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Drugs vs. natural products
and your right to choose.
An updated article reprinted in part from "Whole Foods" magazine
Dec 2003 by Scott Tips
(with Robert Verkerk. PH.D.)
Originally titled " Back and Forth across the Pond"
For some time now, whole foods and dietary supplements have been increasing
in importance in consumers' daily lives. Surveys show that more than 158
million American consumers now use dietary supplements generating over
$25 billion annually in sales (2010 figures); and many of those say they
do so as a means of ensuring good health. More and more individuals are
turning toward natural products and remedies. They are turning toward natural
prevention and remedies instead of drugs.
Do not think for a moment that the pharmaceutical companies have not noticed
this fundamental change. They have, and they consider it a a matter of
good business to threaten natural products and your right to choose.
The pharmaceutical industry, one of the most profitable on planet Earth, turning over more than $300 billion annually in the United States alone, can react to this perceived threat from natural
products in one of two ways. It can act in the marketplace by trying to
compete, either directly or indirectly, with these increasingly prevalent
natural products, or it can act in the political arena by trying to eliminate
the competitive threat of natural products. Unfortunately, decades of conditioning
and hands-on intervention in politics have oriented drug companies toward
the use of government agencies to eliminate the competition. This political
action forms a foundational threat to your rights to obtain natural products
and natural alternatives to drugs.
After the whole foods industry and consumers won an important victory in 1994 with the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), the natural products market began to grow tremendously. The advances and availability of new, natural products that DSHEA unleashed by freeing that market from the arbitrary threat of government action against natural products is truly incredible. There may be no way to ever accurately estimate the number of lives that have been benefitted, extended, and even saved because this threat to natural products and alternative health care was lifted. You now enjoy the freedom to choose natural products instead of drugs. However that freedom is in constant
One way the drug companies threaten natural products is to hype up media
reports that suggest supplements are not regulated and are therefore not
safe. The fact is supplements are incredibly safe.
At the same time that dietary supplements have been saving lives and improving
the everyday health of Americans, they have also been achieving an impressive
safety record. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC),
deaths from dietary supplements have averaged fewer than five per year
over the last 25 years, and most of those deaths came from a single batch
of contaminated, genetically engineered L-tryptophan made in Japan. In
my estimation this substance hardly qualifies as a natural product.
Contrast that with the "safety" record of approved, regulated and prescribed drugs. In the United States, prescribed drugs are the fourth leading cause of
death with 106,000 deaths per year as reported by the Journal of the American
Medical Association (JAMA) 2000. Licensed and regulated doctors and hospitals add another 100,000 plus
deaths per year to that record because of doctors' medical mistakes. This
trend is continuing. please see the two reports below.
Prescription Drugs - Fourth Leading Killer in USA
A statistical study of hospital deaths in the U.S. conducted at the University of Toronto in 1998 revealed that pharmaceutical drugs kill more people every year than are killed in traffic accidents.
The study shows that more than two million American hospitalized patients suffered a serious adverse drug reaction (ADR) within the 12-month period of the study and, of these, over 100,000 died as a result. The researchers found that over 75% of these ADRs were dose-dependent, which suggests they were due to the inherent toxicity of the drugs rather than to allergic reactions.
The data did not include fatal reactions caused by accidental overdoses or errors in administration of the drugs. If these had been included, it is estimated that another 100,000 deaths would be added to the total every year.
The researchers concluded that ADRs are now the fourth leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
Source: Jason, et al. (Lazarou et al), Incidence of Adverse Drug Reactions in Hospitalized Patients, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Vol. 279. April 15, 1998, pp. 1200-05. Also Bates, David W., Drugs and Adverse Drug Reactions: How Worried Should We Be? JAMA, Vol. 279. April 15, 1998, pp. 1216-17.
It is nearly impossible with this many deaths to estimate the overall damage
to the population's general health, short and long term, that is a direct
or indirect result of medical drug usage in the USA. In our opinion the
current health care crisis in the USA can be summed up in two words, "drug
Medical Errors - Third Leading Cause of Death
The JOURNAL of the AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (JAMA) Vol 284, No 4, July 26th 2000 article written by Dr Barbara Starfield, MD, MPH, of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, states that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States.
The report apparently shows there are 2,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery; 7000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals; 20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals; 80,000 deaths/year from infections in hospitals; 106,000 deaths/year from non-error, adverse effects of medications - these total up to 225,000 deaths per year in the US from iatrogenic causes which ranks these deaths as the # 3 killer. Iatrogenic is a term used when a patient dies as a direct result of treatments by a physician, whether it is from misdiagnosis of the ailment or from adverse drug reactions used to treat the illness. (drug reactions are the most common cause).
Even food is more dangerous than dietary supplements. Food poisoning alone
causes 5,000 to 9,000 deaths per year according to the CDC. And more than
76 million Americans get sick from food every year with some 300,000 of
them requiring hospitalization. In fact, the safety record of dietary supplements
is so impressive that Americans are more likely to die from bee stings,
sports injuries, lightning strikes, animal bites, or horse back riding
than they are from taking dietary supplements. So why are natural products
threatened and singled out for excessively bad press? For your answer,
just watch TV and note how many commercials there are for drugs. The big
drug companies rule the media. It's that simple.
Despite the impressive safety record of dietary supplements, and the already
ample powers of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate, control,
and remove from the marketplace those dietary supplements that are adulterated
or misbranded, the American government, media, and other "drugged
authorities" pretend that the dietary supplement industry is unregulated.
They cry that the FDA lacks the power and funds to control these supplements
so that it can "protect" the public's health. Yet, the FDA has
long had both the power and the money to inspect and remove from the marketplace
any dietary supplement that is adulterated or dangerous to the health of
the consumer. It can bring civil and criminal actions against companies
and persons who violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. And if the violations
are severe enough or warrant the penalty, the violators can and will face
imprisonment. So why does the federal government what to threaten the natural
products industry with additional rules and regulations?
The FDA and government powers that currently exist are not enough for those
who think they know what is best for you and me. As even the most naive
among us understand at this point, dietary supplement "crises"
have been manufactured and propagandized to the public in order to stampede
us into the false safety of increased FDA regulation. The FDA's goal is
to regain the arbitrary regulatory power that it lost when DSHEA became
law. In doing so, the FDA will be able to use that arbitrary power to prevent
the increasing threat from natural products facing the pharmaceutical industry.
Arbitrary regulatory power is nothing more than the whimsical, unquestioned, unaccountable, and unchallengeable power of bureaucrats over citizens and represents the biggest threat to natural products existence. It is the Holy Grail of bureaucrats everywhere; and in the post-DSHEA environment, the FDA misses this virtually absolute power and so does the pharmaceutical industry.
So, whenever you hear or read that the dietary supplement industry is "unregulated,"
understand that what is really meant is that the industry is not subject
to the whimsical wishes and threats of an FDA that is controlled by its
number one lobbiest the pharmaceutical industry.
The FDA's agenda for threatening natural products.
In January 2000, the FDA's Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition
(CFSAN) published its Dietary Supplement Strategic Plan. This plan is illuminating
in that it reveals the FDA's goal of having a "science-based"
regulatory program that "fully implements" (remember this phrase)
the FDA's view of DSHEA. These "science-based" regulations sound
reasonable, but are really nothing more than "newspeak" for the
unnecessary threat of drug or drug-like regulation on the natural product's
Tellingly, the FDA anticipates spending 54% of its available funds to develop
and build a framework for regulating dietary supplements. This increased spending translates into the threat of more rules and regulatory
burdens for manufacturers, distributors, and others in the natural products
industry. Equally important, increased regulation means higher prices to
consumers, more roadblocks and hurdles to progress and better health all
in the name of possibly preventing, at most, five deaths per year. The
unseen cost will be many more lives lost because of natural products kept
off the market or out of reach of poorer consumers, all directly due to
the threatened high cost of unnecessary government regulation on natural