No one could deny the near-miracles that daily occur in specific medical arenas, especially in emergency and acute care. Yet anyone even remotely paying attention knows that serious, systemic problems exist in our health care system as a whole. This is not a new problem but it is one that is careening out of control - toward a "modern holocaust" if you will. Unfortunately for us, and the physicians who treat us, the real state of our health is and has long been something other than what so many of us have been led to believe, and it is we who pay for the problems and broken promises.

Many books were and are being written on the subject. They include Cured to Death published in 1982 by journalists Melville and Johnson, Confessions of a Medical Heretic published in 1979 by award-winning medical doctor and instructor Robert S. Mendelsohn, the 1992 book by medical doctor James B. Carter titled Racketeering in Medicine: the Suppression of Alternatives along with newer titles such as Selling Sickness, Overdosed America, Critical Condition and The Truth About the Drug Companies.

In 1983 medical doctor Thomas Ainsworth wrote in his book Live Or Die: "The medical establishment has the ability to provide us with the best medical care. But . . . for 80% of our medical needs it is over-equipped and the physician is overqualified. Consequently we are over treated. . . This over treatment is particularly dangerous because it is a two edged sword [with serious risks]." Importantly and like so many similar books, Dr. Ainsworth uses his book to detail how this (1983) way of medicine could cost a patient not only his wealth and health but even his life.

And yet today, most consumers equate "health" care with expensive and often invasive medical tests and prescription drugs, nearly all of which come with serious side effects and risks - and as The Office of Technology Assessment of our own government has determined, the overwhelming majority (some 95%) of these medical interventions were NOT EVEN PROVEN to work in the first place.

The numbers tell a devastating story of a true modern holocaust:

Since the mid 1990s and by the American Medical Association's own (some would say conservative) estimates, side effects from prescription drugs alone put some 1.6 million people in the hospital every year. Of that 1.6 million some 100,000 DIE - every year from prescribed drugs. (These are called Adverse Drug Reactions or ADRs)

This does not count approximately 1000 deaths that occur EACH WEEK from what one blue ribbon panel termed "unnecessary surgery." And that does not include the 6 to 8 thousand who die annually of complications from "necessary operations" such as gallbladder and other more routine operations.

This also does not include those who died because they were given the wrong medications or prescribed the wrong dose or combination of drugs. (These are called Adverse Drug Events or ADEs, and as such represent a wholly separate category from Adverse Drug Reactions or ADRs mentioned above)

This also does not count the approximately 10,000+ who die EVERY YEAR from taking over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines and pain relievers such as acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen.

Furthermore, in a more recent and fully referenced report titled “Death By Medicine” researchers have found that 2.2 million people per year have in-hospital, adverse reactions to prescribed drugs and that the total number of deaths caused by conventional medicine is 783,936 per year. Compare this to the 699,697 deaths attributed to heart disease in 2001 and the 553,251.5 deaths attributable to cancer. This makes the American medical system the leading cause of death and injury in the US.

With numbers like these is it hard to disagree with author Shane Ellison when he asserts in his book called Health Myths Exposed(c2005) that: "Despite their overt social acceptance, prescription drugs are an expensive way to die."

Today, says Ellison: "Massive profit from negative side effects is the primary reason, whether openly admitted or not, that very little is being done to curb the death toll from FDA approved drugs. In addition to profitting on the upfront sale of FDA approved drugs, pharmaceutical companies and their client, the FDA (via the Prescription Drug User Fee Act) are also making billions from the negative side effects they elicit amongst users."

Here are a few of Ellison's supporting examples:

  • A team of Harvard University professors has publicly advised physicians NOT to prescribe new drugs to their patients because their safety has not been established, despite FDA approval! To support this warning, the professors acknowledged that adverse drug reactions (ADRs) from FDA approved drugs are the leading cause of death in America. (p18)
  • Heart patients beware: While millions take medication to prevent heart problems, it appears that antiarrythmia drugs are more dangerous than a failing heart. Two FDA approved antiarrythmia durgs known as flecainide and encainide clearly suppress arrythmias. Unfortunately, studies show that they also suppress the heartbeat in general, proved by the fact that 2.5 times as many patients taking these drugs die as opposed to those that do not take these drugs. (p12)
  • [The weight loss aid] Wellbutrin was pulled off the market in 1986 because of an unacceptable incidence of seizures. The FDA released it back to the market later that year for unknown reasons. According to clinical trial 6.1% of users will suffer from withdrawals due to adverse events from using the drug. [Moreover] Wellbutrin is the third leading cause of drug-related seizures with cocaine being number one. Health Canada and GlaxoSmithKline (the same company who funded [a manipulated and well-spun] weight loss study) recieved 1.127 reports of adverse reactions to Wellbutrin between May 1998 and May 28, 2001. Among these were 19 deaths and 172 reports of seizures and convulsons. . . Despite these staggering figures, the number of children being prescribed Wellbutrin jumped 195% between 1995 and 1999. Somebody should be tried and convicted. (p11-12)
  • In addition to vaccines, the health of our children is also threatened by the FDA approved drug Ritalin (methylphenidate). The Experimental Pharmacology Department of the American Cyanamid Company and the Merck Index reports that Ritalin is no less toxic or safer than amphetamine and methamphetamine. They continue by stating that with the administration of this drug, motor activity decreases. Many times, tremors and convlusions occur. Studies on amphetamine derivatives show that short-term clinical doses produce brain cell death. Long lasting and sometimes permanent changes in the biochemistry of the brain are also a result. . . [The DEA] classifies Ritalin, as well as Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), Desoxyn (methamphetamine), and Adderall (a mixture of Ritalin, Dexedrine, and amphetamine) in the same Schedule II category as methamphetamine and cocaine. Both methamphetamine and cocaine are targeted by the "war on drugs." This did not stop FDA approval of Ritalin and an entire class of stimulants for use in children. (p9)
  • Both the dangers of prescription drugs and the greed of the pharmaceutical industry are glaringly obvious when we study the FDA approved drug Prozac (fluoxetine). . . the popularity of Prozac is a result of marketing, not science. . .The first testing of Prozac was performed on cats and dogs. Every trial showed that Prozac use caused aggression amongst normally calm and friendly animals, as could be seen by increased hissing and growling. When the animals were taken off the drug, they returned to their usual friendly behavior. . . By mid 1978, Prozac testing moved to humans in controlled clinical trials. . Despite the lack of scientific methodology, this study concluded that Prozac work well to a "statistically significant" degree in a population of depressed patients. . . Both of these animal and human studies raised red flags about a potential causal relationship between Prozac and violence/suicide. . .Since its approval, the potential for Prozac-induced suicide has become frighteningly clear. . . Under the FDA's own analysis, there have been more than 20,000 Prozac-related suicides since 1987. Clinical studies performed on Prozac show 191 side effects per 100 people. . . Despite the many adverse side effects associated with it, the FDA approved its use for children in 2003! (p3-5) [Despite this, one article appearing in the July 2005 issue of the British Medical Journal said that "It is now medical malpractice not to treat depression with medication.]

One must be willing to consider the news we don't hear, then question why. Here for example was a recent article on Vioxx for which we might ask: Did the makers wage an "astro turf war" in order to get us to agree that the "benefit outweighed the risk" of an obviously toxic drug?

Excerpt from THE REAL DRUG WAR IS VIOXX: "New statistics reveal a mounting death toll from the blockbuster pharmaceutical drug Vioxx. The highly touted pain killer is estimated to have caused roughly 140,000 heart attacks, 44% of which led to death. The total number of U.S. deaths from this pharmaceutical drug that the FDA had claimed was "safe", is over 60,000, which is about the same as the combined number of deaths of all U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam war, Desert Storm, and the current Iraq quagmire. . . That's simply staggering. It's almost as if the pharmaceutical industry has declared war on the health of the American public."

Regarding Cancer treatments and the so-called search for cures, consider the following statement made by Samuel Epstein, M.D. in his book Politics of Cancer Revisited: "A wide range of drugs are known to be carcinogenic, as shown by human experience and animal tests. It is unfortunate, but true, that the most effective drugs used to treat cancer also cause it." In the same book, Dr. Epstein quotes Dr. Harold Varmus in his position as director of the National Cancer Insititute thusly: "'I have no idea when we’ll know enough to develop anything that’s clinically applicable, and I don’t know who’s going to do it. . . It’s not a high priority in my thinking. . . . If you’re giving me money, I’ll talk about cures. Since you’re not, I won’t. Talking about cures is absolutely offensive to me. In our work, we never think about such a thing for a second.'”

We also have studies on the ineffectiveness of chemotherapy: John Cairns M.D., then a professor of microbiology at the Harvard University School of Public Health, published an 1985 article in Scientific American in which he showed that chemotherapy was able to save the lives of only 2 to 3 percent of cancer patients. This was followed up a year later by a landmark study published by John C. Bailar III, M.D., Ph.D. in the "New England Journal of Medicine" which essentially came to similar conclusions. In 1990 a well-respected German scientist by the name of Ulrich Abel went even further, positing that not only was chemotherapy ineffective as a cure for the vast majority of cancers, but the evidence provided in the most comprehensive study ever undertaken on chemotherapy also showed that it had no positive effects on survival - or quality of life. Today these kinds of drugs are wending their way through our environment and collecting in our water systems, effetively making them available to everyone whether we want or need them.

And what about high-tech testing? Consider this from a free e-alert on mamograms which summarizes three "mamogram myths":

MYTH #1: Mammograms are safe. In fact, they're not. Compression of the breast may prompt cancer to spread. And then there's the radiation: A mammogram delivers about 1,000 times more radiation than a chest x-ray and carries a risk of cardiovascular damage. William Campbell Douglass II, M.D., had to say this about compression in the January 2002 issue of his Real Health Breakthroughs Newsletter: "I find it maddeningly contradictory that medical students are taught to examine breasts gently to keep any possible cancer from spreading, yet radiologists are allowed to manhandle them for a mammogram."
MYTH # 2: Mammograms catch cancer at an early stage. In fact, if a tumor is large enough to be detected by a mammogram it's most likely already in an advanced state.
MYTH # 3. Mammograms save lives. In fact, studies have shown that women who have mammograms suffer about the same rate of death due to breast cancer as women who do not have mammograms.

You can read more about how x-ray mammography is accelerating the rate of cancer here. Then check out "death by colonoscopy" here.

Finally, consider how politics play a role in health care choices by reading what Earl Mindell has to say about treatment of high blood pressure in his Prescription Alternatives:

“Hypertension drugs usually lower high blood pressure, but they have significant side effects and they treat the symptom, not the underlying cause. When you take them, the symptom of high blood pressure is suppressed and your numbers look good for your HMO and insurance company, but your disease continues to progress. It’s important for you to be aware that unless you’re one of the few people who have high blood pressure caused purely by genetics or an illness such as kidney disease, your high blood pressure is caused by diet and lifestyle choices and you can do something about those . . . . . . . . [Further] don’t let “numbers” bully you. A sudden rise in blood pressure is something to see your doctor about, but otherwise keep in mind that everyone is different and your blood pressure will rise naturally as you age. This does not necessarily mean you need drugs to lower it! Your body is effectively compensating for changes in your body that happen with aging. If you’re over the age of 60, your systolic blood pressure may safely be as high as 180 mm Hg and your diastolic as high as 100mm Hg. . . Should you worry if your blood pressure varies some from these numbers? If you’re overweight, stressed out, smoking, eating poorly, drinking too much alcohol or coffee, or not exercising or have heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, yes, because these are the risk factors for high blood pressure and you need to get to work changing them. Your physician is in a very tough position when it comes to treating your high blood pressure. If your blood pressure numbers don’t fit into the charts and your physician doesn’t prescribe drugs, he or she can be penalized by the HMO or insurance company and is vulnerable to malpractice suits. But the practice of prescribing drugs to treat hypertension just doesn’t fit the facts. . . .[So to recap] Unless you’re under the age of 60 and your blood pressure is “severe” (above 180/110), there is little evidence that blood pressure lowering drugs . . actually reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, or even the risk of dying. If you’re in your 70’s or older it’s clear that the drugs will do you more harm than good. At that age there is no evidence that blood pressure as high as 220/120 is more harmful than taking hypertension drugs. Don’t ignore blood pressure that high, but be aware that taking drugs isn’t likely to prolong your life."

FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: ONLINE DOCUMENTARY "PRESCRIPTION FOR DISASTER" BY GARY NULL, PhD

Also see books in our Recommended Reading list.