Overdose: Are Pharmaceutical Companies Systematically Destroying Your Health?

Friday Mar 13, 2015 | BY |
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Doctor writing many medicine prescriptions

In September 2004, Merck & Co. pulled Vioxx from the market. The press spun the headlines to make it look like Merck – a pharmaceutical giant with annual sales in the range of $40 billion – withdrew its non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain drug for the right reasons. What they didn’t reveal – at least not right away – was that Vioxx was responsible for up to 60,000 fatal heart attacks.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories drugs (NSAIDs) also come as non-prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicines. Ibuprofen is one of the most commonly used NSAIDs for headache, joint pain, and muscle soreness. It’s well known to damage the lining of gastrointestinal tract and may trigger leaky gut syndrome and even celiac disease. Ibuprofen also is linked to kidney damage.

The news that you haven’t heard is that recent research links commonly used NSAIDs, including ibuprofen and paracetamol to increased risk for heart attacks. A European study concluded that paracetamol, the most used drug for common painful conditions like arthritis and back pain, is not as safe as once thought.

When used regularly, ibuprofen can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease by as much as one third. When Ibuprofen is taken with low dose aspirin, it can limit the cardiovascular protecting effects of aspirin.

Overdosed

In 2001, Jay Cohen, M.D. published Over Dose, The Case Against the Drug Companies, a landmark book that documented the abuse, manipulation, and political pull drug companies exercise over Americans.

Jay is a thoughtful doctor, and a good friend of mine. He’s honest, smart, and truthful. He cares about his patients and is concerned about public health. He’s not anti-drugs, but against the abusive practices of Big Pharma. Every time major newspapers like the Los Angeles Times interviewed him, I worried for his safety. When he participated in a televised debate with the head of the FDA, I was certain he was in for trouble.

“Aren’t you worried?” I asked him. “Haven’t they tried to silence you?”

“Not at all,” he said. “Drug companies are so powerful, so rich, so big that I hardly warrant a sideward glance.”

Even when the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the most conservative and powerful of medical societies in the U.S., expressed concern about abuse of prescription drugs. In 1998, a study was published showing that at least 106,000 people die every year in American hospitals from adverse reactions to drugs.

In comparison, no one died from the Disneyland measles breakout. By February 27th only 170 people were infected in the entire U.S., and no one died. But the media stirred the public into a frenzy over not getting vaccinated.

How could the death of 60,000 Americans from Vioxx be insignificant? Why is drug overdose that results in 300 deaths every day not headline news. And that’s just in hospitalized patients. It doesn’t take into account outpatients and patients in private clinics.

Twisting The Evidence

Drug companies not only manipulate lawmakers and the media, they influence scientific research.

In 2014, John Abramson, M.D. published Overdosed America, The Broken Promise of American Medicine. Dr. Abramson documents how drug companies maintain sales of largely ineffective drugs as long as they can by not publishing studies that show those drugs do not work or are dangerous.

Every year, doctors in the U.S. write 270 million prescriptions for antidepressant drugs making them among the most consumed class of drugs in America. It’s even worse in Iceland where 1 in 10 people take antidepressants making it the country with the highest rate of consumption of antidepressants like Cymbalta, Lexapro, and Effexor. Sales are booming even though many studies clearly show that these bestselling antidepressants are linked to increased suicides.

Mild to moderate depression, stress and situational anxiety, and fatigue are not medical reasons to prescribe antidepressants. But, drug company reps actively encouraged doctors to prescribe antidepressants for patients with these complaints.

In the 1990s, I worked in a very busy women’s medicine center in San Diego. The majority of our patients were professional women suffering from stress-related depression, sleep disturbance, and fatigue. In an informal survey of the number of our patients, I found that at least 80 percent took SSRIs like Paxil and Prozac.

Dr. Abramson is clear about his position. Drug companies manipulate American medicine for their own profit. Rigging medical studies, withholding studies that don’t favor the sponsor’s financial interests and misrepresenting research results is just part of the problem.

The crisis in the rocketing cost of American medical care is because Americans are sicker, chronic diseases are more common, and the price of drugs gets more expensive. Paradoxically, the worse the crisis becomes, the higher the profit for drug companies.

Big Pharma has taken over medical knowledge and how doctors practice medicine.

Too Many Pills

Americans take too many drugs. Patients increasingly look to pills to treat their diseases, to prevent chronic disease, to slow aging, and to keep them well.

Twenty percent of Americans take at least five prescription medications. The older you get, the more drugs doctors prescribe. People 65 to 69 take an average of 14 prescriptions every year. Nearly 90 percent of seniors take prescription medicines. Some take as many as 26 prescription drugs, including duplicates that different doctors prescribed without consulting the patient or pharmacist.

It’s not just that we take one or two drugs. Seven out of ten Americans takes at least one prescription drug. Antibiotics are the most commonly prescribed drugs followed by antidepressants.

However, as many are learning, the best medicine is not pills, or capsules, of any kind. The best medicine is a healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet of real food and exercise.

Money First Or Health First

It comes down to priorities. Big Pharma doesn’t have your best interest or the health of the nation at heart. But, many natural supplement companies are not much better.

Proven health strategies like exercise, quitting smoking, eliminating excess refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup, are time consuming to deliver but relatively inexpensive. The drawback is they don’t pay.

The human tragedy of serious disease is a financial opportunity for drug companies. Cure is not the goal. Long-term management without eventual cure is profitable. The medicalization of aging including hormone replacement for menopause is another example of doctors putting profit before patients.

All Americans deserve the best healthcare possible. The market is not the best arbiter for medicine. The failure of the American healthcare system is evidence that commercialized medicine creates high profit but produces sick citizens.

Sick people are no longer seen as patients, but as consumers.

With few exceptions, drugs never improve overall health or increase wellness.

What Can We Do?

Staying healthy lifelong is not easy. It takes time and effort. It requires knowledge about how the body functions and performs. You need to understand something about your genetics that form tendencies for specific diseases. The older you get, the more work it takes to stay healthy.

Many are reclaiming responsibility for their health. But, the natural health marketplace is deceiving. Do you think that natural medicine is any better?

Some of the same problems exist in the nutritional supplement industry. Most supplement makers purchase their raw materials like vitamins and minerals from the same manufacturers that produce drugs. The pharmaceutical giants have bought some natural foods and supplement companies. Proctor & Gamble acquired New Chapter, the whole food supplement company, in 2012. Procter & Gamble makes and markets more than 71 drugs in the United States.

However, there is one big difference between natural products and chemical drugs. Natural products do not pollute your body. Drugs not only contaminate the normal biological terrain of your body, but also alter vital internal ecosystems like the gut microbiome with the overuse of antibiotics.

Medical consumerism has to end. Money has to be removed as the motivating factor between the doctor-patient relationship. I call this new view of illness and wellness the 3Ps: “the physician-patient partnership.”

I advocate for open-access to scientific journals. All scientific medical trials need a place to be published so doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and patients can evaluate clinical truth from drug company fiction.

Ban drug companies from lobbying from state and national politics. Cutting the cord between corporate profits that’s enhanced by favorable laws is essential. Government should support effective, safe, and less expensive medicines. Safer medicines result in fewer law suites against doctors.

Comprehensive primary care from cradle to rocking chair holds center place in wellness medicine. Healthier seniors take fewer pills, and experience less adverse effects. All of my patients in their 80s take no, or very few, drugs.

Relying on pills, whether chemical or natural, interferes with one of the most important of all human relationships: the one between a doctor and a patient. Good medicine is not about more pills, but about honest and knowledgeable medical practice.

Dr. J. E. Williams

J. E. WILLIAMS, OMD, FAAIM

Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

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2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Deane Alban says:

    I will be checking out the book you recommend. Another eye-opener is “Are Your Prescriptions Killing You?”. The author writes AARP’s “Ask a Pharmacist” column. He believes as many as 3 out of 4 Alzheimer’s cases are caused by Rx drugs. What a disaster!

  2. June Hanson says:

    Yes, pharmaceuticals were destroying my life. Doctors had me on so many. When I would complain, they changed to a new one that made me sicker, than before. Each one was ruining my own immune system. Our bodies, are not lacking drugs. We cannot continue to live on the American diet, fast paced life, stress, exercise, when it is convenient. My body was so drugged, developed infections, MRSA, etc. Spasms for years. Filled with almost every known antibiotic, IVs, until I became allergic to all of them. Legal uppers, downers. Anti-depressants pills, anxiety pills, sleeping pills, had to wake up middle of night to take meds with milk.

    Had a heart attack, with no heart disease. More pills, each one making me worse. Blacking out. No one knew what to do with me. Cardiologist, gave up one me. Uncontrollable angina. Then, I met Dr Williams. Followed his advice and years of wisdom on natural, healthy living. His therapies, began the healing process. Stopped taking drugs. Changed my lifestyle, which, I thought was healthy. Eat mostly organic food, lots of veggies, some berries in a.m. Left off gluten foods. Stop & think about each food, I eat. Is this going to nourish my body, or cause disease, down the road. Exercise became a priority. Taking time to enjoy the beauty of nature. Get regular rest, with natural aids.

    I, never let up, even if I carry my own food to parties. Know what is was to feel almost dead. Now, I am vibrantly alive, never want to go back. It took putting confidence in my Doctor, taking supplements made for Doctors. Good health, takes work, but reaps big dividends.

    Everyone should have an Integrated Doctor, with years of experience, like Dr Williams. I, am truly blessed.

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