I feel compelled to write this following two articles and one video that I have had the fortunate opportunity to see this week. Three very different reports that reveal the light and dark sides of our Western healthcare system and those who profit from it. One report is uplifting. The other two are terrifying Legal Steroids Europe.
Here’s the thing: the healthcare options made available to you by your doctors have been filtered. There is nothing new in this statement or the sentiments behind it. It’s a simple fact. NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence) has a huge say in what treatment options are put before you. Take a look at their own website: they proudly proclaim, “NICE guidance supports healthcare professionals and others to make sure that the care they provide is of the best possible quality and offers the best value for money”.
Read between the lines to understand that if NICE doesn’t approve it, you can’t have it on the NHS. And the NHS don’t tell you about the entire range of possible solutions available to you. If you want something not offered by the NHS or a pharmaceutical company you won’t know about it. Unless, that is, you find it and fund it for yourself!
NICE say “In cases where we have to reject the use of a drug on the grounds of cost, we encourage drug companies to submit a patient-access scheme. Patient access schemes are special ways pharmaceutical companies can propose to enable patients to gain access to high costs drugs. This can help lower the overall cost of a drug on the NHS.”
Note, if it isn’t something NICE guide the NHS to provide, you only get to know if it’s a pharmaceutical product! It’s only pharmaceutical companies that are apparently supported: there is no NICE statement focused on helping you to source complementary or alternative solutions for example. YOUR patient choice is definitely based on an incomplete set of options.
So how do NICE decide what they will or won’t recommend. Well this is nicely (pardon the pun!) hidden behind a smokescreen entitled “Evidence”. Evidence that is most often based on research carried out, bought and paid for by the very companies that have a vested interest in reporting positive results: the pharmaceutical companies that stand to make huge profits when new drugs become available on the NHS. All of which might not be such a problem if you could at least rely upon the integrity of the system and of the pharmaceutical companies themselves.
However, medical research is not a flawless science. It’s perfectly possible for drugs and other pharmaceutical products to be recommended by NICE – and later emerge as very dangerous. It’s not only possible – it happens. And often! Moreover, drugs are rarely withdrawn even once those dangers finally come to light.
Which brings me to the video that I watched this week. It’s about the so-called cervical cancer vaccine that is currently being given to young girls. Just a few short years after the approval of this vaccine we are beginning to see serious side effects, even deaths, occurring. If evidence-based medicine is to be relied upon, how has this slipped through the research and evidence nets? And why has this not been widely reported in the media? Who benefits from this evidence being buried? Certainly not you, the patient!
A case in the US, reported by Reuters on 7th July, is causing a stir. A young woman given painkillers (of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs family) originally won a court case against a pharmaceutical company after experiencing terribly disfiguring side effects. The verdict was overturned in the past few days, and a new ruling now exists in the US that pharmaceutical companies cannot be held legally accountable for any side effects from their products. The ramifications of this are immense. We already know that drugs are released into the open market on less-than-robust evidence. Now no-one is to be held responsible for problems that that might cause. Michael Carome, the Director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group commented: “Today’s court decision provides a disincentive for generic makers of drugs to monitor safety of their products and to make sure that they have a surveillance system in place to detect adverse events that pose a threat to patients.” And why has this not been widely reported in the media here in the UK? Who benefits from this information being buried? Certainly not you, the patient!
So with these two cases in mind, it gladdened my heart to read an account by a Harvard-trained doctor who, having spent some time observing doctors in China practising Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), was moved to write: “Evidence-based medicine was my mantra in Western medical training, so I was highly sceptical of the anecdotes I heard. But then I met so many patients who said that they were able to get relief from Eastern remedies while Western treatments failed them. Could there be a placebo effect? Sure. Is research important? Of course. But research is done on populations, and our treatment is of individuals. It has taken me a while to accept that I may not always be able to explain why-but that the care should be for the individual patient, not a population of patients.”