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Old Fashioned Water Pills

outshine new prescription drug

Letter to The New York Times (unpublished)

a critique of clinical testing methodology

from Irwin D Bross, PhD

To the Editor of the New York Times:

Recent news reports on drugs for hypertension showed that old-fashioned water pills gave better protection than the costly new prescription drugs which cost Americans about $18 BILLION last year.

At the insistence of the drug companies, the FDA clinical trials for new prescription drugs test them against placebos. If the scientific control had been used (i.e. the previous standard treatment, water pills), this would have quickly revealed that the new drugs were no more effective than the controls. FDA might have had somewhat more trouble approving them.

In the 1950's, Dr. Harry Gold and I pioneered double-blind clinical trials at Cornell University Medical College. We were trying to assay the effectiveness of water pills. We could never have imagined that clinical trials would be used to mislead the American public into buying expensive prescription drugs which were no more effective than water pills and, what was worse, had very serious side effects that were sometimes fatal.

Our dream of ushering in an era of scientific medicine has been destroyed by the avarice of multinational drug companies. The FDA, the multinational prescription drug companies, the heart doctors who did the clinical trials for the new drugs, and the scientists who sang the praises of the worthless new drugs all were involved in a tacit conspiracy to defraud the American public of approximately $18 billion dollars per year.

Irwin D. Bross, Ph.D., President
Biomedical Metatechnology Inc


From Dr Joseph Mercola's email news June 7, 2003:

Cheap Drugs Best When Needed to Treat High Blood Pressure

In a meta-analysis of 42 clinical trials examining which treatments were associated with reduced risks of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and death, researchers found that low-dose diuretics (water pills) were most effective in preventing cardiovascular health problems.

The combined trials had a total of 192,478 patients who were followed for an average of three to four years. The studies compared various combinations of treatments, including placebo, diuretics, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta-blockers, calcium-channel blockers and other medications.

The study used a new method called "network meta-analysis" that allowed researchers to synthesize all of the available evidence on the effects of various treatments for high blood pressure, rather than just comparing one pair of treatments at a time.  They found that low-dose diuretics were significantly better than each of the other blood-pressure medications for preventing at least one major cardiovascular problem. Likewise, none of the other medications were significantly better than low-dose diuretics for preventing any cardiovascular problem.

All of the studies in the meta-analysis were randomized, controlled trials that evaluated heart attack, stroke and death in hypertensive patients for at least one year.  Researchers noted that people taking high blood pressure treatments other than low-dose diuretics might want to discuss the treatment option with their physician.

                                                                                        May 19, 2003


Let's make it clear that high blood pressure can kill or permanently impair you, and it should not be ignored. It usually kills people slowly over time, but very high blood pressures can surely cause a stroke.

I normally advise drug therapy if the systolic (upper) pressure is greater than 180. This is done as a temporary Band-Aid measure to keep the patient alive until the lifestyle adjustments kick in.

Normally, lowering high blood pressure is quite a simple task as it is typically responds very well and easily to

  • Eliminating grains and sugars from the diet

  • Exercise

  • Emotional rebalancing

My new book, the No-Grain Diet, reviews all of these points in great detail, but you can review the free nutrition plan and also the free 25-page Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Report , which can help you to effectively address the stress in your life that causes the blood pressure to rise to begin with.

While the newer drugs are heavily promoted by the drug companies, as this study suggests they may not be the best for the patient. The newer high blood pressure drugs are certainly better for the drug companies, but who wants to further increase their profits?  (emphasis added)

Previously it had been thought that some of the water pills, such as thiazide diuretics, had increased the risk of diabetes. However, newer research has shown that this is not the case.

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The Civil Abolitionist

Winter 2002-03  v.13 no. 3