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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Women’s Health Alert

Drs. talk about Drs. and some of them have been telling me that too many of their colleagues are immune to the findings of medical science and continue to harm their patients. The talking (and often writing) Drs. obviously believe that their colleagues are practicing bad medicine and that neither the profession’s internal policing of itself nor any regulatory agencies are doing very much about it. The bad medicine comes in categories. First is unnecessary surgery. Of the 10 million American women who have ondergone at least one cesarean section, 3 million of these c-sections were unecessary. About half a million more unnecessary cesarean deliveries are conducted every year.

Breast implant operations, 85 percent of which are for purely cosmetic reasons, are now under very recent Food and Drug Administration restraints. Increasing evidence of harm to women from leakage or hardening of the sticky silicone has been cinnected to immune disorders and possible cancers.

The most common problems that lead surgeons to do hysterectomies on women can often be treated successfully by nonsurgical means. Twice as many hysterectomies per capita are performed in this country compared to the United Kingsom and Denmark. Researchers estimate conservatively that at least one quarter of all hysterectomies are unneccessary. This comes to 150,000 avoidable operations annually of this kind.

A second category involves harmful drug prescriptions. More than 10 million postpartum American women have been prescribed lactation supressing drugs to stop breast milk production. Infant formula company propaganda has persuaded many women not to breast-feed their infants, despite overwhelming evidence that breast-feeding is superior physically and psychologically.

Experts and the FDA oppose using such drugs for this purpose because there are risks of heart attacks, strokes, blood clots or severe high or low blood pressure.

A large proportion of the 600,000 American who are prescribed Accutane for severe acne should not be receiving this drug. This drug has caused hundreds of severe birth defects and thousands of induced abortions due to the fear of delivering a seriously harmed child.

Hormone replacement therapy, originally prescribed to treat acute symptoms of the menopause and to make them remain “feminine forever.” Now the rationale is to prevent osteoporosis of the bones or heart disease even though many of these women are not at especially high risk for such diseases. Many women, physicians assert, are unaware of clear evidence that long-term use of these drugs causes a 50 to 100 percent increase in breast cancer.

In 1988, when our Health Research Group published “Worst Pills, Best Pills,” many patients took this book to their Doctors and asked them why they were being treated with a drug that has a bad side effect (worst pill) when there was a drug for their problem without such a bad side effect (best pill). What was remarkable about the book’s impact was not the widespread use of its accurate contents by consumers, but by the deafening silence of organized medicine and licensing authorities to widespread wrong prescriptions by thousands of physicians daily.

If you’re wondering where the evidence comes from for the above mistreatment of women patients by too many physicians it is contained in the book, Women’s Health Alert (paperback) published by Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA) and authored by Dr. Sidney Wolfe and Rhoda Jones with the advice of many physocoam-specialists and general practitioners. Another deafening silence by organized medicine followed the release of this series of documented alerts last year. This is all the more reason for consumers to inform themselves and know what questions to ask.