DRUG BUST by Alan Cassels
• Looking forward to a fresh new year of reporting from the underbelly of health and drugs, many ideas rush to mind. Surely another book is in the works? To start the year out right, here’s nine new, tongue-in-cheek ideas for books on health and pharmaceutical subjects that I think need a full airing. Let me ask you this: which book would you like to see on a bookshelf near you?
Hate Mail From Hypochondriacs
Most of my readers are polite, respectful and praising, yet my collection of nastygrams I have received over the years are from those who say I’m a little too hard on medicine, doctors, drug companies and general medical profiteers. Mail from people who take the time to write is particularly exhilarating as it shows great depth of commitment to causes and theories of healthcare, however misguided those causes or theories might be. Folks from the diabetes world, for example, will say I’m a little too quick to criticize the overly aggressive pushing of insulin on Type 2 diabetics, the prescribing of newer diabetes drugs (among the most useless prescription drugs on the planet) and the gross medicalization of blood sugars. Frankly, I think a major exposure is in order of the drug addled vampires pushing modern bloodletting, scaring millions of newly classified Type 2 diabetics and guilting them into drawing and testing blood several times a day. Note to file: there is no such contest as “He who dies with the lowest blood sugar wins!”
Rebel Patient: Informed Dissent and the Way to a Healthier You
At the risk of getting even more hate mail for preaching medical disobedience, I’m calling for more polite rebellion from patients. We are consistently told that ignoring your doctor’s advice is bad for your health, damages the “doctor-patient relationship” and could even result in your getting fired by your doctor, yet there’s an important distinction on when civil disobedience is warranted. If you have symptoms, a lump or something unusual that needs to be checked out, your doctor’s advice deserves close attention. But if you are otherwise healthy and visit the doctor and are bombarded with requests for tests, lab work or prescriptions you don’t understand, the healthiest response should be mild protest. The poking and prodding of the already healthy is medically intrusive and causes worry. It demands that you understand all the possible things that could go wrong because, in the words of my new motto, “Just because it’s healthcare doesn’t mean it’s good for you.” Politeness goes a long way and so too does appropriate rebellion.
Statistical Delusions and the Toxic Mix of Medicine and Math
Worried about being at risk for a heart attack or stroke? Then you need a bit of math. You can consult a cardiovascular risk calculator (many are free on the internet) and determine what your overall 10-year heart attack or stroke risk might be. Go ahead, play with the numbers; alter your blood glucose, your blood pressure, weight or cholesterol and you will learn how mostly trivial it all is. Most people – and here I include specialists like cardiologists – are seriously deluded on the “risk reduction” numbers related to altering these risk factors. It doesn’t help that the numbers are almost always displayed in positive, glowing (and misleading) terms. Of the 100 people like you who take high blood pressure drugs for “high” blood pressure, the best case scenario is that maybe three people would be saved from having a heart attack in the next 10 years, but here’s the kicker: 97 of the 100 people who swallow a lot of drugs and spend a lot of money because they are scared about their blood pressure and worried it could kill them are unlikely to benefit at all. Statistical delusions are wasteful and expensive. My book will show they are avoidable, too.
The De-Prescribing Revolution: Getting Better by Cutting Back
There are many actions people can take to ensure they won’t suffer the ill effects of too much medicine. Particularly for older people, the most important thing is fewer drugs. Surely we trust that the doctors, specialists and other healthcare professionals looking after us are all doing things in our best interests, but there is one thing they are probably not doing: talking to each other. The end result is your elderly mom is stuck taking 23 medications and everyone in the family wonders why she feels like crap. We are already seeing the “De-prescribing Revolution” being fuelled by patients who ask hard questions about medication overload and the doctors who are ending this craziness. Asking, “Do I really need to be on all these drugs?” will give you the power to start the revolution.
The Flu Fiasco: What Isn’t Controversial About the Annual Flu Shot?
“Do it for yourself. Do it for the ones you love!” proclaim the exhortations every year when autumn rolls around and patients are told to roll up their sleeves for a flu shot. What we never learn is who is driving all the medical activity, the sheer hype and the millions in public health money to sell a vaccine to perfectly healthy people for a so-called disease that most people, if they get it, live through quite fine. The flu shot is a vaccine statistically unlikely to help the vast majority of people who take it. It exposes people to small, but potentially serious, risks and may actually increase your risk of developing the flu in future years. This whole embarrassing fiasco of professional recommendations and public health pronouncements are born from government/industry “partnerships” bent on protecting reputations and profits regardless of how colossally stupid they are.
Flipper Babies of the 21st Century – Relearning Lessons of Drugs in Pregnancy
The fact that prescription drug use in pregnant women continues to be promoted, encouraged and supported – even as the spectre of malformed thalidomide children haunts the human consciousness – needs a major smackdown. This book catalogues the often irrational way pregnant women are prescribed antidepressants, vaccines and a range of other prescription drugs against mounting evidence that we are at risk of having even more children who will suffer lifelong injuries and ill health due to that prescribing.
Dr. Dupe: How to Fool Even the Cleverest of Doctors
Even among the many doctors who adamantly refuse to become part of pharma’s marketing plan, you can find evidence of the corrosive effects of pharma spin. In a medical culture where many doctors accept visits from drug reps, eat pharma lunches and attend “educational” activities planned and hosted by pharma, this near-daily diet of misinformation is perfectly legal and thoroughly corrupting. Rarely, however, will you find anyone on this diet that considers themselves duped. Documenting the many tricks, both subtle and obvious, used by practitioners wielding the greatest influence on the planet, I will write a book that will make you want to join the throngs of us demanding the great cleansing of medicine.
Fat Shaming, Guilt Tripping and Other Moral Disgraces From the World of Workplace Wellness
This book is about an array of increasingly troubling techniques used mostly in the US – but increasingly in Canada – trying to engender a higher level of “wellness” through workplace programs. Across a spectrum of programs, ranging from the merely inconvenient to massive bullying on a corporate scale, learn the many ways of influencing peoples’ health behaviour – a massively immoral exercise likely to be counterproductive.
The Four Horsemen of Hyperdiagnosis
While having a risk factor for a disease is not a disease in and of itself, we can surely make it look like one. Welcome to the world of PreDiabetes, PreHypertension, PreOsteoporosis and PreCancer, the four Horsemen of Hyperdiagnosis, threatening to enslave the world in the spectre of Pre-Death. For profit, no doubt.
Do you want to vote? Go to www.alancassels.com and vote for your favourite choice!
Alan Cassels is a drug policy researcher and author in Victoria. His latest book, The Cochrane Collaboration: Medicine’s Best Kept Secret is now available. Follow him on twitter @AKECassels