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    Prescription Alternatives

    Hundreds of Safe, Natural, Prescription-Free Remedies to Restore & Maintain Your Health

    EARL L. MINDELL, R.Ph., Ph.D. AND VIRGINIA HOPKINS, M.A.

    Copyright © 2009 by Earl L. Mindell and Virginia Hopkins. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

    ISBN: 978-0-07-160032-3

    MHID: 0-07-160032-9

    The material in this eBook also appears in the print version of this title: ISBN: 978-0-07-160031-6, MHID: 0-07-160031-0.

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    The information contained in this book is intended to provide helpful and informative material on the subjects addressed. It is not intended to serve as a replacement for professional medical advice. Any use of the information in this book is at the reader’s discretion. The authors and publisher specifically disclaim any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use or application of any information contained in this book. A health care professional should be consulted regarding your specific situation.

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    CONTENTS

    Introduction

    PART 1 LAYING THE FOUNDATION FOR GOOD HEALTH

    Chapter 1 Changing the Pill-Popping Mind-Set

    Chapter 2 How to Avoid Prescription Drug Abuse

    Chapter 3 Drug Interactions and How Your Body Processes Drugs

    Chapter 4 How Drugs Interact with Food, Drink, and Supplements

    Chapter 5 How Drugs Interact with Other Drugs

    Chapter 6 How to Read Drug Labels and Information Inserts

    Chapter 7 Surgery, Drugs, and Nutrition: Minimizing the Damage and Maximizing Your Recovery

    Chapter 8 How to Avoid Medical Errors in the Hospital

    PART 2 PRESCRIPTION DRUGS AND THEIR NATURAL ALTERNATIVES

    Chapter 9 Six Core Principles for Optimal Health

    Chapter 10 Drugs for Heart Disease and Their Natural Alternatives

    Chapter 11 Drugs for the Digestive Tract and Their Natural Alternatives

    Chapter 12 Cold, Cough, Asthma, and Allergy Drugs and Their Natural Alternatives

    Chapter 13 Drugs for Pain Relief and Their Natural Alternatives

    Chapter 14 Antibiotics, Antifungals, and Their Natural Alternatives

    Chapter 15 Drugs for Insomnia, Anxiety, and Depression and Their Natural Alternatives

    Chapter 16 Diabetes Drugs, Obesity Drugs, and Their Natural Alternatives

    Chapter 17 Drugs for Eye Diseases and Their Natural Alternatives

    Chapter 18 Drugs for the Prostate and Their Natural Alternatives

    Chapter 19 Synthetic Hormones and Their Natural Alternatives

    Chapter 20 Drugs for Osteoporosis and Their Natural Alternatives

    Chapter 21 Drugs for Herpes and Their Natural Alternatives

    Chapter 22 Drugs for Impotence and Their Natural Alternatives

    Chapter 23 Drugs for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Their Natural Alternatives

    Resources and Recommended Reading

    References

    Index

    INTRODUCTION

    If you have this book, you’re probably taking at least two prescription drugs or you know somebody who is. If you or someone you love is taking any type of medication, from an allergy medicine to a beta-blocker, you’ll want to know how the medicine affects the body and how to stay healthy while on it. We’ll give you that information in this book, but we’re also going to tell you how you can solve your health problems without the drugs. Ultimately we hope that this book inspires you to get off your prescription drugs and keep yourself healthy primarily through lifestyle, wholesome foods, and natural remedies. We have found that almost everyone taking a long-term prescription drug can wean him- or herself off drugs and create good health—often vibrant, radiant good health—using simple, safe, natural remedies with no side effects.

    As a general rule, prescription drugs cause imbalances in the body, ranging from depletion of vitamins and minerals to constipation and lowered immune function. They can also cause more serious problems, including death. Prescription Alternatives gives you a tool for easily and immediately accessing information about how the drugs you are taking affect your body, the steps you can take to counteract these imbalances, and what alternative treatments are available.

    Most books sell well for a few years and then decline in sales. Sales of this book have increased over the years, as more and more people realize the need to find better ways to stay healthy. In this fourth edition we have added new drugs and their side effects, new research about drugs and natural remedies, and new natural remedies that have proven themselves over time. In particular you’ll find a lot of helpful new information in the chapter on heart disease, as research on the underlying causes of heart disease has expanded greatly over the past few years. There is also a good deal of new information about prostate health and impotence drugs, as well as important new research about conventional hormone replacement therapy, which has sent millions of women to their doctors looking for natural alternatives. We’ll give valuable insights for both men and women on how to achieve hormone balance.

    There is no possible way we could cover every drug available or every problem with every drug. We have tried to cover the most commonly used drugs in detail, but we also urge you to take responsibility for any drug use by consulting with your pharmacist and reading the drug insert. Knowledge of the side effects and interactions of drugs is changing every day. It is our goal to teach you how to be a knowledgeable and discriminating drug consumer who knows how to ask the right questions and get the necessary information to stay healthy.

    The United States and New Zealand are currently the only countries in the world that allow drug companies to advertise prescription drugs directly to the consumer. It used to be that prescription drugs could be touted only to physicians. But now consumer ads on TV tantalize you with great promises of health and well-being, skim through the side effects as quickly as possible, and then suggest you contact your physician or a drug company hotline for more information. The drug companies are also responsible for the expensive, slick, four-color ads you now see in consumer magazines and newspapers. You are bombarded with more than $3 billion worth of advertising for prescription and over-the-counter drugs every year. That should give you an idea of how valuable you are as a drug consumer and how staggering the profits are that drug companies rake in every year.

    For every dollar that drug companies spend on research and development, they spend 50 cents on advertisements and promotions. The most heavily promoted drugs are not those that represent great breakthroughs in improving your health, but the ones that drug companies stand to profit from the most. You’re not the only target of expensive drug company promotions, either: the doctors who prescribe drugs to you are strongly pressured by drug sales reps to prescribe their latest products. It’s estimated that drug companies spend approximately $9,000 per physician per year on these promotional efforts. These efforts are working, too. According to the National Institute for Health Care Management, 40 percent of the recent increase in drug sales can be attributed to 25 of the most heavily promoted drugs.

    Drugs have powerful effects on the body, so please don’t abruptly stop taking any prescription medication. It’s best to work with a health care professional to monitor your health as you switch from drugs to natural alternatives.

    This book is not intended to convey the message that all prescription drugs are bad. Used conservatively—with great care and only when necessary—they can be lifesavers for some people. On the other hand, prescription drugs are grossly overprescribed and misprescribed in the United States, resulting in the death of at least 160,000 people a year in hospitals alone and in injury to nearly a million.

    The other bad habit that this book may help you avoid is what we call the “drug treadmill.” People over the age of 50 are the most familiar with this scenario. Here’s how it works: Let’s say a fairly healthy 50-year-old named Bob visits his doctor for an annual checkup and is prescribed the seemingly harmless drug Tagamet (cimeti-dine) for indigestion. The Tagamet causes joint pain, but Bob doesn’t know this. So he starts to take Tylenol (acetaminophen) to treat the pain. Bob likes to have a few cocktails before dinner, but he doesn’t know that combining alcohol and Tylenol can cause serious liver damage. (Liver damage caused by acetaminophen is one of the leading causes of emergency room visits in the United States.) In addition, the Tagamet is already putting stress on Bob’s liver, which is being chronically damaged by the combination of drugs and alcohol. Because of the constant stress, his liver is unable to keep up with the job of detoxifying his body, and soon he is coming down with colds and getting infections. So his doctor prescribes antibiotics, which further compromise his immune system and cause damage to his intestines. Furthermore, Bob now has a chronic sinus infection, for which he takes allergy drugs that make him irritable. This is one example of the drug tread-mill, and this book is about how to avoid it.

    A Word About Alternatives

    Just because a health remedy is found in a health food store or on a website with a lot of green, leafy graphics doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe or effective. There are plenty of schemes, scams, and frauds to go around in the world of natural remedies and alternative medicines, not to mention well-meaning but misguided advice from people who haven’t done their homework.

    One of the most common deceptions in alternative medicine is the practice of claiming that a substance has an effect on the body based on test tube research or a theory that’s backed up by a lot of biochemistry babble. These types of medicines are usually associated with a lot of fanfare, exclamation points, extra-bold headlines, and grand claims about how they will cure everything from hangnails to cancer. Just because a medicine comes from the jungle, a tropical island, or the mountains of Nepal does not mean it works. It often just means it’s dirt cheap and enormous profits are being made. We have seen dozens of so-called miracle cures come and go over the years, and we suggest having a wait-and-watch attitude toward them.

    The remedies we recommend in this book are backed up by generations of use, as in folk medicine, by research, or by both. How do you know whether it’s worth trying the latest, greatest natural remedy? Look for human studies published in peer-reviewed journals or opinions from experts in the field who don’t have a financial stake in the product. In the Resources and Recommended Reading section at the back of this book, you’ll find a list of health newsletters, websites, and books by experts whose opinions we respect.

    PART 1

    LAYING THE FOUNDATION FOR GOOD HEALTH

    Chapter 1

    Changing the Pill-Popping Mind-Set

    What do you want when you go to an M.D.? Most of us, if we’re being honest, would say we want the doctor to give us a name for our disease and a pill to make it go away. We call this the pill-popping mind-set, and it has become a deadly habit.

    We have been convinced, through multimillion-dollar advertising and marketing campaigns on TV and in popular magazines and newspapers, that everything “wrong” with us is a result of genetics or our biochemistry and that we should look for a pill to fix the “mistake” that nature made. But only a fraction of a percent of what is wrong with us is attributable to genetics and biochemistry. For most of us, what’s wrong is a consequence of an unhealthy lifestyle: for example, poor nutrition, overeating, lack of exercise, chronic stress, not enough sleep, and exposure to toxins such as pesticides. These all involve choices we make, which we can do something about. Taking drugs to solve health problems caused by an unhealthy lifestyle is not a good strategy for a high-quality life or even for a long and healthy life.

    In articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), government-funded researchers studying adverse drug events (ADEs) in people admitted to big city hospitals found that 701,547 people were treated for ADEs in emergency rooms and 117,318 of those were admitted to the hospital each year in 2004 and 2005. If these numbers reflect big city hospitals, what are the numbers for the entire United States? A report titled Death by Medicine, available on the Life Extension website, written by a group headed by Drs. Gary Null and Carolyn Dean states, “This fully referenced report shows the number of people [in the United States] having in-hospital, adverse reactions to prescribed drugs to be 2.2 million per year.” The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) itself estimates that only 1 to 10 percent of ADEs are reported.

    If millions of people are injured each year from ADEs, how many are killed by ADEs? The Journal of the American Medical Association reports estimate that over 140,000 Americans die every year from ADEs. This is surely a conservative figure, and it only accounts for those who died in hospitals. Undoubtedly tens of thousands more people die at home or in nursing homes from prescription-drug-related complications but aren’t counted in these statistics.

    If a disease were injuring and killing that many people every year, we would have millions of dollars mobilized to study it and we would be wearing ribbons on our lapels to increase awareness of the problem. To put this in perspective, ADEs kill at least 140,000 people in the United States every year, breast cancer kills about 46,000 American women each year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40,000 Americans die from AIDS every year. The elderly and women are the two groups most likely to be victims of an ADE.

    As you’ll read later, at least 11 million people are abusing prescription drugs, resulting not only in a drop in quality of life but a huge cost to the taxpayer in the form of an increase in accidents, workers’ compensation claims, in days of work missed, hospitalizations due to drug overdoses, and drug treatment centers.

    Prescription Drug Categories Most Commonly Associated with Preventable Adverse Drug Reactions

    Cardiovascular medications: 24.5%

    Diuretics (for high blood pressure): 22.1%

    Nonopioid analgesics (painkillers): 15.4%

    Hypoglycemics (diabetes drugs): 10.9%

    Anticoagulants (e.g., Coumadin): 10.2%

    Source: Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) 289 (2003): 1107–16.

    If we look at the overall prescription drug problem in dollars, according to studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, mistakes in prescribing drugs and the treatment of drug side effects costs about $76 billion every year. Other studies put the number as high as $136 billion. What’s even more outrageous is that American taxpayers are footing the bill for the drugs prescribed to Medicare patients, not to mention ever-higher insurance rates as health care costs soar. The taxpayer pays for the drugs, and then pays for the ADEs associated with those drugs. Considering that the vast majority of drugs are prescribed to the elderly, that means the taxpayer keeps the drug companies in business, while the companies keep peddling dangerous and improperly studied drugs and take no responsibility for the consequences. Drug companies reap profits at a terrible cost to their victims and the average taxpayer.

    According to a study published in the Western Journal of Medicine, some $20 billion could be saved each year in hospital costs if people simply took supplemental folic acid and vitamin E. This is based on the well-studied fact that folic acid deficiencies contribute to neural tube birth defects and low-birth-weight premature babies, and that just 100 international units (IU) of vitamin E daily reduces the risk of heart disease. Imagine the billions that could be saved both in drug sales and overall health costs if everyone took a good multivitamin.

    Tragically, avoiding prescription drugs isn’t quite as easy as asking your M.D. for alternatives. The powerful international drug companies have wormed their way into the very heart of medicine like insidious parasites, controlling what’s taught in medical schools, the continuing medical education courses physicians take to keep their medical license, and what research is funded. In fact, the FDA now has drug companies funding their own research, so the concept of independent research has all but vanished in the United States, and smaller companies that may have breakthrough drugs or natural remedies aren’t able to compete for FDA approval.

    This is no secret. The following quote is from an article in the January 2009 New York Review of Books entitled “Drug Companies and Doctors: A Story of Corruption,” by Marcia Angell:

    It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the

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