Monday, November 16, 2009

Another Nail In The Coffin for Cholesterol-Lowering Medications

How many studies have to be done which show a drug is a failure before doctors will stop using it?  It is a very interesting question in light to the news headlines today about the block-buster cholesterol drug Zetia (Zetia is also part of the drug Vytorin). 

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM. 2009;361) released a study today (11.16.09) which showed Zetia, a drug that brought in over $3.5 billion for Big Pharma Merck in 2008, causes more harm than good.  In fact, this study compared Zetia to the b-vitamin Niacin and its effects on atherosclerosis of the carotid arteries.  The authors of the study reported that the Niacin-treated group had showed a 2% decline in buildup of the carotid arteries while those treated with Zetia had no effect.  Furthermore, there were fewer heart attacks in the niacin-treated group (2) as compared to the Zetia group (9). 

You might guess that Zetia must have raised cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels.  Wrong.  Zetia lowered both cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol more than the niacin-treated group.  What is going on here?

What happened in this study is explained in my book, Drugs That Don’t Work and Natural Therapies That Do.  Cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol are not bad chemicals. They are necessary agents for the body.  Chemically blocking their absorption (the mechanism of Zetia) is a recipe for disaster. 

This study is another nail in the coffin of the cholesterol=heart disease hypothesis.  You must educate yourself about the mechanism of action of the most commonly prescribed drugs in order to make an appropriate decision if taking that drug is right for you.  Thirteen million prescriptions for Zetia were written in the U.S. in 2008.  This is a travesty.  This is a drug that not only does no good, it causes harm.  This drug should be removed from the market.  If you are on Zetia or Vytorin I suggest you ask your doctor to reevaluate your situation. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Big Pharma Misrepresents Studies

A series of articles in JAMA (4.16.08)  documented how Merck misrepresented the data on the early Vioxx trials and manipulated the clinical research.  This series of articles came to light due to the litigation over the 50,000 people who died by taking Vioxx.  The authors of this series were privy to the court documents during the ongoing trials for Vioxx. 

The authors found that published, peer-reviewed studies were written by Merck employees but given first authorship to someone else(the first name reported in the final published version). The first name on the final study is supposed to go to the researcher who was intimately involved in the project.  However, Merck used ‘big name’ academicians to give the article more validity.  The problem is that these ‘big name’ academically affiliated physicians often did little or no work on the study.   Merck was using them (and paying them) for their name to give the article more merit.  The consequence of doing business this way is that these ‘evidenced-based’ articles are taken as the gospel and physicians change their prescribing habits based on these articles.  To add insult to injury, there was often no disclosure of the financial support from Merck in these articles. 

What is the consequence of this practice of hiring ‘big-name’ academic doctors to put their names as the lead authors in main stream journal articles?  In the case of Vioxx, it became a multibillion dollar drug for Merck.  Of course, in this case the downside was the deaths of 50,000 Americans who took this toxic drug.  The accompanying editorial commented, “The profession of medicine in every aspect-clinical, education, and research- has been inundated with profound influence from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.  This has occurred because physicians have allowed it to happen, and it is time to stop.”

It is time to stop.  It will only stop when the patients take control of their health care.  Patients can only do that with knowledge.   I encourage you to study the mode of action of the drugs prescribed to you and to further study the mode of action of natural therapies.   You need to make the right choices about the types of therapies you will take.  I believe once you learn about the safe and effective natural therapies that are available, the choice will be an easy one.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dangerous Chemicals in Fast Food

There is no question we are suffering an obesity epidemic in the United States.  Nearly two out of three people are overweight and one out of three adults are obese.  I have no doubt that the main reason there is so much obesity in the U.S. is due, in large part, to lifestyle choices. In particular,  Americans eat too much fast food. 

Fast food products contain too many bad fats and a large amount of refined salt.  These items supply little or no good nutrition in our bodies.  I believe the body’s reaction to all this bad food that we are eating is to become heavier.  Today, many people are actually malnourished from all this poor quality food. 

I believe the obesity epidemic can be explained by the body trying to compensate for this malnourished state it is in.  In other words, becoming obese is a defense mechanism for the stress the body is in due to eating a poor diet.    

When I say malnutrition, what I am referring to is the food many of us are eating is not supplying the crucial nutrients our body needs to function.  Malnutrition can either be caused by a lack of food or by eating poor quality food. 

What is an example of poor quality food?  Unfortunately we have much to talk about here.  Let me tell you about a recent study from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (Autumn 20009.  VOl. XVIII, No. 4).  The researchers went to six Kentucky Fried Chicken stores and obtained two samples of grilled chicken from each store.  KFC was advertising their grilled chicken as “the better-for-you chicken for health-conscious consumers.”[i]  Tests sent to an independent laboratory found that every piece of grilled chicken contained PhIP which is a chemical that has been shown to increase cancer risk. 

Presently there are no safe levels of PhIP consumption.  Grilled chicken is the largest source of PhIP.  PhIP’s can be found on all meats that are grilled.  Pan frying and barbecuing can also cause PhIP’s to form on meat products.  They are produced by long cooking times and high temperatures. 

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is suing KFC for not informing consumers of PhIP contamination in their products.  KFC is not the only restaurant with this problem. PCRM also filed suit against McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Chili’s, T.G.I.Fridays, Outback Steakhouse, Burger King, and Applebee’s for knowingly exposing consumers to PhIP without warning them of the risk.  Only Burger King has posted warnings to its customers that its grilled chicken products contain PhIP.  The other restaurants are fighting the lawsuit. 

We have a right to know what is in our food.  If there are toxic chemicals, we should be informed. Then we can decide if we want to ingest the product.  Most importantly, don’t feed any of these toxic chemicals to our children.  They deserve better.   Fast food products should be minimized, or better yet, eliminated from their diet.
What can we do?  Become informed.  Educate yourself about good food choices.  Avoid food that  has been grilled at high temperatures and for long periods of time.  Remember, if you eat poorly, expect to feel poorly.  More information on a healthy diet can be found in my book, The Guide to Healthy Eating. 

[i] Good Medicine.   Autumn 20009.  VOl. XVIII, No. 4