Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hyper-prescribing and Natural Alternatives

The ignoring or dismissal of natural alternatives to the use of prescription drugs or pharmaceuticals has little justification. And it is more than a little crazy. Let me use myself as a case in point. I remember, almost ten years ago, that my blood pressure had rather suddenly spiked to about 150/100. That's high but not extremely high, but I hadn't experienced a blood pressure issue until this time and I was naturally concerned. I went for an examination, in this case I was examined by a nurse practitioner, and it was recommended that I immediately go on high blood pressure medication. I decided to pass; I chose instead to monitor my sodium intake and also take various supplements such as olive leaf extract. It took some time, but gradually my blood pressure returned to normal levels. Now, about ten years later, my blood pressure is within normal range and I avoided, quite possibly, the taking of blood pressure medication for the rest of my life.
The rush to prescribe powerful prescribed pharmaceuticals has become commonplace. However, natural supplementation with extracts from herbal and nutritional sources have never been more effective. I think the pharmaceutical industry likely deserves some of the credit here because today the active compounds in natural extracts are far more accurately identified and measured than in the past. Taking herbs and other natural substances today has science behind it, and clinical studies too even if the DSHEA statute in the United States prohibits any claims on product labels concerning efficacy regarding their use in treating disease.

And then, of course, there is the ever-present issue of profit. Pharmaceutical companies cannot patent natural substances derived from foods or traditionally used herbs and as a result they have little or no motivation to perform the highly expensive clinical trials required by the FDA to certify their effectiveness as medicinals. And so, as a result, individual consumers can only experiment on their own; physicians are generally untrained in their usage and the prescription of ridiculously expensive pharmaceuticals, with their serious potential side-effects, are the norm. Some patients go to see alternative holistic practitioners but the mainstream, in general, won't go to them and most, anyway, are not covered by insurance.

Dietary and herbal extracts are not endorsed by the FDA and, therefore, they are not "proven" to be effective. Therefore, they are unproven and, thus, officially "unscientific" and not used in traditional protocols.

What is the net result of this charade? The obscenely high cost of prescribed pharmaceuticals are a significant factor in the soaring cost of healthcare and the current healthcare crisis, which is endemic of the cultural epidemic of hyper-profiteering in economic sectors that do not distinguish profits in, say, the computer or shoe industries from profits made, for example, from the delivery of healthcare and education. Clearly, pharmaceuticals have their role, but the point that I am making here is that nutritional or dietary supplements also have their place in treatment regimes, often as an initial therapy, but they are too often ignored because of inexperience and lack of knowledge pertaining to their usefulness, or disparaged with a knee-jerk and smug dismissal.                                                                                  

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