ore than a quarter of children and teens in the are taking a medication on a regular basis. Close to seven percent are on two or more prescription drugs. Prescribing medications to children can cause problems; many of them have not had their effects on children researched. Even in ones that have, the consequences of using them over the course of a lifetime is usually unknown. According to the Wall Street Journal: ” Children and teens are taking a wide variety of medications once considered only to be for adults, from statins to diabetes pills and sleep drugs, according to figures provided to The Wall Street Journal by IMS Health, a research firm. Prescriptions for antihypertensive in people age 19 and younger could hit 5.5 million this year if the trend though September continues… Unhealthy diets and lack of exercise among children … fuel the use of some treatments, such as those for hypertension.” Meanwhile, there’s an ongoing discussion about which is more dangerous: alternative medicine or prescription drugs? A recent survey led found four deaths between 2001 and 2003 that were associated with use of alternative treatments in Australia. However, according to health and nutrition expert Dr. Gary Null, deaths associated with use of dietary supplements or alternative medicine are extremely rare compared to the death toll from the medical errors and prescription drugs. Yet despite the well-documented dangers of prescription drugs and a painful recession, drug companies still represent the nation’s third most profitable business sector in the U.S. How do they do that? At least in part by cheating the government, misrepresenting science, and bribing doctors. Writing in AlterNet, Martha Rosenberg lists 15 ways the drug companies lie, break the law, or risk your health for profit. Here are a few of them:
1. Astroturf Patients: they create fake patient advocacy groups to lobby for drug company interests. These front groups often push the FDA to approve an expensive drug that has acceptable, cheaper alternatives.
2. Cheating the Government: drug companies are a top defrauder of the federal government. They’ve been hit with $14.8 billion in wrongdoing settlements in the last five years — but that’s still cheaper than going about things the legal way.
3. Dangerous Trials: presiding over clinical trials can make a doctor thousands per patient — and sometimes they compromise patient safety just to get at that money.
4. Deceptive Trials: trials that only determine that a drug is “not worse” than another one can skew results. And some research deliberately skewed, with results decided upon before the trial is ever conducted.
The recent article on child and teen drug use published in The Wall Street Journal is nothing if not shocking. It’s exceedingly hard to fathom that more than 25 percent of American youths are now taking prescription medication on a regular basis. Among adolescents aged 10 to 19, the figure jumps to 30 percent, and nearly seven percent are taking two or more drugs. This is an absolute prescription for disaster, and there’s simply NO justification for it, other than to maximize corporate profits for the drug cartels. These are kids for God’s sake. How could it be possible that one in four would need drug assistance in the healthiest years of their life?Few trends highlight the fatal flaws in the U.S. medical system more than our ruthless drugging of children. Not only are kids coming down with chronic diseases once only seen in adults (heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression), but they are being medicated with toxic drugs rather than being taught how to get healthy, naturally. In a couple of decades, these kids will find out that the medications they’ve been given have done nothing to heal their bodies, and if nothing changes they will find themselves on an increasing list of drugs that will accelerate their early demise. Children and adolescents should be, for the most part, at their health peak. Instead, this age group now represents the leading growth category for the pharmaceutical industry, with increases nearly four times higher than those seen in the rest of the population, as of last year. This is extremely troubling and tragic for a number of reasons:
1. Research on drug safety is limited in general, but nearly non-existent for many of the drugs now prescribed to children
2. The impact of using drugs—ANY drug—for the majority of an entire lifetime is not only “poorly understood,” but entirely unknown, as such long-term studies have not been done. Hence the current generation of child drug users are literally acting as long-term guinea pigs
3. The future health care costs for these children is likely going to be astronomical, as their health will begin to spiral downward due to side effects from the drugs—which will be treated with an ever increasing number of drugs and costly medical treatments
4. Older, established drugs are also rarely scrutinized for safety in children, since drug companies have little incentive to test medicines once their patent protection has expired
Some of the most commonly prescribed drugs for children and teens these days include drugs for: Asthma; Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); Statins; Diabetes drugs and Sleeping pills. The last three of these drugs are designed for adults. They were never intended for widespread use in children, and safety and effectiveness data for pediatric use does not exist. In fact, 75 percent of all prescription drugs do NOT have labeling instructions for children, leaving their use in children up to your physician’s discretion. Some of the largest jumps in prescriptions for kids are drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heartburn. Since 2001, the use of heartburn and acid reflux medications among adolescents has jumped 147 percent, while girls aged 10 to 19 taking medications for type 2 diabetes has jumped close to 200 percent in the last nine years. And prescriptions for antihypertensive for children under the age of 19 are predicted to reach 5.5 million this year, The Wall Street Times reports. Every one of these “chronic diseases” is virtually always the result of an unhealthy lifestyle, namely poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress. But instead, kids are taught from a young age that in order to “feel better” they need to go to the doctor or the nearest drug store and get medicine. To make matters worse, kids are exposed to TV commercials, some with animated characters and talking animals, pedaling drugs to their parents and sometimes directly to teens.
This is an atrocity, as what is needed to treat these types of ailments is a prescription for a healthier lifestyle. For example, if your child has high blood pressure, step number one is to avoid fructose such as high fructose corn syrup, which is the number one source of calories in the US. So, get your kid off cola, sports drinks and processed foods. Then encourage some daily physical activity, and drugs will in most cases be completely unnecessary. Sadly, only an estimated 10 percent of parents follow advice that involves lifestyle modification, even when it comes from their doctor or pediatrician. Please, don’t be in the majority on this issue, especially when it involves the long-term health of your child. FoodConsumer.org recently reported on an Australian surveillance study that found alternative medicine had caused the death of four children between the years of 2001 and 2003. A total of 39 reports of side effects attributable to the use of alternative medicine were also found. When you compare that to the death statistics of modern drugs, the answer to the subhead above becomes rather self-evident. That’s not to say that alternative medicine has a flawless safety record. However, if safety is a concern for you and your family, opting for a well-established natural folk remedy over a drug is surely going to provide you with a far greater safety margin when you need to treat a symptom. (The best “remedy” however, is going to be an overall healthy lifestyle that focuses on a nutrient-dense diet, exercise, toxin avoidance and stress relief.) That said, let’s compare the death statistics of alternative medicine with the mortality statistics of the conventional drug route. Dr. Null and colleagues published an oft-cited report in 2003 about the death toll caused by drugs and conventional medical treatments, which included the following statistics.
• Adverse drug reactions — 106,000 deaths/year
• Medical errors — 98,000 deaths/year
• Unnecessary procedures — 37,136 deaths/year
• Surgery — 32,000 deaths/year
Additionally, a June 2010 report in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, which analyzed 62 million death certificates from 1976 to 2006 (the most recent year available), found that almost a quarter-million of those deaths were coded as having occurred in a hospital setting due to medication errors. In an AMA article discussing the study, one co-author quoted as stating that “medication errors are the second-leading cause of accidental death, and the only kind of accidental death that is increasing over time.” An estimated 450,000 preventable medication-related adverse events occur in the U.S. every year, and adverse drug reactions cause injuries or death in 1 of 5 hospital patients.The costs of adverse drug reactions to society are more than $136 billion annually — greater than the total cost of cardiovascular or diabetic care. So, going back to the fact that over 25 percent of American youths are now taking prescription drugs on a chronic basis, you don’t need a crystal ball to see what the future has in store…In a December 22, 2010 article, Martha Rosenberg spells out the many ways drug companies maintain their standing as the third most profitable industry sector in the US, despite a dwindling economy and poor publicity. She hits the nail on the head in her evaluation of their “winning” tactics: “[B]y cheating the government, misrepresenting science, bribing doctors, patients and pharmacies, and squeezing the FDA… Pharma has often been criticized for lack of creativity in developing new drugs. But these dirty tricks show its creativity is alive and well when it comes to putting the public at risk just to turn a profit.” Yes, the drug industry has shown a remarkable knack for creativity when it comes to misleading the public, lying to doctors, and swindling our government out of dwindling resources.
Rosenberg comes up with no less than 15 different unethical strategies employed by the industry to ensure their survival while risking yours. I highly recommend reading through her article for an eye-opening look at “how it’s done.” We’ve seen an increasing lack of ethical behavior from the drug industry in recent years. Deceptive propaganda is at an all-time high, while out-and-out criminality appears to have become standard practice. Together, these two factors are destroying the health of millions, bankrupting both individuals and our government, and undermining the very foundation of what “medical science” is supposed to entail. All in all, 19 drug companies have made AllBusiness.com’s Top 100 Corporate Criminals List for the 1990s. The United States seems to be moving towards fascism in which there is an unholy alliance and merger between government and corporate interests. However, there is a ray of hope.
Organizations like the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the False Claims Act Legal Center, and Politicol News are now starting to investigate and publicize the illegal and criminal actions that these companies have been getting away with for years. Thanks to the federal False Claims Act, state and federal investigators have a gun that they can use to hunt down and prosecute these heinous crimes with. If you visit the False Claims Act Legal Center website, you’ll get a hint of just how much this type of corporate has been going on. But again, it’s just a hint, just the tip of an iceberg. What it does prove, however, is that Big Pharma can’t be trusted. They have the criminal history to prove it. That said, I urge you to step off this out-of-control train; to reconsider the use of drugs both for yourself and for your children. As I mentioned earlier, the vast majority of health problems now treated with drugs are both preventable and treatable without drugs.
So please, do your homework, and remember that lifestyle changes ARE the cures you’re looking for. Pills will never, ever address the underlying cause of your health problems. That’s not what they’re designed to do! Since we began this comment discussing the needless drugging of children, I’ll wrap this up with some of my recommendations for raising a healthy child. It’s quite common for parents, especially first-time parents to rush their children to a physician for every minor ailment. It’s important to remember that in the first year or two of life, your child’s immune system is still being formed, and their experiences during this time can often predict whether or not they will have life-long health problems. Scientific studies continually support the wisdom of limiting exposures to “foreign” substances for children, including synthetic chemicals — which includes drugs. Along with immune system development, your child’s nervous system continues to develop well into their seventh year of life. With the recent epidemic increase in the rates of autism, attention deficit, and hyperactivity disorders, it would seem prudent to nurture and protect your child’s health in every way possible. It’s also important to remember that your child’s immune system and overall health is most influenced by diet, not by drugs or supplements. Many if not most of the chronic diseases kids are now facing can be prevented with proper food choices, along with the commonsense strategies that follow:
• Breastfeed: Feeding your child breast milk and avoiding baby formulas (especially soy formulas, which can be deadly) is perhaps one of the best things you can do to nurture your child’s inherent immune system, setting the stage for optimal health.
• Get educated on vaccinations: Before you go along with the standard protocol, do your homework on childhood vaccinations, and opt out of any vaccination where the risks are greater than the potential benefit.
• Proper diet: So many people, including health professionals, do not pay enough attention to diet. I recommend determining your child’s nutritional type and following my nutrition plan from an early age to avoid many common ailments and chronic diseases later on. You should also be sure your child is not consuming too much fructose from consuming soda, candy or other processed foods. Fructose is highly destructive to virtually every body system within your child. So eliminate ALL sodas, and be VERY cautious about drinking fruit juices, as they are also high in fructose. It’s far better to eat whole unprocessed fruits instead.
• Exercise: Too much sedentary time is actually one of the forces driving the child obesity epidemic. About 30 percent of U.S. children are now overweight, and, childhood diabetes has increased 10-fold in the last 20 years. If your child is in this group, it is imperative that you limit their TV, computer and video game time, and replace them with a regular exercise program. Overweight and obese children will need at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, and may benefit from closer to 60 minutes. Even if your child is not overweight, you should encourage him or her to take part in physically engaging activities throughout the summer, after school days, and on the weekends.
• Treat fevers properly: A fever is actually a good thing and can improve your child’s immune system, making them much healthier in the long run. High fevers can be especially beneficial as they are far better than any immunization at building an authentic, life-long immune response. When you suppress these fevers with Tylenol or another medication, you can cause far more harm than good. (I advise avoiding most all of the anti-fever medications unless your child is absolutely miserable or the fever is over 104 degrees F.) A tepid bath can be a soothing and effective alternative.
• Avoid antibiotics: Many common infections, such as colds and the flu for example, are still treated with antibiotics even though it’s common knowledge that antibiotics CANNOT treat those kinds of infections! This kind of antibiotic abuse will only be a detriment to your child’s health in the long run.
• Healthy outlets for stress: Kids can be under a lot of stress to keep their grades up and forge new relationships with their peers. Make sure that your kids know how to release their sadness, stress, or other negative emotions, and encourage them to engage in relaxing activities if you know they’ve had a stressful day.
These lifestyle strategies will help prime your child for a lifetime of optimal health. In the event your child is offered a prescription drug, research before giving your child any medication, and only do so if there is truly no other option – you may need to seek out the opinion of a physician who is knowledgeable about natural medicine.