As more and more of us are becoming sicker and fatter than ever before, the NHS and other healthcare systems throughout the world are starting to buckle under the immense pressure. Many of these diseases (diabetes, heart disease, strokes and certain cancers etc, etc) that are crippling our economies and healthcare systems are both preventable and in many cases reversible. Yet we continue with the ethos of “a pill for every ill”. This approach is unsustainable and will result in healthcare systems that are no longer free at the point of entry.
It is slightly encouraging though that even in the NHS there are now rumblings of the word “prevention” rather than cure. While it has taken a recession to bring about a glimpse of change, there is still a long way to go. And frustratingly, in many corners of the NHS, prevention still means the use of medicine and drugs.
Every year doctors are writing well over a billion prescriptions in the UK (that’s over 2,100 every 60 seconds). And many of these prescriptions are labelled as preventative medicines such as statins. Statins dwarf all other prescriptions and since coming onto the market Lipitor has generated eye watering profits of well over £870 billion. Yet study after study have proved that these medicines offer little benefit unless you already have advanced heart disease. Yet we continue to push these pills to people who only have a small risk of developing heart disease rather than advising people to remove or reduce animal products from their diets (cholesterol only comes from meat, dairy and eggs). It’s a similar story where preventative cancer medicines are used. Herceptin is used as a preventative breast cancer medicine, yet again, studies have shown that the drug is largely ineffective at preventing breast cancer, unless you are unfortunate enough to carry the Her2 gene. This haphazard approach has seen profits skyrocket and the drug is in the top fifteen profitable drugs in the world. Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (block Oestrogen production in the body) are also routinely prescribed as preventative medicines with little evidence that they actually reduce breast cancer rates.
Again, why not advise women to avoid meat, eggs and dairy (the reason why women have high Oestrogen levels)? By reducing animal proteins, you also reduce the growth hormone IGF-1 in your diet (a known risk factor for causing breast cancer cells to grow very fast). Women who adopt this approach in countries like Japan have 50 times fewer breast cancer incidences.
Similar illogical thought processes can also be seen with Alzheimer’s. One of the biggest risk factors for developing the disease is long term elevated blood pressure. But instead of investing money into campaigns to educate people to reduce their blood pressure through dietary and lifestyle modifications, the money has been invested in preventative drugs like calcium channel blockers. So again, instead of treating the underlying cause, we are just masking the symptoms with drugs.
In my eyes, a health care system should always look to fix the underlying cause of a disease. If it’s not doing this then it will always fail and costs will spiral out of control. Diseases are not a deficiency of medicines, they are a deficiency of vitamins and minerals. Ironically, the “preventative” drugs that doctors are prescribing are actually robbing the body further of vitamins and minerals and compounding the issue. This is a scary precedent we are setting for ourselves. We are beginning to proceed with medical systems where normal fit and healthy people will be prescribed with numerous daily pills to prevent diseases. Yet, free, safe and far more effective dietary changes are being ignored, mainly because the whole system is conducive to profit over real health. And if the media continues to produce misinformed news on the subject, confusion will continue to engulf the public and the pharmaceutical industry will continue to become ever more profitable. But at what cost?
Anyone with half a brain cell knows that true prevention is better than any cure a pharmaceutical company can produce. Yet we continue with investing vast sums in drug research rather than investing some of this money into true preventative research and its associated educative public campaigns. All the time this continues we will continue to destroy our current healthcare models and eventually yours and my families will no longer be afforded with free healthcare at the point of entry.
Dr Michael Greger talks about this very subject in one of his must watch videos