Saturday, September 06, 2008

Legal Drug Abuse

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Doctors Are The Third Leading Cause of Death in the US, Causing 225,000 Deaths Every Year.
Here are the statistics according to the author, Dr. Barbara Starfield of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health as she describes how the US health care system may contribute to poor health.
  • 12,000 -- unnecessary surgery
  • 7,000 -- medication errors in hospitals
  • 20,000 -- other errors in hospitals
  • 80,000 -- infections in hospitals
  • 106,000 -- non-error, negative effects of drugs

These total to 225,000 deaths per year from iatrogenic causes!!

What does the word iatrogenic mean? This term is defined as induced in a patient by a physician's activity, manner, or therapy. Used especially of a complication of treatment.
As a caregiver for my elderly parents, I have spent quite a bit of time in doctors offices over the years. It is amusing to watch the never ending line of drug reps that parade through the waiting rooms bearing gifts and samples for the doctors and their staff. Many of them look like Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders with perfect hair, perfect white teeth and perfect bodies. They seem to have bottomless expense accounts and often offer to buy lunch for the busy doctor and his whole staff in exchange for giving them a half hour presentation concerning their latest drug. Since they are not medical experts, they usually bring along another doctor to do the presentation. Click here to get an insiders perspective on how this all goes down.
Doctors can make $500 to $750 for these lunch presentations. Receiving $750 checks for chatting with some doctors during a lunch break is such easy money that it could easily leave any doctor giddy. Free vacations and fancy dinners await those who will attend a drug companies seminar or drug convention. Money to attend Broadway plays or sports events flows freely at these events. How does one remain objective and patient oriented in the shadow of these magnetic and influential events?
According to Shahram Ahari, who spent two years selling Prozac and Zypraxa for Eli Lily, the benefits could be lucrative for sales reps, who tended to earn more than researchers. On top of a base salary for starting reps of $50,000, "there were four quarterly bonuses, an annual bonus, stock options, a car, 401K, great health benefits, and a $60,000 expense account."It is a very lucrative occupation where pushing drugs is legal and you don't even have to go to jail. Here is a short video of a drug rep and why she quit the business.

Ex Drug Rep -- Manipulating Doctors

This is not a slam on doctors and those in the medical profession. I have tremendous respect for the doctors and nurses who have treated me and my family over the years. Without them, we would all be in a world of hurt or even dead by now. I'm not slamming drugs here either. In the proper circumstances, they can be a life saving and therapeutic miracle. I am just wondering if many medical professionals have lost their way due to greed and arrogance? I am just wondering if the big pharmaceutical companies have been given too much influence over our medical schools and the continuing education of medical personnel?

Many people are under the false assumption that the FDA is protecting them. They think the FDA has thoroughly looked at and approved all of the drugs that have come on the market. If enough money and pressure are available, the FDA looks the other way and approves the drug any way. The human trials (that should have been done before the drug is approved) end up being done after the drug is approved. Surprise, surprise! It is being tested on YOU! Remember Vioxx? It was pulled off the market after 55,000 people were reported to have died from a drug induced heart attack. Baycol, a profitable cholesterol-lowering drug, was pulled from the world market because thirty-one patients died while taking it. The drug caused an unusual condition in which muscle tissue broke down.
"The FDA 'protects' the big drug companies and are subsequently rewarded, and using the government's police powers they attack those who threaten the big drug companies.
People think that the FDA is protecting them.
It isn't. What the FDA is doing and what the public thinks it is doing are as different as night and day."

Dr. Herbert Ley
Former U.S. FDA Commissioner
So, what is the definition of "Safe?" According to Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), "safe" means that the benefits of the drug outweigh the risks for the population the drug is intended to treat and for its intended use. "Safe does not mean harmless," Woodcock says. "Every drug comes with risks, and our tolerance for risk is higher for drugs that treat serious and life-threatening illnesses."
Why should we trust the FDA? Why don't you decide for yourself what "risk" you are willing to take? Make sure you read all of the side effects on any drug label before you take it. I have seen some people who are taking up to 17 different drugs. Many of them are to treat the side effects of some of the other drugs. Here is a humorous video about drug side effects and the abuse of legally prescribed drugs.

The Drugs I Need

The FDA recently (September 5, 2008) published a list of drugs that are potential problems. It reports the top 20 potentially harmful drugs in compliance with a bill passed by Congress last year forcing them to report potentially unsafe drugs to consumers. It is from the first quarter of this year. Why did it take four months for them to finally publish this report? Whose side are they on? The consumer or the drug companies?
Our health care system is broken. Right now, it is all we have but it is broken. Doctors are too drug oriented. Most people expect to be given a prescription for something before they leave the doctors office or they don't feel the doctor has done his job. It is like the builder of a house whose only tool is a hammer. If you only know how to use a hammer, everything you see becomes a nail. The answer to all sickness will always be a drug. Is that why we get sick? Because of a lack of drugs? Have you ever seen a house that was built, using only a hammer? Not to pretty.
So, here is my open letter to medical professionals everywhere:
Dear Medical Professional,
First, I want to thank you for answering the call of a profession that deserves much respect and admiration. What you do, makes a tremendous difference in the lives of your fellow man. Where would we be without you? You have my never ending respect. You heal the sick and bind up the wounded. I am truly in awe of your gift.
I know that it must bother you deeply that you cannot help everybody. We both know that you are not God. Today's medical knowledge can only take us so far but I hope you can join me in my desire to make the American medical system better than it has been in the past. I call for an open mind and a return to your roots. Why did you become a medical professional in the first place? Remember the Hippocratic oath. Remember the part where it says "first of all, do no harm?"
Don't let greed influence your decision to prescribe surgery or drugs. When you do, you cast a shadow on your profession and make us trust you less than we should. We expect to be taken advantage of by a used car salesman. Please don't lower yourself to that position. It is my life we are dealing with here, not a car.
Make decisions based on real science. When the drug companies tell you about their studies concerning their latest wonder drug, don't believe them unless you do some digging on your own. They might be cherry picking the most favorable studies and hiding ones that might concern you. Ask other doctors what they think. Do your homework.
Don't always make drugs and surgery your first choice in modalities. Have an open mind. Try safer things first. Give it a chance to work. You can always go back to drugs or surgery later.
Don't look down your nose at chiropractors, naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists, physical therapists, nutritionists and dietitians. Just because you cannot see the science behind their advice does not mean that it is not there. It just means that you have not seen it. A true scientist has an open mind, an open ear and a discerning attitude. Too often, like politicians, we demonize things we do not understand or are not in our own selfish interests.
I know that treating the symptoms of disease is your bread and butter. You are like a person that faithfully stands at the bottom of the cliff. When someone falls off, we are so grateful that you are there to pick them up and hopefully put them back together. We need you to stand at the top of the cliff too. Benjamin Franklin once said that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Alzheimer's and Diabetes will soon be reaching epidemic proportions. I know you might not make as much money in a prevention mode, but we are asking you to do the right thing and help us to do more to prevent disease before it happens.
Distance yourself from the pharmaceutical companies. Don't allow them to cloud your good judgment. Look yourself in the mirror every evening with a clear conscience and be able to say that you did the right thing today. Be an agent of healing and not harm.
Thanks for all you do,

Death from Iatrogenic Causes

Dr. Drug Rep

The Drug Pushers

ABC News: Ex Drug Sales Rep Tells All

Following the Script: How Drug Reps Make Friends and Influence Doctors

Former Eli Lilly Drug Rep Details Marketing Efforts


your "Health Assistant" said...

Its true the key to good health is prevention, nice post here said...

Jeff, great article. Like you said, drugs are helpful in some instances but not all. If you go to the doctor, 9 times out of 10, they WILL prescribe you a drug. And it's the drugs that the patient wants. They don't want to hear a doctor tell them how they can do this or that to get better, they want a quick fix. And don't you just love the commercials? Just about every one of them are for a pharmaceutical drug. The best part of the commercial is hearing them list off the possible complications you may experience from taking the drug.

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