Common sense solutions for our country’s costly prescription drug problem
American pharmacies fill more than three billion prescriptions per year—to the tune of $358 billion and counting. But what do we have to show for it?
Over half of us are obese. Two-thirds of us are overweight. We’re dealing with a full-blown diabetes epidemic. And rates of heart disease and cancer are soaring higher than ever.
Not to mention, our healthcare system ranks last among the world’s wealthiest countries in healthcare… LAST! (Meaning our system performs well under average.)
And perhaps that’s the real reason we’re so indebted to these drugs. Many mainstream doctors continue to dole them out as a “solution”, rather than determine the true, underlying cause of a symptom or disease. As a result, we continue to spend more and more money filling prescriptions each year.
But let me be clear: Prescription drugs are merely a band-aid.
And a potentially deadly one, at that.
In fact, they cause more deaths each year than car accidents. And they’ve become the biggest cause of fatal drug overdoses. (Which, in many ways, makes them more dangerous than heroin.)
Even so-called “normal, healthy” doses can be risky. Because even when taken as directed, prescription medications kill more than 100,000 Americans each year. And the older you are, the more likely it is that you’re on one or more of these medications.
So, let’s review some of the top prescriptions in this country. Then, I’ll offer you safer, logical alternatives to filling them. After all, most of the top-ranked diseases in the world can be controlled with simple lifestyle changes…
A better way to supplement your thyroid
Let’s start with one of the most popular thyroid drugs in the U.S.—levothyroxine, a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone T4.
Big Pharma has such a hold on the endocrine field that anyone who doesn’t use levothyroxine might as well be accused of malpractice… even though we’ve known people have trouble converting T4 to T3 for years.
Of course, T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone.
And T4 is what the body naturally produces—but it must be converted to T3 to be useable. The problem is, many people lose the enzyme that allows this conversion to happen. This makes a standalone T4 product—like levothyroxine—useless to that patient. That’s also why many people don’t feel better on thyroid medication until they switch to natural preparations that include both hormones.
Unfortunately, clinical trials on T3/T4 combination treatment for hypothyroidism have produced inconsistent results, so it hasn’t yet caught on in mainstream circles. But endocrinology experts are finally arriving at a consensus, calling for new clinical trials to better analyze the potential benefits. (Even though real-life patients have already seen and felt the benefits for themselves… I’ve seen it over and over in my career and in my private practice!)
The good news is, there are already plenty of natural alternatives available by prescription that include both T3 and T4. These include, but are not limited to, Armour Thyroid, Nature Throid, NP thyroid, and my personal favorite, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. (In fact, this is the only kind I use. And I prefer to prescribe it topically, with a cream. Other routes, like pills and pellets, tend to have more side effects.)
Bottom line: If your thyroid needs support, rather than blindly accepting a prescription for levothyroxine, I encourage you to find a doctor who supports natural thyroid replacement—so that you can actually start feeling better, starting today.
Statin drugs are deadlier than cholesterol
Next up: Statin drugs, like Crestor® (rosuvastatin).
You already know how much I hate statin medications. Doctors prescribe them like candy, yet they’re harmful in so many ways. They’re linked to cognitive decline, kidney failure, muscle pain, and more.
That alone is reason enough to steer clear, in my book. But as I have also written about many times, cholesterol is not the true culprit behind heart disease. It is our friend—and it’s necessary for a long list of essential biological functions, including so-called “bad” LDL cholesterol.
In fact, research shows that consistently low LDL cholesterol levels have a clear link to higher cancer incidence of any kind 19 years down the road.1 And rock bottom levels raise risk of death by as much as 20 percent. (Mainly from cancer, respiratory and digestive disease, suicide, and stroke.)2-3
That’s because clogged arteries only become a problem when cholesterol tries to correct what we do to our bodies by eating too much sugar and simple carbohydrates. So if you really want to balance your cholesterol—safely and effectively—the solution is simple…
Follow a low-carb, healthy, balanced diet (like my A-List Diet), eliminate sugar, and exercise regularly to help keep your heart strong. These lifestyle changes should allow you to throw away that statin for good.
And if you’re currently on a statin drug? Be sure to also supplement with at least 200 mg of Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ10) per day, until you can safely get off medication. That’s because statins actually decrease CoQ10 formation in your body. And research shows this nutrient is vital for healthy cholesterol levels and overall heart health. (Ironic, huh!?)
The problem with the purple pill
Next, we have proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), like esomeprazole—one of the most popular prescriptions for heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Of course, this class of medication (also called “the purple pill”) is linked to an increased risk of fractures, low magnesium levels, vitamin B12 deficiency, and a higher risk of heart attack, cognitive impairment, and death. But you should know that adjusting your diet will more than likely eliminate the need for them.
In fact, one recent study showed that, in the fight against reflux, drugs can’t even compete with the right dietary changes—particularly, an alkaline, Mediterranean-style diet. (That just happens to be the foundation of my very own A-List Diet.)
These researchers compared the Reflux Symptom Index (RSI) scores of two groups of heartburn patients—one taking a PPI for potential relief, and another using the Mediterranean diet with alkaline water for potential relief. And after six weeks, some striking differences emerged…
Just over 54 percent of the drug-takers saw improvement in their heartburn symptoms—with an average reduction of a little over 27 percent. But get this: More than 62 percent of those in the diet and alkaline water group saw a meaningful RSI improvement—with an average reduction in heartburn symptoms near 40 percent!4
Plus, research on patients with GERD has also shown that an elimination diet can completely reverse symptoms in as many as 64 percent of subjects. It can also deliver significant improvements for 78 percent of them.
In fact, in one study, scientists zeroed in on milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish. Ultimately, they found that at least 60 percent of the GERD patients reacted to wheat; 50 percent reacted to milk; and between 5 and 10 percent reacted to nuts, eggs, and soy. But eliminating their individual trigger(s) offered significant relief.
Of course, if dietary changes alone aren’t good enough to control your symptoms, there’s also a long list of safe, natural supplements that can offer support—without turning to the purple pill. The first step is determining whether you’re producing too much or too little stomach acid.
Tell-tale signs of too much include burning, acid feelings, constant reflux, and a nagging cough. Signs of too little stomach acid include problems digesting food, feeling undernourished, or dealing with vitamin deficiencies.
Then, if you’re producing too much, I typically recommend taking the following three supplements 30 minutes before each meal: A high-quality probiotic; 250 mg of aloe vera leaf extract; and 500 mg of marshmallow root.
For low stomach acid, I typically recommend taking a high-quality probiotic and 380 mg of deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) 30 minutes before each meal; and 500 mg of betaine HCl immediately before each meal.
A safer solution for ADHD at any age
Next up we have drugs for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD).
Quite frankly, way too many doctors are quick to fork over a prescription drug for these conditions. And then, many people abuse them. (After all, these drugs are central nervous system stimulants—meaning they’re naturally going to speed you up, control your appetite, and increase your focus.)
But I must ask: Why do we struggle with attention span disorders in this country in the first place? Could it be the 24/7 news cycles, the devices that we can’t stay away from, or the relentless stress?
Here again, perhaps we should consider simple lifestyle changes before using mind-altering chemicals to get concentration levels back on track. And once again, that starts with proper nutrition.
Case in point: Back in 2015, Oxford researchers recruited nearly 200 British children aged 13 to 16 years for a 12-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. One group of teens received a comprehensive nutritional supplement daily, featuring vitamins, minerals, and omega-3s. The other group took a placebo.
Researchers relied on school disciplinary records and the Conners scale—a tool used to diagnose ADHD and other disorders—to track behavioral changes. Results revealed that the students who took supplements showed improvements in behavior, while the behavior of kids who received a placebo continued to slip further.5
And this makes sense. Growing kids need an ample supply of all nutrients, but omega-3s are especially important. The brain develops rapidly during puberty, making it the time when young people are most vulnerable to fatty acid insufficiencies.
So, serving children “low-fat” foods? Well, that’s tantamount to child abuse, in my opinion. That’s why I always encourage full-fat, high protein, fresh, whole foods for all ages. It’s also why I recommend parents to include a high-quality fish oil supplement as part of their kids’ daily routine (1,000 mg per day of EPA/DHA is a good general dose).
(Of course, adults who struggle with concentration problems need an ample supply of omega-3s, too. I recommend 3,000 mg of EPA/DHA daily.)
Disastrous diabetes drugs
The next two popular prescriptions—insulin glargine and sitagliptin—are diabetes drugs. And you can probably guess what I have to say about that…
If we weren’t overeating ourselves into an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes, we would have far less need for either of these drugs. So instead of looking to a pill or injection to help solve your blood sugar problems, once again, I urge you to make some lifestyle changes—starting with your diet.
After all, keeping your blood sugar low (and stable) will help protect you from dying—from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and perhaps even the coronavirus. So, start consistently making better dietary choices, and kick that nasty sugar habit to the curb, once and for all.
Then, for extra blood sugar support, you can supplement wisely. In fact, there are plenty of options to choose from, such as 200 mcg of chromium—in either picolinate or polynicotinate form—three times per day; 500 mg of cinnamon per day; 500 mg of berberine twice per day; 10 mcg of vanadyl sulfate; 1,000 mg of ash tree extract; 200 mg of mulberry leaf extract per day; or 150 mg of benfotiamine per day.
Of course, if you absolutely must turn to a prescription drug to help manage your diabetes, there is one exception to the rule here: Metformin. (But that also doesn’t mean you should skimp on your diet.)
I think metformin is a great, safe diabetes drug that also works well on insulin resistance, helping people (and especially women) to lose weight. (It can also be effective against polycystic ovarian syndrome [PCOS]—another very common disorder, which most gynecologists ignore.)
Anti-inflammatories kill more than pain
Now, let’s talk about painkillers.
Pregabalin is a pain medication often used for fibromyalgia. And at times, I do find this prescription to be necessary if natural options aren’t providing relief. It’s not without side effects—but it’s certainly better than opioids.
Speaking of opioids, I doubt I need to explain my concerns with that particular class of painkillers. After all, we’re in the middle of an opioid epidemic—where millions of Americans remain addicted to these drugs. But I also think it’s important to remind you that it isn’t just prescription pain medications that are making us sick.
Acetaminophen is the most dangerous over-the-counter (OTC) drug lurking in every medicine cabinet in America. It’s the leading cause of liver failure in the United States—and it’s linked to cirrhosis and chronic liver disease, too.
Of course, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) aren’t any better, with research showing that they pave the way to heart attacks and premature death, among other risks.
Now, I’m not suggesting that patients with chronic pain should be expected to suffer. There’s just simply no need to take anti-inflammatory drugs when so many safe and natural alternatives are widely available.
In fact, chronic inflammation is the root cause of most illnesses. So reining it in, using simple lifestyle changes, will likely help lessen your pain—and help you feel better across the board.
Here are my top-5 inflammation-crushing strategies…
1.) Arnica. This is a homeopathic remedy that works extremely well for acute pain. I recommend 5 tablets under the tongue, five times per day.
2.) MSM (methylsulfonylmethane). This natural sulfur compound has powerful anti-inflammatory properties—without the organ-damaging side effects of the medications listed above. I recommend 2,000 mg, three times per day.
3.) Wobenzyme. This is a unique combination of natural enzymes that help your body deal with inflammation, both long-term and when you’ve got an immediate ache or pain. In fact, it’s used by the Austrian ski team for its acute injuries! I recommend 4 pills, three times each day.
4.) Alkaline foods. If your body’s pH balance is too acidic, it can create excess inflammation. And that leads to pain. Luckily, incorporating more alkaline foods into your diet is quite easy to do. Most of them are things you can find in the supermarket or your local farmer’s market, like cucumbers, kale, and garlic. You can find more complete lists of alkaline foods all over the internet. But the simplest thing to remember is this: If you’re following a healthy diet full of fresh, whole foods—you’ll automatically start adding more alkaline foods into your routine.
5.) Avoid nightshades. This group of foods includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and tobacco. They contain an alkaloid called solanine that can cause inflammation in some people. (Not everyone.) The only way to know for sure if they’re contributing to your pain is to eliminate them and see if it makes a difference for you.
Open your mind to logical alternatives
At the end of the day, the “overdosing of America” isn’t a problem that’s going to solve itself. The government and the pharmaceutical companies, unfortunately, hold a lot of responsibility. The more money these entities stand to make, the sicker we become.
That’s why YOU must be willing to put the work in for yourself. Be your own advocate. Because the truth is, your health is in your own hands—no one will ever be as invested in it than you are. Not your insurance company. Not your local hospital. Not Big Pharma. And not Big Food, either.
So, hear me when I say that you have the power to change the number of medications that you take every day—a goal that won’t just make you healthier, but your wallet healthier, too.
As I touched on here today, there are many alternative solutions to basically every prescription drug on the market—whether it’s through proper diet, daily exercise, and/or targeted nutritional supplementation. All it takes is a little research, and then, a personal commitment to yourself. But believe me when I say, it’s worth it… in more ways than one.
Allergies are annoying, any time of year
At least three of the top prescriptions in this country are drugs for treating allergies (and asthma). Ventolin HFA (albuterol) is the most common. And while some of these drugs may sometimes be necessary to control breathing—they are also often avoidable with the right lifestyle interventions.
Of course, there are many contributing factors to allergy symptoms—from cigarette smoke and air pollution to environmental chemicals and dietary choices.
But before you lock yourself away and suffer through the holiday season alone, I encourage you to check out my latest protocol, Dr. Pescatore’s Guide to an Allergy-Free Life.
- Lavigne P, et al. “The association between lower levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and cancer predates the diagnosis of cancer by 18 years.”Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Volume 59, Issue 13, Supplement, Page E1622. 27 March 2012.
- Jacobs D, et al. “Report of the Conference on Low Blood Cholesterol: Mortality Associations.”Circulation.1992 Sep;86(3):1046-60.
- Meilahn EN. “Low serum cholesterol: Hazardous to health?”Circulation.1995 Nov 1;92(9):2365-6.
- ZalvanCH, et al. “A Comparison of Alkaline Water and Mediterranean Diet vs Proton Pump Inhibition for Treatment of Laryngopharyngeal Reflux.” JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017 Oct 1;143(10):1023-1029.
- TammamJD, et al. “A randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial investigating the behavioural effects of vitamin, mineral and n-3 fatty acid supplementation in typically developing adolescent schoolchildren.” Br J Nutr. 2016 Jan 28;115(2):361-73.