Modern medical care is based on scientific studies that evaluate drugs; however, these studies
are heavily biased toward pharmacological interventions. The studies are funded, and results
interpreted, by the pharmaceutical companies, or they are at least influenced by their funding
sponsors. Articles being published in the most prestigious medical journals are no longer
composed of careful science; for decades they have been supported or conducted by
pharmaceutical companies and as a result they are essentially drug advertisements. The
information brought to and taught to the medical profession is shaped by its commercial value to
drug companies. The fundamental purpose of most scientific research articles published today
is how to improve corporate profits. Modern medical care has mostly evolved into a
drug-distribution arm of the pharmaceutical industry, rather than being a profession primarily
centered on improving people’s health. A true health-care profession that is concerned with
maximizing patients’ well-being would be focused on removing impediments to better health.
The emphasis would be on the promotion of healthy habits, such as smoking cessation,
exercise, and dietary improvement, as well as protection against exposure to chemicals, toxins,
and other known causes of disease. Instead, prescription drugs, all of which have toxicities and
dangers, have become the primary intervention for every dietary-induced health issue. Contrary
to public perception, doctors often do not review the potential negative consequences of
medications when they prescribe them. As I have already pointed out, blood pressure–lowering
medications are the most commonly prescribed class of medications in the United States, yet
serious health risks associated with them are rarely discussed. For example, calcium-channel
blockers (CCBs), a commonly prescribed class of blood pressure medication, have been linked
to higher rates of cancer in women. 9 Longtime users of these drugs have been found to have
more than double the risk for getting breast cancer, compared with women not using the
medication. CCBs include amlodipine (Norvasc), diltiazem (Cardizem LA, Tiazac), isradipine
(Dyna-Circ CR), nicardipine (Cardene SR), nifedipine (Procardia, Procardia XL, Adalat CC),
nisoldipine (Sular), and verapamil (Calan, Verelan, Covera-HS).

The researchers found that
taking CCBs for at least ten years was associated with increased risks of both ductal and lobular
breast cancer, the most common types of breast cancer. Remember, cancer initiation and
promotion must occur many years before cancer is eventually diagnosed—usually twenty to fifty
years before diagnosis. So with only a ten-year follow-up, these data could be underestimating
the cancer-promoting potential of these drugs. It is common for pharmaceutical companies to
claim that their drugs do not cause cancer by doing follow-up studies for only two to three years,
when fifteen to twenty years would be needed to ascertain risk. Despite this major risk of
cancer, physicians have not changed their prescribing habits, nor have they been advised to do
so. The leading researcher reporting the results of this study wrote: “Despite the potential for
concern raised by this study, the findings don’t warrant any modifications of clinical practice. We
need to see confirmation of these results before we make any recommendation for women to
change what they are using.” In other words: Use drugs that are highly suspected to be unsafe
first, and keep using them until we know the extent of risk with 100 percent certainty. Doesn’t
this sound ridiculous? Given the heavy use of these drugs in the United States, with more than
17 percent of women over the age of 65 taking them, the implication of a doubling of breastcancer risk is huge—and represents tremendous suffering and death. Wouldn’t you expect, if
there were a question of safety, that doctors would err on the side of caution?

This practice is
the opposite of “First, do no harm”—the Hippocratic oath that all physicians take. But wait, it
gets much worse. These women on CCBs are often also on statin cholesterol-lowering
medications too, and those have been shown independently to double the risk of common types
of breast cancer. 10 Imagine the cancer risk if studies looked at people on a combination of
statins and CCBs. But scientific trials almost never consider or investigate the safety of drugs in
combination. In action, the Hippocratic oath has been interpreted to mean: Don’t just stand
there—prescribe medications, even if they are dangerous. This pharma-centric attitude is even
more distasteful when you consider the power and effectiveness of lifestyle medicine. Doctors
could be highly persuasive in motivating their patients to adopt nutritional excellence as their
path to superior health. But this would require them to be effectively trained and committed to
doing so—and not to see drugs as their primary option.

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