The People's Perspective on Medicine

A Pharmacist Condemns Pharma’s Approach to Health

Pharma (the pharmaceutical industry) views the human body as a machine that is constantly prone to breakdown and needs shoring up with synthetic chemicals.

If you believe that the human body is a wondrous and miraculous example of hundreds of thousands of years of refinement through evolution, your view is precisely opposite that of Pharma. Pharma views the human body like a rickety old machine, constantly prone to breakdown and constantly in need of shoring up with synthetic chemicals foreign to evolution (i.e., pharmaceuticals).

Pharma does not seem to believe that the human body has any ability to heal on its own, or that nutrition is important, or that the human body is part of the natural world. Pharma views drug side effects as an anomaly and as a surprise rather than as a predictable consequence of the introduction of synthetic chemicals (pharmaceuticals) into complex and highly refined biological systems.

If you are disgusted with the long lists of food additives in so many of the products in grocery stores, you will likely be equally disillusioned in a drug store. Products on drug store shelves represent an even higher level of artificiality in comparison to the highly processed foods that fill the shelves in the modern supermarket. I was always uneasy as a pharmacist because I preferred the model of health represented by a farmer’s market rather than the model represented by a drug store.

Many of the drugs in the pharmacy are essential. Some are even life-saving. But Pharma has parlayed the success of superstar drugs like insulin and antibiotics into a three-ring circus where there’s a quick-fix pill for every ill.

The Word “Natural” Is Conspicuously Absent from Pharma’s Lexicon:

There is one word that is conspicuously absent from advertisements for prescription drugs on television. That word is “natural.” With very few exceptions, pharmaceuticals are highly synthetic substances created in a laboratory and never before seen during the long course of human evolution. You never hear drug companies use the word “natural” or “holistic” because hardly anything they do would fit that description. It is all mechanistic and reductionist, based on controlling delicate biological processes in complex biological systems by utilizing synthetic chemicals.

Why Reject Reductionism?

Reductionism is a belief system that states that human health can be understood and modified at the molecular and cellular levels while ignoring the whole person. Ernst Mayr counters that the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. (Ernst Mayr, This is Biology: The Science of the Living World, Belknap Press; Reprint edition, September 15, 1998, p. xvi)

“…the claim that every attribute of complex living systems can be explained through the study of the lowest components (molecules, genes or whatever) struck me as absurd. Living organisms form a hierarchy of ever more complex systems, from molecules, cells and tissues through whole organisms, populations and species. In each higher system, characteristics emerge that could not have been predicted from a knowledge of the components.”

Regrettably, in my opinion, pharmacists have largely accepted and internalized the pharmaceutical industry’s description of the determinants of human health. Thus pharmacists are complicit in the dissemination of a mechanistic and reductionist model of human health—based on attacking human biology with synthetic chemicals—that is beneficial to Pharma’s narrative.

Blockers, Antagonists and Inhibitors:

Pharma has been wildly successful in promoting the view that health depends on the prescribing of alpha blockers, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers, H2 antagonists, proton pump inhibitors, HMGCoA reductase inhibitors, etc. Pharma believes that the human body cannot thrive without constant governance and control by pharmaceuticals prescribed and dispensed by professionals in white coats.

From the Perspective of Mother Nature, Pharmaceuticals Are Foreign Substances:

Pharma seems to have a bizarre belief that as long as these highly synthetic substances are used for benevolent purposes (to treat disease), Mother Nature will give them a pass. In fact, Mother Nature probably sees pharmaceuticals as foreign to evolution. That is why almost every drug in the pharmacy comes with a long list of potential side effects. In contrast, whole foods at a farmer’s market are not accompanied by leaflets describing precautions, warnings, contraindications and adverse effects. I view the long lists of potential drug side effects as an indication that the human body is rebelling against the dictatorship of these foreign substances known as pharmaceuticals, just as occupied populations rebel against dictatorship by a powerful oppressor.

Pharma Is at War with Human Biology:

The Physicians’ Desk Reference divides drugs into a large number of categories according to their use. By far, the biggest categories are those with the prefix “anti.” That includes anti-inflammatories, anti-histamines, anti-depressants, anti-hypertensives, anti-nauseants, anti-obesity, anti-psychotics, anti-hyperlipidemics (lipid lowering), anti-spasmodics, anti-acid (antacid), anti-pyretics (fever reducers), anti-pruretics (anti-itch), anti-neoplastics (anti-cancer), anti-arrhythmics, anti-coagulants, anti-anxiety, and antibiotics.

Thus Pharma’s bible, The Physicians’ Desk Reference, primarily consists of agents that are at war with the complex biological systems in the human body. So it’s not surprising that concepts of power and war dominate modern medicine with terminology like defeat cancer, destroy cancerous cells, War Against Cancer, fight depression, control blood pressure, etc.

Pharma Views Normal Biological Processes as Pathological:

Pharma’s mechanistic and reductionist view of the human body often leads to simplistic solutions in complex biological systems:

Cholesterol:

Pharma’s war on cardiovascular disease is largely a war on cholesterol. It doesn’t seem to matter to Pharma that cholesterol is essential for the functioning of every cell in the human body or that, for example, cholesterol is essential in the production of hormones.

Stomach Acid:

Pharma seems to view the existence of stomach acid as an error in human evolution. How else can one view the widespread use of proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Nexium, Aciphex, Prevacid and Protonix), acid suppressors (Zantac, Pepcid, Axid and Tagamet) and antacids (Rolaids, Tums)? Stomach acid performs many essential functions including the digestion of food and killing noxious organisms in that food.

Pain:

Pharma seems to view pain as something to be attacked and defeated. Advertisers for OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen often promote the concept that this drug allows athletes to “power through pain” (participate in sports while injured). In truth, pain is an important signal telling us to stop engaging in the activity that is causing the pain until our body has time to heal on its own schedule. Similarly, back pain should be viewed as our brain telling us to get a firmer mattress, or to sit in chairs with more lumbar support, or to get a job that doesn’t require standing all day on a hard floor, rather than simply attack the pain with analgesics.

Fever:

Pharma seems to view fever as another error in human evolution. The reality is that mild to moderate fever is often a defense mechanism to fight infection. Mild to moderate fever is in fact protective and should not be routinely treated unless it is more severe, potentially causing brain damage.

Diarrhea:

Pharma seems to view diarrhea as another error in human evolution. The reality is that diarrhea is a protective mechanism analogous to fever and pain. The purpose of diarrhea is to remove harmful organisms or other noxious substances from our digestive tract. Diarrhea should not be routinely treated with anti-diarrheal products unless it is severe. Replenishment of fluid and electrolytes with products like Pedialyte is more logical than using products that halt diarrhea.

Depression:

Biological reductionism refers to reducing behaviour to a physical level and explaining it in terms of neurons, neurotransmitters, hormones, brain structure, etc. Pharma’s simplistic understanding of the human body reduces depression to a brain chemical imbalance (primarily serotonin) and ignores the critical role played by one’s life circumstances in the causation of depression.

Cancer:

Pharma blames cancer on a cellular malfunction (or bad genes or aging) and ignores the role of the toxic chemicals that are so ubiquitous in modern societies. Pharma advertisements promote bravery and tenacity when confronted with a cancer diagnosis. Fighting cancer means willingly and passively undergoing treatment with toxic chemotherapeutic agents. From my perspective, fighting cancer should mean fighting against corporations that pollute our environment or that fill modern society with synthetic chemicals foreign to human evolution. Pharma advertisements never tell you that The Merck Manual (17th edition, pp. 2591-2592) essentially states that up to 90% of cancers are preventable:

“Environmental or nutritional factors probably account for up to 90% of human cancers. These factors include smoking; diet; and exposure to sunlight, chemicals, and drugs. Genetic, viral, and radiation factors may cause the rest.”

Pharmacy School Curricula Seem to Have Been Designed to Please Pharma:

In my opinion, the pharmacy school I attended resembled a seminary because students were indoctrinated into a narrow view of health based on molecules, cells, chemistry and pharmacology. There was no reverence for the healing power of nature and the importance of good nutrition. Pharmacy school was all about the utilization of synthetic chemicals that overwhelm and override delicate biological processes at the molecular and cellular levels.

One of the most surprising and disappointing things to me about pharmacy school was the realization that the core of the curriculum is disease rather than health. Pharmacy school presented a purely mechanistic and reductionist view of the human body which taught students that human health can be understood by studying the function of molecules and cells.

From Day 1 in pharmacy school, the human body was portrayed as a mechanical device. There was no reverence for the wondrous and miraculous healing power of nature. This view of the human body is, of course, what Pharma wants but it completely ignores the awesome healing power of nature. In my opinion, the goal of modern medicine is not to augment Mother Nature. The goal of modern medicine is to replace Mother Nature with a technological world view, a quick techno-fix for every health problem.

Prevention vs. Pills:

None of my pharmacy professors dared ask “Wouldn’t it be better to prevent these diseases rather than treat them?” That would have been viewed as blasphemy. The professor would have been viewed as a troublemaker. If a pharmacy student were to declare in class that he/she is more interested in prevention than pills, that student would also have been viewed as a troublemaker and as anti-pharmacy.

A discussion of nutrition would have been viewed by students as oddly out of place in pharmacy school. Pharmacy students learn to see health as a consequence of the manipulation of complex biological processes at the molecular and cellular levels. They learn to be biological technologists, not nutritionists or dietitians. Pharmacy students who believe strongly in disease prevention are likely to be uncomfortable in pharmacy school and during their careers as pharmacists.

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I agree with the author’s views on Pharma. At 52 I am shocked at how many of my peers are already on lifelong pharmaceuticals. I also agree that a good, well balanced diet is important in preventing many issues.

Wow, a powerful statement. I have developed chemical sensitivity which has derailed my life and was unknown in my youth. I remember the slogan in the ’50s “better living through chemistry.” Not really. I was recently prescribed a bisphosphonate via email with no discussion of side effects whatever. Thankfully, like so many if the commenters I know the best course is diet, exercise and good supplements from the natural world. Please continue to provide the valuable information you do that keeps us going even under difficult cultural influences these days.

I always try to remember that big Pharma makes no money when I am healthy.

Great article!

Bravo. Urge everyone to read books like On the Take, Bitter Pills, Disease Mongers, Over Diagnosed, Over Treated, and Saving Normal. All deal with Big Pharm. Only have a second, so sorry can’t provide the full citations. Good luck everyone!

Mr. Miller’s article strikes me as being rather black and white. In making his case against the reductionist approach, he goes too far in the other direction. I receive Botox, a *natural* and deadly toxin, for chronic migraine. I have made lifestyle adjustments, but there is no prevention, as I have “inherited” this from my mother. Should I eschew pharmaceutical relief and endure agony and dysfunction, continuing to accumulate lesions in my brain, in the hope Mother Nature will somehow heal me now as she has not in the past?

While I agree that our society appears “pill happy” and over-medicated, I caution against embracing the idea that Mother Nature gives us all we need for vibrant, long, healthy lives. In the realm of the natural world are all manner of hazards outside our control: birth defects, viruses, fungi, toxins, bacteria, natural disasters, idiopathic diseases, etc. Many pharmaceuticals have promised help, but have elicited misery instead. But pharmaceuticals have also saved countless lives and improved the quality of life of many more. Let us meet in the middle.

Great article. Don’t forget birth control pills that have filled women with a deluge of chemicals.
It also has been an enormous money maker for big pharma .

Forgot to add the main cause of Type II Diabetes and Cardiovascular Diseases such as heart attacks, stokes and high blood pressure is diet and lack of exercise.
Notice, most if not all of the drugs used to treat and prevent these diseases also include “along with diet and exercise” and you have to wonder if these two non-drug treatments followed, is the drug really needed at all.
Your true medicine is the correct FOOD, not drugs. If you eat to please the tongue then you are not eating for its purpose of repairing and maintaining the human body and it leads to chronic diseases.
When I would counsel patients about changing their diet most all just wanted the pill. Eating the typical American Diet of beef and chicken along with fried foods and sugar added foods including HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, abbreviated as HFCS, every one is driven to foods with a sugary taste, which increases the risk of Diabetes and weight gain and cardiovascular diseases.

I graduated from Pharmacy School in 1976. I practiced before we used drugs to prevent diseases, and at that time I thought it was laughable and still do. Drugs have two actions, the one you want and the one you do not want like side effects, which in years can cause another medical problem.
Today we treat symptoms not diseases and certainly not to improve health. Since we only treat symptoms the doses of drugs increase and or the number of drugs to treat the same problem rise because we do not eliminate the cause of the disease, we only fool MD’s and patients into believing we are treating their problem.
All these new guidelines like the new BP guidelines stating we need lower BP levels than in decades pass, are all set by MD,s with ties to Big Pharma, with the idea of selling more drugs but not improving longer quality of life.
Totally agree with Dennis Miller 100%. At least there are two pharmacists exposing some of the myths surrounding drugs.

Thank you for this well-written article; I’ve felt this way for years.

I have Type 1 Diabetes and Hashimoto’s. My endocrinologist wants to put me on so many drugs simply because I am diabetic. She is not happy with my refusal.

Acupuncture, proper foods, massage, herbs and essential oils are my choice and at 62 years old with two endocrine diseases I feel pretty darn good!

There was a time when pharmaceutical companies used to ask how much suffering could be reduced or eliminated if a particular drug were developed. Now they just ask how much profit could be made.

To top it off the Pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable sector of the American economy–all on the backs of sick people. Furthermore, many of the important drugs today were financed by us, the tax payers. For instance the epi-pen delivery system for insulin, was designed for the US Army. So why do those racketeers hold a patent that we already paid for?

I’ve recently become an advocate of chiropractic, which is definitely working for me. If you believe that the brain sends messages via the nerves that travel through the spine that control the muscles that operate all that is, and if you believe our miraculous bodies have within them the wisdom and ability to heal themselves through that process, along with the right raw materials (nutrition, etc.), then you might want to go in that direction for healing.

I appreciate that a pharmacist has the wisdom to see the truth and the integrity to speak the truth.
In the natural order, symptoms are signs of a problem. Pharma kills the messenger. Investigation into the source of the symptom may be complex, but if it were more part of western thinking, it may be easier to find healing solutions than we have grown to believe.

Good nutrition has only been addressed by a naturopath in my medical history yet it seems essential to good health.

I totally agree with you regarding big pharm.
God put natural things on our earth for a reason. Chemicals are a disaster waiting to happen. God Bless you, I am sharing this..

Great article, courageous author to speak the truth and speak out. We need more people like this.

Great article containing much truth!

Enjoyed this article. I have become a huge advocate of sharing information like this. So many are brainwashed and believe a drug is the proverbial cure. Especially senior citizens. A vicious cycle begins once a pill is swallowed. The end result..repeat patients. The body is a miraculous creation. Man came along and totally debunked this.

Great summary!

Excellent article! I would say it is generous to say big pharma perceives the human body in reductionist terms. It seems (and has for a VERY long time) obvious that the real perception is that every human body is a potential cash cow ready to be exploited. They have significant control over the curriculum in medical schools as well. It only make sense that the biggest financial contributors are going to make sure their agenda is the most prominent . I will continue to believe it is well known within the industry that virtually all these “beneficial” drugs are designed to necessitate the taking of more drugs. The statistic I’ve heard several times now is that conservatively, “health” care is the third leading cause of death and many sources put it at number one so it seems long past time for a complete shift in the approach. Ain’t gonna happen though, too much money to be made.

A near perfect breakdown of the real Big Pharma. Not that some drugs don’t save lives, perhaps in the moment of desperation, it’s more that drugs are used as if they were a substitute for food, healthy living and taking care of your body. Pharma is still in the stone age because 99% of the drugs they create are subject to instigating havoc in the body. There is hardly any knowledge of what unnatural substances like drugs might do to your body over the long term. Much of what the medical community says about disease and sickness just doesn’t make much sense anymore. I think over half of medical advice is pure propaganda designed by Pharma to sell drugs.

I was raised with reliance on naturopaths and chiropractors rather than medical doctors. At age 18, pregnant, I went to a medical doctor for the first time. I believe in vitamins, exercise, and a healthy diet. At age 82, I am healthy and vigorous despite a fall which broke one leg so am on a cane now; two incompetent young women at the hospital insisted on “log-rolling” me up on the side of the bed to change my sheets before my surgery no matter how much I screamed and begged them to leave me alone so I have a permanent short leg.
The only doctor who ever helped me was in North Georgia when he prescribed allergy medication for angioedema. It’s necessary for hay fever (ragweed) and allergic reactions to many foods.

I couldn’t agree more! After multiple surgeries for oral cancer I finally heeded my intuition and contacted a naturopathic nutritionist. She saw that my calcium levels were a bit high and, as my magnesium levels had been low, she increased my D3 levels. She also realized that I was experiencing silent reflux, which may have led to the cancer and suggested dietary changes which have resulted in a calmer mouth and overall greater vitality. Food is now my medicine.

I absolutely love this article! I am over seventy years old, very active, in excellent health, and take no prescription drugs. I am a licensed veterinary nurse, and the mantra taught in my pharmacology class was “No drug has a single effect”, meaning that they all cause side effects (some worse than others). I believe that some drugs are absolutely necessary due to health conditions, such as insulin to treat diabetes, but others are a waste. Good example: antidepressants. I know several people on them, and they are still a mess and constantly depressed. Antidepressants are a crutch. Deal with the pain and learn to live with it. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and force yourself to get up off of your bum and do something! I have done so. Eat a complete and healthy diet, exercise, get adequate sleep, take a few minutes to relax and have a little fun every day, and use common sense. It goes a long way!

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