Thursday, June 28, 2012

Do You Know What Your Drug Does?


Most of the material you’re about to read comes right out of the Physicians Desk Reference, the bible for prescription drugs. You’re usually given this information when you purchase your prescription drug.
Do you know anyone who actually reads his or her prescription inserts? Unfortunately, due to the never-ending promotion of “a drug for every ailment” campaign, we’ve become jaded to the potential side effects of various prescription medications. The commercials sound something like this; “Do you suffer from wanting to spend time alone? If so, you may be suffering from ‘I’m too shy’ disease. Ask your doctor about the latest psychedelic pill for shyness disorder.” Then, in happy, positive, inflected, mind-numbing fashion comes, “In clinical trials, this drug had the following minor side effects: headaches, diarrhea, nausea, cough, bladder infections, depression, suicidal thoughts, colitis, fever blisters, weakened immune system, and hair loss.”

Drugs can and do save lives. However, relying solely on drug therapy for symptom management can be risky, even deadly. Most drugs don’t cure anything. They merely mask the symptoms. This isn’t all bad and we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. However, the public at large is being lulled into a false belief that drugs, particularly cardio drugs, are a safe (and only) option to managing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Nothing could be further from the truth.


“Today’s standard, AMA-approved medicine is rooted in treating symptoms, rather than causes. Its dependence on drugs and surgery is ruinously expensive to patients, insurance companies, and society as a whole.”
—Derrick Lonsdale, MD, “Why I Left Orthodox Medicine

Calcium Channel Blockers
Calcium channel blockers include the drugs Diltiazem (Cardizem CD, Cardizem SR, Dilacor XR), Nifedipine (Procardia XL), and Verapamil (Calan, Calan SR, Isoptin, Isoptin SR, Verelan).
Calcium channel blockers slow the rate at which calcium passes to the contractile fibers of heart muscle and into the vessel walls, a sequence that relaxes the vessels. Relaxed vessels allow the blood to flow more easily, thereby reducing blood pressure. Calcium channel blockers are used to treat chest pain (angina), high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and irregular heart beats (arrythmias).
In 1995, the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration to add a warning to the labeling of all calcium channel blockers. This action was in light of observational studies, which revealed that calcium channel blockers increase the risk of heart attack and death.1
Calcium channel blockers were put on the market without proper testing, according to Dr. Kurt Ferver, Wake Forest School of Medicine. For those who take them, there is not only an increase in strokes, but a five-fold increase in the risk of heart attacks.2
The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute has warned doctors not to use short-acting Procardia, if at all. The warning comes from 16 studies involving over 8,000 patients. The risk of dying is 1.06 times greater than average when a dose of 30 to 50 milligrams a day is used. However, the risk jumps to 3.0, or three times the average, when 80 milligrams a day is recommended. The maximum dose listed for Procardia is 180 mg a day.

Death is a pretty scary side effect

Why in the world are doctors still using calcium channel blockers for individuals with moderately elevated high blood pressure? Especially when there are safer and more effective drugs to choose from.

One study shows that those taking a calcium channel blocker are 60% more likely to have a heart attack than those taking a diuretic or beta blocker.3
Common Side Effects associated with calcium channel blockers are fatigue, flushing, swelling of the abdomen, ankles, or feet, and heartburn. Less common side effects are changes in heart rate, tachycardia or bradycardia (slow heart rate), shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, dizziness, numbness in hands and feet, gastrointestinal bleeding, chest pains, jaundice, and fainting.5
Calcium channel blockers may increase the risk of developing breast cancer.6 Reports have demonstrated an increased risk of cancer among users of Verapamil, but it is too early to conclude that calcium channel blockers are associated with cancer.7
Beta Blockers
Beta blockers “block” the effects of adrenaline (and norepinephrine) on a cell’s beta-receptors. This slows the nerve impulses that stimulate the heart. Therefore, the heart does not work as hard. Beta blockers are generally prescribed to treat high blood pressure (hypertension), congestive heart failure (CHF), abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), and chest pain (angina). Beta blockers are sometimes used in heart attack patients to prevent future attacks. Commonly prescribed beta blockers include: Atenolol (Tenoretic, Tenormin), Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), Nadolol (Corgard), and Propranolol (Inderal).

Beta blockers have several potential side effects, including congestive heart failure, shortness of breath, heart block, fatigue, lethargy, drowsiness, depression, insomnia, headaches, dizziness, tingling in the hands and feet, wheezing, bronchospasm, increased severity of asthma or chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, decreased sex drive, muscle fatigue, reduced HDL (good cholesterol), and increased LDL and triglycerides.8

I’m going to guess that if you knew a drug could cause heart death (congestive heart failure), you wouldn’t take it.
I’d surely say, “No thanks doc. I think I’ll pass on that drug.”
Does every female in America suffer from a beta blocker deficiency? There are periods in my practice where every new female patient is on a beta blocker.
Beta blockers must be the drug du jour since anyone with slight mitral valve prolapse, high blood pressure, or migraine headaches is placed on these drugs. Beta blockers can be very valuable for a minority of patients.

However, the majority of patients who take beta blockers don’t need them and suffer all sorts of health-robbing side effects. Depression, poor sleep (depletes the natural sleep hormone melatonin) severe fatigue, and breathing problems (bronchitis, Asthma, etc.) are common side effects in those taking beta blockers. Patients taking these medications often report that they just don’t have any energy.
I remember a recent patient who was on at least three medications to control her beta blocker side effects. She was taking Lexapro, an antidepressant, Ambien to help her sleep, and was using a bronchial inhaler for asthma. Once she discontinued her medications with the help of her family doctor and substituted nutritional supplements I recommended, her mitral valve prolapse and blood pressure returned to normal. The fatigue, depression, and breathing problems are slowly disappearing now that she is off her beta-blocking medication.  There are a number of safe and effective natural approaches to reverse mitral valve prolapse. I share these can’t miss protocols in chapter 9 of my book Heart Disease What Your Doctor Won't Tell You.

Here's one of the most important health tips I could ever share-research your medications, be an informed consumer!

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