Only one in five drugs of any benefit

The Cancer Drugs Fund, a 1.27 billion ‘extra’ fund pledged by the UK’s incoming Conservative Government to help cancer patients with new and expensive drugs, has been dubbed a huge waste of money because the vast majority of the drugs were of no benefit.

In a study published in the Annals of Oncology, of the 47 drugs being supplied prior to the delisting only 18 per cent met International Standards of efficacy! Of the ones that did work, the increased survival time averaged just 3.2 months.

Lead researcher Prof Richard Sullivan, from King’s College London told the BBC that politicians, leading doctors and cancer charities were all guilty of laziness and populism. He added that the plan had proven to be a “huge waste of money”.

Although the fund only started in 2010, by 2015 the committee that controlled the fund started delisting drugs, striking off more than half the treatments from the list because they were expensive and didn’t work.

The money could have been used to provide 10,000 more nurses.

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What’s in your Vitamin Supplement??

People simply do not realize the rubbish that can be in cheaper vitamin supplements. And by ‘people’, I mean not just the sick, but doctors, researchers and even the scientists who prepare reports praising or condemning them.

Synthetic, deficient and dangerous?

The cheaper versions are often simply synthetic, and deficient versions of the real thing, like Thai copies of Gucci handbags. Should you be surprised when the handle drops off?

But this is your health you are messing with. And matters can get worse when you realise what ‘fillers’ and even toxic ingredients can be incorporated in the tablet.

Unfortunately, most research studies simply talk about ‘vitamin E improving your immune system’ (positive) or ‘vitamin E doing more harm than good’ (negative) without any sensible or responsible comment on the vitamin quality used.

Vitamin E is a classic example of confusion – even the mighty Memorial Sloan-Kettering Medical School gets its commentary wrong on its website!

Vitamin E is available in nature in 8 related forms – 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols. These cousins appear in foods from grains to greens. Memorial Sloan-Kettering refers to all the foods in nature you can find vitamin E within. However, Memorial Sloan-Kettering then refers to vitamin E as alpha-tocopherol, which it is not. Alpha-tocopherol is but one constituent. It certainly is NOT present in all those foods mentioned.

The same applies to UK high street vitamin E, which, thanks largely to EU ‘health’ restrictions is this same constituent form – alpha tocopherol – and, worse, invariably synthetic and made by the petrochemical industry. In a review of a number of research studies by the Nordic Cochrane Institute it was concluded that the ‘vitamin E’ was of little benefit and arguably did more harm than good. A similar issue is found with beta-carotene, which in nature is available in cis- and trans- forms, but in cheap varieties is just one synthetic copy.

To put this in context, experts are agreed that natural vitamin E is effective against ageing, cancer, oxidative damage, diabetes, eye problems and more. Conversely, synthetic petrol-derived vitamin E is an endocrine disrupter!

Unwanted additives

Next there are the ‘innocent additives’. Typically these may include cows’ dairy products, sugar (like maltodextrin), gluten, corn starch, soy products, hydrogenated vegetable oil and yeast.

Then there are warnings on bottles about contra-indications, some of which are relevant while others are little more than scaremongering clap-trap. Inconsistency rules. Sadly, the same doctors who advise patients not to take vitamin supplements whilst taking drugs routinely forget to mention that many drugs have contra-indications with grapefruit and its juice, or with dried meats and eggs.

Fillers and ‘excipients’

The American International Pharmaceutical Council has stated that, ‘Excipients are substances other than the pharmacologically active ingredients, which are included in the manufacturing process or are contained in a finished product. In many products, excipients make up the bulk of the total dosage form’ (Czap, AL, The Townsend Letter For Doctors and Patients, July 1999, Vol.192; pg.117-119).

And it should be noted that such fillers and additives in supplements can ‘cause allergic reactions, impede absorption, and have undesirable physiological effects’. Often manufacturers call such ‘fillers’ by words like ‘glaze’ or ‘natural vegetable coatings’.

Typical compounds include:

1. Magnesium stearate – used as a flow agent to keep manufacturing equipment working smoothly. Made from cottonseed oil. (Concerns have been raised about GMOs, pesticides, T-cell damage and inhibition of drug absorption, but all seem overclaims)

2. BHT (butyl hydroxyl-toluene) – laboratory made chemical, added to various foods and supplements, to prevent rancidity and oxidation. Supplements of it go with claims that it can treat lipid-coated viral disease. But Berkeley Wellness newsletter expresses concerns over safety – the Center for Science in the Public Interest lists BHT in its “caution” column. It may be harmful in high doses.

3. Boric acid – known to have anti-fungal and anti-yeast activities, it has been used as an antiseptic, insecticide and even a flame retardant. It is also connected to DNA damage.

4. Cupric sulphate – Green Med Info is concerned it can contribute to heavy metal toxicity. Can be used as a herbicide, fungicide and pesticide.

5. Sawdust – although you won’t find it on the label some tablets have been shown to contain sawdust.

6. Talcum powder – the same is true for talcum powder, which may have even been dyed.

7. Sodium benzoate – Used as a preservative to stop the presence of moulds and bacteria. Has a known effect against mitochondria.

You get what you pay for

While, there is ample evidence that the levels of the above are small and that they have no negative effects at those concentrations, the question is, ‘Why take cheap supplements containing them?’

In 2012 at The National Cancer Institute, Dr Young Kim produced a study on controlling stem-cell cancer tumours and their re-growth. In that study, Kim identified certain food compounds that could prevent a cancer re-growing, and went on to say, ‘All of the bioactive compounds could be found in quality supplements’.

So what is a quality supplement? The point is that many supplements simply do not fit the bill. Take common vitamin C. Research covered in Cancer Watch at the charity CANCERactive showed that supplementation with standard vitamin C did not increase plasma concentrations of anti-oxidant at all, whereas antioxidant activity from vitamin C from a squeezed orange lasted about 24 hours. According to research, only about 7% of vitamin C from a cheap supplement even makes it into the blood stream. Liposomal vitamin C (which can cost over 40 pounds a bottle) is a different matter. Natural vitamin E with all 8 tocopherols and tocotrienols can cost over 65 pounds.

The crucial questions then become, ‘How much are you prepared to pay for quality nutritional supplements?’, and, ‘Even at these high prices, are you clear you are not introducing chemicals of concern into your body?’

At least now you know what to look out for!

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Which are safer: Drugs and hospitals or herbs and vitamin supplements?

Pharmaceutical drugs are 62,000 times more likely to kill you than vitamin/food supplements. In fact, research data collected by ANH-Intl (http://www.anh-europe.org/) demonstrates that food supplements are the safest substances regularly consumed by UK citizens even though they are the target of increasingly restrictive European legislation aimed at ‘protecting consumers.’

The data also found that pharmaceutical drugs were also 7,750 times more likely to result in death than herbal remedies. Both food supplements and herbal remedies were placed in the ‘supersafe’ category of individual risk -with a less than one in ten million risk of death.

By contrast, being admitted to a UK hospital or taking prescription drugs exposes a person to one of the greatest preventable risks in society. Overall, preventable medical injuries in UK hospitals expose patients to the same risk of death as being deployed on military service to Afghanistan – both of which are around 300,000 times greater than the risk of death from taking natural health products.

ANH-Intl executive and scientific director, Dr. Robert Verkerk, PhD, (http://www.anh-europe.org/news/dr-robert-verkerk-founder-anh-recognised-natural-health-campaign) hailed the figures as shedding new light on the question of natural healthcare’s safety. “These figures tell us not only what activities an individual is most or least likely to die from, but also what the relative risks of various activities are to society as a whole. It puts some real perspective on the actual risk of death posed by food supplements and herbal remedies at a time when governments are clamping down because they tell us they’re dangerous.”

Verkerk added, “When compared with the risk of taking food supplements, an individual is around 900 times more likely to die from food poisoning and nearly 300,000 times more likely to die from a preventable medical injury during a spell in a UK hospital. The latter is on a par with the risk of death from active military service in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

Among other key points presented in the data were:

* Pharmaceutical drugs pose nearly double the risk of death than motorcycle accidents on UK roads

* While herbal medicines can both be regarded as ‘supersafe,’ preventable medical injuries in UK hospitals are in the ‘Dangerous’ category, with a risk of death greater than 1 in 1,000.

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Corruption endemic in medicine chain, according to WHO

‘Corruption in the pharmaceutical sector occurs throughout all stages of the medicine chain, from research and development to dispensing and promotion’.

‘A lack of transparency and accountability within the medicines chain can also contribute to unethical practices and corruption’.

Unethical practices such as bribery, falsification of evidence, and mismanagement of conflicts of interest are ‘common throughout the medicine chain.’

These statements are all contained in a fact sheet from the World Health Organisation. The medicine chain refers to each step involved in getting drugs into the hands of patients, including drug creation, regulation, management and consumption. The report suggests a number of other concerns, for example: Clinical trials may be conducted without proper regulatory approval, royalties may be collected through manipulation or disregard of the patent system, corruption can also occur during the drug inspection process, products may be registered with incorrect or insufficient information and drugs may be produced through substandard or counterfeit methods. (www.naturalnews.com; www.who.int 2010)

For another piece on falsified research in cancer Click Here.

Link (http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=3190&Title=Cancer%20Watch%20May%202012%20%28Another%20Cancer%20Researcher%20tells%20of%20falsified%20drug%20research%29)

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Stop Drugs Killing People for Profits!

It’s been a torrid couple of years for the drugs companies. For example, there was the Vioxx scandal, where an estimated 47,000 people lost their lives thanks to a drug; then in certain American states ‘polypharmacy’ (taking a cocktail of legally prescribed medicines) actually topped the ‘Cause of death’ charts above cancer and heart disease; next there was the revelation that in the New York Presbyterian Hospital 28 per cent of hospital admissions concerned older people falling ill from their drug cocktails; this comes hot on the heels of a seven-fold increase in deaths from taking cocktails of prescribed medicines with high profile stars like Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson included; then there was the report from the Poison Control Centers about the high levels of deaths from prescribed medicines (but interestingly none from taking vitamins or herbs) and recently we have had the $3 billion payment by Glaxo Smith Klein for various fraudulent practices, where the lawmakers attention was drawn by ‘whistleblowers’ who used to work for the company. Next up it could be Merck facing a similar scenario.

 Phew!

But do we have figures on deaths from Polypharmacy in the UK and Europe? Or large fines for similar fraudulent practices by drugs companies in the UK and Europe? Indeed, do we have the same level of vigilance? Surely these ‘dodgy’ practices, and levels of illnesses caused by drugs cannot be confined to America?

But there’s a bigger point: When do the pharmaceutical companies start putting people before profits and rather dubious and fraudulent practices? When do we get more responsible commentary – homeopathy is criticised by UK Skeptics in articles because as one claimed… “it wastes 4 million pounds that could be spent on safe and proven drugs”. Er…. Safe, by whose standards? Not the standards of Vioxx or Thalidomide, or even those of the thousands of people falling ill and dying from cocktails of drugs that have never been tested in such combinations with each other, surely?

While 10 billion dollars have been paid by drugs companies in ‘fines’ in the USA in recent years, nothing has yet happened in a similar vein in Europe or the UK. But we all use the same ‘safe and proven’ drugs.

 Avaaz is the world’s largest and most effective online campaigning community for change and they have launched a petition to try and establish some of the American controls in the UK and Europe. Read more, and sign the petition at:  https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_Drug_Companies_Killing_for_Profits/?aqvhhab

 As George Bernard Shaw said, ‘Everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it.’ Now’s the time to look at drugs and pharmaceutical company practices in Europe and do something about it!

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Junk science Number 14. Not one death from vitamins, but plenty from prescription ‘medicines’!

The American Association of Poison Control Centres produces the NPDS annual report. What’s that? It is over 220 pages and gives statistics and information on all poisonings in America in a Calendar Year. It involves the largest database in health. The 2010 report came out at the end of 2011. It covers everything from calls and visits to centres, to reason for visit, to medical outcome.

The interesting fact is that during the whole of 2010 there was not one death caused by a herb or a vitamin, or a combination of either. Which is a lot more than can be said for prescription drugs, in combination or, even, on their own.

And remember, this is not some theoretical extrapolation of research results by scientists. This is real life and what actually took place.

As an example, let us look at information on ‘Substance Categories most frequently involved in human exposure’:

 

Analgesics 9.70%

Cosmetic/Personal Care Products 9.70%

Cleaning Products (Household) 8.41%

Sedatives/Hypnotics/Antipsychotics 3.12%

Pesticides 4.02%

Antihistamines 3.23%

Cold and Cough Preparations 2.69%

Antimicrobials 2.57%

Cardivascular Drugs 2.26%

Antidepressants 2.03%

Gastrointestinal Preparations 1.99%

 

Vitamins were in the list at 2.92%.

But when the list of ‘Categories associated with the largest numbers of fatalities’ was presented……….

Acetaminophen Combinations 8.51%

Acetaminophen alone 7.85%

Opiods 7.72%

Miscellaneous Cardiovascular Drugs 6.94%

Miscellaneous Alcohols 4.97%

Misc Sedative/Hypnotics/Antipsychotics 3.80%

Miscellaneous Chemicals 3.80%

Cyclic Antidepressants 2.75%

Acetylsalicylic Acid Alone 2.75%

Miscellaneous Antidepressants 2.09%

Antihistamines 1.75%

Miscellaneous Hormones/Hormone Antagonists 1.05%

 

…….. vitamins was no longer an issue at all. Not one death from a herb or a vitamin.

Beware people claiming prescription drugs are safe and vitamins are dangerous. Their claims are simply not endorsed by reality.

 

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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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