The Greatest Threat to Our Health…and it is not a Disease

The Greatest Threat to Our Health…and it is not a Disease

Doctors know best… right?

The answer might not be as clear as you’d expect.

Practices in Western healthcare impact millions of people on Earth every year. From birth to the common cold to end-of-life care and everything in between, modern Western medicine has advanced exponentially in the last hundred years. With this advancement comes standards of effectiveness, safety, and predictability as well as ethical concerns.

Many people think their doctor’s word is final and authoritative. While your doctor is certainly one piece of a bigger puzzle, getting the care you need and the outcomes you want may depend on you taking the lead and hearing from different perspectives when it comes to your health. The days of accepting only your doctor’s word are over. 

Let’s back up a little bit. Humanity began practicing healthcare thousands of years ago — an ancient Egyptian medical book laid out the four basic tenets of treating patients: examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. It wasn’t until the 17th century that the scientific method (observation, hypothesis, experimentation, deduction) became the accepted process in scientific research. New technology and medication including insulin, antibiotics, the defibrillator, heart transplants, and microsurgery have defined the last century in medicine and in length and quality of life. 

Each of these advancements went through rigorous testing before approval. The public puts a lot of trust into the standards and testing products go through before they hit the market. But are modern practices coming from a completely unbiased, purely scientific place? Maybe not. 

Medical care in the United States is a very profitable business. A Feb., 2018 report by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) stated that health care spending in the US in 2017 was just under $3.5 trillion — $13,000 per person in the US. With these financial stakes, it would be reasonable to wonder if ethics do enough to keep research strictly scientific — or subject to interpretation that might look a little rosier for the pharmaceutical companies.  

That certainly appears to be the case in healthcare. A 2010 report by the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) in Germany found significant conflicts of interest when pharmaceutical or medical device companies fund studies. And nearly all of their reporting focused just on publication bias, not gender bias, selection bias, confirmation bias, sampling bias, or educational bias. 

Back in 2010, LiveScience reported “…about 60 percent of the related studies remained unpublished even five years after the FDA had approved the drugs for market. That meant physicians were prescribing the drugs and patients were taking them without full knowledge of how well the treatments worked.”

Respected medical professionals have gone on record with similar accounts. Richard Horton, editor in chief of The Lancet, said this in 2015: “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.”. Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) wrote in 2009: “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor.” Another NEJM alum, Dr. Arthur Relman, said this in 2002: “The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.”

These corruptions put us and our families at risk. We have sound reason to believe we don’t hear the entire truth about the drugs we’re prescribed, and neither are our doctors. This needs to stop. 

It’s our position that scientific research should be funded by public means, not private companies. Local, state, and federal entities should have the ability to fund scientific research out of general funds. It really is that simple. No private funding, no bias. With no bias we get sound scientific conclusions.

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