Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pills, Drugs, Commercials, Pills and More Pills. Why?

While the outcome of the Super Bowl won't be known until Sunday evening, I can guarantee you now that there will be a host of commercials from the pharmaceutical industry with the sole purpose of selling drugs that, in general, we don't need and are hastening the destruction of our health and our health care system.

Dr. Pauline Chen writes the "Doctor Patient" column on the New York Times Well blog and her most recent post, "Have These Symptoms? Buy This Drug," focuses on this subject:
"It began suddenly a little over 10 years ago. With impressive fluency, friends, family members and patients started asking me about random medications, the odd syncopations of those invented, polysyllabic pharmaceutical brand names – Viagra, Lipitor — rolling perfectly off their tongues.

"The questions they asked about those drugs did not reflect breaking news or the results of scientific studies. Rather, they were a reflection of sound bites, advertisements and the draw of celebrities who endorsed them, all part of carefully conceived marketing schemes."
Chen's post is really disturbing (click here to read it), but it didn't come as a surprise to me since I've read "Our Daily Meds," a book about "how the pharmaceutical companies transformed themselves into slick marketing machines and hooked the nation on prescription drugs."

According to that book's author, Melody Petersen:
"Prescription medicines can help you if you get the right drug at the right time. But over the last 25 years, a powerful force has made that less likely to happen. That force is aggressive promotion on the part of the pharmaceutical industry. The big drug companies have learned that if they spend enough promoting a drug – even one that often doesn’t work as advertised – they can earn billions of dollars.

"The consequences of this industrial strategy have been devastating because all drugs have risks. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Americans – about 270 each day – die from medicines they've taken just as the doctor directed."
Also, click here to read an opinion piece ("Ritalin Gone Wrong") from a psychologist who questions the long-term efficacy of drugs used to treat children's' attention-deficit disorder. From the article:
"Attention-deficit drugs increase concentration in the short term, which is why they work so well for college students cramming for exams. But when given to children over long periods of time, they neither improve school achievement nor reduce behavior problems. The drugs can also have serious side effects, including stunting growth.

Sadly, few physicians and parents seem to be aware of what we have been learning about the lack of effectiveness of these drugs."

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