Thursday, December 23, 2004

Drugs and Your Heart

Refer back to my blog on Celebrex and Vioxx and the recent news on the popular “over the counter drug”, Aleve. According to certain studies of the use of these drugs, these pain killers can increase the risk of heart problems. I am not a doctor and will soon under by-pass surgery myself, but I do understand that there are hundreds of reasons a person may incur heart problems. I believe that no doctor can tell you exactly why some part of your body needs replaced or why your body weakens other than from very obvious reasons. In my case I have all the appearances of good health, no high blood pressure, low cholesterol, exercise regularly, play sports competitively even now, maintained close to my school days weight, handled stress better than many people, I believe, use little alcohol and haven’t smoked at all in the last 28 years and when I did it was an occasional cigar, no tranquiller, except a mild one on rare occasions and only two pills daily prescribed by my doctors for a long existing atrial fibrillation problem. I used no pain killers except on very rare occasions and for no long length of time. So why is there blockage of three vessels to my heart?

To what do I blame my need for surgery?? Aspirin, I’ve taken a few over the years as prescribed? An article in the Wall Street Journal today says that “the world’s oldest and most perennially popular painkiller – aspirin – is a dangerous drug, too. Aspirin is a drug and has its dangerous side effects and it’s not for everybody. A decision to take one for the rest of one’s life requires a complex analysis of a person’s risk”. (Cardiologist Michael S. Lauer of the Cleveland Clinic)

It is much easier to run drug clinical tests on a live subject if those subjects are mice, rats, or mosquitoes and are studied in a 100% controlled environment. But, how can you possibly run accurate studies on human beings unless you put them in a totally controlled environment? Humans can and do lie, cheat, forget or exaggerate. How do the folks who conducted the studies know that those taking, say Celebrex , where one half took Celebrex and one half took placebos, didn’t always take the medication exactly as prescribed, maybe flushed it down the drain, maybe got additional or other drugs from another a friend or received free samples that are not recorded anywhere? How did the people conducting the studies know the Celebrex users didn’t abuse themselves with some other drug such as alcohol, may have taking other drugs that the test study people may not have known about, weren’t under severe stress and denied it, or may have taken actions to confuse the testers? Maybe they concealed their dislike of the big and powerful drug makers, who, of course, have added years to our average life span?

I contend it is next to impossible to accurately study human beings unless they are in a totally controlled environment such as mice and rats.

I contend that excess of almost anything could cause serious damage to one’s health. That the shortage of something like water to drink causes many deaths yet one can drink too much water and die.

Why would some in a study group not cooperate 100%? Same reason why Bill Clinton was Bill Clinton. Why do good kids cheat on tests? Why compulsive gamblers deny that they area compulsive gamblers or why alcoholics contend they only have a couple of drinks a day? Same reason Nixon denied Watergate. And why our intelligence communities didn’t cooperate better before 9/11. And some are still putting themselves and their bureaucracies before the general good of the people!

Another article in the WSJ today is entitled “Rethinking Over-the-Counter Drugs”. Maybe they aren’t as safe as we thought. Good grief !! Maybe nothing out there is safe. Should one suffer and eventually die for fear that what they are taking in “prescribed” doses from a qualified source will hasten their demise?

These drug effect studies are conducted by highly paid experts in the health field, most of which are highly qualified. But even these experts arrive at different conclusions.
(My definitions of many people who claim to be experts are individuals with a bunch of degrees away from his or her hometown). Many of the studies done by these “experts” are being proven wrong; especially results in what we eat, drink and use for medication. These studies often confuse the issue by refuting the experts who really know what they are doing. It is difficult to sort out the truth.

A number of college professors; at least one I heard give a speech right here in our community; teach that there are no truths. I won’t buy that stupidity by any person even someone with a bunch of sometimes meaningless degrees. It’s true that if you overdose on any drug you may so ruin your health and may even cause death. It’s true that if there were no drugs on the market, our lives and our well-being, would be seriously impacted. It’s true that if you don’t read the instructions on use of your medication or consult with your doctors you may suffer more or die. It’s true that if you lost part of your body, it’s not there even if you can feel it. It’s true that if you step in front of a speeding vehicle, you may die or lie to regret it.

Yes, there are a lot of truths in this world. To live in a civilized society we must have trust in our fellowmen. However, most people with common sense will say, trust but verify.

All these studies to develop drugs that enhance our lives are subject to error. To say that misuse of any drug that might have hastened the demise of 7 out of 100 should not be cause to deny the other 93 a greatly enhanced lifestyle. The greatest fear of any approved drug being used as prescribed, should not be fear of the drug itself. If we want to live even longer, eliminate the wheel and engine. Even with all the controls we have on vehicles, over 42,000 people died in vehicular accidents in the U.S.last year and over 1,000,000,000 injured.

There is probably no such thing as any drug being totally safe. We are a free country and we can and do sue under appropriate conditions. But to try to sue the drug makers for every unintentional death will eventually stop the progress in health care that has so greatly improved over the past decades. Continued research and the accurate tracking of user experience, will help us live longer and feel better. Without the profit to invest billions of dollars in research, drug manufactures will eventually cease to exist, and illegitimate fly by night companies will take over and few will be able to catch them and sue them.

Tort lawyers are again on the march, advertising for anyone who ever used a drug and died. Our greatest hope is that our new legislative bodies will bring company closing tort lawsuits in line with common sense. Surely what we are experiencing in greed by both client and tort attorney is not good for our overall wellbeing.

That’s why I asked my doctor how much study and experience he had in heart surgery. Especially, his experience in the type of surgery recommended. I also rely on references and reputation of those I will trust. I also trust that when I take temporary leave of this site shortly, medical knowledge and my trust in my doctor and the medical community will have me back at my computer and active again on the County Board before spring.

Sorry, Bill, (Bill is my former mentor who says my bogs are "tooooo" long) for the length of this blog but I feel this story can only be told in detail.

Robert Cody is credited with this statement “Have the courage to live. Anyone can die”.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!! Happy holidays to others who celebrate different events at this time of year.


Pammy said...

Well said, Merle. As for your particular case, any number of factors could've caused your need for surgery, the least of which is probably medication. Diet, of course. And, as they're discovering now, heredity can play a bigger factor than they first believed. And, by heredity, I don't necessarily mean just your immediate family. There could've been history waaay back that you have no way of knowing about.

Although I'm sure you trust your cardiologist implicitly (as you should) and have probably done your own research on it, there are studies out now that show that there are large numbers of bypass surgeries being done when a different modality might have been just as helpful...with MANY fewer side effects. If you're interested, I'll see if I can find the information and send it to you.
Best of luck. I'll be thinking about you.

Merle Widmer said...


Anything you send can be helpful to myself and others who may someday face the same problems. Yes, my doctor is very well regarded at OSF and is using modern techniques.

Thanks for your interest and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and have a great holiday season!!