7 January 2013

New Year's wishes for 2013

Andrew Byrne’s greeting: busy with family matters; less time for journal summaries; depressed by ‘big pharma’ tactics; occupied with mosque and synagogue events; look forward with gusto to 2013.

Dear Colleagues,

The year 2012 was one I did not expect to get to, being my eighth whole year after treatment for advanced lymphoma. This year my partner Allan and I have relocated to the charming Southern Highlands town of Bowral. I still live in Sydney Wed to Sat as I continue to work at the Redfern surgery. My father John died in May aged 85 following an operation. As executor I have been busy dealing with a lot of material and emotional things. With my four wonderful sibs (one temporarily in New York) we have still enjoyed another festive season relatively intact.

Some of you will know that I have been despondent at the widespread acceptance of drug company advertising that a certain combination drug is preferable to the pure form and that a new and largely untested (in the field) film formulation is ‘better’ than the tablets. Neither combination form has been made available in the smallest size (0.4mg) which is the modality most useful for those on final reductions to abstinence. A cynic might think that the company is not interested in that market. Neither combination form is suitable for pregnant women (or those who may become pregnant in my view) yet there is talk of the pure drug being withdrawn altogether even before generics have been approved. It is indeed depressing but these marketing tactics do not just affect our field but are to be found across the medical spectrum where less effective but far more costly products are pushed only as long as they are profitable.

My continuing involvement in comparative religions has almost become a recreation after several years. Yet each time I think I have cracked a ‘secret Semitic code’ I invariably find that I am up another blind alley and need to start again. Arabic and Hebrew are quite difficult, making Cantonese seem easy in my book (clue: the latter is musical).

Some of my greatest joys during 2012 have been re-reading The Merchant of Venice and listening to Gotterdamerung (Wagner's final Ring opera). While I have still not encompassed the details of either, I adore delving at random into the beauty of either work, marvelling at the genius involved in their geneses. Apart from their complex character interactions and racial overtones, there is also a court-room drama, concealed identities, double crossing and a murder on stage.  Interestingly, both plots revolve around the default of a sub-prime mortgage of sorts (over Valhalla and Antonio’s merchant ships respectively).

Wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2013 from Andrew Byrne ..

My first summary for the New Year is a guide for clinical urine toxicology testing aimed at general practitioners (see home page).