AGNUS CASTUS – a cure for PMS, and why you won’t be able to get hold of it in Boots: An open letter to the European Medicines Agency

Dear European Medicines Agency,

Imagine, for a moment, a drug that could cure Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS/PMT), which has minimal reported side effects, and is easy and cheap to produce. What a wonderful drug that would be. A drug that could give a woman her life back after years of excruciating cramps, which even morphine was unable to control. Imagine what it would be like for that woman not to live in dread each month, and even get to the point where she forgets she is about to have a period. Imagine how much money could be saved because that woman no longer needs a hysterectomy and then years of HRT (with its increased risk of womb, ovarian and breast cancer). Imagine how many lives that drug would save if women did not have to have a general anaesthetic, nor the risk of post-operative infection.

Imagine how that woman feels to be in control of her life once more.  

If only a drug like that existed, instead of the current treatments on offer such as Prozac, with its increased risk of suicidal thoughts, or drugs like Danazol, which can deepen the voice and stimulate facial hair growth along with many other horrific side effects.  Or, taking oral contraceptives, which stop ovulation, and with it, the natural rise and fall of libido, while increasing the risk of blood clots, acne and fluid retention.

If only a herbal remedy existed with hundreds of years of safe usage, and clinical trials proving its effectiveness, like this one reported in the British medical Journal in 2001, and this one reported in the American Journal of science in 2012, and this one also conducted in 2012 at Hamedan University of Medical Sciences, Iran. And this list of studies on google scholar, citing highly significant results compared with placebos. If only there were a study that the EMA agreed met the criteria, something like this:

“There is one publication proving efficacy for the indication “Premenstrual syndrome” for an extract
specified as follows: Vitex agnus-castus L. dry extract (6-12:1), extraction solvent: 60% ethanol
(m/m) / 20 mg per day corresponding to 180 mg drug per day on average. This preparation fulfils the
requirements for WEU.” European Medicines Agency Assessment report on Agnus Castus.   

Just imagine…

What would you do EMA, if you had all this research, alongside hundreds of women’s anecdotal accounts and clinicians testimonials?

Would you force manufacturers to reduce the dosage per tablet from 20mg (the known effective level a cited in your own report) to 4mg per tablet? But not tell women that at this dosage, the drug will be ineffective?

That would be madness, wouldn’t it? Why would you render a drug, as clearly effective as Agnus Castus, ineffective, by restricting dosage, making the treatment unaffordable for thousands of women, even if they did know to take 5 TABLETS  A DAY(costing around £20 a week).

Who would this benefit? The women with PMT? The doctors who are treating these women, with the limited and often dangerous chemical or surgical solutions on offer?

No. A move such as this could only benefit the multi-million pound drugs industry, whom bring new drugs to the market with a short history of efficacy and lack of data on the long term side effects.

Restricting dosage on not just Agnus Castus, but a whole host of herbal treatments, such as St John’s Wort, is a conspiracy to keep the drug companies in huge profit and the public captive to their demands.

If you buy your tablets from Boots and take (the recommended) 4mg of Agnus Castus a day for PMS, it won’t work, your symptoms will not improve (your own report shows this to be the case).  For women who buy these tablets and find no relief, they will believe the drug is ineffective and return to their gynaecologist begging them to take out their ovaries and womb (a huge decision, with huge repercussions). And gynaecologists, despite knowing how effective Agnus Castus 20mg is, will be unable to tell you about it, because it is not listed in their prescribing manual.

Why?

Because there are no profits to be made on a drug that already exists, is not concocted in a lab. No concoction. No patent. No profit.

“The pharmaceutical industry is in crisis because companies are rewarded for developing new drugs that have few clinical advantages over existing ones, experts say. They pointed to independent reviews that found between 85 and 90 per cent of all new drugs developed over the past 50 years have provided few benefits and considerable harms.” Read more here.

Forgive me if I sound a little paranoid with my conspiracy theory, but what else am I supposed to think? Either you recommend the drug or you don’t. Recommending it, as your reports final conclusion does:

“Except for severe allergic reactions, there are no documented severe adverse events. Therefore the
use of the above mentioned extracts – in combination with an adequate labelling as included in the
monograph- can be supported.” EMA report on Agnus Castus.

but rendering it ineffective, by only allowing it to be sold in a dose too low to work, smacks of underhand tactics.

If you have an honourable reason, then I for one would love to hear it. In the meantime, I will continue to tell every doctor I meet and every women with PMS, how Agnus Castus gave me my life back, and I will unashamedly plug this Guernsey based company, that can sell you 20mg tablets, despite your mean and sinister directive.

Any woman reading this, who has PMS, check the evidence out for yourself. Be empowered! Take control of your body. For the most common type of PMS, I have yet to find a woman this has not transformed the life of. However, you must take 20mg (dried fruit extract) a day. 

Just think… no more mood swings, breast tenderness, irritable bowel, and no more pain so bad, you vomit and lose control of your bowels at the same time. No more lost days, lost months, lost sleep, lost life.

And my final message to the EMA – you should be ashamed of yourselves, condemning women to unnecessary medical interventions and possibly even death; very, very ashamed.

Yours ungratefully,

Juliet O’Callaghan – free of PMT for five years since taking Agnus Castus 20mg (dried fruit extract) once a day.

Anyone else found the EMA’s interference in herbal medicines has been detrimental to their health and pocket? Angus Castus: Has it worked for you to? Tell me your story. I would love to hear it.

Writers who write about cancer

Time is tight this week. A new school year has begun and I am determined to stick to my 2000 words a day, particularly as I have promised the agent the completed novel by Christmas. However, I have been wanting to share this poem since it was sent to me a few months ago, and it got me thinking about how many published literary authors had grappled with the sensitive subject of cancer.

As it turns out a lot, as you can see on this list. It includes a number of my favourite authors such as, Margaret Atwood; Anne Lamont; Ian McEwan; and this poem by Raymond Carver.

Cancer is an emotive subject. It is also one that a lot of people don’t want to read about, and certainly not in fiction. However, authors have always written about subjects that others may find distasteful and morbid. They write about things that matter to them, or have scarred them. As cancer invades so many of our lives, it is inevitable that writers will write about it; having it, beating it, and watching the ones they love die from it. I, for one, seek the words of those who have survived the aftermath of losing someone they love to cancer. It helps me to heal. So while this post and the poem may not be for everyone, I hope for some it will bring comfort and the knowledge that they are not alone.

Collin Tobin is a writer I met on Authonomy (a website where writers can try out their work and get some feedback). Collin sent me the poem after he read the opening of my novel. I like it because it is not maudlin. In fact the voice is often light and mocking, although the final verse reveals the writer’s true feelings, and his sense of helplessness in the face of the relentless onslaught.

Your Cancer

I don’t want to kill your cancer
I don’t want to choke you both
With a cold cocktail of poisons
I don’t want to irradiate it
By setting your house on fire
And recklessly believe
You will be able stay
And only it will flee
I don’t want to excise it
Taking a merchant’s pound
Of your precious flesh

Instead, I want us to love it
Embrace it
I want us to nurture it
I want it to feel the warmth of my hand
Each waking morning
As I place it over your sleeping skin
And hope its fibrous tissues
Can reach out too
And feel the reassurance of a caring touch

I want us to feed it
Engorge it with raw, red meats
Permeate it through and through with carcinogens
I want us to find some old red dye #2 M&M’s
And spoil it rotten
I want to sit cross-legged with it
Each night on the floor of our quiet living room
And trade deep puffs from the Hookah pipe
While we three sit
In companionable silence

I want us to take it out into the blessed sun each weekend
Lather it in baby oil
And let it simmer contentedly next to us
Like a slab of happy fatback
Floating in a heated skillet

Because maybe then
It will not just grow, and attach
But grow, attached
Maybe it will pause just long enough
Grow sentient enough, to reconsider
To maybe scale back its self-defeating
Blind growth within you
And content itself with co-existence

Develop the intelligence enough
To want what we want
Just a fair measure of days
Through which we can carefully pick our way
To find those rarest days of all
The carefree ones

You can find Collin’s latest work here, and more about him here.

Collin Tobin on Facebook. Colin Tobin on Twitter: @coljtob

Update: How not to get a literary agent

For those who followed my novel saga on the previous post. The agent got back to me. She said…  

Dear Juliet,

You are quite possibly unhinged, but version 2 (based on the measly pitch you sent me) does sound stronger. Do send the opening three chapters and synopsis. 

Yours expectantly, 

Ms Literary agent

OK, well maybe she didn’t word it exactly like that, but she did want to see version 2. This is great news. I have a goal to aim for, which is always useful when you are 40,00 words in and wondering why you started the flippin’ thing in the first place.

One for writers: How not to get a literary agent

This week is the first of my posts about writing (which I plan to make a regular monthly feature), but it is not the first post I intended to write.

I was all set to write a post about something I am struggling with, like over-writing or balancing show and tell (clicking on the links will take you to Emma Darwin’s marvellous blog about these ‘writerly’ issues).

Then, on Saturday morning (which happened to be my birthday), I got an email from an agent requesting a full MS. For my non-writing readers, this means that a literary agent (who is the gatekeeper between writers and publishers) liked the opening three chapters of my novel and would like to read the rest of  the manuscript (MS).

This has happened to me before. The first time, I’d already cast the film adaptation – I was thinking Nicole for the lead – before even sending the MS.

The me today, several rejections later, recognises this request is but a teeny, tiny step on the stairway to publication,  and that the majority of full request do not end up in anything other than, a polite ‘thanks, but no thanks.’

“Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.”  Isaac Asminov

For an agent to take on a novel, they have to really, really love it. After all, they are going to have to convince commissioning editors to throw money at it (printing, cover art, advertising, ISBN) before it makes a penny.

However, as this request is all that is on my mind at the moment (the writer portion of it at least), I decided I would write about the dilemma I now find myself in – purely self-inflicted, I’d like to add.

So, as you will have gathered, I sent the opening three chapters of my completed novel to some literary agents (three in total).

“Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.” Truman Capote

This was mistake no.1 because although the novel was finished. It wasn’t finished.

“Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure.”  Oliver Herford

I know why I did it, but psychological insight is of little use if it doesn’t actually alter behaviour. My daughter was about to launch herself into the world, leaving behind a gaping hole, shaped like me. At a subconscious level, I was feeling rejected by my daughter so thought I’d go the whole hog and have my heart stamped on as well.

“That’s the essential goal of the writer: you slice out a piece of yourself and slap it down on the desk in front of you. You try to put it on paper, try to describe it in a way that the reader can see and feel and touch. You paste all your nerve endings into it and then give it out to strangers who don’t know you or understand you.” Stephen Leigh

Almost immediately, I got a request for the full MS from one agent. This led to a mad panic of final editing for typos and punctuation. I also didn’t have any feedback on the plot from my trusted reader/writer friends (mainly because I hadn’t actually sent it to them). Finished and finished are not the same thing.

Too late now. I stalled for a week and then sent it. Those pesky day dreams started all over again. This time I chose Kiera as the lead, but made a note to remind her to pout a little less.

Three days later. REJECTION. 

“Engrave this in your brain: EVERY WRITER GETS REJECTED. You will be no different.” John Scalzi

In one line of type, the agent decimated my plot – though she liked the writing and the idea. Hmmm.

“There is no mistaking the dismay on the face of a writer who has just heard that his brain child is a deformed idiot.”  L. Sprague de Camp

I spent the rest of the day vowing I would never write again, chastising myself for my arrogance in thinking I could write a publishable novel, and general self-flagellation about the wasted years of my life.

That evening, I met up with a dear friend (who writes), who wisely moved our planned  get together from later in the week to ‘right then’. My anguished text: she rejected ME, may have had something to do with it. Three hours and a bottle of red (between us) later, I’d gone from devastation to inspiration. Although, I recognised it was only one agent’s opinion, I’d had a sneaking suspicion the plot was a little too quiet. I’d been toying with another way of telling the same story for months, but you get so far into the book that sometimes it is easier to ignore the ‘little voice’. Anyway, that ‘little voice’ is sometimes just plain nasty and if you listened to it all the time, you’d never write anything, ever.

“I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.” Peter de Vries

 I went home that night and wrote 10,000 words of the ‘new’ novel (now called version 2), and I haven’t stopped since. It’s a mess and will need rewriting and rewriting and… but it’s working. I am in love. 

“Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it… ” Michael Crichton

I wish I’d done it months ago.

“If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.” Edgar Rice Burroughs

However… Remember I said I’d sent it to three agents. Guess what? I got a second full request (the Saturday morning one), which leads me to mistake no. 2; maybe I should’ve waited a bit longer before deciding the novel, in its present state, was unpublishable. How many times was Harry Potter rejected? And how about Lord of the Flies and Catch 22?

Which brings me to the dilemma. What to do next?

Both novels are essentially the same idea told in a different way. It is either one or the other, there’s no way both could be published. They have the same characters doing different things. As of right now, most of version 2 is still in my head where, of course, it is perfect.

“The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.” William Faulkner

Do I want to send the first novel, when I think I am writing something much better?

“The measure of artistic merit is the length to which a writer is willing to go in following his own compulsions.” John Updike

Or am I being blinded by new love and rejecting a perfectly publishable novel, which took years to get right?

“Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” Gene Fowler

In love with my new baby and contemptuous of my ugly older child, I replied to the agent by asking her to consider my second novel instead. As it isn’t written yet, I was only able to send her the briefest of pitches (like the blurb on the back of a book). I then went onto to explain that I didn’t want to send her the first novel (although I would if she insisted), which I had waxed lyrical about only two weeks before; and could she possibly wait until Christmas, when I promised her version 2 would be finished.

This leads me to mistake no. 3. I pressed SEND!

I await the inevitable reply, which I think will go something like this.

Dear Juliet,

If you don’t love your work, how can you expect me to? No, I do not want to the see the full of the novel, you are now disowning. And no, I do not want to see the full of the novel you haven’t even written yet, because:

1) it is not written yet; and,

2) who’s to say you won’t reject it like you did the first one.

I wish you luck in finding your misplaced sanity, please don’t contact me again.

Ms Literary Agent

Anyone else shot themselves in the foot recently? It doesn’t have to be writing related.

Lap dancing clubs, tiger mothers and Lord John Shayler

Pole dancing classes, Fifty shades of grey – it seems stitched-up middle-class middle-England, might be, at last, coming undone. Not so, if the furore over a lap dancing club set to open in ‘posh’ ‘leafy Georgian town, Ampthill, is anything to go by.

As a resident of said town (actually it’s ‘chav’ neighbour, Flitwick), I have been following the story with a mild sense of amusement and a large dose of feminist angst. However, after being accosted in Waitrose car park to sign a petition against its opening, I began to realise the real victim in this is not the self styled Walt Disney,  Lord John Shayler (the proprietor of the council approved lap dancing club), nor the tiger mothers of the ‘innocent’  Ampthill children.

“We’ll gather outside the strip club as a community with our children to switch on the Christmas lights; to sing carols; to sit outside eating our snacks waiting for the next ballet class down the road.”  An Ampthill resident.

No. The real victim of this grudge fueled proposal, is the misrepresentation of sex.

Beautiful, glorious, life affirming SEX!

Sex is an innate drive, like thirst and hunger. Who you have sex with and at what age, has largely been determined by cultural norms and values, a bit like why we eat cereal for breakfast rather than roast beef. But sex in itself is not a bad or dirty thing.

However, exploitation of women is. While every woman knows she uses sex as a bargaining tool in her relationship armourey, even if this is subconscious, there is difference between that and others making profit from the exchange. Many women working in the sexual entertainment industry will argue they choose to work in clubs such as this, but what do we mean by choice, or in other words; what is free-will?

As women, we a brought up to use our femininity as a commodity. Sex sells everything from alcohol to zucchinis, but I wonder how many Ampthill parents would applaud their A-level student daughter, getting a Saturday job at the local lap dancing club, to save up for university.

I am not against a lap dancing club in Ampthill, I am against all forms of entertainment that exploit (for profit) the private sexual rituals between men and women. So, I do understand the objections raised by some Ampthill residents. This blog in particular, attempts to be measured and not fall into the trap of small minded bigotry, unlike some of the comments on this thread. But, this is a wider issue than a club opening in Ampthill. This is a deeper and broader issue that begins from when our daughters are born. It is about the messages they receive concerning who they are and what we value about them.

That’s what the Ampthillians need to be fighting against, the debasement of women, the world over. Sex is not the enemy here, sexist attitudes are. But just as Lord John Shayler is clearly not a feminist, then neither are the tiger mothers, leaping into action in Waitrose car park, who like the three wise monkeys, believe sex should be neither seen, heard, or spoken of.

Trying to shield our children from sex, is like trying to shutdown the internet. They are surrounded by sexual imagery, online; on TV; in music; magazines; newspapers.  A lap dancing club in the centre of town is unlikely to have a catastrophic impact on their sexual identity, already, shaped and moulded by their multi-media existence. Lap dancing clubs are not, as far as I am aware, the gates of hell, from which you will never escape. They are bars where men can watch a woman dance and take her clothes of, or for an extra price, have her do the dance, dangling over his lap. Not something I would pay for, but hardly, Beelzebub running amok in the local primary school.

Instead of shielding our children from sex, we should be talking to them (age appropriate of course) about the rights to their own body. How they don’t have to touch, kiss or be cuddled by anyone they don’t want to be. How sexual feelings are normal and masturbation won’t make them blind. How having sex is a big step and one that most of us wish we had done differently. How sex is a wonderful and beautiful thing, when we do it with someone we really want to, and have feelings for.

Having a lap dancing club on the doorstep could prove advantageous. A daytime visit as part of the PSHE sex education programme would provoke discussion about the uneasy role women and their bodies occupy in this product driven age. Young people want to talk about sex, relationships, and how they will negotiate their sexual identities. The recent sex education show at Redborne, was proof if any is needed that our teenagers are not ‘innocent’, if anything they are confused, unable to separate fact from myth. They need adult guidance.

Instead the naysayers condemn, sex, wonderful, incredible sex, with prudish indignation (confusing consensual acts such as swinging and bondage, with exploitative practices). Of course, the louder they protest, the closer Lord John Shayler gets towards making his rather childish insult a reality.

Maybe if there was more sex, not less – sex given freely, without profit, because its fun and perfectly natural– then clubs like this wouldn’t have customers in the first place.

Sex is not the enemy here, we would all do well to remember that.

 

Endings…

I seemed to have reached a few of these recently.

The end of my novel; and with it that magical time when you can dream about what it might be, rather than  what it is.

The end of my husband’s holiday; no more lazy days, long lie-ins and rambles across the field to the pub for supper and a pint, or a cheeky Pimms in the garden at four o’clock.

The end of the Olympics; and with it, the feel good stories in the press about how good it is to be British (though teachers still got a bashing, I note).

And for me, the end of an era, one, which at times, I fervently wished would end. Then before you know it, and before you are ready, it does. Just like that.

Yes, my daughter has left home*. When I go to bed at night, no longer are my family safely tucked up under one roof. No longer am I the first person she will talk to in the morning, or turn to when she is upset about school work, or ecstatic about exam results. I have been relegated. Left at home with her teddy, who, not so many years ago, she wouldn’t go anywhere without. I am cut adrift. Floundering; wanting to return to the middle, to the happy chaos of knowing what I was doing and why I was doing it, even if I never had the time.

When she got on the plane to San Pedro Sula last Sunday, she took a big chunk of who I have become with her. Instead of feeling joy in having a clean bathroom and all my clothes in my wardrobe (not hers), I am engulfed in a melancholic sense of everything coming to an end, which, of course, everything does.

Or does it? Do things ever end or just transform into new beginnings?  Or more eloquently put:

 “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Seneca

If I am too busy mourning the end, might I miss the beginning of something else? Something just as good, but wholly different to what I have known before?

The end of the novel, heralds the beginning of the next one, which will come out the way I see it in my   head – this time.

The end of the Olympics, heralds the beginning of the Para Olympics and the legacy of 2012.

And the end of my daughter’s childhood, heralds the start of a new and exciting beginning as she explores Central America and learns who she really is (and how to do her own washing).

And me, well, today I am going to mourn, shed a few tears while walking the dog in the woods. Endings are hard, even if they are beginnings in disguise.

But tomorrow, I will embrace the beginning of a life with grown up children and the opportunities that affords me.  My daughter’s life is just beginning, not ending. And, when she comes home next August, the same but different, we can begin our relationship anew, with, I live in hope, a mutual appreciation for keeping a clean and tidy bathroom.

As for the end of holidays – never a good thing, but there is always the beginning of the next one to look forward to.

What endings have you reached? Can you see the beginning, yet? I would love to hear from you.

*My daughter is volunteering in Honduras, teaching English. You can find her eloquently titled (not) blog here.

Starting blogs is a habit of mine

me and Archie

I know I started one (or three) somewhere with lots of links and things, but can I find it or them? Nope. Though I have found, I only make up just less than one page on a google search. Not a great web presence then, which brings me back to why I have started yet another blog. You see the problem is this: I need a web presence to create a platform for my writing – literary agents apparently google you, when you send a submission (covering letter and first 3 chapters of your novel, for non-writers reading this) – but (and there are two):

In between working full time as a teacher and running the home and everything else known to man and woman, as well as writing short stories and a novel or four, keeping up with writing groups on and off line, reading blogs about writing and publishing, entering competitions and preparing submissions, and reading lots and lots of books, where do I find the time to write a weekly blog posts, with links and pictures and other exciting things?

Well, here I am anyway – avidly reading blogs on blogging for writers, like this one from Ann R. Allen’s blog, which is why I have used my name in the title, ( it should also aid me finding it, though I hope this time not to lose it in the first place); and this ‘get started’ guide from Jane Friedman.

Yet already I am getting cold feet.

Which brings me to my second ‘but’:

Why would anyone want to read what I have to say (says the aspiring author)? I don’t know what I think about most things most of the time. There are fundamental things I am sure about, hurting other people, physically and psychologically is wrong (excluding consensual acts of S&M); the only person who can make you happy is you; no one is all bad, or all good; and, every pudding should be accompanied by clotted cream. But beyond that, I am a bit airy-fairy, prone to seeing the other side of the argument.

Most recently, I have found myself wavering around the whole benefit debate. I am proud my country has a safety net. As has been said by many, including Gandhi and Pope John Paul II; a civilised society is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members. I have often used the argument that benefit fraud is  a very low incidence (despite what the papers say) and any system that protects the weak will be abused by the minority (and should not be reason not to have one). But, I can’t deny the fact that there are some families in the second and third generation of career unemployment, collecting their ‘wages’  from the state, with no compunction to get a job or an education; their lives lurching from one self-inflicted crisis to another.

The state protects many vulnerable people, but in doing so, infantilizes and institutionalizes some. These kidults (having children of their own) are locked in an egocentric world, where their needs are paramount and those of others, not so much ignored, but not perceived.

So I don’t know what to think? And I don’t know what the answer is? If we don’t have benefits then the most vulnerable will suffer. But if we do, then we sustain, and possibly create, an underclass.

If you have a view on this, then please pile in. I have feeling a number of my posts will end, not with an answer, but a question and a plea for help to unravel what it is I think, I think.

Until next time. Au revoir.

Filling the pail

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." - As W. B. Yeats never said

psychagainstausterity.wordpress.com/

Mobilising Psychology for Social Change

missdcoxblog

My views on Teaching & Education

Sara Crowley

Words - writing, books, reading, musing.

Scenes From The Battleground

Teaching in British schools

 Body of Evidence

Medical journalist Jerome Burne investigates...

Mom At Work

Work is the easy part.

Juli Townsend's Transition to Home

Moving back to Australia after ten years living overseas

Helen Bowes-Catton

sexuality, research methods, social justice

The thoughts of Billy Gotta-Job: some new, some old, none borrowed, and mostly not at all blue

Stuff about politics, faith, and the world in general, flung straight out of my head and into the blogosphere's deepest obscurity

%d bloggers like this: