Book Review: The 24-Hour Pharmacist

I'm conflicted about The 24-Hour Pharmacist, by Suzy Cohen. On onehand, I think it's got tons of great information in it that will help save lots of people from taking unnecessary meds and will help them mitigate the negative effects of meds they have to take. But I think that when she strays from her specific areas of research and expertise she gives incomplete (and sometimes just plain incorrect) information, and that the way the book is organized it's hard to use as effectively as it could be.

The strength of this book is that Cohen has been a pharmacist for years, and that she worked with lots of elderly patients in a nursing home so she's seen what the long-term effects of different medications are. She's done a ton of research and tells us exactly why different common medications (mostly for things that affect people in middle age and higher, like high cholesterol and high blood pressure) have the side effects they do. She's really into nutritional therapies (which of course won my heart immediately) and tells you what nutrients are robbed by each med, and how to supplement to mitigate those effects. That's the reason to buy the book, especially if you have parents who are on regular meds or are on regular meds yourself. (I found out from the book that a med my mom takes for her bones has a side effect of causing joint pain, which has been a huge problem for her in the last couple of years that she's been seeking treatment for. Great. But better to know.)

She's not so good in other areas. She mentions some alternative therapies, and has some great information about how and why some of them work or don't. But there are others she mentions but doesn't seem to have done even minimal research on.

The most egregious example I noticed was in the birth control section, when she gives a paragraph to Natural Family Planning/Fertility Awareness Method, which she calls "Ovulation Method, a.k.a., the Rhythm Method." A quick Google search can tell you that ovulation method is NOT the same as the rhythm method, so that's just sloppy. But what's even worse is that she mentions the Billings Ovulation Method and gives the website, but then gives a warning that she asked two women who tried this method and both got pregnant. She doesn't mention, however, how carefully the women followed the method, whether they used any other body signs, etc. Just a blanket warning about something she clearly didn't do much research on. (If she had, she'd easily have come up with at least two people who'd been using forms of NFT/FAM for birth control for 5+ years with no failures.) If she wasn't interested in doing actual research about the method (including getting the basic name right!) she just shouldn't have mentioned it, or should have given a huge disclaimer that she really didn't know anything about it.

Obviously I'm sensitive about FAM because I've had such great personal experience with it, so it's what jumped out at me. But I wonder how many of the other things she mentions are based just on things she's heard, and that made me lose a lot of faith in her advice as a whole. I'd stick to the sections that mention scientific processes and more extensive research, and take the other sections with a huge grain of salt.

The other real problem I have with the book is that it's just too overwhelming sometimes. It seemed like every other page she had something about a different med my dad's taking. What I wanted was some kind of flowchart about how the different meds can cycle around and compound problems so I'd know where to start to unravel my dad's big rubber band ball of treatments. Instead, I just ended up feeling scared and a little hopeless about helping my dad, and then angry about the misinformation about NFT/FAM, and then apprehensive about the veracity of other things in the book, and then tired.

I'm glad I read the book, and think I will refer to it in the coming months to try to help my parents. But I think it could have been a far better book if Cohen (and/or her editors) had done the following things:

  • stick only to the treatments/cures Cohen has actually researched and not rely on one or two casual examples to prove or disprove a treatment
  • have a separate section for the supplements she thinks everyone could benefit from taking regularly, perhaps divided by age and gender
  • give us a roadmap of where to start detoxing if we're on multiple meds

Anyone else?