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Health effects of prescription drugs

Most of us are aware that pharmaceutical drugs are toxic to some extent. But what is, exactly, the extent? To say the least, frightening. Prescription drug side-effects are the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. According to the AMA (American Medical Association) Journal, prescription drugs side effects

kill over 100,000 people every year in hospitals alone,

with nearly 6,000 a year dying from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Up to 2 million people a year are hospitalized due to adverse effects of prescription drugs.

And those are for the most part immediate and short-term reactions. Longer-term use of pharmaceutical drugs also increases - sometimes sharply - your risk of falling pray to new diseases, including cancer. And it doesn't come as a surprise.

For one, most pharmaceutical drugs are designed to address a disease symptom. That leaves its underlying cause untreated, which is very likely to result in further health deterioration.

Secondly, suppressing symptoms often comes at a price of interfering with other important body processes, which creates new symptoms and diseases.

Thirdly, drugs and their metabolites have to be detoxified by the liver, which puts additional burden on this vital organ, possibly leading to its damage and dysfunction.

Lastly, detoxifying drugs and their metabolites use up body's precious reserves of antioxidants, enzymes and other nutrients, leaving you more vulnerable to any health threat. Or, if your reserves are already depleted, and you don't have enough to detoxify the drug, you are

likely to become a part of the above statistics.

We could go into much more details, but this big picture is already quite telling. It is very likely that, all accounted for, prescription drugs are the

#2 cause of death in the U.S.

You may wonder: if prescription drugs and their side-effects are so unhealthy and plain dangerous, why would it be allowed to continue for decades? Chances are, you already know the answer:

it's a BIG business!

You may have noticed how swift and efficient is FDA's (Food and Drug Administration) action whenever it is about taking off the market some small herbal preparation, supplement, or alike, that has hurt a few people, or caused a single death - even if it was just a single contaminated batch. You'd say they take our safety to the heart.

But, then, when it comes to, say, fast-acting calcium channel blockers, it is simply being put aside as a statistics of "60% higher risk of heart attacks than that with other types of pressure-lowering drugs" (University of Washington, Seattle). End of story. Anyone complaining? Those six feet under would, if they could, and if they knew what took them there...

According to the New York Times, there was 2.1 million prescriptions for fast-acting CCB in 1994 alone (in the study, their hart attack rate was 1.6% vs. 1% with other pressure-lowering drugs).

Long-acting CCBs, according to the report presented at the European Cardiology Society in 2000, have "only" a 27% greater risk of heart attack (but the number of prescriptions was nearly 12 times higher). All at virtually no added benefit in blood pressure-lowering efficacy compared to other hypertension drugs.

If so, why are the CCBs on the market? Maybe the fact that they cost up to 15 times more than other hypertension drugs has something to do with it...

And this is only one of many similar examples of ignoring devastating effects of prescription drugs on public health. If this kind of a big conspiracy seems unlikely to you, consider Tambocor, a cardiac arrhythmia drug (T. Moore, Deadly medicine). It is plain dangerous for many arrhythmia  sufferers. After it was approved in 1985 and marketed for a few years, a pretty much random double-blind government study (CAST, 1989) found out that group of patients taking Tambocor had 4-5 times higher death rate from cardiac arrest, than the placebo group. The study was halted for safety reasons.

When re-calculated for the volume of its use in the U.S. alone, it indicated

over 50,000 deaths

at the time, circa 1995, as a result of taking this drug. The figure rivals the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam war. Never heard of it? That is quite telling, isn't it? And the drug is still on the market, only with black-box warnings. While important lessons about who not to give the drug (in general, those with mild arrhythmia) were - hopefully - learned, it means that the death toll, ten years after, is significantly higher.

Reading current information on Tambocor - stating that even moderate excess of it can be fatal and, at the same time, warning that liver disorder, or "very alkaline urine" (caused by kidney condition, or vegetarian diet), can result in significant accumulation of the drug in the body - suggests that people are still dying from it (there are other risk factors as well).

At least 63 people died from the diabetes drug Rezulin (recalled in 2000). If the required process of drug approval is so safe, how did it happen that this drug,

increasing the risk of liver failure by 1200 times

(according to the FDA own expert) ever got approved?

Can you imagine that over 400 people dies from un unsafe medication, and it is still being prescribed by doctors. No way Jose, right? But the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) linking the addictive painkiller Oxycontin with 464 deaths in 2002 (for the preceding 2 years) made no dent in drug's marketing. Instead, in 2007 the maker agreed to $600 million compensation for "misleading and defrauding consumers and physicians" while, in the meantime, the DEA, instead of being praised for pointing at a dangerous drug, has been stripped of the authority to interfere with marketing of prescription narcotics(!?!).

And it was much worse with another painkiller, Vioxx (Merck), which was withdrawn from the market in September 2004. According to David Graham, the FDA'a post-marketing drug safety researcher who blew the whistle on his employer for allowing this dangerous drug to be on the market,

at least 30,000 to 40,000 people have died as a result of using it.

The FDA approved Vioxx in 1999 for relief of the symptoms of osteoarthritis, acute pain in adults and menstrual cramping. It turned deaf ear to the results of VIGOR study, reported in 2000 in the New England Journal of Medicine, showing

five-fold increase in the risk of myocardial infarction

for Vioxx compared with another similar drug (Naproxen). Vioxx also significantly increased the risk of stroke. No wonder, since it was designed to block COX-2 enzyme, needed for the synthesis of prostaglandins involved in controlling symptoms of pain, fever and inflammation. But the COX-2 enzyme also has other major functions, among them those

crucial for the cardiovascular health,

like stopping platelets from forming blood clots, and preventing damage to blood vessels (by the way, non-selective NSAIDs like Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Nabumetone and Naproxen, also inhibit COX-2, as well as COX-1 enzymes although, apparently, less efficiently than Vioxx).

No one seemed to care. For years, the FDA kept ignoring warnings coming from prestigious medical journals and top medical schools. Instead, the agency was steadily adding new approvals to Vioxx, for acute treatment of migraine and rheumatoid arthritis (2002), as well as rheumatoid arthritis in juveniles, in the very month when Merck finally voluntarily withdrew the drug after an ongoing Vioxx study (APPROVe) was stopped for safety reasons.

Evidently, there were clear warnings from the very beginning to the end, and they were simply ignored. It shows how unsafe and corrupt is the process of drug approval and withdrawal these days. Thousands upon thousands have paid - and are paying as you read this - for it with their dear life, and many more are suffering adverse health consequences. But the big money-making machine keeps rolling.

Have you heard of Trasylol story?

We could go on, and on, but these few examples should suffice. There is unknown number of other drugs that get approved despite credible evidence that they are dangerous to your health, or even life. Those that surface are the tip of the iceberg, and for some reason are mainly ignored by the media (in stark contrast to, say, panicky reaction to unsafe food items that caused limited number of people to fall sick and/or a few deaths).

Why don't doctors do something about it? Sadly,

it is the pharmaceutical industry that designs
much of our practical medicine.

It is quite usual for the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) to have its employees coming from the pharmaceutical industry and, after their mandate "duty" in the FDA, go back where they came from to fill advanced positions. Someone said, it's like revolving door. Background examination of those creating practical guidelines for MDs (New England Journal of Medicine, February 2002) revealed that

nearly 90% of them are
on the payroll of the pharmaceutical industry.

Similar kind of ties exists between pharmaceutical industry and medical colleges. No wonder that the face of medicine that we see has "DRUGS" written all over it.

Another big player are health insurance companies. Together with pharmaceutical companies, they create practicing rules that doctors have to follow, or else...they are all but guaranteed financial loss, inconveniences of all kinds, harassment and carrier obstacles, they may lose their job, or even their license. It is much easier to swim with the flow, and most MDs do just that.

You may wonder why would health insurance companies condone something as inefficient and costly as symptom treatment? Think about it. It is exactly

the high cost of the health care that drives them customers!

And it is not the insurance companies, but people like you and me, paying for it, plus for their hefty profits. Should the price of health care drop to 1/10 of what it is now - as it would if the cause-oriented medicine would prevail - so would their profits.

That is how the things are. Best you can do for you and your health is to steer as far from drugs as you can. If you have the opportunity to choose, explore alternative options. These days, they are usually numerous, and you are almost certain to find safer and more efficient health treatment.

The key is in locating health practitioner, who has expanded her or his medical knowledge beyond symptom-treating, drug-oriented "medicine". This will give you the best chance to obtain an accurate assessment of your health and, if you have symptoms of a disease, to dig out its actual cause and have it corrected the only way it can be done: by helping your body's natural healing process.