Naked Medicine

Let's Face It: Medicine is Business

Truth in Healthcare Sits Between Extremes

A friend sent me an article called, “Drugged out of our minds“, written by Larry M. Jones, a retired Navy Commander and aviator in Texas. Mr. Jones thought the reasons given by drug companies for high drug costs smelled fishy and didn’t appreciate having to fight for a parking space or waiting room seat with pharmaceutical “reps waiting to peddle their wares to the physicians.” Mr. Jones said it was a shame that some American citizens had to skip or split pills because they could not afford their treatment.

I can’t argue with how this “stinks” and how nice it would be if we could get free or affordable medications. I have a chronic condition for which I need to take daily course of prescription strength medication and I have to consider the cost in my budget. I may also have some sympathy toward the pharmaceutical industry because I have worked in pharma companies for most of my professional life and I have some insight into how much research, development, and marketing costs.

Healthcare and medicine strike highly emotional cords in all of us. We – not just the seniors – are becoming victims of “poorly managed healthcare”. Working professionals are fighting a different battle in healthcare – employer healthcare coverage – than elderly or retired citizens, but we all eventually progress to the same question of affordability and healthcare cost.

It is easy to sensationalize big companies as greedy perpetrators, patients as helpless victims, and doctors as corruptible liaisons. I believe that truth is somewhere between all the extremes that we read too much about in print- and online newspapers. Unfortunately, truth is bland and boring. Truth gets too complicated and requires too much study and research. Truth doesn’t get people’s blood boiling quick enough to escalate reader ratings, flood newseditor with letters, and sell more magazine subscriptions.

News columns – just like articles on this website – often have word limit. Readers have finite attention span, and web visitors’ attention purportedly spans mere seconds. Most writers don’t have the patience to go into exhaustive debate about both sides of the issue because it requires the writer to become conversant about all sides of the issue to present this information for the reader to decide… that is, if the reader wants multiple perspectives.

For those of us who really want to put the reins on pharmaceutical company profits, may I please suggest the following:

  • Never start smoking so you don’t need to take a pill to stop smoking, or take expensive chemotherapy drugs to stem lung cancer, or undergo expensive operations for smoking-related health complications
  • Exercise regularly and eat “right” (high fiber, balanced nutrients, low in saturated fat, low sodium) so you don’t need antidiabetic pills for an exhausted pancreas, cholesterol-lowering or triglyceride-lowering drugs for fatty blood, antihypertensive drugs for high blood pressure, and erectile dysfunction drugs for unpleasant sexual side effects of being sick
  • Get enough sleep at night and reduce stress from your life so you don’t need to take prescription sleeping pills, antidepressants, or antianxiety pills to chemically put you out at night, lift you up during the day, or calm you down all hours in between
  • When you get a cold, don’t insist on getting antibiotics. Drink plenty of water, take over the counter cold medicine to control the symptoms, and get some rest. This prevents drug companies from making money on antibiotics that don’t work for viral infections (like a cold), reduces the bad drug resistance problem, and saves your doctor the time from explaning why antibiotics wouldn’t work on your cold.
  • If you have kids, don’t medicate them with stimulants just because 1) you can’t be bothered to parent them through normal “child” behaviors or 2) you want them to get into an Ivy league school and have more energy “studying” for exams
  • Address not just physical health, but mental, emotional, and spiritual health so you don’t need drugs to counter all the stress-related health complications.

For example, if I hadn’t taken all those headache pills (for stress related headaches) or drank too many cups of coffee (for stress related fatigue) or forgot to eat regular meals (because I was too stressed to remember) or acquired a taste for apple martinis last year (to get through too many late night business dinners), I probably would not have developed Laryngopharyngeal Reflux that got me two colonoscopies, one endoscopy, one laparoscopy, bottles of antacids, fiber supplementation, H2 blocker drugs, and proton pump inhibitor drugs that I may have to take for the rest of my life. That amounts to thousands of dollars that I didn’t need to pay for drugs if I had taken more responsibility for my health in the first place.

We can become so used to spoonfed information and a sense of entitlement in the “free” Internet age that knowing too much can complicate our decision-making system. Sometimes our simple but biased decision-making is a survival mechanism against the information clutter we face every day. We just need to keep this in mind. So the next time when you read about anything – including this – please keep in mind that opinions are extreme and often limited, and truth probably sits somewhere in between.

Updated: June 30, 2013 — 8:08 am

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