Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Menacing Mathematics of Multiple Meds

By Gary Craig

There's something scary about drugs that concerns a growing number of physicians and should wobble the knees of every patient on the planet. It's obvious to any mathematician but somehow has escaped the general scrutiny of the health industry.

It has to do with combining meds.

Ever since I can remember I have been fed the perception that drugs are governmentally evaluated and thus are safe if taken under the guidance of competent physicians. However, even if we accept the presumed safety for the ingestion of one drug, we must ask ourselves how might that safety change if we take multiple drugs?

For safety assurances, proper testing should be done for every drug combination we are advised to take. If we take Prozac and Tylenol, for example, we should be presented with all the possible benefits and consequences before allowing these two foreign substances to mix with the chemicals our bodies already create. Same thing goes for combining Paxil with Viagra or Interferon with Lipitor.

The list of possible problems here is monstrously long because there are a b'zillion drugs and mega b'zillions of combinations. Nonetheless, I've never seen or heard of any studies that test any of these combinations ... have you?

Thus, if you take two drugs, the odds of their combination having been adequately tested for safety are skimpy at best. But if you take 3 or more drugs the danger possibilities multiply even faster.

Here's how the mathematics work: If you take 3 drugs then adequate safety testing of the various combinations require 7 separate tests. If you take 4 drugs the combinations require 25 separate tests. If you take 5 drugs it amounts to 121 tests. If you take 10 drugs the number of required safety tests total 362,881.

The conclusion here should be obvious. Namely, there is questionable safety testing if you take 2 drugs and nominal, if any, safety testing if you take 3. Beyond that you are clearly into the land of, "I have no idea what these combinations of drugs will do."

To me, this tosses our dedicated docs into a tenuous position. They have patients with problems who aren't willing to exercise, eat right, do EFT for emotional issues or much of anything else to help their own health. Instead, the patients hope the physicians will produce a magic pill (or pills) to make their problems go away.

I have met many patients who are on several drugs and take some drugs to counteract the effects of other drugs. As a non-physician I look at this with a shudder. These folks are being fed chemical cocktails with little or no safety testing behind the combinations. Maybe I need some help with my perceptions here but, to me, they are playing drug roulette.

I don't know if lawyers have picked up on the simple, but compelling, math here. But I do know that I wouldn't want to be a doctor in court facing these clear facts.

In the 15+ years I have been involved in the health field, I have had the good fortune to count many physicians as my personal friends. With few exceptions, they agree that it is our lifestyles, diets and emotional stresses that cause most of our health problems ... and ... the vast majority of these problems would vanish if people would live common sense lives. Yet patients repeatedly abuse their bodies and ask for more and more "miracle drugs" as the convenient solution. I don't envy the docs at all as I often hear them complain that this is a highway to NobodyWinsVille.

Maybe what we really need are good salespeople to persuade folks to take care of themselves. I suspect that, if truly persuasive, they would do more good than the ocean of drugs at our disposal.

Love, Gary

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Basics of Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a system of medicinal treatment founded by Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician. He published a paper in 1796 in which he promulgated his principle that "likes are cured by likes". This principle is known as "Law of Similars". Hahnemann claimed that quinine, a medicine widely used for successful treatment of malaria, produced symptoms of malaria in a healthy person. The patients of malaria were treated with a medicine which created the same symptoms as those created by the disease. The observations with quinine and other medicines led Hahnemann to his "Law of Similars".

Four years later Hahnemann advanced his doctrine of "potentization of dynamization" which stated that medicines in small doses effectively exerted their curative power.

The homeopathic system of treatment is based on these two principles - Law of Similars and Potentization.

Potentization is a process by which medicine is diluted in precise steps and subjected to "succussion" (a vigorous shaking action). This process brings about an energetic change that gives medicines a deeper curative effect. Repeated dilution ensures that the medicine has no toxic effect. This allows homeopathic use of many substances which would be unsafe under normal conditions.

Traditionally homeopathic treatment is done to cure the disorders, not just the symptoms. Any physical and emotional disorder produces certain symptoms in the body. In many cases different ailments produce similar symptoms. As a part of the treatment the medicines are prescribed to eliminate the causes of disease or discomfort. If two patients have similar problems, they may still require different medicines depending upon their habits and many other factors. Medicines of higher potency are generally given only after the cause of the disease is established.

Homeopathy is relatively young - just over 200 years old. New medicines and treatments are constantly being evolved and documented. Such research studies are called "provings". As a result of these research studies, Homeopathy is used in a wide variety of health conditions.

Homeopathic medicines do not work strictly by chemical action. At higher potency the medicine is diluted so much that concentration of original medicine reduces to insignificant level. Yet the medicines not only work, they are more effective at higher potency. "Potentization" process brings energetic change in the medicine. In turn the medicine stimulates the body's defense mechanism to fight the cause of disorder. This approach produces more stable cure as compared to treatment with drugs. Direct chemical action of the drugs often produces harmful side effects. Homeopathic medicines on the other hand have no or little side effects. They are safe and non-toxic.

Two centuries of existence has firmly established homeopathy. It is accepted form of treatment in many parts of the world. However, the theory of homeopathy is inconsistent with known laws of science; therefore the critics often dismiss it as pseudoscience and quackery.

Homeopathy has thrived on the basis of its results. Its medicines have relatively slow but lasting effects. It is not trusted to meet emergency situations, but it is extremely useful in many other situations.