When we look at what Americans spend on prescription drugs yearly, we see that we are really an unhealthy society. In fact, last year we spent over $374 billion dollars. Spending on prescription drugs went up 13%..and that is a huge amount of money.
Besides trying to fathom this amazingly huge number of dollars spent on prescriptions, what more-so led me to write this blog was the sick feeling I got in my stomach after reading the statement by Michael Kleinrock, director of research development at IMS Health. Although there was a lot of great news on the treatment/cure of Hepatitis C, the overall dollars are very high. On the news of the $374 billion, he was quoted as saying “This was an outstanding year, really a once-in-a-lifetime year. It was the largest dollar growth in a single year we’ve ever measured. This is a huge amount of extra spending.”
Wow…this is an amazing sentiment. Applauding the incredible increase in spending on prescription drugs is a good thing? We should be excited about all the sickness and drugs people are taking to deal with their disease processes? I think we should be applauding more as less money is spent on drugs, as this would indicate that we are getting healthier as a society and relying less on medications that mostly treat diseases, but don’t actually make us healthier. Our quality of life is dependent on being healthy. It is not based on how many drugs we take. I understand big pharma is a huge industry. It exists to make money on ‘saving lives’ through the introduction of medications to treat illness.
However, much of this money spent indicates a failure of our ability to be healthy, and this is what our healthcare providers should be focusing on. Remember, health is not merely the absence of disease, it is the state of optimal well-being. $374 billion dollars says we are not healthy!
I wonder how many dollars could be better spent on prevention and how many dollars would be saved if we did? $374 billion dollars…such an incredible amount of money. How have we become a society so attached to the big pharma companies and their costly medications?
The answer is simple…education (or lack thereof). All we need to do is watch the TV or read the pages in a magazine to see many of the drugs available to us for whatever condition we might have. Sadly, most of the time on the TV ads and most of the printed ads are about the side effects. With medications, there are no free lunches, meaning, medications have side effects and many times many of them. We are a self-healing organism, and we need to do more to address this. Many of our healthcare providers do little to address health and nutrition status as they focus more on the pharmaceutical approach. Sadly, they also do not get the depth of education required to appropriately address health. I hope this is one area more doctors gravitate towards as the research gives us so much hope.
I realize that there is a time and place for medications. I am an insulin dependent diabetic, and I thank Drs. Banting and Best for their discovery of insulin in 1921. Medications are there to help but I, for one, believe they are best for life survival and emergency situations…not for trying to treat conditions that are inevitably going to get worse over time unless the patient makes lifestyle changes. All too often people rely on their prescriptions, thinking they are healthier by taking them, not realizing the underlying issue causing their problem is still there working to further damage their body.
An important topic on the diabetes discussion is how it’s the complications that diabetics suffer from that end up costing lives and the most money to our society vs. just the diabetes itself. Diabetics have a higher risk of heart disease/stroke, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases…all linked to oxidative stress. With almost 10% of our population being diabetic or pre-diabetic, so much more needs to be done…and this is only one disease that affects our society. What amazes me is that there are new guidelines stipulating that ALL diabetics should be taking statins. Wow. Statins can have horrible side effects. Isn’t there a better way to deal with cholesterol and triglycerides (this is a rhetorical question)? Shouldn’t all endocrinologists be assessing oxidative stress as this is the major factor affecting diabetic health?
With conditions from heart disease to diabetes to cancer and more, think about how much money we could save if our healthcare providers were more involved in prevention…especially primary prevention (see my talk about this in a past blog of mine).
Most diseases have a certain element that better health and nutrition status could have helped to prevent/delay the disease. The standard medical approach is short-sighted if it tends to treat an illness only through prescription medications as opposed to working to help the patient be healthier. As a society, we need progressive doctors to help their peers work more in the realm of primary prevention to better help their patients. This can be done if we raise the consciousness and importance of this topic with our healthcare providers. $374 billion dollars gives us the leverage we need to work towards optimizing health. It simply is not acceptable to just keep medicating without addressing primary prevention.
The medical research is very clear in this area. We can do better as a society to be healthier. Doctors can do more to aid in this process and I hope more embrace the importance of primary prevention.