Image via Wikipedia
Below is an article on prescription abuse and misuse in the U.S. The numbers are startling. If we want to begin to cut health care costs we need to reign in the pharmaceutical industry and their aggressive marketing. See my comments at the end of the article.
NY Times Article
By ABBY GOODNOUGH
Published: January 5, 2011
The number of emergency room visits resulting from misuse or abuse of prescription drugs has nearly doubled over the last five years, according to new federal data, even as the number of visits because of illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin has barely changed.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found there were about 1.2 million visits to emergency rooms involving pharmaceutical drugs in 2009, compared with 627,000 in 2004. The agency did not include visits due to adverse reactions to drugs taken as prescribed.
Emergency room visits resulting from prescription drugs have exceeded those related to illicit drugs for three consecutive years, said R. Gil Kerlikowske, President Obama’s top drug policy adviser.
“I would say that when you see a 98 percent increase,” Mr. Kerlikowske said, “and you think about the cost involved in lives and families, not to mention dollars, it’s pretty startling.”
In 2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that the number of people seeking treatment for addiction to painkillers jumped 400 percent from 1998 to 2008. And in a growing number of states, deaths from prescription drugs now exceed those from motor vehicle accidents, with opiate painkillers like Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin playing a leading role.
In September, the Drug Enforcement Administration organized the first national prescription drug take-back program, and thousands of people dropped off old or unused drugs at designated locations around the country. While the effort captured but a tiny fraction of the addictive drugs in the nation’s medicine cabinets, law enforcement officials said it helped people understand how deadly such drugs can be. Another collection day is being planned for April, Mr. Kerlikowske said.
“The most important thing that actually seems to be gaining a lot of traction,” he said, “is the recognition that the prescription drugs sitting in your medicine cabinet can be dangerous. That’s huge.”
Dr. Court’s Comments
In a time when health care costs are through the roof and insurance premiums continue to rise this story explains a lot.
Since 2004 the number of emergency room visits has almost doubled because of complications from pharmaceutical agents that were misused or abused. This does not take into account the number of people who are hospitalized because of adverse reactions or complications from taking their medications as prescribed.
There is a major war going on against illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin and rightfully so. But according to this research hospitalizations for prescription drugs exceed those of the illegal drugs. Why are we not fighting back against this problem?
In my opinion, the aggressive marketing of pharmaceutical drugs is partly to blame. Just watch the nightly news. You will see ad after ad for drugs. This leads people to believe that these drugs are basically harmless because of the happy and joyous people you see living their wonderful lives on these drugs. It desensitizes people to their dangerous side effects.
Don’t believe me? How much attention do you think the average American pays to the list of side effects that each company is required to state in their commercials? The level of attention is directly related to how many times to you hear something. The more you hear it, the less you pay attention to it. And you hear it all the time! You can’t get away from it on television.
Prescription drugs have their place, but that place should be as a last resort. If all other methods have failed, perhaps a drug will work. Tell me if this sounds familiar:
“If diet and exercise alone are not enough to control your cholesterol, adding Lipitor may help.”
You know what the problem with that statement is? Diet and exercise are never given a chance. The first thing that happens when someone is diagnosed with high cholesterol is a prescription is written. No advice about diet or exercise is given. Over prescribing has become a habit in the medical community and because of this, we pay the price.
If we want to reduce the number of hospitalizations from prescription drugs we need to reduce the number of prescriptions that are written in this country by using safe and effective alternatives and we need to stop the aggressive marketing of pharmaceutical agents to the general public.