Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Trusting Those that Promise to Cure Us

Two articles have just been released (see links below) providing further evidence that pharmaceutical companies are in business to make money and are willing to take risks to raise profits even if it means killing a few customers in the process. You usually trust your doctor, but when he hands you samples for a drug and a slip of paper containing a prescription you have to wonder if he truly believes that it is the best drug for you. Is he basing his decision on his own research or has he been psychologically persuaded to dish out the drugs because some beautiful twenty-something pharmaceutical sales rep took him out to dinner and gave him a bunch of documentation on the drug that is slanted in favor of the company that manufactures the drug?

It seems that Baxter International was selling Heparin to people that contained a "heparin like" substance that was cheaper to produce. Now, Baxter says you can't blame them. They didn't intentionally alter the formula, it was their Chinese manufacturers that decided to taint the drug to make a profit. This raises a valid question. Should we trust a company that hires a factory in a foreign country to provide medicinal components to the drugs we take on a daily basis? We're already told to be weary of lead tainted toys, now we have to worry about the medicine that we may rely on to keep us alive. Where are the labels on our prescription bottles stating "Made in China"? The consumer has a right to know if their medicine is being off shored in order to cut costs for the producer of the drugs. When you think of China made goods, you think of cheap labor and often substandard materials. These two ideas are not what we should be equating with our prescription drugs.

Another appalling example of the direction drug manufacturers are taking is the case brought forth against Merc and their drug VIOXX. It seems that Merc hired outside "professional writers" to write what they provided as "solid academic research". This "professionally written" material was delivered to doctors as valid scientific information. These for profit pharmaceutical companies are hiring for profit writing firms to produce material that is marketed towards your medical provider in the hope that he/she can be manipulated into prescribing the medication to you. It is in the best interest of the pharmaceutical company to sell the drug. They market medications as if they are marketing a pair of shoes or a cup of coffee. A cup of coffee or a pair of shoes won't necessarily kill you, but a drug manufactured and marketed based on lies could.

The government is not helping regulate this to the extent that it should. It seems that our capitalistic system lets the consumer down hard when it comes to health. Drug companies should not finance studies into their own products. Doctors should research medicines and should not allow pharmaceutical sales reps into their offices, no matter how pretty they are and how many baseball tickets they offer or how many free lunches they provide the staff. The concept of ethics has deteriorated all the way around.

Visit the Google health news feed for at least a year and take note of the news stories there. You may come to the conclusion that things are good for you one week and bad for you the next. Breakthroughs are mentioned and then never heard of again. It seems that health news is hard to put your trust into because the medical field has lost its way. The truth is that these economic powers are wrestling to keep you buying what they have to sell. It appears that they don't care if it is good for you or not. They market to you and manipulate you and in the end they say it was your decision to take the medicine or to smoke the cigarette or to drink the soft drink. It's hard to make your own decisions when you have been brainwashed since your youth while you innocently watched your Saturday morning cartoons along with the heavy dose of commercials pushing goods in order to build brand recognition in your developing sense of self. We are just fodder for the systems we have developed. We are a renewable resource that feeds the non-sustainable consumerism machines.

One must be paranoid when it comes to health and trusting the "system". We must all wonder if we are given drugs to just simply "maintain" our illnesses. If a cure for something is discovered, then the pharmaceutical companies lose. They don't want to lose. They sell drugs and want to continue selling those drugs. It is in their best interest to develop drugs that offer a way of providing relief without providing a cure. It may sound sinister, but it is basic economics.

Further reading:
Hired Writers, not Scientists, Create Information for Doctors
Drug Altered for Profit
Fighting the Drug (Ad) Wars

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Garbage Warrior....Sustainable Housing

The "Garbage Warrior" is a man named Michael Reynolds. Michael is a non-traditional architect who has been making houses out of non-traditional materials with his rag tag team of workers for the past 30 years in Taos New Mexico. He makes you question why we have been building houses roughly the same for the past hundred years.

The problem with being a radical thinker, like Michael, is that people often want to stick their fingers in their ears and not hear from you and some want to shut you up completely by barring your every move. The houses that Michael and his crew have built have been evolving in complexity over the past several decades and are self contained habitats that collect their own water, generate their own energy, provide food and process their own waste. With any evolving process, there are mistakes that must be learned from and used to produce a better next step. These mistakes nearly shut Michael down completely.

The people that worked for Michael built their own homes while other experimental homes were sold to people looking for something different in life. In the late 90's the Taos County government didn't like this. They stated that as a developer Michael had to provide electricity from the grid to these houses. They stated that he needed to provide water. He had to build roads. He also had to divide the lots up and sell them appropriately. It seems that bureaucrats are unable to see outside of the box and think about the future needs of humanity. In 2000 Michael gave up his New Mexico architecture and construction licenses because the State Architects Board of New Mexico moved to take his credentials from him.

Building houses out of trash such as used tires and beer cans seems just a little strange, so it is no wonder that stodgy old politician puppets of established industry would fight Michael's every move. It wasn't until the tsunami of 2004 that Michael and his team received his chance to make a difference and to prove his methods.

A small island that was all but destroyed by the tsunami requested that Michael and his team travel there and help them rebuild. The island had approximately 30,000 residents prior to the tsunami. After the tsunami they had roughly 7,000 inhabitants. The people were living in shanty towns and the government had to ship water to the residents. Michael and his team came in and built one of their sustainable houses out of the debris that was laying all over the island. The local people helped build the house and the knowledge of doing so was not only transferred to them, but to area architects and builders as well.

A fantastic documentary was made by Oliver Hodge showcasing this great thinker and architect of our modern times. The film helps demonstrate that in this rapidly changing world we need to listen to radical thinking people that are able to show us different ways of living. If we let governments and the systems we have built get in the way of experimenting and we dismiss people like Michael Reynolds, then we just may doom the human race. We need to embrace these people instead of trying to shut them up. This emotionally moving film proves that one person, no matter how unconventional, can make a positive difference in our world. Visit the Garbage Warrior film website. Visit Michael's company here. See a preview of the film below and a piece produced by CNN. You may just be amazed at how luxurious a house built out of garbage can be.