Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Where do you get medical information?

The Huffington Post posted a piece a few days ago by Dr. Andrew Weil, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, about pharmaceutical commercials, and quite honestly, I found myself nodding in agreement throughout much of it especially when he listed the three reasons why he worries about direct-to-consumer marketing. Dr. Weil writes (emphasis mine):
1. Drug ads strengthen our belief in pharmaceutical drugs as the cures for all of our problems. In fact, the consequences of poor lifestyle choices cannot be undone with pills.
2. Many advertised drugs are not only ineffective, but have serious side effects that are frequently played down (and occasionally concealed) by manufacturers. Because heavily advertised drugs have such vast profit potential, political and financial interests collude to speed them to market before they have received sufficient scientific scrutiny.
3. Ads circumvent better sources of information and make people believe that they are being proactive about their health when they request an advertised drug. Thirty-second TV spots that trade on emotion and celebrity contribute little or nothing of value to patient education.
There are no wonder pills, no magic eraser for not taking care of yourself through proper diet, exercise, and rest (sleeping and slowing down while awake). Medicines have real side effects, and while in a trauma situation, they might be necessary for your (or my) situation, but one of my goals with my health is to avoid them by properly caring for my body to maintain its health and wellness.
In my opinion (and the opinion of many others) drug companies are not out for a cure, and it is not in their best interest to keep anyone healthy. They need for the population to be sick and want to continue to band-aid medical problems in order to increase their profit. Why would I be so doubteful? Dr. Weil points out one reason-- " In 2004, American drug companies spent 24.4% of their sales revenue on promotion, versus just 13.4% for research and development." -- but there are many.
Unfortunately most of the current health care system in the United States is not focused on prevention and wellness. Doctors are not educated on prevention. I see this in their poor breastfeeding advice and over-willingness to prescribe a pill or perform surgery instead of discussing prevention.
What do you think? Are you focused on prevention or triage?


Shonet L. Newton said...

Thank you for addressing this issue. It is something that has also been bothering me and it makes me angry that the pharmaceutical companies are using us as test subjects in order to make a profit. While some people genuinely need medication, I can't help feeling that the drug companies are pushing for more and more people to be medicated in some form.

Del said...

I'm torn here. I'm thinking of two people with Type II diabetes. One takes insulin by shot instead of watching their food intake/exercising, and the other takes pills (two types I think) and watches what they eat/exercises. I don't know which is better. Would research into the disease help more or would understanding the drugs/how they effect a person be more important? It's tricky. But the fact of the matter is they both need medicine. Period. Diabetes is a huge problem here.

This is why I don't work for management and am a scientist only. We are (my company and others too) looking to fix disease in the future. This funding does occur regularly which is great. Gives hope that maybe we'll be a healthier nation sooner rather than later.

Maria said...

I am not sure what you define as a "fix" for a disease, because a life long dependency on drugs is not a "fix" to me. Actual cures are fixes. Prevention is a fix. But taking a pill or a shot is status quo. Prescribing more pills is not a healthier nation to me-- that is one big band-aid.

I cannot comment specifically on the people you reference, because I do not know their personal situations.

Del said...

About the 'fix' - sorry, wrong choice of words. I meant that many companies are working on various health issues for now and the future. My company is one of them. I didn't mean working on drugs to cure/fix them, but understanding the disease better.

As for the diabetes, I was trying to give an example of people who need the drugs at this second and how some people will change their lifestyle and some people won't. Very simple. But more specifically, science is changing to help these people out. For example, adding insulin to healthy food instead of taking drugs. It quite interesting.

Nothing related to big pharm at all...

Rebecca said...

"Ask you doctor about... everything!"

I think the pharma commercials often make people believe they have a disease that they probably don't, and for those who are sick, it makes them believe that they have to have a certain name-brand medication when there may be a more effective or cost-friendly alternative.

phdmama said...

Great post. I am not against medication when it is needed. However, I believe as a country, we are overmedicated because it is easier than making drastic lifestyle changes OR because doctors are getting a cut of the profit from prescribing drugs, and some (obviously not all) will prescribe something a person doesn't really need.

Maria said...

Of course-- if the medicine is needed, by all means take it (as I have said in other posts), but the marketing of drugs and greediness in the system blur the lines incredibly in making such a determination.

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