The #1 Cause of Accidental Death in the U.S. - Are You at Risk?
November 24, 2011
By Dr. Mercola
With all its designer drugs and state-of-the-art machinery, you'd think modern medicine is the perfect fix for providing patient-focused care.
You might also expect that Americans would be the healthiest people on Earth, seeing that the U.S. is the epicenter of all this technology, and especially since we spend more on health care than any other country in the world.
Yet, every year in the U.S., seven out of 10 deaths are due to preventable chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, and obesity.
How can that be?
How is it that we're not just chronically ill, but also lagging behind most industrialized nations in life expectancy?
The answer lies in how we approach health care: like it or not, the real focus of modern medicine is on selling disease and making money, not making you well.
New Disease Definitions and Phony Parameters Feed Pharma's Pockets
From blood pressure guidelines to mental illness definitions and dozens of other physical ailments, modern medicine's bottom line for only treating symptoms is to expand the indications for the drug pipeline. And that's not just in the United States. For most of the world, the definition of health "care" has become interchangeable with drug interventions. I put the word "care" in quotations to indicate this is modern medicine's definition, not mine.
I'll explain my personal definition of health care later in this article, but for the standard paradigm, it's apparent it means not only lowering the minimum acceptable parameters for blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes, but creating new "diseases" to be "treated." The result is that more people than ever are now on drugs for preventable chronic conditions. Unfortunately, all these drugs haven't made us healthier. Instead, we just keep spending more money, with 75 percent of every health care dollar going to chronic disease treatment.
In 2008 alone, Americans spent $2.3 trillion on this type of health "care" – three times the $714 billion spent in 1990, and more than eight times the $253 billion spent in 1980.
In other parts of the world, 36 million people die every year due to chronic diseases – which health officials predict will cost $47 trillion a year by 2030. The numbers are so staggering that the United Nations has formed a special committee just to address strategies for addressing chronic disease. The committees met several times, most recently in New York City, where they declared war on salt, junk food, and tobacco as their first move toward reigning in health care costs.
Sick Pills for Well People
Doctors realize merely treating symptoms does not remove the disease. They also know it's lifestyle choices, not salt, junk food, or tobacco, that are responsible for making us ill. So why are drugs typically their first line of "patient-centered" care, particularly when so many of them have side effects that can only be treated with more drugs? And what makes health officials think that taxing, banning or regulating salt, junk food, and tobacco is going to solve the chronic disease crisis?
In her book, "Death by Modern Medicine," Dr. Carolyn Dean talks about how, for well over a century, the definition of health care has been pills-and-drugs. It's a deliberately schemed and manipulated paradigm that's been packaged and sold through:
- The insurance industry's (including Medicare's and Medicaid's) methodology for payment, which doesn't recognize nutritional care or proven naturopathic approaches to health care
- Direct-to-Consumer advertising
- Influencing physicians and other health care providers through gifts, honoraria for speaking engagements, and financial support for training programs, which is simply another form of advertising
- Intense lobbying by PhRMA and individual drug makers such as Merck and Pfizer
Big Bucks for Buying Doctors' Attention
When it comes to making payments to physicians it wants to influence, the pharmaceutical industry is very generous, Pharma Marketing Blog notes:
"Last year (2010) a mere dozen pharmaceutical companies paid $760 million to physicians and other health care providers for consulting, speaking, research and expenses, according to ProPublica's 'Dollars for Docs' project."
These "gifts" ranged from $50 to $2,000 for a single meal, to thousands of dollars for speaking fees, ProPublica said. In fact, one pain specialist, Gerald M. Sacks, allegedly racked in $270,825 from four different Big Pharma companies in one year! Whether that bonus income influenced Dr. Sacks' prescribing practices is unknown, but what we do know is that just between 1997 and 2005, the amount of five major painkillers sold in the U.S. jumped 90 percent – and in 2011 prescription drug overdoses replaced car accidents as the No. 1 reason for accidental deaths in the U.S., with painkillers topping the list.
It's scandalous how this happens, Dr. Dean says, because when it's all said and done, the advertising and marketing aren't even based on science!
According to a study published in 2004:
"…only 6 percent of drug advertising material is supported by scientific evidence. Therefore, most of what you read about a drug is pure fiction, and doesn't help a person to make an informed choice about what they are taking, what it will do, and how it may harm them. Drug companies are making claims based on lies."
The British Medical Journal said
"High amount of misinformation puts patients' health at risk" because "doctors tend to base their decisions on the information and advertising material sent out by drug companies."
That's right. Doctors rely on drug companies to tell them how to treat their patients, and with what drug. What's disturbing is that drug studies often result in bias favoring the sponsoring company, meaning that what your doctor is learning from drug reps may be highly slanted toward you getting a prescription for something that has little or no science behind it.
Now you know why Americans consume nearly 40 percent of all pharmaceutical products sold! As Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber say in their book, "Trust Us, We're Experts," it's the best science money can buy. However, there are two other cash-cows that drug companies love even more since it is becoming progressively more difficult to patent new drugs.
Vaccines are the New Revenue Source for Drug Companies
Vaccines are a highly controversial topic and if you still believe that most benefit from them I would encourage you to do some additional research. I have a dedicated section on this site where you can learn more. First, vaccines have not eliminated disease in the world; and secondly, they are huge moneymakers, no matter what health officials want you to think. When it comes to vaccine safety, information, and choice, I recommend the National Vaccine Information Center, which has the most informative vaccine website I know of, where you can educate yourself on vaccine choices.
When it comes to revenues, vaccines are one of the fastest-growing sectors of the pharmaceutical industry, with a projected $36.3 billion-a-year business by 2013. This business is helped along by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) which recommends vaccines in the U.S., which in turn prompts states to follow up by mandating them. But don't believe the old line that all this recommending and mandating only costs doctors money. Although the government regulates what pediatricians can charge for vaccines, it also gives some nice "incentives" for making sure you and your child get fully vaccinated.
Dubbed the "AFIX" approach, these incentives consist of an:
- Assessment that evaluates how well-vaccinated a provider’s patients are, compared to what the CDC would like them to be;
- Feedback to providers on what they can and must do to improve immunization rates;
- Incentives to motivate physicians to step up their efforts to push vaccines on their patients; and
- eXchange of information about how each provider's vaccine status compares to other providers, state norms and expected outcomes.
The incentive part of AFIX is quite broad: referred to as "opportunities for partnerships and collaboration," they range from "small tokens" of appreciation and "resources," to "assisting" with staffing, including paying for nurses and community-based vaccinators (i.e. those giving shots in drug stores). No wonder so many entities are suddenly on-board with the latest flu vaccine push! The truth is vaccines are Pharma's latest money machines.
Cancer—Another Major Revenue Stream
For more than forty years the war on cancer has been waged with abysmal results. It's no secret that we are not winning the war on cancer, partly because the FDA is a rogue, out-of-control agency that systematically sabotages serious threats to the current model. Proven cancer cures like that of Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, who showed a tremendous success rate for his antineoplastin treatment over 30 years ago are a great example of this suppression.
The "science" behind the FDA's decisions on what cancer studies can be introduced to the public is in the politics, and the fact that Pharma feeds the FDA's pockets, through direct fees drug companies pay the FDA to get their products reviewed, and the less-reportable, more lucrative bonuses drug companies give the FDA for such things as travel expenses and speakers' fees.
The bottom line is, as Dr. Samuel Epstein says in his book, "The Politics of Cancer," this industry is fed and led by politics.
Drug company research and publicly-funded budgets for the likes of the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the National Institute of Health are dependent on treating cancer, not preventing it. The reason is obvious: the $50 billion-a-year cancer business is growing by 15 percent a year. If they cure cancer, there goes the bottom line.
Disease Prevention 101: A Healthy Lifestyle
The best way to avoid the pitfalls of modern medicine, especially dangerous drugs, is to modify your lifestyle. Of all the healthy lifestyle strategies I know of that can have a significant impact on your health, normalizing your insulin and leptin levels is probably the most important. There is no question that this is an absolute necessity if you want to avoid disease. That means modifying your diet to avoid excessive amounts of fructose, grains, and other pro-inflammatory ingredients like trans fats, and exercising regularly.
These additional strategies can further help you stay healthy:
- Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels to between 50 and 70 ng/ml.
- Animal based omega-3 fats – Correcting the ratio of omega-3 to healthful omega-6 fats is a strong factor in helping people live longer. This typically means increasing your intake of animal based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil, while decreasing your intake of damaged omega-6 fats (think trans fats).
- Get most of your antioxidants from foods –Good sources include blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, beans, and artichokes.
- Use coconut oil – Another excellent anti-aging food is coconut oil, known to reduce your risk of heart disease and Alzheimer's disease, and lower your cholesterol, among other things.
- Avoid as many chemicals, toxins, and pollutants as possible – This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
- Use great caution when it comes to prescription drugs – Pharmaceutical drugs kill thousands of people prematurely every year – as an expected side effect of the action of the drug. And, if you adhere to a healthy lifestyle, you most likely will never need any of them in the first place.
- Learn how to effectively cope with stress – Stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day, so developing effective coping mechanisms is a major longevity-promoting factor.
Meditation, prayer, physical activity and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium. I also strongly believe in using energy psychology tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to address deeper, oftentimes hidden emotional problems.
Incorporating these healthy lifestyle guidelines will help set you squarely on the path to optimal health and give you the best shot at living a much longer life. Remember, it's never too late to take control of your health. And when you do go to the doctor, know that it's OK to ask questions and opt for less medical intervention while choosing a more natural way of healing your body – you should NEVER think that you're not supposed to, or can't, ask questions of the person you've entrusted with your body.