Leading cardiologist and anti-sugar campaigner Dr Aseem Malhotra told an audience at a recent Cambridge Union debate that “we cannot drug people into being healthier”.
Dr Malhotra, a low carb advocate and former clinical associate to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, was responding to Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer (CEO) of pharmaceutical giant AstraZenecan, where he argued that overmedication is hurting rather than helping patients.
The subject of lifestyle has become a major talking point in the medical and diabetes communities as worldwide rates of type 2 diabetes rates increase, and several studies are demonstrating how eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help people put type 2 diabetes into remission.
“The real challenge we have in healthcare at the moment is lifestyle-related disease. Poor diet contributes, according to The Lancet global [burden] of disease reports, to more disease and death than physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol combined,” said Dr Malhotra.
“So really we need better drugs, not more drugs and I believe in the next few years we need a national campaign to reduce the amount of medications people are taking.”
Dr Malhotra cited examples of how medicine has become too much of a corporate industry. He said: “As I’m sure my colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry here know; they have a legal fiduciary obligation to produce profit for their shareholders. Although we’d like it to be the case, they do not have a legal obligation to sell us the best treatment.
“They spend twice as much on marketing as they do on research and development. No wonder we can’t produce new good and innovative drugs.”
Quoting statistics, Dr Malhotra told the listening attendees that more than 60% of the UK adult population are now obese and one in three children will also be deemed overweight by the time they leave primary school.
“We have a complete healthcare system failure and an epidemic of misinformed doctors and misinformed patients, based upon a number of factors,” he said.
“We need to push for healthier lifestyles and we need to be more transparent with patients and then we can have better accountability and better transparency and better quality of care that is lacking in our health service at the moment.”
The Cambridge Union is the oldest continuously running debating society in the world which is best known for its Thursday night debates and individual speaker events.

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