First, Do No Harm...

There is a beautiful ancient latin maxim, Primum non nocere, which means "First, do no harm". Although the exact origins of this phrase are unclear, we know that it has guided physicians from the throughout the ages, reminding them that any medication or procedure they recommend to patient should ultimately improve their health and well-being and most importantly - do them no harm.

Somehow, somewhere in the search for ever larger pharmaceutical company profits, it seems that the meaning of this phrase has been lost. Modern pharmaceutical drugs often have the potential to cause more harm than any good that they could do!

Did you know that complications arising from taking seemingly harmless painkillers such as Ibuprofen, Advil and Aspirin (the so called NSAIDs or Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) account for almost 16,000 deaths per year and more than a third of those are due to Aspirin? I know, you may be a little confused as to how we have come to accept pain relief drugs that come with the risk of death for the person taking it - don't worry, it baffles my mind too!

Clearly the problem is our over reliance on chemical drugs. I think it's important to realize that with the advent of chemical drug patents, a new profit motivated industry was born - the healthcare industry. Sadly, providing care is no longer the primary aim of healthcare companies, the aim is to make a profit. If you think about it, big pharmaceuticals companies are listed on wall street and are publicaly traded companies - their allegiance is not going to lie with the patients that use their products, it's going lie with their shareholders who expect to see a good profit at the end of each period.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was of course originally set up to protect consumers from potentially dangerous drugs and provide approval for drugs that have been found to be effective in relieving or even curing certain diseases. It just hasn't really worked out that way. The idea was of course good, but clearly nobody back then could really predict the implications of the patented chemical drug industry and it's chief guiding principle: greed.

Somehow the influence of big pharmaceutical greed has infiltrated the FDA over the years and it has never been clearer than during the 2004 Vioxx scandal. Evidence surfaced late in that both the FDA and the drug company, Merck had known for years about the painkiller Vioxx's safety problems and had chosen instead to cover up information about it's dangers. It also turned out that the FDA was routinely suppressing the discoveries and warnings of it's own scientists including the associate director for science and medicine at the FDA's Office of Drug Safety (ODS), Dr. David Graham. Dr. Graham later testified that he had tried on numerous occasions to raise concerns about the safety of the drug Vioxx and was told to keep quiet. A study performed by Dr. Graham had shown that Vioxx was responsible for an estimated 38,000 unnecessary heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths. Dr. Graham described his estimate as conservative with a more realistic figure being around 88,000 to 132,000 people needlessly suffering heart attacks or dying.

Natural medicines don't get approval from the FDA for the most part. Naturally occurring substances cannot be patented, so no one is willing to put up the millions of dollars that are required to get FDA approval. The same is true when it comes to the money that drug companies are able to spend on advertising campaigns, makers of natural products just can't afford to spend so much money advertising products that cannot be patented with the net effect that the public is left with the view that chemical drugs are the only effective and safe options, which they have proved on many occasions to be neither.

Natural cures including whole foods, therapeutic exercise and supplements do work, and they work well. There is also less chance of side-effects and specifically serious side-effects as the substances involved are of a natural as opposed to chemical origin.

Don't get me wrong, there are situations where a chemical drug can be a real life-saver, and I am grateful that we have access to such interventions where they are necessary. I think though it's time to restore the balance by informing the public about natural options that heal gently without side-effects. As a Nutrition Consultant, I've always preferred natural cures to chemical drugs and the beautiful maxim "First, do no harm" is a guiding principle of Namaste Pacific Wellness.

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