Death by the Prescription Pad
Primum non nocere or ¡°first, do no harm¡± is
taught to all healthcare providers, so that we
might always remember that in our efforts to
do something good we also risk doing some-
thing bad. Physicians, much like politicians,
often feel the need to do something even when
it may not be in the best interest of the patient,
and we don¡¯t always have to reach for the pre-
According to the US Food and Drug Adminis-
tration website each year in the US there are
about 2 million serious adverse drug reactions
and about 100,000 deaths from the normal use
of prescription drugs. This is due to a combina-
tion of side effects from the drugs, interactions
between drugs and medication errors. That
makes prescription drugs the 4th leading cause
of death in America, after heart disease, cancer
In the aftermath of the public health disaster
caused by a sleeping pill called thalidomide,
which caused birth defects of limbless handi-
capped children, Congress enacted the 1962
Kefauver-Harris Drug Amendments to the FDA¡¯s
mandate. Before marketing a drug, pharma-
ceutical companies now had to prove not only
safety, but also provide substantial evidence of
effectiveness for the product¡¯s intended use.
Since that time many positive additions have
occurred that promote consumer safety, includ-
ing requirements for stricter labeling of drugs,
with honest, thorough and specific patient
package inserts that clearly outline the risks
and benefits. Changes in research protocols led
to development of Institutional Review Boards
that oversee clinical research and help insure
the safety of study subjects. Tamper-resistant
packaging became mandatory in the 1980s.
The expanded FDA regulations and require-
ments for bringing new drugs to market has led
to a laborious process in which new drugs now
take about a decade to get from invention to
market. Ninety Five percent (95%)
of new drugs fail to show safety and
effectiveness and never make it. By
some estimates, pharmaceutical com-
panies spend hundreds of millions of
dollars to get FDA approval for a new
drug. If they have numerous drugs
in the pipeline the estimate gets into
the billions for each successful drug
brought to market.
Publication bias sets in when compa-
nies risk billions to bring a new drug
to market. Ironically, the pressure to
prove safety and effectiveness leads
to the common occurrence in which
numerous negative studies are hidden
from the public while the few posi-
tive studies make it into the medical
journals. Cases of scientific fraud, data
manipulation, and deception are unfor-
Consider just one example of phar-
maceutical trickery coupled with FDA
complacency. Remember Vioxx, the ar-
thritis drug made by Merck? According
to the British medical journal, The Lan-
cet, the actions of both Merck and the
FDA contributed to the nearly 30,000
excess cases of heart attacks and sud-
den cardiac deaths that resulted from
the use of the drug between 1999 and
2003. While Merck sought to cover up
the danger of its drug to protect its
bottom line, the US government aided
the company by approving sale of the
drug without conducting any serious
Pg 8 - The Sunshine Express
Health & Nurturing
investigation into potential harmful consequenc-
es of its use.
I¡¯m not against prescription medications, quite
the contrary, there are numerous prescription
drugs that save many lives and do much good.
And I heartily support the free-market system
in which companies take risk to invent new
products. However, our over-reliance on the
pharmaceutical model has created a system
in which physicians have become medication-
dispensing puppets instead of problem solving
To illustrate how the
overuse of medica-
tions can lead to
more harm than
good, while never
fixing the original
problem, I¡¯ll share
a real patient story.
John (not his real
name) was a 63-
year old gentleman
who was referred to
me by his wife, for
evaluation of fatigue.
She was thinking
he might have low
he did, but his health
situation was much
more interesting and
involved 6 medica-
tions and 4 doctors.
John had a long,
long history of Irrita-
ble Bowel Syndrome
and Acid Reflux, and
he had undergone
scopes, CT scans,
and blood tests
without any relief.
gist had him on two
He also had prob-
lems with intermit-
tent racing heart
and palpitations. A
and stress tests did
not reveal any prob-
lems. He was diag-
nosed with racing
heart and placed on
a medication to slow
the heart rate.
The neurologist saw
John for the tingling and pins and needles sensa-
tion in his hands and feet. The usual blood tests,
MRI and nerve conduction studies did not turn up
a cause. John had sensory neuropathy and was on
a seizure drug to help manage the symptoms.
Now with all these concerning medical issues and
medication side effects John was a bit of a wreck.
He was prone to anxiety and insomnia. For this,
his family doctor had him taking a sleeping pill and
a sedative as needed for panic attacks.
Our functional medicine testing quickly found
that John had ¡°leaky gut¡±, delayed allergies to
dairy and wheat, along with adrenal fatigue. With
healing the gut, elimination of food allergens and
adrenal support, all of his symptoms resolved. He
now takes no medications.
Keep all this in mind the next time we doctors
reach for the prescription pad. Ask yourself wheth-
er you really need that new medication, what are
the side effects, what are the alternatives, and
are you just putting a dangerous pharmaceutical
bandage on a symptom instead of really getting to
the root cause?
(Scott Rollins, MD, is Board Certified with the
American Board of Family Practice and the
American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative
Medicine. He specializes in Bioidentical Hormone
Replacement for men and women, thyroid and
adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia, weight loss and
other complex medical conditions. He is founder
and medical director of the Integrative Medicine
Center of Western Colorado (www.imcwc.com)
and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (www.bellezzalaser.
com). Call 970.245.6911 for an appointment or
by Scott Rollins, M.D.
I wonder how quickly I have reached nearly half
way through my seventh decade of life. Perhaps,
because I couldn¡¯t wait.
I couldn¡¯t wait to start first grade at five years old.
I had been practicing going to school ever since I
could remember. I had a pencil box with pencils,
erasers, small plastic ruler and a pencil sharpener.
I found a wooden crate that served for my school
desk and I was both the student and the teacher.
I did not have a book because I could not read. I
School started the day following Labor Day and
I couldn¡¯t wait. Some children were crying and
clinging to their mothers, but my mother cried.
I couldn¡¯t wait for her to leave and school could
start. We all learned the Pledge of Allegiance, Sa-
lute to the Flag, a morning prayer, and school was
in session. I had arrived.
The year flew by, and there was talk regarding
by Sandy Lauzon