This week, we’re pleased to run the article “How to Fix Our Failing Health Care System?” by holistic dentist Dr. Steven Green. Part 1, “The Great American Drug Culture,” is available here, along with biographical info about Dr. Green.
How to Fix Our Failing Health Care System?
Part 2: Some Unsettling Truths About Western Medicine’s Drug “Cures”
John Virapen retired after working around the world more than 30 years for Big Pharma. Today, he presents “damning evidence” exposing Eli Lilly’s bribes of Sweden’s regulatory board to attain marketing approval for the original SSRI Prozac. (Because of their golden Nobel Prize and ethical reputation, once Sweden approves something, it’s much easier to get it approved in the U.S.)
SSRIs, of course, have become one of the most frequently prescribed classes of drugs in the world. Their influence has become so widespread, they have shaped our language, culture and assumptions about sickness and health. We now live in the “Age of Prozac.”
Consequently, SSRIs are also among the highest selling of all drugs in an industry that has been consistently ranked as one of the most profitable in the United States for the past 20 years. In 2003, Zoloft, an SSRI manufactured by Pfizer, was the tenth best selling drug in the world with sales of $3.4 billion.
Efforts to assess the true effectiveness of SSRIs have been confounded by the unwillingness of drug companies to publish negative clinical trial results. The manufacturer of Paxil deliberately avoided publishing data that showed the drug was no better than a placebo in children because, in doing so, they would have risked the lucrative adult market. Drug companies are not obliged to publish the results of negative clinical trials, even if there are more negative trials than positive. This means that neither the lay public nor physicians have access to comprehensive information on risks or benefits. What’s more, drug companies design and fund most clinical trials themselves, and the results of these trials are usually biased.
Truth be told, within about two months of starting an SSRI regimen, the drugs dull the very receptors to the serotonin they supposedly increase, often making it difficult it stop using – and thus, buying – the drug. In some, SSRIs reduce the serotonin effect, worsening the very depression they are trumpeted to lift, sometimes leading to suicide (a surprising side effect of many classes of drugs). The danger of induced suicide or suicidal acts seems to occur at any dose transition with SSRIs but particularly in the first weeks of taking the drug, when changing dosage or when trying to stop after long use.
It has been known by Big Pharma since1985 – and now, sadly, by many thousands of victims – that every person – healthy or depressed, adult or child – who starts an SSRI faces a finite risk of drug induced suicide and other harm in the first weeks of use (Teicher and Cole, 1993).
Considering that 68 million Americans have used Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft since 1988, and using a most conservative excess suicide rate, we can estimate that at least 21,000 suicides may have been induced, without any warnings to the victims or their families – suicides that would not have occurred without the influence of the drugs.
Women who take SSRIs during pregnancy are twice as likely to give birth prematurely. On average, they give birth four to five days earlier (relative to their due dates) than SSRI-free women. Moreover, the risk of an infant needing intensive care immediately after birth is also significantly increased by SSRI use during pregnancy. In Denmark, only 7% of babies born to non-depressed mothers need intensive care and only 9% of those born to depressed mothers who were not taking drugs, while 16% of babies born to women who had used SSRIs while pregnant required treatment in an intensive care unit.
Paxil‘s own label indicates, “Epidemiological studies have shown that infants exposed to first trimester exposure to paroxetine [the chemical name for Paxil] have an increased risk of congenital malformations, particularly heart defects.” In meta-analysis, there was a 46% increased risk for all cardiac defects and a 67% increased risk of septal defects associated with first trimester paroxetine exposure.
Other drugs have also been shown to cause heart problems. Whistleblower Dr. David Graham, testifying before the U.S. Senate, estimated that 88,000 to 139,000 Americans experienced heart attacks as a side effect from Merck’s Vioxx, that much-hyped “safer,” five dollar aspirin, and 30-40% of those individuals died. That’s roughly 27,000 to 55,000 preventable deaths attributed to Vioxx.
In 2007, when the New England Journal of Medicine published new data, FDA came under harsh new criticism over Avandia’s death and heart attack risk. Pooled results of studies of nearly 28,000 people showed a 43% higher risk of heart attack when taking Avandia compared to those taking other diabetes drugs or no diabetes medication. This drug caused at least 83,000 heart attacks in the US between 1999 and 2007. FDA was aware of Avandia’s risks as early as 2000, yet GlaxoSmithKline, PLC, the drug’s maker, was allowed to continue marketing – and reaping megabucks – from sales of this drug.
Evidence now shows that Glaxo knew about the dangers associated with its blockbuster drug – a drug taken by 6 million people worldwide, one million of those in the U.S. alone, at a cost of $90-170 per person, per month. According to attorneys, since the company sacrificed safety to profits, it may be held liable for damages suffered by those harmed by Avandia. Yet Glaxo continues to defend the drug and fights to keep it on the market despite its serious and potentially fatal side effects.
Blockbuster acid-blockers that bust immunity and boost cognitive decline are now readily available without a prescription. Trumpeted bisphosphonates slow or stop healing and thus make bones look whiter on X-rays. Besides their actually creating more brittle bones, they commonly cause osteonecrosis. In any event, the real risk of bone damage comes not from osteopenia but falling – an often overlooked side effect of most prescription drugs.
In 1972, the U.S. government funded a massive, expensive and long-term clinical trial called the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MR FIT) study. It was designed to demonstrate the value of special medical interventions to reduce health risks from smoking, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. The study particularly examined the extent to which intervention could affect death rates from coronary disease. The theory was that the “usual care” group would serve as a control, showing higher mortality than the “special Intervention” group, but that’s not what happened. Instead, both groups experienced substantially lower mortality than anticipated. Medical therapy didn’t alter outcomes. Awareness did.
These results flew in the face of medical dogma, so they were ignored, even though the study cost millions of dollars.
Still, treatment by drugs continues. Consider the popular beta blockers, often prescribed for cardiac arrhythmias, angina, tremors, hyperthyroidism and lowering blood pressure. For more than a decade, drug companies have stretched guidelines and recommended that people having non-cardiac surgery be prescribed beta blockers, arguing that surgery increases the heart’s need for oxygen, and beta blockers seem to help reduce blood pressure and heart rate, reducing strain on the heart. Patients who are given these after non-cardiac surgery may be 16% less likely to have a heart attack, but they are at higher risk of dying or having a stroke. How much higher? A retrospective study was finally performed and published in 2008. It showed that patients taking a beta blocker actually had a 33% increased risk of dying and double the risk of stroke.
Around the world, about 100 million people have major non-cardiac surgery annually. In the last decade, even if only 10% of patients undergoing such surgery were given beta blockers, we would count 800,000 unnecessary deaths and many survivable strokes.
Sometimes beta blocker users report depression, memory loss, confusion or hallucinations, and drug companies are now researching these “rare” side effects of beta blockers with an eye to the possibility that the drugs could be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is because the brain uses emotion to accentuate memory. In the case of war or other trauma, those memories may be so strong that they become pathological and bring on symptoms of PTSD. So, the thinking goes, you could use the drugs to block the emotional arousal that cements memories. But the drugs don’t discriminate. They block good and neutral memories, as well as bad. (One of my own patients taking beta blockers literally forgot how to read!) What are we without our memories?
The reported adverse effects of drugs are only the tip of the iceberg. Consider Digoxin, the best-selling heart drug. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, FDA receives about 82 reports each year involving Digoxin, yet a systematic study of Medicare records reveals 202,211 hospitalizations due to Digoxin adverse effects in a seven year period. That’s more than 28,000 reactions per year, only 82 of which FDA hears about.
Since the early 70s, doctors have wrongly recommended a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet and prescribed cholesterol-lowering statin drugs which last year brought in $33 billion in sales worldwide. In March 2006, Forbes reported that Pfizer’s Lipitor remained the best-selling drug in the world for the fifth year in a row. Its annual sales were $12.9 billion, more than twice as much as its closest competitors.
It seems that doctors have forgotten the basic importance of cholesterol synthesis and wrongly and routinely prescribe record amounts of statins to lower a theoretical risk factor for heart disease. As retired astronaut and physician Duane Graveline has noted, statins are statistically effective by accident because they act as expensive anti-inflammatories, not because they lower cholesterol. At currently recommended doses, these drugs also routinely cause major, permanent damage to human mitochondrial DNA, resulting in premature aging with loss of strength, joint and muscle pain, as well as memory loss or amnesia.
Muscle injury symptoms linked to Zocor and other statins include muscle pain, tenderness or weakness; elevated blood levels of creatine kinase enzyme; unexplained tiredness; and dark or red-colored urine. FDA also warns that mixing Zocor with certain other drugs also increases patients’ risk of muscle injury, including the rare but serious muscle-meltdown known as rhabdomyolysis, which can result in fatal kidney damage.
Dr. Mercola reminds us that Pfizer has distorted and manipulated the science so that people will pay hundreds of dollars for worthless and dangerous drugs that in no way, shape or form address their underlying health issues, yet they are advertised into believing that if they don’t take drugs, their lives are at stake. So they sacrifice, in many cases, by not buying wholesome foods or even paying the mortgage, as they believe their health will suffer if they fail to buy and continually take prescribed drugs.
Pfizer claims that “when diet and exercise are not enough, adding Lipitor can help lower cholesterol.” Of course, their recommended low-fat diet actually tends to elevate serum cholesterol, and they neglect to remind us that adding Lipitor also doubles risk to a deadly stroke.
Cancer has been practically transformed from a disease to a market-driven industry, more concerned with making money for corporate sponsors than funding innovative treatments. In the U.S., 1/9 of the overall health budget has a cancer connection. The most recent figures from the American Cancer Society estimate that $107 billion dollars is spent each year directly or indirectly on cancer, from which 630,000 Americans die annually. Patients are manipulated to beg their medical insurance companies spend $250,000 per year for some new short-term tested, patented pharmaceutical, yet insurers won’t even consider coverage of a “scientifically non-compared” herbal equivalent that costs just $300 per year.
Consider the drug Tarceva, which costs about $3,500 a month. It was approved as a treatment for pancreatic cancer because it improved survival by 12 days. Meanwhile, research on Dr. William Donald Kelly’s inexpensive, non-patentable natural enzyme therapy emphasizing diet, as modified by Nicholas Gonzalez, MD – a therapy which often has patients surviving for years – has been buried by the NIH.
A landmark paper on homeopathy and cancer appeared in the February 2010 issue of the International Journal of Oncology. Scientists at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, led by Moshe Frenkel, MD, have confirmed the ability of four homeopathic remedies to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in breast cancer cell lines in the laboratory, similar to tamoxifen. Will this research be buried, as well, by corporate interests?
Our current government leaders must recognize the enormity of the problem, stop being so personally greedy and provide some real leadership. The rules need to be changed. Our current Supreme Court rules in favor of corporations, and Congress is led by their lobbyists as the public is bled. Flesh and blood individuals must be more important than undying legal-constructs called corporations.
Coming Friday – “Part 3: How to Fix Our Failing Health Care System?”
Dr. Green can be contacted by email at ddsgreen (at) bellsouth.net.