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From the Townsend Letter
June 2006

News Release
Cutting Through Pharmaceutical Media Spin: Don't Believe All the Nasty Things You Read About Supplements

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Looking at the headlines, you would think the entire supplement industry was going south. Headlines about recent research makes it sound like echinacea, saw palmetto, vitamins E and D, calcium, St. John's Wort, and now glucosamine and chondroitin lack the medicinal efficacy that numerous studies and millions of consumers and clinicians previously found they provided.

In reality, a considerable amount of good science shows that natural remedies can be highly effective—often as effective or more so than medications—and much safer and less expensive than pharmaceutical drugs. "However, the big money that drug companies charge for medications and pay for marketing controls the way study results are presented to the public," observes board certified internist Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of the bestselling
From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Avery Penguin Putnam) and the recent Pain Free 1-2-3 (McGraw-Hill, Feb 2006).

"Following the publication of the recent study on glucosamine and chondroitin in the New England Journal of Medicine (Feb. 23, 2006;354:795-808), news headlines screamed, 'Natural Therapies Ineffective,'" says Dr. Teitelbaum. "But the study actually revealed something quite different. First, natural remedies were far more effective than Celebrex for moderate-to-severe arthritis. Secondly, for mild arthritis, the difference between placebo, Celebrex, and the natural remedies was minimal." According to Teitelbaum, the data showed (with price-tags omitted) the following breakdown:

For moderate to severe arthritis
A-Placebo 54% improved at no cost per patient over one year
B-GS/Chondroitin (Natural) 79% improved at a cost of $160/patient over one year
C-Celebrex 69% improved at a cost of $1092/patient over one year

For mild arthritis
A-Placebo 62% improved at no cost per patient over one year
B-Chondroitin 66.5% improved at a cost of $160/patient over one year
C-Celebrex/COX2 70% improved at a cost of $1092/patient over one year

"More accurate headlines would read: 'Placebo almost as effective as Celebrex and natural remedies—Natural remedies best for severe arthritis,' and 'Celebrex nearly 700% more costly than natural remedies,'" explains Dr. Teitelbaum.

If pharmaceuticals and natural remedies were almost equally effective, why not use the meds? "Two reasons come to mind," says Teitelbaum: "First, we are bankrupting the medical system because doctors are trained to use the most expensive medications—and don't forget that the drug companies underwrite most of our conferences. Second, deaths from medications are astronomical. Motrin family medications – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – prescribed for arthritis unnecessarily kill over 16,500 Americans yearly, and Celebrex and Vioxx harm many more."

"If you actually look at the scientific data, natural remedies are a safe and inexpensive godsend for the public," Dr. Teitelbaum concludes. "As the old saying goes, caveat emptor—let the buyer beware! If you don't scrutinize the study results yourself, the truth is likely to be colored by spin. In the glucosamine study, 11 of the authors were on the payroll of the companies that make pain medications. And natural remedies are the competition."


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