A prescription drug is a compromise

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

May 2013

Almost every choice we make in life is a compromise. The convenience of driving brings the risk of an accident; the thrill of mountain climbing may end with a fall; food poisoning is an occasional consequence of inexpensive, mass-produced hamburger or peanut butter. The pharmaceutical industry has brought us enormous benefits but its products are responsible for roughly 100,000 deaths per year. All of these are compromises that we accept but we can minimize the last by changing our mindset and our lifestyle.

It's not an exaggeration to say that the vast majority of prescription drugs in today's pharmacies are needed for the treatment of diseases that didn't exist or that were rare less than a century ago. Insulin is critical for the treatment of type 1 diabetes and for many patients with type 2 diabetes but most of the latter take other pharmaceutical agents, all of which have some side effects.

Type 2 diabetes is an exercise-deficiency disease according to some researchers in the field. Indeed, when a group of pre-diabetic patients were either given a prescription diabetes drug or began a program of approximately 2 ½ hours of exercise a week, more of those in the exercise group were able to postpone the onset of diabetes, and with no medication side effects.

In the attempt to prevent heart disease and stroke, millions of Americans take statin drugs in order to lower cholesterol levels. The benefits of statins have been documented in several studies but so have their side effects. These range from painful muscles to kidney failure, liver disease and death. Yet with few exceptions, high cholesterol levels, which are only partly responsible for heart disease and stroke, are the result of poor diet and inadequate physical activity that lead to obesity. Elevated cholesterol levels, heart attack and stroke are very rare in hunter-gatherer societies where there is a lack of refined grains and sugar, little or no saturated fat and high levels of physical activity. It isn't necessary to revert completely to a Stone Age lifestyle in order to avoid the need for cholesterol-lowering agents. Small changes in lifestyle bring huge improvements in health.

Conditions that range from high blood pressure to osteoporosis are nearly completely avoidable. These and the conditions mentioned above can be alleviated but not cured by prescription drugs. Our medication mindset appears unstoppable in spite of the failures and the dangers that are so obvious.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.