If you have a chronic autoimmune condition, your physician is probably insisting that you take a disease-modifying drug to stop the progression of damage. These drugs are often expensive and come with many side effects.
Here are the ten most prescribed drugs and their total sales during a one-year period (from 2013-2014) as well as information on what the drug is meant to treat.
- Abilify, $7.2 billion, antipsychotic
- Humira, $6.3 billion, biologic autoimmune
- Nexium, $6.3 billion, lowers stomach acid
- Crestor, $5.6 billion, lowers cholesterol
- Enbrel, $5.0 billion, biologic autoimmune
- Advair Diskus, $5.0 billion, asthma / autoimmune
- Sovaldi, $4.4 billion, hepatitis C antiviral
- Remicade, $4.3 billion, biologic autoimmune
- Lantus Solostar, $3.8 billion, diabetes
- Neulasta, $3.6 billion, colony stimulating factor to help low white blood cell counts after chemotherapy
Three of these top-selling drugs are powerful biologic drugs that treat autoimmunity by turning off a particular step in the immune pathway. They are incredibly expensive, costing $45,000 to $100,000 a year.
The real cost of drugs
This high cost of drugs is part of what is accelerating the rise in the costs of healthcare insurance premiums for individuals and businesses as well as the cost of long term medications for Medicaid and Medicare patients. Whether the medication costs are borne by an individual, businesses, or the government, society ultimately has to absorb these costs, creating more and more strain for all parties.
Other than the hepatitis C drugs, patients are expected to need these medications for the rest of their lives. These high cost drugs control symptoms fairly well but only for a short time. In this paper that examined how long symptom reduction lasted using biologic autoimmune medications in rheumatoid arthritis, the remission was less than a year for over half of the patients. Only 14% had a remission lasting more than two years. In the end, these drugs do not cure the diseases they are supposed to treat.
There are 75 million Americans with pain, fatigue, brain fog, and autoantibodies. Of those, 25 million have enough damage that physicians can make a specific autoimmune diagnosis, often several within the same person. In the three hundred years that physicians have been diagnosing autoimmune conditions, the rates of autoimmune disease have steadily climbed. And more and more diseases are understood to be autoimmune in nature.
Autoimmunity is a condition where the body’s immune cells are confused and attack healthy and undamaged parts of the body, leading to problems like inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, asthma, or multiple sclerosis, depending on what cells are confused. Most specialists rely on using immune suppression to stop these unnecessary attacks.
But drugs alone provide only a short-term treatment for this problem. The more effective route is to look at the root cause of why we develop autoimmunity and address that instead of relying on expensive drugs that suppress our immune cells.
My experience with drugs
I should know. I have an autoimmune condition — secondary progressive multiple sclerosis — that put me in a tilt-recline wheelchair within three years of diagnosis.
I went to the Cleveland Clinic and saw the best MS specialists there and at the University of Iowa. I took the newest drugs, including the biologic autoimmune drug Tysabri. And for 7 years, I kept getting steadily worse.
But as I was getting worse, I started studying the basic science research and began experimenting upon myself. I discovered the research on epigenetics, how diet and lifestyle can switch genes on and off. I learned more about meditation, exercise, electrical stimulation of muscles, and a lot more about nutrition and the microbiome. I discovered the Institute of Functional Medicine and began taking their courses on treating the root cause of poor health.
In 2007 I was too weak to sit in a regular chair. I could walk 20 yards slowly with two walking sticks. I suffered from profound fatigue and brain fog. Then I started a diet and lifestyle program designed specifically for my brain. In just three months, the brain fog was gone. So was the fatigue. After six months I was walking easily without a cane and after a year on the new diet and lifestyle program, I did an 18-mile bike ride with my family.
Turning to natural remedies
My understanding of disease and health was transformed. I changed how I practiced medicine, now focusing on using diet and lifestyle changes to treat autoimmune, neurologic, and psychiatric disorders with remarkable success. I conduct clinical trials, testing my protocol in others with progressive MS, with remarkably positive results.
Our therapeutic lifestyle clinic treats people with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, asthma, fibromyalgia, neuropathies, diabetes, chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, mood disorder, fatigue, brain fog, and memory loss with remarkable success.
What your physicians are not telling you is that the symptom reduction from the potent biologic drugs is often temporary. Those drugs are very big business, bringing in billions of dollars each year to insurance companies. But those drugs do not get to the root cause of why immune cells attack a person’s body.
Your physician is also not telling you that diet and lifestyle changes are often much more powerful than drugs at stopping disease progression and can even lead to regression of symptoms. Within weeks of making changes to their diet and lifestyle, our patients report less pain, better memory, and more energy. Are you willing to try these changes for a month to see what they can do for you?
If you want to learn more about the diet and lifestyle program I used to recover from an autoimmune disease and now use in clinical trials and in my therapeutic lifestyle clinic, visit www.terrywahls.com. If you want to dive deeply into the protocol that I use, consider attending the Wahls Protocol Seminar, a three day seminar that happens every August.