Webster’s: a medicine is “a substance that is used in treating disease or relieving pain and that is usually in the form of a pill or a liquid“. This definition is quite broad. A medicine might cure a disease. But it might be just used to ‘treat’ a disease, or relieve pain. Or it might just prop you up, so you can ‘live with your disease’.
A medicine that cures your illness is a pure medicine. Many medicines only treat symptoms – these are symptomicines.
Symptomicine: a medicine that only treats signs or symptoms of an illness.
Some medicines are like a crutch. They prop you up until you can get better. Or if you lose a leg, or some other important aspect of your health, they might be needed to prop you up indefinitely.
Are most medicines cures, symptomicines, or crutches? What do you think? If it cures the disease, it is a true medicine, a cure, otherwise, it is probably a symptomicine or a crutch.
Of the top 100 best selling medicines in 2013, most cannot cure. Less than 5 of the best selling medicines sold in 2013 have potential to cure any illness. Ninety-five percent cannot cure, any disease. Are those all symptomicines?
Let’s take a close look at the top ten best selling drugs of 2013: Abilify, Nexium, Humira, Crestor, Cymbalta, Advair Diskus, Enbrel, Remicade, Copaxone, Neulasta. Here’s what Drugs.Com says about each of them:
Abilify: is used to treat the symptoms of psychotic conditions
Nexium: is used to treat symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease
Humira: reduces the effects [symptoms and possibly damage] of a substance in the body that can cause inflammation
Crestor: reduces levels of “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) and triglycerides in the blood, while increasing levels of “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL)
Cymbalta: affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause depression
Advair Diskus: prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation
Enebrel: is used to treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or ankylosing spondylitis, and to prevent joint damage caused by these conditions
Remicade: is used to treat [symptoms of] rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and ankylosing spondylitis
Copaxone: will not cure MS, but it can make relapses [symptoms] occur less often.
Neulasta: stimulates the growth of white blood cells in your body. It is used to prevent neutropenia, a lack of certain white blood cells [a symptom] caused by receiving chemotherapy.
The first three: Abilify, Nexium, Humira, are clearly symptomicines. They do not cure any disease. They are used to manage symptoms. Your disease will not get better when you take these drugs. You might feel better – even as your illness grows worse and worse.
The next three: Crestor, Cymbalta, Advair Diskus, do not directly affect symptoms of your disease. But they do not cure. What do they do?
They change some of the health balances in your body. Your natural cholesterol balances, brain chemical balances, and inflammation balances are part of your healthiness and part of your illness.
Are these the best treatment for your disease? Frankly, we only know the are not the best treatment, because they do not cure. We might classify these medicines as ‘imbalancers’. But a more accurate term would be ‘crutches’. They are used when your doctor thinks you are out of balance, to shift you back into balance, in the hope that this will make you ‘less sick’.
If you have ever used a crutch, you know one thing – the best thing about a crutch is when you throw it away. When you regain your health. Unfortunately these are crutches designed to be used for life. They make no attempt to heal your body nor to restore your ‘natural balance’, your health.
Of the last four, some clearly only address symptoms: Enbrel and Remicade.
The action of the other two is a bit more complex. Copaxone ‘makes relapses [of MS] occur less often’. But what are ‘relapses’ of MS? According to MS Active Source “A multiple sclerosis relapse is the rapid onset of new, or worsening of previous, symptoms that last at least 24 hours.” Copoxone does not address the disease of MS, only the symptoms.
Neulasta stimulates the growth of white blood cells. It changes the natural balance of your body, stimulating production of more white blood cells. Neulasta is an imbalancer, like Crestor, Cymbalta, and Advair Diskus. It’s a crutch, but it’s a very specific crutch, used to help you deal with the damage that chemotherapy has caused. We might also classify it as a symptomicine, because it fights against the symptoms of chemotherapy white blood cell death.
In summary, of the top ten best selling medicines of 2013, we have no medicines that cure. Six medicines clearly only treat symptoms, and are symptomicines: Abilify, Nexium, Humira, Enbrel, Remicade, Copaxone. Four medicines that are simply crutches, bracing your disease, or your symptoms, so that you can ‘live with your illness’: Crestor, Cymbalta, Advair Diskus, and Neulasta.
Let’s look deeper. What is a crutch? A crutch is a medicine that treats ‘signs’ of illness, as opposed to ‘symptoms’ of illness. The difference between a symptom and a sign? A symptom is something the patient notices – a sign is something that the doctor notices, and can measure objectively. Fundamentally, signs are just ‘symptoms’ that can be validated by a doctor or a medical test. Your blood pressure is too high, your cholesterol is out of balance, your body has too much inflammation.
A symptomicine is a crutch, for symptoms that the patient notices. A crutch is just a symptomicine, for signs that the doctor notices.
The top ten best selling medicines of 2013 do not cure anything, they are all symptomicines. They treat symptoms of illness, but cannot cure. If you take the time to look deeper, you will find that none of the top 70 best selling medicines of 2013 can actually cure a disease.
Why does this happen? It’s actually very simple. Medicines that cure a disease don’t have big sales, because they work themselves out of a job. Medicines that don’t cure, but ‘make you feel better’, can sell you a subscription to ‘feeling better’, even as your disease gets worse. These are the ‘best sellers’, the medicines that make the most money. If you were a drug company, which drug would you prefer to design, test, and sell? Symptomicines.
What about green medicines? What about alternative medicines? Are most alternative medicines also only symptomicines? I have not done an in depth analysis, but the same logic probably holds. The medicines that sell most, do not cure.
Green medicines do have an advantage over patent medicines. They are not built on a “big business model”, they are not afraid to ‘cure’, not afraid to put themselves out of business.
Whether you are considering patent medicines, prescription medicines, or green medicines, ask one simple question: can this medicine cure my disease – or is it only a symptomicine?
If you have an illness, and you are looking for a cure – a symptomicine might give temporary relief, but if you want a cure, you need to look beyond symptomicines. You may need to look beyond ‘medicines’, to health. Many illnesses cannot be cured be medicine, and can only be cured by health, as we learned in the post “Diseases cured – but not by Medicines“.
to your health, tracy
Tracy is the author of two books about healthicine: