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The Double Standard of Medical Research


By Nurse Mark

It seems that there is no end to the double standards that are encountered in research - Pharmaceuticals are researched and conclusions are drawn to one standard and vitamins, herbs, and supplements are researched and conclusions drawn in another way. Sometimes it is done subtly, most times the whole exercise is painfully blatant.

Consider the following:

A recent Reuters news article reported on research findings presented to a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. This research details efforts to find a reason to use the Big Pharma Giant Glaxo's new drug Tykerb for breast cancer treatment. Unfortunately, the drug appears to work not very well at all, with researchers admitting that "The addition of Tykerb to standard chemotherapy treatment failed to help most breast cancer patients." The report went on though to state that their goals had been modest to begin with, seeking a success defined by the shrinking of advanced tumors by 50% in just 10 to 20 percent of the patients in the study, they felt encouraged that they had seen the goal of tumor shrinkage in just 7 percent of the patients.

The Reuters article goes on to say:

"This is not a home run, but the effect was real and I think we can build on it," said Dr. Nancy Lin of Harvard Medical School, an investigator in the Glaxo-funded study.

Wow! This new drug made tumors shrink by half (not go away, but shrink) in a whole, big, seven percent of patients. Talk about your wonder-drug breakthrough! (not!)

Here is the paragraph in the Reuters article that really explains the whole article:

"Tykerb, approved in recent months in the United States and Switzerland for breast cancer, is being tested for other types of cancer. It is central to Glaxo's push into cancer medicine, the fastest-growing and most profitable area in the drug market."

So, we see this headline: "Glaxo's Tykerb helps some breast cancer patients"

That was about the best that they could get away with in terms of "positive spin"...

Contrast the above with the following:

A recent Medscape Article, intended to "educate" doctors, discusses a study in which Hawthorne extract (which is called WS 1442 in the study) is scientifically examined in a quite large European study to determine it's usefulness as part of the treatment of patients on conventional therapy for congestive heart failure. Let's look at the conclusions of the study as reported by Medscape:


  1. Treatment with WS 1442 in mild CHF patients on optimal medical therapy is safe.
  2. Patients treated with WS 1442 have a nonsignificantly lower incidence of adverse events compared with placebo.
  3. Cardiac mortality is significantly reduced in the WS 1442 group at 18 months.
  4. Sudden cardiac death is significantly reduced in the subgroup of patients with EF ≥ 25%."

These conclusions sound pretty good, don't they? Well, not to Medscape they don't - the doctor who reviewed the study had this to say: "these results may be a great source for future research; however, until then, hawthorn extract remains only a homeopathic treatment with, as of yet, no proven beneficial effect in CHF patients."

Whaaa? Am I confused, or missing something here?

Here's my opinion: If this study had reported these same results for some new patented drug offering we would have seen an entirely different headline - something along the lines of "Study Shows Cardiac Death Significantly Reduced By MegaPharma's New Drug WS 1442."

What do you think?

Dr. Myatt and I see this sort of double standard every day - a patented prescription drug that provides minimal or even dismal results in a tiny number of patients is deemed to have a "real effect" and is "worthy of further study" - essentially, "let's study it until we can report something good about it." while non-patented, natural substances with a history of successful use are studied as if they were single-molecule pharmaceuticals, in studies that are virtually guaranteed to demonstrate minimal results, and if they do show positive results those results are spun in a way to diminish them as much as possible. In effect, the researchers in these drug-company sponsored "research" exercises will study a natural substance in outrageous ways - giving uselessly low or dangerously high amounts or engaging in other shenanigans designed to ensure a negative outcome.

If you watch the news headlines with a critical eye the way we do I think you'll see the same...

Meanwhile, we remain big fans of Hawthorn extracts as they have been well researched and are widely used in Europe to treat many types of heart conditions including:

  • atherosclerosis
  • cardiac arrhythmia
  • congestive heart failure
  • high blood pressure
  • angina
  • vascular disease.

Hawthorn works by dilating (opening) coronary and peripheral blood vessels and improving oxygen utilization in the heart muscle. The proanthocyanidins (PCO's) in Hawthorn have been shown to lower cholesterol levels and decrease the size of cholesterol-containing plaques in the arteries.

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