Pharmaceuticals and Side Effects

As we know, most all pharmaceuticals have some side effects. The following story sheds light as to the causes of these side effects.

While visiting with Dr. Joseph Baur, a long-time researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, we discussed in 2009 a Resveratrol Product on the market called Vindure 900 produced by Vinomis Laboratories.

Dr. Baur had performed research on Vindure, and also was a co-discoverer of Resveratrol along with Dr. David Sinclair at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Baur said he would certainly prefer Vindure or other nutraceuticals for himself, and anyone who asked about Resveratrol, as compared with a synthetic version of the product.

When asked why, Dr. Baur told me that synthetic versions of natural products are produced by pharmaceuticals because they cannot obtain a patent on a “natural molecule”. He told me the pharma companies “twist” the molecule a bit so that it has the same properties as the natural molecule, but it can be patented.

He said that these changes to the natural molecules make them not “God molecules” as he called them. And it was indeed these molecule changes that introduce the side effects. As a practical example for we non-scientists, he asked me what happens when a DNA strand has minor changes, to which I replied there can be birth defects — “Exactly” he said.

It is NOT the assertion of the Nutra Foundation that Pharma companies deliberately introduce these side-effects, but with the huge cost of developing and testing any new drug, it is understandable that the Pharma companies desire to secure patents on their drugs.

In Nutra’s opinion, it’s simply a flaw in the system — namely that natural versions of products are frequently bypassed as part of any company’s natural desire to maximize profits and produce unique drugs.

Natural Product Scientific Studies

A plethora of scientific studies have, and continue to be conducted on a wide variety of natural products, supplements, foods and so on. Quite frankly, even for those individuals who make a concerted effort to read and use these studies to make decisions on what foods and supplements to consume — become quite confused.

This confusion is very understandable due not only to the difficulty in sometimes comprehending the scientific jargon and methods utilized. In addition, many studies are contradictory and a times report completely opposite results.

Unfortunately, some of this confusion is the result of inherent biases of scientists — or more aptly put, the biases of the organizations funding the research. In fact, many studies are indeed funded by the very companies who produce the products and supplements themselves (I know this from personal experience). At times, companies even fund studies to directly refute other studies for natural products of their competitors — or products which could replace products the company produces (pharmaceuticals vs. nutraceuticals).

In 2003, the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed results of 370 clinical trials to determine any bias in drug company-sponsored research and concluded that industry-sponsored studies were significantly more likely to reach conclusions that were favorable to the sponsor than were non-industry studies.

I recall a study published in 2012 (which shall remain nameless at this time) which concluded that Resveratrol was not effective in improving the health of otherwise healthy patients — you read that right! That’s akin to saying that a pharmaceutical or drug is ineffective in patients who don’t have a particular disease. And guess who funded the Resveratrol study? I’m sure you can figure that out…

So What’s the Consumer to Do?

Nutra recommends the following for consumers who are indeed looking for scientific studies (which they should be) to verify the reported health benefits of natural products and supplements.

1. Consider the SOURCE of the study — particularly the organization which funded the study and their inherent biases

2. Generally TRUST sources such as Universities and Government-funded laboratories (though surely they have some biases also)

3. Read MULTIPLE studies, and believe the results which most of the studies have in common, and are consistent.

4. Be WARY of studies funded by producers of specific products, conducted on their own products.

Natural Products and Anti Pharma Bias

It is often the case that people in the natural products industries and even some naturopaths seem to have a strong bias against using pharmaceutical products. Each of them has their own story about the harmful effects of pharmaceuticals.

Unfortunately, this has caused “camps” to develop in a seeming war of nutraceuticals versus pharmaceuticals.

It is the belief of the Nutra Foundation that nutraceuticals (and natural supplements and products) are often simply overlooked as cures to a variety of ailments — or as prevention to ailments ever developing. While some blame medical schools and pharmaceutical companies for pushing drugs on people (and Nutra will not deny that this practice exists) — it can also be said that natural products companies push natural products as cure-alls in some cases.

Nutra falls somewhere in the middle of this debate, albeit with some emphasis on natural products. However, in the case of acute illness (i.e. heart attack, cancer, organ failure) anyone would be hard-pressed to not default to a pharmaceutical cure. This is not to say that nutraceuticals do not play an important role even in these extreme circumstances, and most people are aware of stories of others being cured by (or aided by) the use of natural products.

In Nutra’s opinion, the “war” has been created by companies on both sides of the aisle who produce propaganda and marketing materials to suit their needs and maximize their profits. Unfortunately, this has created mass-confusion on the part of the consumer, when the truth is that BOTH pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals have their place in the world of medicine.