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What Happened to the Promise to Save This Nation Billions in Healthcare Costs?

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One of the biggest clinical trials ever organized by our federal government indicated that generic medication for high blood pressure in use since the 1950s worked better than the newer drugs costing more than twenty times more. Yet Dr. Curt Furberg, the chair of the $130 million ALLHAT trial, resigned in frustration in August 2004, citing the lack of effort put into disseminating “the ALLHAT message.”A similar situation has existed since the 1997 publication of the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) research study at Harvard. DASH emphasized a diet rich in potassium-containing foods such as fruits and vegetables, and more physical activity; these approaches, they found, could lower blood pressure in up to 90% of hypertensive patients without medication. Yet this too has fallen on deaf ears.
The Standard American Diet, termed SAD by Dr. Carlton Fredericks, is high in sodium and low in potassium. Combined with the inactivity of most Americans, it is little wonder why one out of every three has some degree of hypertension. High-sodium processed foods are marketed to children with an annual budget of $13 million, but little money is spent to market fruits and vegetables. The January 2009 issue of Consumer Reports says that harmful amounts of salt can be hidden in foods that don’t taste salty. Americans are advised to consume no more than one teaspoon of salt daily, yet the average American consumes 10 to 12 teaspoons of salt every day.
It is often said that medicine takes decades to change—specifically, it takes the length of time for a physician to receive a degree, build and maintain a practice, and then die! Innovative physicians often face charges from his or her respective state board of medicine, even when an advancement improves both the standard of care and the patient’s outcome. Why the charges? Because the treatment is unconventional.
The money spent on the direct-to-consumer drug ads that dominate the American media is dwarfed by the $21 billion dollars spent annually to sway doctors’ prescribing habits. Dr. Jerome Kassirer, professor of medicine at both Yale and Tufts and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, describes conventional physicians as paid prostitutes for drug manufacturers.
It has progressed to the point that the standard treatment offered by international physicians after a patient suffers a heart attack—high doses of fish oil—is ignored or even rejected in the U.S. Here, prescriptions and procedures dominate cardiac care, and heart blockage is viewed as a plumbing or structural abnormality. Yet science has proven that patients do not live longer or better when heart disease is addressed by surgically opening or bypassing closed arteries.

As Arizona psychiatrist Ed Gogek wrote in the Buffalo News, the new Surgeon General should back alternative medicine. Dr. Gogek indicates that the public is far ahead of medical experts and politicians on alternative medicine. Isn’t it time they caught up?

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