The Drugging of America Op Ed
What makes a good drug company?
Today there are a full nine million kids on long-term psychiatric drugs. A look
at these staggering numbers makes one wonder how the baby boomers ever got to
where they are today without these mass ongoing medications.
Drug companies have shifted from prescriptions that deal with a specific illness
and are finished in a short amount of time to long term prescription plans. The
classic take this for 10 days model for antibiotics and other medicine is now
the take this twice a day forever model. Drug companies and Wall Street can
barely contain their glee at the recurring revenue stream: an ongoing annuity
that adds great predictability to quarterly earnings.
In an age of corporate scandals, the focus on business ethics has rarely been
equaled. Merck, for example, often rises to the top of the list, like when it
was honored by Management and Excellence SA, an organization whos annual list of
ethical companies includes such infamous names as Exxon, Philip Morris and Wal
Mart. Many who would label a company ethical are missing the forest for the
trees. The powers that be would have us believe that companies who avoid
Enron-type accounting are ethical, but ethics have to do with a lot more than
simply keeping good books. By definition, drug companies perform better by
selling more drugs, not necessarily by curing patients.
So who is looking out for the patient? The doctor perhaps? Many patients are
unaware that much of the ongoing education doctors receive comes directly from
drug companies or from groups that are sponsored by drug companies. Even more
disturbing is the aggressive sales tactics and even bonus systems that doctors
are subjected to in an effort to get them to write more life-long prescriptions.
The holistic medicine community suffers from as much quackery as conventional
medicine but it also has some reputable cures. Suppose that a certain vegetable
could cure a major ailment. Would this be happy news for drug companies? By
their very nature these companies must focus on more illness and more medication
Society also needs to examine what the long term effects of these drugs are.
Since initial FDA trials do not examine drugs on a decade by decade basis
because it is not practical to do so, it could be years before we know what
affect the long term use of these drugs have on our nations children.
Psychiatric drugs are often unfortunately a way for Americans to medicate our
lifestyles. Numerous fatigue drugs are abused to the point that people with
absolutely no medical problem whatsoever take them simply to compensate for
lifestyle-induced fatigue. Parents and school administrators are using drugs as
a method of control and regulation of children. Antidepressants are being used,
not just for people with chemical imbalances but for people who have recently
been laid off or have other, non medical issues, all paid for by you and me.
The costs are also very high; while a two week antibiotic prescription might
cost $30, a Ritalin prescription for the hyperactive child can cost over $1000
each and every year. This translates into much higher insurance premiums and
overall medical costs. This decreases funds for legitimate medical needs and can
adversely affect patients choices in the selection of a doctor or the payments
made for various preventive measures. The incredible power the drug companies
wield over the AMA and even the insurance industry further perpetuates this
So what is the solution? In looking for cures, medical providers need to look to
their roots: in science. Scientific principle essentially states that ideas are
to be tested and then proven or disproved: it is in this principle that the
solution lies. Doctors must demand that the science behind any treatment they
recommend is sound and resist marketing campaigns at all costs. Incidentally,
this solves the question of holistic versus conventional medicine. There should
be no separation of the two, just a solid and independent testing process that
separates medicine into categories of those that work and those that don't. With
as many ancient remedies and new wave elixirs as there are drugs, there is
certainly as much bad science as good on the holistic side as on the
conventional medicine side. These also must be examined, like the conventional
drugs, not just to find true cures but to root out frauds that exist on both
sides. Patients must insist on methods that are proven before accepting
treatment. Doctors, as the first line and most important part of the client-care
equation must take the lead in seeking the best independent science so that they
can break free from billion dollar ad campaigns and focus on what they really
want to do: get patients well.