Okay, so it is no surprise that today, more than ever, most of the North American population is on one or more prescription medications.
It is quite disturbing to see that we have reached such a catastrophe. And do not fool yourself into thinking this is somehow normal – it is in fact a catastrophe when most of us cannot make it through the day without taking one or more prescription drugs.
So who or what is to blame? That is an easy question to answer. Aside from the government, businesses and the economy, the main culprits are: one, the drug companies (obviously) and two, the consumer (unfortunately).
See, the drug companies have discovered there is a great market in “trying” to help people get so called “better”. The key word is that they are stuck in the process of trying, because really they can’t ever have you get better or else you would end their lucrative cash flow. So they put out massive numbers of emotion induced commercials and ads that target the vulnerable consumer, and talk many a doctor into prescribing the latest and greatest drug to their patients.
As for the consumer, well sorry to say, but you are just as equally to blame. Many of us have not only bought into the ads, but have evolved to think that when it comes to our bodies, any unpleasant symptom needs a quick fix (treatment) instead of leading lives in the first place that focus on prevention. We get a headache, joint pain, or a cough… and what do we do, run to get a drug that will quickly erase the symptoms. The problem with this approach is that of course it is a short term solution as it never really solves the root of the problem, just masks it or gives us a quick way of coping with it.
Hence in this article, I want to talk about the greater cons rather than pros of taking many prescription meds and share with you the latest research, which states that Americans are likely exposed to unacceptable side effects of FDA approved drugs due to how these drugs are tested and marketed.
Prescription Drug Statistics
To start, just so we are all on the same page, I thought I would share with you some of the latest statistics:
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, NCHS:
- 45% of people have used at least one prescription drug in the last month (1999-2002)
- 71% of doctor visits involve drug therapy (2005)
- 2.1 drugs ordered per doctor visit (2005)
- 73% of hospital visits involve drug therapy (2005)
- 2.2 drugs ordered per hospital visit (2005)
- 77% of emergency visits involve drug therapy (2005)
- 1.8 drugs ordered per emergency visit (2005)
- Most frequently prescribed drugs (by doctor or hospital) = antidepressants (2005)
- Most frequently prescribed drugs (by emergency) = narcotic analgesics (pain pills) (2005)
According to the medical report “Death by Medicine” by Drs. Gary Null, Carolyn Dean, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio and Dorothy Smith:
- 2.2 million people per year have in-hospital, adverse reactions to prescription drugs (2003)
- 20% of hospital medications for patients had dosage errors (2002)
- 20 million unnecessary antibiotics are prescribed per year for viral infections (2003)
- 783, 936 people die each year due to conventional medicine (2003)
- The American medical system is the current leading cause of death and injury in the US (2003)
According to a report for the Institute of Medicine:
- Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) alone, are the 4th leading cause of death in the United States
- More than 2 million serious adverse drug reactions occur every year from things like improper prescribed dosage, drug abuse and drug interactions
The above are just a few statistics that point to the urgency of addressing this matter in a wide, public manner before more lives are ruined due to the pharmaceutical industry’s loving quick fix.
The Latest Research
According to the latest research that was presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA), Americans are likely to be exposed to unacceptable side effects of FDA-approved drugs such as Vioxx in the future because of fatal flaws in the way new drugs are tested and marketed.
Donald Light, the sociologist who authored the study and a professor of comparative health policy at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, states:
Drug disasters are literally built into the current system of drug testing and approvals in the United States. Recent changes in the system have only increased the proportion of new drugs with serious risks.
Donald Light’s analysis identifies the following, as some of the critical problems with current testing and marketing of drugs:
1. Organizational foundations of patient risk from prescription drugs.
According to Light, institutional reforms to help avoid or reduce future drug disasters are needed. He says that rather than using current approved drugs as benchmarks of efficacy, the existing testing system evaluates the effectiveness of new drugs based on their effects compared to placebos.
Systematic reviews indicate that 1 in 7 new drugs is superior to existing drugs, but 2 in every 7 new drugs result in side effects serious enough for action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including black box warnings, adverse reaction warnings, or even withdrawal of the drug. Based on this system, new drugs are twice as likely to harm patients as to provide them with benefits superior to existing drugs.
2. The design of clinical trials as pharmaceutical companies frequently design their trails to minimize evidence of toxic side effects.
To do so, they sample from a healthier population atypical of patients who will actually take the drug, excluding people who are older, poorer or who have multiple health problems. Trials are run long enough to pick up main effects but not to detect some long term side effects. Approvals are based on these data; so drugs with harmful effects sometimes get through.
3. Serious under-funding of the FDA.
This results in a dependency on the pharmaceutical industry-the industry FDA regulates-to pay its staff. In return for drug company funding, the industry expects faster reviews, but faster reviews potentially fail to identify serious long-term side effects.
Light found that speed-up reviews for safety have more than tripled the number of ‘black box warnings’ of side effects or withdrawals after drugs are on the market. Also, in spite of recent reforms to strengthen the FDA’s role in protecting the public from harmful drugs, the harm to benefit ratio is worsening due to these reviews and relaxed rules that allow companies to promote drugs for unapproved uses.
In conclusion, Light states:
Based on our current system, the designation of ‘safe and effective’ on today’s new drugs could be replaced with, ‘apparently safe based on incomplete information, and more effective than a placebo.’
*The paper, “Institutional Foundations of the Vioxx Disaster,” was presented on Sunday, Aug. 3, at 2:30 p.m. in the Sheraton Boston at the American Sociological Association’s 103rd annual meeting.
If you, like me find the above information disturbing, there are a few simple things that you can do to avoid falling prey as one of the victims to the pharmaceutical industries and take power over your own health.
1. If you are currently not taking any prescription medication – keep it that way!
It is always easier never to start than to stop once you started.
For example, if you have a headache, get to the root of the problem. Are you not sleeping enough? Are you working too much? Instead of taking pain pills, of which the famous acetaminophen, acetylsalicylic acid and ibuprofen seem to be first on people’s lists, try a hot bath, a short walk or even a few deep breaths and some stretching.
If your doctor tells you that you have high cholesterol, adjust your diet and not add statin based pills into your day. Almost any cholesterol, high blood pressure and other heart related symptoms can be reversed using the right diet, thereby bypassing pills and surgery.
Any signs or symptoms your body gives you, should not necessarily be viewed as “bad”. They are your body’s way of communicating with you and the goal is to educate yourself on what those symptoms mean on a deeper level, rather than simply mask them or try to ignore them using a pill, as this usually leads to more serious problems in the long run.
2. If you are currently taking prescription medication – re-examine your lifestyle!
It may be more dangerous to stop some medications cold turkey than continue or slowly wean off of them, so if you are currently on a prescription medication more work is required for you and by no means just stop all your meds.
Things like pain pills can usually be stopped at any time you choose. However, any steroid like meds, heart medication or thyroid pills should never be cut off abruptly. Hence, in these situations, you need to approach your doctor about the safest ways to cut down and possibly wean off of the meds, while at the same time altering your lifestyle to help your body with what it needs in natural ways. If your doctor does not want to cooperate than search out a good naturopath or homeopath to help you take back your health into your own hands.
Upon stopping some drugs, you may experience some unpleasant side effects, but bear through this as your body is simply detoxifying and readjusting its dependency to these chemicals. This is one of the biggest reasons why people can’t even stop drinking coffee as the side effects are unpleasant headaches and such. Unfortunately there is no easy way around this, you just have to be a big boy or girl and bear it for a few days as your system readjusts – trust me, the benefits will be well worth it!
In conclusion, the days when the public had to be pawns to large pharmaceutical industries are quickly disappearing. Thanks to a massive shift in consciousness and the Internet, more and more people are taking back their health by becoming more educated about it and clearly aware of the dangers associated with prescription medication.
Hence, if you are serious about your health, regardless of your current age right now, as it is never too early or too late to start, I cannot stress enough the power of prevention.
It is so much easier to live in natural ways with what and how your body wants and was intended to live, which focus on prevention of its breakdown, rather than seeking treatment once it happens. Of course most of North America has this backwards and feels that prevention is somehow harder than treatment. Because it is easier to surgically clean your arteries rather than deny yourself the greasy hamburger in the first place, right?
I therefore hope to inspire and motivate you through this and other such articles to get serious about your health and understand that your body was built as an amazing system and it is not natural for it to go through what most of us put it through today, hence do not be surprised when it malfunctions.
And of course as always, if you need any extra information, or require any general advice or tips on prevention, I look forward to your questions, comments or concerns.
Sources & Resources
The following 2 articles are excellent, must reads to get a wider and more detailed perspective on this issue:
“Death by Medicine” by by Drs. Gary Null, Carolyn Dean, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio and Dorothy Smith (2003)
“Statistics prove prescription drugs are 16,400% more deadly than terrorists” by Jessica Fraser from Natural News (2005)