Hundreds of years ago, we used bloodletting and purging to cure. Today, we invent fictitious diseases so that specific drugs can be sold.
When your conscience pricks you, sometimes you tell the truth. This is what happened to the American Cancer Society, when Dr Harold Varmus became its new director and found that modern cancer treatments were dangerous. Decades ago, another cancer specialist, David Weatherall, a professor at Oxford, had noted in his book, The Science of Medicine and Its Quiet Art, that cancer therapy reminded him of the red hot iron branding that was practised years ago for every illness. David wrote that our future generation might not forgive us for our sins in the cancer arena today. It also brings back memories of the hoary rituals—of bloodletting, purging and induced vomiting to get the bad tumours out—practised for nearly 2,500 years. But we went on because bloodletting brought money to us.
Similarly, cancer industry is a trillion-dollar one and will continue to get bigger, despite clear indications that we are barking up the wrong tree. Napoleon Bonaparte and George Washington had to go through dangerous bloodletting rituals. Napoleon had tubercular constrictive pericarditis and Washington had typhoid fever. Today, we even mutilate the healthy human body in the fond hope of preventing cancer.
There is a disease in children, called ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and our paediatricians bend over backwards to make the diagnosis and start our innocent children on dangerous chemical drugs at a tender age. But a bombshell was dropped when an 87-year-old American psychiatrist, Dr Leon Eisenberg, made a startling statement to a German magazine, Der Spiegel, a couple of months before his death. He said that ADHD is a fictitious disease which he put together for the benefit of drug companies, in the new disease classification in the American Psychiatry Association’s DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Diseases).
Professor Jörg Blech, another German, had written a beautiful book Inventing Diseases in which he gives a graphic description of hypertension having been discovered as a disease needing drug treatment through the ‘Well Man’ programme on nice air-conditioned vans, with beautiful nurses, parked around Church squares and shopping malls to give people a free check-up. Anyone who walks in becomes a patient.
Another new disease has been added to the list—shift-work syndrome—to sell another deadly drug, Nuvigil. The drug may cause serious side-effects which, according to Nuvigil website, include a serious rash or a serious allergic reaction that may affect different body parts. Shift work does produce some day-time sleepiness as the shift workers lose sleep during night times.
I would never give this drug to normal people knowing what the drug is capable of doing. The hype, aided and abetted by the licensing agencies, will ensure that the drug company will laugh its way to the bank, even as many people die of adverse drug reactions. The best treatment is simple phototherapy—sun therapy.
Vaccination is another fertile ground for the pharmaceuticals industry, where most of what is sold has dubious value. Dr Diane Harper, who was instrumental in creating Gardasil and Cervarix, admitted back in 2009 that the vaccines were essentially useless and more dangerous than the very conditions they were hailed as preventing and treating.
“This is a long way from the thinking 20 years ago when you found a cancer cell and felt you had a tremendous risk of dying,” said Dr Varmus. He put a team of researchers to find cancer treatment outcomes and found that hardly anyone survived the three-pronged attack of deadly chemotherapy, mutilating surgery and burning radiation.
We have come a long way from the 19th century diagnosis of cancer. We need a new 21st century diagnosis where only aggressively-growing cancers need symptomatic treatment. This boils down to what I have been saying about any disease in general.
William Osler’s famous advice—that one should not interfere with the patient when he/she is doing well—is relevant even today. Pre-cancer, pre-diabetes, pre-hypertension and such fancy ideas have resulted in millions undergoing treatment when it was not needed and might be even dangerous.
Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS.
Medical developments from around the world
Consciousness: A Big Step Forward
Science has realised the importance of human consciousness as the basis of health and disease. Universal consciousness might even be the key to solving human problems worldwide. Human body is immaterial, mental and spiritual. Spirituality, in this context, has very little to do with religions. Spirituality simply means sharing and caring. The new definition of health, as accepted by the Institute of Medicine (USA), is “enthusiasm to work and enthusiasm to be compassionate.” Diseases, their absence or presence, have very little to do with the definition of health and treatment methods. Whole person healing (WPH) has to take consciousness into consideration. Mind the patients’ mind to keep them healthy.
End of the Disease Era?
“The time has come to abandon disease as the focus of medical care. The changed spectrum of health, the complex interplay of biological and non-biological factors, the aging population, and the inter-individual variability in health priorities render medical care that is centred on the diagnosis and treatment of individual diseases at best out of date and at worst harmful. A primary focus on disease may inadvertently lead to under-treatment, over-treatment, or mistreatment. The numerous strategies that have evolved to address the limitations of the disease model, although laudable, are offered only to a select subset of persons and often further fragment care. Clinical decision making for all patients should be predicated on the attainment of individual goals and the identification and treatment of all modifiable biological and non-biological factors, rather than solely on the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of individual diseases. Anticipated arguments against a more integrated and individualized approach range from concerns about medicalisation of life problems to ‘this is nothing new’ and ‘resources would be better spent determining the underlying biological mechanism’,” wrote Mary Tinnetti and Terri R Fried from the Yale University Medical School (American Journal of Medicine 2004; 116: 179). They further said, “The perception that the disease model is ‘truth’ rather than a previously useful model will be a barrier as well. Notwithstanding these barriers, medical care must evolve to meet the health care needs of patients in the 21st century.” I could not agree more. Because of our obsession with diseases, the curse for mankind has become a disease label. Even cancer has been over-diagnosed almost 70%. This has to change for the good of mankind.
Warning: Allergy Season
With the summer nearing its end in the West, and the monsoon rain on its last run in India, it is time for allergies. There is a tendency, for both patients and doctors, to reach for a powerful anti-histamine tablet for quick relief. However, quick solutions could result in lifelong nuisance. The tablets dry up the mucus membranes; thus, giving the sufferer temporary relief. Dried mucus membrane does not produce mucus that would otherwise kill the viruses that would otherwise lower one’s immune system. Those germs then make a beeline for the sinuses leading to chronic sinusitis. Be that as it may, these drugs given for allergy are basically H1 receptor-blockers. Therefore, they prolong the QT interval in the heart—a dangerous portend of even sudden death! In addition, these drugs also deprive the brain of its neuronal food, histamine, making the patient drowsy which might lead to driving fatalities too. All pills thrill but some could certainly kill!
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