The Four Drugs that Aussies can’t live without.

By December 14, 2014Big Fat Lies, Charts, Sugar

Last week the Australian Health Department published its annual hit parade of Australia’s most used drugs.  It revealed that just two ‘diseases’ accounted for eight of the top 10 places, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Because the vast majority of drugs prescribed here are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer, the Federal Government keeps a very accurate tally of what our doctors are putting in our shopping bags.

This year’s top of the (pill) pops tells us that on any given day 32 out of every 100 men, women and children in Australia will be knocking back one of the pills in the top ten.

#1 with a bullet – Anti-hypertensives.

13.4 of those 32 people will be downing a pill for their blood pressure with their morning orange juice.  They’ll probably be studiously avoiding salt as well on doctor’s orders.

The only problem is that research published just this week tells us the OJ is more likely to be causing the blood pressure problems than any amount of salt they might be consuming.

This confirms a long line of studies which have concluded that the fructose half of sugar is the cause of high blood pressure and not the salt.

#2 – Statins, the drug without a disease.

Riding hard on the heels of the blood pressure pills, 12.9 of those 32 people will be taking some sort of Statin, a drug that treats exactly nothing, but which is supposed to lower the risk of future heart attacks.

Statins are powerful drugs that alter the function of important liver enzymes, and the evidence suggests that the only class of people who benefit are younger men who’ve already had a heart attack.

The only people who should be given statins should be this very small group (and then only if their doctor feels the benefit outweighs the risk of diabetes and dementia).

#3 – Paracetemol

If this list is giving you a headache then you’ll likely be joining the 3.4 out of every hundred of us who will pop a Panadol today.

#4 – Reflux medication

Rounding out our list is a medication to treat heartburn and GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease). Just 2.5 in every 100 of us will be getting into those pills, but recent data tells us it a class of drugs with a big future.

GERD is likely to be caused by a combination of the obesity caused by eating too much sugar and the bacterial overgrowth caused by, yep you guessed it, eating too much sugar.  It won’t come as too much of a surprise then to discover the percentage of the population suffering from GERD has significantly increased in the last two decades.

More than 1 in 10 Australians now suffer from the disease and almost 7 million scripts a year are written for the one drug (for GERD that makes the Top 10) alone.  It is the fourth most expensive medicine funded by the Australian taxpayer (who shells out more than $200 million a year for it).

Taken together, the Top 10 list accounts for a serious chunk of Australia’s pharmaceutical budget.  It’s a budget that is under constant pressure. And there are many unfunded drugs that don’t make the cut, not because they don’t work, but because too few people will benefit.

Instead we’re spending our precious drug dollars on massively overprescribed statins and drugs to treat diseases of sugar consumption (oh and headache pills).  Wouldn’t it be better if we just stopped eating the sugar and listening to drug company marketing around statins?

Join the discussion 18 Comments

  • Valerie says:

    I don’t eat any sugar (haven’t for years) and I still have malignant hypertension. Please forgive me for wasting your precious tax dollars on anti-hypertensive medications that keep me alive.

    Oh, and no, low-carb doesn’t help (it just makes me gain weight) and low-salt doesn’t help either (it just make me hyponatremic).

  • David Gillespie says:

    Valerie I don’t mean to suggest that sugar is the only cause of hypertension – it isn’t. Even if we ate no sugar, there would still be people suffering hypertension. But the recent massive explosion in incidence is almost certainly attributable to the enormous increases in sugar consumption.

  • Valerie says:

    Your post does suggest that sugar is the only cause of hypertension. You wrote:

    “This confirms a long line of studies which have concluded that the fructose half of sugar is the cause of high blood pressure and not the salt.”

    I am not aware of any intervention study on humans showing an improvement in hypertension from cutting out fructose. Are you?

    I guess when you say that “the recent massive explosion in incidence is almost certainly attributable to the enormous increases in sugar consumption,” you are thinking about epidemiological studies. The exact same data sets could be used to show a link between vegetable oil and hypertension, or salt and hypertension, or TVs and hypertension, etc. I don’t see how you can be so confident (“almost certainly”) about the role of sugar.

    You show a lot of critical thinking when people balme saturated fat for heart disease. Where is your critical thinking when it comes to people blaming sugar?

  • Valerie says:

    Look at Table 2. Pay attention to what happens when they start eating fructose again.
    That study does not support the idea that fructose increases blood pressure.

  • David Gillespie says:

    That’s a bit of a reach Valerie … all it really says is that the benefit (to being off fructose) lasted (at least) 6 weeks. You really are trying hard to deny something that the review study (linked from the article) found was supported by the evidence – fructose ingestion causes hypertension. Its certainly not the only cause but it is likely to be the factor that is driving the massive acceleration in the disease in nations exposed to a Western diet. I don’t really mind if you choose not to believe it, but that’s what the evidence says.

  • Valerie says:

    Did you look at table 2 or not???
    People who started having a BP reduction on the low-fructose diet had *further* BP reduction when they started eating fructose again. And, of course, there is the other group who did not have any BP reduction at any time. It is only when they do sub-group analysis, and when they ignore the second half of the experiment, that they obtain the p-value they need to link fructose to hypertension. You accept that kind of data as sufficient proof???

    You say I choose not to believe the evidence. Well, this is not a question of belief. There is no evidence. I don’t eat any fructose and I have malignant hypertension. That is a fact. The study you linked was unable to show a dose-response relationship between fructose consumption and BP. That is also a fact.

    Why do you not apply any critical thinking when sugar is blamed for some health problem? If the same type of data was used to point a finger at, say, meat intake, you would be a whole lot more critical. You would reject epidemiological studies because they are overrun by confounders. You would demand intervention studies on humans. Etc.

    I think fructose is just the new scapegoat-du-jour. (Yes, this is a belief.)

  • David Gillespie says:

    Valerie from the clinical trials section of the review study I linked:

    “Some individuals show a rise in blood pressure after just
    a few weeks on a high-sucrose diet (defined as 33% of
    total caloric intake from sucrose).76 In fact, a
    meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials showed
    that higher sugar intake significantly increases systolic
    (6.9 mm Hg, p<0.0001) and diastolic blood pressure
    (5.6 mm Hg, p=0.0005) versus lower sugar intake in
    trials of 8 weeks or more in duration.77 Moreover, when
    studies that received funding from the sugar industry
    were excluded from the analysis, the magnitude of
    blood pressure elevation was even more pronounced
    (7.6 mm Hg systolic, 6.1 mm Hg diastolic on average)."

  • Valerie says:

    Reference 76 is a small study (24 people) where subjects were selected based on their exaggerated insulin response to a sucrose load. They had an increase in their diastolic blood pressure (DBP) when they ate 33% sucrose compared to 5% or 18%. 18% vs 5% did not show a difference in DBP. There was no difference in systolic blood pressure (SBP) among the three diets.

    Among this small group of carefully selected (abnormal) people, one of the six possible comparisons hinted that sucrose was bad for blood pressure.

    There is quite a jump from this study to the conclusion that sugar causes hypertension, isn’t there?

    Reference 77 is a meta-analysis. The results of interest are in figures 6 and 7. Basically, if you keep calories equal, more sugar leads to a very slight decrease in SBP and a very slight increase in DBP. Both are very small and statistically insignificant. So far, it exonerates sugar as a cause of hypertension. If you feed people a sugar-rich diet ad libitum, then they gain weight and their SBP and DBP increase (only the increase in DBP reaches significance). Weight gain is a known risk factor for hypertension. I don’t know if the mechanism is well understood.

    In this meta-analysis, it seems that weight gain leads to higher blood pressure, but that sugar is not to blame outside of its propensity to make people eat more.

    This is what I meant by critical thinking. The strength of the evidence here is definitely not better than the one linking sodium to hypertension. Yet you accept that sugar (but not salt) causes hypertension.

  • Valerie says:

    Oops, my last reply showed up at the wrong place.
    Please see my answer above about reference 76 and 77.

  • Ibika says:

    It’s astounding how we have this blanket propaganda out there now that all ailments are caused predominately by sugar.. Sure we should not be eating the stuff.. Especially the heavily refined stuff.. It’s junk. But the obesity, diabetes , hyper tension, high blood pressure et Celtic etc problems we are suffering are also due to the huge explosion in quantities of fat eaten… Oil is in all it all products now in supermarkets along with high fat soya, bloody dairy short its meat, oils, dairy and sugar causing our problems.. Stope spreading the fallacy that it is predominately sugar.

  • katrina says:

    So if you cut out all sugar will you lose weight

  • David Gillespie says:

    Most people do Katrina

  • Rick says:

    David I read your book over the Christmas break.
    I was eating a lot of breakfast cereals, muesli bars, and fruit juice so thought I would at least try and cut out sugar (as much as possible).
    Well, in 6 weeks I have lost 5 kg, without really trying. Although I was not seriously overweight, it seemed that shaking off extra kgs was getting harder Still only doing a little exercise, still drinking a few glasses of wine on weekends, potato chips, full fat milk, etc.
    Don’t care too much about a debate on the clinical trials or intervention studies or epidemiological studies, as some of your detractors are trying to throw in to disprove your basic premise.
    What you wrote about made sense to me, I acted on it, and so far the outcome is quite obviously positive. I fell healthier, am not feeling as hungry, and getting used to the taste of normal food.
    Thanks for putting it out there and trying to make a difference despite the vested interests who wish to maintain the current dysfunctional system.

  • Peter M says:

    Ibika, I’m with you in believing that sugar, or sucrose in all its forms, is not solely responsible for the dramatic increase in obesity, allergies, cancers, asthma etc over the last 50 years. Personally I would take Davids comments as a part of the whole picture, just as a rough sea, a small hole and a lack of any bailing equipment could all contribute to the sinking of a vessel. It may be no one of these conditions would have eventuated in the vessels demise. Just as in the instance of the vessel, there are many factors in play, any one could cause the outcome or it could have required just a hole and no bucket on a calm sea. But I do believe that our excess consumption of oils which wouldn’t normaly be available for consumption

  • Peter M says:

    And our lack of consumption of everyday naturally occurring fats, along with consumption of processed “foods”? full of artificial ingredients do in combination, contribute significantly towards the pre-mentioned conditions and many more. How could any rational being believe that a grain of rice, stripped of its husk, heated until it explodes, coated in sugar and (refined) honey, then drowned in milk? (which has been heated until all bad and good bacteria have been destroyed, then to be forced through a filter breaking down the fat molecules and then having 90% of the remaining fat removed, other products added to make it taste something like milk etc) be considered healthy? Our government health bodies seem to think it is, but then who ever thinks of them as “rational beings”.

  • Darron says:

    I actually went on a “as much as possible” sugar free diet – rather impossible , I realised , so it’s a restricted sugar free diet – however, I managed to lose 4.9 kgs (10.8lbs) over six weeks – feel great that I was able to do this, as my Doc kept telling me (previously) “you are getting close to being morbidly obese (scary).
    I feel a lot better and I am definitely staying away from sugar as much as possible. (now).
    BTW – my efforts were as a result of my daughter encouraging me to go “sugar free” – I had not read this article (maybe my daughter did) – but I after my result, I decided to go and do a search – I now whole heartedly agree with and endorse this article by David Gillespie.

  • ZiZi says:

    Valerie – is your name really Bill or Sue by any chance?

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