Thursday, December 23, 2010

I'll Take My Chances With Complementary Medicine

Over 700,000 Americans die each year from government sanctioned, FDA approved, AMA sponsored medicine.

Iatrogenic, or doctor induced, illnesses take the lives of 783,936 American each year. This makes conventional medicine the number one killer in the United States, ahead of heart disease and cancer. And, beware that as few as 5% of iatrogenic events are ever reported.
This implies that iatrogenic deaths are much higher and would be equivalent to six jumbo jets falling out of the sky each day. Now that’s news!

An October 2003 JAMA study from the US government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reported 32,000, mostly surgery-related, deaths costing $9 billion and resulting in 2.4 million extra hospital days in 2000. Americans submit to over 600,000 bypass surgeries each year. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that up to 10% of bypass patients die from the surgery. Yet, the National Institutes of Health has estimated that 90% of Americans who undergo bypass surgery receive no benefits. Another study involving 14 major heart hospitals around the world showed that one-third of all heart bypass surgeries were unnecessary and actually increased the risk of death.

Americans using FDA sanctioned drugs, as directed, are dying at the rate of one every three to five minutes. In fact, the average American has a 26% chance of being hospitalized from a drug injury from the effects of a lifetime of drug taking. Of the 30 million people admitted to hospitals each year, approximately ten percent, or 3 million, are admitted specifically because of adverse drug reactions. In 1995, a JAMA report noted that, “…approximately 280,000 die annually as a result of these injuries.” And to top it off, hospital born infections kill another 26,000 (conservative estimate) patients each year. The General Accounting Office reports, “of the 198 drugs approved by the FDA between 1976 and 1985, 102 of them or 51% had serious post approval risks including heart failure, myocardial infarction, respiratory failure, seizures, and kidney failure.

The FDA estimates that NSAIDS cause 200,000 cases of gastric bleeding annually, leading to 10,000 to 20,000 deaths. Calcium channel blockers increase the risk of stroke by five-fold.
Americans take over 5 billion sleeping pills each year. And each year, 15,000 Americans die from these same sleeping pills. The heart drug Digoxin causes over 28,000 cases of life-threatening or fatal adverse reactions each year.

The very drugs that are being used to treat various illnesses are causing more American deaths in one year than occurred in the entire Vietnam War! Yet, in spite of the fact that these FDA approved drugs are killing over 100,000 Americans each year, people still believe health comes from a doctor prescribed pill bottle. Annual spending on drugs continues to grow by 12% or more each year. The public and the medical profession have been brain-washed into believing drug therapy is a safe and effective way to “cure” every ailment known to man. This starts at an early age as our kids become jaded and used  to the idea of lining up for the school nurse to dispense their Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs. To safeguard their stranglehold on public perception, the pharmaceutical industry makes sure doctors are thoroughly duped with half-truths and pseudo-science about the newest, greatest wonder drugs.

In 2001, drug companies paid for over 60% of the costs of all doctors’ continuing education classes. And over 80,000 drug reps give away $11 billion worth of samples each year. There is now one drug rep for every doctor in the United States.

However, today’s latest greatest drug is often tomorrows widow maker. Does Rezulin, Zelnorm, Baycol, Fen-Phen, Propulsid, Avandia, Vioxx, and Bextra ring any bells?

Vioxx alone has been linked to 27,000 cases of heart attack. The diabetes drug Avandia, increases heart attack risk by 43% and increases risk of death from heart disease by 64%. Dr. David Graham of the Food and Drug Administration estimates that Avandia may have caused 30,000 to 140,000 heart attacks or deaths since it was introduced in the U.S. in 1999.

Despite the periodic yellow journalism that warns us against the dangers of alternative medicine, given the risks associated with traditional medicine, I'm happy to take my chances with complementary medicine.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Traditional Medicine Offers Little for Fibromyalgia

With so many different symptoms, it’s no surprise that fibromyalgia and CFS patients are typically taking 6–12 different prescription drugs. Lyrica, Elavil, Klonopin, Paxil, Effexor, Xanax, Trazadone, Neurontin, Zanaflex, Ambien, Lunesta, Cymbalta,  and Provigil have all been heralded as “the drug” for fibromyalgia. 

Some of these are helpful, some worthless, and some really dangerous.
Drug management alone typically fails to yield lasting relief from the most common fibromyalgia and CFS symptoms, and patients’ and doctors’ optimism over a new drug treatment eventually gives way to this sad reality. Oh well, a new drug with an even larger marketing budget is on the horizon. (Forgive my cynicism. I’ve just seen this situation so many times!)

Many of the most commonly prescribed drugs for fibromyalgia have side effects that are similar or identical to the symptoms of FMS and CFS. These similarities can cause a lot of confusion when doctors are trying to determine the effectiveness of treatment. Ambien, for instance, can cause flu-like symptoms, achy muscle pain, sore throat, and fatigue. Sounds like CFS, doesn’t it?

Tranquilizers are often prescribed for restless leg syndrome; achy, tight muscles; and sleep problems. But these drugs deplete the sleep hormone melatonin, which then leads to a disruption of a person’s circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle). Instead of promoting deep restorative sleep, these drugs prevent it!
It’s important to realize that your drug or drugs may be causing or contributing to some or all of your symptoms. 

I spend a great deal of time with my new patients reviewing and discussing their current drugs—how they interact with each other, and the potential side effects. I often find that by asking the right question, I can help the patient realize that her symptoms began or worsened soon after the drug treatment began.
Sometimes, though, I do find drug-induced symptoms that began months after the start of the drug treatment. Drugs deplete essential nutrients that the body needs to properly function, but it can take weeks, months, or even years for the drug to fully deplete the nutrient and for you to see the side effects surface.

Still, not everyone can be drug free, and most of my patients are on at least one prescription medication. But the least offensive drug should be used—sparingly—and only to manage symptoms unresponsive to more natural therapies.

A study conducted by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research demonstrates the need the limitations of traditional medicine alone for treating fibromyalgia.

Thirty-nine patients with FMS were interviewed about their symptoms. Twenty-nine were interviewed again 10 years later. Of these 29 (mean age 55 at second interview), all had persistence of the same FMS symptoms. 
Moderate to severe pain or stiffness was reported in 55% of patients, moderate to a great deal of sleep difficulty was noted in 48%, and moderate to extreme fatigue was noted in 59%. These symptoms showed little change from earlier surveys. 

The surprising finding was that 79% of the patients were still taking medications to control symptoms. 

We can conclude that the medications weren’t making a significant impact.

Conventional medical treatments for FMS and CFS is a controversial topic, and I certainly have no desire to offend the many brilliant medical doctors out there. 

Still, in my experience, most traditional doctors continue to rely on prescription medications to treat fibromyalgia, even though their own studies show them to be ineffective and potentially dangerous. 

They still just don’t get it. Those with fibromyalgia and CFS are sick and they want to feel well, not drugged.
Just try to find a doctor who really knows anything about these illnesses. Most don’t. It’s even harder to find one who is having any lasting success treating these illnesses. How many folks with fibromyalgia get well under the care of a traditional rheumatologist? 
I rest my case.

I speak to fibromyalgia support groups across North America, and I can tell you what the answer is: very few. The three-month wait for a new patient appointment typically ends in a two-hour interview and exam followed by a 10 minute visit to discuss test results, and then several prescription drugs and a follow-up appointment every 3–6 months.

And let’s face it, those with fibromyalgia are medical misfits, they don’t usually respond to medications like other folks. The ACR has, like many physicians, thrown up their hands and admitted they have little if anything to offer for those suffering from fibromyalgia. They focus more on helping their patients “cope.” At least they’re honest about their limitations.