The Zeitgeist of Medicine and Healing

On August 28th 2012 The Daily Mail ran a massive headline, saying: Give statins to all over-50s: Even the healthy should take heart drug says British expert”

Professor Sir Rory Collins, are you really impartial? Have all those clinical trials you love so much gone to your head?  Do you give statins to all your family? Did your remarks save journalist Jenny Hope of The Mail from doing any research into statin side-effects? They are a crude block to enzymes the body uses to produce cholesterol, and carry out umpteen other functions too. The side effects of statins go on and on  – like the prescriptions, which increase by 30% every year. And the side effects are nasty… an increase in high blood pressure, diabetes, muscle pain, joint pain, digestive problems, memory loss… and so on. Do healthy people need them? 

In January 2013 Rebecca Smith medical editor of The Telegraph wrote “More than 500,000 women should take Tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer, guidance has said for the first time.” So there you are, quite healthy women who think there is a risk, should take a drug that can give them bone pain, menstrual disorders, nausea, digestive problems, eyesight problems, cough, fatigue, ovarian cysts, depression and anorexia… to name but a few. Do healthy people need them?

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But what about antibiotics? In 1928 Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, which changed the treatment of wounds and many other conditions, but now 85 years later antibiotic overuse means that penicillin is no longer effective for some wounds, and many of the conditions it formerly treated. Many people, like myself, are also allergic to it. Others of us think that antibiotics should be used to treat their colds, or an ingrowing toenail. Do healthy people need them? Categorically no. They have been horribly overused, and bacteria have now built up a resistance to them. Antibiotics are becoming increasingly redundant.

We are talking big business here – according to Marcia Angell MD: “The combined profits for the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put together ($33.7 billion) [in 2002]. Over the past two decades the pharmaceutical industry has moved very far from its original high purpose of discovering and producing useful new drugs. Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit, this industry uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the US Congress, the FDA, academic medical centres, and the medical profession itself.”

The business of healing should not be in the hands of corporations – home for the pathologically greedy. Yes, we are talking about the worst aspects of human nature… but  it will not go on forever, and even now, very slightly, the tide is turning. Less and less people want to take toxic substances that come from a corporation. Gradually, very gradually, people are beginning to take responsibility for their own health. It will take a very long time, but it’s happening. Right now we are already seeking out more natural solutions to our health problems, and the choice of alternative therapies available is vast – from A for acupuncture to Z for Zang Fu theory. Alternative treatments are powerful, and also very effective for many, many conditions, and conventional medicine is fine… in its place, when exploitation and big money are not part of the equation.Unknown-2

There is a time for everything, in days of old we used to bleed people, and give them ‘powders’ according to their temperaments, or seek out the wisdom of the wise women. Today we throw ourselves to the lions – the ruthless corporations – and ask some total stranger in a white coat with a computer to sort us out. This man is called “The doctor” and he was the high priest of the 20th century, but his days are numbered… as a priest that is. Tomorrow we will go to people who will actually examine us, with care and concern, and ask us how we feel, rather than stare at a computer screen. Many alternative practitioners already do this, they connect with patients as unique beings, and prescribe treatments as varied and unexpected as life itself… that do actually work.