I remember when I was a kid and used to see shows and medical exhibits on how awful primitive medicine was and how wonderful our new “scientific” medicine is. The exhibits would include Aztec skull cutters to make holes to let out evil spirits, leeches, snake oil salesman, and such.
We may have moved past some of these (well, instead of leeches we have lab blood-drawing stations), but as we see, historically, the wheel continues to turn. I suspect in our children’s lifetimes, as we realize we are paying twice as much as most countries for one of the least effective health care systems, we will fix our current system. When the profitability has faded, museums will talk about how crazy and barbaric our current health care system was.
I suspect these will be the top five exhibits in the medical “Hall of Shame.”
- Smoke cigarettes. Yep, doctors actually used to be on TV, recommending that people smoke for their health. Meanwhile, the Journal of the AMA (JAMA,) carried cigarette ads for two decades—at the same time it published research tying cigarettes to lung cancer! After 20 years, smoking became too overt for the AMA to support. (Or was it smoking that supported the AMA? Seems to go hand in hand.) Medicine then moved to taking support from infant formula producers. Guess what their advice was then?
- Don’t breast feed. Doctors were taught to give the impression that “This is the 20th century. Only a barbarian would continue to breast feed! Buy baby formula.” This misguided advice resulted in widespread nutritional deficiencies, allergies, and immune dysfunctions in babies.
- Use cholesterol lowering medications for primary prevention. This is the current medical craziness, and it rakes in over $12 billion a year. This is enough to even get doctors to recommend it for children. All this despite the evidence showing that it is associated with less than a 2 percent drop in death rate. To put it in perspective, owning a cat is associated with a 30 percent lower heart attack death rate. Fish oil and even the arthritis supplement glucosamine were associated with a 17 percent lower death rate (each). I recommend cholesterol medications in patients with known heart disease, but rarely otherwise. These medications are not without their toxicities. I prefer natural options to optimize cholesterol.
- Avoid sunshine. A good money maker for sunscreen companies, and it would be interesting to see what they paid to sponsor dermatology conventions over the years! Meanwhile, most of our vitamin D comes from sunshine, and we are seeing a recurring epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. The cost? Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a marked increase in cancer, chronic pain, high blood pressure, autoimmune disorders and much, much more. The proper advice? Avoid sunburn, not sunshine!
- Use arthritis medications. These medications unnecessarily kill an estimated 16,500 Americans each year from bleeding ulcers. Why do I say “unnecessarily?” Because natural remedies for arthritis, which are very safe, are as or more effective than the medications. This was again shown in the recent GAIT 2 NIH study, which showed glucosamine was as effective as Celebrex, even after two years of monitoring. Other options such as willow bark and frankincense, special highly absorbed forms of curcumin, and even cherries can be very effective and can be added to the arthritis medications so your doctor can taper the medications off. Arthritis pain is very treatable—naturally.