients have concerns, and generally want to know what’s going into their bodies and why. Patients need to be assured that healthcare professionals care about the outcome of drug therapy from every day patient perspectives.

We should be ready to address seriously all of the worries patients have about side effects and any long term risks that arise. The more we encourage patients to get involved in decisions about their care, the less likely people will be asking questions like ‘Are all the profs doing statin research working at Norwich Uni and hiding all the evidence?’. Genuine,quote of the day. As future pharmacists and healthcare professionals generally, we need to take some responsibility for helping patients and the public become better aware of medicine and healthcare issues relating to them, benefits, risks and all.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

'Glory, Hallelujah...There is no God?'

Some familiar questions..

As a christian, music lover and sometimes a performer, where do I stand when I consider the songs I will sing? Does it matter if I swear on stage? Am I comprimising my core beliefs by singing secular songs blatantly opposed to what I believe is true? Or am I to enter into the spirit of performance, suck it up and get over it all? To what extent do I need to believe the words of the songs I sing?

The subject has been brought back to my mind quite sharply, by a favourite musician of mine. I often think to the songs of Frank Turner when considering all this nonsense.

The reason why we love the words to other people's songs, is because they can resonate with our own lives, who we are, what we believe and whatever situations we might be experiencing. Frank Turner seems to write about reality.
Just about half of what he writes resonates strongly with my life as twenty year old girl who loves people, music, grabbing life by it's throat and living it to pieces (his words there, not mine). Like most of my friends of all faiths and none, I seek justice, I have my views on politics, and I'm keen to see (and have at least some minor influence on) how society turns out around me. The other half of what Frank Turner writes (predominately the bits which include yelling lines such as 'definitely going to hell..etc), as a Christian I simply wholeheartedly disagree with.

The song which has brought this epic discussion to my mind is the ironicly titled 'Glory Hallelujah' which launches after a while into an enormous chorus of 'there is no God'. It's a great song, but as a follower of Jesus, there's no way I can personally justify singing this line in any context. This was an easy, quick decision and hardly surprising since there is nothing subtle about the song which is undisputedly contradictary to biblical truth, and clearly the singer's most overt expression of disagreement with the christian faith. However, I don't by any means think this song should necessarily by cited as Frank Turner's most contraversial set of lyrics when considering the claims of Christianity.

What about the track 'I still believe'? It's another good tune, a rousing chorus with words concluding 'Now who'd have thought, that after all, something as simple as rock and roll could save us all?'.

Don't get me wrong, I love 'guitars and drums and desperate poetry' (although sometimes the latter is a little angsty), but is Rock and Roll going to be the one thing which defines my entire belief system and identity? I love my dancing shoes, I love singing and making a joyful noise with the piano/guitar/accordian/violin/harp/whatever, but I can't pretend for a moment that it's this which will (in any context) save me.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.(Acts 16.25-31)

So thank you Frank for the challenge, and for the music- I really love it. But this is what I still believe. I love Rock and Roll, but how much greater and joyful it is to know my identity is found in Christ.

And, since I haven't earned my salvation, and I don't maintain my status before God by what I do, there are indeed no rules about which songs I can and can't sing as a christian. I have a love of music, a voice given to me by God and he will graciously grow my integrity if I let him and want to put his glory above my own. I needn't worry about trying to earn the love and forgiveness of God by what I do, only ask God to help me to recognise more and more that these things are already given to me in abundance as an uncomprehendable and undeserved favour through faith in Jesus Christ who died and rose alive again. Glory, Hallelujah!

Monday, 10 January 2011

I'm at the bus stop, having just had the following conversation with an unknown year 8 pupil.

Me: What did you have last lesson?

Student: English

Me: how was it?

Student: alright, we're doing The Simpsons

Me: *stunned into silence*

How, is that a thing?

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