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The Big Pharma Model of Health Care

Food is the foundation of health, therefore talking about health care issues is really not off-topic for this blog.  I was just listening to CBC’s “White Coat Black Art” program in which they were discussing ways of streamlining private practices in order to reduce wait time and increase the number of patients a doctor can see in a day.  Of course this all boils down to money – expenses are going up, and since the government limits what a doctor can charge per patient visit, the only way a doctor can increase his or her income is to increase the number of patients seen per hour.

The first doctor interviewed hired a registered nurse to assist in his practice, allowing him to increase the number of patients he sees from 5 to 8 an hour.  Eight people an hour!  That’s an average of 7.5 minutes per patient.  The second half of the discussion was about a new concept of “group appointments” where a doctor brings in 12-17 patients into a room, briefs them about the necessity for confidentiality, and then goes around the room – one by one – and has the patients discuss their health problems.  While the doctor listens, other staff members pull records and take notes.

What a disaster our health care system has become. I feel badly for doctors who are reduced to such assembly line approaches to their practices in order to pay the bills and meet the demands of a population with too few medical practitioners.  Quite a few of my friends and family work in healthcare and every single one of them is highly dedicated to the idea of helping people.  I can only imagine their frustration at having only 7.5 minutes per person in which to do so.

The only way such a system can even appear to be working is through the pharmaceutical model.  Through the idea that there is one pill for each symptom.  Doctors and nurses learn which pill goes for what ailment, and presto, prescription written and off the patient goes to the pharmacy.  We treat symptoms as evil and take drugs to suppress them, believing that to bring about “cure.”  Unfortunately, nothing could be farther from the truth.

It may not come as a surprise that I subscribe to a holistic approach to medicine.  More specifically, I believe in a homeopathic understanding of disease.  The latter argues that symptoms are not disease, but in fact the body’s way of trying to expel disease.  For example, coughing is the body’s way of expelling the bodies of dead cells produced in the battle against a cold or flu virus.  Conventional medical practice is just starting to realize how dangerous taking cough suppressants is, as it stops the body from ridding itself of all this toxic waste.  Suppressing the cough does not cure the patient of a cold; rather, it tends to prolong it.  The same is true for all these cold and flu suppressing drugs we all now pop like candy in order to avoid missing work.  And then, when it takes us 6 weeks to shake off a flu, we blame it on more virulent flu viruses.  Nobody stops to question if trapping the disease within the body through the suppression of symptoms may in fact be the cause of the problem.  I would argue that in many or most cases, it is.

Surgery is another means of suppressing symptoms.  Now in some cases, such as emergency trauma, surgery may indeed be necessary. But most of the time surgery is used to remove a symptom, effectively closing a vent on the immune system, trapping the problem inside.  From a homeopathic perspective, surgery can in fact make cure impossible if the body cannot find a new vent, as is explained in this article.  Yesterday my mother had her gall bladder removed.  She has been having gall bladder attacks, or what appears to be gall bladder attacks, every few months for the last couple of years.  Diagnostics confirmed stones, although  her doctor said they likely were formed when she was pregnant with me.  So why are these stones suddenly causing problems?  That question was never asked.  One possibility is that she has been very healthy of late, and perhaps her body is now strong enough to expel them.  Or maybe there’s something else going on.  We’ll never know as she no longer has this organ.  Whatever the body was trying to do, it can now never finish.  And what it will do instead, only time will tell.

Even a cancerous tumour is the effect of the body trying to fight an imbalance in the vital force.  Of course by the time it produces a cancer tumour, the battle has been raging for so long that often surgery (or chemo) is the only remaining option.  Especially from a conventional perspective.  By that point the body may be too weak and run down to fight, even with homeopathic help.  But it got to this point not because of some magical apparition of the disease in a perfectly healthy person, but rather as the result of a long onslaught against the immune system, likely helped along through suppressing drugs prescribed in those 7.5 minutes through a medical system that sees each symptom as separate from the body and not allowing enough time to look at the whole and see what may in fact be going on.

Let me give an example.  When my old dog Jake was around 5 years old, he suddenly developed horrible skin allergies.  The doctors said it was a flea allergy.  We gave him steroid shots to stop the itch.  It would flare up again about six months later (despite it no longer being “flea season”), and we’d repeat the treatment.  Steroids act to suppress the immune system, to stop it’s response in it’s tracks and shut it down.  It worked like a charm to stop the itching.  Eventually Jake stopped having these outbreaks.  I figured the fleas must have gone away somehow.

By the time Jake was 8, he started having problems with his hind end.  He also developed a horrible sinus infection and would sneeze blood.  Whenever the infection would flare up, so would the pain in his hind end.  Vets said there was no relation between the two, but I started to think otherwise.  We gave him antibiotics for the infection, and that would clear both problems up for a few weeks or months.  Then they would come back.  Several rounds of this and eventually the problems went away.  I was relieved but starting to worry about what would happen next.

Sure enough, not long after Jake came down with sarcoptic mange.  Interestingly, so did my father’s dog.  The two dogs had been living together for a bit and we figured one must have gotten into a coyote den or something while out hiking, picked it up and given it to the other.  More drugs fixed the problem.  The mange went away, but within a couple of weeks, Jake developed horrible abscesses on his chest and abdomen.  His skin was breaking down.  It was horrible!  More drugs were prescribed.  By that point Jake was on antibiotics more often than he was off them.  The skin problems kept coming back and both vets and I were baffled.  At the same time, he became weaker and weaker in his hind end, and was on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs taken on a daily basis.  By this point he was nearly 12, and the vets concluded that it was a normal progression of old age.  So was the acute  vestibular disorder he developed a few months later.

Not wanting to lose my best friend, I started doing research.  A lot of research.  I also found an acupuncturist who gave him treatments for his hind end.  Two sessions and he was off the pain killers, permanently.  It was amazing!  She also had me stop giving him the antibiotics, and instead gave me a pro-biotic cream to put on the sores.  She said the antibiotics were actually causing the skin problems.  I applied the cream and the sores cleared up within a few days.  After two years of being on antibiotics almost constantly for this skin disorder, I stopped all treatment.  I never gave him another pill, and the sores never came back.

At this point I had also discovered the horrors of commercial pet food.  If you are interested in learning more, the book “Food Pets Die For” is a very good place to start.  This opened my eyes to the importance of nutrition in general, and started me on the path I am still on with respect to food (and health in general).  I started Jake on a homemade diet.

Unfortunately at this point there was too much damage done.  Jake’s kidneys were about 75 percent gone and there is essentially no recovering from that.  Through feeding him a more appropriate diet, keeping him off the drugs and working with a holistic practitioner, Jake lived for a full year longer than anyone ever expected.  He still died several years short of the time I had hoped we’d have together.

So where am I going with all this?  At the time I felt baffled, wondering how this dog could fall apart despite all the care I was giving him.  But now that I look at things from a homeopathic perspective, the path from health to death is clear.  Just before Jake developed his “flea allergy” (I never did find a flea), he had eaten some rat poison.  I caught it right away, gave him some hydrogen peroxide to have him vomit it up.  To make sure we didn’t miss any, the vets had me give him vitamin K shots every day for two weeks, to keep his blood coagulating.  This threw his system out of whack, which tried to expel the toxins out his skin, causing him to be itchy.  Instead of finding a way to support this, or to help his body do this expelling, we shut down his immune system with steroids.  Every time it tried to get back up and going, we’d shut it down again.  Eventually it stopped trying.

However, the disease or imbalance was still in his system and had to come out elsewhere.  I was also giving him yearly vaccines (a horribly damaging and completely unnecessary practice), and anti-flea and tick toxins.  These served to knock his system further out of whack.  Every time his body mounted some kind of response, we stopped it in its tracks with drugs.  Eventually the disease was pushed deep enough to damage his kidneys, and he died.  I killed him through trying to make him better.  Of note, my father’s dog died a few months after being “cured” of mange.  He had developed lung cancer.

A holistic and homeopathic approach to health would have figured out what was going on and supported his immune system rather than constantly tried to fight and suppress it.  Drugs and surgery have this effect, but are the only tools of a medical system that is so overwhelmed and has so little time for each patient.  When I’ve met with a holistic practitioner (be it a naturopath or a homeopath) my initial consult has been 2 hours long. TWO HOURS!  Not 7.5 minutes, or even the 20 minutes conventional medicine allots to annual physical exams.  Two whole hours to discuss your health history, usually along with a detailed 10-20 page form you filled out prior to coming in.  Follow up appointments are usually a solid 45 minutes or longer.

It is only through taking this much time that a healer can really learn about you, can start to see the whole picture, notice trends and patterns, and become aware of links and connections.  For example, when getting more serious, disease moves from the outside inward, and from the bottom up.  Most disease starts with skin problems, as the body is able to keep the imbalance on the surface.  We typically suppress with creams and ointments, and eventually the skin problem goes away (as with Jake) but then something more serious emerges, at a deeper level.  Perhaps you then get bladder infections.  More suppression and something else comes up, likely higher up in the body, and also deeper.

Cure operates in the reverse order. To know if a procedure is curative, you need to watch the direction of symptoms.  When my Ross dog developed a bull’s eye rash and skin abscess in the middle of his back after being bitten by a tick, instead of giving him antibiotics for lyme’s dieases, we treated him with homoeopathy.  The lesion healed, and then appeared again at the base of his tail. That healed, and a smaller lesion popped up at the end of his tail.  The disease was moving down and out his body.  When the last sore healed, he was better.  That was nearly two years ago and he has never shown any signs of Lyme’s disease or any other problems either.

Taking his case, however, took the homeopathic vet more than 7.5 minutes.  It took her several hours in fact.  The result is a healthy dog who has been truly cured, but not a modality of medicine that can make money for corporations.  Homeopathic remedies are only effective when applied appropriately, and there is no “one symptoms – one drug” rule.   Their selection requires the careful study of the patient and a fair bit of research for every individual and ailment.  With holistic practices, the knowledge lies within the practitioner, not in the patented drug.  Homeopathic remedies work wonders, but have no value without a skilled practitioner.  This is why it is demonized by Big Pharma.  They can’t make money off it.  To make money, they need to sell drugs that they have patented, that they own the rights to.  And they need to sell a lot of them.  Their ideal patient is one with a chronic disease who will need daily pills for life.  This is exactly the type of patient you get when medical practitioners only have 7.5 minutes to evaluate.  They don’t have time to really work up a patient’s case, but since drugs are now so effective in suppressing symptoms, they can at least accomplish making the patient feel better in that brief window.  This practice has become so pervasive, that it is now the norm.

Until we are willing to support a system (and that means paying more, either directly or through taxes) which allows medical practitioners to spend more time with each patient – much more time – we are going to stay trapped in the pharmaceutical model of medicine.  And as long as this is the case, we will continue to be a sickly population, riddled by chronic health problems we can neither explain, nor cure.

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