Healing the Health Care System - Part 1

Published: October 4, 2012

One of the things that drew me to medicine was the importance of combining both the art and the science of medicine. In the ~ 3 decades since then, most physicians have lost faith in their own ability to diagnose by listening to and examining the patient, and they've seen the average time allotted them per patient visit drop to around 4-7 minutes. Many have also forgotten about "bedside manner" and the ability of words to both harm and heal (to tell someone their condition is hopeless is both a lie and in the olden days was called "putting a curse on someone"). We now think we are relying on science (called "evidence based medicine"), ignoring that science is telling us that it has been hijacked by drug company money and is no longer reliable.

Lying with Statistics—a Major Part of "Scientific Medicine"

More and more research shows that studies paid for by drug companies (which nowadays are most drug studies) are simply not reliable. Yet, this is what most of medicine is now based on. The cost? Having one of the most expensive health care systems in the world, over 200,000 US deaths from prescriptions yearly, and one of the least effective healthcare systems on the planet.

Pharmaceuticals vs. Heroin—Which Kills More?

Recreational Drugs are FAR Less Likely to Kill You than Prescribed Drugs!

So called recreational drugs, including heroin and cocaine, cause around 10,000-20,000 American deaths per year1,2. While this represents a serious public health problem, it causes far fewer deaths than prescriptions. For example, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that around 106,000 hospitalized patients die each year from drugs which are "properly" prescribed and administered. More than two million more suffer from serious side effects.3

An article in Newsweek4 notes that adverse drug reactions caused by prescription medications are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, only heart disease, cancer, and stroke kill more Americans than prescribed drugs—which kill more than twice as many Americans as HIV/AIDS or suicide. To make this even more of a concern, these numbers did not even include deaths among non-hospitalized patients (e.g. over 16,500 deaths a year from Motrin family medications), cases of malpractice or instances where the drugs were given improperly.

According to AMA news statistics of 12 years ago, drug related "problems" kill as many as 198,815 people, put 8.8 million in hospitals, and account for up to 28% of hospital admissions.5 The problem is increasing. Gary Null's recent study notes:6

"A definitive review and close reading of medical peer-review journals, and government health statistics shows that American medicine frequently causes more harm than good. The number of people having in-hospital, adverse drug reactions (ADR) to prescribed medicine is 2.2 million… The number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is 7.5 million. The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million. The total number of iatrogenic deaths (caused by medical therapies) shown in the following table is 783,936. It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States. The 2001 heart disease annual death rate is 699,697; the annual cancer death rate, 553,251… When the number one killer in a society is the healthcare system, then, that system has no excuse except to address its own urgent shortcomings. It's a failed system in need of immediate attention."

A recent article in Archives of Internal Medicine7 stated that in the seven year period from 1998 through 2005, reported serious adverse drug events increased 2.6-fold, and fatal adverse drug events increased 2.7-fold. The authors noted that reported serious events increased 4 times faster than the total number of outpatient prescriptions during the period. Another study concluded that the majority (86%) of the adverse drug reactions for which patients were admitted to a medical intensive care unit were preventable.8

What happens when the pharmaceutical industry hijacks science?

See "Healing the Health Care System—Part 2."

Also see "Are Medical Guidelines Helpful?"


1. "Drug deaths." Globe & Mail (Canada). February 27, 1998.

2. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. CDC. 2007;56(05):93-96.

3. Lazarou J, Pomeranz BH, Corey PN: "Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients." JAMA 1998;279:1200.

4. Kalb C: "When drugs do harm." Newsweek. April 27, 1998. Page 61.

5. "Reaction." American Medical News. January 15, 1996. Page 11.

6. Null G, Dean C, Feldman, M, Rasio, D, Smith D: "Death by Medicine." Life Extension. March, 2004. www.lef.org/magazine/mag2004/mar2004_awsi_death_01.htm

7. Moore TJ, Cohen MR, Furberg CD: Serious adverse drug events reported to the Food and Drug Administration, 1998-2005. Archives of Internal Medicine 2007;167:1752-1759.

8. Rivkin A: Admissions to a medical intensive care unit related to adverse drug reactions. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy 2007;64(17):1840-1843.

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

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