Friday, December 01, 2006

Modern Myths: No.4: Doctors know best

Myth 4: The workings of our bodies are a complete mystery to us. We can have no idea what's going on inside us or why, or what outside threats we need medically protecting from, or how. Unless we've completed intensive medical training it's best to leave all this in the hands of someone else who has.

First the finances. The above myth is in quite a few people's financial interests to perpetuate:

First and foremost being medical drug companies:

GlaxoSmithKline (formerly Wellcome Glaxo) made an operating profit of £2,023 million for the last quarter increased by 19% compared with the third quarter of last year. That's over £8000 million (£8 billion) per year. You can check out their balance sheet here.

Pfizer made $8.1 billion last year - nearly £4 billion. Their financial report is here.

Merck's profit for the last quarter was $940.6 million - nearly $4 billion or £2 billion per year. Their financial report is here.

Novartis made $6350 million (£3 billion) in the last quarter: roughly £12 billion over the year. Their financial report is here.

That's around £26 billion per year profit made by those four companies alone. A stupendous amount of money.

To try to put these figures into some kind of perspective, our UK Treasury handled an annual total budget of £519 billion last year, £83 billion of which came from National Insurance payments and £90 billion of which was spent on the Health service (including contributing heavily to the profits listed above.)

That's £1500 for every man, woman and child living in the UK, every year.

In addition to filling the drug companies' coffers, the £90 billion also pays health staff, including an average GPs salary of £106,000 pa - that's 7.5x my income, and sheds an interesting light on the issue of relative poverty.

Doctors are paid huge amounts of cash to supply drug companies' products to patients. You only have to watch the TV monitor 'Public Service Information' channel in our GPs' surgery to see the drug company ads, product placements everywhere and so on. That's before we even get into the debate about drug companies' funding of medical research and courses. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and a drug company funding a medical course will dictate the content and delivery: why else would they fund them?

A large proportion of NHS activity is involved with screening. Another large proportion is dedicated to routine appointments and check-ups.

My view of the Health Service is that I will use it when I desperately need it and not before. I do not believe the Health Service can do anything to prevent me from being ill, indeed with the over-use of antibiotics and the presence in hospitals of MRSA, I think any non-essential contact with the NHS is an increasingly risky decision to take.

My family does not make use of vaccinations, pain killers, antibiotics or anything else supplied by drug companies. If we do become ill we take good care of ourselves, use homoeopathic and herbal remedies and boost our immune systems.

You might say: "Well, you've been very lucky not to be ill. Not everyone is in your fortunate position," to which I would answer: We've had our share of illnesses. We could be in the GPs surgery at least once a month if we went there with every sniffle, every toothache, bump, pain, scratch, every worry. But those are just part of life and nothing to do with the Health Service.

We've had serious illnesses diagnosed. I was diagnosed at 15 with Ankylosing Spondylitis and advised against having children because my mobility would definitely be seriously impaired by the time I was in my late 20s and I would suffer increasing amounts of pain. When I believed this prognosis it was true. When I stopped believing it, it stopped being true for me.

We have used and will use the NHS for:

  • Setting broken bones

  • Life-saving, essential surgery

  • Anything the older teens want to use it for

  • To cover us legally, for e.g. midwifery service

  • For those things I'm glad it's there, but I can't think of any other instance when I'd want to consult them.

    Humans survived without an international medical industry for thousands of years. Plants exist in everyone's habitat to heal the diseases that naturally develop in local areas: nature is synergetic. Bring money into the equation and we suddenly seem to think we need some complicated extract of a rare jungle plant, given a latin name and presented to us in a scientific-looking packet by a person with letters after their name instead. We don't.

    Our bodies are not the mystery we're encouraged to think they are. Nutrition, diet, health and medicine should be one and the same thing. A healthy mind creates a healthy body. Non-stop screening and the "What if? What if? What if?" mentality is counter-productive and very, very expensive.

    I would like the government to save people's £1500 each per year and allow us more space and time to develop and nurture our mental and physical health instead. But there's no profit, and no centralised power in that, so it won't happen.


    Anonymous Paula said...

    Hi there again! Reading your post has reminded me of Christopher Titmuss: the 'experts' as the new priests

    4:47 pm, December 01, 2006  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Oh that's an interesting link, thanks Paula :-)

    5:35 pm, December 01, 2006  
    Anonymous Ruth said...

    I broke my elbow and set it myself and my foot. Mod roc is really good for stuff like that. However if the kids broke anything I would take them to hospital. I have also had 2 brain ops I couldn't do on myself to LOL. None of my kids have needed to see a doctor for illness in the past 6 years. Dh has not been since he was about 4. I am supposed to go for a smear and will need counselling if I refuse.

    6:05 pm, December 01, 2006  
    Blogger Tim said...

    Woman carries out DIY surgery

    A friend of yours Ruth?

    More DIY ideas

    I must admit I am far from convinced on the merits of DIY bone setting.

    "The difference between lawyers and doctors is that lawyers only take your money. Doctors take your money and kill you." :-)

    I do think there is a place for professional medical care, and for moderate use of some of the drugs they use.

    "Humans survived without an international medical industry for thousands of years. "

    Yes and they died for thousands of years too. Often very young and in great pain.

    I don't agree with universal valiumisation and I think the enthusiasm for diagnosing children with autism, aspergers or adhd and pumping them full of drugs is downright idiotic. I think doctors are often put in a totally untenable position with parents demanding a diagnosis, sometimes for the simple reason that they need it to access some service their child requires, rather than in order to get it medical treatment which they know it doesn't.

    The life expectancy of new born children in 1999 was 75 years for boys and 80 years for girls. In 1901 baby boys were expected to
    live for 45 years and girls 49 years. Also the longer lives we are living are often healthier lives.

    It is a combination of modern medical treatments and a range of public health measures which have achieved this.

    7:19 pm, December 01, 2006  
    Blogger Gill said...

    "The life expectancy of new born children in 1999 was 75 years for boys and 80 years for girls. In 1901 baby boys were expected to
    live for 45 years and girls 49 years. Also the longer lives we are living are often healthier lives."

    I'd like to see life expectancy figures from earlier points in history, because 1901 was in the middle of the period of industrialisation which saw many people living in slums without access to enough space, clean water and good food to be healthy. Also the work they were required to do then would not be, for the most part, conducive to good health I guess.

    "It is a combination of modern medical treatments and a range of public health measures which have achieved this."

    Granted, there are some excellent emergency life-saving procedures available to us now which were perhaps not before, but I don't think keeping health and medical knowledge in the hands of a minority group of professionals for the majority to rely on, is wise for public health. Nor do I think on-going routine prescription medication is helpful in many cases.

    7:34 pm, December 01, 2006  
    Blogger Tim said...

    UK or England Life Expectancy

    1725 32
    1750 37
    1800 36
    1850 40
    1900 48
    1950 69
    1990 76

    See Wrigley & Schofield Quinquennial Population Totals and Its Components (goes back to the sixteenth century.


    Wikipedia - Life expectancy.

    So while I agree that there were a number of severe adverse factors in the 19th Century, life expectancy nevertheless rose overall during the period.

    Case proven? :-)

    10:09 pm, December 01, 2006  
    Blogger Gill said...

    OK thanks, yes proven about life expectancy. Not about medical chemicals though.

    10:24 pm, December 01, 2006  
    Anonymous Ruth said...

    Hee Hee Tim. Tath lady is crackers. My DIY bone setting worked a treat but I was a Orthopaedic nurse so I did have a idea of what I was doing lOL

    10:36 pm, December 01, 2006  
    Blogger Rosie said...

    yes, I agree with you on this one, too, Gill. a few examples:
    When I had 2 children with whooping cough the doctors didn't have a clue what to do and were of no use, in fact denied it at first. (so we have the right to choose not to vaccinate but it can mean they will wash their hands of you)
    When I had recurring ear problems I agree to have them syringed- this resulted in me going almost deaf and suffering 10 years of vertigo.
    When I was 29 I was diagnosed with some complicated back problems and referred to a spinal clinic on the NHS, who were going to operate. My own GP actually advised me against this as it may have led to paralysis, but told me I would never recover and would be permanantly disabled. I have had 3 children since then and am not disabled any more. (I went to a chiropractor for a few years).
    We are not expected to take responsibility for our own health.
    Yes, the life expectancy in this country has gone up- what about the rest of the world?

    11:01 pm, December 01, 2006  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Blimey Ruth, that's impressive!

    11:01 pm, December 01, 2006  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Oh yes, we had the whooping cough thing too. Stepson was vaccinated but went on to contract the disease anyway and was left with a cough that wouldn't go away. Cured by a homoeopathic single remedy! Thanks to Dr Blomfield :-)

    11:03 pm, December 01, 2006  
    Blogger Tim said...

    "Yes, the life expectancy in this country has gone up- what about the rest of the world?" World Life Expectancy Chart.

    At first glance I think there is a clear correlation between wealth/healthcare expenditure and life expectancy. If you don't agree Rosie, you can get the expenditure figures from WHO. Please do.

    As to the rest, I think it is a matter of balance. I do think that as a nation we are far to reliant on drugs - prescribed, non-prescribed and recreational. But there is a place for pharmaceutical drugs, for surgery as well as for a lot of alternative treatments (I visit my osteopath bimonthly). I would like to see more research done into homeopathy, because although the reasoning behind it seems so blatantly flawed, there is, I understand, good evidence that veterinary homeopathy works - on subjects who are not susceptible to placebo effects. I think the reason there has been so little research into it is that there is little profit to be had from it..

    My guess is doctors are often confronted by demanding patients "diagnose me, drug me, cut me!", who would be far better off going home and getting a good night's sleep and some exercise. So we get circular diagnoses ("doctor my skin is inflamed, give me something"... "you have dermatitis, take these and just go away"). In such an instance, I think my sympathies are with the doctor. :-)

    I suspect that there are more than enough surgeons whose principle concern is building a reputation or paying for their new Bentley. To counterbalance that there are likely dozens who will resort to the knife only when it is essential and are true to the dictum "First do no harm". Bear in mind that the big money is in things like cosmetic surgery, where patients are seeking out treatments they simply don't need.

    As to vaccinations. Gill, do you think that all vaccinations are bad. For example, do you think that the elimination of Smallpox was a mistake? Or are you relying on other people being vaccinated so that you and you family benefit from herd immunity? Or are you selectively opting out on the basis of evaluation of vaccinations on a case by case basis?

    But returning to your original thesis, I do not believe it makes any sense to abdicate responsibility for your health, or anything else, if I have something wrong with my car, my first thought is can I fix it myself, the second is to take it to our local mechanic, that doesn't mean that I blindly do whatever he says and I agree with you that it makes no more sense to blindly do what a doctor tells you to do.

    2:46 am, December 02, 2006  
    Blogger Gill said...

    No I don't think the elimination of smallpox was a mistake, but nor do I think it was due to vaccinations.

    I looked into the vaccination issue in great detail when I was first offered vaccinations for my children, reading everything there was available to read at the time, because I had a completely open mind about it and wanted to make the best decision I could. Leon Chaitow convinced me in the end with his brilliant Vaccinations and Immunisations: Dangers and Delusions: What Every Parent Should Know, in which he looks historically at every disease claimed to have been eliminated by vaccinations in detail. I can't remember the exact detail about smallpox but there were a lot of factors involved in the passing of that illness.

    How did we get rid of the Great Plague, for e.g.? Not with vaccinations, but by building up natural immunity and by the disease itself naturally dying out, which diseases do when their time has passed. But if vaccinations had been developed just as that one did pass you can be sure we'd have all been taught that vaccinations eliminated it single-handedly.

    The immune system is what keeps us relatively safe from disease and vaccinations severely compromise that. Injecting anything through the skin into the blood severely compromises that: if I HAD to choose one vaccine to be forced to take I'd pick the polio sugar cube one because at least it takes a more natural route into the body, therefore stands some chance of being processed.

    I wouldn't have decided against vaccinations on the basis that I could rely on the herd immunity of most other people having been vaccinated: Chaitow demolishes that argument too. (And it would have been immoral of me ^^ ) Indeed, my stepson having contracted whooping cough after being vaccinated dispels the theory in itself.

    Vaccination is a highly profitable industry and anyone who tries to look into it too closely in a credible scientific way is very quickly persecuted and discredited. I think it's something our descendants will look back on with horror and shame.

    I'm especially stunned that we're pushing these things on 3rd World children, who surely have enough to contend with and probaby have no chance of researching the situation and making an educated choice. But Nestle pushes its formula feed on them with impunity, so I guess anything's possible.

    11:02 am, December 02, 2006  
    Blogger Tech said...

    Can I just suggest some reading material - Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton.

    Pharmas aren't generally designed to cure people, they are there to alleviate symptoms - cures don't keep people spending money, worse still is when the pills create other illnesses that then need further medication. Anecdotal evidence I know, but it's as good as any other IMO: my friend's dad went from being a healthy enough bloke to someone diagnosed with diabetes and heart disease needing major surgery, was put on a raft of pills, told to eat a diet which was full of chemical shit, and was dead within a year IIRC. It could be argued that he would possibly have died anyway, but I would put money on him having had a longer life expectancy without all that medical intervention. Apparently the biggest killer in the USA - causing the deaths of more than 300,000 - is alleopathic medicine. It's another form of control, just like mass schooling, and religion - take people's personal power away from them, make them believe in a higher being and you have a race of pliable, docile sheep (mostly!).

    My BIL was a research scientist for a well know company, and he left because he couldn't justify the dodgy results he was supposed to come up with. He got tired of seeing his colleagues who went into the business for good and decent reasons, turn into people playing the game until they could draw their pensions. He was really shocked by what he found out working in that industry. It's an all too common story though unfortunately - as Gill said *he who pays the piper calls the tune*.

    As a woman you find that to have knowledge of and trust in your body is tantamount to heresy where many consultants are concerned. Perhaps they should change their job title - to consult means to ask for an opinion does it not? It does'nt mean *listen to what I tell you and do as you're told*, which is what many birthing women find to be the case all too often.

    As to life expectancy rates, I think you might find that they are on their way down again now anyway because of our modern life styles. I've certainly read or heard figures which suggest that a few times.Will have to have a google later and see if I can come up with anything to substantiate that I guess, although I'm afraid I don't hold a great deal of faith in stats of any kind anyway.

    12:02 pm, December 02, 2006  
    Blogger Tech said...

    Re the plague, I've read an interesting theory about that - must go and dig it out, I think I may have blogged it saying that.

    12:04 pm, December 02, 2006  
    Blogger Tech said...

    Plague link - interesting read I think.

    12:09 pm, December 02, 2006  
    Blogger Tim said...

    Tech that is fascinating.

    Gill, I think we will have to agree to differ.

    This is nicely put together: Vaccine controversy

    On balance I will go with this Dr John R Gilbert.

    2:41 pm, December 02, 2006  
    Blogger Allie said...

    Nope, not with you on this one Gill! Our kids are vaccinated and I use much of what is on offer from the NHS - dentistry, opticians, smear tests and so on. That said, my kids have only been to the GP on a handful of occasions in their lives.

    My kids are very fit and healthy - never reacted badly to a vaccination and haven't had the measles or whooping cough that do go round here from time to time. We live in an area of the country with lots of people who don't believe in vaccination.

    I have many friends who have kids who they have not vaccinated. One of them nearly lost her son when his whooping cough became pneumonia. Needless to say she then accepted all the NHS could offer - intensive care bed, drugs and care from doctors and nurses. That was, of course, her right but it was a good job those services were there.

    I think you're right about the big pharma companies making obscene profits and I am not of the 'all doctors are gods' school of thought that my grandmother was. But I am so GLAD that we have the NHS in this country and people don't have to watch as their children die from preventable disease.

    4:09 pm, December 02, 2006  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Oh well, glad we agree on the finance if not the science, Tim & Allie!

    That's a great link Tech. Thanks! Now why isn't that explanation better-known? ^^

    6:32 pm, December 02, 2006  
    Blogger Tim said...

    On the finance, I have always pretty much accepted that patents and copyright are a good thing in principle, just some of the detail of the law may be in need of change.

    I am starting to think now though that all the arguments advanced in support of ps and cs, that they reward innovation and creativity etc, are a pile of rubbish. I can see Cliff Richards pov, but quite frankly, why should he still be being paid over and over for songs he recorded nearly 50 years ago?

    And so far as big business is concerned, it is far more lucrative to claim a slew of patents and copyrights and hire an army of lawyers to prevent anyone else innovating, than to develop better products, that way you save on retooling costs and shut out anyone who can afford less lawyers.

    This isn't particularly about drugs, it is a general point, although clearly drug companies are big in this area. It would be nteresting to how the total wage bill of Glaxo's lawyers compares with the total wage bill of all its researchers.

    8:10 pm, December 02, 2006  
    Blogger Gill said...

    I guess the importance of the finance argument regarding pharmaceuticals varies according to how much you think we need their products.

    In my blog post I drew attention to the sums involved in order to explain the motivation behind the myth.

    Beyond pointing out that I think it IS a myth, and beyond explaining why I think it is perpetuated so desperately, I'm not too interested in the details of how they seek to justify such large amounts of money. They just obviously have to find a way to try to justify it, whatever that may be.

    It saddens me that some very intelligent people devote their whole lives to trying to develop cures for all our illnesses for the very best of reasons, (and make some other people vast sums of money in the process,) because I simply don't agree that our lives are meant to be totally devoid of pain and suffering or that we're meant to take pills or injections to try to ensure that they are.

    However, at least they provide people with a choice, which can only be a good thing, *as long as it's always presented as a choice*. Whether most people are conditioned, capable or even inclined to view it as such is a whole other matter, I suppose. You could argue that's a choice too, ultimately.

    Some of my most vital learning processes so far have taken place as the result of almost unbearable pain and suffering. If someone had wandered by with a magical external cure I would be a different, weaker, more obedient, docile, unquestioning, depressed person for it today. I should maybe blog more about that kind of thing, I dunno.

    But it is the essence of what I'm trying to say. If you work through pain and suffering and try to resolve it within yourself and in a natural way, you end up physically and mentally far stronger than if you hadn't.

    That's not to say we shouldn't ever help each other, but I would like that help to be administered with extreme care and consideration of the whole person involved, the decisions being made by people who understand the above concept.

    I've met some doctors who do understand what I'm saying: one in particular who was writing a thesis on pain relief and spent quite some time taking notes for it while we talked about why I'd opted to decline pain relief for my broken wrist. It was difficult to concentrate when I was in so much pain, but I enjoyed the experience none the less! (The talking, not the wrist-break, I hasten to add, before you start thinking I might be some sort of masochist ;-)

    Unfortunately though, the vast majority of medical personnel I've come across were more or less robotically serving their masters, the drug companies.

    7:06 am, December 03, 2006  
    Anonymous Daniel Haszard said...

    Eli Lilly zyprexa cost me $250.00 a month supply and has up to ten times the risk of causing diabetes and severe weight gain.

    My issue is Zyprexa which is only FDA approved for schizophrenia (.5-1% of pop) and some bipolar (2% pop) and then an even smaller percentage of theses two groups.

    So how does Zyprexa get to be the 7th largest drug sale in the world?
    Eli Lilly is in deep trouble for using their drug reps to 'encourage' doctors to write zyprexa for non-FDA approved 'off label' uses.

    The drug causes increased diabetes risk,and medicare picks up all the expensive fallout.There are now 7 states (and counting) going after Lilly for fraud and restitution.


    Daniel Haszard

    5:46 pm, December 07, 2006  

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