Monday, August 25, 2008
An article appeared in the Sunday newspapers this week titled How MDs Learn About Drugs. The upshot of it was that our doctors usually receive the information on the pharmaceuticals they dispense from the salespeople for the drug companies themselves.
There is one thing that I have observed among all of the doctors I have ever met - and, believe me, I have met more than my share! They all have one thing in common. Every last one of these doctors is a human being. Every one of them! Human, just like you and me. Subject to making mistakes, possessing faults and idiosyncrasies and hang-ups - just like us. They are also influenced by advertising ploys, by the pseudo-friendship of salesmen, by flattery and by bribes, just like us. Frightening!
For most of my life, I took very few pills. Didn't like the idea. Preferred to maintain my health by means of good food and exercise. For the most part, it worked.
Except for arthritis, which I've had to some degree since I was a teenager, all of my various ailments appeared only since my retirement. Within those relatively few years, it's been one thing after the other. Each specialist I have seen has prescribed one - or two - or three new medications. Like most people, I have usually assumed that the doctor knows best, and meekly accepted the pills.
After all, what do I know about it?
I've tried to become informed regarding what the meds are supposed to do, and what risks might arise from their use. Except for one or two, the doctors had to be asked before giving me that kind of information. And except for one particularly unpleasant gentleman, they did give it when asked. (That one had been unknown to me until I found myself hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism a few years back. When I casually asked him what was in the IV, he flew into a rage, informing me that he was the doctor, I the patient, and I should just do as I was told. I later asked a nurse the same question, and she quite happily gave me the answer and a print-out.)
More recently, I have grown concerned at the number of pills I swallowed each day, and am trying to decrease the number, with the help of doctors of course. Most of them are cooperative.
It worries me that doctores - like the rest of us - due to pressures of time and their heavy caseloads, often rely on the pill pushing salespeople for their information. It worries me that doctors - like the rest of us - are susceptible to bribes and blandishments. It worries me that doctors - like the rest of us - are only human. And it worries me that the rest of us too often do not question what that little pink pill we are swallowing might do to us. It worries me that our society now allows TV ads for pharmaceuticals, just as if they were just another cosmetic or candy or means of entertainment.