Using drugs to cure illnesses or improve uncomfortable symptoms has become a part of our lives in Western culture. This is part of the “pill for every disease” mentality that emerged in the 1950s after the development of antibiotics and then sedation. The ability to kill bacteria using antibiotics, so that it can save thousands of lives from simple infection damage, naturally leads to the idea that other drugs might do the same for other diseases. However, more than half a century later the medical profession found itself in a very awkward and embarrassing position. An editorial in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Jerry Avorn in November 2006 opened with the following paragraph –
“September 30 became a day of blasphemy for drug safety. On that date in 2004, Merck announced that rofecoxib (Vioxx) doubled the risk of myocardial infarction [heart attack] and stroke and the company withdrew the drug from the market after five years using in more than 20 million sufferers “If this is an isolated situation, then my concerns may be lacking. The problem is that this is a class of drugs known as NSAIDS, or non-steroidal anti-inflammation – perhaps better known to you as aspirin, ibuprofen, Advil®, Tylenol®, etc. Now make no mistake, these drugs are effective in reducing pain due to acute illness, and they should be used like that. The long-term side effects that are being discovered are only revealed because long-term testing of these drugs does not occur until after they come to the market! It takes millions of dollars to bring drugs to the market today, and pharmaceutical companies are not doing long-term testing on all new drugs, in the race to have the latest blockbuster drugs. So who is the guinea pig?
The answer is that you become a guinea pig after the drug has been approved initially, and only after a long period by many people that these side effects come to light. You may remember, especially if you are a woman, that at the beginning of the conjugated estrogen millennium, better known as Premarin®, it was found to increase heart disease rather than reject it – the latter being claims made by drug companies and doctors. More than 15 years. There is also a slight increase in the incidence of breast cancer. Women have become subjects of large, uncontrolled experiments. Since then, hundreds of thousands of women have stopped using conjugated estrogen and guess what? A recent study in 2006 showed that the incidence of breast cancer had declined significantly over the past five years since women had decreased intake of conjugated estrogen. Accidental? Maybe. It is more likely that the impact of a large number of women who reduce conjugated estrogen can reduce the incidence of breast cancer.
More concerning is this is a trend. The latest drug to accept rejection seals is the anti-diabetes drug rosiglitazone. All that glitters is not gold! A large analysis in the 2007 study, again in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed a significant increase in the number of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease in patients taking this drug. It’s bad enough that diabetes itself causes an increase in heart problems; we don’t need drugs that should help control diabetes increase death from a heart attack!
Do you want to think twice before taking any medication in the long run? Right. Many of these drugs are developed for acute pain situations – not always for long-term use in ongoing osteoarthritis or other chronic diseases. All these drugs are foreign to our bodies, and they not only target areas of our bodies that are in pain, say for example in the case of Vioxx, but they also target other areas of the body such as blood vessels and our stomach lining. Causing them to be affected detrimentally through an increase in heart disease, or gastric disorders and potential bleeding.
Adverse drug reactions were found to be one of the six main causes of hospital deaths, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1997. Why do we take drugs that should help us when they kill us? This is a good question that cannot be answered in this short article.
These detrimental effects are not limited to painkillers, hormone replacement therapy, and anti-diabetes drugs, but are also found to be significant in antidepressants prescribed for hundreds of thousands of people each year. A small increase in suicide rates among those taking certain antidepressants, when shown by psychiatrist Dr. David Healey, produced a suspension from his upcoming position with the Canadian Mental Health Association at the University of Toronto. Several years ago certain drug companies funded several anti-depressant clinical trials known as SSRIs – but they only reported favorable trial results, and suppressed unfavorable results! The impact of the pharmaceutical industry on medical science is huge and dangerous.
If you need to take medication, then stick with older, tried and true drugs. You are better in many cases because they have had research behind them for years, but … Lifestyle interventions on the other hand – take care of ourselves, eat healthy food, exercise, relax, and take time to relax do not has a bad effect. They also have a significant impact on diseases – recent studies in Type II diabetes have shown that compared to diabetes medications, lifestyle interventions are far more efficacious in controlling diabetes.