Aegrescit medendo: “The disease worsens with the treatment” from the Aeneid by Roman poet Virgil, 70–19 BC
As a conventionally trained physician, I recognize and appreciate the breakthrough drugs that truly save lives and enhance health. However, far too many of the medications on the market are superfluous, at best, and downright dangerous, at worst. All told, prescription drugs are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Now, if that’s not worsening the disease, I don’t know what is.
Let’s take a look at some popular pharmaceuticals that actually cause or exacerbate the very conditions they are supposed to treat.
Antidepressants Increase Risk of Suicide
What’s the most serious possible outcome of depression you can imagine? That’s right, it’s suicide. What do physicians prescribe for depressed patients? Antidepressants, of course. And what’s the most significant adverse effect of antidepressants? Increased risk of suicide!
Using these drugs to treat depression is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. Every antidepressant sold in this country is required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to have a black box label warning, “Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders.” It’s a label that many experts believe should be amended to include all age groups and other significant adverse effects, such as increased risk of extreme agitation and acts of uncharacteristic violence.
Dangers aside, antidepressants are no more effective than placebos for most of the people who take them. A comprehensive meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association earlier this year concluded: “True drug effects (an advantage of [antidepressants] over placebo) were nonexistent to negligible among depressed patients with mild, moderate, and even severe baseline symptoms….What makes our findings surprising is the high level of depression symptom severity that appears to be required for clinically meaningful drug/placebo differences to emerge, particularly given the evidence that the majority of patients receiving [antidepressants] in clinical practice present with scores below these levels.”
In other words, only patients with disabling depression have even the slightest chance of being helped by antidepressants. Yet the overwhelming majority of those who take these drugs—and are exposed to their incapacitating and disastrous side effects—just feel a little blue.
One in 10 Americans pops these pills every day, which means we have nearly 30 million people taking drugs that can only make them worse. In addition to increasing risk of suicide and violent behavior, antidepressants (especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft) are notorious for causing loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, weight gain, gastrointestinal problems, and headaches.
Rather than depending on antidepressants, look into therapies that actually work, such as hormone balancing, regular exercise, and nutritional supplements like SAMe, fish oil, and St. John’s wort. You’d even be better off asking your doctor—as we are told to do hundreds of times a day on TV—“if placebo ‘sugar pills’ are right for you.”
Oral Diabetes Drugs Raise Heart Attack Risk
The leading cause of death in people with diabetes is cardiovascular disease. But physicians, with their myopic focus on lowering blood sugar, routinely prescribe drugs that actually increase this risk.
Since 1984, sulfonylureas (a common class of diabetes medications that includes glipizide, glyburide, and glimepiride) have carried a black box label warning that they increase risk of death from heart attack. In the early 2000s, we began hearing about the adverse cardiovascular effects of thiazolidinediones (Avandia and Actos). A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 linked Avandia with a 43 percent increased risk of heart attack and a 60 percent increased risk of cardiovascular death, and since then, the allegations against this medication have steadily increased.
European regulators pulled Avandia off the market in September, citing safety issues concerning heart attacks, strokes, and death. The FDA, in predictable fashion, put the interests of the drug companies above the safety of the American people and announced it will “significantly restrict the use of the diabetes drug Avandia (rosiglitazone) to patients with Type 2 diabetes who cannot control their diabetes on other medications.” So, if the other diabetes drugs haven’t wiped you out, you start on Avandia? What nonsense!
When the fox is guarding the henhouse, you have no choice but to look out for yourself. If your doctor wants you to continue taking these horrifically dangerous drugs, do yourself a favor and look for a new physician. The only oral diabetes drug I would ever consider prescribing is metformin (Glucophage), and I only order it as a temporary measure until weight loss, diet, exercise, and supplements, such as vanadyl sulfate, cinnamon, and chromium, have kicked in. Once patients are over the hump, metformin goes in the trash. Getting a handle on blood sugar is important, but why do it with drugs that can kill you?
Safe Alternatives to Dangerous Drugs
It just doesn’t make sense to take dangerous, side effect–riddled medications when safer alternatives exist. Make low-glycemic vegetables and lean protein your dietary mainstays. Participate in some form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week, and incorporate both aerobic and strength-training exercise. Finally, take a high-potency daily multivitamin and mineral formula and, when appropriate, add the following natural therapies.
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement (requires a prescription); SAMe 200 mg twice a day, building up to 800 mg dosages, if needed (see page 5 for more information); Fish Oil 2–8 g daily; St. John’s Wort 300 mg three times a day (check with your doctor before using this herb, as it interacts with a number of prescription and over-the-counter medications).
Vanadyl Sulfate 100 mg daily in divided doses; Chromium 200–400 mcg per day; Cinnamon 1–3 g of an aqueous cinnamon extract daily.
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement (requires a prescription); Vitamin D 2,000–5,000 IU per day (enough to bring blood levels into the 50–80 ng/mL range); Vitamin K2 (MK-7) 150–300 mcg daily (talk to your doctor if you are taking Coumadin or other blood thinners); Calcium 1,000–1,500 mg per day; Strontium Citrate 680 mg per day taken two hours before or two hours after eating or taking other supplements, especially calcium.
High Cholesterol and Inflammation:
Niacin 500–2,000 mg daily (high-dose niacin is best used under a physician’s care); Plant Sterols 1,500–2,000 mg per day; Fiber (from flaxseed, glucomannan, or psyllium) 30–35 g daily including dietary fiber; Fish Oil 2–8 g per day.
All of these supplements can be found in health food stores, purchased online, or ordered by calling (800) 810-6655.
Bisphosphonates Raise Fracture Risk
If you have osteoporosis, it’s likely that your doctor has talked to you about Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva, or another bisphosphonate drug. These medications, which rake in $8 billion annually in worldwide sales, are prescribed to prevent fractures. But they too often make matters worse.
Bisphosphonates have long been linked with degeneration of the jawbone, and in October, the FDA issued a warning that extended use is associated with “atypical” fractures of the thigh bone. In the same breath, however, the agency told consumers to “keep taking your medication unless you are told to stop by your health care professional.” (Translation: “Never think for yourself. Doctor knows best.”)
This is bad advice. In addition to causing the very problems they’re prescribed to prevent, bisphosphonates aren’t very effective. Your doctor may tell you that they reduce the risk of fracture by 50 percent, but that’s just a statistical spin. In a widely cited study, Fosamax decreased the likelihood of fracture from 2.2 to 1.1 percent. Yes, that’s a relative risk reduction of 50 percent. But in terms of absolute risk reduction—the far more important consideration—it’s only a 1.1 percent drop. The number needed to treat (NNT) in order to prevent just one fracture is 100. The other 99? They’d be better off—a lot better off—taking a placebo.
Equally disturbing, these meds are pushed on people who have no business taking them. The studies focus on older women who have already had an osteoporotic fracture. Yet Big Pharma has a much larger population in their sights: younger women with osteopenia (relatively, but not critically, low bone density) who’ve never had a fracture. Inexplicably, doctors go along with this sham, writing prescriptions for expensive drugs that these low-risk women will be taking for the rest of their lives—willingly exposing them to irritation and ulceration of the esophagus, bone and muscle pain, and increased risk of atrial fibrillation, to mention just a few of the adverse effects that have surfaced so far.
Fractures are serious business, but you can reduce your risk with weight-bearing exercise, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, and bone-building supplements such as vitamins D and K, calcium, strontium, and other minerals.
Statins Increase Risk of Heart Failure
Elevated LDL cholesterol is a widely accepted risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and the purpose of cholesterol-lowering drugs is obviously to prevent heart disease. These medications make sense, until you realize that the runaway best sellers in their class—statins like Lipitor, Crestor, and Zocor—actually weaken the heart.
Statin drugs reduce cholesterol levels by blocking an enzyme pathway called HMG-CoA reductase that is involved in cholesterol synthesis in the liver. Unfortunately, this is the same pathway the body uses to produce coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a vital compound required in the generation of cellular energy. Studies show that CoQ10 levels decrease by 40–50 percent after just one or two months on a statin, and this decline adversely affects every system in your body. Most severely impacted are the organs with the greatest energy needs, including the heart. When the heart’s energy stores run low, it cannot pump efficiently, so it’s no surprise that CoQ10 deficiencies are linked to heart failure. A low blood level of CoQ10 is also an independent predictor of death in patients with cardiovascular disease.
Nevertheless, conventional medicine is so infatuated with statins that these lipid-lowering agents are our leading therapeutic class of prescription drugs, with annual sales approaching $28 billion. But that’s not enough for the insatiable drug pushers. They’re now foisting statins on people who have normal cholesterol levels and no evidence of heart disease!
The driving force behind this is the 2008 JUPITER clinical trial. This study enrolled healthy people over the age of 50 (men) or 60 (women) who had an elevated level of C-reactive protein (CRP, a marker of inflammation), plus one other cardiovascular risk factor (high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, smoking, or family history). They were divided into two groups and assigned to take either Crestor or a placebo. When the study was terminated after 1.9 years, among the 8,901 people in each group, 157 (1.8 percent) who’d taken a placebo had a cardiovascular event (nonfatal heart attack/stroke or death from cardiovascular causes) compared to 83 (0.9 percent) who’d been on Crestor.
Although the relative risk reduction (the difference between 1.8 and 0.9 percent) is an impressive-sounding 50 percent, the absolute risk reduction is a paltry 0.9 percent. The NNT to prevent one cardiovascular event is 120 people for 1.9 years—if this drug performs as it did in the study, and that’s a big “if,” given all the criticisms leveled at JUPITER concerning conflicts of interest. When you figure in the costs of widespread CRP screening, additional physician visits, and drug purchases, it would cost more than $800,000 to prevent just one cardiovascular event. One, likely nonfatal, event!
Nevertheless, in February of this year, the FDA approved Crestor for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in healthy people who fit the JUPITER profile. Now, in addition to the 34 million Americans with high cholesterol, another 7 million people are deemed to be appropriate candidates for statin drugs. This is an extraordinary windfall for pharmaceutical manufacturers—but a disaster for individuals who succumb to their propaganda. Don’t count on statin drugs to significantly reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke, but do be prepared to deal with muscle pain and weakness and increased risk of liver damage, memory loss, and type 2 diabetes.
A safer, saner approach to preventing heart disease is to make lifestyle changes, lose weight, and start on a comprehensive nutritional supplement program that not only lowers cholesterol and reduces inflammation but also addresses other cardiovascular risk factors.
You Must Protect Yourself
Unfortunately, these medications are just the tip of the iceberg. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), commonly used to relieve arthritis pain, contribute to cartilage degeneration. Cancer survivors, especially children, who’ve had chemotherapy or radiation have an increased risk of developing a secondary cancer that is caused by their previous treatment. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as Nexium and Prevacid, used to treat symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can cause rebound effects that make heartburn and indigestion worse when they are discontinued—and studies suggest that more than half of the prescriptions written for these drugs are inappropriate!
Folks, you must protect yourself. Medical schools are virtually owned by the drug companies, and from the onset budding physicians are “tutored” by Big Pharma. They are trained to prescribe—no questions asked. Students who do well in this environment become authority figures and opinion leaders, and they’re paid well to extol the benefits of a never-ending stream of pharmaceuticals. If you think this assessment is harsh, let me remind you that appropriately used drugs, prescribed by physicians, kill well over 100,000 Americans every year.
Become more actively involved in decisions involving your health. After all, it’s you, not your doctor, who must suffer the consequences. Question each and every drug that is prescribed. Is it absolutely necessary? What are the potential side effects? How does it interact with other medications you’re taking? And, most important, are there safer alternatives? Bottom line: Don’t be scared or bullied into treatments that worsen your disease.
From: Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.