By Dr. Mercola
One day soon you may be able to go to the mall and, instead of leaving with a new pair of shoes or a DVD, pick up a bottle of various prescription drugs, all without ever seeing a physician.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently held public hearings on this very topic, and is considering the introduction of "patient kiosks" where you could fill out online questionnaires and, based on your responses to a few questions, self-diagnose a condition and get medications that currently require a prescription.
This means drugs for conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and migraines may soon be easily available over-the-counter or, more aptly, from veritable vending machines, ready to purchase like a bag of chips or a candy bar.
Prescription Drugs from Vending Machines?
The idea is that people would be able to access the drugs via patient kiosks in malls or drug stores without having to make a visit to their doctor's offices. Thereby saving patients (and insurance companies) time and money by reducing overall health care costs. Proponents of the idea say it would be a good way to get patients that are not currently being treated for these conditions, treated.
Since 1976, 106 ingredients or medications have been switched from prescription to over-the-counter (OTC) status, and this is a trend many Americans appear to support. A survey sponsored by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) revealed that 80 percent of U.S. consumers had used an OTC medicine in the last year and 86 percent believe OTC drugs help them lower health care costs.
Further, 89 percent said OTC medications are an "important part of their overall family health care," while 81 percent use them as a "first response" to minor ailments.
But opponents argue that consumers might have trouble understanding the medical information the kiosks would dispense along with the drugs. Not to mention, the majority of Americans are already taking too many drugs, and easier access makes it likely that people will take even more -- even though many chronic conditions, like elevated cholesterol, are best treated without drugs, and
As Activist Post details:
" … the vending machine could massively increase pharmaceutical drug use, which kills more individuals per year than traffic fatalities. Pharmaceutical painkillers in specific are responsible for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. Instead of distributing even more pharmaceuticals to consumers, perhaps the FDA should focus on solutions that do not require risky pharmaceuticals that on average contain 70 side effects."
More Drugs Do Not Equal Better Health
On average, if you take one prescription drug you'll be exposed to 70 potential side effects. Some of the more commonly prescribed drugs averaged around 100 side effects each -- and some drugs even carry over 500! Despite this, many people and their physicians use drugs as the go-to treatment, even in cases where dietary changes, exercise and safer natural options like stress reduction and supplements exist.
There's no doubt that the United States has been manipulated into becoming a "polypharmacy nation." The word 'polypharmacy' simply means "many drugs," but refers to instances where an individual is taking too many drugs -- either because more drugs are prescribed than are clinically indicated, or when the sheer number of pills simply becomes a burden for the patient.
Many Americans are being impacted by polypharmacy, with unforeseen effects on their health – and this is now, before a new era may begin where drugs are available in vending machines.
According to statistics from the Kaiser Health Foundation, the average American adult, aged 19 to 64, takes more than 11 prescription drugs. So while polypharmacy used to be primarily a concern for seniors who, on average, fill more than 31 prescriptions per year, polypharmacy now applies to virtually everyone, including children and toddlers, whose drug use now averages out to four or more drugs per child.
Despite taking all of these drugs Americans are not walking around with stellar health, which is what makes the idea of introducing ways to make access to drugs even easier so frustrating and contrary to common sense.
Americans are the most medicated people in the world, yet chronic disease rates are rising and research published in Health Affairs revealed that the United States now ranks 49th for male and female life expectancy worldwide, a ranking that has fallen sharply from fifth place in 1950.
Drug Companies Would Love to Cut Out the Middle Man
One of the main challenges that drug companies face is that many of their products can only be purchased through a physician. Although they do spend billions every year marketing drugs directly to consumers, ultimately most of these drugs require a prescription. And this is why the pharmaceutical industry employs an army of drug reps who "educate" physicians about new drugs -- a practice that includes visiting physicians personally, often with lavish gifts in hand, or offers of dinners and trips as persuasive perks.
In the U.S., drug companies spend about $16 billion every year to market their drugs to physicians, which works out to about $10,000 for every single dollar. A great investment on their part or they would never spend this type of money. They get many times their investment back from increased sales.
As you dig even deeper, the next marketing "layer" are the industry-paid physicians, researchers and other medical experts who provide consulting services including research and lectures about drugs. These lectures typically target the physicians they depend on to recommend, prescribe, and dispense their medications.
These "experts" are very much on the drug industry's payroll but they masquerade as independent medical experts or even state officials during their "day jobs." An ongoing investigation by ProPublica revealed 12 drug companies paid more than $761 million to physicians for consulting, speaking, research and other expenses in 2009, 2010 and, for some, the beginning of 2011. The $761 million represents only the disclosed payments. In all actuality, the figure is probably much higher.
Switching models would not change the drug companies' approach at all though as they would merely shift their investment to direct-to-consumer advertising in which they currently spend $6 billion every year. The U.S. and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world where this is legal.
Drugs are Not Always the Answer
In fact, barring certain instances where drugs are necessary, such as for pain relief after trauma or surgery, there's a good chance drugs are not the route to optimal health and healing as they are so widely regarded. The notion that "easier access to drugs" is the answer to the U.S. population's largely failing health is, from my point of view, clearly misguided. There is a dangerous misconception in the United States, among both patients and physicians, that when you're sick you need a drug to feel better. This is precisely why 81 percent of Americans reach for an OTC drug as a "first response" to minor ailments.
In reality, a study from the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine found absolutely no correlation between spending more on drugs and improved patient outcomes, which is really no surprise. So one of the most important questions to ask yourself and your health care practitioner before deciding to take any drug is:
Do I really need it?
Oftentimes you'll find the answer is no. Drugs should be viewed as a last resort instead of a first choice, as oftentimes your body can heal itself if you give it the proper "tools." Maintaining good health as you age, without the use of drugs, IS possible, and this is true even if you have certain "chronic diseases." Examples of health problems that typically don't require drug intervention include:
High blood pressure
Virtually everyone with a disease listed above does not need a drug to treat their illness. These can be addressed by working with a knowledgeable health care clinician that can guide the process of weaning off the medications and shifting to natural therapies. It is important to avoid doing this yourself, as there are some very serious, event potentially fatal side effects from going off some medications improperly.
If you start with just the five steps listed below, you will be embarking on a journey to outstanding health and drug-free wellness. You may even be able to reverse some of your chronic conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure:
- Eliminate sugar, especially fructose, and most grains from your diet.
- Eat unprocessed, high-quality foods, organic if possible. If you haven't reviewed my comprehensive free nutrition program, please do so when you have a moment.
- Get sufficient amounts of sun exposure on large areas of your skin to optimize your vitamin D levels.
- Consume enough high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil.
- Exercise regularly, including high-intensity burst exercises like Peak Fitness.