Cutting Through Pharmaceutical Media Spin: Don’t Believe All the Nasty Things You Read About Supplements

Cutting Through Pharmaceutical Media Spin: DonR...


By Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, MARCH 1, 2006 – Looking at the headlines, you’d think the entire supplement industry was going south. Recent stories reveal that Echinacea, Saw Palmetto, Vitamin E, D and Calcium, St. John’s Wort, and now Glucosamine and Chondroitin lack the medicinal efficacy that numerous studies and millions of consumers and clinicians previously found they provided.

In reality, there is a considerable amount of good science showing that natural remedies can be highly effective, often as effective or more so than medications – but much safer and less expensive. “However, the big money that drug companies charge for medications and pay for marketing controls the way study results are presented to the public,” observes board certified internist Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, a renowned pain specialist who incorporates both prescription drugs and natural remedies in his clinical practice. Dr. Teitelbaum is author of the best-seller From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Avery Penguin Putnam) and newly released Pain Free 1-2-3 (McGraw-Hill, Feb 2006).

“Following the publication of the recent study on Glucosamine and Chondroitin in the New England Journal of Medicine (354:795-808:8, Feb 23, 2006), news headlines screamed, ‘Natural Therapies Ineffective,'” says Teitelbaum. “But the study actually revealed something quite different. First, natural remedies were far more effective than Celebrex for moderate to severe arthritis. Second, for mild arthritis, the difference between placebo, Celebrex and the natural remedies was minimal.” According to Dr. Teitelbaum, the data showed the following breakdown, and with price-tags omitted:

For moderate to severe arthritis
A-Placebo – 54% improved at no cost per patient over 1 year
B-GS/Chondroitin (Natural)-79% improved at a cost of $160/patient over 1 year
C-Celebrex – 69% improved at a cost of $1092/patient over 1 year

For mild arthritis
A-Placebo – 62% improved at no cost per patient over 1 year
B-Chondroitin – 66.5% improved at a cost of $160/patient over 1 year
C-Celebrex/COX2 – 70% improved at a cost of $1092/patient over 1 year

More accurate headlines would read: ‘Placebo almost as effective as Celebrex and natural remedies – Natural remedies best for severe arthritis,’ and ‘Celebrex nearly 700% more costly than natural remedies,’ comments Dr. Teitelbaum. If pharmaceuticals and natural remedies were almost equally effective, why not use the meds? Two reasons come to mind, says Teitelbaum: “First, we are bankrupting the medical system because doctors are trained to use the most expensive medications (don’t forget that drug companies underwrite most of our conferences!). Second, deaths from medications are astronomical. Motrin family medications (NSAIDs) for arthritis kill 16,500 Americans yearly, and Celebrex/Vioxx, many more.”

“If you actually look at the scientific data, natural remedies are a safe and inexpensive Godsend,” Teitelbaum concludes. “As the old saying goes, Buyer Beware! If you don’t scrutinize the study yourself, the truth is likely to be colored by spin. In the Glucosamine research, eleven of the authors had financial ties to companies manufacturing pain medications. And natural remedies are competition.”

Dr. Teitelbaum, Director of the Center for Effective CFIDS/Fibromyalgia Therapies, does not accept money from pharmaceutical or supplement companies.

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