by Jonny Bowden, PhD, C.N.S.
Buried deep in the Nov 12 edition of the Wall Street Journal was an interesting report on a study done on the best-selling drug Plavix which contains a lesson we should all be paying attention to.
First a tiny bit of back story. Back in the days when I was practicing one-on-one nutrition, a very famous composer was brought to see me. (He had written some of the most famous musicals of all time, and every one of you can sing the words and music to at least three of his songs.) He walked in haltingly. He had a mild case of the shakes. He looked feeble and old even though he was in his early 70's. We discussed some of his issues and he took out a yellow pad on which he had written the list of medications he was currently on.
Blood pressure medication. Anti-depressants. Sleeping meds. Cholesterol lowering drugs (2 of them). Stuff to make him sleep. You get the picture.
He had been to a number of doctors for different conditions, and each one had put him on different meds. I thought then- as I think now- does anyone have any idea what the long term effects of mixing all this stuff together is??
The answer- then as now- is absolutely not.
When a medication is researched, it's tested by itself, usually for a relatively short period of time. Often the true long-term side effects don't reveal themselves till the pill has been on the market for a few years and been taken by thousands and thousands of people (Vioxx, anyone?). It would be literally impossible to test every pill in combination with every other pill to see what possible interactions there might be, not to mention testing those combinations for the years- sometimes decades- that people stay on them.
So this guy- like hundreds of thousands of other people- was a walking experiment.
Back to the study on Plavix.
A new 16,690 person study by Medco Health Solutions Inc suggested that people who combine a heartburn pill like Nexium or Prilosec with Plavix- on their doctor's order, by the way- have a 50% higher risk of heart attack or other cardiac event compared with those taking Plavix by itself.
Folks, this is the tip- the absolute ittsy bittsy tip- of an enormous iceberg.
These are just two popular drugs. Suppose we add into the mix an anti-depressant, a statin and an ACE inhibitor, just to mention a few. The possibilities are endless. These combinations are rarely investigated— this study is an exception- but just it's hard to imagine that the negative interaction effects found with just these two innocuous drugs are an isolated case.
This is why I've stated over and over again that my "default" position on drugs is- try to take as few as possible. It's not that they're always bad- clearly they're not- nor that they don't save lives (sometimes they do). But it's my strong feeling that the more you can avoid medicating each and every symptom with a pharmaceutical drug, the better off you'll be.
Especially when there are so many equally effective natural things you can do to accomplish similar results (see "The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth").
For example- the "heartburn" that Prilosec "treats" can be easily impacted much more successfully (and with no side effects like preventing the valuable secretion of stomach acid) with some dietary changes. And before going right to Plavix, why not use omega-3 fats to help thin the blood or Nattokinase to help prevent clots?
I'm not taking a strong "drugs are Satan" position here- just cautioning that using a bunch of drugs (even two in the case of this study) on a long-term basis may have consequences no one ever thought of because such combinations have never been studied.
And by the way- I've yet to see ever a well-designed study saying that combining any vitamins or minerals or omega fats has led to an increase in cardiovascular death.
Just something to think about.