22.10.2013 Natural Health

Denial of Trust

Modern medicine's focus on money-making drugs and surgery is failing public health, claims Peter Dingle PhD

In the words of Homer Simpson, "It takes two to lie, Marge. One to lie and one to listen."

Upon receiving a compass at age five, Einstein immediately began questioning what made the needle point the same way no matter the position of the device. Later, at 15 years of age, he was expelled from school for asking too many questions, as the faculty believed he was setting a bad example for his peers. Einstein continued to display this inherent curiosity throughout his life, and later attributed his success as a theoretical physicist to the trait, being quoted as saying, "I am neither especially clever, nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious." Without Einstein's constant thirst for answers to the many questions he posed throughout his daily life, it would have been impossible for him to remain motivated when confronted with failure.

We set our beliefs based not on fact but on what we want to be true. History constantly shows us that we create images and ideas that become accepted, and the prevailing myths become the norm on which we run our society.

The best way to describe the medical field's obsession with money-making drugs and nutritional guidelines is as a decades-old failing protocol, hanging by a thread and looking for more very expensive science to justify its actions. The promotion, by multinational pharmaceutical companies, of a drug-dependent cure for all types of maladies has done little to stem the pain and suffering caused by chronic illness. Medical institutions have failed miserably to turn around chronic illness despite billions of dollars spent each year. As a result, our population is over-medicated, our health system is financially strained and the population is not actually healthier.

The truth is that most common and, sadly, life-threatening illnesses are totally preventable and can be reversed. The tragedy is that the pharmaceutical industry, physician-scientists, academic institutions, and medical journals are all invested in "keeping up appearances" rather than caring for the health of the population. The promotion of a drug-dependent cure is the real global epidemic. The race for corporate profit has hindered the finding and distribution of information in preventing and curing deadly diseases.

Marcia Angell put it succinctly when, after two decades as editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, she wrote, "It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines." In 2005 she stated, "The medical establishment is complicit in the deception of the public and they have abdicated their duty of care to the public," and in 2008 she wrote, "Over the past two decades, the pharmaceutical industry has gained unprecedented control over the evaluation of its own products. Drug companies now finance most clinical research on prescription drugs, and there is mounting evidence that they often skew the research they sponsor to make their drugs look better and safer." This is a person on the front lines of the best medical research in the world. Little wonder the rest of us lack confidence in the research.

In 2010, the Baxter report stated that the Australian Commonwealth Health Department is so riddled with conflict of interest that it is necessary to separate out the policy functions of this department from the service functions because policies are no longer being made in the public interest. This report also informed Australians of the conflict of interest within the roles of the TGA, which is 100% funded by industry and is responsible for approving drugs and monitoring the safety of drugs in the Australian population. A body that is sponsored by industry will protect industry interests.

The irony is that millions of us are suffering and many dying because of the health system that was set up to protect us. We have failed the public as our kids and our society continue to get sicker, some with diseases that never used to exist in children and rates never seen before in history. The FDA in the US and the TGA in Australia go easy on the drug companies but continually threaten the supplement and sustainable health industries. All of the major drug companies have been involved in numerous acts of corrupt, unethical and immoral behaviour but continue to be trusted and sell drugs about which they produce the information on safety and efficacy. In 2012, one company was fined three billion dollars for withholding information that led to the premature deaths of more than 100,000 people who took the drug for pain control. The company knew the drug had deadly side effects but did not tell the authorities. The company is still operating and the three billion dollar fine had no impact on the company's share prices. This is just one example of the lies and corruption that underlie our current sickness care systems (SCS).

If it is not working then we need to change it, not just put a bandaid on it. We need to rebuild from the ground up based on good science and not the myths and lies that now surround all of us. One would think the medical institutes, with budgets of billions of dollars, would have already figured out that their approach to health does not work. It is time we told the medical institutes to stop wasting their money and resources in feeble attempts to keep the pharmaceutical industry alive. The challenge for each doctor is to open his or her mind to a different way of thinking, one that could save the life of a patient. Isn't that worthwhile?

Unfortunately, illness has become one of the most profitable businesses of the 21st century. Too many big companies earn too much money from chronic illness to have any interest in disease prevention. Profit is made from treating an illness that is not cured. In Australia, the cost of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme has risen by 10% each year since its inception, with no decrease in chronic illness. In fact, chronic illness continues to increase. This is not sustainable and, worse, not working and, no, we are not living longer but we are a lot sicker at every age.

The whole system is flawed, starting from the philosophy of modern drug use to research right through to regulation and administering drugs. The pharmaceutical industry now defines much of the medical profession's practice. We have a compromised medical research and academic community that has become dependent on industry money for its existence.

The pharmaceutical and big food industries' financial and marketing influence extends to federal regulatory agencies, professional organisations, medical journals, continuing medical education, scientific researchers, media experts and even consumer advocacy organisations. The power exercised by the pharmaceutical industry has created conflicts of interest that have undermined the credibility of medical and health research and education. As a simple example, a quick visit to any medical journal website will more than likely come up with an advertisement for a drug. This excessive power has, in fact, undermined ethics. It has even undermined the credibility of the front line GPs who see the patients. As a whole, GPs have become the retail arm of the pharmaceutical industry.

The major healthcare agencies, not for profit organisations, doctors and medical professionals are not telling the public the truth. All too often, the medical establishment is locked into "groupthink" lead by people who have strong vested interests in keeping things the way they are - "Monkey see monkey do" - without questioning it. We know corporate corruption happens on Wall Street and in all types of business but we don't expect it to happen in health care. Our businesses are driven by profits not ethics, just as the bottom line of most health care industries is profit. It is not your health. The purpose of health care should be to promote health through prevention and cure of disease and to keep the public informed.

Conflicts of interest and biases all too often play a major role in health advice that gets handed out to the public. The healthcare professionals don't just ignore the information because it gets in the way of established interests. Worse, they attack and denigrate it so everyone has to ignore it.

We have a failure to disclose the links between drug companies, the food industry and the researchers, advocacy groups, professional medical people and the like. An incestuous relationship between the politicians, government regulators, drug companies, medical journals and medical professionals is enabling the most corrupt system in the world to ruin countless lives. Any relationship between a drug company and government group, advocacy group or medical journal, by its very nature, undermines and taints the message.

American, Australian and other public health advocacy groups, including heart associations around the world, have lucrative deals with many drug and food companies. Then, when you have a drug and a disease, find a group that wants to be in charge of a disease and sponsor it, including the media behind the public advocacy group. A good example of this is the impotence associations around the world set up with money from the sales of Viagra®. No mention of improved lifestyle but direct reference to see your doctor for medication. Modern healthcare ends in unnecessary overmedication, surgery and harsh intervention.

The medical system is controlled by powerful bureaucracy run by a cult of self interest, where the people making money from other people's sicknesses put their own interests before that of public health.

With pharmaceuticals, the benefits are exaggerated and the costs trivialised. I have seen hundreds of people who have suffered the cost for no reason, their lives ruined for taking a medication that had no real benefit. Risk analysis needs to consider pain, disability, anxiety, suffering and all forms of potential loss. I know people who spend weeks stressing about an operation causing all types of health problems and have come out worse than when they went in. Patients deserve all the facts and all the options and should be informed of all possibilities that exist. The best example is that the US ranks 46th in the world for life expectancy and health and has the highest per capita health expenditure in the world. The more they spend on drugs and operations the sicker they become.

All modern medical interventions have considerable risk of morbidity and even mortality, while the benefits only occur through repeated use or erode over time. For example, for a blocked artery you can perform a $40,000 bypass operation with a chance that one in 50 will die from complications, and one in 50 will have some serious morbidity. Apart from many possible complications, one half of arteries subjected to bypass surgeries clog up again after 10 years, one third of all angioplasty procedures clog up within four to six months and have to be done again. You see if you don't remove the cause of the illness it will come back. If you don't change the circumstances the disease will return.

Or, based on the scientific literature, you can change your lifestyle and diet and the plaque and the risk of future heart trouble will go. Changing your lifestyle and diet have the added benefits of reducing the risk of all other forms of chronic illness including cancer.

If surgery or drugs are involved, the medical establishment will try anything, no matter how hard, expensive or experimental, to give it a go but will deny and fight against common sense approaches. The bias of surgery and drugs over nutritional and lifestyle changes could not be any more obvious.

I don't ask you to judge them but to assess what they have achieved. Compare the increase in cancer, CVD and diabetes with the decline in tobacco-related illness. Education cures, not drugs.

DISCLAIMER: Dr Peter Dingle is a researcher, educator and public health advocate. He has a PhD in the field of environmental toxicology and is not a medical doctor.

Peter Dingle

Dr Peter Dingle (PhD) has spent the past 30 years as a researcher, educator, author and advocate for a common sense approach to health and wellbeing. He has a PhD in the field of environmental toxicology and is not a medical doctor. He is Australia’s leading motivational health speaker and has 14 books in publication.