Does your doctor badmouth vitamins? This may be why

Does your doctor badmouth vitamins? This may be why

As we have found out through countless drug recalls and corporate scandals, the pharmaceutical industry is about as honest as a used car salesman–much less so in fact. I’m not denying that drugs do relieve some suffering, and there are some great ones out there. But most of them are trash. Take, for example, the antihypertensives (which hardly work at all), the anti-cholesterol drugs (which work, but only based on the misconception that cholesterol causes heart disease), and the world’s greatest placebo scam, Viagra (which can be highly lethal in certain circumstances).

But instead of focusing on what’s wrong with the concoctions they continue to brew up, and worrying about how they might interfere with one another if someone takes them at the same time, universities are devoting all their energy into putting out grave warnings about the supposedly serious problem of mixing prescription drugs with certain herbs and vitamins.

Here’s the opener of a report from the University of Michigan: “Nearly three-quarters of heart patients surveyed in a new University of Michigan study used some kind of alternative medicine approach to help them heal, but dietary supplements chosen by one-third of them could actually interact with their heart medications to raise their risk of further health problems.”

The study came about when medical practitioners noticed that more and more patients were asking questions about their health and if vitamins and herbs might be a good alternative to expensive prescription drugs. This apparently made the doctors quite nervous–so nervous that they resorted to giving their patients some downright misleading advice.

The article went on to say that “the physicians would explain that the prescription medications had years of research evidence behind them to show that they worked, while many alternative treatments, even vitamins, had little or no scientific proof to back them up, and could cause side effects.”

Alternative medicine goes mainstream– whether Big Pharma likes it or not

This is simply not true. There are studies supporting the use of all kinds of alternative therapies, and more are published every day. Just because many mainstream physicians choose not to acknowledge this evidence doesn’t mean it’s not there. And thanks to the tireless work of the doctors who were willing to risk their careers and future on legitimate research into complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), the proof is so convincing that even some of the most conservative mainstream medical breeding grounds–excuse me, I mean universities–are offering courses in CAM therapies as part of their med school curricula.

But even though CAM is gaining more and more acceptance, some doctors, like the ones in the University of Michigan study, would rather not let their patients know that. Why, you might wonder? Well, in last month’s issue, I told you about some of the “perks” doctors are often given: from lavish dinners to all-expenses-paid trips. And who’s footing the bill for all this? Well, here’s a hint–it’s certainly not supplement companies.

Whose best interests is your doctor looking out for?

That’s right, pharmaceutical companies spend scads of money wooing doctors to prescribe their drugs. But if it looks like patients are staying away from drugs and leaning toward natural therapies (which, by the way, can’t be patented and have no profit potential), then there’s no incentive for them to shell out the cash to keep doctors in the lap of luxury. And once a doctor has had a taste of the good life provided by Big Pharma, he’ll do most anything–including bad-mouthing safe, natural, and cheap alternatives to prescription medications–to keep on its good side.

So if I had to venture a guess, I’d say that this so-called “study” out of the University of Michigan had less to do with doctors’ concern for their patients’ safety than it did with concern for missing out on all those freebies. Case in point: You’ll notice that they were only worried about how vitamins and other supplements might negatively affect prescription drugs– not how other drugs might negatively affect each other. Or how drugs might interfere with supplements. (See? Two can play at this game.) Coincidence? Somehow, I doubt it.

Now, I’m not saying that they don’t have a point: Certain herbs and vitamins can interact with drugs. But that’s only half the story–the half meant to scare people away from considering CAM as a legitimate treatment option.

Action to take:

If nothing else, this report did have one kernel of wisdom: “We need to encourage patients to be cautious, learn the risks, and share information with their health care providers,” said Eva Kline-Rogers, R.N., M.S., the University of Michigan nurse practitioner who coordinated the study.

Can’t argue with that–it’s sensible advice that you should follow with ANY treatment: pharmaceutical or natural. RH

Reference:

“Study: As heart patients flock to alternative medicine, hazards may lurk,” University of Michigan (press release), 3/19/02

The history of medicine

You know, it really is amazing how things come full circle. I’ve been thinking about the progress of medicine and put together the following timeline that I think you’ll find as amusing as it is accurate. Enjoy:

2000 B.C.: Here, eat this root.
1000 A.D.: That root is heathen. Say this prayer.
1850 A.D.: That prayer is pure superstition. Here, drink this potion.
1940 A.D.: That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.
1985 A.D.: That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic.
2003 A.D.: That antibiotic doesn’t work any more. Here, eat this root.