Are We an Over-medicated Society?

I’ve always been concerned about the prevalent use of pharmaceuticals to treat every malady that we face.   When my sons were young, they frequently had inner ear infections where the usual treatment was a dosage of strawberry-flavored Amoxicillin (I used to suggest with sarcasm that after kids are born, they should be sent home with a 55-gallon drum of the pink-colored antibiotic).  Meanwhile, I had another family member being treated with multiple drugs — some to treat hypertension and others to simultaneously treat hypotension.   Of course, the physicians didn’t really understand the interaction between the chemicals that were being used to raise the blood pressure and the chemicals that were lowering the blood pressure.

Pharmaceuticals have become so ingrained in our culture that they are almost considered part of our core nutrition.  For example, people love the notion of a water with vitamins, such as Propel (which is essentially bottled tap water after someone dropped a Flintstones vitamin in it).  I remember as a youngster watching new gasoline stations under construction every other week on almost every street corner.  Now every corner has a new CVS or Walgreens, with a drive-thru pharmacy!

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A year ago, I had a complete physical exam and everything turned out fine for me other than my physician indicating that my cholesterol was on the high-side.  He told me that I might want to consider taking Lipitor (note: I’m a shareholder in Pfizer, the maker of the drug).   As an engineer, I instinctively asked him, “What do you expect it to do for me? What is the percentage reduction in my likelihood for a heart attack?”  Naturally, he provided me with evasive and non-quantitative answers to which I responded that I wasn’t interested in messing with my natural “body chemistry”.

Interestingly, there was a recent article in BusinessWeek about the lack of effectiveness from taking Lipitor to reduce coronary trauma.  Evidently, new research has shown that less than 1% of the people that take Statins receive any benefit from the chemicals… You may recall that I posted previously about the ever-changing positions on medical intervention (e.g., Today: alcohol is bad for you; Tomorrow: alcohol is good for you).  It appears that the pendulum is now swinging on the cholesterol drugs.

I would say that there is just too much cavalier chemical intervention in health care.

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