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Is Conventional Medicine the Biggest Killer in U.S.?

Is Conventional Medicine the Biggest Killer in U.S.?
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A new analysis from the British Medical Journal found that one in twenty patients experience preventable harm in medical care settings. The authors point out that patient harm in healthcare is a “leading cause of morbidity and mortality internationally.”

We’ve been saying this for quite some time, and even these troubling numbers might be understating the problem. Dr. Gary Null, an award-winning journalist, has estimated that conventional medicine is the number one cause of death in America, killing almost 800,000 a year. Others have said that prescribed medication is the third most common cause of death globally after heart disease and cancer.

One of the reasons modern medicine is so deadly is that it is based on dangerous prescription drugs that are effective for only a small fraction of those who take them. How do dangerous drugs that don’t work get approved? Government agencies like the FDA require randomized controlled trials for drugs to be approved; these are considered the “gold standard” of scientific evidence. Yet these trials can be manipulated to support the outcomes that drug companies want. To take one example, meta-analyses of antidepressants conducted by researchers with ties to the drug industry were 22 times less likely to mention negative effects than independent analyses.

Here’s another example: statins, the cholesterol-lowering medication taken by one in four Americans over the age of 45, don’t work! Scientists in the United Kingdom found that 51 percent of patients on statins did not reach healthy levels of cholesterol after two years on the drugs. Not only are they ineffective, they come with a host of side effects: they interfere with CoQ10 production, weaken the immune system, block the benefits of exercise, affect sleep, and much more.

There are other tricks that can be used to make studies appear more positive than they actually are. One well-established trick is called “p-hacking” or “data-dredging.” This refers to the practice of formulating a hypothesis and finding the data to support it after a study has been conducted. It is a form of cherry-picking that can exaggerate the benefits of a drug.

The FDA is, unfortunately, complicit in this deception. As Dr. David Graham, former associate director in the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety, said, “the people who approve the drugs are also the ones who oversee the post marketing regulation of the drug…The people who approve a drug when they see that there is a safety problem with it are very reluctant to do anything about it because it will reflect badly on them.” Because of this conflict, Dr. Graham concluded that the FDA “is not able to adequately protect the American public.”

Has modern medicine improved our lives? Perhaps not as much as we might think. Thomas McKeown compiled evidence to suggest that the expanded lifespan of modern humans has less to do with medical advances than with an improved standard of living, better hygiene and nutrition, and cleaner water.

Skeptics often deride natural medicine as unscientific and ineffective. These claims are of course untrue, but if the same critical eye was applied to conventional medicine, perhaps much suffering and death could be avoided.

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