As his popularity with Americans grows—and with it a new openness to integrative medicine—mainstream medicine is alarmed.
Last year, when he was a second-year medical student, Benjamin Mazer took it upon himself to ask both the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) and the American Medical Association (AMA) to address what he called “medical quackery” on television and in other media. He suggested that they consider regulating the advice of celebrity physicians like Dr. Mehmet Oz—asking, in effect, that they do something to gag him. Mazer’s big idea is to treat health advice on television as if it were expert testimony in court, which “already has established guidelines for truthfulness.”
MSSNY is a nonprofit organization claiming to represent the interests of some 30,000 physicians and medical students (and, supposedly, residents) in New York. The group has an operating budget of over $8 million, and a government affairs and lobbying arm that could easily influence New York regulators and the state’s medical board to target Dr. Oz (who is is licensed in New York). This is probably why Mazer reached out to the MSSNY specifically.
Acknowledging that he wants to “bring down” Dr. Oz, Mazer claims, with no basis whatsoever, that Oz is giving advice “that was really not great or had no medical basis.” Mazer specifically denounces Oz’s diet and supplement recommendations as being an inferior and dangerous alternative to diabetes drugs. “It might sound harmless when you talk about things like herbal pills or supplements,” Mazer said. “But when the physicians’ advice conflicted with Oz, the patients would believe Oz [italics ours].”
Mazer actually said that diet and supplements are less effective or more dangerous than diabetes drugs, when in fact, the opposite is true:
- The government-funded Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) study, designed to evaluate medication protocols for reducing heart attacks in patients with type 2 diabetes, was shut down two years early because study participants in most intensive drug regimens—the ones aimed at driving down blood sugar—had much higher cardiovascular death rates (250% to 300% higher than the death rate of those taking a placebo).
- A particular class of common diabetes drugs, sulfonylureas (which are in dozens of popular medications currently in use), carry a black-box warning stating that they dramatically increase death from heart attack. A third class of diabetes drugs, thiazolidinediones (the notorious Avandia is an example), are still prescribed in the US despite their having been banned in the EU, New Zealand, and South Africa. Government experts estimate that Avandia may have caused as many as 100,000 heart attacks since coming onto the market in 1999.
- Dr. Joseph A. Mercola notes that drugs for type 2 diabetics “nearly universally” cause more damage then good. Drugs that lower blood sugar, he reports, may increase risk of death from all causes, not just cardiovascular complications.
- Even the FDA is investigating the risk of pancreatic cancer that is associated with some diabetes drugs.
In natural medicine, the first line of defense against diabetes is diet. The key step is to avoid foods high on the glycemic index (which turn into blood sugar rapidly), but that is only the start. Next comes exercise and movement, and finally, some supplements which clearly help control blood sugar or slow down the release of glucose into the blood. For the whole program, see LEF.org and Mercola.com. Sophisticated blood testing is also important, since blood sugar problems are often silent, and is also available at LEF.org.
Everyone should keep in mind that a program designed to avoid diabetes will also help both heart health and the prevention of cancer. It is not very well known, but high blood sugar is a major risk factor for cancer, because cancer cells depend on the sugar.
One of the biggest differences between natural health programs for diabetes and drugs is that the former can not only prevent the disease but also cure it, while the latter cannot and introduces serious new risks.
Why would a medical school student not know any of this? Partly it is his own fault for not finding out. But partly it is the fault of a medical education system that is often in bed with Big Pharma. Drug companies are increasingly teaming up with top schools, and also try to subsidize students in a variety of ways.
And even if Mazer had been right, does he really think that doctors should be gagged and deprived of their constitutional right to free speech, or that they should be threatened with the loss of their license if they don’t toe the line? Quite apart from fairness, how will such Soviet-style tactics lead to advances in medicine, which by definition have to come at the expense of the conventional wisdom or of somebody’s current income stream?
Fortunately, the AMA did not respond with censure of Dr. Oz. We believe that this is precisely because Dr. Oz is in the public eye, and the medical establishment likes to attack and shut down integrative doctors as quietly as possible. The Medical Society of the State of New York supposedly passed Mazer’s policy proposal in revised form, but has not disclosed exactly what it was they passed. MSSNY also fears the glare of publicity.