by Jane Sheppard
It’s challenging when your child gets sick – and sometimes frightening. Is it a serious illness? Can you really manage it at home or do you need to call the doctor?
Doctor visits usually result in medicines that may seem to work, but many times the symptoms come back or something else comes up and more drugs are prescribed. Are you worried about the side effects of these medications? You may be a parent who is dealing with continuing cycles of symptoms and drugs, and your child still doesn’t get better.
Americans spend more money on health care than any other country. You would think this creates healthier people, but it doesn’t. More pharmaceutical drugs and interventions don’t necessarily lead to better health. Health outcomes in the U.S. are pretty appalling, especially for children. In a recent study of 29 economically advanced countries, the U.S. ranked 26th in child well-being. 1
Chronic disease is the biggest challenge. More and more children are dealing with chronic immune issues, asthma, allergies, ADHD, and autism. Unfortunately, medical school provides very little training on how to prevent and effectively treat and cure chronic diseases in children. Most doctors are at a loss when considering what to do for kids with these issues. They can’t resolve them; they can only manage these cases with drugs.
What’s the real problem?
Instead of pointing at doctors, let’s look at the overall health care system. For the most part, doctors do the best they can, working within a dysfunctional system. Medicine is a for-profit industry, so what we have is the business of disease management. This makes health care more about managing symptoms with drugs than providing the body with what it needs to be well. And it makes those who use this health care system consumers of products, whether they are drugs, vaccines, surgery or any medical intervention.
Pharmaceutical companies drive our current health care system. Since they are in existence to make profits and fulfill shareholder promises, there is extensive marketing on many levels to get doctors to prescribe and patients to accept the current “standard of care”. This one-size-fits-all type of medical treatment can be OK for some, but devastating for others.
Children are becoming the leading promising market for the pharmaceutical industry. There are more children dependent on pharmaceutical drugs, beginning at younger ages than ever before. Many drugs prescribed to children are overused or inappropriately used.
Can you trust that the drugs and vaccines prescribed to your children are safe, effective and necessary? After all, they have to go through safety testing and an FDA approval process. Does this mean they are reasonably safe and do what they are intended to do?
Pharmaceutical companies are allowed to do their own safety studies to get their drugs and vaccines approved by the FDA. Of course, it costs a lot of money to develop these products, so they need to get them to market ASAP to get their return on investment. Ways to fast-track approval include studying only a small group of people, studying side effects for a short period, or failing to report negative results to the FDA. Yes, this does happen.
In a recent article in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics (Institutional Corruption of Pharmaceuticals and the Myth of Safe and Effective Drugs), the authors state:
“An extensive range of studies and lawsuits already documents strategies by which pharmaceutical companies hide, ignore, or misrepresent evidence about new drugs; distort the medical literature, and misrepresent products to prescribing physicians.” 2
The article also explains how the conflict-of-interest relationships between the drug industry and the FDA fails at ensuring sufficient testing for serious risks, and inadequately guards the public from harmful side effects.
FDA approval means the FDA considers that the drug’s benefit outweighs any known risks. In many cases, the drug’s benefit simply means that it’s a little better than a placebo. The “known” risks are the risks that are apparent after the initial studies or whatever data the drug company allows into the approval process. The actual risks for some drugs only appear after they are used by millions of people and the damage is already done.
It’s similar with vaccines. Like prescription drugs, vaccines carry a risk that the product will not work and a risk the product will cause harm. But when it comes to vaccines, manufacturers are shielded from product liability. There is no legal accountability in civil courts for anyone who develops, regulates, sells or gives vaccines in the U.S.
Because of the limited number of people studied and other pre-licensure study limitations, there is what is called post-marketing monitoring of adverse events after the vaccines are approved, licensed, and mandated to be given to children. This system is called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Through this system, the U.S. government has paid around $3 billion dollars to victims of vaccine injury. It is estimated that only between one and 10 percent of all vaccine adverse events are reported to VAERS.
In spite of what you may have heard from your doctor or the media, the science on vaccines is not conclusive. There are large gaps in vaccine safety science that are not being addressed. The Institute of Medicine has confirmed that some people are genetically, biologically and environmentally more susceptible to suffering brain injury and other types of serious reactions from vaccines. But there are no tests to find out who will be injured.
Few doctors have the time to thoroughly read vaccine studies and decipher the quality of research. Instead, most get their information from biased sources that have conflicts of interest with drug companies. The CDC is its own watchdog; responsible for both promoting vaccine use and monitoring the safety of vaccines. The American Academy of Pediatrics is considered a non-profit organization but receives millions of funding dollars from the vaccine and drug industry. And many doctors are given rewards or incentives for maintaining high vaccine rates in their practices.
Drug Company Marketing
Pharmaceutical companies are marketing to you on multiple levels. Here are some ways the drug companies get more sales:
The most obvious are internet ads, TV commercials, and magazine ads. You know, the ones with the small print or the fast-talking voice spewing out all the scary side effects they legally have to tell you. They run these ads to get you to think you need a certain drug so when you see your doctor, you can ask for it.
Another form of marketing is when drug reps “educate” doctors about new drugs. Sometimes this includes personal visits and gifts to persuade why a particular drug should often be prescribed.
Drug companies fund research and education, which can create a bias and conflict of interest. They regularly sponsor continuing medical education seminars for doctors. Even prominent researchers and expert doctors can be subtly influenced by the drug industry.
“Interactions between drug companies and doctors are pervasive. Relationships begin in medical school, continue during residency training, and persist throughout physicians’ careers. The pervasiveness of these interactions results in part from a huge investment by the pharmaceutical industry in marketing”. 3
Recent data shows that drug companies made 4.4 million payments to doctors and teaching hospitals between August and December of 2013. The payments for these five months total $3.5 billion. 4
Marcia Angell, MD, is head of the Division of Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School. She was editor of The New England Journal of Medicine (the most prestigious medical journal in America) for 20 years. She had this to say:
“Looking at this picture altogether, it would be naive to conclude that bias is only a matter of a few isolated instances. It permeates the entire system. Physicians can no longer rely on the medical literature for valid and reliable information. This is the conclusion I reluctantly reached toward the end of my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, and it has been reinforced in subsequent years. Clinicians just do not know anymore how safe and effective prescription drugs really are, but these products are probably nowhere near as good as the published literature indicates.” 5
And then there is our corporate-sponsored news media. The media’s primary responsibility is to their sponsors, and pharmaceutical advertising is mostly what keeps them alive. This seems to be the only plausible explanation when key facts about vaccine risks are uncovered but not reported by the main media. Instead, the media is used to distract the public from the issues by constantly painting a biased picture of vaccine safety. Lately, there has been a media trend to shame and embarrass parents and discredit doctors who dare to question the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.
There are important beneficial aspects to conventional medicine and current medical care. When your child is seriously ill or injured, you certainly need emergency medicine, and many are fortunate to have access to state-of-the-art care. But now more than ever, it’s important to learn how to navigate the medical system. You need to know what questions to ask and how to research and find the answers you need.
Most importantly, you need to know what to do to keep your children healthy to avoid the continuing cycles of symptoms and drugs. It’s valuable to know the power of preventive and holistic medicine. You can leave behind the mentality of “medicate it and suppress it” and give your children what they need to resolve an illness safely.
See Part Two – The Solutions
If you want to delve deeper into the problems and the solutions to our current dysfunctional health care system, check out these informative new documentaries:
2 Light, Donald W. and Lexchin, Joel and Darrow, Jonathan J., Institutional Corruption of Pharmaceuticals and the Myth of Safe and Effective Drugs (June 1, 2013). Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, 2013, Vol. 14, No. 3: 590-610. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2282014
3 Blumenthal D. Doctors and drug companies. N Engl J Med. 2004;351:1885–1890.
5 Marcia Angell, MD, “Drug Companies and Doctors: A story of Corruption.” NY Review of Books, Jan. 15, 2009