When my friends and family heard I was going to see Dr. Joe Schwartz, they all had one question: Can I come too? The Director of McGill’s Office for Science & Society is a rock star and even usually cool, calm PMCQ members were all atwitter at meeting the man with all the answers. And rightly so.
The author of six books, CJAD talk show host and renowned guru of chemistry came to talk about the age of anxiety. Given the current state of the pharma industry, his timing couldn’t have been better.
Dr. Joe’s message is simple: people need to be more sceptical. The media teaches us science and everyone fervently wants to believe in miracle cures. Well, Canada’s greatest debunker was about to let us have it. We’re told to eat our fish because they’re filled with nutrients, then we’re warned not to touch fish because they’re filled with PCBs. Eat your fruit! No! Not the genetically modified ones! They’ll screw up your hormones. Have some spinach instead. Wait… e-coli. Okay, cool down, have some filtered water. What? The chlorinated stuff in those plastic jugs that leach bisphenol A? No thanks.
It’s a scary world out there and just a little bit of knowledge can go a long way to devastate or elevate any product—including pharmaceuticals. According to Dr. Joe, not only are most scientific studies wrong, the media blows those studies all out of proportion and we swallow it whole. He blames our naiveté on the failure of science education in North America and the easy success of powerful marketing messages. That’s a nice way of saying it’s our fault. We believe that natural products are good for us because they are, well, natural. But arsenic is natural. In fact, the world is full of natural toxins that, given the right conditions, combinations and quantities, will kill you. St. John’s Wort might be “nature’s Prozac” but it’s very bad for heart transplant patients. Nutritious and delicious grapefruit juice can have serious interactions with commonly prescribed medicines—so much so, that McGill’s teaching hospitals have banned the stuff TOTALLY.
Chinese medicine, placebo effect, ancient medicine men, Kevin Trudeau’s “natural cures ‘they’ don’t want you to know about…” Dr. Joe pulls no punches, takes no prisoners, tells it like it is (add your own cliché here)… and that’s exactly why I should have brought my gullible, hoodia-popping friends and relatives to see him. It would have been good for their health.