Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Pill for an Ill

Sustainability is a buzzword that is being bandied about quite a bit recently, especially in my world.

What got me thinking about this was a short film that a client sent me a link to called The Story of Stuff. . "You cannot operate a linear system on a finite planet." Good stuff.

There is no more unsustainable a system than the current healthcare mess. Of the mind boggling numbers that most people have heard so often that they're becoming numb to them, the one that tweaked my, admittedly, eclectic sense of humor, was that two of the top ten drugs in terms of sales in 2005 were Zyprexa and Resperdal, two drugs for schizophrenia. Almost 9 Billion dollars in scripts for schizophrenia in one year. Come on!!! You can't tell me that there's 9 Billion dollars worth of schizo's out there, not even in New York. (Oh, learn to laugh, already. Life's too short.)

All kidding aside, 13 billion for Lipitor, when any practitioner with half a brain knows that cholesterol is way down the list on risk factors for heart disease? Years ago, on his radio show, Ronald Hoffman reported that he had been called on the carpet by the AMA once for not prescribing a statin for a patient with high cholesterol, preferring to use more natural means, quite successfully, as I recall.

Strongarming doctors to overprescribe. Sounds more like an episode of the Sopranos.

The good news is that the tipping point should, finally, be near. There's 30 years of good science now that demonstrates to the insurance companies beyond any doubt that it is in their best interests to pay for prevention. Institutional change is slow, but steady.

But it still starts with each of you. You have to get involved. Right now, only 14 states license Naturopathic doctors. The bill in New York has been languishing in the legislature since 2005. I work with four Naturopaths. They did three years of pre-med and four years of medical school, all the residency and interning that any allopathic med student does, and the ones I know are better diagnosticians, and would be better primary care physicians than 90% of the allopaths I know. You should have the choice. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website is very easy to navigate. Even I could figure it out. Click on the legislation link and it will guide you.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Regulating the Regulators

Fish stink from the head.

Last week I spoke out against the nomination of a health czar whose only qualification was that of a career politician and lobbyist for the drug industry.

So, who should it be, he asked, rhetorically. Cards on the table, whoever it is had better be seriously battle tested, politically, and have some major league media savvy. But it also has to be someone with a deep understanding of how the body actually works, and how to integrate therapies to produce positive outcomes, not just how to sell drugs. The time has come.

This week, my nominations.

1. Jeffrey Bland PHD; Of my three choices, Bland will be the least known to the general public, yet, argueably, the best choice of the three. He's been teaching the tenents of functional medicine to healthcare practitioners like, well, Andy Weil and Mehmet Oz, for close to thirty years. He co-founded Bastyr University, which is the equivalent to Harvard Med for a Naturopathic Doctor. Last week at his seminar on the Future of the Clinic, in NYC, he mentioned that he, Weil and Oz would be testifying before Congress on what the shape of healthcare reform should look like. There's a link to his website on this blog. You can look up his credentials. Naturopaths and nutritionists who've attended any of his seminars over the last thirty years, pretty much, to a fault, genuflect at the mere mention of his name. He has a mind that boggles the mind, and he is tough. He would not buckle under the weight of Washington political pressure.

2. Andrew Weil MD;

3. Mehmet Oz MD;

If you're reading this and don't know who the other two are, I can't help you.

Any one of these guys would be just great. They should all hold up to the vetting process. None are in bed with big pharma, yet they all know their medicine. None of them are naive when it comes the realities of what the job entails. They're virtually unassailable. Weil and Oz are Mt. Rushmore-like in their level of belovedness. So is Bland among healthcare practitioners.

The nomination of someone like these three would truly signal the dawn of a new day in healthcare, and not more politics as usual.

Actually, I might rather have Andy Weil as the drug czar. You'll have to read his book, The Natural Mind, to understand the cryptic nature of that remark. He wrote it almost forty years ago, and it's still the best, most insightful book on drug policy I've ever read.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

"The Graveyards are Full of Indispensible People"

That quote was by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff, last week on MSNBC. He was referring to an Obama nominee to the defense dept., I forget who, but he could just as easily have been talking about Tom Daschle.

The nominee that Wilkerson was referring to had ties to defense contractors, gee what a surprise, but the White House claimed he was "indispensible". Wilkerson said that there were plenty of other, just as qualified, candidates out there who didn't come with that kind of baggage.

I was preparing to really blast the Daschle nomination for Health Czar, until I got home last night and found out I was beaten to the punch, and he'd already withdrawn. Obama, himself, was on TV, defending him as the best qualified candidate to lead healthcare reform, and most of the mainstream press and their pundits seemed to be agreeing with him.

What allegedly sank Daschle was his failure to report taxes on some gifts. This isn't even the symptom of the symptom. Daschle, himself is the symptom. Start with this link, , then click on Glen Greenwalds link in the article, then click on Matt Tiabbi's link in that one, and Stephanie Mencimer's 2002 article on his wife. If you don't feel the need for a shower after that description of Daschle's level of stink, I can't help you. Tiabbi's quote was the best; "In Washington, there are whores and there are whores, and then there is Tom Daschle. Tom Daschle would suck off a corpse for a cheeseburger." I love this kid.

Healthcare reform is a HUGE topic. You have to start by cleaning out the sludge at the bottom of the barrel, and guys like Daschle clearly demonstrate that sludge to be bipartisan.

But it starts with each of us, and how we perceive the problem. A colleague, Dr. Chris Saltpaw, said, "In Chinese Medicine, you have to divorce yourself from every Western pardigm you've been conditioned with. In order to truly understand it, you have to understand the nature of nature."

Think about this. Our species, and every other species here, as well, evolved on the surface of a planet with very distinct rhythmns. A 24-25 hour light/dark cycle, a 365ish day cycle with very distinct seasonal rhythmns. We have hormonal cycles that rise and fall in harmony with those cycles. You want to stay healthy, stay in touch with those cycles. Lose touch with them, you will fall out of health, and then, fall prey to every snake oil drug dealer out there, and their agents, people like Tom Daschle.

God, how I hate politics.