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Monday 24 June 2013

Antibiotics - not such a wonder drug?

Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1929, and the long era of antibiotic treatment began. It has led to many different kinds of antibiotic, and most people would probably consider antibiotics to be ‘the wonder-drug of all wonder-drugs’. Certainly, that has been the way it has been presented over the decades, and it is still probably the way that most people would describe them.

Yet even in the 1970’s, antibiotics were creating enormous optimism. This is a statement made by a Dr Moreau (Griggs, p261).

          “If the competitive drug industry is allowed to continue the extraordinary achievements of the last sixty years, by 2036 nearly all the health obstacles to survival into extreme old age will have been overcome”.

This kind of optimism mirrored much of conventional medical propaganda - that there was a prospect of a successful medical answer to all medical problem - that science would soon invent drugs that would deal with all illness and disease. But it was antibiotics that seemed to attract most attention in this respect. The result has been that for generations we have been given an increasing amount of antibiotics for an increasing number of illnesses. They have also been given to the domestic animals we eat, and so have also been plentiful in the food chain.

It is well recognised even within conventional medicine that this ‘overdosing’ on antibiotics has become a problem. Doctors have been urged for years to reduce the number of prescriptions they write. The reason for concern is that over time we have become increasingly resistant to anti-biotics, and there has been a regular process of developing new and stronger forms when the older drugs have become ineffective.

The problem has been that whilst antibiotics kill the bacteria that live within our bodies associated with illness that they kill ‘good’ as well as ‘bad’ bacteria (although this kind of  ‘meritorious’ differentiation is probably bogus anyway). There is now evidence that the use, and over-use of antibiotics can cause many problems in health. More important, probably, is the fact that by killing bacteria, antibiotics actually undermine the balance of bacteriological activity within the body - and that this anti-biotic induced imbalance causes other health problems.

Most people believe that antibiotics are safe, and effective - largely because they have never been told otherwise. Yet antibiotics have been withdrawn from the market - even from the early years of development. Griggs (p288) reports on the history of one antibiotic. Chloromycetin was introduced and marketed in the US by the drug company Parke-Davis in 1949. It was hailed for its ability to treat typhoid, and other fairly rare diseases caused by ‘gram-negative’ bacteria. Yet reports began to arise about severe, and even fatal blood disorders.

          “By 1953 the FDA had issued strong warnings, recommending that it should only be used for the original small range of serious diseases. Fourteen years and several warnings later the dangers of chloramphemicol were give enormous publicity in the US press following a Senate hearing on drugs, and sales at last began to drop”.

Since that time there have been many reports that have shown that the effects of antibiotics are far from benign.

Yet the biggest failure of antibiotics has been the rise of superbugs such as MRSA and C-Diff. Bacteria and ‘germs’ have been attacked by antibiotics for decades and now they have fought back. They have adapted and mutated in ways that make them resistant to anti-biotic attack. The result has been described by Sarah Boseley, reporting in the Guardian on 17 January 2007.

Most of the drug companies, meanwhile, no longer have any interest in hunting down new antibiotics because it's not financially worthwhile. Roche has dropped antibiotic research, while GlaxoSmithKline, BristolMyersSquibb and Eli Lilly have all cut down. The only company to have entered the field is Novartis. "Virtually all the pharmaceutical companies that were interested in developing antibacterials have pulled out of research in the field," says Richard Wise, who heads the government's specialist advisory committee on antimicrobial resistance.

The reason given for the withdrawal of the drug companies is that they are no longer interested in developing new antibiotics. On one hand, it is now recognised that bacteria always become resistant to them, and so they do not have a sufficiently long life to justify the expense of developing them. On the other hand, there are more profitable areas for drug companies to research – into diseases such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and ulcers, and drugs such as Statins. These drugs are prescribed for a lifetime, whilst antibiotics are rarely taken for more than a few days at a time.

So whilst antibiotics were once believed to be conventional medicine's greatest achievement, they have ended not only in defeat, but entirely vanquished. The Conventional Medical Establishment appears to have given up the struggle, leaving the battlefield occupied only by MRSA, C-Diff and other bacterial superbugs. This is a staggering development that at some point will demand closer scrutiny - and any closer scrutiny can only serve to deny claims to the medical efficacy of Antibiotics.

Over time, we have become resistant to antibiotics, and new stronger forms of the drug have had to be developed in order to remain effective. Antibiotics kill bacteria that live within our bodies, and whilst for many years it was though that antibiotics were harmless, this has not proven to be true. It is now understood that they kill ‘good’ as well as ‘bad’ bacteria (although this kind of meritorious differentiation is probably bogus anyway. More important is the fact that by killing bacteria, antibiotics actually undermine the balance of bacteriological activity within the body – and that this causes other problems.

Yet the problems are probably worse than this. It is not difficult to find reports of anti-biotics that have caused serious problems.
  • Dr Mercola reported information from the American Journal of Epidemiology (15 November 2005) that new research from Scandinavia had indicated that the heavy use of antibiotics during childhood increased the likelihood of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that affects the body's lymphatic system. The research compared over 3,000 patients with NHL with a similar number of healthy patients, and found a "striking" association between antibiotic use and NHL … especially for those who had been given antibiotics more than 10 times as children.
  • Dr Mercola published an article entitled “Ketek: why did the FDA approve this deadly antibiotic?” in May 2006, its source, Reuters 2 May 2006. It had been shown to cause “toxic effects such as liver damage”.  However, they reversed this decision and approved Ketek, based on the original data, and from a study that used ‘fabricated data’ that led to arrests and prison sentences.
  • Dr Mercola also published an article entitled “Another antibiotic found to be killing people” in March 2006. This report concerned the drug Tequin, which was reported as causing “potentially fatal swings in blood sugar”. This was based on article in the New England Journal of Medicine (1 March  2006), stating that “an examination of the medical records of almost 1.5 million people older than 65 showed that those who took Tequin had four times the risk of low blood sugar, and almost 17 times the risk of high blood sugar”, and that “those who took Tequin were also far more likely to be hospitalized for blood sugar problems”. It also said that a number of such patients died.
  • In March 2006, BBC News reported a Canadian study of 12,082 children that “suggested that those treated with antibiotics under the age of one year are twice as likely to develop asthma in childhood” It went on to say that researchers writing in the US journal ‘Chest’ found additional courses of antibiotics in the first year of life increased the risk of asthma further. It said that earlier studies on antibiotics showed that the drug “may affect the way the immune system works”.