Over the last decade, America’s reliance on prescription drugs has grown by staggering proportions. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s June 2006 report, “Prescription Drug Trends,” the number of prescriptions purchased per capita in the U.S. population rose from 7.9 in 1994 to 12.3 in 2005.
Medications in America are increasingly expensive, and every month a new ‘magic’ pill appears. We are constantly bombarded with commercials for drugs that list side effects that sound worse than the original ailment. I’m sure you’ve seen the one for a new medication for rheumatoid arthritis that implies it is more than worth the possible side effects, which include cancer. Excuse me? Why would I take a drug that could cause cancer? And my next question is – why would the FDA approve such a drug?
The answer to that may lie in the fact that drug companies have the largest lobby in Washington and give generously to political campaigns. The pharmaceutical industry is one of the richest in the country. They charge exorbitantly high prices for their products because they can and they wield a lot of political clout that influences the FDA. Pharmaceutical companies also offer big sponsorships to medical schools and offer presentations to medical students, teaching them about the benefits of their products. These doctors then believe modern drugs are the quickest and most effective way to cure any symptom.
Why do we take all these medications? Because it’s become standard procedure for doctors to prescribe them for any problem we have. And we listen to our doctors because they know more about our health than we do, right? Actually, no. They know how to diagnose the symptoms. Do they ‘cure’ our ailments? No, they treat our symptoms. Prescription drugs do not cure diseases; they merely serve as a temporary band-aid for the problem. And in a lot of cases, medications create more ‘symptoms’ that need to be treated with another medication. It’s a vicious cycle without a cure.
It would be a good idea if we all stepped back a moment and looked at our situation objectively. We could adopt a nutritious diet (more fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains, less sugar and saturated fats), hop off the couch and get some exercise, drink plenty of pure water, get enough sleep and quality relaxation time, reduce stress in our lives, limit alcohol use and quit smoking. This would dramatically improve our health status and reduce or eliminate the need for prescription drugs. Wouldn’t that be an easier, less costly way to live our lives? Information is power, and that power is in our hands.
Experts say prescription drug utilization is only going to continue growing over the next decade, due to an aging baby boomer population that is demanding more health services; and innovative new treatments for heart disease, diabetes and other conditions caused by longer life spans and poor lifestyle choices; the increasing popularity of lifestyle drugs designed to treat conditions such as obesity and erectile dysfunction; and aggressive drug company advertising designed to stimulate consumer desire for another quick-fix pill.
In 2005 alone the pharmaceutical industry spent more than $11.4 billion on advertising, with a growing proportion of the spending, $4.2 billion, being direct-to-consumer advertising designed specifically to fuel public demand for new drugs. Notice how the commercials always tell you to ask your doctor if this wonder drug is right for you?
Seniors account for 34% of all prescriptions dispensed and some experts believe the elderly are being overmedicated. Today, it is estimated that nearly half of all Americans age 65 or older take five or more prescriptions for multiple ailments, with 12 percent of women age 65 or older swallowing 10 or more medications. This mixing of so many medications can create a dangerous drug cocktail with adverse drug reactions that can harm your health and increase doctor visits, emergency room visits and hospitalizations
On a more positive note: How about the medication for RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) that may create increased urges to gamble or sexual activity? When I saw that one, I thought that perhaps those women could team up with the men who take Viagra and experience a 6-hour erection and they could take a trip to Vegas. Then everybody’s happy!