Sickness sells: It helps pharmaceutical companies profit

Anyone who has enough money and/or insurance does not die in dignity. S/he has to pass through a hospital intensive care unit en route to heaven!

“When I see some of the people who are glorified in magazines these days—who are so thin it's bordering on sickness—I just feel exhausted”—
Katherine Heigl
 

Every hour in the US the TV adverts for drugs runs around 80 drugs! Many of them who see these do discuss the drug with their doctors as most drugs are advertised as if they are tailor-made for you hypochondriasis. Nearly half of all those that see their doctors get to take the drug, some for the rest of their lives. Sickness sales are the highest in the world today from the commercial point of view. The pharmaceutical companies laugh all their way to their banks!
 

What is the result? Every symptom, however trivial it might be, gets blown out of proportion. Many of life’s normal physiological processes like menarche, menopause, pregnancy, child birth, sexuality, sorrow, old age maladies and death have all become medicalised today, thanks to the bogey of long life, and at times, immortality that these advertisements propagate. Today anyone who has enough money and/or insurance does not die in dignity. S/he has to, per force; pass through a hospital intensive care unit en route to heaven! Do not get alarmed if I told you that 90% of the hospital profits in the USA come from keeping dying patients in the ICU for the last ten days of their journey through this world! The relatives are told that they have done their best. Relatives are happy that they do not have any guilt feeling of not looking after their near and dear ones.
 

The screening industry is the richest of them all. The catchment area for the screening industry is the whole population of this world. They have sold the wrong idea that getting screened is the best way to remain healthy. I am told that the Government of India has even given income tax rebate for screening insurance. I am sure there is some screening gate (scam) waiting to be unearthed. One has only to read the educative article on the screening industry by the former celebrated editor of British Medical Journal, Richard Smith, to remain here in good health as long as one is destined to be here. While one is healthy (health is enthusiasm to work and enthusiasm to be compassionate) one should NEVER go for screening.
 

Do not go to the hospital or doctor to get health? Do not go to the police to get honour. Do not approach the court for getting justice. You will be in for a shock and some trouble. But when you are not well, when you have lost your honour and when injustice is done to you, you have no choice but to go to them. Similarly going for screening when one is healthy could be very, very dangerous. The reason is not far to seek. Medicine is not a hard science. It is a statistical science where averages are equated with normality. We have no definition of NORMAL in medical science. When average is normal where false positives and false negatives are 50%. Now imagine your position when you go for a heart check-up. You will certainly end up on the angiogram table if not on the bypass table!
 

What is the fall out of all these cacophony? Medical establishment today has become the leading cause of death in the west, especially in the USA followed by cancer and heart attack in that order. Inside the medical establishment adverse drug reactions (ADR) take the cake with 400,000 deaths a year, which keeps mounting by the day as more and more drug advertisements are allowed directly on the popular TV channels. Hospital infections come next due to super bugs in the vicinity. Medical errors, over investigations and over interventions are to follow. 
 

 We need fresh thinking in this area with a new science of man of non-linearity and CHAOS. That will end the menace of the present screening industry. Let us call that new integrated system as Post Modern Medicine.
 

 “Three-quarters of the sicknesses of intelligent people come from their intelligence. They need at least a doctor who can understand this sickness”—Marcel Proust
 

(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, Chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London. Prof Dr Hegde can be contacted at [email protected])

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    COMMENTS

    Atul Asthana

    7 years ago

    You can find equivalent/substitute medicines at http://www.medguideindia.com/ . The site also includes maximum retail prices in Indian market for each of the substitute.

    Don’t hate germs, they are our saviours!

    Antiseptics, soaps, and antibiotics have created a new world of killer super bugs—multi drug resistant germs—which are now threatening the world. The world needs deschooling about the benefit of looking after the germs in their natural habitat for our own good in the long run

    Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction”—Pierre Pachet

    Thanks to the soap and antiseptics industry, the whole world is becoming obsessed with the fear of germs. Last night I was watching the TV screen ad of an antiseptic soap in Tamil, which made me think of writing this note. There the child was telling her cat not to come into the house. The mother was watching from behind. The child told the cat “don’t come inside, mummy will hit you.” The mother then takes the child for a bath with that soap telling the child “mummy will hit not the cat but will hit the germs (kirmigalai) with this soap!”
     

    Early this morning I saw the usual sight of the municipal corporation lorry carrying the waste dumps for incineration. The lorry had five workers and a couple of rag pickers who hang on to get some gold in the dumps! One of the women had an infant whom she put on the front seat of the lorry while they were loading the vehicle. They rummage through the contents as if it were some heap of gold! The woman breast feeds the child in between. One cannot pass by that area because of the foul smell. I have been seeing this scene being enacted daily. Despite my pleas to the powers that be the routine has not changed. These people do not have gloves or shoes. They bring their breakfast and eat it while on duty. They keep smoking beedies in between. I have not seen them wash their hands any time!
     

    This also brings to mind the study of asthma in Mumbai slums compared to the best homes there. The ratio of asthma incidence was ten to one in favour of clean kids! The multitude of germs in the slums keeps the children’s immune system robust to avoid asthma. Whereas the child from the wealthy home gets antibiotics for even a common cold, the slum child probably has not come in contact with antiseptics and/or antibiotics, thus keeping its immune system robust. A crawling baby will go to every corner to pick up the dirt to eat! It is hardwired before birth to do that to get germs inside to strengthen the immune system! During delivery the baby acquires trillions of germs of all kinds into its orifices from the mother’s genital tract. Naturally a Caesarean section baby will be poorer to that extent.
     

    For every cell in your body there are nine germ cells. No one could scientifically be proud because s/he has to have those germs bossing over her/him! Human meta-genome has about 25 thousand human genes while it also has 2-3 trillion germs genes. We have been living happily ever after with them inside us. Do not hate them from outside also. They are our friends and saviours indeed! When one takes antibiotics the gut gets depleted of these friends and then we suffer from immune deficiency. Today fatal gut infections are treated by transplanting fresh stools (faeces) from a healthy donor, faecal transplant. If one is lucky to have his mother alive her faeces will cure the fatal infections in minutes to hours! Mother’s gut germs are identical to ours, anyway! Resetting the gut germs is the best way to build our immune guard.
     

    Antiseptics, soaps, and antibiotics have created a new world of killer super bugs—multi drug resistant germs—which are now threatening the world. Sooner we wake up the better. The newer quick dust eating washing powders have another danger lurking in the background. Many of them use bacillus subtilis as their base. This germ generates a protein residue when it works on clothes, etc. This protein is a lung poison. It provokes an incurable lung disease called Fibrosing Alveolitis (cryptogenic) which has no cure!
     

    The world needs deschooling quickly about the benefit of looking after our friends—the germs in their natural habitat—for our own good in the long run. Let children play in the dirt outside in the sun. Simple inexpensive oil-based soap is all that is needed with clean water to wash one’s hands or for taking bath. No antiseptic soaps are needed. They could damage one’s immune system in the long run.

     “A sad soul can kill quicker than a germ”—John Steinbeck

    (Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London. Prof Dr Hegde can be contacted at [email protected].)

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    COMMENTS

    Bhava Veerubhotla

    7 years ago

    respected prof hegde
    i like you. tou are change maker in healthcare
    Maslow hierarchy of Needs.
    A. Physiologic needs- looking food , shelter and clothing
    B.Esteem needs- craving to be loved , respected and understood by all
    C. Self- actualization- Who Am I, what Iam doing, what i can do, What is my duty, Am i Response - able
    If you are at stage C you are my friend. call me 919849551183 or mail pharmeds at gmail

    Bharadwaj

    7 years ago

    dear dr,
    there is a product called enterogermina which contains Bacillus Clausii..is it different from what you have said about subtilis? after all, a bacillus is a bacillus!

    Vaibhav Dhoka

    7 years ago

    It is ABLE have to pay hefty price for luxury and UNABLEs get immunity as reward.To save onself the family should minimise watching TV shows which are flooded with GERM FREE advertisements.

    MS

    7 years ago

    Excellent article. Children who live in unhygenic conditions often develop a strong immune system and are physically stronger and healthier than many children who grow up in luxuries.

    It's high time people stop getting obsessed with these things and develop a free, clear positive mind. Only then can the resistance power increase.

    M G WARRIER

    7 years ago

    Very informative article with simple narration. Thank you, Dr Hegde. This morning I was telling my grandson about how crows used to help cows to get rid of itching by eating away some lice on their back,without hurting the cows. There was a time when humans, animals, birds and the environment had a peaceful coexistence. I am still under the hangover of my own article on middleclass. The efforts to ‘get rid of germs’ is almost similar to the efforts of powers that be ‘to get rid of poor’ instead of getting rid of poverty.

    The bliss of old age

    Old age is a pleasure and should be enjoyed without the fear of disease and death. Think young and remain young at any age

    “When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
    And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
    And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
    Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep”
    —William Butler Yeats


    Many of us, like Shakespeare, abhor old age. I am one of those who adore old age and respect it for its forbearance, compassion, understanding, and also for its maturity. Old age is a time when one has the advantage of both long standing empirical and existential wisdom (not knowledge). Some of my readers have urged me to write on old age diseases like diabetes, cancer, hypertension and heart disease, etc. I normally do not replicate a medical textbook in my articles and do not like this reductionist disease concept. I agree with Professor Mary Tinnetti of Yale University when she wrote an article entitled “End of the Disease Era” in the American Journal of Medicine in 2004; 116: 179, where she says that: “The time has come to abandon disease as the focus of medical care. The changed spectrum of health, the complex interplay of biological and nonbiological factors, the aging population, and the interindividual variability in health priorities render medical care that is centered 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 undertreatment, overtreatment, or mistreatment.”

    We could club them all into one class of age related maladies. In my experience of nearly half a century of treating patients, the biggest problem of old age, especially in the affluent section of society, has been the adverse drug reactions. Many of these patients have been on a long laundry list of chemical drugs for the various diseases mentioned above. Each specialist gives a few drugs of his/her choice unmindful of what his counterpart in the other specialty has given. The poor patient tries to comply with all of them at the same time little realising that this kind of polypharmacy has no scientific evidence to support it even in this era of evidence based medical claptrap.

    What is old age? Quantum physics tells us that matter and energy are but the two faces of the same coin. So the human mind is but the human body. Your thoughts are your body in that sense. If you always think that you are old and infirm, you WILL be old and infirm. If you think you are young and healthy, you SHOULD be so. Chronological age is only a mirage. Body cells die and get replaced regularly; so much so you are not the same person that you were three months ago. At any given time your true cell age is just about six months. But if you think you are old the thoughts get passed on to the new cells and make them old! Think young and remain young at any age.

    In the elderly and the old elderly, diabetes is not serious disease. It is just the exhausted pancreas trying to cope with the demand. If one were to diet sensibly-eating small feeds six times a day avoiding frank white sugar in food and eating as much raw vegetables and fruits as is possible in the diet—and avoiding sedentary lifestyle of sitting in front of the TV all day, exercising regularly, with a positive state of mind and enthusiasm to help another human being in distress, the blood sugars can be controlled as also the other metabolic fall outs of diabetes. The best exercise in old age is a daily walk, at one’s own pace for at least half an hour a day would do wonders to your health. Do not get frightened of our medical scare mongering to get you hooked on to our drugs. Mark Twain was quite right when he wrote: “do not read health books, you might die of a misprint!” Most lay articles are either sponsored by vested interests or are copied from some medical textbook source and will invariably be scary.

    DO NOT get your blood sugar checked daily. A quarterly level of glycosylated haemoglobin (A1c) level will do. Try and keep it below 7.5. Even if the sugar occasionally goes up do not panic, it will come down. Take good care of your feet, washing it daily at the end of the day with soap and water and drying it fully before retiring to bed. Have shoes which are a size bigger than normal, lest you should develop pressure points in the feet. Should you develop any new symptom, however trivial it might be, see your family physician for guidance? Most of the time it might be of no consequence but do not self treat yourself or take advice from other patient's experience as your guide. Do not rush to a specialist directly bypassing your family doctor.

    The specialist does not know you well and will be at a loss to size up the situation. You will end up in the circle of never ending tests and scans and referrals which might not only cost you a fortune but might damage your health as well. You must have a humane family doctor as your friend, philosopher and guide. Similar advice holds good for high blood pressure. The latter, however is, most of the time, a white-coat effect in old people. Tudor Edward Hart followed for decades a closed group of coal miners in North Wales and found that drugs were not needed especially in women above the age of 65 for mild to moderate high blood pressure. A recent large study did show that slightly higher blood pressure is needed in the old elderly. If your doctor decides that you need drugs, discuss the pros and cons with him and ask for details as to why long-term drugging is mandatory. Ask for absolute risk reduction statistics and not relative risk reduction statistics. The former would most of the time show drugs in bad light. In medicine we use two types of statistics—the ones you look up and the ones that you cook up. The drug companies use the latter statistics to sell their wares but the doctors should be able to look up the right data.

    Having said what I said above I must hasten to add that if one is already on drugs do not stop them suddenly without consulting your doctor first. If both of you decide to cut them down do it very gradually under the doctor’s supervision. This article is not a medical prescription and the writer is not your doctor. Your doctor is your boss. Follow her/his advice correctly. Mine are only suggestions for both of you to arrive at an informed decision. The take home message is that both diabetes and high blood pressure are not serious and dangerous illnesses in old age and are a part of living long in this planet. The human mind is the boss here and fear kills faster. Please note that the treatment of most old age illnesses is based on the following simple rules:

    1) Change of lifestyle to a healthy one
    Eating in moderation, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep daily, avoiding alcohol and tobacco totally, loving ones near and dear ones, trying to be of some use to society if one’s health permits, and enjoying life as it comes, will make you healthy and fit. Greed, jealousy, anger and pride are killer risk factors which could be avoided. Love, camaraderie, universal compassion and true humility should stimulate the doctor within all of us, our immune system. Keep your body and brain working as far as possible remembering that if you do not use them you lose them!

    2) Tranquility of mind
    Music, yoga, praanaayaama, listening to good deeds and words of others, helping others by being a giver and not a taker keeps one healthy. Your mind becomes tranquil. Having a good hobby helps. Keeping oneself busy also keeps the mind free from negative thoughts. Needs are a must but greed kills! Have a heart to keep your heart healthy.

    3) Drug:
    Rarely ever, if ever, is the best advice.

    Many of us believe that there is a pill for every ill. This concept is not only naive but dangerous. While certainly there is no pill for every ill, there is an illness following every pill. While pills thrill they could easily kill also. So before embarking on life-long drug therapy have a friendly long chat with your doctor of the pros and cons oaf such an action and take your final decision. Medicine today is no longer a paternalistic activity. It is a partnership between a humane doctor and his patient.

    In old age most people suffer from adverse drug reactions due to polypharmacy. Many of those patients do very well when we take the drugs off gradually and let hem bask in the sunlight for an hour or two every day. Sunlight not only is a good germ killer but gives us the best tonic for our immune guard by supplying the pure vitamin D3 which stimulates the human immune system—the backbone of disease resistance.

    I have deliberately avoided two other old age maladies—cancer and the other so-called disease “high cholesterol”. The latter would need one sentence to dispose it off. High cholesterol is not a disease! It is a body parameter and 90% of it is produced in our own liver for our own good. So each one of us has different levels and the average need not be normal. Change of diet to vegetarian, avoiding too much carbohydrates and regular walk would set it right for you. Drugs never! Cancer is not a disease and is an aberration of normal cell death (apoptosis) process.

    How I wish I knew more about it. Even the best Nobel Laureate biologist, Albert-Szent Gyorgyi, feels that he cannot say what cancer is as he finds no difference between the working of the cancer cell from that of the normal cell. He does not think that he could suggest any method that could selectively kill cancer cells without concurrently killing the normal body cells. There are several alternate methods of cancer management in addition to our three pronged attack, but most of them are kept under the wraps by vested interests. I suggest an informed reader to go through the Abraham Fitzgerald Report, 1953, in the USA which is available on the net regarding this topic. That report was a secret document for 50 years. It is now open for all to see!

    Old age is a pleasure and should be enjoyed without the fear of disease and death. Death, they say, is not the end of life but only a part of it. Our effort must be to see that death is dignified without having to go through the intensive care unit of a hospital en route to heaven. May God give wisdom to all doctors to follow the prayer of Sir Robert Hutchison.

    “From inability to let well alone; from too much zeal for the new and contempt for what is old; from putting knowledge before wisdom, science before art and cleverness before common sense; from treating patients as cases; and from making the cure of the disease more grievous than the endurance of the same, Good Lord, deliver us.”—Sir Robert Hutchison, 20th century physician, British Medical Journal, 1953; 1: 671.

    May mankind be happy and healthy to live long.

    “Learning is an ornament in prosperity, a refuge in adversity, and a provision in old age.”—Aristotle


    (Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London. Prof Dr Hegde can be contacted at [email protected].)

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    COMMENTS

    nagesh kini

    7 years ago

    Dr. Hegde,
    This is an excellent material to those in the sixties.

    nagesh kini

    7 years ago

    Excellent read for those in the silvering sixties.
    There are many who refuse to believe that aging is inevitable. The age-related maladies must be accepted as facts of life!

    Narendra Doshi

    7 years ago

    Dr Hegde,
    Pl provide the link to the article on Cancer by Abraham Fitzerald Report 1953 USA.
    tks in advance

    M G WARRIER

    7 years ago

    Dr Hegde, I wish you were my family doctor. This article is an excellent guide for anyone who has a ‘patient’ at home or one who would like to follow a healthy lifestyle and use medication only for keeping good health. The concept of family doctor has to be re-invented in the present scenario. The specialists and surgeons are necessary. But the job of understanding the individual and his/her circumstances and background by a medical practitioner who will be available on call cannot be entrusted to a busy specialist who is running/flying from one Super-Specialty Hospital to another. One wishes, some arrangement is put in place, by which each family gets tagged to a doctor or hospital on an ongoing basis so that maintenance of health rather than treatment of ailments becomes a priority.M G Warrier

    Hospital

    7 years ago

    Nice article.

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