Tom Ballard, ND's blog


Drugs: No Comparison
January 13, 2011, 11:29 am
Filed under: Commentary, Medications | Tags: , , ,

Researchers from Harvard, writing for the Journal of the American Medical Association, have concluded that, “Many of our nation’s research priorities are driven by the pharmaceutical industry. These companies, not surprisingly, focus most of their attention on new therapies.”

This is what I’ve been writing about for years. How can we improve our health when the powerful pharmaceutical industry controls research? Their goal is to make money. New drugs make more money, whether they’re any better than the old or not.

Among this study’s conclusions was that few drugs are ever compared with other drugs for safety or efficacy. Instead they’re usually compared to placebos. When drugs are compared one on one, the report states, they usually don’t compare safety. Doctors and patients can be lured into thinking that the new drug on the block is better than an older, less expensive, drug, when in reality the question was never asked. This is one of the reasons why drug companies make more profits than any other industry.

It goes without saying that drugs are rarely compared to lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Drug studies also tend to be relatively short in duration, months rather than years, and limit their scope to very narrow parameters (ie, does it lower cholesterol, not whether it prolongs life).

There is one area where I have seen comparative studies. Cancer research usually involves comparing two chemotherapy programs or chemotherapy to radiation. You’ll never see a cancer therapy compared to life style changes or even doing nothing. Cancer researchers would argue that it would be unethical to use humans with cancer in a study and give them nothing, but the fact is they usually have no idea whether patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation are in fact helped at all. They may be able to tell you therapy X prolonged survival over therapy Y, but not if either prolonged life over no therapy.

The American public has been dazzled by the advances in medicine over the past few decades. And there have been remarkable achievements. As more reports like this one emerge, the public will undergo a slow awakening to the dangers of allowing a largely unregulated industry to dictate how medical research is conducted.



Corruption in Drugville?

“Corruption in the pharmaceutical sector occurs throughout all stages of the medicine chain, from research and development to dispensing and promotion,” from a World Health Organization (WHO) fact sheet.  According to WHO data, unethical practices such as falsification of evidence, bribery, and mismanagement of conflicts of interest are “common and throughout the medicine chain.”

The fact sheet goes into detail, such as findings that clinical trials of drugs are conducted without proper regulatory approval, that drugs are approved with incorrect or insufficient information, and that doctors are unduly influenced to dispense drugs to gain the greatest profit rather than to produce the greatest benefit for the patient.

Unfortunately our current medical system isn’t the paragon of scientific virtue that they would have us believe. Medical care is a commodity and as such: Buyer beware.



“Why?” Medicine: Is your doctor asking questions?

No, this is not an article on “Why medicine?” I’m asking why “why?” isn’t asked by more doctors.

Example: Your blood pressure is high. Your MD doesn’t ask “why?” but writes a prescription for a drug that lowers blood pressure. Often the drug works. You’re content with the treatment because you know high blood pressure is bad. Every year you see your doc, assured your pressure is doing well on the medication, and the prescription is refilled. Happy ending?

Maybe not.

This same scenario also applies to dozens of other conditions – high cholesterol, high glucose, even a rash on your little toe. Something is wrong and a prescription for a drug that reverses that condition is jotted on a pad. You might call this “anti-medicine” – anti-hypertension, anti-cholesterol, anti-blood sugar, anti-inflammation (for the poor little toe).

The missing “Why?”

The above examples of anti-medicine all have something in common – your doctor never asked “Why?” Never said, “Let’s find out why your blood pressure (cholesterol, glucose, etc) is high and treat the underlying condition.” Continue reading