How Well Do Treatments Prevent COVID-19, Shingles, Heart Disease, Diabetes and Anything Else that Might Ail You? That was Dr. James McCormack’s topic at the Jewish Seniors Alliance fall symposium Nov. 22. And some 100 participants Zoomed in to hear his answers.
Gyda Chud, co-president of JSA, welcomed everyone and reviewed the organization’s foundational goals: outreach, advocacy and peer support. She thanked Jenn Propp, Liz Azeroual and Rita Propp for their hard work in facilitating the symposium, which emphasizes education and advocacy.
Marilyn Berger, past president of JSA, spoke a bit about McCormack’s background, noting how amazing his talk had been when he addressed the JSA a few years ago.
McCormack is a professor in the faculty of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of British Columbia, a podcast host and YouTube content creator. He began his remarks by mentioning his philosophical beliefs, which can be found in detail at therapeuticeducation.org. He emphasized that he receives no money from pharmaceutical companies and his only income is his salary from UBC. His medical podcast covers many topics, including nutrition (the Mediterranean diet is recommended) and anti-aging creams (they are all the same).
Regarding treatments and medications, McCormack recommends being skeptical and checking all information, as some are useful but many don’t work well. For example, many new drugs are not much better than those they are replacing, and many doses are too high. (See jewishindependent.ca/medical-myth-busting.)
The doctor shared a number of popular beliefs that are not supported by evidence and, indeed, which science indicates are not true. Examples included the following myths: it is not good to swim immediately after eating; sugar makes children hyperactive; you lose body heat through your head; eating carrots helps your eyesight; and spinach is strengthening.
Also, there is no evidence that you need to finish all medications, he said. For example, with antibiotics, if you are asymptomatic after 72 hours, you can stop taking them. Although we have some incredible medications, McCormack said the Golden Pill Award, given for breakthroughs in new medication, has not been awarded for the past eight years.
McCormack stated that “so-called diseases,” such as elevated blood pressure, bone density issues and high-glucose levels, should be identified as “risk factors,” rather than diseases. He also said many medications do not alter outcomes. It’s all about the numbers, what is the relative reduction of symptoms after taking certain medications. If the reduction is only two percent, is it worth taking a drug that has many side effects? he asked. He said, in the case of cardiovascular disease, following a Mediterranean diet and exercising may have more benefit than many drugs.
Regarding the serums for COVID-19, McCormack said the work has been outstanding and the oversight phenomenal. Vaccines for contagions are very important, he said.
McCormack concluded his talk by reminding us that tests and treatments can help and/or harm people. It is important to think for yourself, ask questions and have hope, he said, before responding to many audience questions.
Ken Levitt, past president of JSA, thanked McCormack for his presentation and for his emphasis on being alert about medications. The participant feedback was extremely positive.
Shanie Levin is an executive board member of Jewish Seniors Alliance and on the editorial board of Senior Line magazine.