Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Holiday

During this holiday season it seems appropriate that we have a miracle in Colorado, a reminder that modern medicine doesn't have all of the answers. I'm sure you're familiar with the story by now of Tracy Hermanstorfer dying during labor on Christmas Eve. Her doctor says there was no blood pressure, no breathing, she was in full cardiac arrest. The doctors delivered the baby by Cesarean section but it was limp with a very slow heartbeat. Their attempts to revive her failed.

But Tracy wasn't done in this life. The new mother began breathing again on her own and baby Coltyn also revived. Today they're both healthy with no ill effects from the experience.

The doctors cannot explain the cardiac arrest or the recovery. Dr. Stephanie Martin, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs said "We did a thorough evaluation and can't find anything that explains why this happened."

Let's simply appreciate and enjoy this miracle.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Positive Attitude is Best Medicine

Optimism is good for you according to a study of 100,000 women published in Circulation magazine. They have a 16% lower risk of heart attacks. This research confirms similar findings in a 2004 Danish study.

Pessimists had a 19% higher risk for early death according to a 2000 Mayo Clinic study.

Optimists have better immune system functioning, quicker recovery from heart surgery and greater ability to handle life-threatening illnesses like cancer. The good news is everyone can learn to be more optimistic, even pessimists. Wouldn't you prefer to wake up on the right side of the bed every morning?

Optimism is its own reward.

Monday, December 7, 2009

NCCAM 10th Anniversary Symposium

Today, Dec. 8th, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine will hold its 10th anniversary symposium at Washington, D.C. Those unable to attend can catch the webcast of the activities at

Did you know that over 11% of all out-of-pocket expenditures for health care were for complementary and alternative medicine? The field continues to grow in popularity today as more information becomes available.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Surgical Errors Reported

A survey commissioned by the American College of Surgeons and published in the Annals of Surgery finds that 9% of surgeons admit to a “major medical error” in the past three months. So let's see, that means in a year's time there could be more than 1/3 of all surgeons making major medical mistakes? Or is it just the same 9% making errors all year long?

Is it any wonder that more than 100,000 people are killed each year in hospitals due to medical errors and failures? Obviously the culture of medicine has flaws that are literally killing people and need to be fixed for the benefit of both doctor and patient.

Friday, November 20, 2009

NCCAM's 10th Anniversary

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), 1 of 27 divisions of the National Institutes of Health, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. NCCAM Director Josephine P. Briggs, M.D noted the organizations accomplishments saying "We have funded more than 2,200 research projects, resulting in more than 3,300 scientific articles published in peer-reviewed journals." More important Dr. Briggs added, "Based on the growing evidence base for CAM interventions, a number of medical professional organizations—such as the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and the American Academy of Pediatrics—have included CAM modalities in recent guidelines."

Clearly these accomplishments are in stark contrast to the recent series of articles from the Associated Press which claimed that they have never found a single cure and that the millions of dollars spent on research could have been better spent on traditional research. This pro-prescription drug campaign should have been listed as editorial instead of news.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Drug Costs Jump

The headline on the front page of today's Dallas Morning News says it all: "Drug Costs Rise At Fastest Rate In Years." While the Consumer Price Index has fallen 1.3% in the past year the wholesale price of prescription drugs has gone up by 9%. This will bring the bill for drugs to about $300 billion this year. This is the fastest rate since 1992 but this time it's happening when the drug companies pledged to reduce costs by $8 billion a year after health care reform is in effect.

Does it look like a phony deal to you? The drug companies crank up sales by $10 billion in order to offer a price cut of $8 billion? I won't even go into the latest studies on heart drugs that show how they actually increase the risk of heart attack.

It's time for Americans to find better answers to their health problems than prescription drugs.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

CAMbrella Investment of 1.5 Million Euros

The European Union is funding a 3-year project called CAMbrella with 1.5 million euros to create a research network to study complementary and alternative medicine. The group that won the grant includes 16 scientific organizations from 12 European countries. Their goal is to develop a comprehensive view of the present CAM situation in Europe that will serve as a benchmark and starting point for future research.

CAM is much more accepted in Europe, it was just this past spring that Switzerland voted to add it to their constitution to protect it. However there hasn't been as much investment in research compared with the NCCAM in America. Germany, for example, has not invested any government funding since 1996.

In an era of health care reform this investment by Europe may pay dividends to America.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Researchers and Practitioners Meet

It's interesting to note the recent 2nd Annual Fascia Research Congress in Amsterdam, The Netherlands because it's the second organized exchange between the basic sciences and practitioners of manual therapy. There were over 550 people there from 40 countries. This field is attempting to bridge the divide between two cultures which will standardize language and terminology but also develop mutual respect.

The congress opened with an exhortation towards precision with language in order to dispel confusion about the term “fascia” because there are different types and they're not all the same. The scientific research going on is providing a deeper understanding of the mechanics of the various structural integration and massage therapies for the practitioners and the experience of the practitioners provides insight and understanding to the researchers. It's a win-win opportunity.

Wouldn't it be great if other fields could learn to work with and respect each other? Just imagine how much progress could be made when folks work together!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Medical Mistakes Take, Ruin Lives

Ten years ago the Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimated that 98,000 people die each year needlessly because of preventable medical mistakes including hospital infections. Estimates are that preventable medical mistakes still account for more than 100,000 deaths each year. In other words 1,000,000 lives have been lost over the past decade, not to mention those hurt or maimed by mistakes.

There is going to be a forum later this month by Consumer's Union Safe Patient Project called To Err Is Human, To Delay Is Deadly to review this situation and search for improvements. It will be webcast so anyone who is interested may listen and watch the proceedings on November 17, 2009 from 10am-3:30pm EST.

Can you imagine if any one of the 300+ therapies listed in my book killed 100,000 people every year? The media would be all over us but the medical systems' status quo doesn't even rate a paragraph in the back of the paper today.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

If anyone wonders why so so many Americans are in favor of some type of public option for health care, the answer can be found in the Journal of the American Medical Association. According to the August issue health debts caused over 62% of bankruptcies in 2007, up dramatically from the 46% rate just six years earlier.

One answer to this problem is a radical change in our health care system, beginning with each one of us, right now. The current model is treatment-based and we need to shift to a focus on prevention. We don't wait until the engines fall out of our cars before getting them serviced do we? No! We take them in for regular service so expensive problems can be avoided. We need to do the same for our health.

Americans need to take responsibility for their own health. We can prevent bankruptcies in many cases by preventing serious health problems. Don't wait until something goes wrong, take charge of your life right now and do something to maintain better health. For instance, take advantage of the hundreds of complementary and alternative therapies that are available. Most of these are holistic (treat all of you) and are based on preventative medicine.

Monday, October 26, 2009

FDA Fails to Remove Unproven Drugs

The FDA has allowed drugs for cancer and other serious diseases to stay on the market even when their effectiveness is unproven. Under the "accelerated approval" program a drug can be made available when preliminary research is promising under the promise of follow-up data. However even after a decade of no additional information the FDA doesn't take any action, in fact it has never pulled a drug approved in this manner from the market. When questioned by the GAO about the issue the FDA said it doesn't even have any plans to get more aggressive on enforcement.

Is this how the FDA protects the public or the drug manufacturers?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

As Young As You Feel

Many types of complementary and alternative medicine rely on the mind-body link. Now research from Yale University and the National Institute on Aging are showing how powerful it is when it comes to aging.

In one study scientists compared the health status of 386 men and women who took surveys in 1968 when they were 50 years old. Those with the most negative stereotypes about older people were much more likely to have had strokes or heart attacks than those with more positive views.

The good news is that attitudes about aging are not set in stone, it appears they can be changed, especially if people are exposed to positive role models.

So think positive! You're only as old as you feel.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Growing Radiation Risk

The growth in diagnostic imaging tests in America has exploded in recent years. It's estimated that our radiation exposure has increased more than 600% since 1980. According to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements increased exposure leads to increased cancer risk. Since many imaging centers are owned by doctors it's become a lucrative opportunity resulting in a wild west environment, a dangerous place for patients.

Isn't it amazing that occupational radiation exposure is regulated by the federal government but there is no federal oversight when radiation is used for medical purposes? Doesn't this seem like upside-down priorities considering the number of people at risk?

Today even some doctors are beginning to suggest that tracking a patient's cumulative radiation dose in their medical record is necessary. Such a record could help prevent unnecessary radiation exposure.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Four Rivers of Life

Ran across an interesting article recently, thought I'd share it with you. It appeared in the magazine Bottom Line but it was actually about a book from Angeles Arrien called The Second Half of Life. She suggests keeping a journal so we're more aware of our life and the flowing of our rivers.

We all have four rivers of life that nourish us and help us to grow. The first is the River of Inspiration. What inspired you today?

The second is the River of Challenge. What challenged you to leave your comfort zone? Did you accept the challenge?

The third is the River of Surprise. What "came out of the blue" today for you? Staying aware of these mysteries of life can help you move in wonderful new directions.

The fourth is the River of Love. How did love touch you today?

These four rivers can raise our lives from a level of mundane averageness to an exciting, almost mystical level. Sounds like good advice to me!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Autism Increases

Two new government studies indicate about 1 in 100 children have autism disorders. The figure is much higher than a previous U.S. estimate of 1 in 150. While federal health officials claim that greater awareness, broader definitions and spotting autism in younger children may explain some of the increase it's the same explanation given every time the figures escalate. The latest estimate translates to about 673,000 American children having autism compared to earlier estimates which put the number at about 560,000.

"The concern here is that buried in these numbers is a true increase," said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. "We're going to have to think very hard about what we're going to do for the 1 in 100."

The bigger question, the one nobody seems to be asking, is what are we doing to our health in this country to produce this problem?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Insurance Premiums Soar

According to the 2009 Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, health insurance premiums have soared 131% since 1999, racing past the meager 38% increase in wages and the 28% increase in inflation during the same period. The report is based on a survey of 3,100 U.S. firms. That's why so many firms have reduced or eliminated health care insurance.

It's also why America needs to come to grips with a broken health care system that's consuming 16.7% of our nation's GDP.

Monday, September 21, 2009

World Alzheimer's Day

Every disease and illness is terrible in its own way but Alzheimer's is one of the most insidious in my opinion. I've seen the patient live a happy, if lonely, life while family caregivers literally work themselves to death trying to care for their loved one.

Today is World Alzheimer's Day and in case you've forgotten the disease affects 5.3 million people here in the United States. One of the many organizations to learn more is the Alzheimer's Solutions Project.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Homeopathy Research

There is new research showing that homeopathic solutions may be effective even though they've been diluted many times. The winner of the Nobel Prize in 2008, Prof. Luc Montagnier, reported that a series of rigorous experiments has demonstrated that electromagnetic properties remain in highly diluted biological samples. Dr. Montagnier is a French virologist who co-discovered HIV.

Homeopathy was not mentioned specifically in the paper but the process was similar because they used aqueous solutions that were agitated and serially diluted, noting that the strong agitation was critical for the generation of electromagnetic signals. Anyone familiar with homeopathy recognizes the traditional homeopathic distillation process.

A portion of the abstract of this research in part asserts, "A novel property of DNA is described: the capacity of some bacterial DNA sequences to induce electromagnetic waves at high aqueous (water) dilutions. It appears to be a resonance phenomenon triggered by the ambient electromagnetic background of very low frequency waves."

One of the major arguments against homeopathy in America has been that scientifically it's impossible for such dilutions to maintain any effect. This latest research would appear to counter that claim. Homeopathy is used extensively in Europe.

To learn more: Montagnier L, Aissa J, Ferris S, Montagnier J-L, Lavallee C (2009). Electromagnetic Signals Are Produced by Aqueous Nanostructures Derived from Bacterial DNA Sequences. Interdisciplinary Sciences: Computational Life Sciences, 1: 81-90.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Google Reader

Just figured out how to use the Google reader so folks can read a sample of UnBreak Your Health. Check it out at Google Book.

Slower Blogging

Every author is constantly working to improve his craft and I'm no different. Non-fiction authors are always in the process of updating their works and so am I. Sorry for the shortage of blogs lately but have been getting ready for a string of speaking engagements and have finally gotten down to working on the second edition of UnBreak Your Health.

The most fun so far has been updating listings in the first edition. As you know I'm closing in on 50 podcasts and listening to them again always brings out some new tidbit of information about each therapy. Maybe I'm just putting off the hard work of researching all of the new listings for later. Also going to present the information in a slightly different way, a more entertaining and interesting way. I'm capitalizing on all of the suggestions from readers over the past two years about what they'd like to see.

I'll get back to blogging more regularly, I promise!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Facts on Health Care Reform

Once again I'm going to recommend another writer's words on the health care reform challenge in America. T.R. Reid, a former Washington Post reporter, is the author of "The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care," to be published Monday. He has a very informative piece today in the Washington Post that presents the facts about health care around the world. In a time where opinion and attitude dominate the discussion it's refreshing to read information instead of opinion.

Here is the link to his article on 5 Myths on Health Care Around the World. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Worker Stress

Even Western medicine is beginning to recognize that stress plays a vital role in a wide variety of health problems. I'd like to note that low income is a huge factor in the stress of millions of American workers.

In a prior life I produced a business video called Chorus For Quality about how we all needed to work together for our nation's economic benefit because we're all on the same team. One of the problems facing our country is the growing divide between CEO and worker pay. In Japan and other countries a CEO would be dishonored to be so greedy resulting in their pay gap being a fraction of ours. When my video was released many years ago the gap between CEO and average worker pay was less than 200% and that was the highest in the world by far.

A recent study has found that overall CEO-to-worker pay gap is 319 times more than the average worker for the S&P 500 CEOs last year. This growing divide is not only stressful to the workers getting the short end of the deal but also to our nation.

Pfizer Settlement

How could I not make a comment on the settlement with Pfizer which features the largest criminal fine ever imposed in United States for any legal matter? The announcement of the agreement has Pfizer pleading guilty under a $2.3 billion federal settlement over unlawful prescription-drug promotions. The settlement involves the drug Bextra but also resolves Justice Department investigations involving alleged past off-label promotional practices concerning Zyvox, Geodon and Lyrica and allegations related to certain payments to health-care professionals.

America is one of only two nations on earth that permit the direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and even that's not enough for the drug companies. They want more and more and more. It's great to see the system working to protect consumers.

Dangerous World

We live in a dangerous world today. We recognize many of its dangers but some are not as visible. For example, a new study out of Israel shows that holding a cell phone to one's head for 22 hours each month can increase the risk for cancer of the salivary gland by 50%. You've heard the warnings before - use a headset.

Don't wear the cellphone on your belt, carry it in your purse or lay it down. You really don't want to expose other parts of your body to a constant dose of radiation.

While we're on the subject of unseen energy ... if radiation can hurt us why can't energy medicine heal us?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Western Science and Acupuncture

According to an article in today's US NEWS & WORLD REPORT, Western science is beginning to understand (at least in terms they can understand) how acupuncture works. The story is actually about a study coming out in the September issue of NeuroImage where positron emission tomography scans of the brain showed changes caused by acupuncture.

This latest study showed that acupuncture increases the binding availability of mu-opioid receptors in regions of the brain that process and weaken pain signal, in other words it reduces pain. Western medicine continues to try and squeeze that square peg of acupuncture into their round hole of science to try and understand how it works. The fact that it's been used by billions of people for 5,000 years doesn't carry any weight with Western medicine.

They're slowing coming along and accepting that acupuncture does work. Better late than never.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Modern Medicine Changes Its Mind ... Again

You've heard the same old story over and over again. One day Modern Medicine says you should eat X or Y and the next day the medical advice is the exact opposite. This time the medical merry-go-round concerns your appendix. About 1 in 20 people have their appendix removed and doctors have said for decades that it was a useless organ, a leftover from our earliest ancestors.

"Maybe it's time to correct the textbooks" according to researcher William Parker, an immunologist at Duke University Medical Center. Along with his colleges they recently suggested that the appendix serves as a warehouse for good bacteria, waiting to repopulate our digestive tract after diarrhea and other illnesses. Sounds like a pretty useful purpose to me.

The research was published in this month's issue of Journal of Evolutionary Biology.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cost of Western Medicine

What does it say about the cost of mainstream medicine in America today when even your insurance company wants you to go overseas for surgery? Today the four largest insurers in our country covering nearly 100 million people either have pilot programs offering overseas travel or they've already explored the option.

The Deloitte Center or Health Solutions projects that 1.6 million Americans will make medical tourism trips in 2010, more than double the 750,000 who made trips in 2007. The reason is simple: price. Savings can be 50% to 90% on things like heart bypass surgery or knee replacement surgery.

Best of all, the foreign competition is forcing some doctors and hospitals here at home to reduce prices to compete with medical tourism.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Divorce Health Scars

Half of the marriages in America end in divorce and that's bad news for the health of those involved. A Chicago study found that divorced people have 20% more chronic illnesses such as cancer than those who never marry. The figure drops to 12% for those who are able to remarry. The rate for those couples who stay married is the same for those who never marry.

The study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, involved 8,652 people aged 51 to 61.

It should be noted that people who remarry do tend to be happier they gain little in terms of chronic health conditions.

There are several lessons in this study, the most obvious is that divorce leaves many scars. It also demonstrates again that our emotional health impacts our physical health. One of the advantages of complementary and alternative medicine is that looks at the whole person because these therapies appreciate that the source of health problems can be in your mind or spirit. What's sad is that Western medicine is still doing studies to discover this fundamental human truth.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Another Health Care Opinion

As articulate as I try to be, sometimes it's just easier to let someone else say what needs to be said. In this case it's an editorial in today's Dallas Morning News by New York Times columnist Bob Herbert on health care "reform" efforts. Business Win/Public Loss

Sunday, August 2, 2009

CAM Report

How could I not comment on the report last week from the National Institutes of Health about the growing popularity of complementary and alternative medicine? The good news is even though the field is often about self-care 38% of adults in this country made 354 million visits to complementary and alternative medicine practitioners in 2007. The bad news is that CAM therapies only make up 1.5% of the $2.2 trillion spent on health care in this country.

It's been estimated that 30% of our health care budget, or about $700 billion, is spent on tests and treatments that provide no value or benefit. Clearly we've got a long way to go to better balance our health care.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Time for Change

Ever so slowly the fact that we need to change our current health care system is beginning to be accepted in America. Costs have doubled in the last ten years and we simply cannot afford to wait and have them double again in the next ten years.

To put the issue in a more personal perspective, the American Journal of Medicine said in its June issue that medical debt was a factor in 62% of personal bankruptcies nationally and that 75% of those people had health insurance. Beginning to get the picture? Personally, and as a nation, we can't afford the current medical system.

We may disagree on what form the change needs to take, but hopefully we can quickly agree that change needs to happen NOW.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Health Care Reform

Anyone watch President Obama's news conference last night? He made some key points about the health care reform effort. We really have two choices. The first one will at least double what we pay for health care in the next ten years with millions more losing their insurance or being able to afford insurance. That's the program we have today, the one where costs have doubled over the last ten years, currently consuming 16.3% of our nation's GDP. America can't afford to pay 32% of our GDP on health care ten years from now which is why the message is clear: change health care NOW.

The second choice is to reform health care. We'll join every other industrialized country on earth with universal coverage and reduce our costs. America spends more on health care than any other country in the world yet we are no healthier for it. In fact, in most categories we're worse than other countries. So not only are we paying more for it, we're not getting as good a deal. President Obama made the point with the car analogy - if your neighbor bought a car and paid $6,000 less for it than you did, you'd want to find the same deal, and he's right.

This morning I even heard an anchor on Fox Business say it's crazy that we spend 98% of our health care dollars on treatment, and he's right. That's why other countries focus on prevention and have lower costs. We're paying for treatments instead of results. Our medical system is upside down and we're all paying the price for it, and it's going to get worse unless we do something about it now.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Health Reform Progress

Who would've dreamed the American Medical Association would support Obama's health care reform plan? Yes, it will give them 46 million new patients with health insurance, even if it is the public option. But the AMA has traditionally opposed radical changes in the health care system including programs like Medicare. This support should signal Congress that everyone wants change, now the disagreement is exactly what kind of change.

Monday, July 13, 2009

PBS Story On Reform Efforts

Bill Moyers had a interesting report on the health care reform situation, call it "the other side of the news" from the millions being spent by the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Watch it for yourself at REFORM NOW.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Drug Advertising Change

Everyone knows that prescription drug advertising is big business in America, the industry was the 10th biggest advertiser in 2006 with $5.3 billion in spending, or 3.5% of the total advertising market in America. Being only one of two countries in the world that even permits direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs no one who watches TV today is surprised that they spend 55% of that amount on TV advertising.

The party may be coming to a close because Charles Rangel, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, wants to drop the drug-advertising deduction. The move would raise up to $37 billion over the next decade, money that could be used for health care reform.

Would anyone really miss those TV ads?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Even Edison Knew

Ran across a wonderful quote this week that shows the error of relying on artificial prescription drugs for our health today. Many people remember Thomas Edison as a great scientist and inventor. Even he could not understand why mainstream medicine continued to persist in treating diseases with drugs, when it was obvious to him that disease was caused by biological imbalances which drugs can do nothing to correct. He best stated his opinion in one of his writings when he said: "The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease."

Sounds an awful lot like Traditional Chinese Medicine and many, many other types of complementary and alternative therapies, doesn't it? Want to go back even further?

Four hundred years ago Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver's Travels, wrote that "the three best doctors in the world are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman." Today four centuries later we're still figuring out the importance to our health today of what we eat and drink, the peace that we find within, and the joy that we find within life.

Those of you familiar with the Ornish Program will recognize those features as being key to the program's success. The Ornish Program has been medically proven to reverse heart disease without drugs or surgery. It's so successful that Medicare last year approved it as the first lifestyle therapy in Medicare history.

Bottom line: drugs don't solve problems, they solve symptoms.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hospitals for Change

Three of the largest hospital groups have agreed to contribute $155 billion towards the cost of insuring the 47 million Americans without coverage over the next 10 years. The majority of the savings would come through lower Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals.

The catch in the deal seems to be an understanding that a public option for insurance would reimburse at higher levels. The groups supporting this position are the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals and the Catholic Health Association.

While I'm on the subject of hospitals, have you checked out some of the rating and review sites available? Transparency is one of the keys to getting hospitals to adopt best practices for better care and lower costs but the public has to take advantage of the information that's available. The federal government site allows you to do some comparison shopping for care. For safety, quality and efficiency try the Leapfrog Group site. To find hospitals with a problem stopping the spread of infections try the Consumers Union site.

Consumers of health care are going to have to talk about the choice of hospitals with their doctors and stop simply going along with whatever he/she suggests. Without consumer pressure there is no reason for hospitals to change how they do business.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Politics and Business As Usual

Would it surprise you to learn that there are 350 more former government officials, insiders and elected officials lobbying to protect the interests of hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, drug makers and others? What, you're surprised there aren't more? Well, frankly so am I given what's at stake.

The Washington Post says the health care industry is spending $1.4 million more right now to influence health care reform. The Post should know, they tried to auction off access to their reporters to lobbyists for prices ranging from $25,000 to more than $1 million. As a former journalist I find the idea of taking money from lobbyists who are eager to influence how a story is reported to be highly offensive. Doesn't anyone in Washington, D.C. have any ethics anymore?

The revolving door for elected officials to stay in Washington and make even more money as a lobbyist has to stop if we're going to protect the interests of the citizens of this country. Perhaps a 5-year moratorium before they can talk to their ol' buddies again?

Who's speaking up for the interests of Americans who want more affordable health care today in Washington?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Two States Restrict Gifts to Doctors

New laws taking effect this week in Massachusetts and Vermont ban or heavily restrict gifts from drug companies to doctors. The radio industry had payola scandals decades ago but the medical profession seems unable to restrict its appetite for money and gifts so lawmakers have stepped in. What's sad is that it's only in 2 states.

If doctors aren't embarrassed by all of these gifts why don't they simply put a big poster up in their waiting rooms and a special page on their website so patients can make informed decisions about their health care. After all, do you want a doctor doing your knee replacement who's taken $1,000,000 from a particular device manufacturer or one who has accepted no payments to bias his use of the best products for your care?

Let's be honest, the drug companies wouldn't be spending tens of millions of dollars on these "gifts" (regular folks would call them bribes) unless they increased sales and profits. Doctors claiming to be above being influenced are simply kidding themselves and their profession. The drug companies start the addiction with gifts while they're in medical school and it just gets worse over time.

But perhaps we should take a different approach. In NASCAR they proudly display their sponsors. The biggest sponsors get the biggest decals in the best position on the race car. Maybe doctors should admit they're being sponsored and put patches for each of the drug company products on their white lab coats. The biggest payments earn the biggest patches and best locations. At least then patients would know what to expect.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No Safe Drugs

Americans believe that if the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug then it's safe. They don't realize that there is no such thing as a drug that's 100% safe, even over-the-counter drugs. By now you've probably heard the news that the FDA is considering tough new standards for Tylenol and other products that contain acetaminophen including reduction in recommended dose, a possible "black box" warning and even elimination in some products such as Vicodin and Percocet.

The actions are being considered because acetaminophen is responsible for 56,000 people going to the emergency room and around 200 deaths each year due to liver damage. No one can even estimate the number of people who may suffer liver damage from these popular products. There is no such thing as a completely safe drug.

In contrast, none of the 300+ therapies listed in my book on complementary and alternative therapies send thousands of people to the hospital every year or kill hundreds. And doctors say complementary and alternative medicine is dangerous?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

ABC Primetime Prescription

So did you watch President Obama on ABC's PRIMETIME: Prescription for America last night? Or the additional segment on NIGHTLINE? Yes, it was a one-sided presentation of Obama's goals for health care reform but with pointed questions it seemed to bring up a full picture of the need for change and our options.

The fact is America can't continue with our current health care system, period. We simply cannot afford it. Already 16.3% of our GDP it continues to climb faster than inflation (usually 2x or 3x) and will soon cripple our economy. I enjoyed the comment from the doctor at the Mayo Clinic that we simply can't afford to give all treatments to all people. Every special interest group recognizes that change is going to happen, they just want to protect their interests.

There are several fundamental changes being proposed by the administration. First is a shift from Western medicine's focus on treatments to an emphasis on prevention which is the foundation of Eastern medicine. Since the three leading causes of death in our country are preventable this is self-evident.

The key part of this shift is a change from a nation of medical specialists (80% of doctors today) to relying on primary care doctors. In every other industrialized country the ratio is reversed with 80% primary care doctors and only 20% specialists. Again, doctors have simply followed the money in a system that's evolved to reward procedures instead of results.

If you managed to stay up late you heard the best question of all: Every other industrialized country in the world manages to provide health care for every citizen while spending half of what we do in America. It's time for a change.

Change is coming whether we want it to or not, it has to. Now the challenge is to shape the change for the best future for America.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Conflict of Interest

Next time you read a story about drug companies you should probably question the bias of the reporter. According to the Society of Professional Journalists the National Press Foundation has accepted funding from the drug company Pfizer to offer journalism fellowships on cancer issues. This promotion of the opportunity is a direct violation of SPJ's by-laws which state they should "avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived" and "remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility."

But that's not all. At its national conference in Indianapolis coming up in August, this "professional" journalism group will offer a tour of the Eli Lilly drug company corporate headquarters.

And they don't see this as a conflict of interest? Are we surprised at the recent flood of anti-CAM stories showing up in the media? Whatever happened to professional ethics? As a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists this behavior doesn't come as a surprise to me but it is disappointing. Yes there is a war going on for the minds (and wallets) of America during the health care reform effort but journalists are supposed to be objective reporters of events, not PR hacks on the take to promote one viewpoint.

To be fair, some journalists are raising objections about the disappearance of professional standards and I commend their efforts to reform their field before all credibility is lost. Hopefully these organizations will listen before they become the headline in their own story.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Medical Cost Conundrum

I've been to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and I would be the first to say that it is the finest medical facility in America, possibly the world. How does it provide such outstanding service at such reasonable costs? That's the basic question in health care reform today and one of the best articles I've read on the subject came out a couple of weeks ago in the New Yorker magazine.

The Cost Conundrum by Atul Gawande is an outstanding article about what's really involved in health care reform today. Who pays is only part of the puzzle. I've said for a long time that what we're paying for also has to be part of the discussion because complementary and alternative medicine has a lot to offer, that's why more than 1/3 of Americans already use it. What's really at stake in health care reform is the heart and soul of medicine in America today. President Obama recently was raving about the article at a Cabinet meeting and it's been circulating around Washington at the highest levels.

To learn even more about this issue you should read Shannon Brownlee's award-winning book OVERTREATED: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker & Poorer. It will open your eyes and you'll never look at your doctor quite the same way again.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Simple Solutions

There's an old saying that "the most expensive piece of equipment is the doctor's pen." Doctors hate being told what to do, whether it's a government bureaucrat or another doctor. That's why they refuse to accept the common sense of the Dartmouth studies that show variations in Medicare treatments which more than double costs without changing outcomes. The research from the Dartmouth College's Institute of Health Policy and Clinical Practice compares costs and outcomes all across the country and it's caught President Obama's attention as a way to reduce health care costs.

Why would McAllen, Texas, a poor border town, spend $15,000 per year per Medicare patient when Rochester, Minnesota, home of the famous Mayo Clinic, spends half as much? To be fair let's compare it to El Paso since they have similar demographics. El Paso's hospitals rank better than McAllen's is 23 of 25 criteria. Yet McAllen patients get 60% more stress tests with echocardiography, 200% more tests to diagnose carpel tunnel syndrome and 550% more tests to diagnose prostate problems.

Atule Gawande, a Boston surgeon writing in The New Yorker recently said "they get more of what costs more but not more of what they need." Doctors at the Mayo Clinic work on fixed salaries which reduces the incentive for more revenue-producing tests. Developing "best practices" is not only a benefit to patients, it's also one of the ingredients in health care reform.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Medical Hypocrisy

Reading some of the articles from the medical community coming out against health care reform recently I was struck by a curious bit of hypocrisy by the medical establishment. In the current issue of U.S. News & World Report the "Heart to Heart" column by Dr. Bernadine Healy is a very clear example.

The fourth point in her story is the standard medical fear-mongering about comparative-effectiveness research and standards. In plain language doctors are afraid that studying what a procedure or drug does would lead to standards being established. The Dartmouth research has already shown that Medicare costs more than double in various cities yet the outcomes don't improve ... or may even be worse at the most expensive locations. In other words doctors just don't like being told what to do (or not do) by anyone else, even other doctors.

Doctors are screaming at the top of their lungs at how dangerous and unfair it could be for some government bureaucrat to determine what drug or procedure a patient could get. After all, you might not get that brand new $50,000 per dose wonder drug because only a few people might benefit.

Isn't it interesting that while doctors are fighting for your right to consume every type of drug or medical procedure, regardless of its effectiveness, they're also fighting hard to take away your right to choose complementary and alternative medicine because it may only benefit a small percentage of people? They used to call this kind of talking out of both sides of your mouth hypocrisy. They fight for the rights of a few when it's in their financial interest but fight hard to deny the freedom for everyone to choose to their patients when it might take away business.

Fortunately consumers are beginning to figure out that medicine in America often isn't about saving lives, it's about money. Lots of money. Anyone who doubts that can read Shannon Brownlee's award-winning book OVERTREATED: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker & Poorer.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Medical Bankruptcy

New research in the American Journal of Medicine shows that medical bills were a factor in 62% of bankruptcies in American and 75% of those folks had insurance. The data was from 2007.

If anyone wonders why the health care reform movement is growing stronger this time around, this is the answer.

And the medical community says complementary and alternative medicine is expensive?

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Wellness Initiative for the Nation (WIN)

As many blogs and news services as I use you'd think it wouldn't take me so long to run across a great report on improving America's health care system from the Samueli Institute. The Wellness Initiative for the Nation (WIN) pulls key elements from several other reports and recommendations to present a coherent plan to save money and improve our health by preventing disease and illness.

Medicine evolved from the practice of curing our ills and it's been a big, profitable enterprise. Today it's so big that it consumes 16.3% of our GDP while the amount of care decreases due to rising costs and the number of uninsured. The basic solution is to a new paradigm of medicine to prevent illness and disease. This is where traditional medicine can learn from the world of complementary and alternative medicine.

The WIN report is interesting reading, especially while health care reform is such a hot topic in our country. You'll find it at WIN.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

British National Health Beats U.S.

Interesting article in today's WALL STREET JOURNAL about the anti-health care reform ad campaign by the Patient's Rights group. Seems Lord Darzi of Denham, a surgeon and top official in Britain’s Department of Health, wants us to know the ads don't present an accurate picture of the British health system.

The British system provides a high standard of care to all Britons despite spending less per capita than is spent in the U.S., $2,500 a year in the U.K. versus about $6,000 in the U.S. He also pointed to a 2007 report from the U.S. research group Commonwealth Fund that ranked U.K. health care as No. 1 out of six large countries, based on patient and physician surveys (the U.S. placed last). And he noted better life expectancy rates — 79.2 years for the U.K. versus 78 years for the U.S., according to recent data from the World Health Organization.

The current TV campaign makes it sound like Britons are dying in the streets due to government bureaucracy. Is it a perfect system? Even the British will admit that it isn't, but it certainly offers some guidance to the health care reform efforts in our country. America simply cannot afford to continue spending 16.3% of our G.D.P. on health care, a figure which is escalating almost hourly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Swiss Vote for CAM

The Swiss became the first ones in Europe to vote complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) into their constitution recently. Coverage for CAM was removed from their basic health program in 2004 and moved to private health insurance. With more than 67% of the vote the Swiss moved it into their constitution and probably back into basic health care in that country.

This should be a clear indication for Americans on the importance other countries place on CAM. Perhaps there's a reason President Obama recently said he's open to adding CAM to health care reform efforts?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Running Scared

Interesting to see how the pharmaceutical companies are responding to health care reform efforts in Washington. The first quarter of this year their spending on lobbying jumped +36% from the same period in 2008. They spent $47.4 million in the first three months of the year to influence our elected officials not to ruin their party.

At the same time the Insurance industry decreased lobbying expenses by 2% to just $41.4 million for the first quarter. Either they're keeping their powder dry or they accept that change in health care is inevitable this time around are are willing to work with the process.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Health Care Costing More

There was an interesting study publisher here in Texas recently showing how the cost of health care continues to climb, becoming a bigger and bigger problem for families today. According to Families USA, a consumer health care advocacy group, 26% of the 5.6 million people in Texas under age 65 will spend 10% of their pre-tax family income on health care this year. What's more interesting is that 72% of the group have insurance. The report also says that 1.7 million Texans are in families that will spend more than 25% of their pre-tax family income on health care this year.

The problem with health care costs is not just the uninsured, it's the cost we're all paying today. In Texas health insurance premiums rose from $6,638 in 2000 to $12,403 in 2007, an 86% increase while median earnings rose just 15%.

Add in the time and expense of dealing with the standard insurance industry practice of "denial management" and the toll just keeps on rising for American families. Any wonder there is such a concentrated effort to enact health care reform this year?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stressful Times

Is it a sign of our stressful times? According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine an estimated 9.4% of adults surveyed in 2007 had tried meditation at least once during the previous 12 months, a significant increase from 7.6% in 2002.

Since that increase was before our current economic crisis, how many are meditating today? The good news is they're using natural stress relief which is better for their whole body.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Health Care and Money

As much as I'd like to believe that the health care industry is going to come up with $2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years, history says it isn't going to happen. In a story today Drew Altman, the president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, offered his perspective which covers nearly forty years.

"Neither managed care, nor wage and price controls, nor regulation, nor voluntary action nor market competition has had a lasting impact on our nation's health care costs," Altman said recently. Even after President Bill Clinton proposed an overhaul of our health care system the growth of health care spending slowed only slightly, only to surge a few years later.

The good news is the health care industry realizes that major changes are going to happen this time around and they're willing to promise almost anything to get a seat at the negotiating table.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Recession Stress Adds Pounds

A survey by shows that 40% of us have packed on the pounds as a result of stress recently. The problem? Snacking. Two-thirds report snacking once a day while 24% snacked twice each day. That will pack it on!

Stress is connected to many health problems including heart disease and several digestive disorders. Now, more than ever, it's worth it to take the time for yourself to deal with the stress in your life. Tai Chi, meditation, yoga, massage are just a few ways to help handle stress. Even taking the time to stop and smell the roses as you take a daily walk would help ... it's part of living in the moment or what's called mindfulness.

It also helps to mind what your eating!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Obama Open to CAM

During President Obama's April 29th Town Hall Meeting in Arnold, Missouri he expressed his openness to including complementary and alternative medicine in America's health care system. "We should do what works," President Obama said. "I think it is pretty well documented through scientific studies that acupuncture, for example, can be very effective in relieving certain things like migraines and other ailments - or at least as effective as more intrusive interventions."

The President went on to say that our health care system needs to change its focus to one of prevention to obtain serious savings down the road. Too often elected officials and the private insurance industry focus on reducing costs in the near-term. That's also good news for CAM because so many therapies are directed at prevention and wellness.

Personally I like the javascript:void(0)old system in China many years ago where folks would pay their doctor every month to keep them healthy and stopped paying when they were sick. Sure seems to be a better incentive to keep people healthy than America's system.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Working Ourselves To Death

Lifestyle is the major factor in our health so the report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development sheds light on why America ranks so poorly in so many health categories. For starters, the French sleep a daily average of 530 minutes compared with 518 for Americans and 469 for Koreans. (I've seen studies that say Americans average a lot less than 518 minutes.)

Medical science is just beginning to appreciate the negative effects of stress on our health but our culture isn't paying attention yet. The French enjoy 30 days of mandatory paid leave every year, compared to with 20 in the U.K. and 10 in Japan. America has no mandatory paid annual leave yet, the the impact of the resulting stress build-up can be seen in our health statistics.

Americans may enjoy being the hardest-working people on the planet but the toll it takes on our health is a heavy price to pay. Is it any wonder we spend more on health care than any other nation on earth at 16.3% of our GDP? How long before we stop and smell the roses?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Swine Flu

Here in Texas the Ft. Worth ISD closed 147 schools putting 80,000 kids out of classes for at least a week. It may not take hindsight for us to realize this is a drastic over-reaction to the situation. Suddenly in Mexico the numbers dropped from 1,400 cases with 180 deaths to a few hundred cases and only 19 deaths. In other words this new strain doesn't appear to be any more dangerous than regular seasonal flu.

But you have to love the story out of Canada about the 200 pigs who caught the Swine Flu ... from a human worker just returned from Mexico. There just seems to be an element of "turn about is fair play" about the story.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Study Scam Sting Effective

Not long ago I mentioned the congressional sting that caught a Colorado company faking information. Originally Coast IRB said they would review their operations but as a result of the warning letter from the FDA and loss of several key customers the company has said it would close.

One small step ...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Drugs Dangers ... Again

Once again a popular drug is found to have serious side effects even though it's been used for many years. According to research just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, mothers who took the anti-epileptic drug valproate while pregnant reduced the IQ of their child by 6 to 9 points. In addition the drug increases the risk of structural deformities such as spina bifida to about 10%, more than any other anti-epileptic drug. As recently as 2006 valproate was the second-most commonly prescribed anti-epileptic drug among women of childbearing age in America. The good news is there are other anti-epileptic drugs available that do not appear to cause similar problems.

The problem is that it takes years of use in the population for problems with drugs to be recognized and by that time many, many lives have been changed forever. In some cases, even lost.

Doctors need to stop thinking with their prescription pad and free drug rep pen and start looking to more natural ways to help patients. Every prescription not written is another problem avoided.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Vermont Drug Disclosure

Vermont is one of the very few states in the nation with a disclosure law that lets us get a look at how the pharmaceutical industry buys control of medicine today. The drug marketing disclosure law doesn't even include free samples but it's a snapshot of how the current medical system works.

In tiny little Vermont the top 78 drug makers reported spending a total of $2,935,248 to promote their products. Can you imagine how much the drug industry is spending in New York or California to promote drug use and their sales and profits?

And you wonder why the first suggestion from your doctor is about a drug?

How can complementary and alternative therapies compete in this game that's all about money instead of being about patient health?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Congress's Sting Catches Colorado Company

A congressional sting operation has caught Coast IRB. The company approves clinical-trial designs and patient-safety guidelines but it appears their first concern is profit, not patient safety. Their work involves oversight of patient safety during clinical trials and they will now voluntarily halt many of their review operations at the request of the Food and Drug Administration according to the FDA. The action could affect 300 trials involving more than 3,000 researchers and includes work for several major pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical-device companies.

It's about time somebody stepped up and started looking out for us!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Doctors Don't Have All The Answers

Story in the U.K. shows once again that doctors don't have all of the answers and that patients have to take responsibility for their own health. In this case, it was parents taking responsibility for the health of their child.

Reuben Grainger-Mead was diagnosed with a congenital blood disorder that stunted his growth, weakened him and made his heart race three or four times faster than normal when he was just 2 years old. He had to visit a hospital for monthly blood transfusions but his condition continued. His parents refused to give up and eventually found a nutritionist who correctly diagnosed the need for a change in diet due to the unique way his system worked. A change in diet and some dietary supplements and at 8 years old he's living a nearly normal life.

His mother put it clearly "It just shows that parents should never give up," she said. "I'm not criticizing the medical profession at all -- they did all they could. But this shows that there's always another avenue."

And doctors wonder why we fight so hard to have access to complementary and alternative medicine?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fewer Prescriptions Filled

The current economic problems may have a silver lining. Due to their high cost fewer prescription drugs prescriptions are being filled today as people find ways to cut back. In the last quarter of 2008 6.8% of patients didn't fill their prescriptions for brand-name drugs and 4.1% failed to fill their generic prescriptions. May not sound like much but it's a 22% jump compared to the first quarter of 2007.

I say there may be a silver lining in this problem because many patients are going to realize how little the prescriptions were doing for them in the first place, or at least appreciate the cost-benefit ratio. They may also discover some of their health problems were actually side-effects from the prescriptions they were taking, either by themselves or as in combination with other drugs they're taking.

Hopefully some folks are going to look for other, better answers to their health problems. Most of us start to use complementary and alternative medicine because we're out of options. Hopefully a few people are going to try CAM because they're looking for a better, cheaper and safer alternative.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Health Costs Continue Climb for Retirees

Just when your 401K has become a 201K we get the news that health costs for those retiring continues to climb. A couple retiring this year will need about $240,000 just for medical expenses today, an increase of +6.7% from last year. The costs come from deductibles, co-pays and situations that aren't covered by Medicare.

Want more good news? Only 12% of companies today offer insurance for retired workers according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). The reality is many people will continue working just for their health care.

The best advice? Start saving now not only for retirement, but for retirement health expenses.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Doctors and Dollars

Once again we discover that money does, in fact, influence doctors even though they protest that they're super humans and above such mortal behavior. A study due out this month finds that among 20 authors of the guidelines to treat depression, dipolar disorder and schizophrenia, 18 had at least one financial tie to a drug maker. Twelve of the 20 had ties to drug makers in at least THREE categories such as consulting, research grants, speaking fees or even stock ownership.

Kind of makes it hard to believe their "expert" opinions aren't just a little bit biased, doesn't it?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Little Progress

The report from the Health Reform Dialogue, a collection of groups usually at odds over health care, is a small step in the right direction. Consumers, insurers, doctors, employers and others reached a broad agreement the may act as a starting point for the reform process.

One critical point that I'd like to highlight was their recommendation that the priority of America's health care system be changed. In fact, they want it totally reversed. Over the last few decades the health care system has figured out it's much more profitable to treat sick people than to keep them healthy and prevent illness and disease. Great for them, bad for us. It's one of the major reasons that America spends more on health care than any other nation on earth, more than twice as much as many other industrialized countries. The report now calls for prevention to become the foundation for medical care.

It's a small step, but at least it's a start.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Big Medicine's Insider Game

Can you imagine being called a "nobody and a nothing" by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)? Can you imagine just a week later being called "somebody doing something very important" by the same publication? The flap shines a spotlight on the games being played by Big Medicine today which hurt every American.

You see the problem is Leo, a professor of neuro-anatomy at Lincoln Memorial University, had the audacity to send a letter to the medical journal BMJ in which he pointed out an unreported conflict of interest in a JAMA study. As usual, a little sunshine scares the established medical interests so they reflex by calling him names.

The tide is slowly turning in America towards fairness and transparency though and less than a week later JAMA had to reverse course. They claim they're correcting their policy on conflicts of interest, but they've said that many times before. It's sad that Leo would have to send a letter out of the country in order to get it published, but that's a reflection of medicine in America today.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wall Street Journal Article on Stress

Nice article in today's Wall Street Journal about the health effects of stress. It's sad that mainstream medicine has taken so long to figure it out, but I guess better late than never. Unfortunately there are still too many doctors out there that think "in your head" is synonymous with "psychosomatic" and make believe.

I particularly liked the information on the "gut brain" as they called it. The digestive tract is loaded with its own little nervous system that is incredibly tuned in to our thoughts and emotions. That's why you get butterflies there when you're nervous. Even greater or prolonged anxiety can trigger heartburn, indigestion and irritable-bowel syndrome, in which the normal movement of the colon gets out of rhythm, traps painful gas and alternates between diarrhea and constipation. Been there, done that, it wasn't any fun.

The article didn't really cover the hundreds of different CAM therapies that have been proven to help with stress and the damaging effects on our health. At least it's a start.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Supreme Court: Drug Makers Can Be Sued

The pharmaceutical industry received bad news from the Supreme Court this week - they can be sued after all, even if their drug is FDA approved. Reversing a Bush Administratio policy the court ruled 6-3 to uphold the rights of Americans to sue manufacturers if they're harmed by a defective product.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that lawsuits "uncover drug hazards and provide incentives for drug manufacturers to disclose safety risks promptly."

Monday, March 2, 2009

Crossroads of History

Last Thursday (February 26, 2009) was an important day in the history of health care in America. Four of the nation’s most highly respected proponents of natural and integrative medicine argued before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee about how Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) must be incorporated into our current conventional health care system if we're to have any hope of fixing the system. To learn more about the testimony of Drs. Mehmet Oz, Dean Ornish, Andrew Weil, and Mark Hyman you can go to Senate Hearings.

Sen. Tom Harkin had some wonderful opening remarks at the hearing. "It is fashionable, these days, to quote Abraham Lincoln. So I would like to quote form his 1862 address to Congress - words that should inspire us as we craft health care reform legislation. Lincoln said, 'The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty ... As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.'" Later he put the situation more succinctly: "It is time to end the discrimination against alternative health care practices."

The process of changing health care in America is not going to be a quick and easy situation but rather a long, bloody and difficult process to give birth to a better health care system.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2009 Medical Costs

Health care costs will rise 4.5% this year, to $8,160 for every man, woman and child in America according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. Crossing over the $,8000 line means that health-care costs are consuming a growing slice of our shrinking economic pie.

Estimes show that Medicare will become insolvent as early as 2016, years sooner than expected. In fact, taxpayers will be responsible for more than half of the nation's health care bill by 2016 due to the influx of Baby Boomers and expansion of Medicaid. Health care costs will rise to $13,100 by 2018.

Meanwhile the nunber of uninsured has grown to 48 million according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rife On Trial

Jim Folsom is going to prison. You've probably never heard his name or even the name of the device he sells, a Rife Machine or Rife Beam Ray Device, but anyone wanting better health without drugs has lost something today. Big Government (FDA) once again wants to take away a safe device that is being used in Europe today and has been used in this country since the early 1900's.

The technology is even being researched today by approved medical institutions because it does work. Now it's called laser technology using frequencies to explode viruses but decades ago it was simply called a "beam ray device" by Royal Rife. Interesting that this device predates the FDA by decades but they are obsessed with eliminating this threat to their friends in the drug industry.

Anyone who thinks they have freedom in America today isn't paying attention. Whenever there is money and power at stake, freedom is the first casualty.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Website Woes

You may have noticed that my website ( has disappeared the last day or two. No, it's not a conspiracy by Big Pharma to silence my constant promotion of complementary and alternative medicine. It's just a glitch in the system that's shut it all down. I had hoped to get it back up within 24 hours but that obviously hasn't happened so I hope you'll be patient. The site should be back up shortly!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

AMA Joins Lawsuit Over Payments

The American Medical Association is joining several state associations in suing two of the largest health insurers over a database they say was rigged to underpay doctors on out-of-network claims for more than a decade. Aetna and Cigna were both basing their payments on the Ingenix database of normal costs. United Health Group already lost $350 million to settle a separate lawsuit involving the AMA and the Ingenix database.

Cigna said prices charged by doctors are part of the problem because doctors in the expensive New York City market charge on average $214 for a 15-minute, out-of-network office visit. Health insurance companies may reimburse as much as $160 based on the Ingenix database while Medicare pays doctors $77 for the same visit.

Looking at those figures is it any wonder the AMA is terrified of a national health plan? Is it any surprise why it's so difficult to find a doctor who will take Medicare today when they can earn so much more for the same amount of time?

Clearly the costs of health care today are at the breaking point snd something has to be done. Cooking the books in a database isn't the way to solve the problem.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stimulus Bill Opens Health War

The proposed stimulus bill includes $1.1 billion in funding that would research and compare medical treatments, a step some portray as the first step to government rationing of health care. The drug and medical industries are gearing up their powerful lobbying forces to fight this effort to make medical expenses accountable for patient outcomes.

A coalition called the Partnership to Improve Patient Care includes the lobbying arms of the drug, device and biotechnology industries as well as patient-advocacy groups and medical-professional societies. Coalition spokesman David Di Martino says the research envisioned in the House bill may be used "in an inappropriate manner that may limit treatment options for patients." In other words, their profits.

Anyone who's read Shannon Brownlee's award-winning book OVERTREATED: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker & Poorer knows that cost does not equate to outcome in medicine today. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about the economics of health care in America.

One interesting thought is that the medical world may be terrified of this type of research because it might show that the cost-benefit ratio of complementary and alternative medicine is superior to the drug-based medical system we have today. CAM treatments are usually much less expensive than standard medical care and it can produce positive results.

I'm living proof of it. What I spent on CAM treatments to restore my health was a fraction of what was spent on specialists in Dallas and a trip to the Mayo Clinic.

The fact is the stimulus bill is the opening round of a new battle to change health care in America and the status quo are going to fight it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

FDA Approves Genetically Altered Drug

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made history today when it approved the first drug made with materials from genetically engineered animals. This decision opens a new Pandora's box of treatments from the pharmaceutical industry.

The government approved the drug ATryn, which is manufactured using milk from goats that have been scientifically altered to produce extra antithrombin, a protein that acts as a natural blood thinner.

The biggest problem is that the FDA does not require any labeling to warn patients that this product comes from genetically engineered animals, once again protecting the profits of the drug companies.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cancer Treatment Changes Aren't Always Better

A Dutch study has shown the danger in new cancer treatments. Doctors tried combining Erbitux and Avastin, two new cancer-fighting drugs, because lab tests and an earlier small study had shown promising results.

"This will stand out as a warning," said Cornelis Punt, the study's leader. "You have to do the randomized studies to see what really happens." The study shows that instead of treating the cancer better, it actually made the cancer worse.

The new research was done at hospitals throughout the Netherlands involving 755 patients who had colon cancer that had spread. In the U.S. colorectal cancer was expected to kill almost 50,000 Americans last year but rates have been dropping due to better screening and treatments.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Military Progress on CAM

The Air Force runs the military's only acupuncture clinic but beginning in March they'll begin a pilot program to prepare 44 Air Force, Navy and Army doctors to use acupuncture as part of emergency care in frontline hospitals. They will not be using traditional Chinese acupuncture but a modified form called battlefield acupuncture which uses shorter needles to allow personnel to wear helmets. The needles are applied just to the outer ear, not the entire body, so it's a simplified auricular therapy.

The real benefit is that if the military benefits from using this modified acupuncture for pain in war zones like Iraq and Afganistan then its benefits will likely be more accepted back home by civilians.

If found it interesting that the article in today's Dallas Morning News sat next to an article on how the FDA's medical advisors are urging a ban on the prescription drug Darvon that's been used to treat pain for 50 years. It continues to be one of the 25 most commonly prescribed drugs today but in 2007 there were 503 deaths from the drug. It's an interesting contrast to acupuncture which has been used safely for 5,000 years.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Cold Medicine

I continue to be surprised (even though I shouldn't be) at how cold and indifferent mainstream medicine can be. You would think that at some point when someone is brought into the emergency room by ambulance with a head injury they would ask the patient how they feel. No, the questions were all strictly medical. For 3 hours no one, not doctor, nurse, PA, no one asked the patient how they felt or if there was anything they could do to make them more comfortable.

The patient had to ask for nausea medication before being discharged because sitting up from examination table to wheelchair was going to be extremely difficult. For the entire ordeal the hospital never offered so much as an ice pack or an aspirin.

Medical personnel are trained to not get involved with patients to protect themselves, but at what point do they pass basic human compassion? Treating patients as if they were an animal, a slab of meat without any feelings, may protect the staff but it has a direct and harmful impact on the patient.

It's been said many times that one of the major reasons so many Americans are turning to complementary and alternative medicine is the caring attention they receive from practitioners. Based on personal experience, I'd certainly have to agree.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Medicare's Cancer Drug Expansion

Last November Medicare expanded "off label" drug uses to treat cancer by expanding from one to four guides that can be used to authorize coverage. Critics say the drug guides aren't always supported by research and could be influenced by ties to the companies manufacturing the drugs.

As an example, one of the four designated guides is published by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a group of hospitals. The guide relies on panels of experts to review drugs, half of whom have financial ties with a cancer drug maker.

While it's compassionate to try and help cancer patients afford drug treatments the profit motive of the drug companies would seem to be the real reason behind this change and yet the latest illustration of their influence in Washington.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hospital Errors

A World Health Organization study shows that hospitals can reduce the number of deaths from surgery by more than 40% simply by using a checklist according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. The 19-point checklist has nothing to do with high-tech but focuses on human error and basic medical procedures.

The study shows that hospitals using the checklist reduced their rate of death after surgery from 1.5% to 0.8% and reduced the number of complications following surgery from 11% to 7%.

It usually takes 17 years for a medical advance to become standard practice but the Institute for Healthcare Improvement is pushing for faster adoption. According to vice president Joe McCannon "Patients deserve it, and they deserve it now."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More Drug Safety Issues

People taking the newest antipsychotic drugs are twice as likely to suffer heart attacks and death as non-users according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In other words they're no more safe than the older drugs they're replacing.

Sales of atypical antipsychotic drugs were up 12% in 2007 to $13.23 billion.

And the pharmaceutical industry calls this progress.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Laughter For Health

I've written about Humor Therapy before so here's your chance to enjoy laughter for your health, and it's free! On Wednesday this week PBS is starting a new comedy series hosted by Billy Crystal called "Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America" at 7 p.m. here in Dallas.

In these stressful times we need to laugh more than ever to return our bodies and minds to a healthy balance. Take the time and enjoy yourself!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Wall Street Journal Opinion Article

Today's Wall Street Journal (Friday, Jan. 9, 2009) has a response by Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Dean Ornish titled "Alternative Medicine Is Mainstream" which is filled with facts and common sense. I highly recommend you read it so you can better respond to the anti-CAM hysteria in the country.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Drug Industry Shift

According to the Washington Post the drug industry is adopting an "if you can't beat them, join them" attitude towards health care reform. With Democrats taking control of White House and Congress the pharmaceutical industry is about to begin a $10 million advertising campaign supporting universal health coverage.

First they give up the ability to give out free pens and office supplies to doctors, now supporting universal health coverage ... where will all of these changes end?

Hopefully they'll end with Americans consuming less than 48% of the world's prescription drugs! With only 4.3% of the world's population it's absolutely crazy we spend so much on drugs only to rank #40 in the world for longevity.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Health Care Costs Grow Slowly

The figures are out for health care costs in 2007 and spending grew only 6.1% to $2.2 trillion or $7,421 per person. Health care now consumes 16.2% of our country's Gross Domestic Product. The good news is thanks to slower growth in prescription drug spending the rate of increase was down from the 6.7% rate in 2006.

The new administration has its work cut out to restrain the growing costs of health care in this country. Every family knows how the cost of health care is growing faster than their paychecks.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Wall Street Journal Draws Battle Lines

The war between complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and mainstream medicine and its ally the pharmaceutical industry has taken a new turn against the people in America. On December 25th the Wall Street Journal gave a gift of support to the forces of business and the status quo with a one-sided article by an author hawking a book claiming that all CAM is a scam. I won't even dignify the article by using its name because it is such a biased article it should have been on the op-ed page.

To give you an idea of how ridiculous this piece was it called Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Deepak Chopra "veteran hucksters" and basically called them stupid and charlatans because they promote health without prescription drugs. The author also denigrated the NCCAM for being a waste of taxpayer money. The author's qualifications are far less accomplished to say the least.

The reason for this article and the timing is easy to understand. With the incoming administration there are going to be major changes to America's health care system and early indications are that the current gravy train of profits is going to come to a screeching halt. We can't forget that the Wall Street Journal is all about business. It's unfortunate that the paper has chosen to promote profits over the health of its subscribers. They prefer to see healthy stock prices than healthy people. This lack of common decency and morality is the Achilles Heel of capitalism.

I am here to say the Emperor has no clothes and that in the war between money and health the people of this country are increasingly turning towards common sense and away from a drug-dominated health care system that places itself on a pedestal of profit. People are waking up to the facts that have been hidden for too long and recognizing the current health care system for what it really is, a very profitable sick-care system.

I can only applaud the efforts of Tom Daschle and the incoming administration to put the health of Americans above the profit margins of the drug companies and medical institutions. I hope they continue to have the courage to ignore the army of lobbyists who are deathly afraid for their jobs.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 Is New Year For Medical Marketing

Welcome to 2009 and a new year for medical marketing! Today the pharmaceutical industry begins its voluntary moratorium on their branded gifts like pens, mugs, soap dispensers, bandages and everything else that can have a brand slapped on it. Many people feel it's a superficial gesture since it does nothing to reduce the millions of dollars spent to influence doctors (and millions more to influence patients).

There is an interesting nonprofit organization started by a doctor called No Free Lunch that encourages doctors to reject drug company giveaways. Our poor doctors still don't have to worry about going hungry because drug companies can still provide "free" lunches and dinners.

Let's hope that 2009 begins a year of real change in the medical community and they begin to reject the influence peddling from the pharmaceutical industry.