Did you see today's GMA report on supplements? I was expecting a well-researched, well presented segment, as ABC usually does (at the very least) a satisfactory job on reporting events and stories. That said, they missed the mark today. There's probably a link to the report on their site, if you're so inclined. Here's the letter I wrote and mailed this morning:
ABC News/GMA Consumer Report: Dirty Dozen Supplements: Seriously??
I was disappointed in your terroristic-flavored reporting of three herbal supplements, which aired this morning on GMA. The teasers were attention-grabbing, but the content of the report was thin, lack-luster and manipulative in nature, especially since you admitted the first supplement, Aconite, isn’t even used in the US, but is in China. You are Good Morning, America...right? According to the American Cancer Society, Aconite is not commercially prepared in the US: http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/HerbsVitaminsandMinerals/aconite
The ACS goes on to mention:
“When used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine, aconite is first processed to reduce its toxicity, and small doses are used to treat pain related to arthritis, cancer, gout, inflammation, migraine headaches, neuralgia, rheumatism, and sciatica. Certain ingredients are extracted from the leaves, flowers, and roots of the plant. It is available as a tincture, tea, ointment, or highly diluted into a homeopathic remedy.”
Poisonous substances have obviously been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Chemotherapy is toxic, too, as it’s purpose is to kill off cancer cells. Side effect: It kills the good cells, too.
There are all kinds of toxic/poisonous substances around us every day. We breathe in cigarette smoke, vehicle emissions, commercial (plant) emissions, vapors from road and other construction, etc. Poinsettia plants are toxic when consumed by dogs, but that doesn’t stop people from displaying them at Christmas. Mercury dental amalgams (silver fillings) are still the standard, albeit archaic, practice used by many American dentists --- talk about toxic! And millions of unsuspecting, trusting people walk around with them in their mouths 24/7. And you report on a substance that’s not even used or manufactured in the US.....Oh, don’t get me started!!
Seriously -- why even bother mentioning this nonsense about Aconite, especially at the top of the story?
The ‘other’ story: Herbs are the root pharmaceuticals (synthetics). However, herbs cannot be patented, which is why scientists are employed by pharmaceutical companies to modify them to create a new (synthetic) substance, so that they can be patented, manufactured (at the cost of pennies), marketed and sold, resulting in millions, and even billions of dollars in revenues. But at what cost to the consumer? (Keep in mind that I asked that question as you continue to read.)
There’s a bigger picture. Here’s a list of the top 10 pharmaceutical drugs from the Top 200 Products in the US Market by Sales, 2009:
Rank Product Manufacturer Revenue ($)
1 Lipitor Pfizer 7,549,791
2 Nexium AstraZeneca 6,303,553
3 Plavix Bristol-Myers Squibb/sanofi-aventis 5,586,824
4 Advair Diskus GlaxoSmithKline 4,672,163
5 Seroquel AstraZeneca 4,153,251
6 Abilify Otsuka 3,999,490
7 Singulair Merck/Schering-Plough 3,739,883
8 Actos Takeda 3,416,227
9 Enbrel Amgen 3,251,203
10 Epogen Amgen 3,208,132
11 Remicade Johnson & Johnson 3,197,168
12 Crestor AstraZeneca 3,038,476
13 Avastin Genentech 3,028,784
14 Neulasta Amgen 2,991,317
15 OxyContin Purdue 2,895,064
16 Cymbalta Lilly 2,835,613
17 Effexor XR Pfizer 2,788,211
18 Lexapro Forest 2,760,507
19 Lovenox sanofi-aventis 2,731,950
20 Zyprexa Lilly 2,678,513
There’s 180 more: http://www.pharmacytimes.com/issue/pharmacy/2010/May2010/RxFocusTopDrugs-0510
Let’s looks at #1 ranked Lipitor, a drug that has done well because the American public is undereducated about optimum nutritional choices and generally malnourished (although obesity and diabetes are on the rise). Medical doctors are offered zero hours of nutritional training in medical school, rendering them unable to make qualified nutritional recommendations in the best interest of their patients. It doesn’t make them bad doctors --- just un- or under-qualified nutritionists.
Here’s the skinny right off the Lipitor site:
Who Should Not Take LIPITOR?
Do not take LIPITOR if you:
• Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant. LIPITOR may harm your unborn baby. If you get pregnant, stop taking LIPITOR and call your doctor right away
• Are breast feeding. LIPITOR can pass into your breast milk and may harm your baby
• Have liver problems
• Are allergic to LIPITOR or any of its ingredients. The active ingredient is atorvastatin *****see my note below, Drug Interactions*****
What Are the Possible Side Effects of LIPITOR?
LIPITOR can cause serious side effects. These side effects have happened only to a small number of people. Your doctor can monitor you for them. These side effects usually go away if your dose is lowered or LIPITOR is stopped.
These serious side effects include:
• Muscle problems. LIPITOR can cause serious muscle problems that can lead to kidney problems, including kidney failure. You have a higher chance for muscle problems if you are taking certain other medicines with LIPITOR.
• Liver problems. LIPITOR can cause liver problems. Your doctor may do blood tests to check your liver before you start taking LIPITOR, and while you take it.
Call your doctor right away if:
• You have muscle problems like weakness, tenderness, or pain that happen without a good reason, especially if you also have a fever or feel more tired than usual
• You have allergic reactions including swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and/or throat that may cause difficulty in breathing or swallowing, which may require treatment right away
• You experience nausea and vomiting
• You pass brown or dark-colored urine
• You feel more tired than usual
• Your skin and whites of your eyes get yellow
• You have stomach pain
• You have an allergic skin reaction
In clinical studies, patients reported the following common side effects while taking LIPITOR:
• Upset stomach
• Muscle and joint pain
• Alterations in some laboratory tests
The following additional side effects have been reported with LIPITOR:
• Tendon problems
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have side effects that bother you or that will not go away. These are not all the side effects of LIPITOR. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a complete list.
Before You Start LIPITOR
Tell your doctor if you:
• Have muscle aches or weakness
• Drink more than 2 glasses of alcohol daily
• Have diabetes
• Have a thyroid problem
• Have kidney problems
Some medicines should not be taken with LIPITOR. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including:
• Prescription and nonprescription medicines
• Herbal supplements
LIPITOR and certain other medicines can interact causing serious side effects. Tell your doctor if you are taking any medicines, especially those for:
• Your immune system
• Birth control
• Heart failure
• HIV or AIDS
What they fail to mention specifically are:
DRUG INTERACTIONS: Decreased elimination of atorvastatin could increase levels of atorvastatin in the body and increase the risk of muscle toxicity from atorvastatin. Therefore, atorvastatin should not be combined with drugs that decrease its elimination. Examples of such drugs include erythromycin (E-Mycin), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), clarithromycin (Biaxin), telithromycin (Ketek), cyclosporine (Sandimmune), nefazodone (Serzone), and HIV protease inhibitors such as indinavir (Crixivan) and ritonavir (Norvir).
NOTE: Erythromycin is widely prescribed, yet not mentioned on the site. Most people don’t do the kind of research I do. Can’t pharmaceutical companies be more specific about their products --- especially when it comes to safety? I, for one, am allergic to erythromycin. Thankfully, I don’t have health issues, and therefore don’t find myself in a position to be faced with the decision whether or not to take Lipitor.
Lipitor is a member of a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins. The statins include lovastatin (brand name: Mevacor), simvastatin (Zocor), pravastatin (Pravachol), fluvastatin (Lescol), atorvastatin (Lipitor), and cerivastatin (Baycol) (Baycol was withdrawn from the market in August 2001). Statin drugs are known to cause muscle pains and inflammation around the muscle cells (myositis). It should also be noted that the risk of muscle injury is greater when a statin is combined with other drugs that also cause muscle damage by themselves. For example, when lovastatin (Mevacor) is used alone to lower cholesterol, muscle damage occurs on the average in one person out of about every 500. However, if lovastatin (Mevacor) is used in combination with other drugs such as niacin, gemfibrozil (Lopid), or fenofibrate (Tricor) to further reduce cholesterol levels, the risk of muscle injury skyrockets to one person out of every 20 to 100 who receive the combination. The risk of muscle damage is thus multiplied five- to 25-fold by using a combination of a statin and another cholesterol-lowering drug rather than by just using statin alone.
In fact, the manufacturers of statins recommend that any patient taking a statin "should be advised to report promptly any unexplained muscle pain, tenderness or weakness...When a muscle disease is suggested, the doctor stops the statin drug."
You see, statin drugs cause three types of muscle conditions. First, they can cause muscle aching. This condition generally reverses itself within weeks of discontinuing the drugs. Second, they can cause muscle pains and mild muscle inflammation that may also be accompanied by minor weakness. Blood testing for the muscle enzyme, CPK, is mildly elevated. This condition also generally reverses, but it may take several months to resolve. Third, statins can cause severe muscle inflammation and damage so that not only are the muscles painful all over the body, they also become severely weakened. Heart muscle can even (rarely) become affected. Blood testing for the muscle enzyme, CPK, is markedly elevated. When the muscles are severely damaged, the muscle cells release proteins into the blood that collect in and can damage the kidneys. This can lead to kidney failure and require dialysis.
More about that here:
And there’s much more. The FDA has received reports from AERS, the Adverse Event Reporting System, showing serious risks that have been identified for several pharmaceutical products, including Lipitor, which has shown cases of cognitive disorders.
The deal with high cholesterol is learning to make high quality nutritional food choices. It’s really that simple. Educate America.
There’s no need for me to go through the whole top 10 list....you get the point.
There are those who are sent home by their doctors to die. They are told, “there’s nothing more I can do for you,” and they’re sent packing --- with no mention of food or review of lifestyle choices.
Any practitioner worth their credential knows that:
Knowing one’s lifestyle choices is crucial in getting to the crux of their health issues.
When we find the source of the patient’s stress (condition, etc.), we are then able to make qualified decisions to correct the issue, and provide suggestions to pave a road to good health, rather than treat symptoms.
So next time you do a story on “herbs”, it would be helpful (and lend credibility) to provide solid information that makes sense, rather than “skim, scam and scare” your viewership. Why not do a story about herbs which can help people who cannot or unsuccessfully take pharmaceutical products for a given condition....Oh, heck, be a Rock Star and add solid nutritional information!
But get the information from a trained nutritionist, not a dietician. I’m not suggesting that one is ‘better’ than the other, but nutritional training would be optimum in this case as the training between the two fields is very different. (I don’t have the gardener rewire my house, but the gardener and the electrician both work on my house.)
In the very best of health,
Kristin Mills, ND, CNHP