Prescription medications usually always carry a rather frightening (and long) list of possible side effects. These drug side effects may range from mild symptoms like headache or nausea to more serious risks such as seizures or temporary blindness. New research suggests that the side effects listed on the label often represent just a small portion of what users are really experiencing.
The Truth about Clinical Trials
Most new prescription drugs undergo extensive testing in laboratories, often on animals, before being the center of a variety of clinical trials among closely monitored patients. While these studies are generally very thorough and are the most reliable way to prove that a medication is safe and effective, clinical trials could not possibly foresee all of the potential effects the drug could have on individuals with different underlying conditions and medical histories. Many times, the most serious side effects are not acknowledged until after the medicine has been on the market for quite some time.
How Additional Side Effects Are Determined
Once a drug is approved by the FDA for specific treatments and medical providers begin to prescribe the medication to their patients, it is not uncommon for many other adverse effects to emerge. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to determine if the symptoms are a direct result of the medication or if other factors are also to blame. All of these reactions and side effects are added to more than 4 million similar reports in the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System database. Until recently, no one had devised a logical method to analyze and filter the data.
New Advancements in Data Research
A team of researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine have developed such a system. Using a computer generated algorithm, graduate student Nicholas Tatonetti and Stanford professor Russ Altman, MD, PhD sorted the millions of reported side effect cases within the database to group together patients with similar lifestyles, medical histories, and/or prescriptions. This process makes it easy to determine the cause of the side effect or reaction, and is also a great way to learn more about adverse drug interactions that may not yet be acknowledged.
Results of the Study
Two separate databases were created to organize the findings of this research and both are available to the public. The first, OFFSIDES, discovered an additional 329 side effects on average for each of the 1,332 drugs that were studied – nearly 5 times the 70 or so potential reactions that are listed on the average drug insert.
The TWOSIDES database relates to drug interactions and is based on more than 50,000 possible medication combinations. An additional 1,301 contraindications were discovered. One of the most important findings is a previously unknown risk of fatal cardiac conditions in patients taking SSRI class antidepressants at the same time as a commonly prescribed blood pressure medication.
While the results of this study are quite alarming, this method of analyzing data will be very beneficial to the medical industry as well as the patients taking the drugs. It may take several years before many of the newly discovered side effects and interactions are mandatorily included in the medication packaging, but doctors and their patients can use the knowledge to determine the most effective prescription combinations for the specified conditions.
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Dr. Abram Hoffer, MD (Medical Doctor), PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), RNCP (Registered Nutritional Consulting Practitioner), founder of The Orthomolecular Vitamin Information Centre.
I have a PhD from the University of Minnesota, a Medical Degree from Toronto. I’m a Fellow Neuropharmacology Physician in Canada. I became Director of Psychiatric Research in the Province of Saskatchewan of the Department of Public Health in 1950 until 1967. I was Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan; at that time I was in charge of very large research programs and we became known for our work in psychedelic drugs.
Orthomolecular Treatment for Schizophrenia. COMBAT SCHIZOPHRENIA WITH THE MEGAVITAMIN AND NUTRITIONAL STRATEGIES OF ORTHOMOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY – Schizophrenia is a disease and syndrome with biochemical origins that has the hallmarks of debilitating perceptual disorders and thought disturbances. Orthomolecular psychiatry, a treatment strategy that uses megadoses of vitamins B-3 and C in conjunction with correct nutrition, yields a 90 percent recovery rate in acute cases and up to 50 percent in chronic patients. This guide by the cofounder of orthomolecular therapy offers a step-by-step approach so that patients and their families will get the maximum benefits from treatment.
From the Publisher
THE MAGIC OF ORTHOMOLECULAR TREATMENT – Orthomolecular treatment of schizophrenia is a comprehensive approach that includes megavitamin therapy, nutrition, and counseling of both patient and family members. This guide, written by a cofounder of orthomolecular psychiatry, outlines the strategies you will need to get an informed diagnosis, proper treatment, and appropriate, flexible follow-up for the schizophrenic patient.
In fact, there’s a film called Psychedelic Pioneers, which on the first 10 years of our research, when we made our major discoveries about Schizophrenia and about the use of vitamins as a potentially good treatment.
In 1967, I resigned from my two jobs. They were nice cushy jobs. I didn’t have to do anything. I could have stayed there forever until I retired when I turned 65, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to help patients.
I opened a private practice in Saskatoon, moved to Victoria in 1976. At the end of that year, I surrendered my medical license for many reasons. I opened up a new business, The Orthomolecular Vitamin Information Centre. That year I was sitting in the office of OVIC (Orthomolecular Vitamin Information Centre).
Can you explain what orthomolecular is?
It was a term developed by Dr. Linus Pauling who was a good friend of mine. “Ortho” means correct. Molecule, molecule, we know what that is. [ Molecule: The smallest particle of a substance that retains the chemical and physical properties of the substance and is composed of two or more atoms; a group of like or different atoms held together by chemical forces. ]
Dr. Linus Pauling implied that the human body would function normally as long as it was able to obtain the right natural molecules that it needed in order to survive. As long as the body had the right number of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, hormones, and all these other things [nutrients], it was okay. Orthomolecular Medicine meant that we would emphasize the use of these natural components to provide treatment on the assumption that in most cases there was something wrong in these different elements [vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids, hormones, enzymes, etc.].
Dr. Linus Pauling published the term “Orthomolecular Medicine” in 1968 in an article in Science Magazine. It was a very major article. The term, Orthomolecular Medicine, was accepted with hostility, fantastic hostility and the medical community became extremely hostile to Dr. Pauling. They hadn’t heard about me so I didn’t get any of that hostility. But Dr. Pauling was a double Nobel Prize winner so he stuck his foot out. They said he was a mere PhD, in fact he had 48 of them. He also had many DSEs, Doctor of Science. But they [the medical community] said he ought not to be making any statements about the use of vitamins. In fact, it was Dr. Linus Pauling’s work with the structure of molecules and the reactions of molecules within the body that created the basis for modern medicine today.
Orthomolecular Medicine means we emphasize proper nutrition; the use of vitamins in adequate quantities, which may mean large or small. Minerals, we use everything we can to help our patients get well. We are not against drugs. We are against the ways in which drugs are used today. We are in favour of the proper use of drugs. That is, in minor quantities and get the patient off as soon as you can. So, that’s Orthomolecular Medicine.
What sort of results have you found using orthomolecular medicine?
The main difference is that our patients get well. Now, the term “cure” does not exist in psychiatry. You didn’t know that, did you? If you look in the standard psychiatric dictionary, the word “cure” has been deleted because the average psychiatric point of view is that you cannot cure anyone. You cannot cure them, you can help them. You can relieve them of some of the symptoms but you cannot cure them. So that’s why they are contend ??? with some of the schizophrenic patients, who are placed on heavy medication so he’s no longer hallucinating, he’s not longer hearing voices, and seeing visions. The fact now that he can’t function; he’s sitting at home salivating and watching television all day, psychiatrists think that’s great. After all, that’s all they’re expected to do, they’re expected to merely get them out of the hospital so they can stay at home and let their family worry about them.
On the other hand, we don’t have that view. My friends and I, in the field of orthomolecular psychiatry, we are aiming at recovery. A young patient I saw in 1973, I think it was, when he was 15 or 16, he was schizophrenic. I started him on the orthomolecular approach which meant paying attention to the right nutrition. Getting him off junk food, getting him on the right vitamins which in his case was vitamin B3, niacin. I think it was niacin. I only saw him once or twice because at that time I left Saskatoon to come here [Victoria, B.C.], so I couldn’t see him anymore. Today he is on the Professorial Staff at Oxford University in England. He’s normal, he’s been normal ever since.
I’ve seen over 5,000 schizophrenic patients. I know 17 men who were Schizophrenic in their teens, who recovered and became doctors. One today heads up a Pediatric clinic; he’s a graduate of Harvard University. One today is the head of a large psychiatric department in an American University. The third one became the head of the Canadian Psychiatric Association; he had been a patient of mine. These were young men who were seriously sick and who became doctors and who were able to practice.
[With orthomolecular medicine] We are aiming toward recovery. We can’t always get there, but we try. There are 4 things you have to do to help people get well.
1. You have to give them shelter. You never get the homeless well. You cannot treat the homeless and half the homeless are schizophrenic. They’ve been very shabbly treated. There are no shelter.
2. Secondly, you have to have good food. You have to have really good food, as we all agree with that.
3. They have to be treated with civility; they have to be treated with respect. They have to be treated as humans. Today, unfortunately, in psychiatry, too often the patients are not treated that way at all. They’re badly treated, mistreated. They’re forced to take injections against their will, even though that’s against the law in Canada.
4. The fourth aspect of treatment is what I call orthomolecular. They have to be given the right combination of nutrition, vitamins, minerals, and medication if necessary. But the medication has to be used carefully and all to make sure the medication is not damaged in that process.
The main message has to be that we have to change the system. The system is sick and corrupt. We have to change the system. Eventually we have to make the medical profession accountable. Someone has to ask the medical professional, “Why do you tolerate this?” We have to ask them that. What we need in Canada is an independent commission headed by a Judge, broad-sweeping commission to actually examine the whole issue, “Why is the medical profession not being held accountable?”
If you blame anyone, who do you blame? You blame the drug companies? You blame the hospitals? You blame the government for not putting enough money in the system? You blame the food supply? Have you ever heard of anyone saying to the medical profession, “How come you don’t do a better job?” Have you ever heard that? Well, I think this has to be examined.
If you go to a hospital and you say, “Why don’t you do better job?” They’ll say I will, give me more money, give me more staff, more doctors, more nurses. They don’t give a damn. You can give them 10 times more doctors. If you have the wrong treatment, the patients still won’t get well.
Big Pharma controls medicine today. They give huge grants to the medical schools. Often times, these medical schools don’t have time to do any other studies. They just obediently work for the drug companies. Big Pharma controls everything. In the United States alone, in  they spent $19 billion dollars, $19 billion dollars a year advertising to doctors. They claim the advertising doesn’t persuade doctors, which is kind of funny. If the advertising didn’t persuade doctors, why would Big Pharma spend $19 billion trying to do that? They control the journals. Any medical journal today that you pick up, at least half the pages are drug ads. You’ll never find an ad for good food, you won’ find an ad for vitamins, you won’t find an ad for holistic health. You won’t find an ad for these things.
We are really in a terrible situation. The system is really sick. You can quote me literally. I think the system is absolutely sick and it has to be changed. I’m not the only one who says that. The Province of Ontario said the same thing. The latest Senate Committee by Senator Kirby said the same thing. If you read his report, he says [the healthcare system] is dysfunctional. He called the Canadian Health Care system dysfunctional. That means it’s sick. All these people who have looked at it, studied it, written books about it, all maintain that the healthcare system is sick. And I agree. We have to do something about it.
What do you think we should do?
We have to do what you’re doing. We have to inform the public. We have to let the public know exactly what is happening. Because right now, they don’t know.
ORTHOMOLECULAR VITAMIN INFORMATION CENTRE Inc.
2717 Roseberry Avenue, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8R 3V1
Telephone 250-386-8756 Fax 250-590-8757