What’s the most beautiful sight in the world? Some say its India’s Taj Mahal. To me it’s what greeted me years ago, the night I arrived in Boston. It was the glistening white marble buildings of Harvard Medical School on a moonlit night.
This past week, the grandeur impressed me again when I attended a reunion. But soon my classmates and I were distressed by what has happened over the years to the institution’s idea of medical care: too much cold technology, too little common sense, and too little “care.”
The United States consumes 40 percent of all drugs produced in the world today, yet it ranks 42nd in life expectancy. North Americans have become conditioned by the billions spent by pharmaceutical companies into believing there is a prescription pill for every common ache and disease. In effect, the public is being sold sickness night after night on TV screens, with disastrous results.
How ill are North Americans? Studies show that the average person over the age of 55 is taking eight or more prescription drugs at any one time and that much of this medication is either questionable or harmful.
For instance, 70 percent of patients with chronic headaches are actually suffering from drug-induced headaches. Nonsteroidal drugs, such as Aspirin and ibuprofen, used for arthritis, can cause joint destruction by inhibiting the formation of cartilage, resulting in over 16,000 deaths from intestinal bleeding and over 100,000 hospital admissions for side effects every year.
My classmates and I deplored the lack of preventive medicine for many chronic diseases such as osteoporosis. How important it is to avoid fractures as we age. But instead, doctors quickly order prescription drugs before they discuss lifestyle changes and safer natural remedies. Another question, generally unrecognized, is who is deciding whether we are or are not normal?
After all, as we age, all of our organs become rusty. But how much rust do you need before it’s classified as a problem?
Machines that diagnose bone density or drugs that treat thinning bones have established guidelines that result in more drugs being sold. North American medicine has become procedure-driven, impersonal, and big business since I first entered the portals of Harvard Medical School.
Nonsteroidal drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, used for arthritis, can cause joint destruction by inhibiting the formation of cartilage.
One of my colleagues, an expert on osteoporosis, deplored that today’s doctors are misled by pharmaceutical companies. For example, one company claimed its product decreased hip fractures by 50 percent. It’s an impressive figure, but is it true?
In the company’s study, 2 out of 100 women in the placebo group developed a fracture, and only one woman being treated developed one. That’s a 50 percent improvement, but looking at it another way, 98 women out of 100 in the treated group would have done just as well on a dummy pill!
Today millions of patients, mostly women, are taking bisphosphonate drugs in an attempt to prevent loss of bone mass. But this medication can have significant side effects. Some patients suffer from diarrhea, heartburn, bloating, joint pain, headaches, and allergic reactions. In rare cases, degeneration of the jawbone occurs, particularly in cancer patients.
My classmates argued it makes more sense to first use a combination of lifestyle changes and safe natural remedies. We know that smoking, excessive alcohol, and caffeine increase the risk of osteoporosis, as do soft drinks containing phosphoric acid.
When phosphate levels in the blood are high and calcium levels low, calcium is removed from bone. Soft drinks loaded with sugar also remove calcium from bone.
Many cases of osteoporosis can be treated by lifestyle changes along with calcium supplements, vitamin D, and vitamin K2.
It is now known that virtually every cell in the body has receptors for vitamin D and that this vitamin is essential for the absorption of calcium from the bowel. Vitamin K2 then directs calcium into bone rather than into coronary arteries. See Docgiff.com for more information on this vitamin.
Some of my colleagues, but not all, deplored the widespread use of cholesterol-lowering drugs and how guidelines for their use had become broader and broader without stressing their potential hazards, resulting in more profit for corporations.
The practice of medicine has changed drastically since I left Harvard. But one thing hasn’t—the awe-inspiring white marble buildings that still encompass an ideal.
Dr. Gifford-Jones is a medical journalist with a private medical practice in Toronto. His website is DocGiff.com. He may be contacted at Info@docgiff.com.
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