Former Timmins chiropractor plugs controversial film

Dr. Gilles Lamarche practised chiropractic in Northern Ontario for 25 years before heading south in 2006 for an administrative role at a chiropractic college in Dallas, Texas.

Big pharma taken to task

A recent public screening of the documentary film, Doctored, courtesy of the Sudbury and District Chiropractic Society, offered health-care consumers something to think about.

The film chronicles the American Medical Association’s (AMA) efforts to discredit chiropractic and champions a collaborative health-care model embracing alternative therapies.

Former Timmins chiropractor Dr. Gilles Lamarche attended the screening as a guest speaker.

Born and raised in Timmins, Lamarche practised in Hearst for five years and in Timmins for a further 20 years before taking on an administrative role at Parker University in Dallas, Texas in 2006. Currently vice-president of professional relations at Life University in Marietta, Georgia, Lamarche served as a consultant to filmmakers Bobby Sheehan and Jeff Hay, and volunteered as a spokesman for the film, in which capacity he undertook a 17-city tour of North America following its release in September 2012.

Doctored documents the demonization of chiropractic by the AMA’s Committee on Quackery and the Wilk trials of 1976 and 1987, as a result of which the AMA was found guilty of contravening the Sherman Antitrust Act and engaging in an unlawful conspiracy to contain and eliminate the chiropractic profession.

Lamarche isn’t aware of any similar action by the Canadian Medical Association.

“They weren’t encouraging their members to have relationships with chiropractors. They left it up to their members to decide what they wanted to do,” he said. “I was aware of the Wilk trial, but I had a beautiful practice in Northern Ontario. I didn’t pay much attention to how prevalent the problem was because it wasn’t prevalent in my community.

“During the five years I spent in Hearst, I had great relationships with the physicians. One of the first people I met there became my best friend and today – 30 or 40 years later – he’s still my best friend.”

Lamarche also had good relations with several physicians in Timmins, including some who referred patients to him and were patients themselves.

Lamarche doesn’t have a beef with medical doctors, “because the doctors I meet, whether they’re happy with the system or unhappy, are all amazing people,” he said. “They’re there to serve, to help and their intentions are pure.”

It’s the system itself and big pharma’s role in it that he questions. “If you look at any major medical research going on anywhere in North America, big pharma is probably sponsoring it,” he said. “Drug companies are pretty much involved in every detail of research – from the design of studies and the analysis of the data to the decision about whether or not to publish. At the end of the day, researchers don’t control the clinical trials anymore. The sponsors control the clinical trials because the majority of the money comes from drug companies.”

Lamarche points to the $3 billion fine paid by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in July 2012 for marketing Paxil and Wellbutrin for uses not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and not providing the FDA with full disclosure about the risks associated with the diabetes drug Avandia. GSK was also found to have engaged in questionable sales tactics, paying doctors to go on speaking tours, and handing out Hawaiian vacations and concert tickets to influence prescribing practices.

According to Lamarche, North Americans make up less than five per cent of the world’s population, but consume approximately 50 per cent of prescription drugs worldwide.

Pharmaceutical companies profit by repurposing established drugs and influencing the redefinition of thresholds for pharmaceutical intervention, he noted.

“Prozac was approved for the treatment of depression in 1987. In 1994, it was approved for the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder, in 1996 for bulimia and in 1999 for geriatric depression.

In 2001, it lost its patent, renamed it Sarofem, changed the colour and got it approved by the FDA for premenstrual disorder.”

Redefining thresholds for pharmaceutical intervention has increased big pharma’s customer base for diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol-fighting drugs.

At one time, “if you had a fasting blood sugar level of 140, you were diabetic,” noted Lamarche, “but in 1997, the expert committee on the diagnosis of diabetes reduced the threshold to 126, turning another 1.6 million Americans into new patients.”

In the same year, he said, the Joint National Committee on High Blood Pressure lowered the threshold for the diagnosis of hypertension, creating 13 million more Americans eligible for pharmaceutical intervention.

According to Lamarche, the redefined thresholds invite skepticism when committee members making these decisions are known to have served as paid consultants to pharmaceutical companies or are paid to speak on their behalf.

Doctored features interviews with patients and chiropractors extolling the benefits of chiropractic and other alternative health-care disciplines, promotes the importance of diet and exercise, and warns about the health risks associated with the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and genetically modified foods.

“Health and wellness has always been at the core of the chiropractic profession,” said Lamarche. “That’s what we always try to promote. I know what chiropractors do and what we’re good at. I know when I should take care of a patient and when I should refer a patient to someone else in a different discipline.”

Two sequels to Doctored are currently in the works. Bought, focusing on the relationship between vaccinations and autism, is due for release in the spring of 2014, while Undoctored, due for release later next year, is billed as a documentary about “what your doctor didn’t learn in medical school… and why.”

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