It may not surprise you to learn that quite a few of the allotment shed crowd use so called ‘alternative’ medicines. The one most widely used is Saw Palmetto (berry) Extract, a popular remedy with men suffering from prostate problems, a fairly common complaint with older men. Does it work? Because there has been no detailed clinical research no one can be sure but my pals swear by it and regard it with considerably more equanimity than prescribed drugs which carry all sorts of unpleasant side-effects. It is just one example of the dilemma facing people of all ages and genders.
I was prompted to mention this by the latest revelations concerning prescribed drugs. Around 90,000 British diabetes patients have been warned against continuing use of Avandia. Evidence linking the drug to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke has been building since 2007. The pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has imsisted that the drug is safe, yet in July last agreed to pay $460 million in damages to settle claims linking the drug’s use to patients suffering serious medical setbacks. But it is only now that British GPs have been instructed to discontine prescribing following the ruling by the European Medicines Agency that the benefits of the drug do not outweigh its risks. It is perhaps relevant to mention that the Agency had been involved in a three year battle with the drug company.
This, of course, is just one example of what happens on a regular basis and involving all drug manufacturers. All high-powered chemically produced drugs carry significant side-effects. A medical consultant told me recently that he is regularly faced with the problem of other drugs prescribed for other conditions reacting against those prescribed by him. Some elderly patients, he told me, are a walking cocktail of potentially dangerous drugs most of which are beneficial but only if not taken with other drugs.
When you think about it the practice of modern medicine, although a million miles on from that of yesteryear, is now almost entirely dependent on drugs tested and recommended by powerful drug companies whose main concern must be the bottom line of their balance sheets. And they employ an army of salesman to maintain good relations with clinicians, even to the extent of sponsoring events, dinners and all. And however devoted to his oath, the doctor has no option than to accept the information produced by the companies. But even they may well be unaware of side-effects not detected during even the most painstaking research.
To return to the so-called alternative medicines which fill the health stores across the country, we have to ask ourselves if they are in fact completely safe let alone effective. The honest answer has to be no. Like most people who maintain a daily link with nature many of my allotment pals believe that there are cures for every condition out their somewhere. But without the financial clout of the giant pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers of alternatives cannot afford research. Even worse, some make what are clearly ludicrous claims for their products.
There is really only one answer to this burgeoning nightmare. Someone has to produce funding to enable at least the most promising, based on anecdotal evudence, natural products to be scientifically tested. At a time like this there is no chance of this coming from the treasury so governments around the world have to be prepared to make some alternative medicine research a condition of their licence to sell.
It sounds far-fetched I know but the stakes are very high. This very day your GP could be prescribing for you a drug with harmful side-effects unknown to him. Even more frustrating, he could be missing an opportunity to let you have treatment based on something both natural and safe. Even the massive research charities such as Cancer Research at present research only manufactured drugs as possible cures or alleviatiors.
My pals will continue to take their Saw Palmetto. The consultant several of them see has said that there does seem to be a beneficial outcome but, in the absence of research, he cannot be sure that it is not down to mind-over-matter. Just how crazy can we get? My self understanding tells me that I enjoy risk-taking but it also reveals an antipathy to unsubstantiated claims. It is hard to know which way to turn.
BIASED NEWSPAPERS ARE PLUMBING THE DEPTHS!
Our national newspapers have always shown a degree of bias but never to the extent of those adorning our breakfast tables now. Today is no exception!
Take just three. The Telegraph has devoted its headline to the theme of ‘New Labour is dead’, a blatant attempt to both whip up those faithful souls who still mourn the passing of Tony Blair and to frighten the middle classes with the image of Ed Miliband as someone to the left of Karl Marx. By way of back-up the middle pages raise the issue of his issues. One already here and another on the way and both born out of wedlock. That hardly sounds a telling point in today’s world but in the absence of skeletons it is better than nothing by way of a start to a campaign to denegrate the younger Miliband. Interestingly there is no mention at all of tonight’s Panorama programme which was, before being mysteriously withdrawn at the last minute, claimed to expose tax avoidance on the part of Lord Ashcroft, the outgoing Tory deputy chairman and biggest donor.
The Daily Mail leads with ‘Last rites for New Labour. It seems that Ed Miliband is a pretty dastardly chap for he is accused of failing to condemn unions over strike threats, of backing higher taxes, of curbing top pay and of sounding a death knell. Just in case we haven’t got the message, the Max Hastings column is headed ‘Labour has climbed into its coffin and is nailing down the lid’. Oh yes and there is a piece claiming electoral ‘ballot shambles. With so much to report on young Ed the Mail too was unable to fit in anything on the Lord Ashcroft story.
By contrast The Guardian front page not only covers the Lord Ashcroft story but tells us that Ed Miliband will lead from the front, a sort of version of General Booth and his Salvation Army.
I could go on but the point is that every paper now not only pursues a political agenda but happily resorts to selective coverage. Remember the uited attempt to destroy Nick Clegg when he first appeared as a threat to the Conservtive prospects? Over a million people subscribed to a web site entitled ‘All Clegg’s fault’ and added such revelations as his being the lookout on the Titanic. I suspect we are heading for a repeat performance with young Miliband cast as the world’s greatest villain. Perhaps it is not just the saga of MP’s expenses that has brought politics so low in the public esteem! And in view of the original intention and subsequent u-turn of Panorama the likelihood is that, as I type, the knives are being freshly sharpened in Downing Street. Our only source of objective truth is under threat as never before!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. 1971 2. They visited Communist China
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which city ws the scene of Bloody Sunday in 1972? 2. From which country in Africa were many Asians expelled in 1972?