When it comes to cancer, modern medicine is in firm denial. For all the triumphalism over the latest claims that approximately 50 per cent of people survive cancer for at least 10 years, the bald fact remains that cancer incidence rates in Great Britain have risen by 23 per cent in men and by 43 per cent in women since the mid-1970s, cancer deaths account for more than one in four deaths and more than 430 people a year,or one person every four minutes, dies from cancer. Does that sound like a war that's being won?
At least that's the dismal batting average for the typical oncologist. Dr Patrick Kingsley, now retired, had a different track record. Most of the thousands of patients he's treated for cancers of all varieties reversed their cancers and survived.
It's all over the newspapers. Deaths from breast cancer have almost been halved, and the bow belongs to screening with routine mammography.
So persuasive is the catch-it-early argument that governments have spent millions putting into effect mass screening programmes, with women the primary targets for wholesale breast and cervical cancer campaigns.
Failing eyesight has become so closely associated with old age that medicine has applied a number of adjectives synonymous with 'geriatric' to conditions like 'age-related macular degeneration' and 'senile cataracts', and it's just taken for granted that your eyes are going to wear out even faster than the rest of you.
As Dame Judi Dench once commented about her AMD, which has now made it difficult for her to read scripts: "I've got what my ma had, which you get when you get old."
Economist John Kenneth Galbraith was one of the first to identify 'revised-sequence' markets which, unlike the ordinary consumer-driven variety, are driven by a corporation, which controls the consumer's attitudes and values and so creates product demand. Or, to put it more simply, theyinvent the problem to sell the solution.
As American political activist Ralph Nader once remarked, "In any industry, the sellers become very acute in appealing to those features of a human personality that are easiest to exploit. Everyone knows what they are. It's easiest to exploit a person's sense of fear . . ."
February 28th 2014, 11:11 | Bryan Hubbard
The statistics speak for themselves. At some point, 85 per cent of us will suffer from back pain and yet medicine is still at a loss for how to treat this medical epidemic. Despite all manner of sophisticated gadgetry and high-tech surgery, including lumbar surgery, spinal fusion and surgery for slipped discs, surgical success only happens in some 1 per cent of cases.
As Gordon Waddell, orthopaedic surgeon at Glasgow's Nuffield Hospital who helped draft the Royal College of General Practitioners' guidelines for treating back pain, once wrote: "Our failure is in the 99 per cent of patients with simple backache, for whom, despite new investigations and all our treatments, the problem has become progressively worse."
February 3rd 2014, 10:28 | Bryan Hubbard
Governments of the West have finally woken up to the fact that we have an epidemic of dementia on our hands. The incidence of Alzheimer's disease is growing so quickly (the worldwide incidence is set to treble to 135 million in 35 years), and the death rates are so high (it's the sixth leading cause of death) that last December, ministers from the G8 leading nations met in London to pledge to coordinate efforts to research a cure.
Although the pharmaceutical industry is never slow to investigate new revenue streams, it's hit such a stalemate with dementia-none of the five drugs on the market have any evidence of doing any real good at all-that it has stopped looking for a magic bullet.
December 23rd 2013, 12:46 | Bryan Hubbard
A few years ago, we asked a bold question: what are the key ingredients to a long and healthy life? Specifically, what 100 conditions might best maximize your chances of living to 100?
From our research over the years we knew that the key to healthy longevity isn't a matter of a few resolutions on January 1 to follow some new weight-loss diet or kick off that exercise plan, or even target a particular condition.
November 29th 2013, 12:39 | Bryan Hubbard
Increasingly, those at the very centre of Establishment medicine are joining the ranks of whistleblowers like What Doctors Don't Tell You in shining a light on the dirty secrets of mainstream medicine.
One of the largest spotlights at the moment is Peter Gotzsche, the head of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, the Scandinavian arm of the independent research centre known as the Cochrane Collaboration, which promotes 'evidence-based' medicine.
November 5th 2013, 15:49 | Bryan Hubbard
A small group of people tried to prevent you from reading this issue ofWhat Doctors Don't Tell You. They pressurized shops to stop selling our magazine and they were prepared to go to almost any lengths to achieve their aims, including the stage-managing of an 'independent' news article in a major newspaper that contained malicious falsehoods about us and our work.
Why? Perhaps because we'd announced the next issue as a 'cancer special' that would include interesting new research about homeopathy.
September 26th 2013, 12:51 | Bryan Hubbard
If we were asked to name the deadliest weapon dispersed during the 20th century, we wouldn't choose the A-bomb or the efficient gas chambers of Auschwitz or drone warfare, or even sophisticated microbiological weaponry. And we wouldn't have to think very long about it, either.
There's no contest. It has to be processed sugar, by a couple of million country miles.
September 5th 2013, 14:06 | Bryan Hubbard
We're living longer, but we're not necessarily better off for it, at least not according to modern medicine. Several months ago, the UK's International Longevity Centre released a statement announcing that less than a third of us will reach the typical retirement age of 65 years in a healthy state.
In the US, where one of every five Americans (or 72 million) will be 65 or older by 2030, and the 85-pluses are the fastest growing segment of the US population, Americans are older than ever before, but not necessarily healthier. Some 14 million people over age 65 have reported some sort of disability, mostly linked to chronic conditions like heart disease, which translates into one in five who are impaired with major illness.
Recently, European scientists finally isolated the reason for the sudden, puzzling disappearance of entire colonies of bees. Although parasitic mites, deadly viruses and bacterial disease have been variously blamed for the phenomenon, study after study has now fingered the pesticides sprayed on garden plants and food crops, which affect the ability of bees to navigate and ultimately damages their DNA.
Although the EU has now banned the pesticide thought to be most responsible, this discovery begs the obvious question: if these chemicals are killing off the bees, what in God's name are they doing to us?
The whole of modern medicine rests upon the belief that, to a great extent, your future health is out of your control. Biologists and doctors in the main believe that the functioning and health of any organism are largely due to DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), the coiled double helix of genetic coding within the nucleus engine room that holds the blueprints for the body's proteins and amino acids.
According to this idea, the central dogma of biology, the body gets created through an entirely self-sufficient process within its own boundaries: personality, physical characteristics, indeed the sum total of what defines us is crafted from the unique blueprint of DNA contained inside. Although we allow for the effects of emotional stress on our personal psychic development and of diet on certain aspects of our health, we assume that the raw clay of ourselves takes permanent shape and then sets and hardens largely from a process that moves outward from the gene through our cells to our organs.
Last January, after sustaining an injury to one knee during a particularly heated hockey match, our 16-year-old daughter Anya, a sports scholar, was handed the diagnosis most dreaded by athletes of any age: complete rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee. The ACL, one of the crisscross ligaments attaching the knee cap to leg bones, is pivotal to any movement of the knee, and a complete tear such as Anya sustained can spell a death sentence for any future sports.
The standard treatment is surgical reconstruction, which entails taking tissue from a tendon or hamstring, attaching this onto a bit of borrowed bone, refashioning something resembling an ACL ligament, and screwing the lot onto the thigh and shin bones. After the operation, the patient is on crutches for weeks and then undergoes some nine months of rehabilitation before getting back to normal play.
When Lynne's mother was 24, her dentist unwisely extracted a tooth while she had the flu. Within days her neck had ballooned with a streptococcal infection and she was rushed to hospital. Lynne's father, then her fianc'e, wept helplessly at her bedside while priests filed past him after administering
last rites.And then the wonder drug arrived. As a last resort, Lynne's mother was given penicillin-still in experimental use then. Within a day or two the swelling that had almost obscured her face simply melted away. Lynne's ordinarily doubting father rushed off to church and humbly knelt before the altar, convinced that he had witnessed a miracle.
February 8th 2013, 10:28 | Bryan Hubbard
There's a breathtakingly ignorant comment that has done the rounds of late, and it goes like this: there are only two types of medicine, that which works and alternative medicine. This suggests that modern medicine is an open house, a "come all ye" of every therapy and treatment that has been proven to work, while alternatives are the festering dump of scoundrels, fraudsters and quacks who prey on the weak and desperate. As quantum physicist Richard Feynman said of very daft theories, the statement is so far off the grid that it isn't even wrong.
Modern medicine is an interesting amalgam of church and industry: as a church it has set beliefs about the body and disease, and any other opinions are dismissed as heresy, and, as an industry, its primary purpose is to deliver drugs to the sick
January 17th 2013, 14:47 | Bryan Hubbard
Medicine seems to divide itself between the miraculous interventions and the mundane. The latter is all the things medicine isn't very good at: the nagging, chronic problems that are made bearable by drugs, although almost never cured by them. But the miracles-they're the stuff of TV drama and newspapers headlines, and include emergency procedures, life-saving operations and processes that begin life, such as IVF (in vitro fertilisation).
With the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge about to become parents, the focus on IVF has intensified recently, especially among couples who are less fortunate than William and Kate. And it does indeed appear to be a miracle: a shaking of the fist at a fate that would otherwise have dealt us a poor hand.
December 6th 2012, 14:37 | Bryan Hubbard
Only around 10 per cent of Britons take their health seriously; the rest rely on medicine. In other words, just one in 10 of us take responsibility for our well-being by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day and adopting a healthy lifestyle while the vast majority eats a nutrition-free diet and expects their ills to be sorted out by a 'magic bullet' pharmaceutical.
Most people fall woefully short of the modest five-a-day set by our health guardians, and even this is barely adequate to maintain reasonable health. A recent study from the University of Warwick has found that the healthiest and happiest are eating at least seven portions of fruits and vegetables every day, but just 10 per cent of us are doing that. A quarter of the population barely manages to eat even one portion.
November 5th 2012, 17:02 | Bryan Hubbard
Around 90 years ago, the pharmaceutical industry took over medicine. Inspired by the discoveries made by its sister companies in the burgeoning petro-chemical sector, it imagined medicine on a mass-production scale, available to everyone at their point of need.
There had to be a few things in place for the bold adventure to work. First, it needed legitimacy, and for that the new drugs-based medicine had to be recognised as a science.
The news that the European Parliament is expected to ban mercury fillings throughout the 27 member states, including the UK, raises two questions: why was mercury ever put in our teeth in the first place, and why have the dental associations always been so ready to defend the use of one of the most toxic elements?
The answer to the first question is now lost in the mists, although cost appears to have been an over-riding factor when it was mooted as an acceptable filler of dental cavities around 160 years ago. Gold was the only material available, and mercury was more pliable, durable - and far less expensive. By mixing it with copper, tin and silver - thus creating an amalgam, the name given to the fillings - dentists believed the mercury would be stabilised and 'locked in'. And as the early patients seemed able to stand and walk out of the surgery, dentists believed it was safe.