Monday, April 18, 2005

Think first before asking for another drug

Provided by St.Petersburg Times on 4/18/2005

With the revelation that another drug, this time Bextra for arthritis, has been withdrawn from the market, millions of people once again must scramble to find an alternative medication for this problem.

Bextra joins Vioxx and Celebrex as drugs that were once touted as being just fine for people seeking relief from arthritis, but now are revealed to be harmful or even fatal to some who take it.

What's wrong with this picture?

Prescription use has grown like wildfire in our medication nation. It is impossible to watch TV at any hour of the day without seeing commercials touting the latest prescription drug for the latest disease, and urging all of us to go to our doctor to ask for them.

It also is nearly impossible to go to a doctor's appointment without seeing a drug company representative, and sometimes several of them, in the waiting room, too.

And this constant urging for us to take more drugs is accompanied by "new, tougher" guidelines for such things as blood pressure, trigylcerides and cholesterol from various health agencies, many of whom are being funded by the same drug companies urging prescriptions upon us.

The new, improved guideline for blood pressure, for instance - the gold standard - is now 120/80, which usually is achieved only by lean teenagers and those in the most superb physical shape. Anything above those readings, even slightly is now labeled as a prehypertensive reading.

So what do these impossible circumstances mean for most Americans? It will probably mean that the percentage of Americans taking at least one prescription drug will keep rising dramatically, perhaps with a goal of getting nearly every man, woman and child in the country on some sort of pill or other.

And if there are not enough old diseases for which to take a pill, don't worry, there are many new diseases coming around the bend. You can now take a pill for slight social anxiety and a recent TV report says it is estimated that 8-million people have Adult Attention Deficit Disorder - a whole new market for drug companies.

Let me make it very clear that I agree that there are drugs that have brought relief to many millions of Americans. I and my wife each take one prescription pill every day. We are grateful for the benefits of such drugs, as, I am sure, are most people who use prescription drugs.

But isn't it time to question what is happening in our country? Shouldn't we hesitate to take a new prescription rather than clamoring for them and pestering our doctors to give us one more pill to add to our arsenal of pills?

Being as educated a patient as we can be is the only real way to see that our health is really being taken care of. Should we, for instance, just roll over and take a pill as soon as we think our health does not meet new and tougher guidelines? Or should we, instead, more carefully weigh the pros and cons of taking yet another prescription?

Often, there are more natural ways of fighting health problems. For instance, it is not very radical to think that we can eat less and exercise more - what a concept!

We need to take charge of this precious area of our lives and make informed, educated decisions, regardless of what drug companies tell us. We must do this with our physicians, and they must accept us as partners in making decisions about our health.

Here is a true story. I recently found an unused prescription in my medical files. It was written a few years ago when I was having some neck problems. While I accepted the prescription, I also indicated that I wanted to try some natural methods for relieving the neck stiffness. The neck straightened out after many months of stretching exercises, and I no longer have to take even a nonprescription medication for it.

And the unused prescription that I decided not to take?

It was for Vioxx.

--Douglas Spangler, a writer and former university administrator, lives in Palm Harbor. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

Comment: Drugs almost always have side effects, natural remedies, usually have side benefits.


Christopher Wiechert's Healthblogger is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. To be removed from this e-mail program, reply back and say unsubscribe.