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Sunday, August 30, 2015
Big Pharma is killing Americans
As pharmaceutical companies are rolling out new medications complete with glossy advertising campaigns more rapidly than ever before, the temptation for mainstream American medical practitioners to treat symptoms with pills rather than seeking legitimate cures for ills is increasing.
Also on the rise are the societal consequences of this bad medicine, which include rampant addiction and antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
Prescription pain pills are prescribed so often that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the nations’ medicine cabinets hold one bottle of opiates for every American adult.
With something like 16 million opiate prescriptions written by doctors each year, it’s not surprising that addiction and overdose associated painkiller abuse is on the rise. In fact, 46 people in the United States die each day as the result of those overdoses.
That’s why officials in states like New York and New Hampshire are putting into place initiatives to discourage doctors from overprescribing the medications.
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan recently announced that the state will hold a series of regional education conferences to train doctors, nurses and pharmacists to recognize “opioid misuse risk; counseling patients on opioid safety, risks and benefits, and monitoring them; and modifying or discontinuing the drugs when there is too little benefit or too much risk.”
In New York, state lawmakers have taken to requiring doctors to register into a system dubbed I-STOP (Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing) in order to track prescribing patterns.
Medical experts are also working nationwide to decrease the amount of antibiotics doctors are handing out to patients in an effort to keep the drugs from becoming useless as bacteria develop resistance to the medications.
According to the research, the consequences of antibiotic overuse create a destructive cycle. Antibiotic resistance among bacteria increases — the drugs are already about seven times less effective against E. coli — so doctors prescribe more powerful antibiotics. The cycle accelerates until the drugs, no matter how powerful, might ultimately become completely ineffective against the resistant superbugs that the World Health Organization says these pharmaceuticals will help to create.
The CDC estimates that by writing 30 percent fewer prescriptions for antibiotics, American doctors could decrease instances of deadly diarrhea infections — which are most damaging to elderly and child populations — by 26 percent.
According to the health agency, doctors’ antibiotic prescribing practices currently vary so widely that “clinicians in some hospitals prescribe three times as many antibiotics than clinicians in other hospitals, even though patients were receiving care in similar areas of each hospital.”
While painkillers and antibiotics have the most visibly damaging effects on society when overprescribed, their prevalence is nowhere near that of antidepressant type drugs.
One out of every 10 Americans is currently taking some type of antidepressant medication. Women in their 40s and 50s make up the largest percentage of people using the drugs, with 1 in 4 prescribed some type of antidepressant.
While that sounds like a lot of depressed Americans, research suggests that there is another motive for the massive number of antidepressant prescriptions being handed out.
In fact, a 2013 study in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that just 38 percent of patients taking the drugs actually had the clinical markers of depression.
To understand why there are so many confused doctors and overmedicated patients, it could help to follow the money.
Consider this, via Drug Watch:
The global market for pharmaceuticals topped $1 trillion in sales in 2014. The world’s 10 largest drug companies generated $429.4 billion of that revenue. Five of these companies are headquartered in the U.S.: Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Abbot Laboratories, Merck and Eli Lilly.
With the help of staggering profits and 1,100-plus paid lobbyists, the industry has gained powerful leverage on Capitol Hill. From 1998 to 2014, Big Pharma spent nearly $2.9 billion on lobbying expenses — more than any other industry. The industry also doled out more than $15 million in campaign contributions from 2013-14.
Advocating exercise, lifestyle changes, healthy diet and alternative therapies simply don’t turn those kinds of profits.