By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
November 30, 2012
- Political aftermath of the meningitis outbreak tragedy
- What are compounding pharmacies and why do we need them?
- How to stay safe – the myth vs. the fact
There is no minimizing the tragedy we have all watched unfold over the past few months around the tainted steroid shots that resulted in a meningitis outbreak – and numerous deaths.
The irresponsibility of all involved – from the center that allowed their processes to degrade to the point of making deadly shots, to the health department that knew there were problems and turned a blind eye – is unforgivable.
Unfortunately, this tragedy is about to be compounded.
Politicians, looking for ways to respond to the outrage, are introducing legislation that would greatly restrict or even eliminate compounding pharmacies. And the FDA, which has long considered these pharmacies to be a threat to the Big Pharma monopoly on medicine, is seeing this tragedy as an opportunity.
Many consumers, feeling that this move would protect them, are all for it.
But it’s not the solution. Rather, it’s a move that makes losers out of us all.
Today, I want to make sure you understand the role of compounding pharmacies in medicine, and also, the risks this legislation might pose to your health one day. So you aren’t fooled by the reactionary press, and you can be assured that you’ll have access to these life-saving pharmacies should you need what they produce yourself one day.
Before the era of mass-produced drugs, the only way to get the medicine you needed was to have the pharmacist mix and blend it for you. All pharmacies were “compounding” medicines.
Today, compounding pharmacies are now fewer and further between, but they still perform a critical function. They take mass-produced drugs and alter them in ways that make them more effective for the specific needs of an individual. Because people are rarely in a one-size-fits-all condition when it comes to their health.
Here are a few of the ways that compounding pharmacies are invaluable:
- They create bioidentical hormones for those who don’t want to – or can’t – take synthetic hormones
- They make complete, time-release, dessicated thyroid compounds, which are invaluable in treating thyroid conditions and are not mass-produced
- They can break vaccinations down into individual components, ie, tetanus-only, for those who don’t want to get multiple-disease vaccinations when they only need one
- They can re-formulate a drug to remove allergens according to an individual’s needs
- They can provide drugs at different dosages, which is often needed by children or the elderly, when size and weight determine that mass produced drugs would be unsafe
- They can create a liquid form of a drug that is only available as a pill if the patient can’t swallow pills for some reason
- They allow mass-produced drugs to be used in veterinarian practices since animals can often use variations of the same drugs as humans, but in different forms and dosages
- They fill in the gap when there are drug shortages until the mass produced stock can be replenished
The gap that would be left in healthcare if compounding pharmacies go away would be enormous… and dangerous.
The future of responsible healthcare is leaning towards a more personalized medicine, like the practice of Functional Medicine, which treats the individual, not just the disease. And remedies the root cause, not just the symptoms.
Practicing a more personalized medicine means having access to more personalized drugs when necessary.
Of course, safety is primary. But we already have plenty of laws to ensure safety – laws that, in this case, were broken. Simply enforcing existing laws will go a long way in ensuring that future tragedies of a similar nature are averted.
Responsible pharmacists are outraged about the tragedy – and rightfully so. It puts the integrity of their entire profession at risk.
But the truth is, this could happen with any drug – whether it is compounded or mass-produced. The compounding aspect is not the problem. It is the lack of following safety guidelines. It is human error. It is sloppy science.
But we can’t afford to let politicians, and Big Pharma, use this tragedy for their own gain.
Lawmakers are calling for stricter guidelines, but the truth is, there is a safety mechanism in place… and it was ignored. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health had apparently warned the offending compounding pharmacy multiple times since 2002 about unsanitary conditions at its facility.
This tragedy is a result of existing systems failing. And of horrible consequences. But introducing legislation that either eradicates, or even severely restricts the use of compounding pharmacies solves nothing.
And may well create far more health problems than it solves.
In the aftermath of any tragedy, it is a natural reaction to want to try to make sure it never happens again. And when we can learn from our mistakes, and we can make improvements that save lives, we should do so.
But when a new law risks more lives than it saves, kneejerk politics turns into very bad medicine, indeed.
To find out how to contact your senator, click here. If you agree, you can write them a letter and tell them you don’t want more regulation.