By Dr. Mercola
As most of you know, the conventional medical system tends to equate "health" with the absence of symptoms of disease. The entire industry is built around treating symptoms with expensive patented drugs, many of which are profoundly toxic and dangerous.
Pharmaceutical companies now rule the entire healthcare system, and they go to great lengths to protect their profits, even if it means sacrificing patients' health in the long run.
A recent story from the United Kingdom illustrates how far drug companies will go to make sure their expensive drugs are used when cheaper ones are available, and how medical facilities completely ignore more obvious cost-saving and safe solutions.
In London, in a legal maneuver intended to eliminate their competition, drug maker Novartis is now trying to force state-run hospitals to use their eye drug, which costs nearly 12 times as much as a cheaper drug the hospitals are currently using.
Novartis' drug, Lucentis, is the only one recommended for treatment of macular degeneration in Great Britain. But in an effort to save money, hospitals have been using the cancer drug Avastin instead, even though it's an off-label use that its manufacturer, Roche, says it hasn't even studied. (Avastin was recently recalled by the U.S. FDA because of its dangerous side effects, which include heart attacks.)
Novartis is now demanding a judicial review, to make the hospitals comply with the standard recommendation to use their drug and stop using Avastin off-label to treat this eye disease. Needless to say, using a dangerous cancer drug off-label to treat macular degeneration is far from an ideal solution, even though it's 12 times cheaper than the other drug alternative...
If they really wanted to save money and spare people's eyesight, they'd start paying closer attention to the research into astaxanthin. Studies have shown this safe and natural supplement is therapeutic for macular degeneration, and it's a product anyone can take without running the risk of potentially devastating side effects. Astaxanthin may in fact be one of the most powerful nutrients ever discovered for eye health, and it costs pennies on the dollar compared to either Lucentis or Avastin.
Research Supports Astaxanthin for Macular Degeneration
While the off-label use of Avastin for macular degeneration is said to be based on a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine last year, which showed Avastin worked just as well as Lucentis for treating macular degeneration, numerous studies exist demonstrating the treatment potential of astaxanthin for this eye disorder. For example, one 2008 study, published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, concluded thati:
"Astaxanthin treatment, together with inflammatory processes including NF-kB activation, subsequent upregulation of inflammatory molecules, and macrophage infiltration, led to significant suppression of choroidal neovascularization (CNV) development. The present study suggests the possibility of astaxanthin supplementation as a therapeutic strategy to suppress CNV associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD)."
For more information, please see this previous article that describes how astaxanthin can help protect your eyesight.
Hospitals Seeing More Babies Born Addicted to Prescription Drugs
Conventional medicine is more than a little fond of using costly, toxic drugs. Unfortunately, this "health" strategy exacts a tremendously high price, both in terms of dollars and cents and in actual health status. I've written a lot about the many side effects of most drug categories on the market, but one aspect that doesn't get much publicity is the generational impact of pharmaceutical drug use.
In one of the most startling news reports yet on the overuse of opioid drugs like Oxycontin in America, a new study found that newborns suffering from withdrawal symptoms due to their mothers' use of prescription painkillers tripled between 2000 and 2009.
An estimated 13,500 babies are now born with opioid withdrawal symptoms each year. Over the same time period the number of women using these drugs quintupled. Health-care costs to treat these drug addicted babies rose from $190 million to a whopping $720 million.
"This serves as a reminder that this is really a public health emergency," lead author Dr. Stephen Patrick of the University of Michigan told JAMA Reportii.
The study also found that the withdrawal problems appear to affect poor children disproportionately: 78 percent of the drug-addicted babies were born to mothers on Medicaid (an indication of poverty level), compared to 46 percent born to mothers receiving no public aid.
According to Time Magazineiii:
"Prescription drug misuse has risen in tandem with a sharp increase in legitimate prescriptions for pain medication, owing to a better recognition of the high prevalence of severe chronic pain. Both trends are likely to have affected painkiller use by pregnant women, but it is difficult to say exactly how many women use the drugs legitimately and how many do so without a prescription."
Either way, it's interesting to note that while there was great outcry over the horrors of "crack babies" being born to mothers abusing crack-cocaine, the response to legal drug addiction in newborn babies is far more muted. Take the comment of Carl Hart, associate professor of psychology at Columbia University, for example, who is quoted in the featured Time articles as saying:
"[The research] failed to take into account that there are many women who are prescribed opioids for medical reasons and these women are following their physicians' orders and behaving in the way that society wants them to behave. There's no distinction made between these women and those who are using opioids illicitly."
My question is: Does it really make a difference? Whether you're following doctor's "orders" and "behaving the way society wants you to behave" by dutifully taking your drugs or not, the harm inflicted is real—and it's caused by overuse of prescription drugs.
The Rise of Polypharmacy
Another factor of our current drug use trend that is frequently ignored is the impact of polypharmacy, i.e. the use of multiple drugs. For example, people with chronic pain or depression will oftentimes take more than one drug to ease their daily suffering. This exponentially increases your risk of side effects, but many still ignore this obvious fact. This holds true for ALL drugs, of course, not just pain medications and antidepressants.
There's no doubt that the U.S. has been purposely manipulated into becoming a "polypharmacy nation." In just one decade, from 1992 to 2002, the number of prescriptions written increased by a whopping 61 percent, and the number of opiate prescriptions increased by almost 400 percent in that same timeframe.
It doesn't have to be this way. My 83 year old father and 77 year old mother do not take ANY drugs. Whenever they have to go for a conventional medical visit, their providers are always shocked at this fact, as it's in stark contrast to the vast majority of the rest of the population.
According to statistics from the Kaiser Health Foundationiv, the average American adult, aged 19 to 64, now takes more than 11 prescription drugs. So while polypharmacy used to be primarily a concern for seniors—who, on average fill more than 31 prescriptions per year—polypharmacy now applies to virtually everyone, including children and toddlers, whose drug use now averages out to four or more drugs per child!
This is a very significant problem that is not getting much attention. I've also heard many stories of concerned patients bringing it up with their doctors, only to be rebuffed. Still, it's essential to understand that when you mix two or more drugs together, you exponentially increase your chances of suffering serious side effects. But just how did we get to the point where the average American is taking nearly a dozen pharmaceutical drugs daily?
Big Pharma Wants You Hooked on Drugs for Life
A major factor is the fact that the U.S. allows direct-to-consumer advertising for drugs. Most other nations do not allow pharmaceutical advertising, and their population consequently also does not consume nearly as many drugs. Advertising works—that's a fact! There are two effective marketing strategies employed by drug companies on a regular basis, and they include:
- Convincing you that drugs you used to take only when you needed them are now everyday "prevention" necessities in the form of a prescription; and
- Selling you the idea that just being at risk for a chronic disease makes you someone who should be taking a drug for the disease.
The supreme success of these two strategies arises from the fact that YOU are the one who then demands it from your doctor. Furthermore, the treatment goal of most of the drugs advertised is to keep taking them for life. After all, if you're at risk for a chronic disease, that risk never goes away, so you have to keep taking the drug until you die, or cannot afford it any longer.
In a recent article, Martha Rosenbergv lists six types of drugs that are "marketed for perpetuity," meaning they're intended to be taken for life. This type of marketing has also been profoundly effective. According to statistics, 46 percent of all Americans take five or more prescriptions chronically (as opposed to "as needed").
Sadly most of these drugs come with potential side effects that can be far worse than your original symptom, and few of them have been definitively proven to actually provide any significant health benefits. In fact, some of these drugs have been found to worsen the very condition they're meant to treat (such as antidepressants, statins, proton pump inhibitors, and asthma-control meds), and/or cause other serious diseases. For more information, please follow the hyperlinks provided:
The Incredible Cost of Polypharmacy and Perpetual Drug Use
Four years ago, an analysis of federal data by the nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) discovered that in the first quarter of 2008, fatalities from adverse drug reactions accounted for 23 percent of all adverse reaction reports!vi
It's quite likely that this could be due to the exponential increase in polypharmacy. And it should serve as a wakeup call for everyone. We're not talking about headaches and nausea anymore—we're talking about death being reported as the side effect in nearly one out of every four cases...
Excessive drug use is also extremely expensive. First, drugs cost the US health care system nearly one trillion dollars a year. But that's not all. We also spend tens of billions of dollars to treat the side effects of those drugs! And despite all these "magic pills," the United States ranks 49th in the world for both male and female life expectancy, down from 24th in 1999.
From my point of view, the idea that "more and better drugs" is the answer to our nation's failing health is clearly misguided. This is also part and parcel of the point I wanted to make in the beginning of this article, which is: Why focus on trying to determine which toxic and expensive drug to use when there are safer, in many cases completely natural, alternatives available? No one has died yet from too many whole food supplements, but drugs taken as prescribed kill at least 106,000 people annually and more than two million people suffer serious side effects.
Isn't it time for another approach? Like Taking Control of Your Health without drugs.