The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that 86% of our healthcare costs are spent on individuals with one or more chronic conditions. In addition, chronic conditions are responsible for 7 out of 10 deaths. Think about these statistics.

Chronic conditions can be ongoing or reoccurring, and they can last for years. Some cause only minor annoyances while others can greatly affect the quality of our lives. Often, people deal with more than one condition at a time. Complicating matters, no cures exist for these disorders.

The usual course of action—you go to your doctor or healthcare professional, they say you have such and such, they hand you a prescription, you fill it, and begin taking pills. Have more than one disorder? Then, you’ll probably be taking multiple medications. Because of this, the question must arise—what about the possibility of drug interactions?

In fact, your “condition” could actually be the result of a reaction to a drug you’re taking or perhaps, the interaction of one medication with another. Please take time to read what the side effects are for each medication you’re taking as well as how it interacts with the other drugs you may have been prescribed. You may be surprised by what you discover.

We are a nation that automatically seeks drugs to treat our symptoms; you could say we have been conditioned to seek this approach. Have a symptom, ask your doctor about a drug you’ve seen advertised or one a friend mentioned to you. I can understand this reaction to immediately seek a pill; if you’re suffering, you want relief.

But is this the appropriate response? Does the symptom reflect the underlying cause? In many cases it does not. How can a doctor really know what to prescribe without knowing the true cause and given this, will the treatment be successful?

For example, you’re having stomach/digestive issues and yet, your doctor says everything appears fine. What do you do? Do you reach for antacids for relief? Have you thought about first eliminating dairy and wheat from your diet for a month before taking that pill? Try this elimination approach and see if your discomfort lessens or disappears. Isn’t it worth a 31-day trial to possibly avoid having to take a prescription or over-the-counter medications for the rest of your life?

During this period of healthcare upheaval, our nation needs to shift to one that practices preventive medicine. Take control—make the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes that can eliminate or greatly reduce your chances of having to deal with a chronic condition. Do you truly want to face an endless cycle of doctor visits as well as taking multiple medications? Remember, the pharmaceutical companies want us to have this dependence—they can’t make money if we’re healthy.

If you’re thinking, my parents or grandparents have/had this condition; it’s in my genes. Please, think again. The McArthur Study reveals:

  • Only 30% of aging/longevity can be assigned to genetics; in fact as we get older our genetics become less important, and guess what, lifestyle and environment become more essential.
  • The significance of an active engagement with life.
  • The importance of diet, exercise, and in certain cases, medication in delaying or eliminating the emergence of disease.

Keeping these above points in mind, examine the various aspects of your lifestyle and environment. Look for foods, habits, actions, products, and behaviors that are detrimental to your health and wellbeing. If during your examination you find something that’s damaging, change it for the better and reap the rewards of that change.

Looking At All The Numbers

Last Wednesday, The New England Journal of Medicine published a new study that was the culmination of a ten-year investigation regarding the number of emergency room visits due to the use of dietary supplements—sixty-three emergency room departments were used. The results of this study—23,000 visits and 2,154 hospitalizations per year. The main culprits were weight loss and energy supplements.

Such studies bring out criticism that consumers are not being protected from harm. These complaints also like to highlight the 1994 federal law stating supplements are considered safe until proven otherwise.

First and foremost, all emergency room visits and hospitalizations are regrettable.

As you know from my previous posts, I’m a firm believer in looking at a wider canvas. Regarding the above 1994 law, please refer to my post on GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) on June 18 of this year—a food ingredient does not have to be listed on a label if it has not caused harm. Remember it’s the food companies that perform the testing.

If we look at problems with nutritional supplements, light must also be cast on the potentially dangerous effects of prescription drugs (Rx) and over-the-counter medications (OTC); some examples:

  • A 2009 Drug Abuse Warning Network Report states 4.6 million drug-related (Rx, OTC, supplements) emergency room visits per year.
  • A 2006 NBC report states that 1.5 million drug errors are made per year in hospitals, nursing homes, and doctors’ offices.
  • A 1998 report on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) states over 100,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths per year occurred because of these medications.
  • In July 2000, The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study reporting 20-30% of patients receive contraindicated care and 44,000 to 98,000 die each year due to medical errors.

As the above show, numerous studies and statistics can be used to highlight the dangers surrounding Rx, OTC, supplements, and medical care.

We must be careful when reading about such studies to remember that the numbers are reflecting one study, and we must ask ourselves is the media manipulating us to have us jump to certain conclusions. In my mind, attention should be paid to the problems, issues, and solutions in all the various aspects of health, wellness, and well-being.

From $13.50 to $750 Overnight

Recently Turning Pharmaceuticals increased the price of Daraprim, (a drug used to fight parasite infections) overnight from $13.50 a pill to $750.00 a pill. Thus, a 30-day supply went from $405 to $22,500 a year for a drug that is 62-years-old.

Martin Shkreli, Turning’s chief executive officer, said they would reduce the cost of the drug due to the public outcry. I believe, as I write this post, this has yet to occur.

Turning isn’t the only company rewarding itself and its investors in this manner. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International also purchases prescription drugs and then, increases their prices. Some examples:

  • Cuprimine (Wilson disease)—from $888 for a hundred 250 mg capsules to $26,189.
  • Glumetza (diabetes)—from $896 for ninety 1,000 mg tablets to $10,020.
  • Isuprel (irregular or slow heart beat)—from $4,489 for twenty-five 0.2 ml ampules to $36,811.

Valeant and Turning were not involved in the research and/or development of these drugs; therefore, they didn’t incur any R&D costs. They just bought these medications and raised the prices. Why is Gordon Gekko’s line “greed is good” sticking in my mind?

Certain politicians have spoken out, and some are calling for Valeant to be subpoenaed for information regarding their price increases and rightly so.

The health and life of individuals depend on these medications, and such extreme increases jeopardize their wellbeing. For example, one man on Cuprimine saw his out of pocket costs for the drug increase from $366 a month to approximately $1,800 a month—a rise from $4,392 a year to $21,600 a year.

Could you handle such an increase? What would you have to give up in order to pay for the prescription? What would happen if you have to stop taking the drug because you couldn’t afford it? Valeant does talk about insurance coverage as well as financial assistance programs to enable individuals to have access to their drugs. Unfortunately, such assistance isn’t guaranteed.

Currently, we are being inundated with candidates running for president; I don’t know if you have a favorite. If you do, try to find out where he or she stands on this issue, because it reflects on where they would stand on other issues as well as whose interests they truly care for and support.

For more information please read the Andrew Pollack and Sabrina Tavernise article I used for the information contained in this blog or you can also conduct your own research. Thank you.

Magic Bullets

Because of my current career and my previous work in marketing research, I take notice of the continual proliferation, via the media, of drug advertisements. Will a company ever develop a pill to counteract the hype associated with some of these medications while simultaneously alerting us to the reality that we, as a society, are overmedicated?

The attraction of many prescription drugs is their promise of providing a magic bullet—the pill that will cure everything. Doesn’t this remind you of the snake oil peddlers of the past hawking their magic elixirs? It’s not much of leap from these peddlers of old to the slick television and print ads of today beckoning us to get a prescription from our doctor for illnesses/conditions we never knew existed.  I’m sorry if I’m the one to break the news, but just as a magic elixir didn’t exist, neither does a magic bullet.

For me, just hearing the various potential side effects of current prescription drugs, such as suicidal thoughts, hostility, depression, abnormal dreams (what are they exactly?), and even death, would make me think twice the next time my doctor wanted to write me a new script or two.

In an earlier post, I mentioned a marketing research project I worked on for a pharmaceutical company. They wanted participants who were at risk for type II diabetes and who were controlling their symptoms with diet and exercise. Guess what? We couldn’t find anyone. Everyone was already on medication.

How did we become a society focused on illness rather than health? Why do we give control of our health to little blue, white, green, or whatever color pills? Please realize, I recognize there are times when a prescription medication is necessary and appropriate, but there are times when we need to take control of our health and wellness. Related to this, please see my post of May 21, Are Your Prescriptions Killing You?

From my perspective, talk to your doctor about the feasibility of making healthy lifestyle changes first (as my client wanted with the type II diabetes study) before popping a pill(s) and falling prey to their potential scary side effects.

At this moment, let’s start a new movement—thinking in terms of health instead of disease. Will you join me?