Sunday, September 30, 2012

Polypills: Doctors’ Attempt to Get Rich Without Working

Gaia Health
by Heidi Stevenson

One Pill to rule them all, One Pill to find them, One Pill to bring them all and in the darkness bind them - In the Land of Pharma where the Biggest Profits lie. This is polypharmacy, coming soon to your native land.

Using only the highest-sounding phraseology, doctors at a convention are pushing the polypill, a combination of drugs they want to push on every single person upon reaching a certain age. They bemoan the incredibly high rate of heart disease, calling it the single greatest epidemic the world has ever known.

Reporting for heartwire in One pill to cure them all: Single-drug polypharmacy in cardiovascular disease, Michael O’Riordan quotes Dr. Salim Yusuf, who organized the conference, Global Summit on Combination Polypharmacy for Cardiovascular Disease, as saying:

This is not about a pill. This is about a strategy to reduce cardiovascular disease by 50% globally in a cost-effective manner.

If you believe that, then you probably believe all the lies told about statins, one of the drugs to be included in the polypill, a drug that is now well discounted as both ineffective and carrying devastating adverse effects. Aspirin is another one of the drugs planned for a polypill, and that, too, has been documented as doing more harm than good. There’s talk of including an ACE inhibitor, aspirin, and folic acid (a vitamin!), too.

The entire concept behind polypharmacy consists of one enormous error. The simple fact is that health is not found in a pill.

Of course, these people have no sense of humor. How else could they have chosen a convention name like “One pill to cure them all”? It sounds like Tolkien’s Sauron, ruler of The Ring Trilogy’s Mordor:

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Could that be what they’re after—world domination?

The Driver—Profits

By the way, lest anyone suggest that there’s any motive behind any of this beyond profit, please take note of the fact that the term polypill is trademarked. So, I’ll stop using it here. From this point, the term of use will be polypharmacy.

They’re making all sorts of wild claims, saying that polypharmacy could reduce heart disease by 88% and strokes by 80%. These claims are based on … hot air! The reality is that none of these things, with the possible exception of folic acid, has ever been shown to provide genuine benefit—especially in the case of people who do not already suffer from heart disease. And this doesn’t even consider the enormous array of adverse effects these drugs produce individually. Routine aspirin use causes death from gastrointestinal bleeding. Statins do incredible amounts of harm, including memory loss, diabetes, liver and muscle damage, and death. ACE inhibitors can cause hyperkalemia—excess potassium—which can be deadly, leading to kidney failure.

There’s a dearth of serious drug development in the pipeline. Therefore, Big Pharma has been running like mad trying to find alternatives. Polypharmacy is a major play. Even though the drugs in the pill will be well known and likely even generic, having run out their exclusivity time granted by patents, by combining them into a new product they can get a new patent. Voila! Bunches more money can be made off the same old drugs.

The Target

But polypharmacy for heart disease has even more going for it. It’s being billed as a pill for everyone, something to be prescribed automatically, whether an individual already has signs of heart disease or has simply reached a certain age.

What makes polypharmacy so nice for doctors when faced with a patient who presents with vascular symptoms is that the effort is removed. No longer will they need to consider just which pill in their lexicon fits that particular patient. They can simply prescribe the same thing to everyone, a single pill that contains it all.

In the case of people who are just getting up in years, modern medicine has decided that they are, by definition, sick. Rather than figuring out exactly what they need, all a doctor must do is write out a prescription for a multi-pill.

Say! I can see another area for money making. Some clever entrepreneur can set up shop designing and printing all the zillions of identical prescriptions, with everything already made out. All the physician needs to do is enter the patient’s name and date, then send ‘em off to fill it. Since the docs are so eager to make more money while doing less work, this should be a big winner.

And then there’s polypharmacy for lazy patients. Just take Dr. Richard Smith, a former editor of the BMJ, who’s quoted by heartwire as saying:

If I had to go to the doctor every three months to get my blood pressure measured and my lipids measured and have to go back to have my drugs titrated, I couldn’t be bothered with all that. Because I get [my polypills] through the post, and I just take it every night, it’s extremely simple.

It’s just so much more convenient. Take a pill very day, close your eyes and hold your breath, and maybe you’ll just magically never have a heart attack or stroke. Doctors can sit back in confidence, knowing that they’ve got all the bases covered, and they don’t even need to think.

But Big Pharma’s the really big winner. They get to recycle all sorts of old drugs, giving them a new lease on life as patented medicines. Better yet, all the doctors will be handing them out like candy.

There’s so much greed … ummm, that is, there’s so much concern among polypharmacy proponents that countries won’t approve their pet pill combos soon enough, so they’re considering going to the World Health Organization (WHO) to arrange getting polypharmacy pills on the “Essential Medicines” list. The WHO describes the list like this:

The Model List is a guide for the development of national and institutional essential medicine lists. It was not designed as a global standard. However, for the past 30 years the Model List has led to a global acceptance of the concept of essential medicines as a powerful means to promote health equity.

As anyone who has followed these issues in the last few years is aware, there is no need to require a policy. The WHO’s placement of a drug on a list is all that’s necessary to put immense pressure on governments to conform. It’s much the same as Codex Alimentarius rules. They don’t enforce the rules themselves, but treaties end up doing the dirty work for them.

These doctors and Big Pharma are going for the gold. They’re taking these drugs that have provided little or no benefit but produce immense harm, combining them into single new polypharmacy pills, and will push them on the people with all the alacrity they have at their disposal.

One Pill to rule them all, One Pill to find them, One Pill to bring them all and in the darkness bind them In the Land of Pharma where the Biggest Profits lie.

This is polypharmacy, coming soon to your native land.

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