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Mylan Pharmaceuticals recently announced a recall of its drug Valsartan, which is used to treat high blood pressure, kidney damage, and heart failure. It sounds like a wonder drug in theory, but looking at the reasons behind the recall, it’s pretty scary…
According to the press release, Valsartan contained detectable traces of an impurity that was carcinogenic, or causes cancer. In fact, it was an impurity that’s typically found in air pollution and industrial processes. Imagine taking a smoggy skyline and ingesting it in pill form…
This is not the first time this has happened either. In fact, it is the FOURTH such recall in the last few months.
Pharmaceutical companies Sandoz Inc. and ScieGen Pharmaceuticals recalled hypertension drugs Losartan and Irbesartan respectively after they found the same carcinogen in them.
Meanwhile, Hydrochlorothiazide tablets, another blood pressure medication, were found to contain a completely unrelated drug and were recalled as well.
Currently, we don’t know how many people have been hurt by these toxic drugs, but it’s certainly worrying. The thalidomide scandal was only 60 years or so ago, and people still feel the pain of the FDA failing to protect consumers.
The key message here is: the FDA can’t protect you.
So even if it has FDA approval, there’s no such thing as a completely “safe” pill. There’s always a risk.
Read on to find out how to protect yourself from bad pills that Big Pharma has told you are safe and necessary.
Medications are designed to cure, not kill. So when a medication designed to help our patients ends up potentially causing them to develop cancer, it represents a tremendous failure on the part of the manufacturer and regulators, who claim they exist to keep consumers safe.
In fact, Big Pharma routinely spreads propaganda about the dangers of consumers importing drugs from abroad. The message comes down to this: as long as the US public submits themselves to the exploitatively expensive operations of the US pharmaceutical industry, at least they’ll be safe.
It would be a mistake to assume that just because a regulator appears to be in a position of authority, that they’re actually competent. The government cannot ensure the safety of domestic drugs anymore than foreign regulators do for their drugs.
So if we can’t rely on the FDA, who are we supposed to rely on? Ourselves.
The Latin phrase “Caveat emptor” is very apt here: “The principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made.”
What is particularly frustrating about this entire fiasco is it simply confirms my view that people are far too reliant on pills and not on their own lifestyle.
A substantial portion of Valsartan consumption in the United States is for ‘essential hypertension’ (hypertension without an obvious cause). The idea is that people with essential hypertension need this drug and there’s nothing they can do.
The truth is, instead of taking this drug that treats the symptoms of hypertension, people would be far better off working to address the actual causes of their hypertension through a good diet and exercise.
Instead, people are continuing to lead unhealthy lifestyles and just popping pills to mask the issue.
Much of this comes from the perverse incentives of a third-party payer system that reward doctors for prescribing pills for each individual ailment. This system has also resulted in medical clinics that churn and burn patients as fast as they can. Doctors in the third-party payer insurance system may pay lip service to lifestyle modifications, but seldom offer patients the kind of individualized attention and long-term support they need to successfully craft a healthy lifestyle.
What this amounts to is millions of Americans taking medications that are completely unnecessary. The result? More reliance on big Pharma and the FDA.
In my work as a hospitalist, I often see patients who are on more than thirty medications. In many of these cases, I could immediately cut those out with no change in the patient’s health. Far too often doctors prescribe pills for each symptom a patient is facing, instead of actually treating the root cause of their issues.
And the problem is getting worse. The American Heart Association recently lowered the threshold for what constitutes “high” blood pressure, meaning nearly 30 million more US citizens are going to be drawn to this medical trap.
So, we have a system which encourages rampant pill taking and regulators who can’t ensure the safety of all these pills. So what can you do? Start by taking responsibility for your health, here’s how:
First, reject the message of the US healthcare system and start making steps to live a healthy life. You will experience many more health benefits by eating well, losing weight, getting exercise, and managing your stress and sleep than relying on pills.
By doing this, you will reduce your susceptibility to the vast majority of diseases. Pills only target specific conditions, and if you don’t manage the lifestyle side of things you’ll be playing whack-a-mole with your own body.
On top of that, you’ll dramatically reduce the extent to which Pharma can exploit you with their ludicrously high prices. Reducing your dependence will both save you a lot of money and reduce the risk that you’ll end up poisoned by the FDA’s incompetence.
Second, ask your doctor this one crucial question: do I really need this? Press your doctor on the necessity of your medications. Far too often, doctors simply give you a pill and send you on your way. It’s your health. If you want to take care of it, you need to be assertive. If you don’t trust the doctor’s response, do your own research or seek a second opinion from a doctor you can trust to have your best interests at heart. Learn more about how to do that here.
Third, cultivate a healthy skepticism of authority. Just because someone is in a position of authority, it doesn’t mean they are infallible. Do your own research into the medications you’re prescribed, and look for historical errors by the FDA. With all of this, you’ll be armed against exploitation by the people who claim to protect you.
The sad truth is that helping patients thrive is not something the current system will ever accomplish; it needs to be the responsibility of the individual to avoid it.
As long as patients still subscribe to the way medicine currently works they’ll never get the kind of close, individualized lifestyle advice they need to survive and thrive. Instead, churn and burn will be the name of the game.
Luckily, there is a movement that’s changing all of this: Direct Primary Care. Direct primary care doctors have kicked third party payers out of their practices, and by doing so they’re able to give their patients the kind of close attention necessary to help them maximize their health.
There is no magic pill that can restore someone’s health. But by taking responsibility for your health and developing a close partnership with a properly incentivized doctor, you will be less susceptible to exploitation and able to live a healthier, fuller life.
This information is intended to help readers be more informed about their health options when speaking with a professional, but it should not be used alone to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. Be sure to speak to a qualified doctor before taking any action to make sure that your choices reflect your actual health situation.