The facts are pretty staggering: 70% of Americans take at least one prescription drug according to a report last night on NBC Nightly News. That statistic caught even me off guard and made me wonder if prescription drugs have been oversold. Here are the arguments..
Prescription drugs have not been oversold but fill a need for a public that wants the “easy” fix to health problems.
It’s often easier to take a statin than control your diet and Americans love their fast food and big portions. Analyzing data from three national surveys involving more than 60,000 Americans, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that serving sizes have grown over the past 20 years, not only at fast-food places, but at other restaurants and even in homes. Hamburgers have expanded by 23 percent; A plate of Mexican food is 27 percent bigger; Soft drinks have increased in size by 52 percent; Snacks, whether they be potato chips, pretzels or crackers, are 60 percent larger. If we all watched what we ate could this lead to a decline in statins and other obesity related medications ?
Physicians treat the health problem not the patient. It’s easier to just write an Rx.
Treating the whole patient rather than just the health problem means taking time to understand the root causes of some health issues but do physicians really have the time to get to know patients in depth ? Medical interns spend just 12 percent of their time examining and talking with patients, and more than 40 percent of their time behind a computer, according to a new Johns Hopkins study that closely followed first-year residents at Baltimore’s two large academic medical centers. In a recent survey by Consumer Reports, 70 percent of doctors reported that since they began practicing medicine, the bond with their patients has eroded. The time crunch and complexity of care has left the doctor-patient relationship in tatters. And this makes a difference. Numerous studies have found a link between how well the doctor and patient communicate and the patient’s sense of well-being, his number of symptoms, and his overall health. There’s also some data to suggest that the average patient gets to speak for between 12 and 15 seconds before the physician interrupts them. A doctor’s impatience, though, is often driven more by economics than ego. Reimbursement rates for a primary care visit are notoriously low, and Shore laments the need to hustle patients in and out.
Drug companies advertising of prescription drugs promises too much to patients
We have all heard the argument before, prescription drug ads on television offer pills for every illness. As a result, more prescriptions are being prescribed than ever before. This is because more and more print and television ads are selling the drugs directly to the public. However continued research indicates that more and more patients are going online to learn about medications before requesting an Rx. Still some DTC commercials tend to over promise. The ads, for example, for testosterone products seem to promise increased energy and vigor but in fact that is not true. Have DTC marketers gone too far by advertising products that aren’t the answer to aging boomers ? That will be up for debate for a long time.
It’s a combination of all of the above along with the fact that Americans are woking more fore less pay. At a recent research panel for a health club we heard again and again that older adults don’t have the time to exercise or cook heart health meals. They are often stressed just trying to complete household chores and as thus the don’t see any harm in eating fast food or getting carry out for dinner. We all have to take personal responsibility for our own health at some time and there aren’t many employers who allow employees to take time for exercise.
It’s also been reported that more and more consumers are skeptical of advertising. The days of advertising a drug and having patients ask for it are gone. Today patients do their research and balance the drug by its benefits against quality of life. If we want to reduce America’s dependence on Rx drugs a multi behavioral approach is needed but who would sponsor such a study in pay for profit healthcare industry ?