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And do you want pills with that?

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Article: Dr Ross Walker, Switzer Daily, Thursday, June 06, 2019

The first line of the Hippocratic oath is “first do no harm”. For something written 2 ½ thousand years ago, it still is highly relevant for today’s practice of medicine.

“I often state the statistics that the commonest cause of death and disability in the world is cardiovascular disease...(t)he second commonest cause of death and disability and closing in fast is cancer”.

Disturbingly, Dr Walker comments, “the third commonest cause of death and disability is Western Healthcare. The most expensive health care system in the world, the United States of America, rates number 45 in terms of longevity. Clearly, over investigation, unnecessary medical procedures and the excessive use of pharmaceutical drugs contribute significantly to this statistic”. Terribly, the audience is not particularly shocked, or horrified with this statement, even after processing cognitively. Is this what we accept? To be killed by ‘Healthcare’?

Of course, “there have been enormous strides in medical investigations and therapies over the past few decades, significant complications of medical procedures and side effects from pharmaceuticals are unfortunately rather commonplace. It could be easily argued that, if the person was left alone, their underlying condition could either cause them significant issues or even bring on an early death. But there are increasing concerns, both within and outside of the practice of medicine, that we should look carefully at the medications we prescribe and the medical procedures we perform on many patients”. Is sounds like we, as a community, have an outlook of ‘it’s too good to be true, but I am going to do it anyway, because the doctor said so’, or, worse than that: the doctor said so!

Notably, Dr Walker refers to “(t)wo recent studies(that) have clearly shown the concern over commonly prescribed medications. The first from the University of South Australia published in the journal “Australian Prescriber” looked at just under 8,900 veterans with hip fractures and compared them to 35,310 people without this condition. The average age in the study was 88 and 63% were female. The study showed that those patients who were chronically taking antidepressants, opioid painkillers, anticonvulsants and the common anxiety relieving pills the benzodiazepines such as Valium, had a significant increase risk for hip fractures. One or a combination of any of these medications may lead to an alteration in the level of consciousness, dizziness, blurred vision and unsteadiness. All these factors can then contribute to a fall leading to a traumatic hip fracture”. Clearly, and even on a basic level, a contradiction of intent and purpose versus reality and harm.

Dr Walker reiterates that it “(i)s estimated that if an older person is on one of these medications, he or she has double the risk for hip fracture but, for example, if you combined antidepressants with anti-anxiety treatments, the risk is five times”. Whoa! Stop press! Are you READING this? FIVE TIMES THE RISK!

And Dr Walker is NOT talking USA either, which can often desensitize the feeling of “what’s happening in Oz”. No, he says, “(i)t is estimated that in Australia alone there are 28,000 hip fractures per year in people over the age of 50! (Editor’s note: OMG, I am 50 in a few years!). Alarmingly, “(five percent) of these people die during the hospital stay and 10% are admitted to aged care. Clearly, the best treatment of hip fracture is prevention and most doctors and patients need to examine carefully the medications they are prescribing and swallowing to determine whether they are vitally necessary”. (Note the word, VITALLY)

Dr Walker says, “(t)he second equally disturbing study was published recently in the British medical Journal by researchers at the Washington University School of medicine in St Louis. This study examined the use of the commonly prescribed heartburn drugs known as PPIs, such as Nexium, Pariet and Somac, to name a few. They examined the data from 2002 to 2004 from 157, 625 people prescribed PPIs and 56,842 people prescribed the gentler H2 blockers. These patients were mainly male, caucasian & over the age of 65 followed for 10 years. The study showed that there were 45 excess deaths per 1,000 people prescribed PPIs compared to H2 blockers and in particular deaths related to cardiovascular disease, stomach cancer & chronic kidney disease”. So much for heartburn!

“The risk of death increased with the duration of treatment, even at low doses. The suggestion from the study was that taking PPIs for months and especially years is not safe and, in fact, should not exceed 14 days”. (editor’s emphasis)

“ (H)eartburn and other forms of peptic ulcer disease can be disabling in many people and the PPIs are wonder drugs for the relief of symptoms. Over the past decade there have been a number of studies linking chronic PPI therapy to not only cardiovascular death but also heart attack and actual fibrillation. One study suggested a 40% increase risk for dementia especially with Nexium. There is also a link with osteoporosis and as mentioned gastric cancer and chronic kidney disease”. Reading Dr Walker’s comment has me thinking, surely an alternative approach would be better, than killing sufferers with a wonder drug?

The point? “Strong medicine has strong effects, no doubt, but clearly may also have significant strong side-effects”. Please note: Anyone reading this article who has been prescribed any of these therapies on a chronic basis should not stop treatment without discussing the pros and cons with your doctor.

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