I-Team: U.S. health care more focused on medications

Posted on 18 May 10:19

DrVita featured on CBS News!

By George Knapp, Chief Investigative Reporter
By Matt Adams, Chief Photojournalist


LAS VEGAS -- Americans spend more on health care than the next 10 nations combined, with 20 percent of our gross national product going into health-related expenses.

Yet the U.S. ranks pretty low in several key health categories.

Critics say one problem is the U.S. tends to focus on treating disease rather than on prevention. Some 70 percent of Americans take prescription medications, but this country pays far less attention to better nutrition that could prevent sickness.

The I-Team gained an inside look at a cutting-edge vitamin company whose founder thinks our health is being held hostage to profits.

“We are the first and maybe the only nutraceutical company in America to have this latest and greatest technology,” DrVita founder Wayne Gorsek said.

Gorsek is justifiably proud of the high tech wonderland of a factory he built in Las Vegas. He's not a doctor, but his DrVita brand is vying to set a new standard for the supplement industry, which has had its share of problems.

Usefulness of dietary supplements fiercely debated

His operation is a maze of stainless steel and glass, with as many quality controls and safety measures as a drug company facility. That's because Gorsek sees drug companies as real competition.

“We're now spending $3 trillion a year, in excess of $3 trillion a year, on health care, 330 billion a year on drugs, which, most of them have deadly side effects,” he said. “They don't cure anything in most examples.”

Big Pharma and American medicine are almost schizophrenic when it comes to vitamins and other supplements. Thousands of scientific studies have documented specific health benefits from optimal levels of vitamins and nutrients.

Surveys show that most medical professionals use supplements, but the official position of the medical establishment is that they do no good. To confuse things even more, Gorsek said Big Pharma now owns nearly all of the major supplement brands.

He alleged that most multivitamins are worthless because the amount of active ingredients packed into a single tablet is far too low to be of much benefit. His company produces what Gorsek said is a far superior product but it's difficult to get his supplements on the shelves of major retailers.

“The drug industry throws so much money at the retailers to control that shelf space, then they throw so much money into marketing, TV, magazines, you name it,” he told the I-Team.

Big Pharma spend $24 billion annually on marketing, more than is spent on drug research. The money goes not only into TV ads for specific drugs, but also into payments to doctors and medical schools.

The industry earns billions of dollars in profits by selling products that kill more than 100,000 Americans per year, prompting some critics to label it as the new mafia. Gorsek said drug companies play rough.

When Australian doctors complained about side effects from the now-infamous drug Vioxx, its maker plotted ways to “neutralize or discredit” those critics. TV's popular Doctor Oz, who often advocates the use of supplements, was recently blasted by a panel of doctors, nearly all of whom had financial links to drug companies.

Gorsek said the Food and Drug Administration, which supposedly regulates drug companies, is an ally instead.

“A lot of the people who control and run the FDA come out of the pharmacy industry or go into the pharmacy industry or have ties to the pharmacy industry,” Gorsek said. “They want drugs to be a monopoly on treating disease.”

The FDA is ostensibly neutral on vitamins. On its website, it advises consumers to beware, and prohibits sellers from making specific health claims. The agency also states it will go after supplements that are either contaminated or otherwise harmful.

Gorsek said his facility exceeds all FDA standards. He even pays to have periodic inspections by NSF International, an independent authority that makes the results public.

The only way America will get a handle on runaway health costs is by focusing on prevention instead of on more costly treatment, Gorsek said. He said supplements could reduce disease, which might be the reason they are denigrated by the medical industry.

Said Gorsek: “You could reduce health care costs and disease rates 50-plus percent, based on the published literature, and that would take half the income and maybe 80 percent of their profits, the doctors, the drug companies, the hospital, uh, and take it out of their pockets and back into the consumers' pockets.”

The DrVita brand is sold mostly online. Costco is the only retailer that carries another of his brands.

Gorsek's advice when choosing supplements is to avoid standard multivitamins. Instead, he suggested looking for supplements that offer many times the official minimum daily requirements. That requires consumers to do some research on their own.