Magic Bullet Medicine: How One Man Focused Medicine on Disease Instead of Health
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Around 1908, Dr. Paul Erlich changed medical practice by focusing on drug delivery systems for diseases, which he called "magic bullets." This won him the Noble Prize. Medicine has never been the same...
For examples, think of your last visit with your doctor. How long was it? Probably 2 minutes in face-to-face contact. And 9 times out of 10, the result was a prescription for a patented pill or potion.
Is this good? You be the judge. But today's health statistics don't paint a happy picture.
In an effort to improve their health, patients are doing their best. But they get little help from doctors, the people who are positioned to be best able to help them.
The reason? Magic bullet medicine gets in the way.
We'll examine this problem in this essay, but first let's take a brief side trip to look at a specific example from recent newspapers.
An Example of the ProblemOnce again on Wednesday, April 16, 2008, the medical authorities are advising us NOT to take nutritional supplements. This time the effort comes from the United Kingdom. A group of scientists reviewed several dozen health research studies that had covered antioxidant supplements -- Vitamin A, Beta Carotene, Vitamin C, the antioxidant mineral Selenium and Vitamin E. The study is linked below.*
The reviewed studies included 67 different efforts that involved over 232,000 people. Both healthy and unhealthy people were studied. The conclusion of this 'review of reviews' was that most of the anti-oxidants were not associated with any positive health benefit, except for Selenium.
Some supplemental anti-oxidants were associated with increased risks of death or cancer -- Vitamin A and Beta Carotene increased risks by 16% and 7% respectfully, while Vitamin E increased risks of cancer by 4%. Vitamin C did not increase risks, but did not reduce them either. Selenium decreased risks about 9% in men for prostate cancer. Smoking tobacco products was also associated with most of the increases.
Centering Studies Around Finding the "Right" Magic BulletWhat's the problem with this new review? Simple. All of these so-called scientific studies that were included in the review were testing the particular supplement the same way, making the same error in judgment -- they were looking for a magic bullet.
They were asking "Does adding this supplement to the diet help prevent disease?" Seems like an innocent enough question, right?
When you add a single nutrient to your diet, especially in large quantities, you unbalance a finely tuned biological system. The body is built to operate within certain normal limits. When you upset the balance by adding too much of a particular nutrient, you risk exceeding those limits.
Further, most antioxidants work synergistically. Each operates as a biochemical 'cog' in the bio-gears that run your body. Adding one antioxidant without its synergistic partners, and without the cofactors that it needs to function within the body, is certainly not helpful. Why would it be?
When scientists design a study that adds large quantities of any particular nutrient into a balanced system, they are going to 'discover' the same result for each added unbalancing compound. They will prove that in health there are NO MAGIC BULLETS.
The Fix is InInterestingly, the way these studies are setup pre-determines their outcomes.
How should they be studied? They should test people to see if they are deficient in any particular nutrient. Then, for those people only, they should add that nutrient, plus any and all known cofactors and synergistic partner nutrients. Then they should report the results of this practice on the participants.
Even these scientists must already know that people who take a broad range of dietary supplements, in addition to eating a healthy diet, are generally healthier than those who do not. Thousands of studies demonstrate the wisdom of eating a healthy diet and taking a wide range of supplements.
However, taking merely one or two, or even a few supplements in large quantities is obviously NOT a good idea. Why that should be news to anyone is a good question.
So, why are we seeing so many of these "Magic Bullet" quasi-scientific reviews and stories in the news? Because there are powerful interests in the medical, pharmaceutical and health-industry world which desire us to believe that 'natural cures' don't work, while 'traditional medicine' does.
The world is full of 'traditional medicine' snake-oil salesmen (and women). The magic bullets they are selling are patented. The profits in today's patented magic bullet medical system are unthinkably enormous. Billions and billions are transferred from our pockets to the owners of the patents on the magic bullets of today's acceptable, authoritarian sales people.
The Invention Of Magic Bullet MedicineOne man "invented" modern medicine. Re-invented is a more accurate description of course. He was Paul Ehrlich (March 14, 1854 to August 20, 1915) a German scientist who won the 1908 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He is noted for his work in hematology, immunology, and chemotherapy. Ehrlich predicted autoimmunity calling it "horror autotoxicus". He coined the term "chemotherapy" and popularized the concept of a "magic bullet". He is credited with the first empirical observation of the blood-brain barrier and the development of the first antibiotic drug in modern medicine.
Paul Ehrlich's BiographyPaul Ehrlich was born into a Jewish family in Strehlen, in the Prussian Province of Silesia (now in Poland). As a schoolboy and student of medicine he was interested in staining microscopic tissue substances.
In his dissertation at the University of Leipzig, he picked up the topic again ("Beitrage zur Theorie und Praxis der histologischen Farbung"). He married Hedwig Pinkus (then aged 19) in 1883. The couple had two daughters named Stephanie and Marianne. After his clinical education and habilitation ("Das Sauerstoffbedurfnis des Organismus") at the Charite in Berlin in 1886 he received a call from Robert Koch to join the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin (1891).
Ehrlich spent two years in Egypt, recovering from tuberculosis. Thereafter he worked with his friend Emil Adolf von Behring on the development of the diphtheria serum.
These works inspired Ehrlich's famous side-chain theory (Seitenkettentheorie) from 1897. This theory explained the effects of serum and enabled measurement of the amount of antigen. In 1896 Ehrlich became the director of the newly founded Institute of Serum Research and Examination (Institut fÃ¼r Serumforschung und SerumprÃ¼fung) in Steglitz (Berlin). In 1899 the institute was moved to Frankfurt (Main) and extended into the Royal Institute of Experimental Therapy (Institut fur experimentelle Therapie). Here Ehrlich researched chemotherapy and infectious diseases. In 1904 Ehrlich became honorary professor of the University of Gottingen.
Ehrlich received the Nobel Prize for Medicine together with Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov in 1908. In 1906 he discovered the structural formula of atoxyl, a chemical compound which had been shown to be able to treat sleeping sickness. Following this discovery, he tried to create a less toxic version of the medicament. In 1909 he and his student Sahachiro Hata developed Salvarsan, a treatment effective against syphilis.
His life is depicted in the movie The Magic Bullet, which focused on Salvarsan (arsphenamine, "compound 606"), his cure for syphilis. His work illuminated the existence of the blood-brain barrier.
Ehrlich died of a stroke in Bad Homburg in 1915, aged 61.
Creation of "Magic Bullet" MedicineThe "magic bullet" concept comes from the experience of 19th century German chemists with selectively staining tissues for histological examination, and in particular, selectively staining bacteria (Ehrlich was an exceptionally gifted histological chemist, and invented the precursor technique to Gram staining bacteria). Ehrlich reasoned that if a compound could be made that selectively targeted a disease causing organism, then a toxin for that organism could be delivered along with the agent of selectivity. Hence, a "magic bullet" would be created that killed only the organism targeted.
A problem with the use of the magic bullet concept as it emerged from its histological roots is that people confused the dye with the agent of tissue selectivity and antibiotic activity. Prontosil, a sulfa drug whose active component is sulfanilamide, is a classic example of the fact that color is not essential to antibiotic activity.
The concept of a "magic bullet" was fully realized with the invention of monoclonal antibodies.
Today, the application of magic bullet medicine has gone about as far as anyone could have dreamed. The entire experience in a doctor's office for most patients of degenerative diseases is centered around finding out which patented magic bullet could help their disease, whereon the doctor prescribes that pill or syrup and says "see the receptionist on your way out" (to pay the bill).
Solving underlying causes and enforcing needed lifestyle, diet and exercise changes are not involved in the patient/doctor relationship, since the emergency of magic bullet medicine.
This needs to change.
As a result of magic bullet medicine, we never get healthy. We merely lesson our symptoms. Our doctor doesn't practice health management. He or she practices disease management. And, in today's world, diseases are managed by magic bullets.
Thousands of Years of Medical EvolutionSince the Greeks, man has considered that health involved a process of balancing different relationships and bodily processes. While the details of thought varied with the times, throughout history people have that we need to be "in balance" to be healthy. Todays doctor may agree with the general notion of balance in health, but he or she does not apply balance in their diagnostic practice. Instead, they simply practice Erlich's magic bullet medicine.
Paul Erlich did not invent the scientific method. The scientific method has been around since about 1,000 A.D. -- certainly since (Alhacen, 965â€“1039), a pioneer of scientific method. The idea is to find the truth behind a question. See the very detailed history about the scientific method at this WikiPedia.org Scientific Method article.
If we re-focus medicine around an investigation as to what makes us "out of balance" and therefore unhealthy, we do not have to discard the scientific method. Balancing our body processes can still be scientific. But, we must change our focus. We must stop thinking only of magic bullets.
Billions For BulletsToday's patented medicines are the world's most profitable businesses. Altogether, the patented medical drug business is a TRILLION DOLLAR industry.
This mega-industry overpowers the economies of each of the world's large countries, as well as all the small nations. It dictates the laws regulating medical commerce, the directions of future research, and the regulations for the practice of medicine itself.
Governmental regulatory bureaus are staffed with people who received their scientific and medical education under subsidies from patent holding drug companies. The medical schools and universities where researchers and physicians undertook their scientific training and education were heavily subsidized by pharmaceutical profits from Magic Bullet Medicine.
Pharmaceutical company representatives -- sales people -- actually pay doctors to listen to their pitches during sales calls they make in the doctor's office. Since laws restrain them from paying in cash, they pay with so-called 'free samples', other valuable gifts, free dinner invitations, tickets to conventions, lectures, and invitations to speak at events for which the are paid directly. As many as 1/3 of physicians in some specialties have lectured at drug company sponsored events and been paid by the drug companies to do so. See this 2007 article in The Journal of the American Medical Association about payments to doctors. Because insurance payments to physicians are so low these days, doctors rely on drug rep payments as a major portion of their real income. For some physicians, this can amount to the equivalent of thousands of dollars per month.
Doctors are graded by the pharmaceutical patent owners, and rewarded on a sliding scale according to the number of prescriptions they give to their patients for certain drugs. The data comes from a national prescription database which contains patient info, doctor info and drugs prescribed. Every prescription filled at a pharmacy is entered into the database, which is made available to the drug companies.
Should this system be changed? Well that is a very controversial issue. But that it exists is not. Our system works to ensure the sales of patented 'magic bullet' drugs.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that medical research is oriented to support the magic bullet theory. Nor should it surprise anyone that non-patented magic bullets receive bad reviews by researchers whose education, salaries, and social life all center around patented wonder drugs.
The Missing QuestionThe one question we can be certain that will seldom be asked is -- "Are patented drugs generally helpful?" In other words -- "Are there ANY magic bullets for health?" Heaven forbid that we actually figure out that nobody has a magic bullet, a wonder drug or single therapy that will simplify our search for health and youthfulness -- compressing the answer into a single pill or a handful of pills.
No matter who tells you they have found a magic bullet for health, don't believe them.
Health requires a perfect balance of about 50 different nutrients -- vitamins, minerals, fiber, fluids, antioxidants, fats, proteins, carbohydrates -- all of which can be found freely in common vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, spices, water, and yes... a few more behaviors including regular exercise, fresh air, exposure to sunlight, and support from companions, loving companionship from friends and family.
There is no magic bullet. Your doctor doesn't have one, and neither does any vitamin company nor drug store.
The Greek doctor Hippocrates, remembered as the Father of Medicine, said it best thousands of years ago: "Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food."
If you're already sick, then a few pills may help. But that's a very dangerous road. Tread it with caution.
*Source: Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud LL, Simonetti RG, Gluud C. Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD007176. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007176
* All information on Level1Diet.com is for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Before changing your diet, or adding supplements to your diet, or beginning an exercise program, everyone should consult a qualified and licensed health practitioner; a physician, dietician or similar professional.
Biographical information on Dr. Paul Erlich was provided by WikiPedia.org