All Those Little Brown Bottles …

Even though I record all the TV shows I want to watch and skip through the commercials during playback, I’ve been half-consciously aware that pharmaceutical ads seem to dominate commercial airtime.  As I was watching a Biography Channel episode about Arnold Schwarzenegger a few days ago, it seemed as if every other commercial I skipped past was for some sort of drug.  So today, I played the episode again and tallied them.

There were 27 commercials, not counting promos for upcoming episodes on Biography.  Seven were for prescription drugs.  (There was also an ad for a cream to remove dark circles under the eyes, and one claiming that NutriSystem will help type 2 diabetes keep their blood sugar under control.)

Something is very, very wrong when a quarter of the prime-time ads on TV are directed at sick people.  And these aren’t even products you can just walk into a store and buy — you must, as the ads remind you, “talk to your doctor about …”

Here are some of the medical products I saw advertised, along with the conditions they’re intended to treat and abbreviated version of the obligatory warnings.

Advair (asthma).  May increases risk of death from complications of asthma.  May increase risk of hospitalization for asthma in children and adolescents.

Symbicort (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).  Do not take more than twice per day.  Increases risk of lung infections, osteoporosis, and some eye problems.

Oracea (rosacea) Side effects include stomach upset, sore throat, sinus infections.  Stay out of direct or artificial sunlight while taking.  Talk to your doctor if you’re taking blood thinners or have kidney disease, as there may be serious side effects.

Nexium (heartburn, acid reflux).  Talk to your doctor about an increased risk of osteoporosis-related bone fractures if you take multiple daily doses.  Side effects include headache, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Fabulous.  While you’re in traction because of an osteoporosis-related femur fracture, you’ll be delighted you’re not experiencing heartburn.

Cymbalta (chronic pain, osteoarthritis)  Taking with aspirin or blood thinners may increase bleeding risk.  Severe liver problems, some fatal, were reported, as were abdominal pain and yellowing of the skin or eyes.  Dizziness or fainting may occur upon standing.  Other side effects include confusion, dry mouth and constipation. Tell your doctor if you experience unusual changes in behavior, mood swings, or thoughts of suicide, as these can increase in children, teens and young adults.

By the time the announcer finished with the long list of warnings for Cymbalta, I was laughing out loud — mostly because I was seeing all these happy-looking people going by on the screen while hearing about fatal liver problems, confusion and suicides.  Look!  We’re happy!  Or maybe we’re just confused!

I half-expected one of the happy people to face the camera and say, “Let’s see … my chronic back pain is finally gone, but I’m constipated, I have yellow eyes, I faint when I stand up, I’m confused, my belly hurts, and I my liver isn’t working anymore.  You know what?  I think I’ll kill myself.”

I’m grateful drugs exist for the people who need them.  But we shouldn’t need so many of them, and as Dr. Mary Vernon emphasized in a recent podcast interview, taking a drug to mask the symptoms of disease isn’t the same as being healthy.  We learned that lesson again (well, some of us; many doctors and researchers won’t) a few days ago when yet another drug that artificially raises HDL failed to reduce heart disease:

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health has stopped a clinical trial studying a blood lipid treatment 18 months earlier than planned. The trial found that adding high dose, extended-release niacin to statin treatment in people with heart and vascular disease, did not reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and stroke.

During the study’s 32 months of follow-up, participants who took high dose, extended-release niacin and statin treatment had increased HDL cholesterol and lowered triglyceride levels compared to participants who took a statin alone. However, the combination treatment did not reduce fatal or non-fatal heart attacks, strokes, hospitalizations for acute coronary syndrome, or revascularization procedures to improve blood flow in the arteries of the heart and brain.

The DSMB also noted a small and unexplained increase in ischemic stroke rates in the high dose, extended-release niacin group. This contributed to the NHLBI acting director’s decision to stop the trial before its planned conclusion.

Triglycerides were pushed down, HDL was pushed up, but the rate of heart disease didn’t change.  Why?  Because chemically improving the markers for health isn’t the same as improving health.  As I pointed out in a previous post, my neighbor’s grass is a beautiful shade of green because he constantly fusses over his lawn to keep it healthy.  My lawn is patchy because I don’t care about lawns.  If I paint my lawn green, that won’t make it any healthier.  Sadly, many researches just can’t seem to grasp that concept:

“As we continue to search for new approaches to treating cholesterol problems, it is important to remember the value of existing treatments. The key to treating high cholesterol so patients can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease is to lower the level of LDL cholesterol, through well-established drug treatments such as statins and lifestyle changes,” said Patrice Desvigne-Nickens, M.D., NHLBI project officer for the AIM-HIGH trial.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

We just saw a drug that successfully manipulates cholesterol levels fail to reduce heart disease — while slightly increasing strokes — and yet the good doctor is still promoting chemical manipulation.  By gosh, if you change the risk factors, you must be changing the actual outcomes.  Riiiiight.  Paint your lawn green, and the grass becomes healthy.

This doesn’t even provide the entertainment value of being a new story.  Some years ago, Pfizer announced it had developed a combo drug that significantly improved cardiovascular risk factors.  The early press releases were breathless:  the miracle combo boosted HDL by 44 to 66 percent, while lowering LDL by 41 to 60 percent.  Wow!

The results were somewhat less spectacular:  Pfizer had to pull the plug on a clinical trial of the combo drug three years early because people taking the combo drug had a 60% higher mortality rate.  Hmmm … maybe Mother Nature, unlike NHLBI researchers, doesn’t think it’s a good idea to chemically manipulate our production of cholesterol.

We’re going to see this story repeated at least two more times.  Merck is currently developing and testing a drug that artificially raises HDL.  And earlier this week, a reader sent me a link to this online article:

Polypill ‘halves risk of stroke and heart attack’

A new 10p-a-day ‘polypill’ containing aspirin and statins halves the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the world’s first international trial of the drug, reported The Daily Telegraph. The news story is based on a randomised controlled trial of a polypill in 378 people who all had a slightly increased risk of vascular disease. The researchers found that people who took the polypill had improvements in their blood pressure and levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol (equivalent to a 46% reduction in cardiovascular risk) over 12 weeks, compared to those who took a dummy pill.

If you’ve seen my Science For Smart People speech, you know what “lowers your risk” actually means.  So the polypill “halves the risk” of heart disease, does it?  Whoop-ti-do.  I’ve got news for you:  Pfizer’s combo drug dramatically raised HDL and lowered LDL, which means it dramatically “lowered the risk” of heart disease for the people taking it.  The only bad news is that more of those people died.

High HDL and low triglycerides don’t confer good health.  They’re markers for good health.  Chemicals that remove the blotches from your face, beat down your elevated blood sugar, or mask the pains of heartburn and arthritis don’t eliminate the underlying imbalances that caused those conditions in the first place.

If you want real health, eat real food.  Get some real exercise and some real sleep.  You’re not going to find real health in a little brown bottle, no matter how many times you “talk to your doctor about …”


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142 thoughts on “All Those Little Brown Bottles …

  1. Rebecca Latham

    “Look! We’re happy! Or maybe we’re just confused!”

    That’s great, Tom! Keep up the good work.

    I’ll never stop. The nutritionists, doctors, government busybodies and drug companies keep providing me with too much material.

  2. Anthony Perkins

    After reading the article, I am quite convinced that we are just digging a deeper hole for ourselves. First, we CAUSE all of these problems by ingesting things the human body has not evolved for, then we further abuse our bodies with all these chemical medicines in an attempt to correct what we’ve done to ourselves.

    Oy.

    We should just admit that low fat diets and lots of carbs are bad for us and try to eat right. But instead we are still digging our own graves.

    Money.

    That’s what makes this all so tragic. Look at the side-effects for Nexium, and then consider that a whole lot of people swallowing it could eliminate gastric reflux by giving up grains and sugar.

  3. Peggy Cihocki

    I think it’s a crime that drug companies are allowed to advertise directly to the consumer at all. I read “Selling Sickness” and I agree that that turns many basically healthy people into patients–great for Big Pharma and doctors, not so great for the people who needlessly suffer side effects of drugs they actually don’t need and wouldn’t even know about except for the commercials that peddle them on TV. Sickening!

    It always seemed odd to me that people would go to their doctors and suggest which drug they should be prescribed, but I guess it happens. The pharmaceutical manufacturers aren’t going to buy up 1/4 of the ad time for no reason.

  4. Justin McCullough

    Off topic I know but the new gov food guide is out. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ says to increase fruits and veg, and make sure your grains are at least half “whole”. Also if you drink milk make sure there isn’t any fat in it. I’m kinda surprised there isn’t a little brown circle to the left for “medications/vitamins”…maybe that bullet would read “Check with your doctor to see if you could benefit from a statin or other breakthrough drug from big pharma.

    LOL. I think that little area for drugs will have to appear on my version of the plate.

  5. Sif

    One of my good friends sometimes sends me US cake shows, commercials included. The huge number of medical ads really surprised me the first time I saw them. It’s not even legal to advertise prescription drugs here. I vividly remember an antidepressive drug, with this happy woman prancing around while the voice over vent on and on “no proven effect depression. May cause stroke and kidney failure and suicide and sudden death and… and… and..”. Why was this drug even legal?

    And diet is consistently dismissed as a factor. But if you pump canola oil in your car instead of gas, then chances are it won’t run – not even if you talk to your doctor about…

    I saw one recently for an anti-depressant that enhances the effects of the anti-depressants you’re already taking. Yup, a drug to make another drug more effective. Side effects included suicide.

  6. kat

    Tom said – It always seemed odd to me that people would go to their doctors and suggest which drug they should be prescribed, but I guess it happens. The pharmaceutical manufacturers aren’t going to buy up 1/4 of the ad time for no reason.

    this – exactly! are not the doctors the ones that went to med school so that they might know stuff?? I HATE the drug commercials! the ones for depression are .. soo… DEPRESSING! and, yes, it is a business. they are not there to help us, or because the CARE about us. it’s a multi-million dollar biz.

    when they list the side-effects – I say – Crap, I’d rather have the “problem.”

    I say to everyone – if a doctor could fix your issues by telling you to take walks and drink more water – there is NO money in that. so, they write a RX. they don’t even ASK what you are eating or anything. nada. it’s wrong.

    thanks, Tom – again, you are right on.

    kat

    There’s no patent on taking a walk and eating real food. That’s why those aren’t prescribed.

  7. Sean

    Big Pharma sucks, for the same reason that the American car industry sucks, massive government distortion of the market. Except that the distortion has been much worse in the drugs industry. Drug companies try to make drugs that eliminate the symptoms caused by the crap that passes for SAD, a diet created and propagated the US Government and the government granted monopoly, the AMA (“a doctors’ cartel that has controlled the medical labor market in the U.S. like its personal fiefdom for a century”-Shikha Dalmia). Blaming Big Pharma for the proliferation of statins and statin ads is like blaming cholesterol for heart disease or blaming fire hydrants for causing fires.

    And just as trying to artificially lower blood cholesterol with statins is idiotic, so is the idea of banning pharmaceutical advertising–not to mention the violation of free speech–it would be simply attacking the symptom not the cause. More statist control of health–banning pharma ads–is not the solution, it is what got us into this mess in the first place.

    What is much more insidious than advertising are things like slanted journalism from supposedly neutral and reputable news sources like the NY Times (ie Jane Brody). Everyone with an IQ over 70 knows that commercials are created by a vested interest, but how many people who read a regurgitated CSPI press release in their favorite newspaper know that CSPI is a vegan pressure group?

    People have a responsibility to find out for themselves, especially in this day and age when it is so easy to do so. I research everything my family might consider ingesting: antibiotics, analgesics, etc. Anyone who doesn’t do so deserves the consequences.

    Sorry for the long post, but Big Pharma bashing is something of a bête noire for me.

    I agree. The ads aren’t the problem. They’re a symptom. Banning them is like masking a disease with a drug.

  8. Rebecca Latham

    “Look! We’re happy! Or maybe we’re just confused!”

    That’s great, Tom! Keep up the good work.

    I’ll never stop. The nutritionists, doctors, government busybodies and drug companies keep providing me with too much material.

  9. Anthony Perkins

    After reading the article, I am quite convinced that we are just digging a deeper hole for ourselves. First, we CAUSE all of these problems by ingesting things the human body has not evolved for, then we further abuse our bodies with all these chemical medicines in an attempt to correct what we’ve done to ourselves.

    Oy.

    We should just admit that low fat diets and lots of carbs are bad for us and try to eat right. But instead we are still digging our own graves.

    Money.

    That’s what makes this all so tragic. Look at the side-effects for Nexium, and then consider that a whole lot of people swallowing it could eliminate gastric reflux by giving up grains and sugar.

  10. Peggy Cihocki

    I think it’s a crime that drug companies are allowed to advertise directly to the consumer at all. I read “Selling Sickness” and I agree that that turns many basically healthy people into patients–great for Big Pharma and doctors, not so great for the people who needlessly suffer side effects of drugs they actually don’t need and wouldn’t even know about except for the commercials that peddle them on TV. Sickening!

    It always seemed odd to me that people would go to their doctors and suggest which drug they should be prescribed, but I guess it happens. The pharmaceutical manufacturers aren’t going to buy up 1/4 of the ad time for no reason.

  11. Kim Øyhus

    Absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

    It is obvious from your blog that you understand this.

    I got tired of explaining to arrogant idiots why this is true,
    so I made this proof to prove it:

    http://kim.oyhus.no/AbsenceOfEvidence.html

    Of course the arrogant idiots go on denying the proof,
    thus evidencing that they are arrogant and idiots.

    Other people however have thanked me for proving something
    useful they felt was right, but were not certain about.

    May it be useful to you too.

    Well done.

  12. Justin McCullough

    Off topic I know but the new gov food guide is out. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ says to increase fruits and veg, and make sure your grains are at least half “whole”. Also if you drink milk make sure there isn’t any fat in it. I’m kinda surprised there isn’t a little brown circle to the left for “medications/vitamins”…maybe that bullet would read “Check with your doctor to see if you could benefit from a statin or other breakthrough drug from big pharma.

    LOL. I think that little area for drugs will have to appear on my version of the plate.

  13. Sif

    One of my good friends sometimes sends me US cake shows, commercials included. The huge number of medical ads really surprised me the first time I saw them. It’s not even legal to advertise prescription drugs here. I vividly remember an antidepressive drug, with this happy woman prancing around while the voice over vent on and on “no proven effect depression. May cause stroke and kidney failure and suicide and sudden death and… and… and..”. Why was this drug even legal?

    And diet is consistently dismissed as a factor. But if you pump canola oil in your car instead of gas, then chances are it won’t run – not even if you talk to your doctor about…

    I saw one recently for an anti-depressant that enhances the effects of the anti-depressants you’re already taking. Yup, a drug to make another drug more effective. Side effects included suicide.

  14. Nicci

    I’ve found when I’m driving it stresses me out when I see that the warning light on my dashboard has come on to the engine is overheading and I’m about to run out of petrol.

    I have a great solution. I put a sticker on the dashboard that hides the warning light and has a picture of a full tank of petrol. I’m happy because everything looks ok. And because everything looks ok, it means everything will be fine and I can keep on driving as much as I like 🙂

    Brilliant! If auto mechanics and doctors switched jobs …

  15. Pat

    Nexium -I took it for two years straight. When you are taking Nexium you don’t have heartburn, you have GERD (Gastric Esophageal Reflux Disease) and it is extremely painful. The lining of the esophagus is being damaged. Fortunately I read Protein Power, went low carb and have been almost totally off Nexium with no pain. Occasionally it flares up and I take one Nexium, and that takes care of me for the next several months.
    Some people truly do need the various meds, as you know. A friend of mine was in a car accident years ago. She is on Nexium as well, because of that accident. She is on lower doses since she eats low-carb, but she still needs it.
    I am old enough to remember when it was illegal to advertise prescription drugs on TV (Canada, not sure if we started before or after the U.S.). But I think people ask for drugs more now that they see the ads. And people ask for antibiotics more as well,which is leading to more drug-resistant bacteria. Not a good long-term situation.
    Well, I’m off to breakfast, bacon and eggs and coffee with cream. I love my eggs, they are from hens who run around in a sheep barn.
    Pat Hennesey

    Sure, some people are damaged beyond repair and really and truly need the drugs.

  16. Tammy

    Tom, Clearly you are not watching enough Golf Channel or you would see that 95% of the advertisements are for pharmaceuticals. Obviously, the folks watching the Biography Channel are just a little healthier than the folks watching the Golf Channel since they require less drug advertising.

    I assume the older the audience demographic, the more ads for prescription drugs.

  17. kat

    Tom said – It always seemed odd to me that people would go to their doctors and suggest which drug they should be prescribed, but I guess it happens. The pharmaceutical manufacturers aren’t going to buy up 1/4 of the ad time for no reason.

    this – exactly! are not the doctors the ones that went to med school so that they might know stuff?? I HATE the drug commercials! the ones for depression are .. soo… DEPRESSING! and, yes, it is a business. they are not there to help us, or because the CARE about us. it’s a multi-million dollar biz.

    when they list the side-effects – I say – Crap, I’d rather have the “problem.”

    I say to everyone – if a doctor could fix your issues by telling you to take walks and drink more water – there is NO money in that. so, they write a RX. they don’t even ASK what you are eating or anything. nada. it’s wrong.

    thanks, Tom – again, you are right on.

    kat

    There’s no patent on taking a walk and eating real food. That’s why those aren’t prescribed.

  18. Mark. Gooley

    I thought Cymbalta was an anti-depressant — but there are so many ads that I’m not surprised if you got confused. Maybe the Biography Channel is atypical and has more drug ads than most, but I suspect it’s about typical for a cable/satellite channel, judging from my limited TV viewing.

    I know someone taking Nexium who was just diagnosed with osteoporosis, and now I can warn her that it could be making matters worse — so thanks for repeating those lists of side-effects.

    The commercial I saw was promoting it for pain. Apparently it’s quite the wonder drug. From WebMD:

    “Duloxetine is used to treat depression and anxiety. In addition, duloxetine is used to help relieve nerve pain (peripheral neuropathy) in people with diabetes or ongoing pain due to medical conditions such as arthritis, chronic back pain, or fibromyalgia (a condition that causes widespread pain).”

  19. DoctorSH

    I am working on my on plates for my practice. It still amazes me that people will listen to politicians as if they are experts on nutrition.

    The first lady? What are her nutritional qualifications?
    Secretary of agriculture? He works for the farmers that lobbied for the plate.
    Surgeon general? At least she is a doc, but I doubt she had much nutrition training in med school.

    Eat real food, and only when you are hungry, and til your satisfied, not full!

    It makes me wonder if Barack is still smoking. He supposedly quit, then started again. Perhaps the first lady should mind her own family’s health first, then worry about mine.

  20. Sean

    Big Pharma sucks, for the same reason that the American car industry sucks, massive government distortion of the market. Except that the distortion has been much worse in the drugs industry. Drug companies try to make drugs that eliminate the symptoms caused by the crap that passes for SAD, a diet created and propagated the US Government and the government granted monopoly, the AMA (“a doctors’ cartel that has controlled the medical labor market in the U.S. like its personal fiefdom for a century”-Shikha Dalmia). Blaming Big Pharma for the proliferation of statins and statin ads is like blaming cholesterol for heart disease or blaming fire hydrants for causing fires.

    And just as trying to artificially lower blood cholesterol with statins is idiotic, so is the idea of banning pharmaceutical advertising–not to mention the violation of free speech–it would be simply attacking the symptom not the cause. More statist control of health–banning pharma ads–is not the solution, it is what got us into this mess in the first place.

    What is much more insidious than advertising are things like slanted journalism from supposedly neutral and reputable news sources like the NY Times (ie Jane Brody). Everyone with an IQ over 70 knows that commercials are created by a vested interest, but how many people who read a regurgitated CSPI press release in their favorite newspaper know that CSPI is a vegan pressure group?

    People have a responsibility to find out for themselves, especially in this day and age when it is so easy to do so. I research everything my family might consider ingesting: antibiotics, analgesics, etc. Anyone who doesn’t do so deserves the consequences.

    Sorry for the long post, but Big Pharma bashing is something of a bête noire for me.

    I agree. The ads aren’t the problem. They’re a symptom. Banning them is like masking a disease with a drug.

  21. Laurie

    I recommend ‘Overdo$ed America’ by John Abramson. And a great movie with Tim Allen “Joe Somebody”. There are several really funny scenes with Pharma ads running in the background. Patrick Warburton is in it, and Jim Belushi too.
    On a sad a scarier note. Have you read this?
    Top Ten Legal Drugs Linked to Violence
    By Maia Szalavitz Friday, January 7, 2011

    Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2011/01/07/top-ten-legal-drugs-linked-to-violence/#ixzz1ODKPnrBg

    I’m relieved to see that TIME magazine immediately cautioned that this is just an association. The people who take these drugs may simply have more mental problems to begin with. I’m current reading “Anatomy of An Epidemic,” which so far (maybe a quarter into the book) makes it clear that while all these wonder drugs for mental illness have been coming along and being prescribed like crazy, rates of mental illness have been going up.

  22. Linda

    “my neighbor’s grass is a beautiful shade of green because he constantly fusses over his lawn to keep it healthy. My lawn is patchy because I don’t care about lawns.”

    Thank you so much for this! While visiting with my neighbors recently, we got into a discussion about lawn “health”, they were contemplating the purchase of a riding mower and buying more damned chemicals to kill off those pesky dandelions, etc. I opened my mouth and remarked that if Americans directed the billions of dollars spent on lawn care toward a cure for cancer, we would all be better off. I received that “look”, you know, “crazy neighbor” look! My lawn is a patchy mess and I JUST DON’T CARE.

    To me, a lawn is a nice place to go toss a frisbee with my girls or practice chip shots. I don’t care if it’s all the same shade of green.

  23. Elenor

    Tom, have you read the last chapter of Uffe Ravinskov’s “Ignore the Awkward”? He postulates (quite fantastically!) that a vulnerable plaque is actually a pustule, a boil, on the endothelium of the arteries! The LDL inside the plaque, he writes, if filled with bacteria and viruses and bits and pieces swept up in, essentially (and I may be reporting this badly) the LDL’s (normal, intended, appropriate) CLEANING operation (“Ah’m jes’ doin’ mah job, m’am!”). And, just like a boil, the pustule is full of white blood cells (pus) and when it bursts, it releases its yucky stuff into the artery, which is not good.

    This, of course, immediately ties atherosclerosis directly to inflammation — he suggests bacterial and viral ‘starting causes’ for much of the difficulty. Truly a novel and fascinating idea (and, of course, he presents it WAY more clearly than I have just done…)

    Yup, I’ve read it. It is novel, and time will tell if he’s correct. At least I hope time will tell.

  24. PrimeNumbers

    “Make at least half your grains whole grains.” – sure, I eat no gains and ALL of them are whole!

    So it’s okay to fill half of the “grain” section of the plate with white flour. Oh yeah, that’ll help a lot.

  25. Kim Øyhus

    Absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

    It is obvious from your blog that you understand this.

    I got tired of explaining to arrogant idiots why this is true,
    so I made this proof to prove it:

    http://kim.oyhus.no/AbsenceOfEvidence.html

    Of course the arrogant idiots go on denying the proof,
    thus evidencing that they are arrogant and idiots.

    Other people however have thanked me for proving something
    useful they felt was right, but were not certain about.

    May it be useful to you too.

    Well done.

  26. Ailu

    And it’s not just TV either. Recently I took my Momma to the Dr. While waiting I grabbed a popular woman’s magazine. I started noticing the disproportionate amount of pharma ads in it, so decided to count. There was almost 30 pages dedicated. In a 100 page magazine. Unbelievable!

    Not only did I notice this, but then looked up to see all the pens, clipboards and posters on the wall had pharma ads on them. I suddenly felt like I was in an episode of Patrick McGoohan’s “The Prisoner”. Yikes.

    It would be an interesting project to determine how much of the total advertising space and airtime these days is purchased by Big Pharma.

  27. Jim Anderson

    “. . . chemically improving the markers for health isn’t the same as improving health.” I like your “green lawns” analogy to illustrate this point. I am also reminded of “teaching to the test.” If students do well on a standardized test, it doesn’t mean they are educated or able in the general sense. It could just mean they were effectively drilled on taking that particular test — that the test mainly tests how well a person does on the test. Again, it’s markers being assumed to represent an underlying condition that they may or may not.

    Good analogy. Giving statins is, of course, prescribing to the test — in this case, a lipid panel.

  28. Jan

    Even before I learned that grains, sugar, soy and industrial seed oils were the cause of obesity and other diseases of civilization I was extremely leery of all these “wonder drugs,” and for the same reason you’ve stated here: anything that has a longer list of risks than of benefits simply cannot be good for you.

    I’m plugging both speeches and Fat Head on my blog today, btw: http://www.janssushibar.com/?p=11052

    As always, I appreciate the plugs.

  29. John Hunter

    The pharmaceutical commercials remind me of the Saturday Night Live “Happy Fun Ball” toy commercial. About 5 seconds of “kids” playing with the ball and about 2 minutes of warnings and disclaimers.

    My favorite drug commercial i’ve seen recently is for a new ADHD drug marketed for children between 8 and 12 (i’m pretty sure that was the ages.) The lady talks about how she just knew her kid had ADHD. That’s all good, but in the warnings at the end of the commercial it says while taking the drug, you should not operate heavy machinery! I don’t really think kids should operate heavy machinery anyway, but definitely not when they take this drug.

    LOL. Did they also warn the kids not to drive while taking the drug?

  30. Ailu

    I do believe in the benefits of taking supplements, tho. Especially since most diseases seem to be related to deficiencies. I became ill with meningitis 5 years ago, and my energy level was never the same after that. But when I started taking alpha lipid acid, the chronic fatigue I’d lived with went away for good.

    Also after reading that diurectics can cause Thiamine deficiency and that in turn can cause heart disease, I encouraged my feeble heart-disease bed-ridden mother who had taken diuretics for years to start taking Thiamin. That was last year. At present, she’s 72, no longer sick, and is now working at curves.

    I take some vitamins too. I consider them more like eating for health, getting the nutrients that are often missing from our foods these days because of how the soil has been depleted.

  31. Auntie M

    We’ve gotten rid of cable, and use Hulu, Netflix, and DVDs for our TV viewing these days. I hate commercials! We would DVR our shows, but sometimes watched the commercials. We saw an ad for Abilify, a drug for bi-polar disorder. One of the side effects was “increased risk of sudden death”. I had to pause, ask my husband, “Wait…did they say INCREASED RISK OF SUDDEN DEATH?????”, and go back to listen again. Yep. Sudden. Death. Well, sign me up for TWO prescriptions for that one!

    Kind of like taking a drug to relieve your pain, but risking a fatal liver problem.

  32. RB

    Just out of curiosity, are you implicating the combo of Niacin and statins, or also implying that Niacin alone is problematic?

    As you know, Dr. Davis is a big fan of extended release Niacin and I would tend to think that he’s had enough patients that he’s put on the stuff that he would notice if there’s a problem.

    Now, regarding the comment that “High HDL and low triglycerides don’t confer good health. They’re markers for good health,” I agree with the HDL part of the comment, but I think it’s different with Triglycerides.

    I haven’t looked at any studies of Niacin alone. I agree with Dr. Vernon that low triglycerides are a marker for low and steady glucose levels. We’ve yet to see a study that I’m aware of in which pushing down triglycerides with a drug produces any benefits.

  33. Digger

    “Advair (asthma). May increases risk of death from complications of asthma. May increase risk of hospitalization for asthma in children and adolescents.”

    I LOL’d at that one. So if you have asthma, and you take it, it could cause asthma, so you would therefor need to take it again? Unless you die. Brilliant!

    I know. I sit there shaking my head, wondering why anyone is buying this.

  34. Lori

    Acid blockers like Nexium are expensive: $90 a month unless you’re getting them from Canada. They can also cause acid rebound, even in subjects who never had acid reflux. When I quit them last year, I went through a rough few months anytime I ate more than a tiny amount of carbohydrate. OTOH, it acted as Anabuse and horsewhipped me into forming a strict low-carb, grain-free, fruit-free eating habit.

    Last year, I told the mother of one of my friends that a low-carb diet would cure acid reflux. My friend tells me she still eats bread and still has reflux. I just can’t imagine paying for acid blockers and risking the side effects for toast.

    On a happier note, my food plate is on my blog.

    Now that’s a food plate I could happily recommend.

  35. Rick Knowles

    Your Fat Head movie was the tipping point for me to research better nutrition and to get my eating habits back in line. I’ve dropped 24 pounds using the slow-carb diet from Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Body and set a number of personal bests in running and Crossfit recently. And, thanks to Dr. Lustig’s lecture about the toxicity of fructose, I’m currently 3 weeks into a personal experiment to go sugar-free for the summer to see if I can eliminate taking gout medication. After watching Lustig, I thought to myself: If fructose increases uric acid production which leads to gout aggravation in people like me, what would happen if I stopped taking in sugar? Could I eliminate taking a daily medication that limits uric acid production? Makes more sense to cut off the disease at the source than it does to take a drug to support a poor nutritional habit. Keep up the great work!

    Exactly. The best treatment is to not need treatment.

  36. Nicci

    I’ve found when I’m driving it stresses me out when I see that the warning light on my dashboard has come on to the engine is overheading and I’m about to run out of petrol.

    I have a great solution. I put a sticker on the dashboard that hides the warning light and has a picture of a full tank of petrol. I’m happy because everything looks ok. And because everything looks ok, it means everything will be fine and I can keep on driving as much as I like 🙂

    Brilliant! If auto mechanics and doctors switched jobs …

  37. john

    Those commercials are pretty much people galavanting around in nice weather while a narrator goes through a long list of side effects. As you noticed, the Cymbalta one is especially ridiculous.

    The contrast between the smiling faces and the list of awful side-effects was so striking, it almost seemed like a parody of a commercial.

  38. B W

    “That’s what makes this all so tragic. Look at the side-effects for Nexium, and then consider that a whole lot of people swallowing it could eliminate gastric reflux by giving up grains and sugar.”

    I hope you’re right. I’ve had problems with acid reflux for a long long time, usually controllable by tums.. however a while back I was eating them waay too much. I went on an H2 blocker, no luck..tried an OTC PPI and that helped immensely. I’m off all that now, and doing okay but end up using tums 2-3 times a day still. I’m hoping the weight I’m dropping with lo-carb (a bit over a pound a week at this point) will help the last of it.

    Keeping my fingers crossed on that… didn’t expect a miracle but woulda been nice 😉

    And keep up the good work.

    I wish we could line up all these ‘doctors’, get everyone in the world in a huge line walking by them and slapping the crap outta ’em… by the time that’s done (what… 1000 years?) maybe they will learn something.

    They’ll just prescribe pain meds to each other after we’re done slapping them. I think you’ll find this interesting:

    http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/uncategorized/heartburn-cured/

  39. HW

    If someone figures out a way to package up a wheat free/ low carb diet as a beauty product for dark under eye circles, they could make a killing… it’s by far the most effective dark under eye circle treatment there is, and over the years I’ve tried ALL the creams, concealers, and home remedies….I thought it was genetic. Nothing else has ever gotten rid of them the way that changing my diet has.

    I see these commercials go by and think to myself over and over, “Diet would fix that. And that. And that. And that …”

  40. Pat

    Nexium -I took it for two years straight. When you are taking Nexium you don’t have heartburn, you have GERD (Gastric Esophageal Reflux Disease) and it is extremely painful. The lining of the esophagus is being damaged. Fortunately I read Protein Power, went low carb and have been almost totally off Nexium with no pain. Occasionally it flares up and I take one Nexium, and that takes care of me for the next several months.
    Some people truly do need the various meds, as you know. A friend of mine was in a car accident years ago. She is on Nexium as well, because of that accident. She is on lower doses since she eats low-carb, but she still needs it.
    I am old enough to remember when it was illegal to advertise prescription drugs on TV (Canada, not sure if we started before or after the U.S.). But I think people ask for drugs more now that they see the ads. And people ask for antibiotics more as well,which is leading to more drug-resistant bacteria. Not a good long-term situation.
    Well, I’m off to breakfast, bacon and eggs and coffee with cream. I love my eggs, they are from hens who run around in a sheep barn.
    Pat Hennesey

    Sure, some people are damaged beyond repair and really and truly need the drugs.

  41. Carolyn

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-dean-ornish/cholesterol-the-good-the-_b_870655.html

    Is this a cry for help?

    Dr. Ornish is so talented at spinning a story, he should’ve been a trial lawyer or a political consultant. This sentence made me jump out of my chair:

    “But things get very different when you try to raise HDL levels, whether by diet or by drugs.”

    Brilliant. He took the failure of a drug that raises HDL and magically connected it to raising HDL through diet, despite not being able to name a single study in which raising HDL through diet produced a rise in heart disease. He did that, of course, because eating saturated fat raises your HDL.

  42. Tammy

    Tom, Clearly you are not watching enough Golf Channel or you would see that 95% of the advertisements are for pharmaceuticals. Obviously, the folks watching the Biography Channel are just a little healthier than the folks watching the Golf Channel since they require less drug advertising.

    I assume the older the audience demographic, the more ads for prescription drugs.

  43. Mark. Gooley

    I thought Cymbalta was an anti-depressant — but there are so many ads that I’m not surprised if you got confused. Maybe the Biography Channel is atypical and has more drug ads than most, but I suspect it’s about typical for a cable/satellite channel, judging from my limited TV viewing.

    I know someone taking Nexium who was just diagnosed with osteoporosis, and now I can warn her that it could be making matters worse — so thanks for repeating those lists of side-effects.

    The commercial I saw was promoting it for pain. Apparently it’s quite the wonder drug. From WebMD:

    “Duloxetine is used to treat depression and anxiety. In addition, duloxetine is used to help relieve nerve pain (peripheral neuropathy) in people with diabetes or ongoing pain due to medical conditions such as arthritis, chronic back pain, or fibromyalgia (a condition that causes widespread pain).”

  44. DoctorSH

    I am working on my on plates for my practice. It still amazes me that people will listen to politicians as if they are experts on nutrition.

    The first lady? What are her nutritional qualifications?
    Secretary of agriculture? He works for the farmers that lobbied for the plate.
    Surgeon general? At least she is a doc, but I doubt she had much nutrition training in med school.

    Eat real food, and only when you are hungry, and til your satisfied, not full!

    It makes me wonder if Barack is still smoking. He supposedly quit, then started again. Perhaps the first lady should mind her own family’s health first, then worry about mine.

  45. Firebird

    I have suffered from depression all my life. Diagnosed when I was 10. I’m now 46. Not one single drug has ever alleviated, or rid me of the problem, probably because I didn’t have a Lexipro deficiency.

    I’ve been reading up on Niacinamide as a good supplement for arthritis. It also happens to reduce cholesterol. And adding lecithin to the diet (on top of what you already get from eggs) will help flush out any cholesterol in the arteries, unclogging any potential blockages. Each cost $5 at the Vitamin Shoppe.

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