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Biohacking

Big or Bad Pharma?

Proceed with Caution

“Doctor, doctor, fix me, please!” 

You trust your GP because they’re the expert, the professional, the oracle of health. 

“Take these magic pills and you will feel better,” falls from the well educated mouth. 

You pop the pills, as instructed, but they don’t fix you, you don’t feel better, they might even have made you feel worse. 

“These things take time, let’s give it another two weeks!” They assure, confident and peacocking in their educated judgement.  Meanwhile, you’re left trapped in a vortex of misery, declining health and frustration that the “magic” hasn’t worked for you. 

The Truth

This scenario couldn’t be more familiar for thousands of people with varying ailments, but especially women who are entering the perimenopausal stage of their charmed existence as a female. 

The truth of the matter is that a doctor's medical education is limited in the nuances of women’s hormonal health.  Why? Well, most medical research has been conducted on men, creating huge gaps in a doctor’s knowledge when it comes to the ladies. The historic notion that women are just emotional lunatics or hysterics has been perpetuated by literature and the patriarchy for centuries. The argument that women are just predisposed to being mentally unwell because of their ’lazy and irritable’ nature dates back to the 18th century. The cure? An orgasm (insert eye roll).

You’re Not Crazy!

The point is, hormonal health has been stigmatised and dismissed in the past, leading to a lack of attention and funding. This can perpetuate the belief that women's hormonal health is not a priority, which can lead to a lack of understanding among doctors.

Bad Pharma

Dr Ben Goldacre’s Bad Pharma beautifully, but maddeningly exposes the truth behind a doctor’s lack of hesitancy to write you a prescription.  His expose was well-received by critics and won several awards, including the British Medical Association Book Award for Popular Medicine in 2013, which, I guess, provides a little hope and shines a light on what doctors are up against too. 

In summary, he explains that a doctor’s education is funded by Big Pharma and that research and side effects of certain medicines are kept hidden away from them and us, perhaps in the Big Pharma vault (alongside the gold bars and diamonds!).

Withholding negative trial data, manipulating clinical trial results, and influencing doctors to prescribe certain drugs, Goldacre highlights that this results in the overprescribing of drugs, ultimately increasing the approval of drugs with questionable safety and efficacy.

It's a Tricky Topic

We know that hormonal health is complex and can vary among people. Hormones can interact with each other and affect different systems in the body, making it difficult to fully understand and treat hormonal imbalances. Does that mean it should be ignored though? Give up because it’s hard? Surely, this just highlights how important it is to unpick it further. If a woman’s perimenopause remains a mystery amongst the medical profession, and the belief that it can all be miraculously fixed with a bit of HRT, there’s no hope for the blokes who are entering the andropause.  At the end of the day, whether you are man, woman, non-binary, or trans, our hormones have the ability to floor us, to really kick us where it hurts. We’re all in it together!

 

Knowing that there is such a lack of understanding in this field of medicine, begs the question, how can we really trust that GPs are prescribing the most effective “magic pills” when we ask them to fix us? 

Money, Money, Money...

Now we all know that the pharmaceutical industry’s main focus is to rake in the cash.  Why else would our newsfeed be littered with desperate parents, cancer patients or sick people from low income backgrounds begging strangers to fund their treatment because it isn’t available on the NHS? But, the realisation that we live in a world where Big Pharma engages in unethical practices that harm patients and undermine public health to line their pockets is abhorrent and, quite frankly, terrifying. 

Whilst doctors have a professional responsibility to refer to their training - Goldacre suggests that they need to be brave and question the information provided to them by pharmaceutical companies and to demand more transparency. Ultimately, we want our doctors to advocate for us, their patients, and not Big, Bad Pharma. Surely, their duty of care is to us, and they should be championing evidence based medicine that has nothing to hide and which is made available to everyone! 

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