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.