Our medical society is being strongly influenced by the corporate entities that are there to improve the financial health of its stockholders rather than the health of the general population. Too much influence, money and legislative power has been but into the hands of these corporations. We are now paying the price.
So where are the forces that have taken the power from our control? Follow the money. Sadly, the threat of profit, at the expense of our nation’s health, is driving the bus. I believe that too often the perspective and approach to health is developed by the corporations more so than it is by the patient or their provider. It’s starling how much the newest and most convenient drug plays such a huge role towards the patient’s health. Rather than their decisions being driven by the best and most sensible information on how to influence and modify their health.
Let’s look at the diagnosis of “depression.” The extent of the conventional medical thought process has already ended by time that you read this sentence. “The individual is depressed. S/he needs an antidepressant.” Now grab the prescription pad! Done thinking, get treating!
What if one were to recall that multiple other forces are in play that could be contributing to a clinical presentation of depression? Strong medical data exists that relates a sense of depression to personal and social issues. Life changes – death in the family, divorce, drug use and stress just to name a few.
Additional data strongly correlates depression with more tangible things such as inflammation, infection or metabolic disorders. Elevated insulin, a state easily modified through dietary changes, has been strongly associated with depression. Nutritional deficiencies of substances such as vitamin D, SAM-e, alpha lipoic acid, B vitamins and tryptophan have also been associated. Maybe your depression could be modified with fish oils, anti-inflammatories or herbs? These have all been well studied. When during modern medicine did we begin to turn off our brains and cow to the newest, most cleverly promoted drug?
The average American is probably oblivious to the unending marketing from the big Pharm companies that come across their physician’s desk over the course of a year. Most large medical offices are seeing daily or weekly introductions to a new drug or therapy delivered by the advertising department of the pharmaceutical company. Unfortunately, this information is being delivered in a biased way. The physicians, within the law, are being bribed to prescribe.
“Training” seminars are one way to influence physicians. An upscale meal at the finest place in town, accompanied by a brief informational talk is what one of these seminars entails. Pretty tempting, right? More than once I have also been swayed by an invitation to dine on a Big Pharm’s dime. Marshall McLuhan once said that the “medium is in the message,” but it’s hard to shrug off the message when it’s accompanied with expensive wine and Atlantic salmon en Croute.
Similar temptations occur in the office. Routine scheduled lunches with the sales force of the newest, greatest drug. Attractive, well-dressed drug “reps” arrive with lunch, and a variety of tokens all cleverly designed to sway the prescriber’s attention to the recommendation of the sponsor’s drug. I have seen lunch spaces strewn with logo hats, pens, note pads, rulers, key chains, books, penlights and mugs following a presentation. These trinkets are for the staff. The new textbook, event tickets and pre-printed prescription pads all reside securely in the physician’s office.
The medical marketing of today is now cloaked in the guise of medical information, and the prizes are not as obvious as a golf trip to the Caribbean.
All physicians are responsible for maintaining a certain number of Continuing Medical Education credits by the respective medical boards of their states. Typically, these are costly to attend – airfare to the city, hotel lodging and meals. But it’s well within the law for a drug company to sponsor a physician’s medical education. Many take advantage of this opportunity. Of course, the lectures are unbiased. It just happens that the best product for the treatment of the condition discussed is made by the entity that sponsored the conference! Is it coercion or coincidence? Sometimes the areas begin to grey, and sadly so too do the motives for recommending a certain medication or treatment.
So what can we, the public, do to remedy this? Generally, we lack the training, insight and status of a prescribing doctor. We can perform an act which is sadly evading the collective conscious of the contemporary physician.
We can THINK. We can all take a moment to reflect upon what seems to be the best, and safest course of action for our health. Whether the newest, greatest thing will really live up to its hype. We can QUESTION our providers as to why a certain (often new and expensive) treatment is being recommended to us. We can EDUCATE ourselves (and believe it or not our doctors) by reading, studying and utilizing the multiple resources that are available through the internet, seminars, webinars, medical publications and our friends.
And finally, we can be REMINDED that true health is not simply found in a pill or tincture, but from a commitment to a path of wellness found in our family, community, lifestyle choices and our mind.
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Dr. Scott Resnick