Sunday, March 29, 2009

Over Prescribed, Record Broken

I have a running record that you don't want to break. Previous record was a person on 26 different daily medications, which I thought was outrageous. Then it happened at the Diabetes Expo in Portland, Oregon. A woman sat down and pulled out her list of medications. 33. She is on 33 medications a day. I looked at her, looked at the list, looked at her symptoms she had checked off a list of stress survey, and wanted to scream. Modern medicine is failing her. This can't be what we are hoping Americans have access to. I am hoping patients can explore their options and try Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and naturopathic medicine as they might be able to help at the very least reduce the amount of medication they are on, at best help them correct the underlying imbalance and thrive.

An analysis of 2.4 million insured adults over 65 years old in 2004 showed the average senior seeing two or more doctors filled 27 prescriptions a year and were at risk for 10 potential drug errors. Both of these numbers increased with the number of doctors a person saw. Add to this the 106,000 + adverse drug reactions per year (1966-1996 study) that lead to death (which puts iatrogenic/ doctor caused deaths the fourth-sixth leading cause of death) and we have a problem. This is not healthcare. This is disease management. I find it curious in the current debate there is no definition of health and wellness. There is only talk of the system, insurance, and access. We have a unique opportunity to address the system. I'd like to advocate for more wellness and alternatives to the current drug madness, access for all Americans to true person centered healthcare, where they could access a variety of providers if they choose.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Big Pharma's unspoken influence on health care and other musings

In a recent NY Times article students at Harvard medical school were surprised at the extent big pharma had on their education.  In recent grades Harvard received an F for failure to disclose the conflicts of interest of their lecturers among other things.  We have discussed this topic in our podcast 'Nemesis of Medicine'.  This marriage of the pharma industry and medical education institutions is sadly absent from the current discussion of health care reform.    

Journal of American Medical Association Dr. Catherine DeAngelis said, "The influence that the pharmaceutical companies, the for-profits, are having on every aspect of so blatant now you'd have to be deaf, blind, and dumb not to see it."  When seniors argue for prescription rights as if this is true medical reform we are in trouble.  The marketing machine of big pharma masked as health care is the big elephant in the room.  What we have currently in the U.S. is a disease management, symptom based model of care and it's very expensive.

While access is one component of the discussion, we need to question access to what?  The discussion should include a change to talking about health and wellness.  A system that addresses the root causes of dis-ease, not just disease management.  All too often I see patients that are left coping with the dictate their doctors gave them, "get used to it, this is as good as it's going to get for you."  All too often patients are left with this statement and don't realize the options they have.   Naturopathic and Chinese medicine practitioners have options for patients that get results. People are voting with their dollars and have been spending more out of pocket on complimentary and alternative medicine than with their allopathic medical expenses.

One would expect an increase in research dollars to study these alternative therapies  since more and more Americans are using the therapies.  As a practitioner I am constantly scouring the reserach to help my patients.  Instead what we hear are attacks on complimentary and alternative medicine as psuedoscience in the Washington Post.   A doctor from Yale university, which received a C grade in policing big pharma on it's campus, was calling for defunding NCCAM (National Center for Complimentary and Alternative medicine ), the branch of the NIH (National Institutes of Health) which studies complementary and Alternative medicine.  His suggestion was that he doesn't like the government funding pseudoscience.   Instead, this physician, like many in his field, appear to collude with rigorous "pharma" standards and hence "pharma" results and "pharma" interests.  

At Nature Cures Clinic we are embarking on our own research as there is a clear need for it, however the model of research that earns institutional recognition does not reflect current practice.  The current trend of reductionistic single intervention research can not capture the essence of what makes naturopathic medicine thrive -- addressing root causes rather than symptom management.

We have a unique opportunity in time where the strangle hold big pharma has on medicine is loosening.   Patients are looking for alternatives to help the with their health conditions, dis-ease, and illness.  And we are ready.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Amazing Drug to Reduce Heart Disease Risk!

Imagine the billions in profits that would be earned if a company developed a drug that could to the following things for diabetic patients:

  • significantly lower blood glucose
  • significantly lower total cholesterol
  • significantly lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol
  • significantly lower CRP, an important risk factor for heart disease
  • significantly lower triglycerides
  • significantly lower VLDL (another type of "bad" cholesterol)
  • Significantly raise HDL ("good" cholesterol)
If a pharmaceutical could solidly claim even two or three of these benefits, it would be the top-selling drug in the world. 

Well, of course, there is something that has been found to do all of these things, but it isn't a drug. A study published in the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry has found that an extract of the herb Amla (Indian gooseberry) does all these things. People who like the details can read the whole study here

Unfortunately, our "health care system" will take very little notice of this study, because there are no opportunities for outrageous profits in this herb. But just because our medical system doesn't care for health very well, that doesn't mean that you can't.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hit Job

A recent study on antioxidants is a classic "hit job" on alternative medicine.

This study compared aspirin to a combination of antioxidants for their ability to prevent progression of arterial disease and diabetes. The study found that there was no difference in effectiveness between the two therapies. And without missing a beat, newspapers around the country proclaimed this new finding.

The dose of antioxidants used in this study is ridiculously low. For instance, this study used 100mg of vitamin C daily in their antioxidant supplement. While this is higher than the US RDA, it is somewhere between 1/5 and 1/20 the dose that is widely recognized to confer therapeutic benefits.

Likewise, 200mg of vitamin E was used, which is approximately 200IU (the units typically used to indicate vitamin E dosage). Virtually every study done on vitamin E finds benefits when the dose is between 800IU and 1200IU, or 4-6 times the dose used in this study.

The dose of vitamin B6, zinc, selenium and lecithin used in the study were all very very low.

The study states that "experts in antioxidants" were consulted to determine doses to use of each one. Apparently these experts are unfamiliar with both the research on antioxidants and with the clinical use of them. As a result, we have a study that tells us absolutely nothing about the effectiveness of antioxidants to prevent progression of arterial disease and diabetes.

Is it any wonder why alternative health care practitioners are skeptical of conventional research into the supplements they use?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Growing Smarter Kids

A Canadian study found that eating more fruits and vegetables was associated with better academic performance among high schoolers.

A second study looked at brain performance in children 6 to 14 years old before and after one year of taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement. The results are hardly surprising: there was a significant improvement on two different attention tasks than kids not taking the supplements.

Ironically, what are the most commonly prescribed medications for school aged children? Of course they are medications for attention deficit. How much more sensible would it be to supplement these kids with multivitamins than to "supplement" them with pharmaceuticals?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Respiratory Infections in Children

Children's cough/cold medicine has been shown to be more dangerous than helpful. But a recent study suggests that there are other kinds of therapies that will benefit kids with colds.

A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that school-aged children supplemented with fish oil experienced upper respiratory infections with less frequency. In addition, those who did get a cold had it for a shorter length of time when compared to kids not receiving the fish oil supplementation.

The general thought within the medical community is that, if there is no conventional therapy for a given problem, then there is no useful therapy. This is just one more example of a natural therapy that not only reduces illnesses in children, but will enhance their health overall.

Do we think that pediatricians across the country are going to start recommending fish oil supplements to children to prevent colds?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Children and the Flu Vaccination

The CDC's position on vaccinating children is straight-forward: all children ages 6 months to adult should get a vaccination every year.

Which is just great, except for the fact that there is no evidence vaccinating children prevents hospital visits or reduces trips to physicians. As if to add insult to injury, according to the CDC, "the majority of influenza vaccines distributed in the United States currently contain thimerosal [mercury] as a preservative."

Those looking for options that might actually reduce the risk of influenza in their children and themselves might want to contact their nearest naturopathic physician.