Is America Sicker or Overmedicated? The Public's Abandoment by the Health Sector—Zhandra Ferreira-Cesar
It is true that many drugs help people live longer and better lives. However, others may hurt patients in ways they do not know about. Everyday people place their full trust and lives in the hands of doctors, public health practitioners and pharmaceutical companies who advertise their mission to be an increase in the quality of life and the eradication of diseases. However, what happens when those same professionals whom the public trusts to educate and create the safest medications are also the same individuals who regularly treat the creation of drugs as a billion dollar industry that can be manipulated to enhance profits regardless of what this means for the population? Pharmaceutical and supplement manufacturers have to increase sales and profits, as all businesses must, and they do so in part by developing drugs to treat disease and also by convincing people they need medications to prevent disease or lessen the perceived risk of future illness. Is
Healthcare or business-
Throughout history people have regarded medical professionals as compassionate, selfless, devoted individuals who dedicate their lives to saving others. This image however has been tarnished with the latest movement to get new pills off the shelves and into the mouth of the American public. This frenzy began when government deregulation and an earnest attempt to help HIV/AIDS patients get easier access to crucial life extending drugs collided. A need for faster approval of drugs to serve patients coupled with an understaffed FDA dealt the leading hand to the pharmaceutical companies . In order to speed drug patenting, the FDA had to develop a system that would provide it with the necessary funds to operate. In a response to this need, Congress passed a law mandating that pharmaceutical companies pay a fee every time a drug patent is requested in an attempt to offset the bureaucratic cost of the FDA . However, this fee implementation did not obtain the necessary funds, and thus the funding for surveillance and research of approved drugs was drastically diminished. This initial budget cut initiated the snowballing effect of a hungry industry to make money and forget the focus of its initial humanitarian purpose—the well being of individuals .
Another interesting event came as a result of the change in law: the limits and boundaries between pharmaceutical companies, the FDA, and doctors became increasingly vague. In some cases, individuals that worked for the FDA acquired jobs with drug companies; therefore making their relationships with the FDA a major priority for the success of their careers . These same FDA officials who approve a drug are also in charge of monitoring it after it enters the market, which means that these people have no incentives to admit an error and say that the drugs that they previously categorized as safe are now unsafe, even if it means that those patients making use of these drugs may be at risk . Finally, it is noteworthy to mention that the FDA gets most of its input from a panel of doctors who are experts in their fields . However, it is not accurate to say that these doctors are unbiased when analyzing the data presented to them since most of these doctors receive payment as consultants, or are given research grants and support for travel to conferences from drug companies . All these incentives deter physicians from fully acknowledging all side effects of the drugs being presented for approval, thus increasing the chances that they will be patented and reach the public to cause harm and leave behind catastrophic death rates, like the arthritis medication Vioxx did by increasing the incidence of heart disease . The cooperation between the FDA, drug companies, and doctors therefore, actually presents itself as a conflict of interest that completely disregards the initial job of the healthcare system, which is to care for, treat and educate individuals about pertinent health issues .
Take for example, USA Today reported on October 16th, 2004 in the article “Cholesterol Guidelines Become a Morality Play” that nine of the doctors that sat on the committee for the production of cholesterol guidelines were also making money from the companies that developed drugs to lower cholesterol, which were urging Americans to take these drugs via the media . This exemplifies the heavy influence that drug companies have upon physicians, which leads to the conclusion that not even family physicians have the power to control the treatment for their patients. Ultimately, the drug companies have the power to dictate which drugs are being consumed and which diseases will emerge by means of carefully framing and delivering their desired message through the media. This is mainly because only so much information reaches physicians, and the information that does reach doctors is carefully selected and presented as the ultimate truth in the medical world . Dr. Curt D. Furberg, a former head of clinical trials at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute describes the way in which information reaches physicians as published on the Los Angeles Times on December 22nd, 2004, “The National Institutes of Health: Public Servant or Private Marketer?” saying, “The company reps tell the doctors,’ you should follow these guidelines’ implying that you’re not a good doctor if you don’t follow these guidelines” .
One point that should be made on behalf of the doctors, however, is that these physicians do not have the time to be reading every journal and study that is released. Thus, it is only natural that they place their trust in the drug companies who claim to have the same interests as they do . This is clearly not true as pharmaceutical companies often ignore obvious signs that a drug is failing in order to make extra earning regardless of how many individuals are being affected.
The media and pharmaceutical companies-
People have inherent trust in medical professionals due to the social acceptance and glorification that has been established over time. Surveys conducted of the general population show that Americans trust pharmaceutical companies to advertise the adequate and proper information regarding the side effects of drugs and their advantages . However, is the purpose of drug advertisement really to increase awareness and educate the mass public about the positive and negative effects of new drugs or is their main purpose to make profits?
The first clue that the pharmaceutical market has turned its back on the sick population is displayed in the creation and expansion of a new market that is composed of healthy individuals as the target for preventive medicine, which has become a multibillion-dollar business. In order to promote this market shift, pharmaceutical companies have initiated educational programs, which they claim are meant to identify those individuals who are at risk of developing the targeted conditions. Some examples of these are hypertension, heart disease, and osteoporosis . These programs are usually put on by making large donations to the organizations that research and support the various diseases, and in return these organizations “spread the word” about these newly invented drugs that promise to prevent undiagnosed and underdeveloped diseases . This increases awareness and the number of screenings and with that also the number of individuals who can potentially take the medication. This is fine for individuals who have not been diagnosed with high blood pressure or for those at the early stages of cancer; however, these campaigns are not created to be completely altruistic and educational. Most of these campaigns are directly linked to the pharmaceutical companies’ media campaigns, whose only intentions are to convince the average American that they need a pill to prevent any possible disease .
Another factor that has increased the use of prescription drugs in
The prime example of this medical fraud that has let
The drug deregulations and the obvious favoring that occurs on behalf of the drug companies by removing the educational component of advertising campaigns leaves people wondering if in fact the well being of society is the priority of the FDA. It is obvious however that what lies at the top of the priority list for the FDA includes the protection of profit for pharmaceutical companies.
Modern medicine and American society:
Culture has a lot to do with the effectiveness of the various advertising attempts made by the business sector. In essence, the media cannot succeed if they do not know the beliefs and customs of the target population. However, what is even more complicated is that these beliefs and sentiments are often established by the media themselves and just accepted and adopted by society . This leads one to the conclusion: that in order to increase awareness and establish a desired pattern of behavior, the media is the right means by which to do this . It is clear that health practitioners have already discovered this, and as a result of this also discovered the tremendous opportunity to make money at the expense of people’s trust and health.
Health practitioners constantly express their regard and concern for the health of Americans; however, if these are genuine then the question persists—why is
It is no accident that throughout time
Implications for the public health field-
Public health practitioners have as their focus and goal to improve the physical, mental and social health of Americans. As a result of this, they have joined with the various groups on the medical field to increase awareness and health screenings across
Detox for an Overmedicated
Health professionals have throughout time been given the responsibility of taking care of the welfare of the public. This trust has been given without any hesitation and with the full confidence that these well-intentioned and trained individuals possess the ability, moral and ethical obligation to improve the overall health of the public. However, it is clear that they have failed to reach their publicized goal of educating and increasing awareness of the most common diseases attacking the American public and the prescription drugs available for use. Instead they have created a multibillion-dollar industry that survives and flourishes rapidly at the expense of the American people’s trust and health. It is clear that the health professionals’ attempt at increasing awareness and educating the public regarding the various health threats attacking them have been a complete failure that has resulted in an overmedicated America that finds relief and comfort in the hands of pharmaceutical companies. Therefore, the means by which the field initiated intervention to increase awareness and education need to be reevaluated and reinvented so that the goal of helping the public can be refocused and accomplished. The reinvention of the initial efforts to increase awareness on medical screening and the threats common diseases pose upon people must include the cooperation of government agencies, the education department, health professionals and the media.
The initial step that needs to be taken in order to achieve the initial goal of increasing awareness and education regarding disease prevention involves the government of the
The next step to the successful intervention on the use of prescription drugs and their potential side effects involves the full cooperation of health professionals at all levels. The problem of overmedicating in
Once the missions of the FDA, health professionals and pharmaceutical companies have been reevaluated and focused, an effective intervention should work to target and teach educators the importance of a balanced diet and exercise. In addition, teachers should be asked to join the team and provided with the necessary and proper diagnostic and observational tools that can help them to accurately distinguish a child that is in fact suffering from a behavioral disorder from one that is just simply acting according to their age. Such important and convenient tools can drastically reduce the number of misdiagnosed ADHD cases, a disorder that has claimed millions of children as slaves of Ritalin . This addition to the education department has the ability to reset the American standards of medical treatment and therefore raise a generation that is not drug dependent and that amidst this fast progressing society is able to find health by means of the traditional treatment of a healthy lifestyle, awareness, education and alternative methods of preventive medicine. Even though a new method of treatment and means of implementation can be designed and deemed appropriate and ethical, in the 21st century whatever intervention designed will not be successful if the most powerful form of introduction and acceptance of new ideas in this society is not brought aboard to cooperate and make this issue the utmost important matter affecting the nation currently
The problem of overmedicating in
After educating the different levels of professionals regarding the changes that must be made in order to bring the alarming use of drugs in America to a halt, an advertising plan needs to be created in order to change the awareness, knowledge, and attitude of consumers towards a specific change being discussed. These changes take place all throughout the buying, a decision-making pattern that results in a change of behavior and standard beliefs. The first step in this intervention would involve the introduction of awareness. Past interventions have shown that the simple introduction of the importance of exercise and a balanced diet is not successful due to their lack of understanding of the average American lifestyle, which is fast paced and constantly being bombarded by economic hardships. Therefore, it is imperative that this campaign works to show first the alarming effects of overmedicating and the detrimental effects it can have on any one person. Once the negative aspects and acknowledgement of the problem is introduced the intervention moves into the next stage of consideration. In order for consideration to occur a solution to this alarming problem must be introduced with careful consideration of the various social and environmental factors that are affecting Americans today. It is at this point that the intervention seeks to make a connection with the consumer. Highlighting the costs of the various unnecessary medications being consumed and the money that pharmaceutical companies are wasting on advertising rather than investing on research are truly affecting the American society and the world can help make this connection. This approach on the economic effect is sure to receive attention especially due to the economic hardships that
The third stage of this intervention involves reaffirmation. At this stage of the advertising campaign the public reassesses the product or idea being introduced and attempts to find a place for it in their lives thus determining how convenient and appropriate it is for them. It is at this point that the importance of paying a visit to their physician is important and that a change in lifestyle that is characterized by an increase in exercise and a balanced diet can be stressed. However, the stress placed on these changes should be made in a different manner than in the past. They should be marketed with alternatives methods such as the addition of easy enjoyable exercises that can be done at home or outside or even ones that can be integrated during the workday. In an effort to obtain and retain a large audience these changes that need to be made must be attached with the idea that consumers will be saving money when opting for this option rather than spending thousands of dollars on unnecessary medications. This approach will certainly catch the attention of consumers during this time of recession.
The last couple of stages of this intervention all happen quite quickly as action tends to take place once the behavior is introduced enough times into the life of the individuals targeted. This is then reinforced by the constant repetition of the issue and its recommended solutions by the media who use the trusted physicians and other health care professionals in order to submit the desired behavior as a social standard and therefore into mainstream culture .
In conclusion the intervention used in order to assess the overmedicating problem in
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