Who’s health is being looked after here?

The following information has been taken from a news update put out by the supplement company Nutrigold, and I felt it was worth sharing. Is it any surprise that our National Health Service is in such a state, when drug companies are getting away with fleecing us all?

The NHS is paying pharmaceutical companies exorbitant prices for supplements on prescription.

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is particularly annoying when we as nutritional therapists are continually having to justify our treatments and prescriptions, and having more and more restrictions placed upon us. The powers that be are not concerned with your health – but more with the financial health of the pharmacuetical companies. However to my knowledge, no-one ever got damaged or died from an overdose of nutritional supplements, which is more than you can say for pharmaceutical drugs.

A whistleblower has reported that taxpayers are footing the bill for prescription supplements that are many times more expensive than those available online and on the high street. For example, Cod liver oil, which can be bought over the counter for £3.50, is being supplied by pharmaceutical company Ennogen for £89.50. Vitamin E capsules and evening primrose oil are also among a list of 20,000 “specials” available on prescription with artificially inflated prices.

The government is looking to make savings of £20 billion in savings as part of the austerity drive, but mainly in direct patient services – not by managing the huge drugs bill.

Sadly, this news is no surprise. Pharmaceutical companies have long been criticised for draining the coffers of the NHS, while hospital staff work long and hard on tight budgets. As many drug patents are expiring, such companies are perhaps seeking new forms of income. The food supplement sector is fertile territory, and there are indeed few UK food supplement companies that are still independent – and not run directly or indirectly by pharmaceutical companies.

It is no wonder the public are confused about the merits of nutritional supplements. On the one hand we have reports that supplements don’t work or are even dangerous; on the other we have an NHS convinced of their usefulness, but paying extortionate prices to pharmaceutical companies for the same supplements on prescription.

Organisations such as the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) have expressed concerns that holistically-minded nutritional therapists and independent food supplement suppliers are being forced out into the cold, as nutritional medicine – alongside herbalism – is sucked up into a money-making machine. The more confused and less self-empowered the public feel around nutrition and food supplements, the more easily this may be able to happen.  Such confusion and disempowerment is fuelled by the often negative, misleading media headlines that constantly appear.

Ultimately the tax-paying public may end up paying many times more: with their wallet and with their health and have a far reduced choice.   According to the whistleblower, “When they got a prescription for something like cod-liver oil, pharmacists used to walk round the counter, pick a pack off the shelf and then charge the NHS that cost. Now, all of a sudden, they are dispensing packets of cod-liver oil for £89. They don’t even keep these products in the open sale area of the pharmacy.” Why are the government – and the NHS – allowing this practice to continue? And when will they start reviewing all prescribed drug costs, which runs into billions of pounds of taxpayer’s money?

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