Is Modern Medicine Killing You? – Episode 2

By Michael Edmonds 10/10/2012

In episode two our intrepid integrative medical practitioner, Dr Pitsilis is joined by colleague, Dr Glenn Twentyman in treating two patients who don’t feel they have received effective treatment from their previous medical practitioners.

The first patient was a young woman who suffers from blackouts, up to 10 a day, something I’m sure most of us would consider to be quite terrifying. After numerous tests, CT scans etc, no cause had been found. Dr Pitsilis described going over all the information she could gather on the young woman, and then after asking questions and monitoring her breathing decided that the cause could be a form of hyperventilation so sent her off to a breathing physiotherapist to assist her to reprogram her breathing. The end result was that several months later the blackouts had stopped – excellent.

It seems to me that Dr Pitsilis spent a lot of time looking over this patients notes and observing the patient directly. This again highlights how rushed a visit to most medical practitioners is. It also makes me wonder how much a consultation not subsidised by TVNZ would cost with Dr Pitsilis?

The second patient was a 20 year old man who suffered from migraine attacks. Apparently his first doctor provided some dietary suggestions while a second gave him drugs to deal with the migraine. Dr Twentyman, after talking with the young man, recommended reducing his intake of caffeinated drinks, and the use of magnesium (relaxes muscles) and melatonin (to improve sleep). After a few months, the incidence of migraines had significantly reduced. Another successful treatment.

However, a couple of things about this case seemed odd. Having suffered from the occasional migraine myself, reduction of caffeinated drinks is an obvious piece of advice I would have expected from any good doctor. Secondly, naturally occurring or not, melatonin is a drug. I was a little surprised that the integrative medical practitioner moved straight to prescribing this instead of other techniques to improve sleep.

So after two episodes we have seen the prescription of various treatments most of which fall under the umbrella of conventional medicine, along side providing sensible advice about diet, exercise and getting adequate sleep. The consultations have been more thorough than a typical GP consultation, which I believe is the key to these better outcomes.

We also have not seen anything close to an example of modern medicine killing anyone, suggesting that the title of this programme is pure hyperbole.


0 Responses to “Is Modern Medicine Killing You? – Episode 2”

  • “It also makes me wonder how much a consultation not subsidised by TVNZ would cost with Dr Pitsilis?”
    According to her website, $330 initially. This is roughly the cost o 8 govt subsidised GP visits …

  • Claire notes ‘According to her website, $330 initially. This is roughly the cost o 8 govt subsidised GP visits …’

    8 govt subsidised visits is a total waste of everyone’s money if it just offers false hope. There are other costs such as cost of drugs, time off work, etc.

    $330 seems like a a sound investment if it delivers results. I’ve just spent $350 on one car tyre.

  • Mourad makes a very good point. If Dr Pitsilis can solve a health problem that other doctors haven’t been able to, then $330 certainly would be a small price to pay.
    Though it isn’t clear if one one consultation would be necessary to solve the problem. We also don’t know what Dr Pitsilis’ success rate is either.
    However, from what I’ve seen so far she certainly is a very thorough and observant doctor, and so far the programme has employed largely sensible approaches to medicine.
    If I was suffering from a health concern other doctors couldn’t solve I would certainly give her a try given what I have seen so far.

  • Was Dr Pitsillis contracted by TVNZ or is it the other way around?

  • Was Dr Pitsillis using skills that could not be taught at medical school?

  • kemo sabe, she’s been using skills that could be taught at med school, but, alas, aren’t. PHOs work on volume. Taking a holistic approach doesn’t fit their McPHO culture.

  • I agree with Mourad. You’ve missed the point completely. GP’s are not taking the time or doing the right tests. Diet and lifestyle change are a no brainer but drugs seem to be the bandaid of choice. Who cares what she charges if she provides sensible solutions. GP visits are $50. I had one yesterday. I didn’t get an answer, just more of the same hocus pocus. I’d have better luck on Dr wiki.

    • Vicki,
      I’m not sure who you think is missing the point. It appears everyone commenting seems to agree that most doctors do not spend enough time with their patients.

  • To the above, yes, such skills are taught at medical school. Questions about how the illness affects their daily life and functioning or about the patients ideas about what is causing the problem can often yield valuable information. A holistic view of both illness cause and management is also taught.

    The problem with the lack of time reflects funding and number of GPs. There is a shortage of GPs in NZ. PHOs are funded according to the number of patients enrolled (capitated funding) rather that patients seen. Hence why we have fifteen minutes. In the UK less than ten minutes is the norm.

    Obviously, this is not an ideal model for patient care. However, for the majority of presentations diagnosis and treatment is simple so most people will be fine. More complex diseases or atypical presentations of diseases (e.g. guy last week with TMJ headache) are not so well suited. The advantage of Dr Pitsillis hour long consultations is thus clear, if you can pay.

    Drugs are indeed often given. Sometimes even when there no real indication. However, they often go beyond pure pharmacological effects. GPs will often give antibiotics to patients who likely have a viral illness. Antibiotics have no effect, but these patients often get better faster. Drugs provide a tangible and perceived immediate benefit. The benefits from diet and exercise take a little longer to manifest.

  • I note elswhere that melatonin used as medicine is usually made synthetically in a laboratory. To this extent, I assume that it is no more natural than the many other pharmaceuticals that are synthetic versions of natural substances.

  • Keith,
    The natural versus synthetic argument is one which falls down on several levels.
    First whether melatonin is form a natural source or produced synthetically it is the same compound irrespective of its origin. Those who argue that there is a difference, are invoking vitalism for “natural compounds”
    Secondly when it comes to natural compounds, nature produces some of the most deadly poisons in the world. The suggestion that natural is good often seems to be based on te belief that the natural world was “designed” to benefit us. It seems to me a rather egocentric and anthropocentric argument not supported by the evidence.

  • I have been shocked but not surpirsed by the substandard treatment by doctors relying on medication and evidence-based research for their practice. Any GPs and specialists who recognise former patients on this programme should be ashamed at their failure to reduce the suffering of these people with often easy to correct problems.
    I take the point that GPs have very little time with each patient, but come on, it surely doesn’t take that long to prescibe magnesium, a mineral that almost all NZers are deficient in, and suggest that patients examine how they breathe!
    Many blogs here have called into question the use of non-scientifically proven treatments but almost everything I have seen prescibed in the three episodes so far have not been flaky remedies but instead sound and sensible supplements and treatments that GPs should know about and be recommending as a first port of call.
    This programme, while it has its obvious faults and reads like an informercial at times, is actually giving some very good advice and encouraging people to take more responsibility for their own health. This should be appaulded by the medical fraternity as it should help to reduce their workload.
    Thank you TV1 for having a programme with useful public education instead of the usual dross that we are being subjected to now. I for one would far rather see my tax dollars being spent on this sort of thing than bridezillas and Toyota ads in the form of a talent quest!

    • Ponti

      “many blogs here have called into question the use of non-scientifically proven treatments”

      Really? Most comments have talked positively about how evidence based most of the treatments are. Also, there is no evidence that previous doctors did not suggest magnesium (good pharmacists will often recommend it). Indeded, in this programme we do not know what advice some of these patients have had from their mnormal doctors. It is quite possible that patients were told about magnesium by their doctors but did not understand or take the advice seriously until being told on national tv – such information is not provided on this show.
      And one must not forget, as someone pointed out earlier, a full assessment by these integrative doctors can cost $300. So comparing the diagnosis the patients are getting over an hour or more is not comparable with a t quick $50 visit to ones GP. Maybe if we all made an hour long appointment with GP’s they would have time to do all that is done on TV?

  • To my surprise, I really love this show! It’s quite logical and holistic. Agree with others, that some GP’s seem anxious if they don’t have an answer and are quick to dish out pills. We also have to be proactive about our health, and look for answers in our lifestyle too.

    The show helped me realise my breathing was incorrect, (all lungs not diaphragm!) so will look to correct that. It encourages me about vitamins too. Look forward to your next Blog.