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 jeopardy.

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 dependency".

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 supplement industry.

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 products.

Well what can you do about this threat to natural products and your rights to choose alternatives to drugs?

Call, write, or E mail your state and federal senators and congressmen and tell them to stop any additional passage of bills relating to the further regulation of the natural products and dietary supplement industry. Tell them you do not wish our country to return to the dark ages concerning good health for Americans and you do not appreciate and will not vote for any candidate endorsing the political agendas of the pharmaceutical industry and their effort to threaten natural products.
Not sure how to contact your political representatives? Just click on the website below and the wonderful people from "Citizens for Health" will be glad to provide you with names and addresses.

Citizens For Health is a national non-profit grass roots organization committed to protecting and expanding natural health consumer options. Working together with members across the country, Citizens monitors legislative and regulatory activity with the goal of ensuring consumer access, choice, and information to natural and alternative products and therapies.

5 Thomas Circle NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 483-1652 phone
(202) 483-7369 fax
Web Address:http://www.citizens.org

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