Drugs must be last resort

I know it’s a morbid question but it certainly has its relevance. Have you ever wondered how you are going to die? Or for that matter have you ever worried about it? Many of us have indeed considered our mortality and we buckle up our seat belts and generally try and keep out of the emergency room. As a doctor of health I feel a strong duty to bring the following to your attention.

I’ve been looking at some statistics recently and they tell a worrying story. Far too many of us are popping pills every day misguidedly in the name of ‘health’. Unfortunately this ritual of taking pharmaceutical drugs, always chasing the ’quick-fix’, is far, far more dangerous than the majority perceive.

The statistics I’m about to quote are from America but they can certainly be applied to Singapore to a large extent as we can see clearly that a large proportion of Singaporeans end up being medicated for serious degenerative conditions. This trend is worsening and today in America 50% of ALL (not just the elderly….ALL) people take a pharmaceutical drug daily. Astonishingly, if you isolate senior citizens, the number shoots up to a whopping 90%. This is certainly shocking, but for me what is worse, is that 20% of children are on medications.

This is not without consequence and statistics show that deaths from pharmaceutical drugs are continuing to rise at an alarming rate. If you are skeptical, and I do applaud healthy skeptism, I invite you to ‘Google’ the phrase “pharmaceutical drugs kill”. I just did this very thing and the search results were frightening. Go on, give it a try! You’ll see headlines from major news organizations such as Fox and CNN that read:

“Prescription drugs 62,000 times more likely to kill… “

“Prescription drugs kill 6200% more Americans…”

“Prescription Drugs Kill 300 Percent More Americans than Illegal Drugs…”

“Prescription drugs are now killing more people than traffic accidents…”

“Prescription Drug Deaths Skyrocket…”

“Prescription drugs kill one person every 19 minutes…”

“Prescription Drugs Now Kill More People Than Heroin And Cocaine Combined…”

And so it goes on and on and on……..

Sadly, most people don’t know that properly prescribed prescription drugs kill over 100,000 Americans each year. If we include prescription drug abuse, then this number skyrockets. This is the same as a large plane going down every day or equal to the number of people who die from accidents, Alzheimer’s, influenza and diabetes combined! In Singapore likewise, drugs companies and their reps dish these products out like candy and there is growing prescription drug abuse.

Why aren’t more people aware of these disastrous statistics? Well, one reason is the fundamental misunderstanding of how these drugs get tested and approved. Let’s look again at America, who judging by the amount they spend on medicine, should be by far the healthiest country on earth (actually 37th). Far too many people believe that the FDA has some kind of rigorous testing and evaluation system. Sadly, this is far from the truth.

Look how the system works. The current system puts almost the entire burden to test the safety of a new pharmaceutical drug on the developer of that drug. And since developing a new drug costs billions of dollars, you can imagine the immense pressure on the entire organization to make sure that drug gets to market. Making things worse are the fees that the pharmaceutical companies pay the FDA, which amount to about 20% of its total budget. Obviously this system is inherently flawed and corruption flourishes.

The end result is that dangerous drugs reach the market, leaving us hapless consumers as real world guinea pigs. Simply put, the big drug companies profit and we suffer.

One of the most infamous examples of this is what happened with the painkiller Vioxx. It’s widely known that Merck engaged in several illegal and dubious strategies to influence the research backing the safety of Vioxx. Sadly, this easily tricked the FDA who approved the drug, only to remove it from the shelves after it killed approximately 60,000 people. That’s just one drug. Another, Avenda, an FDA approved drug was eventually linked to 83,000 heart attacks and deaths, according to the FDA’s own scientists. An investigation showed that GlaxoSmithKline intentionally hid reliable scientific data clearly showing that Avandia significantly increases the risk of heart attack.

These are not ‘one-offs’. The same forces are at play today. There are thousands of different drugs out there and rather than the system treating the cause of disease and degeneration but rather ‘treating’ the symptoms, more and more will suffer.

There are times when the symptoms must be treated, of course, but when your body is out of balance and growing away from health the underlying causes simply must be addressed.

Here’s the true story that prompted me to write this article.

Last week I had a lovely lady come into our office pleading for help. 25 years ago she had been diagnosed with adult onset Type 2 (preventable) diabetes so of course they gave her medication. Because the underlying problem was never addressed she later suffered kidney failure, which has meant daily dialysis and more medication. A lengthy stay in hospital resulted in further deconditioning and she now lives in her wheelchair. Her heart disease is now medicated and her worsening immune system eventually allowed cancer to grow in her breast resulting in mastectomy, chemo and radiation therapy. Now she has no immune system and rightly so, she fears the future. This lady is the same age as me.
If you believe your doctor provides the final line of defense for you, think again. Despite their good intentions, you have to understand who trained your doctor on all of the “benefits” of the drug they are prescribing to you? You guessed it — the company that stands to make billions of dollars from its sale.

So, what’s to be done? My advice would be this. If your doctor prescribes you a drug, take your health into your own hands, take some responsibility. Consider lifestyle changes, look for natural alternatives, get second opinions and do your own research. Try and get as much knowledge on the subject and learn to keep asking the right questions. Only take the drug after you are 100% certain it is safe and in your best interests.

After all — your very life may depend on it!

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