WELCOME TO THE DISEASE-OF-THE-MONTH CLUB
Carolyn Dean, MD, ND and
When we join a book club, the deal is an honest one. Membership means we have a catalog sent to us each month with a list of books available for sale so we can decide which ones we want to add to our collections. There are no hidden caveats about the arrangement. When we buy the book, the author gets a royalty. In addition, the publisher, the printer, the distributor, the ad agency on Madison Avenue and everybody else involved with the manufacture and sale of the book benefits from our purchase. The more books we buy, the more everybody benefits.
Well, folks, that’s the same economic set up Big Pharma enjoys. A whole host of people benefit from the development and sale of each drug sold… only with drugs, they get sold to you every month like clockwork for about 20 years, until the patent runs out, or you die. In addition, there is a big difference between your book club and almost everyone involved with the development and sale of modern medical drugs. Drug companies have so many sweetheart deals and have such a tight control on the market, thanks to government policies and laws, we customers end up with no fancy catalog to consult to decide for ourselves what drugs we may want to buy.
Instead, we are often scared half out of our wits by TV ads, by ominous admonitions from MDs, and by other sources of fear-mongering, warning us that we are probably going to die of any number of diseases unless we take some new miracle drug to keep us limping along until the grim reaper claims us. Many of the diseases that we are told now ruin our health, our parents and grandparents never heard of, and neither did we, until the last several years.
In a stunning exposé of the pill-pushing business, called “Suddenly Sick” by the Seattle Times, investigative reporters weave a sorry tale about several of the many ways Big Pharma keeps on expanding its markets and we end up being pressured into taking more and more drugs. The underlying method to this madness is Big Pharma’s ability to choose which human condition can be officially turned into a disease by public policy makers and for which some new drug needs to be developed that we must take for the remainder of our lives. Cure is not the goal…drug dependence is.
Among the many revelations made by the Seattle Times reporters we include the following:
In this News With Views article, using some of the information provided by the Seattle Times series, we would like to track, in detail, the chronology of how osteoporosis became a financial bonanza for Merck, the manufacturers of Fosamax, one of the magic bullets supposedly able to keep our bones strong.
Osteoporosis is a normal body process for women who, after menopause, experience thinning of their bones. To a natural healing arts practitioner, bone health means that a person may need to eat nutrition-rich diet and supplement his or her diet with extra vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium and exercise regularly. I write about these strategies in several of my books, Hormone Balance (Wiley 2005), The Miracle of Magnesium (Ballentine 2003) and Menopause Naturally (McGraw Hill 1996).
To the drug industry, the prospect of developing a drug to ameliorate this normal process was just too good to pass up so, as the story goes, in 1984, experts at the National Institutes of Health held a meeting to endorse estrogen therapy and calcium supplements to help reduce bone loss. In the four years following this pronouncement, sales of calcium shot up from $47 to over $200 million a year.
The only problem is that these experts decided to focus on just bone size, and ignore the fact that bone strength, depends not just on density but on heredity and “bone quality” - the shape and number of spindly bone-cell connections inside the bones.
Fractured hips and dowager’s humps (from collapsed neck vertebrae), two serious and painful medical crises, happen to reflect bone weakness. These conditions provide an excellent backdrop for fear mongers to sell you in the idea that you need to “do something about it before it happens to you.”
In my book, Hormone Balance, I wrote about an anthropologist who did a study of bone mineral densities in a group of strong young South American women. They effortlessly carried enormous jars overflowing with water on their head up and down the treacherous trails. Decades later the same anthropologist went back to the same village and measured bone density on these very same women, again. While they had not changed their jar carrying ways, their bones showed thinning, just as our North American bones do, and yet these older women did not break bones or show any symptoms of osteoporosis.
In his book, Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine, author John Abramson, points out that the standard bone mineral density test does not predict hip fractures. The test is misleading because it only measures the outer layer of bone whereas much of the strength of bone lies in the inner structures of the bone. Osteoporosis drugs are prescribed to thicken the bone in order to improve the test scores. However, they only thicken the less important outer part of the bone. Abramson showed how exercise increases bone density as well as balance and muscle strength and is twice as effective at preventing falls, the usual cause of hip fractures.
In June of 1992, a committee convened by The World Health Organization (WHO) began setting standards for screening patients for low bone density. They formally identified osteoporosis as a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural changes that lead to fracture risk. They also created a category of disease called osteopenia, or pre-osteoporosis.
This WHO committee used an analysis of women in Rochester, MN, to determine the magic numbers that would designate risk. They decided that anyone who had a T—score of –2.5 or worse were at risk of suffering a hip fracture in their lifetime and were labeled osteoporotic. Anyone with a score between –1 and –2.5 had pre-osteoporosis, and was in need of a lifetime of preventative treatment.
Lumping pre-osteoporosis into these standards means that more than half of all women over 50 could qualify as potential sufferers and ripe for lifelong treatment.
This WHO conference was conducted with the help of the International Osteoporosis Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a corporate advisory board that is currently made up of 31 drug and medical-equipment companies.
It is also noted that thanks to this officially recognized bone mineral density test, doctors can bill insurance companies for the test. Ergo, you’ll need to make an appointment and undergo such a test, which, at the very least, enriches the doctor and the test taker, not to mention others unknown.
In 1995, Merck filed a new-drug application for a drug called “Fosamax” and created the “Bone Measurement Institute” as a nonprofit subsidiary to increase the use of bone-measuring machines in doctors’ offices. Very quickly, the FDA approved Fosamax and the marketing of Fosamax was off to the races.
According to a former Merck employee, Kurt Furst, “Merck would tell you virtually any woman post-menopausal should go on Fosamax.” Apparently, a lot of women listened. By 1999, Fosamax was earning $1.04 billion annually for Merck.
In 1999, another WHO committee recommended ways to measure the burden of osteoporosis on health systems but failed to mention that drug companies employed eight of the 11 panelists. In the first nine months of 2004, Merck raked in $3 billion Fosamax dollars.
The Seattle Times report made mention, only in passing, of how hormone replacement therapy had also been determined to be a way to prevent or improve osteoporosis. For those old enough to remember, the 1966 best selling book, Feminine Forever, made hormone therapy a household word and author, Robert Wilson MD, found himself heavily enriched by the hormone manufactures. By 1975, there was strong evidence published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that estrogen therapy was linked to cancer of the lining of the uterus. Again in 1989, another NEJM study showed a strong link to breast cancer, but it wasn’t until NIH’s Women’s Health Initiative, trumpeted to be a major comparative study of various treatments of women’s issues that finally focused on the fact that hormone replacement therapy in any form was not safe. The Women’s Health Initiative was shut down early when evidence showed a strong cancer link. I discuss this in greater length in my book, Death by Modern Medicine (Matrix Vérité 2005)
you think it is time to create a competitive, multi-model medical system
so we can restore real medical and health choices, moderate prices and
regain control of our own decisions about medicine and health, please
join us at our international health freedom meeting in Minnesota.
ACT FOR HEALTH FREEDOM NOW: Go to www.friendsoffreedominternational.org and purchase "Death by Modern Medicine" and view and purchase the new movie on Codex and Free Trade called "We Become Silent" by Kevin Miller. Proceeds from the sale of these products are crucial to help fund our health freedom action. For state action go to www.nationalhealthfreedom.org.
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© 2005 Carolyn Dean -
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Dr. Carolyn Dean is a medical doctor, naturopathic doctor, herbalist, acupuncturist, nutritionist, as well as a powerful health activist fighting for health freedom as president of Friends of Freedom International. Dr. Dean is the author of over a dozen health books, the latest of which is "Death By Modern Medicine".
Elissa Meininger, is Vice President of Friends of Freedom International and co-founder of the Health Freedom Action Network, a grassroots citizens' political action group. She is also a health freedom political analyst and can be heard on the natural health radio show SuperHealth, broadcast weekly on station WKY (SuperTalk AM 930) in Oklahoma City.
Well, folks, that’s the same economic set up Big Pharma enjoys. A whole host of people benefit from the development and sale of each drug sold… only with drugs, they get sold to you every month like clockwork for about 20 years, until the patent runs out, or you die.