Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Are Drug Companies Inherently Evil?

Recently, I have seen a spate of numerous articles decrying the criminality of pharmaceutical companies. I find this very disturbing. The articles suggest that drug companies routinely withhold information from the FDA and the public about the adverse side effects of their products. That these same companies pay off doctors to prescribe dangerous and unnecessary medications. That profit motives override any humanistic concerns or decency. A careful reading of such diatribes usually reveals that the originators of these anti-prescription, anti-FDA, anti-drug company tirades offer or suggest supplement alternatives to taking prescribed drugs.

Yes folks, these attacks are often generated by members and/or proponents of the supplement industry spewing forth an "our product is better" propaganda. Knock down the drugs and drug companies and the logical alternative becomes a supplement. Sully the FDA and it no longer matters that supplements have no approval or oversight of their own.  It's a brilliant ploy.

I am sad to say that it reminds me of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi's Propaganda Minister during Hitler's rise to power. Goebbels exploited popular emotion and deployed all means of propaganda to achieve his nefarious ends. He made scapegoats out of Jews and others to rally people to his cause. Let me be clear that I am not calling supplement marketers Nazis.  I am, however, stating that I believe that companies like the Life Extension Foundation (LEF) don't miss a beat in berating the FDA in order to sell more supplements. If you can't trust the government and its regulatory agency, you need to find an alternative.  LEF and countless other supplement marketers offer themselves up as a logical choice. You can tryst them, they would have you believe, because they are fighting the FDA on your behalf.

The saddest part is that many (but thankfully still a small number) doctors looking to spruce up their revenues are jumping on the supplement bandwagon. Armed with more scientific knowledge than the average person, they can be particularly effective in making unsubstantiated arguments. As they say in Latin, caveat emptor or "let the buyer beware" of doctors selling supplements.

I am pretty sure, but I can't be certain, that almost all of these supplement marketers when faced with an acute personal medical illness turn to what they would have you believe are corrupted by drug company doctors to be treated with fraudulently approved and prescribed drugs. As some like to quip, there are no atheists in foxholes.

By the way, this blog is not meant as an impassioned defense of the pharmaceutical industry. The industry has been guilty of some serious crimes and disasters over the years. Drug companies have been found guilty of illegally influencing doctors prescribing habits and new rules were implemented to limit future abuses. In additions, some drugs, despite copious testing will prove long term to be less helpful and more harmful than expected.   On the whole, I think they have introduced many new drugs over the years that have spared countless people from real pain and suffering.

Overall, I still put my trust in the FDA and it's regulatory process, imperfect as it may be, over any unregulated product with spurious health claims. That's not to say, I wouldn't use some proven supplement under the right circumstances. It's just not the first place I look for a solution. That said, I still believe that food is the best source of cure for many maladies and will avoid medicine whenever possible if food offers a viable alternative.

Give me chicken soup first instead of cough medication any time.

1 comment:

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