A cancer drug for macular degeneration?

Yesterday, I was reading an article describing the pending lawsuit against a UK hospital for using an unlicensed anticancer drug for treating age related macular degeneration (AMD) instead of the licensed version of the drug, which apparently costs 12 times more. The pharmaceutical company selling the more expensive drug is suing the hospital. I do not know the whys and wherefores, but can only assume that loss of revenue is the main factor, although the hospital does seem to be falling foul of the prescribing cascade.

This story caught my interest for two reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates the sheer power of the pharmaceutical giants. Secondly though, and I feel more importantly, it begs the obvious question; why is it that hospitals are choosing to use a cancer drug that is not licensed for use in AMD, to treat a degenerative condition that is fundamentally caused by nutritional deficiency? Surely, that completely flies in the face of common sense. That, in essence, is what AMD is – a degeneration of the macula, part of the retina that is involved in fine focus, which is totally preventable through good nutrition and the provision of sufficient quantities of appropriately targeted antioxidants.

I lectured recently in London on the subject of oxidative stress and the importance of a good, broad spectrum of antioxidants for protection of all our body systems against degenerative change. I stressed in this lecture that we absolutely cannot focus on just the “big 4” antioxidants that we have probably heard of (Vitamins A, C, E and selenium), because there are probably more than 10,000 protective antioxidants that we can derive from our food, and we need all of them! If you missed this lecture, it’s available on CD or MP3 via this link.


Years ago, I saw a glorified vitamin pill being sold in a pharmacy with the proud labelling “helps to protect your eyes” or words to that effect.  Interested to see the ingredients, I read the label. Remembering that there are two main antioxidants that are involved in protection of the macula, these being lutein and zeaxanthin, I was keen to see if these were present. I was both amazed and disappointed to find that the label stated only retinol (a form of vitamin A), ascorbic acid (part, but by no means all, of the vitamin C complex), and vitamin E, with none of them being stated as “food source”. So here we are, a supplement definitely pretending to be something it is not, because it has been clearly demonstrated that vitamins A, C and E are of no value as antioxidants for the macula.

This kind of labelling and marketing plays on people’s partial knowledge and serves no one. Why is it that we are still, after all this time, being told in effect that as long as we take large doses of individual isolated supplements, we will be fine? Back to our friends lutein and zeaxanthin, found in abundance in green leaves and yellow vegetables. These are the real superstars in our fight against macular degeneration, not some unlicensed cancer drug! When will we learn that food is our real medicine? Does this unlicensed cancer drug that is being used in the British hospital contain lutein and zeaxanthin, in its whole-food, plant form? I, for one, would doubt it. One of the reasons that I am still a fan of Juice Plus after all this time is that it has been shown to deliver key antioxidants to the body. One study, published in the journal Current Therapeutic Research, indicated that blood levels of both lutein and zeaxanthin rose by 44% after just 28 days on this whole food supplement.

To avoid and treat macular degeneration, we need to look to food, not the pharmaceutical industry. Drugs have never been able to treat a nutritional deficiency, and it is highly unlikely that they will be able to do so in the future. What are your thoughts?

About Max Tuck

Hippocrates Health Educator. Long term living foods vegan. Athlete, lecturer, author of four books (with the 5th coming soon) and firm advocate of healthy living.
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