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From the Townsend Letter
October 2012

Some of the Reasons that the US is 37th in Health Care in the World
review by Irene Alleger
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Honest Medicine: Effective, Time-Tested, Inexpensive Treatments for Life-Threatening Diseases, by Julia Schopick
Innovative Health Publishing
Oak Park, IL;
©2011; quality softcover; $14.95; 308 pp.

When her husband's head wound from surgery wouldn't heal, Julia Schopick did some research and found a product called Silverlon – a cloth patch made from a material containing silver ions. The patch was applied and the wound healed quickly, but the doctors denied its efficacy, insisting that it was the drugs "kicking in." Their negative reactions were shocking to her and led to more research, which became the genesis of the book. She found three other treatments for serious disease that were low-cost and effective, and were not being utilized: intravenous alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), low-dose naltrexone (LDN), and the ketogenic diet.

These treatments have been around for many years and are documented to have benefited very sick patients with life-threatening diseases, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and even cancer. But the one thing they all have in common is that they do not generate large amounts of money. Because the treatments are no longer considered "standard of care" and are not manufactured by the large pharmaceutical companies, all the patients referred to in the book had to find these treatments on their own. The patients were not only not helped by their doctors, they were told, without exception, that these treatments did not work.

Burt Berkson, MD, MS, PhD, tells how he saved the lives of many people using ALA and was even supported by the National Institutes of Health. He and a colleague, Dr. Bartter, published a paper on 79 people with so-called terminal liver disease, describing how 75 of these patients regenerated their livers – with just intravenous ALA. Since it is an inexpensive, natural product, Berkson says, it's not a money-maker; and he goes on to say, "This is just how business is done in the U.S. and medicine is big business." The truth is that the pharmaceutical companies are not willing to spend millions of dollars to get drug approval for a treatment that's effective for many different diseases because they want one drug per disease.

After he heard about LDN from a patient whose prostate cancer had been cured by a Dr. Bernard Bihari in New York, Berkson decided to try it with two relatives who had lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. They were both on chemotherapy that was killing their bone marrow and damaging their hearts, and they weren't getting any better. In one month on his treatment, they were off all drugs, feeling well, and only taking a $12/month prescription. He had about 100 patients suffering with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. Within one month on LDN, 85% of them were off all medications and feeling well. Berkson began using LDN in combination with intravenous ALA with excellent results. Schopick includes many Internet sources for information on the treatments and the doctors who utilize them.

There is a compelling chapter on a patient with chronic hepatitis C and severe cirrhosis of the liver. She was told that she had only two months to a year to live, and was put on interferon. After hearing from other patients about the terrible side effects and ineffectiveness of the drug, she decided to look for another treatment and came across an article by Berkson about curing people with liver disease with a treatment called intravenous alpha-lipoic acid. By the time she got to his clinic she was very sick, weighing about 82 lbs and barely able to walk. Only four months after starting the IV ALA, an MRI and blood tests showed that her liver was almost totally restored. She continues to go to the clinic for treatments with ALA twice a year and continues to stay well.

Another chapter tells the story of a patient diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, metastasized to the liver, who recovered fully after being told by doctors at M. D. Anderson that there was nothing which they could do and that he probably had only about four months to live. It's been 8 years now and he's not only still alive but feeling better all the time as he continues the combination LDN and ALA treatments. Many patients came to Berkson needing liver transplants and were restored to health with this treatment.

The ketogenic diet, the last treatment examined in the book, has been around since the 1920s, when it was developed at the Mayo Clinic for the treatment of epilepsy. It's a very high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that is still used by most hospitals around the world, but the US medical community prefers to use antiseizure drugs (with their terrible side effects). Before the advent of the newer anticonvulsant medications, the diet was one of very few treatments known to be effective against seizures. It must be started under medical supervision (usually in the hospital), and the food must be prepared correctly and measured carefully to ensure the proper proportion of fat, carbohydrate, and protein. There are several chapters of parents' heart-breaking stories – especially on the severe side effects of the drugs and the seemingly cruel refusal of their doctors to even tell them about the ketogenic diet.

A remarkable chapter relates to the experiences of two dieticians who worked at Johns Hopkins for many years overseeing the diet, under two doctors who supported the treatment wholeheartedly: Samuel Livingston, MD, and John Freeman, MD. See through their eyes, the history of this treatment and its many successes comes alive; they lived it with the children whom they lovingly restored to health. This treatment as well as the others is detailed in the book's extensive appendix.

The World Health Organization has found that the US health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country, but ranks 37th out of 191 countries according to its performance. The WHO compares each country's system with what the experts estimate to be the upper limit of what can be done with the country's available level of resources. The agency also measures what each country's system has accomplished in comparison with those of other countries. (One of its key recommendations is for countries to extend health insurance to as large a percentage of the population as possible.)

Honest Medicine all too clearly illustrates what is wrong with our health-care system: using very expensive medicine when lower-cost treatments are available; using extremely toxic drugs with serious side effects which then must be treated as well; prescribing unsafe drugs that kill and maim people, thus negatively affecting the morbidity and mortality statistics; and, perhaps the most insidious of all, unnecessary care. Because hospitals and physicians are paid for procedures, they have an incentive to do procedures, many of which are invasive and often harmful to patients.

Another name for this might be dishonest medicine, a fairly recent phenomenon. Medicine was an honorable profession until it became big business. Unfortunately, it is a matter of life and death, so we must now be adversarial in our pursuit of health care. Julia Schopick has shown us the way – the Internet is a valuable tool that may, in the end, bring down the Big Pharma cartel. At the very least, it can help patients find some honest medicine.


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