Science shows we can
by Alan Cassels
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. – Hippocrates
More than a decade ago, UBC’s Therapeutics Initiative (TI) published a very alarming newsletter. It made virtually no waves at the time, but it struck me as a dire prediction of the state of prescribing in British Columbia.
The alleged benefits of lowering our cholesterol have never materialized and we have wasted tens of billions of dollars over the last two decades, deluded by a myth. It’s time to drop that myth.
Lately, I’ve got overdiagnosis on my mind.
Currently, we’re living through a perceived doctor shortage in BC, a crisis affecting as many as 600,000 British Columbians. In 2010, the governing BC Liberals promised that, within five years, everyone in BC who needed a family doc would get one. They even made this promise part of electioneering in 2013. How’s that plan worked out?
• “Preventive medicine displays all three elements of arrogance…Aggressively assertive…Presumptuous…Overbearing.”
• In the last five years in British Columbia, taxpayers – that would be you and I – spent over $100 million on drugs and insulins for type-2 diabetes through our Pharmacare program. In addition, people in BC probably spent another $200 million out of their own pockets and the pockets of our employer-sponsored drug plans on diabetes treatments. Add to that the costs of all the doctor’s visits and the diabetes paraphernalia – including glucose test strips, lab tests and so on to keep blood sugars monitored – and two things are clear: this is one expensive disease and it creates a huge amount of medical busywork.
• The disease-creation machine continues to creep forward, threatening to consume even more of us healthy people. Consider these recent news items:
• In the 1997 political satire film Wag the Dog, Anne Heche, playing an advisor to the US president, turns to Robert De Niro, another presidential aide and whispers, “We can’t afford a war.” De Niro waves his hand and replies confidently, “We’re going to have the ‘appearance’ of a war.”
• Wandering the halls of a college or university campus can be enlightening in seeing how the pharmaceutical marketing machine is insinuating itself into the lives of young people.
• Warning: this column is for people who are taking (or have been offered) heartburn drugs or are considering treatment for heartburn. In other words: most of us. If you develop heartburn or ulcers, there is a good chance you’ll be offered a prescription from the most effective – and possibly most inappropriately over-consumed – class of drugs on the planet: a proton pump inhibitors or PPIs.