Vitamins and Minerals

Junk Science ? Number 8: Did a vitamin kill Whitney Houston?

Junk Science 8

Here’s today’s quiz question:

In Florida, what is the number 1 cause of death?

You may guess that, in this American state with such a high senior citizen level, the answer would be heart disease or heart attacks or something like that?

You’d be wrong.

How about cancer –  shortly to be the number 1 cause of death in the Western World? After all, various official cancer bodies tell us that cancer rates are growing because it is an ‘old person’s disease’.

Wrong again. (And it is getting younger all the time.)

How about road accidents?

Wrong again.

Something to do with diabetes?

Wrong again

OK. It’s something weird – alligator bites?

Er. No.

The number 1 cause of death in Florida, which will shortly be the number 1 cause of death in America, is PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. You may know these by another name: You may call them ……. medicines.

Prescription drugs are the things pharmacologists rant on about as having ‘Research evidence’ to support their benefits; while of course telling all of us that natural compounds, herbs and vitamins ‘may be dangerous’. After all, the Nordic Cochrane Institute reviewed lots of research concerning people who bought vitamins and concluded they may not do any good at all, and may even cause harm. That made front page news all over the UK. There are even self-styled ‘quackbusters’ the barmy pharmy brigade, who poke fun like deranged schoolchildren behind the bike sheds at anything ‘complementary’ calling it all ‘non-evidenced based’.

Forgive me. But isn’t there a world of difference between ‘may cause you harm’, and being the actual number 1 cause of death’? Or have I missed something?

Anyway, regular readers will know that, I am hardly surprised that synthetic, deficient high street vitamins (which is, sadly, what most people take) are not as good as the real thing in natural foods or natural supplements. If you are going to buy a Thai copy of an authentic Gucci handbag, should you really be surprised when the handle drops off? High street ‘vitamins’ are most usually synthetic and thus on their way to being drugs anyway. Many do not actually contain the whole natural compound as in vitamin E, or beta-carotene for example. May not do any good? May even cause harm? It’s possible.

The braying  ‘quackbusters’ also fervently believe that a supplement cannot be medicine any more than food can. When did a vitamin ever cure anything?

Er. Scurvy with vitamin C; Rickets with vitamin D, burns with aloe vera, and a few hundred more.

Here’s your next quiz question: What do Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Anna Nicole Smith and now Whitney Houston have in common?

Ah, you guessed it – they all died having taken a cocktail of prescription drugs. Sorry, medicines. Some were aided and abetted by a game of squash, some alcohol, a non-prescription drug or nothing at all.

So what is going wrong?

Well firstly there are doctor prescribed medicines and there are over-the-counter medicines, which you are clever enough to ‘self-medicate’. Whether you have any of the former or not, you are free to take the latter as you wish. Cough mixture, pain-killers, anti-histamines, antacids and the rest.

In Whitney’s case the hotel suite she died in contained virtually empty bottles of an anti-depressant Xanax, the painkiller Ibuprofen, Midol for menstrual cramps and Amoxicillin, an antibiotic. There is also a rumour being investigated that she may have taken a vitamin supplement last year.

A couple of years ago at CANCERactive, we covered the story of a seventy-something lady found unconscious and bleeding from the mouth on her apartment floor in New York. She was rushed to hospital – it was discovered she had a burst stomach ulcer and she survived. She was taking various heart medications, other medicines to stop the side effects, then she developed a cough so added more pain-killers, cough mixtures, and an antacid because her stomach was playing up. No wonder. She was taking a total of 13 drugs. (Sorry, medicines.)

We also covered the story that Dr Stern of the New York Presbyterian Hospital had noted that a lot of older people were coming into A&E at the hospital suffering from a ‘drug overdose’; sorry medicine overdose. So he totted up the numbers and found that 28 PER CENT OF ALL ADMISSIONS AT THE HOSPITAL WERE DUE TO TAKING A COCKTAIL OF DRUGS (Sorry, medicines).

Since there was no ‘official’ disease he decided to give it a name – POLYPHARMACY – in the hope that authorities would take notice.

We now know that both admissions and deaths from polypharmacy have grown seven fold in the last 5 years in America. And, make no mistake, this problem is coming to a town near you in England right now.

How many of these medicines actually cure? How many tackle the root cause of the illness? I would think about two thirds of all newly diagnosed cancer patients who write to us at CANCERactive first fell ill about 6 years ago and were given a variety of medicines including antibiotics. Most are still taking the lot. So now they have a double problem – they still have the original illness PLUS a daily drug habit. Is it any surprise these people develop cancer?

At CANCERactive we were approached by a lady with oesophageal cancer who had had a stomach problem which started ten years previously. She was given a drug (sorry, medicine), which she took consistently for ten years. The original illness never went away. We looked up the drug on the internet – NOT TO BE TAKEN FOR MORE THAN 6 MONTHS. Can cause acid reflux.

She died. The doctor described the cause of her cancer as ‘Just bad luck’.

Maybe she was also taking those dangerous vitamins. She certainly didn’t visit a naturopath who might have been able to cure her IBS properly.

The fact is that Joe Public doesn’t have the first clue about ‘medicines’. Anything synthetic can have side-effects. But if you have to take more drugs to quell the side-effects, shouldn’t you be asking the question: Is the drug really safe in the first place? No one ever seems to ask this.

A few years ago in my advertising days I developed a stabbing pain in the stomach, lasting 3 days and every six or so weeks. Harley Street’s finest did even medical test known. Their solution was to suggest giving me a drug which would cut the acid production. I said no to this because I could not see how I would ever be able to come off the drug.

It was a good job I didn’t take it. Six months later it was banned. A friend who worked with natural supplements a couple of years later suggested I had a parasite. Sure enough I did. I took some herbs – end.

But of course, drugs are ‘evidenced-based’ unlike those dodgy vitamins. But why do clinical trials quantify the benefit, but not the side-effects? Surely measuring safety is a crucial pert of a drug trial. Why don’t Governments publish tables – we get them for schools in the hope that tables will embarrass the failures and improve standards of education. Why can’t we do the same for drugs in the hope that those with side-effects are ‘outed’ in the same way? Why can’t the scientists who develop the drug and the pharmacologists who study its action be more precise and even accountable?

Breast cancer rates fell seven per cent in America a couple of years ago. Why? Better diagnosis and better drugs (the usual industry claimed rubbish)?  No. Women read about the dangers of the drug HRT and vast numbers stopped taking it. But it took an independent study to tell them about the level of the side-effects; side-effects that had been reported and ignored in the Boston Nurses Study some 12-15 years before. 

It is now NOT COOL to take drugs, of any form. The fans of Michael, Elvis and the rest know this. The only people who argue for their widespread use are people who make a living working in and around the pharmaceutical industry. And doctors, who know about little else. Worryingly, in America some doctors make large sums of money out of group practices having their own pharmacy. If a new cancer drug costs $100,000 a year ,imagine the profit to the group practice. Are they going to stop prescribing the drug? There have already been court cases in America involving financial ‘incentives’ to prescribe one drug over another!

In the coming weeks I will be looking at the truth about clinical trials on drugs. There is no doubt that some drugs do a decent job. But. Suffice it to say here that 85 per cent of drugs have not gone through clinical trials, the placebo effect (often used against complementary therapies) is just as prevalent in Pharmaceutical Research, and maybe we should all worry more about just how many drugs are actually imported from China and third world countries with even the FDA admitting that less than 3 per cent are checked for purity and efficacy at source or on importation.

Should doctors be allowed by law to prescribe more than two drugs at a time, given there is rarely any  clinical research on these cocktails of drugs? Should you even be allowed to take more than two drugs at a time given there is no research on mixing, for example, a statin with an anti-histamine with an antibiotic? Should every pharmacy have warning signs? We could use the line,  ‘These drugs may not be effective and may even cause harm’.

It just seems ever so slightly loopy that you can pop into the tobacconist and buy your cigarettes, then go to the high street pharmacy to buy pain-killers, anti-histamines, antacids and cough mixtures which you are legally allowed to self-medicate, and you can then sit in the coffee shop and be bombarded by WiFi and EMF’s even though EuroMPs have passed a damning resolution against them. Meanwhile natural supplements and herbs are treated as health terrorists and all but banned; you cannot self-medicate these – they are far too dangerous and you are clearly too stupid to avoid that well known disease ‘Vitamin abuse’.

So, there we have it. Did the dodgy vitamin that Whitney took last year play a role in her death? Or was it the equally dangerous yoga class three months before?  

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