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:
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:
- Treatment with WS 1442 in mild CHF patients on
optimal medical therapy is safe.
- Patients treated with WS 1442 have a
nonsignificantly lower incidence of adverse events compared with placebo.
- Cardiac mortality is significantly reduced in
the WS 1442 group at 18 months.
- 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:
- cardiac arrhythmia
- congestive heart failure
- high blood pressure
- 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