Why Your Doctors Do You Like They Do
The following newsletter is a rewrite of part of a chapter that never made it into Lessons from the Miracle Doctors. At some point, I'll rewrite and release the other parts, which deal with the FDA and the Pharmaceutical companies. Think of it as something to look forward to.
The Modern Medical Paradigm
Let me begin by saying that, unlike many in the alternative health movement, I am not anti-doctor. I was, in fact, a premed student -- albeit not a very dedicated one. I understand that sometimes there is no substitute for a doctor. Think for a moment of the injuries you might suffer in an automobile accident. No herb or vitamin could help you in the same way that a good doctor can.
In terms of surgical technique (the cutting apart and repair of the human body) modern medicine has made remarkable advances. In terms of identifying many of the germs that play a role in causing many diseases and improving sanitation to prevent those diseases, once again modern medicine has made remarkable advances. In terms of burns, trauma, and ER's, modern medicine is nothing short of miraculous. But in terms of treating and preventing most disease, particularly the major scourges of the modern era (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's) modern medicine stands an abject failure.
Despite all of the games played with statistics, the numbers are undeniable.
- All of the above scourges are modern diseases (at least in terms of their emergence as epidemics). In the early 1900's, these diseases were almost unheard of. There is actually a documented conversation from the beginning of the 20th century in which a group of doctors was standing around a patient with cancer. "Take a good look," remarked the senior physician, "for this is the last time you will see this illness in your lifetime." The important point to understand is that these diseases are not "natural" and "normal." They have only appeared en masse in our lifetimes.
- Despite trillions and trillions of dollars spent on medical care worldwide, the incidence and mortality rate of these diseases is accelerating year by year, a fact occasionally acknowledged by the mainstream media. (As just one example, earlier this year, Fortune Magazine ran an article entitled, "Why We're Losing the War on Cancer and How to Win It."
- Despite its total abject failure in the treatment of these diseases, the modern medical machine has actually made it illegal for you, in many states, to seek out alternative therapies.
How did this happen? How did we reach this point?
Although Modern Medicine likes to trace its roots to Hippocrates, the patron saint of today's doctors, the fact is that the roots of Modern Medicine are sunk much deeper in the Newtonian views of the 17th century when philosophers and scientists defined the universe as a giant machine ruled by physics and math. According to this view of the universe, objects behaved in predictable ways unless acted upon by outside forces. Physicians of that era were not immune to this new paradigm and likewise began to define the human body as a machine that would run smoothly until acted upon by some outside agent. According to this new paradigm, the human body could be analyzed, catalogued, adjusted, and tweaked as required.
This viewpoint became more and more dominant as time went by, until by the 19th century:
- The human body was no longer viewed as a holistic entity, but rather as a grouping of separate parts and pieces.
- Disease was no longer viewed as a body state, but rather as a set of symptoms.
- Medical research was defined as the observation and classification of both the body parts and its sets of symptoms.
- The physician's job was then defined as eliminating (or at least managing) those symptoms.
- In other words, disease (or illness or injury for that matter) manifests as symptoms entirely separate from the body as a whole. Eliminate the symptoms, and you eliminate the problem.
As it turns out, this paradigm works extremely well when it comes to surgical repair. If you break an arm, the doctor works with that part of the body and repairs the arm. If you're shot by a bullet, the doctor removes the bullet and repairs all of the separate parts of your body damaged by the bullet. It's pretty much a direct one-to-one correlation.
Unfortunately, the paradigm fails when it comes to disease. Consider:
You have clogged arteries. This eventually causes your blood pressure to rise so your doctor prescribes blood pressure medication to eliminate the symptom -- but not the problem, the clogged arteries. To reduce blood pressure, doctors have essentially four classes of medication.
- Diuretics, which reduce pressure by making you pee out water from your body. Reduce the volume of fluid in the blood, and you reduce the pressure. Unfortunately, side effects can include dizziness, weakness, and impotence. (Not to worry, there are medications to alleviate the side effects.)
- Calcium channel blockers, which work to relax and widen the arteries -- thus reducing blood pressure. Unfortunately, a major side effect of channel blockers is a 60% increased risk of heart attack.
- Beta blockers, which work by weakening the heart so it won't pump as strongly, thereby reducing blood pressure. What genius thought this one up?!!! One of the major problems with beta blockers is the increased risk of congestive heart failure. Now catch this. Despite the increased risk of congestive heart failure, an article in the August 20, 1998, New England Journal of Medicine, recommended putting every single heart attack survivor on beta blockers.
- ACE inhibitors (the new drugs of choice), which like the calcium channel blockers also work to relax and widen the arteries, but with fewer side effects (at least as identified so far).
Keep in mind, that in addition to all of the side effects that these drugs cause (which require further medication); there is a major fundamental flaw in your doctor's treatment. All the doctor has done is treat one symptom, high blood pressure, but has done nothing to deal with the real problem, clogged arteries. So eventually, as your arteries continue to clog to the point where even the medication no longer helps, you start getting the inevitable chest pains. Your doctor then chases the next set of symptoms and performs a coronary bypass or angioplasty to relieve the symptoms.
But then again, in addition to all of the side effects and complications and dangers of surgery, we are once more presented with a fundamental flaw in your doctor's treatment. If all your doctor did was bypass or clear the arteries supplying blood to your heart, doesn't that mean that all of the other arteries in your body are still clogged -- including the arteries that supply blood to your brain? (You bet it does.) Whoa! Isn't that going to be a problem? Since the arteries are narrowed, won't it be more likely that a small blood clot will get lodged in your brain and cause a stroke?
Absolutely! But that's a different symptom. At this point your doctor once again prescribes another drug to deal with this problem: Coumadin® (medicinal rat poison), which inhibits clotting and thins your blood so that it flows more easily through narrowed arteries.
The bottom line is that the average person 65 years or older in the United States takes between 15-23 (depending on whose statistics you use) drugs prescribed by their doctor and/or purchased over the counter, each and every day of their lives. Only the first 1 or 2 drugs actually deal with the symptoms presented by the original medical problem. The other 13-21 drugs are all required to deal with the negative side effects of the original 2, plus the interactions of all the other drugs they are taking. And the really sad fact is that in over 95% of all cases, the original problem could have been resolved by merely changing diet and lifestyle -- with no side effects.
The Medical Fraternity
I know a lot about doctors. As I mentioned earlier, I was premed myself in college, and there are many doctors in my family. I both respect them for the dedicated service they provide, and, at the same time, am really angry with them for the needless suffering they inflict. The problem is that doctors are only human, and as such, they have all of the brilliance, stupidity, nobility, greed, dedication, flaws and ego traits that plague each and every one of us.
None of this would be a problem, except for one fact. And that is, that despite their human frailties and lack of divine insight, they have set themselves up as the ONLY authoritative dispensers of health that we are allowed to use and have incorporated all means at their disposal to prevent any contrary points of view from being heard. Against healers outside of their fraternity, they are particularly ruthless. There are numerous examples, but three stand out.
- First, most people are not aware that the AMA was actually formed to combat homeopathic medicine -- or as stated in the AMA's original charter, "An enemy who has many strongholds upon the affection of the people; and one who in many places rivals us in their esteem."
- Second, in 1980, the US Court of Appeals upheld a 1978 FTC ruling that found that the AMA was guilty of "conspiracy to restrain competition" in regard to chiropractic. The AMA fought this decision for seven years, when in 1987, US judge Susan Getzendanner, ruled that the AMA had engaged in "systematic, long-term wrongdoing and the long-term intent to destroy a licensed profession." The AMA continued to fight these rulings, and it wasn't until 1990 that they finally lost for good.
- Just last week, on June 8th, AMA trustee, Dr. Ronald M. Davis, testified before Congress that the AMA calls for the "pre-market approval by the FDA of all dietary supplements." Dr. Davis also stated, "The AMA has been concerned for years about the use and abuse of dietary supplements. Congress must provide the FDA with greater regulatory power over dietary supplements to bring needed oversight to the industry and to protect the health of America's consumers." And this from the group (organized medicine) that according to its own figures may be the single leading cause of death in the United States today. Heck, at 106,000 "reported" deaths a year, side effects from prescription medicine alone rank as the 4th leading cause of death.
But even within the AMA, more subtle (but equally effective) means are used to keep members in line.
- Lack of information. Many doctors become so busy “practicing” medicine once they graduate medical school that they no longer have time to study their art. The net result is that over time they become ill-informed or misinformed. In fact, for most doctors, their sole source of information, once they start practicing, is the "party line" provided by the drug companies (when they are promoting their drugs, or paying for "peer reviewed" studies that appear in the leading medical journals) or the sensationalized reports of studies that appear in newspapers and on TV.
- Locked in the wrong paradigm. We've already discussed what that paradigm is (focusing on body parts and symptoms), but what we haven't discussed is how paradigms determine how we experience reality. A few examples:
- Doctors complain that alternative healing is based on anecdotal evidence, not science like "real medicine." Nevertheless, they remain blind to the fact that 85% of all medical procedures they rely on are untested and based purely on anecdotal evidence. According to the US government's Office of Technology Assessment, only 10% to 20% of all procedures currently used in medical practice are supported by controlled clinical studies. The fact is, the term "medical science" is, to all intents and purposes, an oxymoron. Just as an example, the standard treatments for severe heart disease (bypass surgery and angioplasty) are both unproven. There is so much less science here than you can possibly imagine. The fact is the therapeutic effect of many drugs is, in reality, nothing more than that same drug's primary adverse reaction. No kidding. Just one example is Benadryl, which was originally sold as an antihistamine, but it caused so much drowsiness that it's practically never used as an antihistamine anymore. Never one's to miss an opportunity; the drug companies simply remarketed it as a sleep aid.
- Doctors say that many alternative healing procedures and herbal remedies are dangerous. In fact, less than 5 people die (theoretically) each year from complications resulting from overdosing on vitamins or herbal remedies. But if doctors are that concerned about 5 people who die from herbs each year, they must be absolutely out of their minds when it comes to the 106,000 (conservatively) who die from the pharmaceuticals that they prescribe. (I'll bet Dr. Davis forgot to mention that in his impassioned testimony before Congress last week.)
- Doctors say that even when people aren't being harmed by alternative health care, they're being fleeced. "Millions of dollars are wasted each year on mega doses of vitamins that are peed down the toilet and on useless herbal concoctions." Somehow, though, these same doctors don't seem too concerned about the billions and billions and billions of dollars that have been spent on the "war on cancer" -- only to see cancer rates soar to epidemic proportions.
- Fear of departing from established protocol. There is a saying in the medical community that goes, “It is better to die, than to go against the faculty of medicine.” We've all seen prison movies where the evil warden keeps his prisoners in line by brutally and publicly punishing any prisoners who break any rules. These include popular films such as: Cool Hand Luke, Papillion, and The Shawshank Redemption. Amazingly, these movies could just as easily have been stories about how the medical establishment keeps its ranks in line. Every doctor knows about the "renegade" doctors who have been harassed, raided, arrested, and driven from their practices for “going against the established order.” This tends to “keep the rest in line.” In 1979, the Florida First District Court of Appeal reversed an order by the Florida Board of Medical Examiners placing Dr. Robert Rogers on probation, accusing him of “quackery under the guise of scientific medicine,” and directing him to stop using Chelation Therapy. The district judges not only disagreed with the examiner's ruling, but declared that Dr. Rogers was a scientific and medical innovator comparable to Freud, Pasteur, and Copernicus. There are literally thousands of such stories. Unfortunately, 99% of them end less happily.
- Self-validation. This is the ultimate expression of the doctor as God. It is total closed-mindedness to anything the doctor does not already know. Almost a “Well, if it were so good, don't you think I'd already know about it and be doing it” attitude. It is also reflected in a superiority complex that is dismissive of anyone or anything that is not part of the same “superior” fraternity. Examples of this include the near total dismissal of chiropractic treatment, oriental medicine, and nutritional therapy (only now beginning to change -- albeit slowly and grudgingly as we can see from last week's Congressional testimony).
Most people have been led to believe that if an alternative therapy really had any value, it would eventually be tested and incorporated by the medical establishment. The only reason you never hear about any alternative therapies for the major diseases from physicians is that they don't work. Right? Not quite.
In 1997, I was involved in creating a new brewing process for herbal tinctures that produced tinctures 100-200% stronger than anything the world had ever seen before. The first tincture produced using this new process was an Echinacea based immune enhancer. Over the next year and a half, we watched as testimonial after testimonial poured in confirming its efficacy. In mid 1998, however, something remarkable happened. A woman with metastasized breast cancer was about to commence chemotherapy treatment. But her doctor was very concerned because, even before starting the treatment, her white cell count was at 2600, about half of normal; and, as her doctor was aware, the chemotherapy itself was likely to drive that count significantly lower. The day after her first chemo treatment, with her oncologist's approval, she began taking this Echinacea formula. In the first two weeks, instead of her white count going down, it went up - from 2600 to 4600. In the next two weeks, it went up to 5200.This represents an astounding 100% improvement in immune function while undergoing chemo.
This was exciting. If these results held up in testing, it would make a significant difference for any patient undergoing chemo and/or radiation therapy, which both tend to devastate the patient's immune system -- making them vulnerable to opportunistic infection. I contacted a number of the major hospitals and clinics around the country (including, Cedars Sinai, Sloan Kettering, Beth Israel, and the Mayo Clinic -- not to mention a number of facilities that had "alternative healing" units) to have them test this formula with their patients. I even offered to pay for the testing. No response. Not easily discouraged, I sent two follow up letters to each of the hospitals and clinics. After three letters to each hospital, the sum total response was one letter from UCLA stating, "I have no interest in receiving any further communication from you unless it contains copies of published peer-reviewed scientific studies (laboratory or clinical)." For a moment, I was confused. I mean, that's why I had contacted the doctor to have him study it. Then the problem became very clear.
As the doctor stated, he would only recognize a "peer-reviewed" study. He, however, was not willing to study it himself; and neither were any of his peers. A potentially powerful, all-natural, safe food-grade complement to traditional cancer therapy had been effectively marginalized and dismissed by the fraternity of medical "superiors" without ever being tested.
- Failure to acknowledge the economic pressures that control them.
- The relationship of the drug industry to doctors is no less prevalent or obscene than is the relationship of PAC money to politicians or the defense industry to the military. Money buys votes. Money buys defense contracts. And money buys doctor's treatment choices. As I've already mentioned, for many doctors, their sole source of information about drugs and treatments comes from the drug company reps. In a very real sense, the drug companies take an active role in your treatment. But beyond that, how often have you been to a doctors office and been given free samples of medications? Those samples were given to your doctor by the drug company reps, and he has given them to you as part of your treatment. In other words, plain and simple, with no argument possible, the drug company has dictated part of your treatment. But there is even more -- and worse. The major drug companies have frequently been investigated for, and found guilty of, gross ethical violations in influencing doctors by doing things, such as: awarding free travel and kickbacks to doctors who convert prescriptions written for generic drugs or competitors' drugs to prescriptions written for products their companies produce. It is important to note that in almost every case where the drug companies have been called to task for these illegal acts, the call has come from outside the medical community.
- In 1996, pharmaceutical advertising in the major medical journals totaled over three quarters of a billion dollars. Enough said.
- The medical community creates its own treatment biases. For example, several thousand cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons are produced by the medical community every year. Can their be any doubt but that they have a vested interest in favoring high-cost, high-risk invasive techniques for the treatment of your heart disease? After all, their entire careers are invested in it. What do you think the odds are that someone trained to make their living opening up your body will recommend a low-cost non-invasive treatment -- administered by someone else at that? I didn't say it was impossible; just what do you think the odds are?
- Hospital management plays a key role in shaping your doctor's behavior. My goodness, that new expensive equipment for open heart surgery, that new computerized multi-million dollar MRI machine, and that high tech neo-natal intensive care unit all need to be paid for through extensive patient utilization. Do you have any doubt that this affects at least some of the treatment decisions that are made concerning your illness?
- Amazingly, the insurance carriers have forced some of the most financially counter-productive decisions. Their fear of “open-ended” procedures has led them to support high-cost and largely ineffective “closed-end” procedures. For example, insurance carriers for years were among the strongest resisters of chiropractic care. (Actually, the insurance companies were not alone. For years, as we mentioned earlier, the American Medical Association actually orchestrated a totally illegal boycott of chiropractic care. The boycott only ended when the U.S. Court of Appeals finally affirmed an injunction against the boycott in February of 1990.) Why? Because chiropractic treatment didn't end in one visit; it took multiple visits. It was for this reason that insurance companies preferred to pay for “one” hugely expensive back operation rather than for ten $50 trips to the chiropractor. Talk about “penny wise and pound foolish.” Only now are insurance companies beginning to realize that a back operation costs them thousands (and in close to 80% of cases doesn't resolve the problem) whereas 10 trips to a chiropractor will cost them only $500-600 and is statistically more effective. Amazingly, the insurance companies still “force” some 300,000 people a year into heart bypass operations, a procedure that has no scientific documentation behind it proving that it works. If this information about the insurance companies seems to defy logic, it does. But it's true. I know. For seven years, I worked in the planning department of one the largest HMO's in the country. Insurance companies really do think this way.
- And then, of course, there's greed. The unnecessary surgeries and treatments that doctors in the trade refer to as “boat payments.” Fortunately, the number of doctors who base your treatment on their financial self-interest is very small. Unfortunately, because those few each do it multiple times (such as the doctor who performed several thousand unnecessary hysterectomies before he was identified), the numbers of patients who are brutalized is large.
So where do we go from here?
I believe that medical doctors are now in a very difficult position. It is as though they are locked in a room with two 800-pound gorillas. One of those gorillas is managed health care, whose sole goal is to restrict the way these doctors practice medicine and to limit the amount of money they make doing it. The other gorilla is alternative health, which has become a multi-billion dollar industry despite the best efforts of the medical community to stop it.
The one thing that I do know is that if you are indeed in a room with two huge gorillas, there is one place you don't want to be -- between them. At some point, you are going to have to get behind one of them...or you will be crushed in the middle. And since, by definition, managed health care is dedicated to crushing the individual doctor, there is only one option. At some point, doctors will have to step in behind supplements and herbs.
So you think, based on Dr. Davis' testimony, that's impossible? Not really. I believe it is inevitable -- and therein lies my greatest fear. I believe that Dr Davis's testimony is not an attempt to eliminate alternative medicine, but a step in the direction of co-opting it -- of turning alternative medicine into another branch of organized medicine, available only by prescription and through their members. If we were talking about business (and with billions of dollars at stake, are we not), we might say that we were witnessing an early salvo in a hostile takeover bid -- a takeover initiated, not by individual doctors (the vast majority of whom really do mean well), but rather by the mob mentality of organized medicine (which truly is hostile to alternative medicine and all who practice it).