Drugs, Diseases, and Dietary Supplements

There has been a change in medical treatment paradigms. Disenchantment with conventional medical approaches to disease prevention and treatment has led to a large consumer lobby to support the availability of natural medicines. The American public is very confused about the role of natural medicine in modern healthcare and there is an increasing tendency for people to self diagnose and self medicate, given a lack of portability of healthcare. These revolutions in modern medicine involve a seek for simple, gentle, natural options to promote health and well being.

In simple terms, drugs are often synthetic chemicals with high cost, exclusive ownership, and significant adverse effect profiles, of variable frequency. In contrast, dietary supplements are not drugs and they are not foods, but they can be sold with limited health claims about their beneficial effects on body structures and functions. Contrary to some opinions, dietary supplements are regulated in their sale by good manufacturing practices and conditions of sale laid down in government legislation in the form of Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Regulations that govern the sale of dietary supplements insist that they bare disclaimer statements including: “this product is not intended to diagnose, prevent or treat any disease” and “these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.” This circumstance creates an enigma in modern medicine where many physicians and healthcare consumers use dietary supplements to treat and prevent disease. As clever and appropriate may be the actions of politicians and lawyers, it is not possible to legislate against a consumers self reliance to use supplements as treatments in a democratic society.

There is a battle that is brewing between or among the pharmaceutical industry, the dietary industry, the food industry, and agencies that regulate the sale of such items. On the one hand, the dietary supplement industry sometimes cries “foul” when it comes to government regulations, but, on the other hand, there is a small but discreet group of marketing predators who make false promises and illegal claims about dietary supplements. Let is be crystal clear, that the same circumstances apply to the pharmaceutical industry and the food industry, to a variable degree, as evidenced by sanctions taken against food or pharmaceutical companies for overstepping or magnifying claims of benefit for their goods.

These circumstances are a “crying shame”. This conflict does not improve the health of the nation which is most dependent on public health education with credible information. Promoters of dietary supplements criticize physicians who respond to pharmaceutical representatives but, some of the same individuals respond to frank propaganda about dietary supplements from some marketing companies that may even engage in absurd or preposterous treatment claims.

The government has not done enough to educate consumers on medical treatments or initiatives that can be taken to prevent major public health problems, such as diabetes or osteoporosis. For example, the paucity of public education on the prevention of osteoporosis is dominated by television commercials that advertise drugs to treat osteoporosis. Other startling problems exist, such as the inappropriate purveyance of drugs for conditions such as simple sleep disorders that are often amenable to lifestyle change and nutritional support with dietary supplements.

It seems like the American public consider television programming to be gospel. Individuals or agencies that promote drug, food, or dietary supplement products often pay for advertising and there has been a massive, inappropriate, public response to extended thirty minute television commercials on cable channels. A classic example of this nonsense is the adoption of “a lone hero against the world” posture about natural cures that do not exist.

I am passionate about the role of natural medicine in the promotion of health, well being, and longevity. My passion is impacted by imbalanced opinions and failure of people to be able to readily distinguish facts from fairy tales, when it comes to health initiatives.

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