Three years after the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), fiery debates still rage over the weighty issues of its constitutionality, its cost and the scope of its effect on American society. Liberals argue its humanitarian necessity while conservatives protest its collectivist control, but neither political camp considers that 1) America’s current medical system, with or without insurance, caused the current health care crisis in the first place, or that 2) it actively prevents citizens from choosing effective, less expensive forms of medical care.
The problem began 100 years ago. To raise and improve standards of medical training and practice, the AMA’s Council of Medical Education began a nationwide survey of medical schools in 1904. By 1908, insufficient funds and disagreements among the council members brought the project to a standstill, and the Council requested help from the Carnegie Institute.
The Institute funded the remainder of the survey and appointed Abraham Flexner, an Institute employee, to complete it. The brother of the Rockefeller Foundation’s director of chemical laboratories, Flexner traveled across the United States for the next two years, observing and assessing medical schools for the purpose of improving them. Published and widely disseminated in 1910, The Flexner Report criticized every form of medical treatment except the “scientific,” which at that time referred exclusively to chemical research conducted by pharmaceutical companies. Regardless of anecdotal evidence of cure rates, Flexner condemned all medical practices that did not begin and end with the prescription of pharmaceutical drugs.
Although instrumental in raising medical education standards, The Flexner Report also opened the door for outside control of medical school curricula. Heavily invested in pharmaceutical companies, The Carnegie Institute and the Rockefeller Foundation began donating large sums of money to those medical schools which agreed to teach that pharmaceutical drugs were the only legitimate approach to disease. Both organizations eventually withheld all donations from medical schools that resisted. Without equivalent funding, most schools that continued to offer courses in chiropractic and osteopathic methods, naturopathy, homeopathy, electro-medicine and nutrition were unable to compete and were forced to close. The result was a new generation of medical students who learned nothing about the benefits of varied holistic treatments or clinical nutrition.
Today, 100 years after the publication of The Flexner Report, the AMA is populated by doctors who have inherited the belief that pharmaceutical drugs are the only valid approach to sickness. To their credit, some MDs have begun to practice integrated or functional medicine, both of which approach patients more holistically, but in general, doctors follow standard diagnostic/pharmaceutical recipes. Physicians openly state that while in medical school they studied neither the causes of disease nor the mechanisms of recovering health. Instead, they were trained to diagnose illnesses for the sole purpose of prescribing pharmaceuticals. They further admit that with the exception of antibiotics, their written prescriptions do not cure disease, but instead alleviate symptoms. Consequently, today’s John Q. Public – falsely assuming that his doctor understands health – depends on pharmaceuticals to address illness, can’t afford those pharmaceuticals without insurance, and thinks that living with chronic disease is normal.
The modern phrase “health care” is a misnomer. “Disease management” or “symptom relief” would be a more accurate name for America’s current medical system. Political considerations notwithstanding, the PPACA will throw good money after bad by perpetuating an expensive, inherently ineffective system rather than examining a less expensive, health-focused model that often results in complete cures and the restoration of good health.
Big Pharma’s conditional funding of medical schools continues today and produces graduate physicians who have been erroneously taught that holistic medical care is sub-standard. Doctors have embraced “pharmaceuticals-first-and-only” so completely that in 1987 a federal court found the AMA guilty of slander perpetrated against chiropractors in an orchestrated 10-year smear campaign. Although ordered to pay $25,000,000.00 in damages, the AMA continues to disparage other medical disciplines, and an official arm of the AMA is still dedicated to discrediting and preventing naturopathic practice. Such opposition is arrogant when viewed in the light of a report published in the April, 1998 issue of the AMA’s own Journal of American Medical Association. The report, conducted over a 30-year period, states that 106,000 people die in hospitals each year (one every five minutes) as a direct result of pharmaceutical drug reactions and/or medical error. Despite their own published statistics, the AMA still holds that all other medical approaches are “alternative” – alternative not to high cure rates, to the improvement of American health or even to the safety of patients, but to the myopic pharmaceutical paradigm that they hold sacrosanct.
The pharmaceutical industry’s financial influence over medical schools extends beyond the funding of operational costs. Besides providing vast sums of money for research grants, Big Pharma also pays professors tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars to be pharmaceutical consultants. In 2009, a first-year student at Harvard Medical School became concerned when a pharmacology professor touted the benefits of cholesterol medicines and then berated a student for asking about their side effects. The alarmed student later discovered that in addition to being a full-time staff member of the medical school, the professor was also a paid consultant to ten major pharmaceutical companies, five of which produced the cholesterol drugs that he praised. When queried about a possible conflict of interests, Harvard officials stated their concern over the complexities of becoming independent from Big Pharma’s influence while remaining dependent on their funds.
Just as daunting as its influence on medical schools and doctors’ practices is the powerful sway that Big Pharma holds with the FDA. Fees charged to pharmaceutical companies pay more than half of the FDA’s operational costs. In turn, Pharma pressures the FDA to hasten the release of new drugs, even if test results are incomplete or dubious. Having earned the legal right to withhold complete findings from both the FDA and the public, pharmaceutical companies regularly receive FDA approval for new drugs that are incompletely tested and potentially dangerous. The FDA’s website reports that over 2,000,000 adverse drug reactions occur each year. It also reports that prescription drugs are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, yet Big Pharma continues to value patents over patients. Though largely unreported by the mainstream press, several charges against large pharmaceutical companies were filed in 2012: two Merck scientists discovered and reported that higher-ups were boosting and falsifying vaccine data by putting animal antibodies into the serum; GlaxoSmithKline was fined three billion dollars for bribing doctors, falsifying information submitted to the FDA and fraudulent marketing; large pharmacy retailers sued Pfizer for an alleged anti-competition scheme to boost their profits by preventing the production of generic medicines. The FDA can hardly be the USA’s watchdog if Pharma’s fox is guarding the drug henhouse.
In his book, Politics in Healing, author Daniel Haley recounts ten well-documented stories which detail the systematic suppression of breakthrough treatments originating from non-pharmaceutical sources. Seven of those treatments addressed cancer far more successfully than today’s radiation and chemo therapies, and one of them cured various cancers with a single injection. With the exception of Stanislaw Burzynski’s antineoplaston therapy, these treatments are not available today in the United States. Court records and congressional transcripts chronicle the methodical squelching of them all: first, authorities (some combination of the AMA, FDA and Big Pharma) recognized the value of the new treatment; next, the same authorities tried to obtain all rights to the treatment by buying or taking it from its inventor; and finally, when the inventor refused the terms of the authorities’ offer (which in several cases included the authorities’ refusal to deliver the treatment at a reasonable cost), the three powers joined forces to discredit and destroy the inventor. In several of these cases, the FDA admitted under oath that they skewed test procedures or lied about test results in order to produce unfavorable results and discredit the discovery. Today, the same FDA regularly approves ever more toxic chemo therapies from the laboratories of pharmaceutical companies, despite a study published in Volume 16, Issue 8 of The Journal of Clinical Oncology stating that chemotherapy is 97% ineffective for all adult onset cancers.
Something is amiss in American medicine.
The public’s full access to other medical disciplines would go a long way toward eliminating many of the problems intrinsic to American medical care, including its exorbitant price tag. Unfortunately, full access will not exist until all medical disciplines and independent researchers have equal protection under the law. Regulated but unfettered practice of naturopathic and holistic methods is consistent with free market competition, and free market competition is a foundational American principle. No one denies that free enterprise, built on the law of competitive supply and demand, efficiently delivers what people want at the most reasonable price. Why, then, is the AMA allowed to dictate which medical disciplines are or are not worthy of practice? How can Big Pharma get away with controlling who can or cannot research cures for disease? Why is the FDA unmonitored to the degree that it approves new drugs whose side effects spawn millions of dollars’ worth of class action lawsuits each year? The answers lie in the political and financial alliances among the three powers in question. The simple truth is that the current system is lucrative for them, and they like it that way. Americans’ freedom to choose holistic forms of health care is a threat to the bottom line of their bank accounts.
Currently, only sixteen states, the District of Columbia and two United States territories allow licensed, regulated naturopathic practice. The regulation requires graduation from an accredited, four-year, residential naturopathic medical school and a passing score on an extensive postdoctoral board examination for licensure. In all other states, citizens have access to MDs and DOs only for their primary health care. In most of those states they can also legally seek the auxiliary services of chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists, but they no longer can consult naturopathic physicians. Naturopaths, educated to address the causes of illness and to cure them with non-toxic treatments, emphasize disease prevention and work to promote the body’s own natural healing abilities, yet they are forbidden to offer their services in most of the United States.
In Florida, for example, the state’s constitution contains a privacy clause that suggests a desire to prevent federal intrusion, but the state’s health care statutes reveal the Florida Medical Association’s distaste for competition. Pressured by the FMA, the Florida legislature ceased all new licensure of certified naturopathic doctors in 1959. The same legislation allowed all previously licensed naturopaths to continue practicing, which ironically reveals that law makers found nothing wrong, dangerous or harmful in the practice of naturopathy. The Florida Naturopathic Physicians Association (FNPA) is currently working toward making naturopathy a part of Florida’s health care system again, but several attempts to reinstate licensure have met with strong, successful opposition from the FMA.
Recently, Florida law-enforcement agencies have engaged in a state-wide effort to prosecute anyone suspected of “practicing health care without a license.” In 2005, Anita Bruce, a nutritionist, was arrested for recommending vitamins to a client. She was exonerated, but not without significant legal costs and financial loss. The charge may have been frivolous, but not to Ms. Bruce.
In 2012, Donald T. Monus, owner and operator of The Monus Research Foundation and co-author of What’s Killing You and What to Do About It, was raided by the Florida Health Department, the Largo Police Department and other agencies simultaneously. A bio-chemist and naturopath by education, Monus holds numerous patents for environmental and biochemical inventions. Although no complaints of harm or dissatisfaction have ever been filed against him by the public at large or by clients who have sought his expertise, Monus was arrested at gunpoint. He received no warning, citation or cease-and-desist statement before the raid. His microscope, computers, professional papers, cell phone and automobile were seized, and his bank accounts were frozen. Cash and personal valuables were removed from his home. Monus claims that he did not practice health care, but health education. “Before I set up shop, I asked the local police what I could do legally,” he says. “They told me that I could educate people about health care, and that’s what I did. When people came to me for more information after reading my book, I gave it to them. I taught them how to go home and take care of themselves.”
A retired federal judge who heard about the case called Monus with the information that a Florida MD was gathering names of people with naturopathic leanings and submitting them to local authorities. The judge deemed the MD’s efforts manipulative and was concerned about the covert assault on personal and public freedoms that they implied. Whether or not the MD is operating as an agent of the AMA/FMA is a matter of speculation. Monus’ trial is pending.
Big Pharma, the AMA and the FDA have created today’s archetype of health care, and collectively they rule it with an iron fist. The system is so faulty and expensive that the US government has assumed its management with the most sweeping and costly legislation in American history. Although Obamacare portends vast changes in the funding and delivery of health care, it will do nothing to repair the system’s cracked foundation, which is its intrinsic lack of emphasis on restoring, building and maintaining good health. Instead, PPACA will force Americans to participate in a system based on the dispensation of costly, non-curative and often toxic prescriptions that will keep them comfortable enough to remain sick while Pharma lines its pockets.
America needs to shift its health care paradigm, and a strong grassroots movement is the only force powerful enough to make it happen. If citizens would insist that federal and state legislatures stand up to the FDA, AMA and Big Pharma, private medical innovations would flourish, naturopathic physicians would be free to practice in all 50 states, and Americans could choose between disease-focused and health-focused medical treatments. In due course, the successes and failures of each discipline would speak for themselves, and people would gravitate to whatever works best. General health would improve, medical costs would drop, and citizens would be free to choose the medical care best suited to their needs.
As it stands now, state and federal legislators turn a blind eye toward the FDA’s inconsistencies and obligingly cave to financial and political pressures from Big Pharma and the AMA. In doing so, they not only prohibit independent medical discovery and contribute to the rising cost of medical care, but they also deprive citizens of the freedom to examine and choose among a wide variety of effective medical treatments.