Question of the Week – 05 March 2007

(Background for question of the week):

America’s Health Care Expenditures Will Double In Next Ten Years!

The cost of taking care of America’s health is set to double over the next ten years to an annual bill of over 4 trillion dollars (that’s $4,000,000,000,000) according to a new report by federal economics experts. This means that by the year 2016, nearly 20 cents of every dollar earned in the US economy will be spent on health care.

The report puts the current spending on America’s health at 2.1 trillion dollars per year (based on 2006 estimates). This represents 16 cents in every dollar earned in the US economy.

(Question of the week):

Why do you think the amount of money spent on prescription drugs, doctor’s office visits, and surgeries are going to double over the next ten year?

  1. The average American is getting sicker, more often, because of lack of exercise and poor nutritional choices.

  2. The pharmaceutical industry is taking advantage of us.

  3. The government is to busy worrying about giving themselves pay raises and losing their PAC money to address this situation.

  4. The FDA, pharmaceutical industry, and the US government are spending billions of dollars to suppress low cost, effective, natural, alternative treatments so only the most expensive treatments will be available.

  5. All of the above.

Dietary Supplement Access Poll – 01/15/2007

January 17, 2007

Dear California Academy of Health customer:
Dietary Supplement Access Poll – 01/15/2007 results and my response to the CBS Nightly News piece on dietary supplements which aired in two parts, January 15th and 16th.

On January 15th I alerted CAOH.COM customers to a CBS Nightly News piece bashing dietary supplements and I also asked five simple questions. The response was immediate and overwhelming. Within two hours I received over 100 E-mails and by the morning of the 17th I had received well over 200. I am proud of those who took the time to show support for their right to access dietary supplements. A high level of responsibility is a personal attribute I value in those I call friend, and you have shown that today.

A preliminary review of the responses are as follows: 98% answered YES to questions 1, 2 and 3, while 99% answered NO to question 4. I have printed all responses and will be posting selected responses in the comment section below. I have also sent copies of my response to CBS, FDA, NPA, and many other interested parties.

FDA

CBS NPA

The Five Questions:
1. Do you think dietary supplements are safe? Yes or no?
2. Do you think dietary supplements work? Please explain.
3. Did you know that the government regulates dietary supplements? Yes or no?
4. Would you like to see government control or even eliminate your right to use dietary supplements? Yes or no?
5. Any additional comments are greatly appreciated.

THE TRUTH EXPOSED

Fact - Mrs. Sue Gilliatt, the woman whose nose, supposedly, fell off because of a dietary supplement dropped her 80-million-dollar lawsuit against Dan Raber. Why? Follow this link to find out (Go Here)
Dan Hurley is the author of Natural Causes: Death, Lies and Politics in America’s Vitamin and Herbal Supplement Industry, and the impetus for the CBS news piece. Below is just one sentence from his book and a perfect example of how to not be fair and balanced.

“Over 60 percent of Americans buy and take herbal and dietary supplements for all sorts of reasons – to prevent illness (vitamin C), to ease depression (St. John’s wort), to aid weight loss (ephedra), to boost the memory (ginkgo biloba), and even to cure cancer (shark cartilage, bloodroot) – despite the fact that few of these ‘natural’ supplements have been proven to be safe or effective.”

Fact - Linus Pauling M.D. devoted the latter part of his life to promote vitamin C and it’s preventative and curative powers. Doctor Pauling is the only two-time, unshared, Nobel Prize recipient. Who would you trust, Dr. Pauling or Mr. Hurley?

Fact – The Ginkgo tree dates back some 270 million years. It has been used medicinally for at least 1000 years and is the source of over 1900 research abstracts listed on PubMed (Ginko – PubMed link). Do you believe Mr. Hurley or the scientists contributing to these 1900 research papers?

Fact – The FDA does regulate dietary supplements and medications. When found not to be safe, the FDA will remove them from the market-place. (Yes I know they don’t always but they are supposed to and yes I know they are prejudiced against supplements). Here is a direct quote from the U.S. FDA website, “The choice to use a dietary supplement can be a wise decision that provides health benefits.” This is a tough one. Who do you believe the FDA or Mr. Hurley?

Fact – Mr. Hurley claims dietary supplements are unregulated and potentially deadly. Checking poisoning death figures from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, I see that supplements are safer than most other products: there were only 5 accidental deaths linked (reported as possibly due) to dietary supplements over a 3-year period.

In the same 3-year reporting period, there were 67 deaths from plain aspirin, 50 from aspirin combinations, 48 from pesticides, 7 from cosmetics, 66 from household cleaners, 171 from plain acetaminophen, and 446 from acetaminophen combinations. The medical journal JAMA reports that there are over 100,000 deaths a year from pharmaceutical drugs that are used as directed, and many more from improperly prescribed drugs.

How many died from the FDA-approved drug Vioxx? How many from mood-altering and cholesterol-lowering drugs? How many from cardiovascular disease aggravated by synthetic hormone replacement therapy?

Fact – 60% of Americans, according to Mr. Hurley, take dietary supplements. That’s just shy of 180,000,000 people taking supplements. Let’s just assume that 50% of all supplement users are being conned, duped, or forced under threat of death into taking them (just humor me here). That leaves 90,000,000 of us that Mr. Hurley thinks are idiots, and if it wasn’t for the grace of god that he was able to have the foresight and vision to write this book, we would all be damned to an eternity in dietary supplement hell.

Here is a quote from the book’s publisher, “As Hurley shows, the dietary supplement craze may be one of the greatest swindles ever perpetrated on the American public.”

Even the publisher, Broadway, thinks we are all stupid. Statistically speaking, how many people out of this 180,000,000 do you think are really misinformed or just plain naive when it comes to dietary supplements; maybe 180,000 or .01%? I personally feel I am being generous with that number. The majority of supplement takers, from my experience, are knowledgeable and informed.

Due to the launching of our new 100% goji juice (Absolute Goji) in the next few days and all it entails, I will not be able to post the selected responses till this weekend. From all of us at California Academy of Health, Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

Marcus Ettinger DC, BSc.
Chief Science Officer (CSO)
California Academy of Health
askthedoctor@caoh.com

P.S. Please feel free to E-mail me, anytime, with your thoughts or comments.

Health Blogs - Blog Top Sites

Report Finds a Heavy Toll From Medication Errors

July 21, 2006 by  
Filed under In The News

By GARDINER HARRIS
Published: July 21, 2006

WASHINGTON, July 20 Medication errors harm 1.5 million people and kill several thousand each year in the United States, costing the nation at least $3.5 billion annually, the Institute of Medicine concluded in a report released on Thursday.

Drug errors are so widespread that hospital patients should expect to suffer one every day they remain hospitalized, although error rates vary by hospital and most do not lead to injury, the report concluded.

The report, “Preventing Medication Errors,” cited the death of Betsy Lehman, a 39-year-old mother of two and a health reporter for The Boston Globe, as a classic fatal drug mix-up. Ms. Lehman died in 1993 after a doctor mistakenly gave her four times the appropriate dose of a toxic drug to treat her breast cancer.

Recommendations to correct these problems include systemic changes like electronic prescribing and tips for consumers like advising patients to carry complete listings of their prescriptions to every doctor’s visit, the report said.

“The incidence of medication errors was surprising even to us,” said J. Lyle Bootman, dean of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy. “The solutions are complex and far-reaching and will present challenges.”

The report is the fourth in a series done by the institute, the nation’s most prestigious medical advisory organization, that has called attention to the enormous health and financial burdens brought about by medical errors.

The first report, “To Err Is Human,” was released in 1999 and caused a sensation when it estimated that medical errors of all sorts led to as many as 98,000 deaths each year;  more than was caused by highway accidents and breast cancer combined.

After the first report, health officials and hospital groups pledged reforms, but many of the most important efforts have been slow to take hold.

Drug computer-entry systems, which are supposed to ensure that hospital patients get the right drugs at the right dose, are used in just 6 percent of the nation’s hospitals, said Charles B. Inlander, president of the People’s Medical Society, a consumer advocacy group, and an author of the report released Thursday.

Electronic medical records can help ensure that patients do not receive toxic drug combinations. The 1999 report urged widespread adoption of these systems. Thursday’s report called for all prescriptions to be written electronically by 2010.

Just 3 percent of hospitals have electronic patient records, said Henri Manasse, chief executive of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Few doctors prescribe drugs electronically.

Even simple medication safety recommendations – block printing on hand-written prescription forms – are widely ignored.

Arthur Levin, director of the Center for Medical Consumers and an author of the 1999 report, said that just about everyone in the health system was to blame. “This country has not taken seriously the alarms we sounded in 1999,” Mr. Levin said. “Why?”

Health organizations defended their efforts.

Alicia Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the American Hospital Association, said that since 1999 hospitals had “actively engaged in looking at using information technology to improve patient safety.”

A recent poll by the association of its members found that 92 percent intended to adopt electronic patient records, Ms. Mitchell said. But such systems are complicated and need to be built gradually, she said.

Thursday’s report urged the Food and Drug Administration to improve and standardize the drug information leaflets given consumers. It noted that confusing information on drug labels was an important cause of medication errors.

On Tuesday, the drug agency finished a years-long process by issuing voluntary guidelines to reform consumer drug information leaflets, said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency’s deputy commissioner. Many of these leaflets are not regulated by the F.D.A.

And on June 30, the agency completed a lengthy effort to clarify and standardize information on drug labels. The new labels could prevent nearly 300,000 medication errors each year and will make electronic prescribing efforts far easier to carry out, Dr. Gottlieb said.

Thursday’s report said that the common practice whereby drug companies provided free drug samples to doctors should be discouraged because such samples were poorly controlled. It urged drug makers to package more pills in individual packages. And it criticized drug makers as failing to disclose the results of all clinical trials involving their drugs.

Alan Goldhammer, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a drug industry trade group, said he differed with some of the report’s conclusions but concurred with the broad goals of increasing the use of information technology to reduce medication errors.

“Everybody is working on that right now,” he said.

Thursday’s report said that in any given week, four out of five adults in the United States took at least one medication. A third take at least five different medications. As the use of medications has soared, so, too have medication errors, Dr. Manasse said.

Effective strategies to prevent such errors have, however, been known for years, Mr. Inlander said.

“This is not rocket science,” Mr. Inlander said. “It’s simple. The key is having the will to make these changes in an organized and uniform way. And it’s not that expensive.”