Saturday, July 24, 2010

Impreza ploughs into 18 cyclists - or, why should you stick a christmas tree in the middle of a highway?

Early this morning a Subaru Impreza ploughed into a swarm of cyclists on the West Coast Highway, injuring 5 of them, but thankfully no fatal injuries. Even without further investigations, I would be pretty confident to say the driver was at fault. There is really no reason for a car to tear into bunch of 18 cyclists. One of the cyclists pointed out that there was no way the driver couldn't have seen them as there so many of them and they would have been lit up like a 'Christmas tree'. Was the driver drunk? Don't know, but we'll find out soon enough.

Though my sympathies are with the cyclists, there are a number of things I am not comfortable with. Firstly, should this swarm of peloton cyclists be on the West Coast Highway in the first place? The law on this is somewhat grey. It is clear that the law forbids cycling on expressways, but it is a bit unclear if this applies to the WCH. Cycling fora argue that a highway is not an expressway, so cycling is not forbidden on the WCH. But on the other hand, the LTA lists the WCH as a semi-expressway, implying that the law would likely look at the WCH as an expressway, thus cycling on the WCH is not allowed...which makes sense because it is actually a very fast and busy highway.

Secondly, is a swarm of cyclists legal? We see this more and more often. Just this morning, after my mandatory pilgrimage to the fast disappearing wet-market, I encountered a similar swarm of Sunday cyclists riding 3 and 4 abreast.... I wasn't too pleased but because the road was quite empty at that time of day, I was quite content not to let them spoil my day. But the law actually is quite explicit about this issue. I quote from Chapter 276, Section 140 of the Road Traffic (Bicycles) Rules: (1)No bicycle shall be ridden on the right of another vehicle proceeding in the same direction except when overtaking such other vehicle. (2) No bicycle shall be ridden on the right of any two other bicycles proceeding abreast in the same direction except when overtaking such other bicycles or on parts of roads or paths set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

So the cyclists were actually breaking the law.

So yes, the driver was at fault for running into these cyclists, but the cyclists should 'fess up to being somewhat reckless, irresponsible, and somewhat lacking in common sense. The traffic police has I believe been a bit too soft on cyclists who are clearly breaking the law, especially with respect to the above two points.

And my appeal to cyclists is this....please show some common sense.... it is fine to claim you are as lit up as a Christmas tree, but really, does it make any sense to stick the Christmas tree in the middle of a highway?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An act of God?......sez who?

It is pretty much of in our human nature to claim credit for the good things that happen and blame God for all the bad stuff. Take the recent flood for example. The flood mitigation efforts are all credits and kudos to PUB, but when floods occur, it's an "act of God", no less.

It kinda made me wonder where this expression came from. Actus Dei. Not much help from my fav source of knowledge, Wikipedia. Phrase Finder tells us that it originated from religious texts dating back to the 13thC CE. Not a particularly enlightened period of european history. It apparently began to appear in legal documents in the 19thC.

I would actually prefer the other phase "vis majeur" refering to a "superior force of such a degree that no effective resistance can be made to it". No need to blame God. Our own stupidity, ignorance, incompetence or negligence can also be that superior force.

On another note, I was also wondering what that term meant to atheists, who clearly do not believe in God. Actus Dei? Or actus non-humanus....., or simply, 'whatever it is, don't blame me'.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Avandia bites the dust - oh, but not quite...

So the FDA advisory panel has finally come out to put a finger on the antidiabetic drug Avandia. Or has it?

The drug has been under scrutiny since about 2007, and it has been increasingly been associated with increasing risks of heart attacks. Now the FDA says yes the evidence is clear enough for an expanded warning to be included, but not clear enough for the drug to be yanked off the market. GSK, makers of the drug apparently didn't do a good job generating safety data. FDA expert, Dr David Graham was quoted as saying the GSK RECORD trial was "garbage". Furthermore, GSK apparently withheld information, and submitted poor data, including patient deaths, of patients on Avandia. GSK has already agreed to settle over US$400 million of lawsuits.

In the light of all this, the FDA appears to be waffling a whole lot in not wanting to withdraw the drug. Benefits outweigh the risk appears to be the mantra. Certainly the mantra being chanted by GSK sources.

But this is really not the point....

The critical issue should be whether the drug is as effective and as safe than alternative options. A Japanese (Takeda) alternative, Actos currently appears to do the same job but without associations of increased heart attack risks. So Anadia currently stands as a worse option. It is also not a case of patients currently on Avandia being forced out into a vacuum, should the drug be withdrawn. There are safer alternatives.

So FDA's pussyfooting round the issue is hard to comprehend. To what extent one wonders, is this wanting to allow GSK to recover as much of the drug development costs as possible. The bulk of pharma's drug development cost is recovered in the first few decade post registration. Despite falling sales, every year of delay in taking the drug off the market is a big pot on money for the company.

Let's hope other regulatory agencies, including our own HSA, will be a bit less muddleheaded.