By: Dr. Zoltan P. Rona, MD, M.Sc.
How many of you trust that Health Canada is currently protecting you from dangerous drugs and chemicals? Is the Canadian Health Protection Branch protecting your health or that of the drug companies? Is it on the lookout for toxic drug reactions or just there to keep the competitors away from sales of blockbuster drugs? Why is it that Health Canada has recently been raiding health food stores, terrorizing store proprietors, and confiscating natural food supplements? The answers to these questions are now becoming abundantly clear.
THE PRADAXA SCANDAL
Medical doctors in North America are legally allowed to prescribe Pradaxa (dabigatran), a blood thinning drug that the New York Times recently reported was the FDA’s primary suspect in 542 patient deaths in 2011. In fact, Pradaxa has been linked to more reports of side effects or death than 800 other drugs that were regularly monitored for drug safety by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a nonprofit Pennsylvania organization that monitors medicine safety.
Some authors have equated Pradaxa to nothing less than legalized mass murder. Yet Health Canada has, to date, done nothing about removing it from the market. Health Canada has, however, been very active raiding health food stores and removing natural competitors to Pradaxa from the market lately. A case in point is nattokinase, a safe and effective natural blood thinner that has yet to harm a soul anywhere. Health Canada has disallowed its sales in health food stores. It, in fact, has raided some stores and ordered its removal from the shelves.
Many natural compounds like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and proteolytic enzymes like serrapeptase and bromelain do thin the blood naturally, but the single best natural agent that accomplishes this is the soy-derived enzyme nattokinase. Many alternative health care practitioners around the world recommend nattokinase as a safe and effective alternative to warfarin. According to well-known author, Dr. Jonathan Wright, at least 15 studies have shown that nattokinase prevents and helps dissolve blood clots responsible for heart attacks and strokes. What’s more, it has been used without incident as a natural remedy for centuries in Japan.
Given Health Canada’s current modus operandi, the next natural supplements to be removed from health food store shelves will likely be the proteolytic enzymes. These have been around for over 50 years without the report of a single death as a result of their use. Already, Health Canada has refused to grant an NPN (Natural Health Product Number) to serrapeptase despite safety and toxicology studies that fail to indicate any problems with the product whatsoever. Yet, Pradaxa remains on the market along with numerous other poisons.
Unlike Warfarin, the most common drug prescribed by doctors to thin the blood in cases of heart arrhythmias (e.g. atrial fibrillation), Pradaxa has no antidote. With Warfarin, excessive bleeding can be reversed to a large degree by taking vitamin K. There is no such luck with Pradaxa. When a patient develops excessive bleeding from Pradaxa, doctors cannot give anything to prevent death from blood loss.
Manufactured by German drug company Boehringer Ingelheim, Pradaxa has earned well over $1 billion dollars in sales to date. If it’s any consolation, Boehringer Ingelheim is said to be working on an antidote for preventing patients from bleeding to death. Despite this, hundreds of lawsuits have already been filed in the U.S. against the drug company and doctors who have prescribed Pradaxa.
Why do we need Pradaxa anyway? Is it really any better than Warfarin? One recent study from the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that patients on Pradaxa died roughly at the same rate as those who were on Warfarin (a far less expensive and safer drug).
THE OXYCONTIN SCANDAL
In a feeble attempt to stem the tide of opiate-related deaths in Ontario, the company that manufactured the prescription narcotic known as OxyContin recently removed it from the market and replaced it with a product called OxyNeo. In 2009, OxyContin was found to be responsible for 300 deaths in Ontario alone. The only real advantage of OxyNeo is that it could not be broken down by addicts and injected intravenously. This reduced OxyContin-related deaths for a brief period. Enter Health Canada, who, in another stroke of brilliance, recently legalized a generic version of OxyContin. This effectively has made the use of OxyNeo redundant and addicts are once again able to get their hands on the drug for easy injection.
According to Ontario Health Minister, Deb Matthews, “I am profoundly disappointed in Minister Aglukkaq’s decision to ignore the threat to public safety posed by generic OxyContin and to allow it to enter the Canadian market. Prescription OxyContin has wreaked havoc on too many Ontario families. It is associated with a five-fold increase in oxycodone-related deaths and a 41% increase in overall opioid-related deaths.”
What are the people at Health Canada thinking? We are still waiting to hear their explanation.
OTHER DRUG SCANDALS
Canadians spend just under $27 million on prescription drugs each year. An estimated 10,000 people in Canada die each year from prescription drugs taken exactly as they are prescribed. More Canadians are harmed or killed by drugs taken exactly as prescribed than they are by handguns, tainted meat, and tainted water combined. In the U.S., the fourth leading cause of death is from prescription drug use. A 2001 Health Council of Canada study cites an additional 150,000 serious adverse drug reactions. Something is very wrong here with the people who are entrusted with ensuring our safety when taking drugs as prescribed.
In one of my previous articles in Vitality on the subject of antacid drugs known as proton pump inhibitors, I detailed the numerous side effects associated with this class of drugs when used for extended periods of time. One of these was Prepulsid (cisapride) which has been linked to 80 deaths due to heart attacks and 341 adverse reactions in Canada and the U.S. It was finally taken off the market in August 2000. In 2001, a Canadian Medical Association Journal article was very critical of Health Canada’s role in the deaths of those who had the misfortune of taking Prepulsid. Unfortunately, numerous drugs in the same class remain on the market and are liberally prescribed for heartburn despite a growing number of studies reporting that the risks far outweigh any of the benefits, especially for long-term use.
In my general practice I often prescribe alternatives to these proton pump inhibitors. One brand I have used for many years is called Bio-HPF (Biotics Research). I found it very effective as a treatment for heartburn, gastric and duodenal ulcers, gastritis and H. Pylori infections. It contains deglycerized licorice, bentonite, slippery elm, bismuth , berberine and other very safe herbs which have been broadly used for hundreds of years. Health Canada has recently made it unavailable. Once again, no deaths or adverse side effects were ever reported and I have been recommending this product for over 15 years.
Health Canada appears to ignore deaths and serious adverse reactions to a whole class of drugs while making safe and effective alternatives unavailable to the public. Its reasons for doing so are dubious at best.
In his most recent book “Pharmageddon,” Irish psychiatrist, Dr. David Healy, details how drug companies literally get away with murder, how they deceive doctors and patients into prescribing drugs that work no better than placebo, and how negative studies on drug safety and efficacy are hidden from view, prevented from becoming published. In this country, the drug companies also receive a helping hand from Health Canada in fast-tracked approval and the elimination of any perceived competition.
About a year ago I published an article on anti-depressants and how the preponderance of published data indicates that the most commonly prescribed ones, called SSRIs, work no better than placebo. In other words, they just create expensive urine. Unfortunately, these ineffective drugs have hideous side effects, including suicide and other forms of violent behavior. Yet they happily remain on the market.
Another drug scandal in the making involves the smoking-cessation drug Champix that has been linked to suicides (33 to date), neuropsychiatric symptoms, heart attacks, and a life threatening form of edema. Yet Health Canada has done nothing to halt its sales.
About two years ago, I published an article in Vitality on the use of statin drugs (Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor) in which I discussed the large number of unwanted side effects (muscle damage, liver toxicity, memory loss, depression). It now appears that there are a growing number of scientists who agree with me on eliminating these drugs from the marketplace, in favour of natural alternatives. One professor, Alan Cassels, from the University of Victoria wrote recently that the accumulated risks of taking statins were not worth it. He has recently said: “Some day, I suspect, we will regard statins as an unmitigated scandal in medicine.” Unfortunately, we shall not be seeing Health Canada doing anything about statins, primarily because they are a multi-billion dollar cash cow for the drug industry.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Health Canada is doing nothing to prevent the thousands of deaths each year from drugs it approves for sale. We continue to see reports of the harm they are doing in the headlines each day. Just click on any of the references below to see what I mean. In addition, Health Canada is systematically removing natural health products from the market at an alarming rate.
Aside from questioning your doctor and pharmacist about drug side effects and always looking for safer natural treatment alternatives, get politically active. This is actually easier to do than you might think. Politicians want your vote and those that do not want to do anything about the people who run Health Canada do not deserve your vote. For the most part, politicians respond to postcards and letters. To make it easier for you, just download this two-page coupon, sign and place it in an envelope, and mail it postage-free to your local MP (Member of Parliament). If you really want to show them how serious you are, also send them a copy of this article. I would be pleased to meet with any politician to offer my views and share 35 years of experience prescribing natural alternatives to toxic drugs.