Do Topical Drugs Really Work?
It's bad enough that people are ingesting needless pharmaceuticals into their bodies willy nilly. Now the habit of using useless - and potentially dangerous - topical drugs to treat all manner of muscle and joint pain is gaining even more popularity. But unlike most pharmaceuticals, it's an almost universally accepted truth among the medical community that most of these creams and ointments don't do anything...
Well, they might kill you. But other than that, they're fine.
The sports cream industry is a $275 million per year behemoth - and that doesn't even count sales at Wal-Mart. That's a lot of money to spend on something that has essentially zero evidence to back it up.
And I'm not the only one who says so, either. Dr. Robert Sallis - a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine - said, "Do topical analgesics help heal the injury or get an athlete back to activity any quicker? The answer is no … there's no evidence to support that topical analgesics actually work."
Then why are they so popular? It's because of a simple trick your mind plays on you, called the placebo effect. Based on their popularity, it must be quite a strong effect indeed. And if that were the end of the story, it might not be a big deal.
But it's not the end of the story. The problem is, many of these analgesics contain harmful chemicals. Not long ago, I wrote to you about the story of 17-year-old cross- country runner from New York who died because of methyl salicylate poisoning. Methyl salicylate is the key ingredient in many of the most popular sports creams such as Icy Hot, Ben Gay, ThermaCare, and others.
Experts cautioned that the young girl's death was caused by excessive exertion and bodily heat that contributed to her body's absorption of the chemical. Is that supposed to make anyone feel any better? These are sports creams, after all, so most people apply them before or after spates of intense exertion, which can cause a spike in body heat.
I'll grant you that the young girl's death was out of the ordinary. But I still find it aggravating that there is an entire family of purportedly "medicinal" products out there that have zero clinical evidence or research studies back up their product claims - and have killed at least one person who used them as directed - and yet, the FDA sits idly by, doing nothing. Except, that is, denouncing natural cures and remedies.
About the author
William Campbell Douglass I.I., M.D. has been called "the conscience of modern medicine."
You can sign up for his "Daily Dose" at DouglassReport.com.