Ibuprofen Kills Thousands Each Year, So What Is The Alternative?


A recent Reuters’ article opened with the following stunning sentence:

Long-term high-dose use of painkillers such as ibuprofen or diclofenac is ‘equally hazardous’ in terms of heart attack risk as use of the drug Vioxx, which was withdrawn due to its potential dangers, researchers said.”  

The 2004 Vioxx recall, as you may remember, was spurred by the nearly 30,000 excess cases of heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths caused by the drug between 1999-2003. Despite the fact that scientific research had accumulated as early as 2000 linking Vioxx to increased heart attacks and strokes, the drug’s manufacturer Merck, and the FDA, remained silent as the death toll steadily increased.

Ibuprofen Kills Thousands Each Year, So What Is The Alternative?

The Reuters report focused on new research published in Lancet indicating the risk of heart attack increases as much as a third and the risk of heart failure doubles among heavier users of NSAID drugs.

INFLAMED: Our Default Bodily State

Why are so many folks taking NSAID drugs like ibuprofen anyway?

Pain and unhealthy levels of inflammation are fast becoming default bodily states in the industrialized world. While in most cases we can adjust the underlying pro-inflammatory conditions by altering our diet, and reducing stress and environmental chemical exposures, these approaches take time, discipline and energy, and sometimes we just want the pain to stop now. In those often compulsive moments we find ourselves popping an over-the-counter pill to kill the pain.

The problem with this approach is that, if we do it often enough, we may kill ourselves along with the pain…

Ibuprofen really is a perfect example of this. As mentioned above, this petrochemical-derivative has been linked to significantly increased risk of heart attack and increased cardiacand all-cause mortality (when combined with aspirin), with over two dozen serious adverse health effects, including:

  1. Anemia[1]
  2. DNA Damage[2]
  3. Hearing Loss[3]
  4. Hypertension[4]
  5. Influenza Mortality[5]
  6. Miscarriage[6]

Ibuprofen is, in fact, not unique in elevating cardiovascular disease risk and/or mortality. The entire category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) appears to have this under-recognized dark side; cardiovascular disease and cardiac mortality score highest on the list of over 100 unintended adverse health effects associated with their use. See also our analysis of the rarely acknowledged dark side to aspirin: The Evidence Against Aspirin And For Natural Alternatives.

So, what does one do? Pain is pain. Whether it happens to you, or you witness it in another (which can be worse), finding relief is a top priority.

Ibuprofen Kills More Than Pain, So What Is The Alternative?

Research on Natural Alternatives To Ibuprofen

Here is some evidence-based research on alternatives to ibuprofen, sourced from the National Library of Medicine:

  1. Ginger – A 2009 study found that ginger capsules (250 mg, four times daily) were as effective as the drugs mefenamic acid and ibuprofen for relieving pain in women associated with their menstrual cycle (primary dysmenorrhea). [7]
  2. Topical Arnica – A 2007 human study found that topical treatment with arnica was as effective as ibuprofen for hand osteoarthritis, but with lower incidence of side effects.[8]
  3. Combination: Astaxanthin, Ginkgo biloba and Vitamin C – A 2011 animal study found this combination to be equal to or better than ibuprofen for reducing asthma-associated respiratory inflammation.[9]
  4. Chinese Skullcap (baicalin) – A 2003 animal study found that a compound in Chinese skullcap known as baicalin was equipotent to ibuprofen in reducing pain.[10]
  5. Omega-3 fatty acids: A 2006 human study found that omega-3 fatty acids (between 1200-2400 mg daily) were as effective as ibuprofen in reducing arthritis pain, but with the added benefit of having less side effects.[11]
  6. Panax Ginseng – A 2008 animal study found that panax ginseng had analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity similar to ibuprofen, indicating its possible anti-rheumatoid arthritis properties.[12]
  7. St. John’s Wort – A 2004 animal study found that St. John’s wort was twice as effective as ibuprofen as a pain-killer.[13]
  8. Anthrocyanins from Sweet Cherries & Raspberries – A 2001 study cell study found that anthrocyanins extracted from raspberries and sweet cherries were as effective as ibuprofen and naproxen at suppressing the inflammation-associated enzyme known as cyclooxygenase-1 and 2.[14]
  9. Holy Basil – A 2000 study found that holy basil contains compounds with anti-inflammatory activity comparable to ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin.[15]
  10. Olive Oil (oleocanthal) – a compound found within olive oil known as oleocanthal has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen.[16]
  11. There are, of course, hundreds of additional substances which have been studied for their pain-killing and/or anti-inflammatory effects, and there are also aromatherapeutic approachesthat do not require the ingestion of anything at all, but there is also a danger here. When we think of taking an alternative pain-killer to ibuprofen, we are still thinking within the palliative, allopathic medical model: suppress the symptom, and go on about our business. It would behoove us to look deeper into what is causing our pain. And when possible, remove the cause(s). And that often requires a dramatic dietary shift away from pro-inflammatory foods, many of which most Westerners still consider absolutely delightful, e.g. wheat, dairy,nighshade vegetables and even wheat-free grains, etc.

    [1] Direct cytotoxicity of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in acidic media: model study on human erythrocytes with DIDS-inhibited anion exchanger. Pharmazie. 2002 Dec;57(12):848-51. PMID: 12561250

    [2] Genotoxicity of ibuprofen in mouse bone marrow cells in vivo. Drug Chem Toxicol. 2012 Jan 27. Epub 2012 Jan 27. PMID: 22283434

    [3] Analgesic use and the risk of hearing loss in men. Am J Med. 2010 Mar;123(3):231-7. PMID: 20193831

    [4] Effect on blood pressure of lumiracoxib versus ibuprofen in patients with osteoarthritis and controlled hypertension: a randomized trial. J Hypertens. 2008 Aug;26(8):1695-702. PMID: 18622250

    [5] The effect on mortality of antipyretics in the treatment of influenza infection: systematic review and meta-analysis. J R Soc Med. 2010 Oct;103(10):403-11. PMID: 20929891

    [6]  Taking non-aspirin NSAIDs in early pregnancy doubles risk of miscarriage, study shows. BMJ. 2011 ;343:d5769. Epub 2011 Sep 9. PMID: 21908536

    [7] Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Feb 13. PMID: 19216660

    [8] Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study. Rheumatol Int. 2007 Apr;27(6):585-91. Epub 2007 Feb 22. PMID: 17318618

    [9] Summative interaction between astaxanthin, Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb761) and vitamin C in suppression of respiratory inflammation: a comparison with ibuprofen. Phytother Res. 2011 Jan;25(1):128-36. PMID: 20632299

    [10] The antiinflammatory and analgesic effects of baicalin in carrageenan-evoked thermal hyperalgesia. Anesth Analg. 2003 Dec;97(6):1724-9. PMID: 14633550

    [11] Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain. Surg Neurol. 2006 Apr;65(4):326-31. PMID:16531187

    [12] Potential analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of Panax ginseng head butanolic fraction in animals. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Dec;46(12):3749-52. Epub 2008 Oct 1. PMID:18930781

    [13] Antinociceptive activity of methanolic extracts of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) preparation. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2004 Jul;17(2):13-9. PMID: 16414593

    [14] Cyclooxygenase inhibitory and antioxidant cyanidin glycosides in cherries and berries. Phytomedicine. 2001 Sep;8(5):362-9. PMID: 11695879

    [15] Antioxidant and cyclooxygenase inhibitory phenolic compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn. Phytomedicine. 2000 Mar;7(1):7-13. PMID: 10782484

    [16] Molecular mechanisms of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory benefits of virgin olive oil and the phenolic compound oleocanthal. Curr Pharm Des. 2011 ;17(8):754-68. PMID:21443487

     

Statistics prove prescription drugs kill 16,400% more people than terrorists.


America was rudely awakened to a new kind of danger on September 11, 2001: Terrorism. The attacks that day left 2,996 people dead, including the passengers on the four commercial airliners that were used as weapons. Many feel it was the most tragic day in U.S. history.

Four commercial jets crashed that day. But what if six jumbo jets crashed every day in the United States, claiming the lives of 783,936 people every year? That would certainly qualify as a massive tragedy, wouldn’t it?

Well, forget “what if.” The tragedy is happening right now. Over 750,000 people actually do die in the United States every year, although not from plane crashes. They die from something far more common and rarely perceived by the public as dangerous: modern medicine.

According to the groundbreaking 2003 medical report Death by Medicine, by Drs. Gary Null, Carolyn Dean, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio and Dorothy Smith, 783,936 people in the United States die every year from conventional medicine mistakes. That’s the equivalent of six jumbo jet crashes a day for an entire year. But where is the media attention for this tragedy? Where is the government support for stopping these medical mistakes before they happen?

After 9/11, the White House gave rise to the Department of Homeland Security, designed to prevent terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Since its inception, billions of dollars have been poured into it. The 2006 budget allots $34.2 billion to the DHS, a number that has come down slightly from the $37.7 billion budget of 2003.

According to the study led by Null, which involved a painstaking review of thousands of medical records, the United States spends $282 billion annually on deaths due to medical mistakes, or iatrogenic deaths. And that’s a conservative estimate; only a fraction of medical errors are reported, according to the study. Actual medical mistakes are likely to be 20 times higher than the reported number because doctors fear retaliation for those mistakes. The American public heads to the doctor’s office or the hospital time and again, oblivious of the alarming danger they’re heading into. The public knows that medical errors occur, but they assume that errors are unusual, isolated events. Unfortunately, by accepting conventional medicine, patients voluntarily continue to walk into the leading cause of death in America.

According to a 1995 U.S. iatrogenic report, “Over a million patients are injured in U.S. hospitals each year, and approximately 280,000 die annually as a result of these injuries. Therefore, the iatrogenic death rate dwarfs the annual automobile accident mortality rate of 45,000 and accounts for more deaths than all other accidents combined.” This report was issued 10 years ago, when America had 34 million fewer citizens and drug company scandals like the Vioxx recall were yet to occur. Today, health care comprises 15.5 percent of the United States’ gross national product, with spending reaching $1.4 trillion in 2004.

Since Americans spend so much money on health care, they should be getting a high quality of care, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Of the 783,936 annual deaths due to conventional medical mistakes, about 106,000 are from prescription drugs, according to Death by Medicine. That also is a conservative number. Some experts estimate it should be more like 200,000 because of underreported cases of adverse drug reactions.

Americans today are used to fixing problems the quick way – even when it comes to their health. Thus, they rely heavily on prescription drugs to fix their diseases. For every conceivable ailment – real or not – chances are there’s a pricey prescription drug to “treat” it. Chances are even better that their drug of choice comes chock full of side effects.

The problem is, prescription drugs don’t treat diseases; they merely cover the symptoms. U.S. physicians provide allopathic health care – that is, they care for disease, not health. So, the over-prescription of drugs and medications is designed to treat disease instead of preventing it. And because there are so many drugs available, unforeseen adverse drug reactions are all too common, which leads to the highly conservative annual prescription drug death rate of 106,000. Keep in mind that these numbers came before the Vioxx scandal, and Cox-2 inhibitor drugs could ultimately end up killing tens of thousands more.

American medical patients are getting the short end of a rather raw deal when it comes to prescription drugs. Medicine is a high-dollar, highly competitive business. But it shouldn’t be. Null’s report cites the five most important aspects of health that modern medicine ignores in favor of the almighty dollar: Stress, lack of exercise, high calorie intake, highly processed foods and environmental toxin exposure. All these things are putting Americans in such poor health that they run to the doctor for treatment. But instead of doctors treating the causes of their poor health, such as putting them on a strict diet and exercise regimen, they stuff them full of prescription drugs to cover their symptoms. Using this inherently faulty system of medical treatment, it’s no wonder so many Americans die from prescription drugs. They’re not getting better; they’re just popping drugs to make their symptoms temporarily go away.

But not all doctors subscribe to this method of “treatment.” In fact, many doctors are just as angry as the public should be, charging that scientific medicine is “for sale” to the highest bidder – which, more often than not, end up being pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical industry is a multi-trillion dollar business. Companies spend billions on advertising and promotions for prescription drugs. Who can remember the last time they watched television and weren’t bombarded with ads for pills treating everything from erectile dysfunction to sleeplessness? And who has ever been to a doctor’s office or hospital and not seen every pen, notepad and post-it bearing the logo of some prescription drug?

Medical experts claim that patients’ requests for certain drugs have no effect on the number of prescriptions written for that drug. Pharmaceutical companies claim their drug ads are “educational” to the public. The public believes the FDA reviews all the ads and only allows the safest and most effective drug ads to reach the public. It’s a clever system: Pharmaceutical companies influence the public to ask for prescription drugs, the public asks their physicians to prescribe them certain drugs, and doctors acquiesce to their patients’ requests. Everyone’s happy, right? Not quite, since the prescription drug death toll continues to rise.

The public seems to genuinely believe that drugs advertised on TV are safe, in spite of the plethora of side effects listed by the commercial’s narrator, ranging from diarrhea to death. Patients feel justified in asking their physicians to prescribe them a particular drug they’ve seen on TV, since it surely must be safe or it wouldn’t have been advertised. Remember all those TV ads heralding the wonders of Vioxx? One might wonder how many lives could have been spared if patients didn’t see the ad on TV and request a prescription from their doctors.

But advertising isn’t the only tool the pharmaceutical industry uses to influence medicine. Null’s study cites an ABC report that said pharmaceutical companies spend over $2 billion sending doctors to more than 314,000 events every year. While doctors are riding the dollar of pharmaceutical companies, enjoying all the many perks of these “events,” how likely are they to question the validity of drug companies or their products?

Admittedly, not all doctors reside in the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies. Some are downright angry at the situation, and angry on behalf of an unaware public. Major conflicts of interest exist between the American public, the medical community and the pharmaceutical industry. And although the public suffers the most from this conflict, it is the least informed. The public gets the short end of the stick and they don’t even know it. That is why the pharmaceutical industry remains a multi-trillion dollar business.

Prescription drugs are only a part of the U.S. healthcare system’s miserable failings. In fact, outpatient deaths, bedsore deaths and malnutrition deaths each account for higher death rates than adverse drug reactions. The problems run deep and cannot be remedied without drastic, widespread change in the system’s money and ethics.

The first issue – money – is the main reason the medical industry cannot seem to change. Prescribing more drugs and recommending more surgeries means more profits. Getting more drugs approved by the FDA, regardless of their safety, means more money for the pharmaceutical industry. As the healthcare system stands today, physicians and drug companies can’t seem to pass up earning loads of money, even if a few hundred thousand people lose their lives in the process. Even in drastic cases of deadly drugs, everyone involved has a scapegoat: Drug companies can blame the FDA for approving their product and the doctors for over-prescribing it, and doctors can blame the patients for wanting it and not properly weighing the risks.

What ultimately arises is a question of ethics. In layman’s terms, ethics are the rules or moral guidelines that govern the conduct of people or professions. Some ethics are ingrained from childhood, but some are specifically set forth. For example, nearly all medical schools have their new doctors take a modern form of the Hippocratic Oath. While few versions are identical, none include setting aside proper medical care in favor of money-making practices.

On the research side of the issue, “Death by Medicine” cites an ABC report that says clinical trials funded by pharmaceutical companies show a 90 percent chance that a drug will be perceived as effective, whereas clinical trials not funded by drug companies show only a 50 percent chance that a drug will be perceived as effective. “It appears that money can’t buy you love, but it can buy you any ‘scientific’ result you want,” writes Null and his team of researchers.

The government spends upwards of $30 billion a year on homeland security. Such spending seems important. Since 2001, 2,996 people in the United States have died from terrorism – all as a result of the 9/11 attacks. In that same period of time, 490,000 people have died from prescription drugs, not counting the Vioxx scandal. That means that prescription drugs in this country are at least 16,400 percent deadlier than terrorism. Again, those are the conservative numbers. A more realistic number, which would include deaths from over-the-counter drugs, makes drug consumption 32,000 percent deadlier than terrorism. But the scope of “Death by Medicine” is even wider. Conventional medicine, including unnecessary surgeries, bedsores and medical errors, is 104,700 percent deadlier than terrorism. Yet, our government’s attention and money is not put into reforming health care.

Couldn’t a little chunk of the homeland security money be better spent on overhauling the corrupt U.S. healthcare system, the leading cause of death in America? Couldn’t we forfeit the color-coded threat system in favor of stricter guidelines on medical research and prescription drugs? No one is attempting to say that terrorism in the world is not a problem, especially for a high-profile country like the United States. No one is saying that the people who died on 9/11 didn’t matter or weren’t horribly wronged by the terrorists that day. But there are more dangerous things in the United States being falsely represented as safe and healthy, when, in reality, they are deadly. The corruption in the pharmaceutical industry and in America’s healthcare system poses a far greater threat to the health, safety and welfare of Americans today than terrorism.

If the Bush Administration really wants to save lives — a lot of lives — it needs look no further than the chemical war has been declared on Americans by Big Pharma.

Source: oawhealth.com