Saturday, December 19, 2009

Beware of Contaminated Supplements

Ginger is a good herb, right?  Good for many things including helping prevent motion sickness and improving digestion.  Where do we get our ginger from?  Nearly 78% of the ginger imported to the U.S. comes from China.  In 2006, 53.8 million pounds of ginger was imported from China.

Investigators in California found that ginger, imported from China, was contaminated with a dangerous pesticide—aldicarb sulfoxide.  Symptoms of adicarb poisoning include nausea, headaches, blurred vision, muscle spasms and difficulty breathing.  High doses of the chemical can be fatal.[i]  The U.S. EPA has not approved the use of aldicarb sulfoxide for use on ginger.  After discovering the contaminated ginger, California Department of Public Health ordered a recall of the tainted product. 

If that were the end of the story, it would not be so bad.  However, ginger is used in many products including soups and frozen meals.  Companies may unknowingly buy the tainted ginger and use it in the manufacturing of their products. 

So, should we just avoid ginger?  No, ginger, properly grown and used is a healthy and safe product.  The problem is the quality control of items made/grown in China.  There have been a slew of reports of contaminated items from China including kitchenware, children’s toys and lunchboxes.  

Approximately one month ago,  a sales representative from a vitamin company came to our office.  She wanted me (and my partners) to use her supplements.   The supplements she was detailing were mostly Chinese herbs, from China.   Due to all the negative articles about items made/grown in China, I was skeptical. I asked her if the items were pure.  She said, “Our Company would not sell anything that was not pure.  We have checked these products. “  I was not reassured by her statements when we received her company’s analysis of the different products.  The analysis showed no variation in the different products.  In other words, all of the toxicity reports were exactly the same—essentially zero. 

I had my nurse send out samples of many of the products to a lab that does heavy metal testing.  Our results showed that many of these products were contaminated with lead and other heavy metals.    When we called the company to report our findings, they were not happy with the results.  They questioned our testing and said they would do further testing.   To date, we have not received any of their testing results.

The take home message is to beware of what you are purchasing.  You should only use companies that have a reliable track record.  These companies should be able to provide certificates demonstrating that their products are safe.  I have been testing nutritional supplements for years.  I am continually amazed by the results.  Many items contain toxic elements.  We have not tested all of the supplements that we use in our office, but, we have tested a substantial number of them.  If a product tests for a contaminated substance or does not meet the amounts of nutrients stated on the label, I will not use that product or any products from that company.    

Due to all the bad press out there, at the present time, I would suggest not using any supplements derived from China unless the product has been analyzed.    Unfortunately, sometimes it is hard to find out where the raw ingredients come from.  The best results are to rely on a reputable company that will provide you with an analysis of a product when you request one.   There are many good supplement companies out there.  However, there are many that are not the best. 

The take home message is to get the best result, work with a health care provider knowledgeable about natural therapies.  Ask where the ingredients come from.  Ask if the company will provide certificates of analysis.  If you don’t get the answers to these questions that you would like, then it may be time to search for a new supplement company.

[i] WSJ.  11.19.07

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Want My Money Back!

As I am sitting home on a Tuesday morning (I have a bad cold) instead of seeing patients, I became incensed over the Big Pharma Cartel.  No longer will I refer to them as Big Pharma as they have crossed a line.  Big Pharma Cartel more accurately portrays what is going on these days. 

What am I so irritated about?  No, not my cold, as that will pass (though, I am not happy about that either). 

If I buy something that is falsely advertised, I would expect when I take the item back to the store, the store would give me my money back.  I would also assume the store would not be happy with the manufacturer of the product.  In fact, the store would probably not buy future products from that manufacturer if enough people were unhappy with that particular product. 

Who do I want my money back from?  Roche, the manufacturer of Tamiflu. By the spring of 2009, the U.S. government, MY government, OUR government bought 50 million doses of Tamiflu to combat the flu.   In fact, since 2005, the U.S. government spent over $1.5 billion dollars on Tamiflu.  Did we get our money worth for purchasing all that Tamiflu?

The Cochrane collaboration is an international not-for-profit and independent organization that produces systematic reviews of healthcare information.   I have found the Cochrane collaboration a very good source of information. 

 An article in the British Medical Journal (published 12.8.09--BMJ 2009;339:b5351) from the Cochrane group reviewed 20 studies on  the effectiveness of Tamiflu and other flu drugs at treating/preventing the flu.  Cochrane reported that the flu drugs have “modest effectiveness against the symptoms of influenza in otherwise healthy adults.”  However, they point out a “paucity of data” on these drugs.  Cochrane further reported that only five trials out of the 20 trials that were reviewed were judged to be of sufficient quality.  They  tried to locate the original data from these five trials by contacting the lead authors of the five trials.  However, the authors referred Cochrane to the manufacturer (Roche—Tamiflu).  Roche could not supply them with the data.  In fact, Roche “initially declined to provide the necessary data.”  Furthermore, an accompanying editorial at the British Medical Journal (BMJ) claimed the biggest trial of Tamiflu had an academic author named in the abstract. This author told the BMJ that he was not involved in the trial.  Sounds like ghost-writers are still at it for Big Pharma Cartel--see my earlier post in August, 2009 ( titled, “Fraud, Ghosts and Big Pharma”) about ghost writers. 

Why would Big Pharma Cartel not send them the data?  I am sure they don’t want to send the data because it either does not exist or is of such poor quality it would expose Tamiflu to being the fraud that it is.  Furthermore, all of the studies were co-authored by Roche employees and paid academic consultants.  The Cochrane reviewers could not find any independently funded trials of Tamiflu in healthy adults.   

So, where are we?  We, as U.S. citizens have spent billions of our dollars on a drug that, at best, decreases the duration of the flu for one day.  At worst, it doesn’t work at all and has been associated with a host of adverse effects.  The drug has never been shown to prevent deaths from the flu or prevent serious complications from the flu. More information about Tamiflu can be found in a previous post to my blog (4.29.09). 

This is total nonsense.  As consumers, we would not put up with spending our hard-earned money on falsely advertised products.  The U.S. government should investigate this and demand repayment from Big Pharma Cartel.  How can we trust them on health care if they can’t get this right?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Speaking to Conventional Medicine

A few months ago, I was invited to give a talk at the hospital that trained me.  The chief of cardiology (Dr. David) asked me to give a talk on the holistic approach to the hyperlipidemic patient (or the high- cholesterol patient).  Dr. David has been a friend and colleague for many years.  He took excellent care of my father and to this day I rerfer him many patients.  When he asked me to speak to the internal medicine/cardiology students, fellows and faculty, I told him I did not think it would be a good idea.  Dr. David felt that since his group was seeing many patients who were using alternative modalities it was important to educate everyone about the different approaches that are available.

As he was asking me to do this talk, my stomach started churning (a little).  I have lectured to conventional doctors before and it is generally not a pleasant experience.  I agreed to do this talk due to my relationship with Dr. David. I gave this talk two days ago. 

I would say that after five minutes into my talk, I could feel the tension building.  I was glad they did not have metal silverware as that would hurt more than plastic silverware.  By the way, the luncheon was sponsored by a pharmaceutical rep. 

By the end of my one hour talk, many in the audience were visibly and audibly agitated.  One prominent doctor claimed that I was misleading the students and the fellows in my interpretation of the data (at least that is how I took his arguments).  He claimed that the benefits for statin drugs (at best is 1% lowered risk of non-fatal heart attack over 3 years) will be borne out over time.  He claimed that in 10 years, this benefit will be 3-10%  better and in 20 years it may be higher yet.

I asked him how could he make that claim? That is simply conjecture.  I could just as easily make the claim that the long-term poisoning of an important enzyme (which statins do) will eventually result in more adverse effects and death (which is my educated guess).  Furthermore, I believe the research is clear; statin drugs are largely a failure and a waste of money.  They have never been shown to prolong anyone’s life.  More information about statins and other drug therapies can be found in my book, Drugs That Don’t Work and Natural Therapies That Do, 2nd Edition.   

I hope this talk at least opened some ears and eyes for the doctors and students and inspired them to look at these research studies with a more critical eye.  I also hope I convinced them to look more closely at how these drugs are interacting with the biochemical pathways in the body.  Finally, I hope I provided them with information about how to use safe and effective natural therapies to treat cardiovascular problems.