Pharmageddon: When Legal Drugs Kill

By one estimate, prescription medication is the fourth-leading cause of death among Americans.

During almost every television commercial break, you will see an ad for some brand of medication. It will tell you that if you just purchase this particular pharmaceutical, you can be as happy as these actors walking along the beach at sunset: You can reduce inflammation, control heartburn, sleep more, and live a better life. These are audacious claims. Not only are they inaccurate, they are outright lies.

The real story is that more people die in the United States every year from prescription drug abuse than from heroin and cocaine combined. But even if you don’t become an addict, should you place your faith in dangerous, addictive chemicals? Or is there an alternative to drugs that can produce the improved health so many people yearn for?

What Do Statistics Say?

The amount of harm stemming from inappropriate prescription medication is staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 1.3 million people visited U.S. emergency rooms due to adverse drug effects in 2014, and about 124,000 died from them. If we add prescribing errors, overdoses and errant self-medication, legal medications are the fourth-leading cause of death in America.

All that bad medicine is costly too. The U.S. has easily the most expensive health-care system in the world. In 2016, the U.S. spent $3.3 trillion on health care, more than all the yearly goods and services produced by Britain, Canada, France or any other country except four.

A total of $6.4 billion was spent on drug advertising in 2016, 64 percent more than in 2012 and $1.3 billion more than the Food and Drug Administration’s entire 2017 budget. Statistics show this type of aggressive marketing pays off handsomely. By 2024, about 4.9 billion retail prescriptions will be filled, averaging about 14 for every man, woman and child.

With Americans taking so much medicine, shouldn’t they be among the world’s healthiest people? Yet studies show that Americans suffer worse health problems and experience lower life expectancies than those in many other industrialized nations. It’s a paradox: Spend more on health, become less healthy.

Peddling Magic Pixie Dust

More and more scholars who scrutinize health research now claim that almost everything you hear about medicines is wrong. They’re not talking about individual studies but the very framework of medical investigation. They say numerous medical findings are unproved at best and dangerously wrong at worst.

In 2013, the Los Angeles Times covered the incessant drive among medical researchers to have their work published in a top journal. This motivates them to hype their results. Their work is peer-reviewed, meaning that eminent scientists look at it before it is published. But unpaid reviewers seldom have the time or inclination to devote the effort necessary to unearth a study’s flaws.

For example, a major study concluded that there is no credible evidence that statins (drugs like Lipitor and Crestor) help people without a history of heart disease. But statin sales are $20 billion per year, so the publication of these findings was delayed as patients continued to receive ineffective treatment.

Numerous other studies concluding that popular antidepressants work by altering brain chemistry have now been contradicted. So too has research claiming that early cancer detection invariably saves lives. The list is endless.

The fda (which is responsible for protecting public health by regulating pharmaceuticals) should be investigating these shenanigans. But a 2000 USA Today study found that more than half of the experts on the fda advisory committees had financial relationships with drug companies, an obvious conflict of interest.

It’s an incestuous relationship that forges a climate of corporate criminality, fraud, kickbacks, price-setting, aggressive marketing and illegal sales activities, says the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

The end result is no surprise. These powerful drugs—produced for profit, poorly peer-reviewed, portrayed in journals as if they were reliable, marketed with billions of dollars, and prescribed by doctors and regulators with financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry—are killing people.

Another non-surprise is that criminal settlements against pharmaceutical companies are ineffective at stopping illegal behavior. The penalties are not high enough to offset obscene drug profits. Pharmaceutical companies account for these payouts as a “cost of doing business.”

What about your doctor? Does he or she care about you? A report published in PLoS Medicine showed that pharmaceutical sales agents—basically drug dealers in Armani suits—regularly infiltrate physicians’ offices. Trained in some of the most potent persuasion techniques, their job is to increase drug sales with finely titrated doses of manipulation. And they achieve their sales targets, even if they have to use perverse incentives.

Doctors have profited immensely from these dangerous drugs, states a cnn report titled “The More Opioids Doctors Prescribe, the More Money They Make.” The result is that tens of thousands of Americans die from prescription opioid overdoses each year.

What Can You Do?

The pharmaceutical industry wants you to swallow its version of “health care.” These companies understand that disease is caused by poor food choices and a sedentary lifestyle. They also know there is no such thing as a risk-free drug with no side effects. But most importantly, they know that sick people will spend a lot of money to buy a “cure.”

This leads us back to our part in this cycle. We naturally want to keep doing the pleasurable easy things (eating what we want, sitting as much as we want, etc). We do these things even when we know that they hurt our health. Then we try to solve the problem by again doing the easy thing: buying a pill.

Face the truth. Face the real cause—and the real cure—for health problems.

In The Plain Truth About Healing, Herbert W. Armstrong emphasized the role of the Creator in human health and obeying His laws of health: eat nutritious foods; uphold cleanliness and hygiene; get sunshine, fresh air, sufficient exercise and sleep; avoid bodily injury; maintain a positive mental attitude; and bring your Creator into your health decisions.

Our industrialized, profit-driven society is set up to conflict with these principles of health. But you can avoid being another prescription medicine statistic. Study our free reprint “We Are What We Eat,” follow the Creator’s laws of health, and obtain the vigorous, good health that He created you to enjoy