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Thursday, 19 December 2013

Pill Popping as Primary Prevention - The common practice finally comes under fire

If we could redirect nearly $3 Billion in Canada and nearly $30 Billion in the US in wasted health care costs to something useful would that not be logical?  Basically that is the conclusion of several publications and editorials released this week on the impact of purchasing vitamin products that have no proven value.

Duel winning Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling popularized the concept of pill popping Vitamin C, multivitamins and other dietary supplements starting in the mid – 1960’s.  The supplement industry has evaded drug regulatory approval and oversight, actively resisted attempts at Canadian regulation even with provisions for grandfathering, and self-promoted to the point that the majority of North Americans consume at least one supplement, with the industry still enjoying healthy business growth.

So the release of the studies is met with fanfare and reasonably expected skepticism from those addicted to what are mostly glorified placebos. Over half of the adult population regularly takes one of the products that the studies have demonstrated as ineffective.  

Pauling was sometimes referred to as the father of quackery.  Charlatan approaches to extracting money from those suffering where time was the essential curative agent.  As time allows body healing, some therapies become perceived as the reason and then easily promoted.  Vitamin C being touted as the cure for a common cold which will run its natural course in a few days.  And, as most vitamins and dietary supplements have minimal effects -  there are few side effects that warrant hesitancy. 

Dietary supplements are not going to disappear quickly, but perhaps now health professionals can make informed and appropriate guidance on the limited value, leaving recommendations where proven efficacy has been demonstrated such as during pregnancy. Many colleagues have recommended vitamins and other supplements knowing that the value was not dissimilar to that of a placebo but wanting to appear that they are "doing something good" for their patient/client/consumer. 

The whole industry of non-traditional health services including naturopathy, homeopathy and a host of others will most likely continue to promote and advocate for expanded use of such therapies in the wake of the same “science” that has not demonstrated their value and attracts a clientele wishing to rebel against what has become known as traditional medicine.

Popping pills was first a way of treating illness and then a lifetime investment in preventing existing illness from getting worse.  These studies challenge the thought that pill popping is a way of preventing disease.  CTV coverage is enhanced if you take the time to read the comments, many of which speak to individuals justifying that they are special or different and hence rationalize continuation of current practice despite the mounting evidence.  

There are better things like taking a walk in the park.  

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