New High Strength Pills and Potions?
We may soon be noticing an increasing amount of high strength vitamins and minerals hitting the shelves; these are rumoured to be in the pipeline from pharmaceutical companies.
I presume that these will be marketed to help with long term health and plug the gap in nutrients which are slowly being reduced / eroded from the food we eat due to reasons such as overcooking, intensive farming methods and long term storage by supermarkets.
It will be interesting to see which vitamins and minerals will be chosen for the high strength capsules and whether these will take the form of single ingredient or multivitamin types. This may help us understand which pill and potions have been identified by the big boys as beneficial.
From a commercial viewpoint, which route will they take to market? Are these going to be available to us to buy on the high street/online or only available via prescription? In the USA, there are been a number of reports over recent years about the pharmaceutical industry trying to nudge supplements off the shelf. There was a campaign claiming since supplements were not regulated as drugs, that they were therefore unsafe for example. However, this soon lost momentum by articles from less biased sources such as Forbes reporting that Vioxx alone had killed in the order of 60,000 patients.
It is quite unlikely that such tactics will work in the UK; can you imagine the financial and time impact on the NHS of us making appointments with our GP to prescribe us fish oils and Vitamin D? Not to mention the cost of paying prescription charges for something that is currently available over the counter for significantly less!
Equally we’ll be watching to see how the products will be marketed and whether any claims made will flaunt those permitted by the European Food Standards Agency.
Whether this means that High strength Vitamin C may well return to the shelves in Europe remains to be seen as currently, in most EU countries, anything above 200mg is not allowed.
As we have reached that time of the year when we are bombarded on all media fronts by the latest diets and DVDs, it was interesting to watch a programme that was looking at the above nutritional changes (not a single kettle bell or spin class in sight).
The presenter started by introducing and then tasting a gluten free menu, which, in order to look at its best, had to be presented on a table and of course photographed to upload onto the Internet. A significant portion of the programme thereafter was based in the USA, where we were met the originators of the other two approaches. In particular, the alkaline diet was discussed at length in the extensive landscaped gardens of a clinic, where we subsequently learnt that the creator was facing charges including fraud. This clinic was also being investigated after the death of a UK patient who had travelled there in search of a cure for her cancer.
So, what are we to make of these three diets? Each was described with passion by their founders, but all lacked any independent validation of the theories. “It looks SO good” or having a gazillion likes on social media does not translate into being either safe and/or effective. The programme did not go into the details of the quality of food prescribed (and the ensuing costs which would probably limit them for the majority) or the time taken to prepare some of the recipes which again would be a negative for those with hectic lifestyles.
Ultimately, we were left feeling that the presenter had essentially de-bunked all three diets by the end of the programme; the “whiteboards” were pulled down and put in a rubbish bag. The other message that came across is that these approaches do not appear to have harmed the bank balances and book sales of their respective owners in any way.
23rd September 2016
I was totally intrigued by Dr Chris van Tulleken’s programme last night – this guy is exactly the sort of GP who should be cloned and made available to all consenting NHS patients!
Whilst recognising the need for medicines to be prescribed when needed, Dr van Tulleken was on a mission to help patients reduce the medication they were taking, particularly those on long term medication such as painkillers. However, more importantly he really wanted his patients to succeed, so he became their mentor over a few weeks.
Whilst I recognise that this is a TV programme made for entertainment purposes, it may therefore have chosen to omit details of unsuccessful patients, nonetheless, of those featured, there was no doubting the results obtained (not a placebo in sight). The patients were really able to reduce their prescription medication over a period of several weeks. One lady was able to reduce her painkillers for back pain by attending a martial arts club, another was able to control her depression by swimming in a local lake (in a wetsuit I must add, but even so – total kudos to her!)
Getting out of the office/house and having a brisk walk for half an hour five or more times a week resulted in a lowering in cholesterol and diabetic marker levels as well as weight loss. No expensive gym memberships or special clothing were required, dog ownership appeared to make this easier to follow! The data on physical activity is supported by 2 recently published articles in Diabetologia. In particular, one study revealed that taking 10 minutes of physical activity after eating 3 times a day no more than 5 minutes after each main meal provided additional beneficial effect.
Separately, he was also successful in getting the surgery he was working with to stop accepting free lunches (and 10 minute drug presentation) from a pharmaceutical rep during their regular meetings with other practices. Another Result!
Yes this programme could have been made to try and make use cut down on our prescription requests to the NHS, but if it works, surely this has got to be a positive! For anyone considering looking into this, please remember never to reduce or stop any medication without speaking to your GP or pharmacist.
This care is in significant contrast to a colleague’s consultation with the oncologist department at 2 local hospitals (one of which is a centre of excellence) during and following several months of chemo and radiation; whilst assigned to a specific consultant, he has often been seen by locum or ad hoc doctors whose patient care and professionalism have shocked all who have seen this at first hand. “It’s bad news, the primary has grown” said the doctor yesterday. “What do you mean?” asked my friend “No one has mentioned there were other growths before”. Well I’ll tell you about that later”. “No!” replied my friend “I’d like to know now!”. “Don’t interrupt me” said the doctor putting her hand up in front of her patient’s face. No wonder one of my friend’s sisters, who had gone with him, went out of the room to ask a nurse to find them a real doctor. In her absence, the doctor put her head into her hands and said “I need to get my head around this”. “You need to get your head around this?!” asked my friend’s other sister. “It should be her with her head in her hands crying, not you!” Enough said.
I’m pleased to say my friend did get seen by the consultant who had been treating him and whose explanation of the latest CT scans was done with all due care and consideration. The same consideration that Dr van Tulleken was putting into his patients in order to help their health. I truly wish him well and hope that the continuing weeks will see an increasing number of patients making an appointment with their GP to see if they too can stop rattling everywhere they go.
21st September 2016
Well, here’s an oddity:
Following my annual blood test to check my thyroxine levels, I have received a call from the surgery today to advise that my levothyroxine level may be too high. Having spent the last 6 years on the same level, I’m wondering how this could have happened.
Two possibilities spring to mind: reduced stress over recent years coupled with my regular supplement rotation may have played a factor. Alternatively, I may currently be using a batch which has better bioavailability than other manufacturers. I don’t always use the same pharmacy to dispense, but this time I have also noted that the current generic I have is not only a coated tablet, but there are less other ingredients than before.