HEADED FOR A DRUG BUST?
By Carol Crenna
Bill Maher, social and political commentator and host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher quips, “If you believe you need to take all the pills the pharmaceutical industry says you do then you’re already on drugs.”
If we don’t address the actual cause of our health problems, rather than using a bandage approach to symptoms, then we won’t find a solution to illness or to our rising healthcare crisis. As Maher states, we won’t stop being sick until we stop making ourselves sick.
NO MONEY IN DEAD PEOPLE
Maher feels that because there is no money in healthy people or in dead people, pharmaceutical companies, and the government policies that support them, focus on people in the middle. He refers to those who have one or more chronic condition that makes them reliant (or so it would seem) on prescription drugs.
As a result, medical researchers have mainstreamed formerly rare diseases, and may even “come up with the pill before they come up with the disease.”
We the public are ultimately responsible, of course. According to Julian Whitaker, MD, Whitaker Wellness Institute, California, the primary reason that our medical system is out of control is because we believe everything that doctors say. We take their advice without questioning.
WHITE COAT DOESN’T MEAN WHITE HORSE
“If you take at face value what another person says simply because he is wearing a white coat, then you are being neither responsible nor reasonable, and you must share in the responsibility when things go wrong,” Whitaker writes in his monthly newsletter Health & Healing. Doctors aren’t rescuers; in fact, they are often just as tired, impatient, distracted, unconscious and even unsure as other people.
He stresses that you must do research about the benefits and drawbacks of drug treatments to make informed decisions. Consider whether a drug really is the best option for you, or whether you should get a second opinion.
Caring for people with chronic, often preventable, conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure accounts for 75 per cent of medical spending. Given the huge human and financial cost of chronic diseases, trying to avoid them through preventative health seems obvious.
But, like, Senator Tom Harkin states in Newsweek Magazine, “We don’t have a healthcare system; we have a ‘sick care’ system. The current system is about patching things up after the fact. We spend untold hundreds of billions on pills, surgery and hospitalization, but spend peanuts, 3 per cent of healthcare dollars, for prevention.”
GETTING OFF YOUR BUTT
Comedian Maher points out that drug advertising always makes the initial disclaimer, “When diet and exercise fail…,” but diet and exercise don’t fail. It’s proven by studies like the one from Duke University, for example, revealing that exercise is just as effective for depression as Paxil and Zoloft. Maher continues, “So ask your doctor if getting off of your butt is right for you.”
WHO IS SICK IN BED WITH WHOM?
In the book Ethics, the Medical Profession and the Pharmaceutical Industry, Howard Brody, MD, lays out the facts to determine whether the medical-pharmaceutical relationship is an ethical one.
He says that small pharmaceutical companies in the late 19th century, formerly called “ethical” drug makers, and unscrupulous large “patent-medicine peddlers” gradually became aligned and dependent on each other.
Half a century later, they courted medical researchers and doctors. They found those doctors that were willing to promote drug-based approaches for patients rather than more naturopathic ones at that time, and funded them. According to Dr. Brody, these connections have continued to grow, evident in lucrative contracts that fuel medical research, generous financing of postgraduate medical education, and subtle manipulation of research data.
They’re revealed in logo-ed promotional trinkets in doctors’ offices and “Ask your doctor…” television ads. Brody also questions the close relationship that the FDA has with physicians.
RESPECT DRUGS AS MUCH AS DOCTORS
These relationships keep your doctor’s prescription pad full – but also give us life-saving drugs. Medicines are vital and we owe much to their powerful benefits, but it’s that power that should be respected, not abused. Drugs are drugs, whether they are alcohol, prescriptions or cocaine; they have detrimental, addictive, sometimes dangerous side effects.
One study shows that for every dollar spent on prescription drugs, $1.30 is spent taking care of their side effects.
DOES THE PATIENT COME FIRST?
Brody’s book offers ample data showing that patients’ interests aren’t always being served; the industry pays for expensive drugs when cheaper would do, and it risks offering questionable drugs brought to market too soon by manufacturers.
FIRST RULE OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION’S BIBLE: DO NO HARM
“Research that is driven by marketing rather than scientific aims would seem, in the end, to be low-quality research,” Dr. Brody comments about the Vioxx scandal. “A profession is not just a way of making money; it’s a form of public trust. …Medicine has for many decades been betraying this public trust.”
Dr. Brody says prying medicine and the pharmaceutical industry apart will probably take an act of government, but will this happen?
In the end, it’s not just about prevention or early detection of disease, it’s about getting people to consider that maybe the answer won’t be in the form of another pill. It is in having the courage, patience, self-love and inner trust to get to the root cause of illness, and then to take action with that knowledge in the best way for the body.
- Youtube, Bill Maher, Real Time with Bill Maher “Pharmaceutical Rant”
- “The State of America’s Health as Obama Takes Office” US News World, January 2, 2009
- Newsweek Magazine, Dec 26, 2008, Ending the ‘Sick Care’ System, Sen. Tom Harkin
- Julian Whitaker, MD, monthly newsletter HEALTH & HEALING,
- Your Definite Guide to Wellness Medicine Ethics, the Medical Profession and the Pharmaceutical Industry, Howard Brody, MD, 2008