Natural Supplements vs. Pharmaceutical Drugs

There are always two sides to every story. Likewise, there are always positive and negative effects for every choice you make. In this case, both previous statements stand true. It’s true that we’ve been using pharmaceutical drugs or prescription drugs for most of our lives. But recently, the natural and organic lifestyle is growing. That means many people are going back to their roots and relying on homemade natural supplements or herbal medicine.

Like I said, there are pros and cons for each. First of all, one seems safe, but is not yet clinically proven. However, the other has strict regulations, but not always safe. There are always various opinions about using prescribed medicine and alternative medicine. This makes you confused as to which one is the most effective solution for whatever ailment it is you’re facing.

This is quite a controversial topic. As you read on, make sure to keep an open mind, remember the positives and the negatives about each option, and then decide for yourself.

Regulation of Pharmaceutical Drugs

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for monitoring the safety, efficacy, and security of pharmaceutical products. Many people assume the agency itself does the tests on new drugs. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Pharmaceutical companies only provide the FDA with their own research from clinical trials to prove their new drugs are safe for the market. This is a practice that leaves quite a lot of raised eyebrows.

Says Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, “Can we believe those trials? After all, that crucial last stage of research and development is usually sponsored by the company that makes the drug, even if the early research was done elsewhere. Is there some way companies can rig clinical trials to make their drugs look better than they are? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Trials can be rigged in a dozen ways, and it happens all the time.”

In addition, FDA approval committees often include members with connections to pharmaceutical companies. In fact, the 2006 Institute of Medicine’s study says that the FDA should “establish a requirement that a substantial majority of the members of each advisory committee be free of significant financial involvement with companies whose interests may be affected by the committee’s deliberations.”

FDA Credibility

In recent years, the credibility of the FDA has noticeably gone down. Critics are suggesting that the FDA is too eager to please pharmaceutical companies. There is an obvious bias and influence of money and politics in the supposedly unbiased and independent government agency.

In a recent confidential survey conducted among FDA staff scientists, 19 percent reported that they were pressured to give a drug the go signal, even though they had reservations about it. In addition, 66 percent of the staff said they were not sure that the FDA properly monitors drugs after they go out to the market. And finally, 50 percent of the entire staff believe that the agency is going in the wrong direction. This and many other accusations lead to many more people shunning the use of over-the-counter medications.

Regulation of Natural Supplements

Of course, the use of herbal medicine has been around way longer than prescribed medicine. All around the world, people make use of whatever is available in nature, and through trial and error, they are able to figure out which herbs work, what are their side effects, and which herbs are deadly.

The knowledge of the use of these natural supplements have been handed down from generation to generation. Many tribes that are still existing today still employ these modes of treatment.

Currently in the United States, dietary or natural supplements are considered food, not drugs. This is according to the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DHSEA). So ultimately, supplement manufacturers hold sole responsibility in making sure their products are both safe and effective. These companies aren’t required by law to register their products with the FDA.

However, they must have an FDA disclaimer and must notify the FDA within 30 days of marketing their product. In addition, manufacturers may print various health claims on the product’s packaging only with the approval of the FDA. And finally, the FDA is responsible in taking care of products that are available in the market, but encounter problems.

Many people nowadays prefer to take in herbal medicine as compared to these pharmaceutical drugs. In addition, fewer people suffer adverse reactions to these natural supplements than to drugs.

Effectiveness of Pharmaceutical Drugs

Without a doubt, many people will agree that prescription drugs are evidence-based medicine. Before being let out to the market, they all undergo thorough studies and trials. These evaluate their safety, quality, and effectiveness before being available in the market.

These drugs go through a complete evaluation of their metabolism, their interactions and effects with other drugs, and potential differences in safety and effectiveness for people of different races, ages, genders, etc.

Since then, there have been many strict laws and processes pharmaceutical companies have to comply with before being able to release their drug products out in the market. All these ensure the safety and effectiveness of the drug.

Effectiveness of Natural Supplements

Though medical science official reports are still lacking, many people who have been dependent on natural supplements to cure or treat certain diseases swear that they really are effective. The reason is all the ingredients in the products are from nature, meaning there are no harmful chemicals or additives in them.

In addition, the negative side effects of these natural supplements are still lesser than compared to those reported against over-the-counter medication.

Another thing that people notice is that herbs cost less. The average prescription drug price is around $50 for a month’s supply. On the other hand, natural supplements cost way lesser, around $10 to $20 a month. That saves you quite a lot of money.

Also, many doctors and other medical professionals are starting to recognize the value and effectiveness of some natural supplements.

Herbs vs. Drugs

So, really, which is better for us to take? Which is more effective?

The truth of the matter is that these medicines, both herbal and pharmaceutical, are businesses. Currently, Americans spend about $200 billion a year on prescription drugs. Surprisingly, they also spend around $20 billion per year on natural supplements.

When choosing which medicine to take, we just want the safest, most effective, and preferably the one that costs less. At the end of the day, it really is our choice. All the pros and cons are there for you to see. It’s just a matter of you choosing which one.

In the Internet age today, you have full access to health and nutrition information. Doing the necessary research is important. Once you have all the info you need, you can go ahead and sit down with your doctor. Compare natural supplements to pharmaceutical drugs, and determine which route is best for you.