According to the World Health Organization, the global pharmaceuticals market is worth $300 billion every year, a figure that is expected to rise to $400 billion within three years. The WHO agrees that the current pharmaceutical system has "an inherent conflict of interest between the legitimate business goals of manufacturers and the social, medical and economic needs of providers and the public to select and use drugs in the most rational way.”
Because of this conflict of interest, when it comes to chronic and autoimmune disease, mainstream medicine is trained to diagnose a disease and match it with a corresponding medication. This medicinal matching game leaves many frustrated when nothing changes with their health but a growing prescription list.
When it comes to the majority of chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, or autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto's, there's so much you can do naturally to support optimal health. As a functional medicine practitioner my days are spent speaking with sick people on medications that make them feel sicker. It amazes me how many people don't know the side effects of the drugs they take on a daily basis. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of these people are able to reverse their diseases, and their prescribing doctors are able to reduce and eliminate their medications.
In my practice, these are some of the most common conditions for which I see medications prescribed, when lifestyle choices may also be effective:
1. High cholesterol
Statin drugs are given to just about everyone whose cholesterol is above 200. One of the largest class of medications, statins are now being prescribed to children, with Pfizer even making a chewable Lipitor! I have written in the past about how your total cholesterol by itself is a poor predictor for heart attack and stroke risk. On the contrary, medical literature has actually shown that low cholesterol may increase the likelihood of all-cause mortality.
One study actually found an association between higher cholesterol levels and a reduction in cardiovascular disease. More accurate indicators for increased risk of heart attack and stroke are high triglycerides and HbA1C, low HDL, high inflammatory markers like CRP and homocysteine, and high level small-dense LDL particles.
Medications to manage diabetes, like Januvia, Byetta and Bydureon all belong to classes of drugs that have been linked to different types of cancer. If your blood sugar is high, it's understandable to be on medication to bring those numbers down. But then you may want to ask why you're sick, so that you can potentially get healthier to reduce these medications.
3. Acid reflux
People put on proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medications for their acid reflux symptoms is something I see on a daily basis. While these drugs relieve symptoms, they rarely get to the cause of the problem. Irritable bowel syndrome and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) have been linked in the research to underlying conditions. People can be on acid reflux drugs for years despite PPI drugs being linked to an increase risk of heart disease and cancer.
4. Blood pressure
A class of medications used to manage high blood pressure, known as calcium-channel blockers, have been linked in a Journal of American Medical Association study to an increased risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women. An underlying source of inflammation, poor diet or nutrient deficiency should be investigated to see if it's a factor in your specific case.
5. Nerve pain
A lot of people struggling with chronic disease are in a lot of pain. Medications given for neuropathy and fibromyalgia pain, like Lyrica and Gabapentin, have been linked to suicidal thoughts and actions. Again, getting to the root cause of their pain is important so that long-term use of these medications is minimized.
So What Now?
I'm not advocating for anyone to wantonly go off their medications on their own. I'm encouraging you to investigate the side effects of the medications you're taking. I'm encouraging you to have an open discussion with your doctor, beyond the talking points from the pharmaceutical reps.
I am also encouraging you to ask the question, "Why do I have this problem in the first place?" Hopefully these steps will spark people to take responsibility for their lives, make informed decisions and take action on what they can do today to start regaining their health.