This is the next installment in my "Ten-Point Tune-Up" series — a ten-step way to energize every system and organ in your body. And it's one that many academic physicians on drug company payrolls might prefer you skip. Let me explain…
I recently read a news report from the Associated Press about the "Open Payments" initiative, a section in the Affordable Care Act that requires doctors to disclose their financial relationships with drug companies. The first Open Payments report showed that from August to December 2013 drug and medical device companies paid doctors and hospitals $3.5 billion dollars — money I consider a "legal bribe" designed to encourage physicians presented as "thought leaders" to prescribe and recommend medications! That's a stunning $13.5 billion a year to corrupt our health experts!
This money turns the key physicians and medical organizations that make and enforce our medical practice guidelines into paid mouthpieces for the drug companies. So when you hear that a so-called expert committee from a national health organization has come out with legally enforceable guidelines for treating an illness, do you believe you're getting impartial advice? That wise and knowledgeable physicians came together, reviewed the research, and picked the most effective and safe treatments, with only your best interests at heart? If so, do you also believe in Santa Clause and the tooth fairy?
You might as well!
Drug companies pay medical organizations HUGE sums of money. This buys them seats on practice guidelines committees where their hand-picked "experts" can push their company's drugs into becoming officially recommended treatments, which can be worth billions in sales. Everyone involved cashes in: the drug companies, the "expert" doctors, and the medical organizations.
Everyone, that us, but you — the person needing treatment. What you get is generally the most expensive option, even if it's minimally helpful — or worse yet, might even kill you!
Here's what the science shows. A 2011 study In the British Medical Journal showed that over half of the experts who served on "expert" committees from organizations like the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology had a financial conflict of interest.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Edwin Gale observes "The common suggestion that guideline committees should include only experts with no conflicts of interest has 'a charming sense of unreality' … Money from drug companies is the oxygen on which the academic medical world depends. The income of the professional societies that publish guidelines largely derives from their annual conferences, which depend on the rents charged to exhibitors and the registration of company-sponsored delegates … Let us therefore forget the hand-wringing and confront the reality of the world in which we live."
Basically, don't hold your breath hoping that the healthcare industry will reform itself anytime soon. The good news? The information you need to make informed choices and to learn about natural alternatives is readily available. You don't have to wait until your physician realizes that they have been ignoring the "900 pound gorilla" that runs the healthcare industry.
My advice is to be wary of blindly accepting medical practice guidelines, as too often they are little more than drug company advertisements masquerading as true medical advice — even if your doctor views them as "holy scripture," which in the religion of medicine, they unfortunately are!
For a sample study revealing these kinds of conflicts of interest, see Conflicts of Interest Abound in Diabetes Guidelines Committees (free registration required).
Is Your Drug A Deadly Menace? (Many Are)
It's bad enough that some doctors prescribe the latest drug not because it's the best medication for you but because a drug rep took them out for a fancy dinner and fawned all over them. But even many so-called "effective" drugs might not do you much good — and might cause you a lot of harm.
A scientific study shows that "adverse reactions" to prescribed drugs kills more than 100,000 Americans each and every year. That's the 6th leading cause of death! (Heart disease, cancer, lung disease, stroke and accidents are numbers 1 through 5.) And I'd say those researchers low balled by a lot. The number is probably twice that, because many deaths from prescription drugs aren't reported, and many are mistakenly ascribed to the disease the drug was treating.
How do prescription drugs do people in?
Overdoses at hospitals. Liver or kidney failure (the main organs that process drugs). Bleeding ulcers. Deadly allergic reactions. Brain-busting strokes. Those are some ways that drugs can kill you fast. They can also kill you slowly. One sad and common example is that many cases of dementia are actually a mental muddle caused by taking multiple medications. But the person is diagnosed with Alzheimer's and dies in a nursing home. The more drugs you're taking, the higher the risk of having a bad interaction between drugs — an exposure doctors often overlook.
At this point, you might think I'm against prescription medications. I'm not.
They're one important tool in a good doctors toolbox — a tool I use if it's uniquely effective, like the sleeping medications that can uniquely help in chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.
But I always advise people to use prescription medications wisely.
Take the smallest effective dose. Check each med with your doctor at least yearly to see if you can try without the medication. And explore whether there are equally effective non-drug alternatives. I work hard to base my recommendations on what is truly effective — not on what drug companies subtly attempt to bribe me to believe.
In my next two installments in this series, I'll cover the most-prescribed drugs.
I'll discuss the damage they do and how to minimize that damage if you and an open-minded, partnering physician think you must take the drug. I'll also show how many of these drugs are rarely necessary, because there are non-drug alternatives that really work. I'll tell you about those too. In I'll show you:
- That statins prescribed for cholesterol are often less effective against heart disease than owning a cat.
- How powerful acid-suppressants for heartburn secretly addict you so you can't get off them.
- How long-term use of drugs for osteoporosis can harden your bones in a way that makes them more breakable.
- And more, including information about pain-relieving NSAIDS, antidepressants and antibiotics.
It's time to make sure your medicine cabinet isn't sabotaging your optimal health!
- Neuman J, Korenstein D, Ross J, and Keyhani S. Prevalence of financial conflicts of interest among panel members producing clinical practice guidelines in Canada and the United States: cross sectional study. BMJ 2011; DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d5621. Available at: http://www.bmj.com.
- Grilli R, Magrini N, Penna A, et al. Practice guidelines developed by specialty societies: The need for a critical appraisal. Lancet 2000; 355:103-106. Abstract
- Gale EAM. Conflicts of interest in guideline panel members. BMJ 2011; DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d5728. Available at: http://www.bmj.com.
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. 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.