The New X-Files

By Michael Applebaum, MD, JD, FCLM

The truth is out there.  


It is just that no one knows it.

“Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences” by Edward Tenner (Knopf; 1st edition, May 7, 1996, 346 pages), describes the author’s concept of "revenge effects"--the unintended consequences of the so-called ingenuities that characterize the mechanical, chemical, biological, and medical forms of “progress” in our modern age.


The book begins, "One of industrial and postindustrial humanity's perennial nightmares is the machine that passes from stubbornness to rebellion..."  According to Tenner, our confidence in technological solutions may be misplaced.  He posits that despite technology's advances allowing "human modification of the natural world," "reality is always gaining on us."  Tenner argues that progress in numerous fields of endeavor has been undercut by unanticipated revenge effects, such as antibiotics that promise the cure of age-old disease but end up breeding resistant microorganisms.


What would Tenner say about the files on the new Xs: CelebreX, VioXX and BeXtra?  “I told you so.”


But drug problems are not new.  There are numerous other examples of drugs gone bad from way before the Xs.


When it comes to a lot of things medical, there is a whole lot of ignorance going on.  Really, how can the manufacturers and FDA know ALL the consequences of a substance put into the body and under what conditions those outcomes will occur?  They can’t.  (Of course, those of which they are aware should be made public in a timely fashion.)


Much of medicine is a religion complete with priests (physicians), houses of worship (hospitals/cathedrals and doctor’s offices/churches), temple servants (nurses, techs, etc.), sacraments (drugs and procedures) and supplicants (patients).  Then there are those who create the commandments of the faith, e.g., drug manufacturers, medical journals, government regulatory agencies.  Call them what you will.


Patients have faith in the system so they submit.  So do the priests.  The physicians work in the belief that what they are told to prescribe or do is what is best for the patient.  As “captains of the ship” they direct others to fall in line to do their bidding.  And (again) their bidding is usually motivated by doing what is thought to be right for the patient.  Thus nurses, assistants, techs, etc. act as the agents of the priests multiplying and proliferating the faith-based treatments into the population.  It is this multiplicative effect that makes the physician so dangerous for neither he nor she knows what he or she does.  A physician mostly believes that what he or she does is right.


Forgive them Lord, for they KNOW not what they are doing.


The system is flawed and can be improved.  Of this there can be no doubt.  Anything can be improved.  The physician is the epitome of the middleperson.  If the system could be represented as an hourglass, the physician would be the narrow part in the center.  This gives the physician “funnel vision.”  If you cut an hourglass in the very middle you have a right-side up funnel above sitting on top of an upside-down funnel below.  Looking upwards, the doc is the unknowing, faith-filling repository of “information” and “treatment regimens” from the many above (e.g., drug companies, medical journals).  Looking downwards, the physician then distributes the “information” and “treatment regimens” to the many more below.  Picture the products and information from the big businesses of medicine as germs; the physician is the one who inhales them from above, becomes infected and then sneezes the germs down on the rest of us.

Any physician worth his or her salt, would counsel every person to avoid the sick care system like the plague.  This is especially true for the chemicals that we are told to put into our bodies, i.e., drugs.


The X drugs were designed for pain relief, in particular, joint pain.  Although there are numerous causes of joint pain, many result from being too fat and too sedentary.  There is a choice.  You can get your heart problems naturally from growing old or you can get them young and unnaturally from the drugs you took because you needed rescue from overweight and inactivity in the worst way.


This is how most of your illnesses occur—body neglect.  You have the choice to get fit or take their drugs and get set for another self-induced problem.


You might think that medications will take a bite out of your illness.  Think again.  Their revenge effects will take a bite out of your life.


The truth is no longer out there.  Now you know it.  The truth is within you.