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Problems with our Health Care System: Big Pharma Needs Fixing by Greg Feinsinger MD

Following the discovery of antibiotics ninety years ago, the medical field became pill and procedure-oriented. Initially, the business of medicine was altruistic. For example, in 1955 Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine, which saved millions of lives and prevented millions of cases of disabling paralysis worldwide. When Dr. Salk was asked who owned the patent, his reply was: “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

In the last twenty-five years, American medicine (hospitals, the pharmaceutical/medical device industry, medical insurance companies, physician specialty societies) has become big business—all about making profits rather than about what’s best for the citizens of this country. Following are some reasons it has become easy—in this environment of greed–to dislike the pharmaceutical industry:

  • They have too much influence on Congress, through campaign contributions and lobbying–for example convincing them to make importing cheaper drugs from Canada illegal, convincing them to forbid Medicare from negotiating for better drug prices for seniors.
  • They have too much influence on medical education and on practicing physicians: Drug reps develop cozy relationships with doctors in their offices and convince them to use their products, even though better and cheaper alternatives often exist. Medical journals contain drug ads. Most speakers at medical conferences have ties to pharmaceutical companies (which they now have to disclose).
  • Pharmaceutical companies charge as much as they can get away with—especially for products that are critical for people with diseases such as M.S.
  • When patents on brand-name products are about to expire, drug companies make minor changes and sell these “new” products at brand-name prices. Or they pay potential generic competitors to delay making lower-priced products.
  • Although game-changing drugs have been developed over the years, most new drugs are “me too” drugs, that offer nothing new—a practice that isn’t allowed in most other developed countries. For example, losartan came out as an ARB drug for hypertension many years ago, but there are now several of these ARB drugs with no real advantage over the original losartan.
  • They market directly to consumers—a practice that is only allowed in the U.S. and New Zealand.
  • They justify over-charging for their products by saying that Research and Development is expensive—but they pay their CEOs inflated salaries and spend more on marketing than on R and D.

Can you imagine the altruism that Dr. Salk displayed in 1955 happening today? Now we have Goldman Sachs analysts warning biotech firms to stay away from drugs that offer “one shot cures.” They are referring to a new drug that cures hepatitis C, which “has gradually exhausted the available pool of patients.” The analysts suggest sticking to cancer drugs, “where the potential for a cure poses less risk to the sustainability of a franchise.”  Drug companies benefit most from chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, which—unless patients with these diseases make dramatic lifestyle changes—require medications for years. (As noted in previous columns, the U.S. doesn’t have a healthcare system, but rather a disease management system—we wait until diseases occur and then spend trillions trying to manage them. Big Pharma loves this dysfunctional system).

The PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Plan) developed with the following principles for fixing the pharmaceutical industry:

  • “Access to medications should be determined by medical need, not financial means.”
  • “Drugs must be affordable to society.”
  • “Drug development should be geared toward real innovation that maximizes population health.”
  • “The human right to health must take precedence over intellectual property rights (patents).”
  • “The safety and effectiveness of medications must be independently and rigorously evaluated.” (This refers to the pharmaceutical industry having undue influence on the FDA).
  • “Comprehensive and unbiased information on drugs should be available to prescribers and patients.”

 

 

 

Members

Just 1 Thing (at a time) 4 Health

MEMBERS AREA

What can making whatever changes might be needed to better your health easy? Being a part of the Just 1 Thing 4 Health Program. We have the easiest way to shift your habits to ones that will make you feel great and change your health for the better.

Members are Subscribers who are participating in changing 1 habit at a time to change the quality of their health. This results in lifestyle changes that we want to encourage and help support you in making.

Here’s a Summary of what’s happened so far:

WEEK 1 – FIBER

Featured Doctor:  Bandana Chawla MD
Dr. Chawla loves being a part of the whole foods, plant-based movement and appreciates having been introduced to it by some of her patients that improved their health by taking the action to change their nutritional intake, many of these actions she outlines in her video.

Watch Dr. Chawla’s video to hear how she explains protein in the diet. She also talks about the deficiency in our diets that can be easily changed resulting in tremendous improvements in most people’s health.

Learn more from Dr. Chawla by visiting her page:  CLICK HERE


WEEK 2 – OSTEOPOROSIS

Featured Doctor:   Dennis Grossman MD
Dr. Dennis Grossman specializes in Internal Medicine for adults and seniors. His practice is located in Cleveland, OH and he got interested in nutrition 25+ years ago. He has been an active supporter of nutrition as a means of creating a healthier life and says ‘it’s pretty simple’ when you know a few things. Those things are what he shares in this video.

 

Signs that the Medical Establishment may be Starting to get Healthy Eating by Greg Feinsinger M.D.

In the 1940s Dr. Walter Kempner proved that severe hypertension could be reversed by diet. Over 25 years ago Dr. Dean Ornish, and later Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, proved that our biggest killer—heart disease—can be reversed by plant-based, whole food nutrition with avoidance of salt, sugar and added oil. But unfortunately, the medical field is bound by tradition; doctors are paid well to do procedures but not for counseling; and physician training and practice are unduly influenced by the pharmaceutical and food industries. As a result, the power of food to prevent and reverse disease has been neglected by traditional medicine.

Finally, there are some hopeful signs that this may be changing. Dr. Kim Williams, who was recently the president of the American Collage of Cardiology, decided to go plant-based a few years ago, after reviewing several different diets. When people asked him why, he said “I don’t mind dying so much, but I don’t want it to be my fault.”

The American Heart Association publishes the respected medical journal “Circulation.”  In the June 5th issue there is an article titled “Medical Nutrition Education, Training and Competencies to Advance Guideline-Based Diet Counseling by Physicians.”  The article notes that “training physicians to provide diet and nutrition counseling as well as developing collaborative care models to deliver nutrition advice will reduce the health and economic burden of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease to a degree not previously recognized.” It goes on to note that “despite evidence that physicians are willing to undertake this task and are as credible sources of diet information, they engage patients in diet counseling at less than desirable rates and cite insufficient nutrition knowledge and training as barriers to carrying out this role…These data align with ongoing evidence of large and persistent gaps in medical nutrition education and training in the United States…”

The American Family Physician journal is getting on board as well. The June 1st edition contained an article titled “Diets for Health:  Goals and Guidelines,” which reviewed the pros and cons of various diets that are touted as being healthy. The article points out that plant proteins are preferable, and cites the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils, chick peas), whole grains, healthy fats and spices. In a high-lighted box titled “What is New on This Topic:  Diets For Health,” the article notes:

  • Large, prospective cohort studies show that vegetarian diets reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus, and that vegan diets offer additional benefits for obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”
  • “Eating nuts, including peanuts, is associated with decreased cardiovascular disease and mortality, lower body weight, and lower diabetes risk.
  • “In a prospective cohort study, consumption of artificially sweetened beverages increased the risk of type 2 diabetes…”

Of course, Drs. Esselstyn, Fuhrman, Greger, McDougall, Barnard and others have been telling us these things for years—this information really isn’t new. What’s new is that the medical establishment is finally listening.

At my 50th medical school reunion in Denver last month, graduating medical students told me they still aren’t being taught much about nutrition or prevention. But maybe this will finally change, and in the near future medical students will learn that health isn’t all about pills and procedure—that inexpensive, low-tech lifestyle changes can prevent and reverse many of the chronic, costly diseases that afflict so many Americans.

 

How to Prevent Cancer of the Pancreas by Greg Feinsinger M.D.

The pancreas is a large gland located behind the stomach. It secretes insulin, necessary for blood sugar control, directly into the blood stream. It also secretes digestive juices necessary for digestion of proteins into the small intestine. About 46,000 Americans develop pancreatic cancer every year, which is impossible to screen for, and is difficult to diagnose early and to treat successfully—few patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive more than a year. Therefore, it’s particularly important to prevent pancreatic cancer.

Here’s how you can stack the deck in your favor to avoid pancreatic cancer, according to Dr. Michael Greger in his book “How Not to Die” and on his website nutritionfacts.org:

  • Don’t smoke—about 20 percent of cases of pancreatic cancer are related to smoking.
  • Maintain your ideal body weight, because obesity is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Check your height and your weight and google your BMI to find out if you’re overweight.
  • Avoid heavy drinking, which is another risk factor for pancreatic cancer. More than 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men is considered unhealthy (note that any alcohol except perhaps a little red wine is a risk factor for breast cancer in women). One drink is defined as 4 ounces of wine, 12 or beer, or 1 oz of hard alcohol.
  • Avoid fat from animal products. Dr. Greger notes that older studies have been conflicting but that the large, NIH-AARP study showed that “the consumption of fat from all animal sources was significantly associated with pancreatic cancer risk, but no correlation was found with consumption of plant fats.” This means that you should avoid meat including chicken, seafood, eggs, and all dairy products including cheese and yogurt. Instead, get the fat you need in your diet from nuts, seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax, chia, hemp), olives and avocados.
  • If you want to avoid pancreatic cancer, it’s particularly important that you avoid chicken. In a study of 30,000 poultry workers, their risk of pancreatic cancer was found to be 9 times the risk in the general population. This is thought to be due to cancer-causing poultry viruses, that can be transmitted to humans. Regarding people who eat chicken, a large European study found a 72 percent increase in pancreatic cancer for every 50 grams of chicken eaten daily (50 grams is about 1/4 of a chicken breast).
  • Eat 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoonfuls of turmeric a day, which in the lab has been shown to reverse early cancerous changes in pancreatic cells. Larger doses of turmeric taken daily have been shown to be as effective as chemotherapy in delaying progression of pancreatic cancer.
  • Avoid foods with a high glycemic index—in his book “Fast Food Genocide,” Dr. Joel Fuhrman notes that these foods are linked to several cancers, including pancreatic. These are foods such as sugary or refined foods, that raise you blood sugar rapidly (if you eat an orange, your blood sugar doesn’t go up much because of the fiber in the orange—orange juice, which is basically flavored sugar water, raises your blood sugar rapidly).
  • Avoid processed meat (such as sausage, lunch meat, bacon, ham) and fast food. Dr. Fuhrman notes that “increased consumption of processed meat, and meats cooked with typical fast food cooking techniques, correlates positively with the likelihood of developing…pancreatic… cancer.” Carcinogens such as heterocyclic amines are formed when muscle meat “including beef, pork, fish, and poultry” is cooked at high temperatures, such as pan frying and grilling.
  • Eat cruciferous vegetables daily, such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, bok choy, brussels sprouts. Dr. Fuhrman cites a study showing that one or more servings of cabbage a week reduced risk of pancreatic cancer by 38 percent.

Celebrate! Food industry lobbying group is disintegrating!

Why is it that the federal government advises that doctors should consider recommending a plant based diet to all their patients, yet most doctors and most people don’t understand the potential benefits of eating well?

I believe the answer is found in what messaging we are bombarded with. The Grocery Manufacturers Association is an example of a group that stops at nothing in their efforts to maximize sales for it’s members. They have misstated truths and now their ways are starting to catch up with them. 50 major corporate members have left the organization including Campbell Soup, Nestlé, Dean Foods, Mars, Tyson Foods, Unilever, Hershey, Cargill, Kraft and DuPont. Join the GMA boycott to finish the job and end the GMA. I hope these companies are starting to see the power of food as medicine and the converse, food as the cause of the chronic disease epidemic.
Click here to read the wonderful article Dr. Mercola has written on this