1. Real or fake, beware of meds

    The drug industry has a warning for you: Stay away from prescription meds. They're too dangerous.

    Not their drugs, of course -- the new warning campaign from Pfizer and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy is designed to scare you away from buying your meds online.

    And they do have a point: Many online "pharmacies" are shady fly-by-night operations where you'll never know if you're getting the real thing or an even more dangerous substitute.

    But as bad as a phony med might be, could it really be a whole lot worse than the genuine drugs that sicken or kill millions of people around the world every year?

    For example, one of the warnings raised by the new campaign is that meds bought online could be "contaminated" with rat poison.

    That's a hoot -- because "genuine" meds also have rat poison in them, except they don't call them "contaminated." They call them "blood thinners," since warfarin just so happens to double as a rat poison.

    Now, don't rush off to replace your warfarin with actual hardware-store rat poison (although you can feel free to leave your warfarin in a rat trap). I'll get to the real solution in a moment.

    First, the numbers that are supposed to scare you away from online pharmacies: NABP, a professional group that represents pharmacies and pharmacists, says it did a search online for drugs and found 8,000 sites -- but that 96 percent of them didn't appear to be following the laws or even the organization's standards.

    Similarly, Pfizer said its buyers did an online search for Viagra and found 26 sites selling the sex drug -- but all of them were operating illegally and 80 percent were selling counterfeits.

    The company's online mystery shoppers also found phony versions of 40 of its most popular meds -- including Aricept, Celebrex, Lipitor, Norvasc and Zoloft -- for sale in some 100 countries.

    But the drug industry doesn't care about your health -- only your wealth, and when you buy counterfeit meds, they don't get to pocket your cash… and that's the real reason for all this concern.

    After all, the industry created the problem: Sky-high prices have helped pad profits, but they've made meds unobtainable for many. And recent artificial shortages have made some of them difficult to find even for people who have the means.

    But instead of picking bad real meds or worse fake ones, you have another choice: no meds at all.

    A skilled naturopathic physician can work with you to get you off the drugs you don't need. Take, for example, that rat poison I mentioned earlier. As it turns out, fish oil can have the same blood-thinning effect -- just don't expect it to work as well in your rat trap.

  2. Statins for the masses

    Pfizer is getting ready to take a multibillion-dollar loss this fall when it loses patent protection on the best-selling drug of all time. But don't expect them to sit back and watch Lipitor's $11 billion a year in sales go down the drain. The Wall Street Journal says the company is hatching a plan to have its cholesterol-lowering drug sold over the counter.

    And if they get their way, you can bet it won't just be sold in pharmacies anymore. I'm thinking 7-11, McDonald's, and Dunkin Donuts, for starters, where Lipitor can be billed as the antidote to cholesterol-laden convenience foods.

    That's not nearly as far-fetched as it sounds. Some researchers have already proposed doing exactly that. (Read about it here.)

    But if there's anything as bad for you as a fast food meal on your plate, it's a statin in your body. I don't care what you've been told. These drugs are bad news.

    Along with the notorious risk of muscle weakness and debilitating pain, statins have also been linked to kidney failure, liver damage, cataracts, joint and tendon problems, sexual issues, and even an increased risk of diabetes.

    That's right... a drug that's supposed to keep a supposed risk factor for diabetes in check -- cholesterol -- can actually help bring the disease on.

    Here's a better plan: Skip the fast food and skip the statins. Basic lifestyle changes can do a much better job of keeping cholesterol levels under control anyway.

    The one bit of good news here is that Big Pharma is 0-for-2 when it comes to getting statins approved for over-the-counter sales. Merck's plan for OTC Mevacor was rejected by the feds at least three times, along with Bristol-Myers Squibb's bid for nonprescription Pravachol.

    Normally, I spend a lot of time ripping FDA decisions -- and, let's face it, there's a lot to rip. But in this case, the agency has managed to get it right -- and they've already put Pfizer on notice that the bar for over-the-counter Lipitor has been set pretty high.

    "They would have to provide data to show that consumers understand the treatment and recognize that cholesterol-monitoring is required," FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess told Bloomberg News.

    That's not going to be easy, because Burgess quickly added that previous studies have shown that patients don't get it.

    "Most study participants made mistakes and chose to take the proposed over-the-counter statin when they should not have done that," she was quoted as saying.

    On the other hand, statins such as Zocor are already available over the counter in the U.K. -- so maybe it's only a matter of time before the FDA follows suit.

  3. How not to quit smoking

    A long list of risks just got even longer: The feds now say the anti-smoking drug Chantix can boost the odds of a heart attack.
  4. Cold turkey never looked so good

    There's no doubt about it: If you're a smoker, the best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your body is to quit -- and quit right now.
  5. Pfizer discloses doctor payments

    Pfizer has some pretty deep pockets--this is a company that can handle multibillion-dollar fines without batting an eyelash. So what's a few million more to spread among friends?
  6. Pfizer's fall guy

    A CNN investigation found that Pfizer managed to do an end run around that law... and the feds actually helped.

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