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Prescription Drug Usage


By Joseph Serio R.Ph. Registered Pharmacist


Prescription drug usage on the rise blares the headlines. Americans pick up 2.8 billion prescriptions a year; that one for every man, women and child in the United States. These and other sorry facts were part of a recent article from the AP wire service. Sorry I say; yes, and for good reason.

One, we are an over medicated society, that seemingly has lost its ability to fend for ourselves when it comes to making good commonsense decisions as to treating medical problems before they became a major issue. The medical community in addition fares no better than the public in understanding that they are too responsible to ensure that medical care is provided at the lowest possible cost for effective treatment.

We will explore a case studies that illustrate that point. A 28 year old female came to the pharmacy with a prescription for Accutane; a powerful acne medication that is indicated for severe acne. The patient had a seasonal acne problem that flared only in the summer months. Her acne was of a variety that when the cooler weather returned the acne went away. The patient had even gone to the trouble of bringing a picture of herself (prior to the summer) to her doctor to illustrate that is was a cyclical problem. Despite the picture and the mildness of her condition she was prescribed Accutane which she presented to the pharmacy. There were 3 problems with the therapy in this case. One, the drug was not indicated for a condition of this nature that was mild and seasonal in nature (and controllable in more holistic ways as I will demonstrate); and two, the staggering cost of the medication. A one month supply is $380.00 and 3 months is indicated so the total cost would be $1140.00. The third issue is the side effects of the medication which range in severity from extreme dryness of the skin, changes in vision, difficulty in wearing contact lens during and after therapy. In addition there is a severe warning that is so significant that warning labels appear on each 10 pills dispensed that you CANNOT get pregnant while on this medication or for months after the medication is discontinued or there is a very high probability that you will have a child with birth defects. Not exactly the kind of drug you would want to take if you had mild acne and were of childbearing age. What was done in this case was based on her very knowledgeable history of her condition came to the conclusion that it was allergy induced and if the allergens could become less reactive she would not have the acne. A course of quercetin was given along with a recommendation to use vitamin A (note:there are precautions with its use). The quercetin is the mainstay of the therapy and is a bioflavonoid that works by making the body less reactive to allergens. It prevents the body from releasing biochemicals that cause the allergic reaction.

IF THE REACTION DOES NOT OCCUR YOU DON'T HAVE TO TREAT IT AFTER THE FACT. I capitalize this because the mainstay of western medicine to this day is to use drugs to treat symptoms as opposed to getting to the basis of understanding of what is causing the problem in the first place. The patient had a good result with the holistic therapy and was significantly better off in the pocketbook, not to mention the negative effects that drugs have on the body.

Let's talk for a minute on what drugs do over a lifetime. The simple answer is WE DON'T REALLY KNOW! What we know in the short run is 1.5 million Americans require hospitalization and 100,000 die because of side effects of drugs. That is a fact and you will see that number rise as the push to use more drugs continues. The obvious solution besides doctors and pharmacists working more closely together (what a novel thought that it should be like that where in actuality drug representatives and doctors work most closely together, which is three quarters of the problem), is to diminish the number of drugs uses.

Back to the point. We don't know what drugs do over a lifetime and therefore they should be last resort; not first resort. We can however theorize and say that anytime you introduce a drug into the body, you run the risk with repeated, long term use of compromising the bodies ability to cleanly eliminate it and hence cause negative long term effects that we will only clearly understand when we look back on this generation. A final comment on our patient example above. Besides the very frightening sides effects of the drug, the real shock is the cost of the medication. Patients for the most part do not understand costs because of drug insurance (80% coverage). Not only that doctors are just as poor in that understanding. They prescribe based on the fact that someone else is paying for it so nobody cares. The drug companies take full advantage of that and price according(to the point of thievery I might add). They're standard retort is new drug research is very expensive and compared to hospitalization it is inexpensive. Sounds like the right spin unless you're in the business and know that 80% of all new drugs are me too drugs; in other words modified copies of existing formulas.

As for the hospital schlock; it's a great angle when you're ridiculously expensive to compare yourself to the something that is even more ridiculously expensive to sound cheap. The fact of the matter is that 7 cents of every dollar in the US is directly or indirectly spent on pharmaceuticals and the major beneficiary is the drug companies themselves, not the people who still believe that drugs are the answer.

Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. You should read carefully all product packaging. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.