Monday, August 25, 2008

Pill Pushing

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.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more! I change channels whenever those Rx ads come on (which means I do it a lot!). They are just conditioning people to want and expect more and more drugs, and then drugs to counteract the side effects of the first drugs, etc. Modern medicine is amazing, but I'm not sure the pharmaceutical companies are keeping pace when the side effects to a drug are so dire, and the trade-off for their benefits is so risky. Is that really the best they can do?

bobbie said...

No, not the "best" - just the most profitable. Money seems to rule today even at the expense of our health, and our lives.

Mental P Mama said...

I completely agree. If you don't have a doctor you can question, you need a new doctor!

Bear Naked said...

Just who are the pharmaceutical companies marketing to with the TV advertisements?
Is it the patients who they hope will go running to the nearest doctor insisting on the newest "miracle" drug?
Or is it the doctors themselves?

Bear((( )))

Unknown said...

I'm old enough to be amazed by those advertisements you speak of. When I see one, a little film goes off in my head of someone watching the add and going to their doctor, stating: I think I'm bipolar, can you please give me Cymbalta (I think that's one).

That bipolar med add is especially maddening to me because I have a daughter who has bipolar disorder. It's usually VERY serious and requires a psychiatric diagnosis, sometimes several and very complex med trials. If it can be prescribed by a general doctor, that is not a good thing!

The whole pharmaceutical issue is a frightening one. It's even worse, in my opinion, in Europe where my mother lives. Before she was properly diagnosed with gastric cancer in 2007, she'd been treated exclusively with medication for a problem the doctor guessed she had. During one visit to the pharmacy, she came home with no less than SIX different meds. I was fit to be tied when she told me about it!

Great post, Bobbie. What you write about here will concern me more and more as I get older. Being informed is key to making decisions about one's medical treatment.

It was excellent of you to ask the questions. And that doctor who yelled at you should have been reported to the hospital administrators - but a lot of good that would have done - doctors have so much power.

Thanks for a great and crucial post.

Daryl said...

There are several excellent online sites where you can look up info on drugs ... just Google the name of the med and voila ..

In fact ALL doctors rely on pharmaceutical sales people to inform them about new drugs ... if you have a good doctor he/she knows what you take and how various drugs interact ... as does you pharmacist . recently I got a new primary care doc who gave me a prescription for a new version/dose of a med I am already taking.. pharmacist thought it was a mistake til I explained I wasnt taking the old one just the new one.

That's how it should work .. they should be watching ...


bobbie said...

Yes, that's how it's supposed to work. Personally, I've found the pharmacist to be a much better watch dog than the doctors.

bobbie said...

That doctor who yelled at me is now the had honcho at that hospital. It's the nearest hospital to me. I refuse to go there. Have had nothing but bad experiences there in 30 years, for myself, family, friends, etc. No use calling an ambulance. They can only take us to the nearest facility. I'd rather die at home.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is such a worry and I'm sure the doctors don't know a great deal about what they give us. Pharmaceutical companies are more than happy to just make millions out of illness and just throw all sorts at us. Of course, I'm certainly very thankful for all the medications I have been fortunate enough to receive but I do have a big worry about how easily doctors fole out things like anti-depressants and sedatives. I've been on varous anti-depressants for many years and whilst I know they have hleped I do wonder about the long-term side-effects.

kenju said...

I agree with that, Bobbie. I think those ads should be outlawed.

I hope that you reported that doctor who flew into a rage to the medical board of your state.

Sylvia K said...

All of my kids and I have had terrible experiences with doctors over the years and, as I wrote in a post about a month ago, we all feel like we're alive and kicking in spite of doctors, not because of them. Like you, I hate Rx ads and refuse to watch them on TV or read them and they are everywhere. I don't know what the answers are, but I do know that I question everything! I do have a good doctor right now that I'm comfortable with -- now we'll see how long that lasts!

Anonymous said...

Just finished reading "Our Daily Meds." It was an eye opener - the issues of taking pills.
Read this book for more info on the reasons behind the rise in taking prescriptions.

bobbie said...

Yes, I have read this book. So true.

Leedra said...

This is a very good post. I agree. We have to remember they are just 'practicing medicine'...on us. I also think people with arthritis (me included) are at more risk of 'here, take this pill'. Because they still do not know how to keep us pain free. And money does have a lot to do with it.