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New Research Finds Doctors are Massively Overprescribing Drugs

doctor's prescriptionsA new report finds that U.S. doctors are too quick to prescribe drugs, and often give little thought to side effects and non-drug alternatives.

Overprescription is rampant, according to experts.  Nearly half of all Americans have used at least one prescription drug in the past month.  Many are being exposed to side effects, sometimes fatal ones, even though they are receiving few or no benefits from the drugs.

According to MSNBC:

"Yet many doctors are quick to prescribe a drug, partly because they have limited time to deal with individual patients or because they and their patients have been bombarded with ads from the pharmaceutical industry."

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Drug use in the United States -- of the prescribed variety -- is clearly out of control. The average American, aged 19 to 64, now takes more than 11 prescription drugs, according to the latest statistics from the Kaiser Health Foundation. Not even children are spared from excessive drugging, and seniors are taking a downright frightening number of medications.

The average annual prescription rate for children and seniors in the United States is now:

  • Almost 4 prescriptions per child (age 0-18)
  • More than 31 prescriptions per senior, aged 65 and over

This is the product of a medical system that offers little in the way of disease prevention and non-drug alternatives, and is challenged to think beyond drugs when a person comes in with a medical complaint. That is why the new report "Principles of Conservative Prescribing," by Dr. Gordon Schiff, associate director of the Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, is a breath of fresh air in a drug-saturated medical paradigm.

Doctors Turn to Drugs, Not Real Solutions

The business of being a doctor in this country has been reduced to being the front man for a multi-billion dollar drug business whose primary mission seems to be enriching their bottom line by keeping you sick and dependent on drugs to relieve but not cure, your health complaints. The system is carefully orchestrated to sell the quick fix, the drug, and that is precisely why so many Americans equate prescription medications with wellness. In reality, in many cases, the "cure" merely adds new problems to a patient's list of complaints …

During your last appointment with a physician of any sort, specialist or primary care, what happened?

  • Did you have a chat about diet, exercise, nutrition, eating plans, or stress management?
  • Were you cautioned not to consume too much refined sugar or flour?
  • Were you given advice on natural supplements or lifestyle changes that can help you achieve optimal health?

Or did the entire appointment simply address the symptoms you came in with or a screening for an illness you might have? And did it end with the doctor giving you a prescription? Unless your physician specializes in nutrition or holistic medicine, the prescription was probably the main focus of your appointment. That's because treating symptoms and diseases -- and prescribing drugs for them -- is what modern doctors do.

It's no wonder that over one-third of doctors are unhappy about some aspect of their profession. They simply are not using the tools that will make their patients well -- and this is not entirely their fault, as they are products of the system, taught from medical school about which drugs they should prescribe for which ailments, and then continually re-seeded with drug prescribing information from drug reps.

Further, if they deny a patient any drug that the drug industry-supported "studies" are touting as a "solution," they might be sued for malpractice or disciplined by their local medical board. Many don't realize that there is heavy peer pressure to tow the drug company line -- if they start to adopt natural therapies, many are criticized by their professional colleagues. Most physicians do have their patients' best interests at heart, but the medical system is rigged against them.

6 Principles Your Doctor Needs to Embrace

Dr. Schiff and colleagues have put together a report that could is spot on in addressing the problems with prescription drugs in the United States, and in my opinion it should be required reading for every medical student and practicing physician. At its crux: doctors are too quick to prescribe drugs, and as a result people are exposed to dangerous side effects without any justified benefit.

As Dr. Schiff told Reuters Health:

"Often what is really bothering them is not cured with a pill, but rather through exercise, physical therapy, or diet changes."

The report includes a series of principles calling for more cautious and conservative prescribing practices, which urge clinicians to:

  1. Think beyond drugs (consider nondrug therapy, treatable underlying causes, and prevention)
  2. Practice more strategic prescribing (defer nonurgent drug treatment; avoid unwarranted drug switching; be circumspect about unproven drug uses; and start treatment with only 1 new drug at a time)
  3. Maintain heightened vigilance regarding adverse effects (suspect drug reactions; be aware of withdrawal syndromes; and educate patients to anticipate reactions)
  4. Exercise caution and skepticism regarding new drugs (seek out unbiased information; wait until drugs have sufficient time on the market; be skeptical about surrogate rather than true clinical outcomes; avoid stretching indications; avoid seduction by elegant molecular pharmacology; beware of selective drug trial reporting)
  5. Work with patients for a shared agenda (do not automatically accede to drug requests; consider nonadherence before adding drugs to regimen; avoid restarting previously unsuccessful drug treatment; discontinue treatment with unneeded medications; and respect patients' reservations about drugs)
  6. Consider long-term, broader impacts (weigh long-term outcomes, and recognize that improved systems may outweigh marginal benefits of new drugs).

Of course, getting your doctor to realize that your health may be better served by positive lifestyle changes than a prescription medication is only part of the solution. In order for it to impact you fully, you've got to realize it too.

Breaking Free of the Prescription Drug Trap

You are the only one who can be fully responsible for your health. You can choose to believe that this responsibility rests on someone else's shoulders, but at the end of the day, you are the one who has to live with the consequences, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, a majority of people have been successfully brainwashed into thinking that FDA-approved drugs are both safe and effective. This is a tragedy of epic proportions because nothing could be further from the truth.

In order to break free of this dangerous mindset, it helps to have a physician who thinks beyond drugs … but if yours doesn't, it's up to you to find one who does. But many people still do not realize just how effective lifestyle changes can be in treating their disease. Many diabetics, for example, are convinced they need drugs, and resist the idea that treating or even curing their disease is entirely within their own control.

The truth is, type 2 diabetes is virtually 100 percent avoidable and treatable entirely without drugs. If you're still in the dark about how to accomplish this, please see this link.

Other common conditions that can be managed without medication include:

Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) High cholesterol Depression
High blood pressure Osteoporosis Heart disease 
Insomnia  ADHD Acid reflux

One of the surest ways to avoid falling into the drug trap is to simply embrace the fundamentals of good health, such as:

Take it from me, this "prescription" really works. At the age of 57, I am not taking a single drug, and my parents, at 81 and 76 years old, are also both drug free—and in good health; perhaps for that very reason...Finally, before you decide to take any drug, be sure you have done your research. As Dr. Schiff told Reuters:

"Patients need to ask critical and skeptical questions, too. They really should learn about the side effects of the drugs they are taking and be on the lookout for them."

I would add to this the following questions as well, which I suggest you ask yourself and your physician before decided to take any drug:

  • Do I really need it or are there some safer less expensive natural alternatives that can be found on or the Web?
  • Is it prescribed appropriately, or is it being prescribed for an off-label use?
  • What are the side effects? (Both common and uncommon side effects)
  • Is it addictive?
  • Is it known to interact with any other drugs, supplements, or foods that I'm taking?