Which is really safer or more effective – nature or mainstream drugs?
by Tony Isaacs
Are mainstream drugs really safer and more effective than natural alternative such as man has used for healing for thousands of years? We are constantly told by mainstream medicine that only their drugs have been thoroughly tested for safety and effectiveness. Likewise, we are also told that herbs and other natural alternatives are unproven, usually of little or no value and often may be dangerous. But, does history and the record really support that?
Citing the lack of studies on herbs and natural alternatives brings two questions that may belie the idea of studies being a reliable guideline - namely how many studies are actually conducted on herbs and alternatives and how reliable are the studies conducted on mainstream drugs? By and large, most studies are conducted on patentable items that can be controlled and profited from. The only FDA approved medications are those owned and controlled by the pharmaceutical companies because no one can afford to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on something they can not uniquely control. It has been shown that studies tend to return positive results for the funders up to eight times more often than independent studies on the same item.
A growing number of people believe that the system is both deeply flawed and rigged in favor of those who have the money. Despite all the claimed validity of mainstream studies, that did not prevent us from having rigged studies on Vioxx. Nor did it prevent rigged studies for decades on the safety and even claimed health benefits of smoking cigarettes. Those are just two examples in a very long list of drugs and other items mainstream science told us were safe but turned out to be anything but. Thalidomide, heroin, opium, cocaine, Avandia, Fosamax, Prozac, Paxil, Aleve, Bextra, Aspartame . . the list goes on and on.
Another problem with mainstream medical studies is the apparent lack of quality standards employed by pharmaceutical companies in selecting doctors who oversee drug testing. A New York times investigation in 2007 found that in Minnesota alone at least 103 doctors who had been disciplined or criticized by the state medical board received a total of $1.7 million from drug makers between 1997 to 2005. The median payment over that period was $1,250; the largest was $479,000.
One such doctor was Dr. Faruk Abuzzahab, whom the Minnesota Medical board accused of a “reckless, if not willful, disregard” for the welfare of 46 patients, 5 of whom died in his care or shortly afterward. The board suspended his license for seven months and restricted it for two years after that. One of Dr. Abuzzahab’s patients was David Olson, whom the psychiatrist tried repeatedly to recruit for clinical trials. Drug makers paid Dr. Abuzzahab thousands of dollars for every patient he recruited. In July 1997, when Mr. Olson again refused to be a test subject, Dr. Abuzzahab discharged him from the hospital even though he was suicidal, records show. Mr. Olson committed suicide two weeks later.
The drug industry has been riddled with scandal again and again - including faked studies, rigged studies, hidden evidence of dangers, ghostwriten articles, fake medical journals, sex scandals, and much more. Merck, Vioxx. Pfizer, Avantis, GlaxoKilineSmith, Baxter Labs, the list goes on and on and on and leaves virtually no major pharmaceutical company untouched:
Another problem with mainstream drugs is the influence peddling of the pharmaceutical companies to get doctors to prescribe their medicines. Many doctors receive incentives for prescribing drugs - such as honorariums, free lunches and other gifts, and even free massages and cruise trips, to name a few. There have been a number of scandals concerning drug companies essentially bribing doctors to prescribe their drugs and many cries for reform to insure that drugs are prescribed according to the patient’s best interests and not the financial interests of doctors and drug companies.
Besides all the incentives, some doctors make profits directly from the drugs they prescribe, often with unhealthy consequences for their patients.In an article that appeared in the New York Times in May 2007 it was revealed that to of the world’s largest drug companies are paying hundreds of millions of dollars to doctors every year in return for giving their patients anemia medicines, which regulators now say may be unsafe at commonly used doses.
The same article noted that:
"Federal laws bar drug companies from paying doctors to prescribe medicines that are given in pill form and purchased by patients from pharmacies. But companies can rebate part of the price that doctors pay for drugs, … which they dispense in their offices as part of treatment. … Doctors receive the rebates after they buy the drugs from the companies. But they also receive reimbursement from Medicare or private insurers for the drugs, often at a markup over the doctors’ purchase price."
No wonder a Harris Poll found that only 13% of Americans believe that pharmaceutical companies are "generally honest and trustworthy."
Over 95% of the 15,000 plus approved medicines have side effects and in many instance those side effects lead to further conditions requiring still more drugs with more side effects in a never ending cycle. Millions of serious adverse reactions are reported each year and over 140,000 deaths in hospitals and homes happen each year even when the drugs have been properly prescribed and administered. We are told that there is always risk versus reward to be considered. But it appears that often a great deal of the “reward” is a drug company profits regardless of risks, as was the case when the makers of Vioxx (Merck) reaped billions of dollars of profit while the body count piled up even higher than all the lives we lost in the Vietnam War. The same thing appears to be happening now with Paxil:
Meanwhile, major side effects caused by natural herbs are rare and deaths almost non-existent.
Often we see the supporters of mainstream medicine refer to natural healing as "woo" and sometime they liken belief in natural herbs as more akin to some kind of religion instead of "real science". Is that really true? True science is based on observation. Mankind has observed nature to work and has used nature for healing for thousands of years, just as most of the people in the world continue to do and as the majority of people in most countries continue to do. Among those countries are several countries ranked above the U.S. (the world's most medicated country) in health rankings, including two of the top three ranked countries. Despite all of the15,000 plus approved drugs, our life expectancy ranks below 40 plus other countries and is closer to that of Mexico than it is the top 10 countries.
To claim that nature, from whence life itself came, is "woo" is patently absurd. Of course most of us would like to see scientific proof that anything we take is safe and effective, but when medical science has been sold off to the highest bidder far too often, I will choose what has been observed to work and what I myself have observed to work over and do my own homework before I accept anything that what medical science tells me will work and is safe.
When you combine the record of safety and effectiveness of approved drugs with the fact that history has taught us again and again that the science of today has but a fraction of the answers and is often overturned tomorrow, I would say that blind belief in mainstream medicine is far more of a religion than belief in nature.
I readily agree that just because something is natural does not mean that it will work or that it is safe, but I like the comparative safety records of nature versus approved drugs. And when it comes to what really works or not, the pharmaceutical industry itself admits that most of its drugs do not work for most people. According to Doctor Allen Roses, worldwide vice-president of genetics at GlaxoSmithKline and academic geneticist from DukeUniversity, "The vast majority of drugs - more than 90 per cent - only work in 30 or 50 per cent of the people."
Despite the claims that herbs, natural remedies, vitamins and minerals have little or no effectiveness, one thing the studies agree on:a great many of our health problems can be traced to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.On the other hand, no one ever became ill due to a deficiency in pharmaceuticals.