Navigating the Overmedicated American Medical System

The Problem

Purchasing prescription drugs directly from a manufacturer without a prescription is illegal yet having prescription drug ads bombard you in your home via television ads is legal.  Prior to 1997, these ads were illegal.  As a result, on average, big pharma now spends more on product advertising than product development.  This has undoubtedly been one of the biggest contributors to creating the most medicated country in the world.
Today the United States and New Zealand are the only countries in the world that allow for DTCA (direct to consumer advertisement) for prescription medications.  The main goal of these ads is to relay a symptom to the consumer and promote you to "ask your doctor" about the medication.  This leaves the clinician down the difficult path to denying care and possibly losing a patient.  The psychological reason a prescriber may give in is limitless however the numbers don't lie.  In a recent study published in Medical Care, 50% of patients asking their doctor for a medication they saw in a television ad get a prescription.  In the same study, patients requesting a prescription for OxyContin were 20% successful!
Despite FDA regulations, DTCA is still the wild west.  The FDA has rules and regulations in place to regulate the message to consumers but with 75,000 pharmaceuticals currently available and the seemligly endless streams to advertise, it is truly the wild west for drug advertisers. 

The Facts

  • Nearly 70% of Americans are on a prescription medication
  • Nearly 50% are on 2 medications
  • 100,000 deaths per year can be attributed to prescription medications
  • 9 out of 10 prescribers accept gifts from the drug industry
  • the U.S. ranks 17th in life expectancy among developed nations and by far ranks 1st in prescription consumption

The Argument

Big pharma wants you to live longer and they want to make money.  The industry would argue that they are improving lives and feeding the human nature of survival.  This is a noble cause and there is certainly some truth behind it but many have gone too far in many instances.

Big pharmacy chains such as Walgreens and CVS want to keep you sick so you keep coming back for more medication.  It would be very pressing to determine the difference between a modern big box pharmacy and a pharmacy in the 1950s.  One might even argue that it has even taken a step back by promoting the overmedication of Americans.  In fact, every pharmacist at Walgreens and CVS is given a bonus for increasing the number of prescriptions dispensed per patient.

The Solution

  • Trust what your doctor prescribes
  • Ask your doctor what has been shown to avoid health problems
  • Do a personal training session
  • Know your family history
  • Get a nutrition/dietician consultation
  • Avoid buying into advertisement claims about your health
  • Avoid conversations with pharmacists at the big box pharmacies that say, "you will be on this the rest of your life"
  • Find a pharmacist that understands your Doctor's entire prescription (Diet, Exercise, Sleep, Stress, Medication)


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