Who Do You Listen To?

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“The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.”  ~ Confucius

This previously shared: I have neither owned nor watched TV for 16+ years. I do not read or listen to mainstream media. However, I do read about topics that intrigue, inspire and/or inform me. It’s selective choice.

Last week a friend forwarded this linked article, knowing it would induce a cringe rather than a favorable nod. It’s a healthy read so I’ll leave that choice up to you. The article is titled “Drugs You Don’t Need for Disorders You Don’t Have.” Essentially, it is about Big Pharma’s campaign to sell us prescription drugs.

For a variety of reasons, drug companies are now increasingly relying on direct marketing to American consumers. Last year, the pharmaceutical industry spent $5.2 billion on ads promoting specific drugs – an increase of 16 percent over the previous year. In this era of escalating drug prices, spending on prescription drugs now accounts for one in every six dollars that go into medical care.

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When the people raising awareness about a condition are the same people selling a drug to treat it, some obvious concerns arise. Ads rarely provide the kind of context consumers need to make good decisions about our health – about how a drug actually works or whether an alternative treatment might be better.

Only Europe and Australia have considered and decisively rejected proposals to allow companies to advertise specific drugs there. Wonder why?

A study on drug safety conducted by the Institute for Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, found that “The credibility of the FDA, the pharmaceutical industry, the academic research enterprise, and health care providers has become seriously diminished. Of particular concern are the common but inaccurate perceptions that the FDA approval represents a guarantee of safety, that approval is based on high degrees of clarity and certainty about a drug’s risk and benefits.”

Yet many people listen to these ‘authoritative’ experts.

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Disease mongering is prevalent in today’s media-rich world. It can be harmful to our health. When it comes to considering any prescription drug, I listen to my body and personally vetted, trusted sources. What do you do for yourself and loved ones?

There are many steps we can take to ensure we are listening to the right sources when it comes to what (if any) pharmaceutical we put into our bodies. Following the Nike tagline is not one of them. Here are three for your consideration:

  1. Ensure you are getting the right medication. Make sure your health care provider understands your condition and the signs and symptoms. Ask that individual whether there’s an alternative medication with ingredients that have less potential for bodily harm or addiction.
  2. Familiarize yourself with Alternative, Complementary, Holistic and Natural Medicine. Western medicine is not always a silver bullet.
  3. Consult Medication Risk Assessment Tools online. They are simply another resource as you evaluate what you may not need for a disorder you may not have.

51 thoughts on “Who Do You Listen To?

  1. What I find particularly challenging is when someone could find relief from methods other than what their medical insurance will cover (pharmaceutical drugs, etc.), but they can’t afford the alternative therapies. Or in so many cases, they have no idea about what alternative therapies can do for them, and they never explore any.

    Case in point, I was using a medicine daily for about 7 years for gastric reflux. I point blank asked my gastroenterologist what taking this medication long term could do to my body. He said it was harmless, although, the OTC packaging said to not take longer than 14 days without consulting a doctor. With his training, he has no idea how to permanently heal GERD. Now I’ve seen a few articles about some pretty nasty side effects attributed to using the drug long term. Thankfully, I was able to completely heal the GERD in one hypnotherapy session, and no longer have reflux or use the medicine.

    • To your well-taken point, I can vouch for acupuncture and curanderismo as practices not covered under medical insurance. Yet both have worked wonders for me. And I discovered both not through my doctor but through word-of-mouth referrals from others who had similar success with medicine that has been successfully practiced for centuries. I appreciate you sharing your personal experiences which, I suspect, far too many can relate. Glad to learn that hypnotherapy worked for you — a good testimony.

  2. Hi Eric, listening to my body has proved crucial for me as I am highly sensitive to drugs and even seemingly inoccuous alternative treatments. Having a family doc who understands and knows my history is key.
    We have virtually no drug advertising here in Ireland which is great.

    • Even people without chemical sensitivities, Jean, have found treatment success with their primary care physician – beyond traditional Western medicine. Some, as do you, have amazing long-term relationships with their family practitioners. Yet some who have that trusted relationship might be unwilling to step out of time-honored partnerships to consider or possibly explore less traditional, yet equally successful methods. In the end, it has to be with whom and with what are we most comfortable. And listening to our bodies *is* crucial. Thanks for adding thoughtfully here.

  3. Another perfect example of this is the mass-prescription of drugs like adderal or Ritalin. It’s monumentally sad to me that many doctors and parents so quickly resort to these medications to treat disorders that their children don’t even have. It’s what I immediately thought of when I read the part of the article that mentioned that a patient’s troubles with stomach acid/ulcers could easily be changed with diet rather than a prescription medication… Oftentimes children’s issues focusing, impulsivity, or “hyper”-activity can be better managed or channeled simply by changing habits at home! (Tv, video games, other screen time, more time spent playing active games outside, expending energy healthily…) And yet, drugs seem the easy way out, and in my opinion, a vicious cycle begins at a young age… Eric, I very much enjoyed this article, as I always do when reading your posts. It’s a very good caution for all.

    • Exactly! Your perspectives are a big part of this debate. It is the ease with which drugs are ‘auto-prescribed’ simply because that what’s in vogue, that finds people caught in pill(s) spirals. To your comment, of course there are other, non-pharmaceutical approaches that can (and do) yield changed behaviors and favorable outcomes. We simply need more awareness about them, coupled with the simple courage to make health decisions that best suit us. Not always what others tell us!

  4. I saw some shocking statistics about how many Westerners are taking anti-depressants daily. I can’t help but wonder if the poor sense of worth and lack of purpose so many feel is in part down to making comparisons with how we are portrayed ubiquitously in corporate marketing and the mainstream media. How we are, or rather should be, apparently, is ever-smiling, buoyant, optimistic, successful, achieving, secure, widely-loved, and so on. No wonder so many feel they don’t measure up.

    • Spot-on wisdom and awareness from a thoughtful blogger. Thank you for sharing this view, Hariod. It’s advertising directly to the consumer in the U.S. that perpetuates just what you state, And it’s not even subliminal messaging anymore; it’s challenging people directly to believe they need ‘whatever’ the pharmaceutical compound du jour. One would think that members of educated, developed, and somewhat aware societies would think a bit more about the toxic chemicals they put into their bodies, simply because bottom-line corporate greed told them to. Okay, off my soapbox. 🙂

  5. Sound advice Eric. Big Pharma has been having a hard time as drugs come off patent and generics take over. They sell the most expensive drugs directly to the consumer here in the USA and charge so much more than elsewhere.
    When consumerism takes over from medicine we all need to be vigilant.

    • As have other bloggers with their comments, Val, you too have nailed this. Vigilant is an apt descriptor. Do you think Americans know what it means? And subscribe to the concept? Marketing can be (and obviously is) as beneficial as it is evil. And now I’m on to some deep breathing. 🙂

  6. “I listen to my body”…well said Eric! I agree with you. Who knows our body better than us and if we heed the warnings it issues, we are better placed while consulting our family doc too.
    Nice reminders. Thanks for sharing.

    • It truly is as simple as you state, Balroop. Know your body and listen to it. Add a healthy dose of being informed along with thoughtful personal choice and one is likely to emerge just fine. Simply my perspective and opinion. 🙂

  7. Having worked in a psych. hospital for over 20 years and had my own practice in Stress Management (without drugs).. for many more…. I enjoyed reading your post today. thanks

    • Amazing! Without drugs. How did you do that? And of course, I am being facetious. Another fact based example of proven, successful methods that do not require prescription drugs. Thank you for contributing your poignant experience.

  8. Listening to our bodies is key indeed. Experts abound in every field and the more money involved the more experts, as in the pharmaceutical industry. Experts make TV watching painful as well. I’ve gotten where I watch/listen to the top of the hour news and switch off.
    Great article, Eric. Thank you.

    • Money. A root of all evil? Yes, Silvia, the more money involved, the more “experts.” The only problem is, what constitutes or qualifies an “expert?” Thank you for sharing your relevant observations and choices.

  9. I love music. Even now am working and blasting music, full volume. It’s the only thing that lifts me up when I’m sad or bored. I don’t pay attention to adverts. They’re way too many so I just zone out as I watch TV. I watch 1-2 hours of Tv/day. I believe in moderation. Everything I do, is done in moderation and that works fine for me. Have a great weekend.

    • Music soothes the soul. 🙂 And if it takes you into a blissful space, far from the world of advertising, all the better! Moderation is a practical and prudent choice, Liz, except when one has an opportunity to see, smell and enjoy eating your baked creations.

  10. Modern medicine is a two edge sword. Listening to one’s body is key. I have found that in some cases, the amount of a prescription drug can be decreased based on your own chemistry. Not everyone is the same. Including your doctor in the discussion is always best.

    • Agreed, Patrick, unless one’s doctor is insistent on treating a diagnosis, ailment, malady or affliction exclusively her/his way. When it becomes someone else making decisions that ought to ultimately be the patient’s, physical and emotional imbalances can arise. If the relationship is one in which there is honest and open dialogue and even a willingness to experiment or negotiate treatments, then it has the potential to become a win-win. Partnerships work. 🙂 And yes, it definitely can be a double-edge sword.

  11. So, I’m left with some thoughts on this. Forgive me, I’ll try to not be all over the place. I’ve read your post and followed your link and I am so far about half way down. Since I began my journey here on WordPress, I lost my faith in Huffington Post when I was researching a post I was doing and found they cited themselves as a source of the information they were using on another post of theirs and that post didn’t have anything that told where they got that information. No where in this article (links in the writing or sources listed at the bottom. I scrolled just to make sure) are reliable/knowledgeable sources where they got this information and the person who wrote it has no background in medicine http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-cohn/. Like he just woke up one morning and thought, “I’m gonna write about medicine today.”

    With that being said I have thoughts on the topic itself. Yes I do think people are slowly becoming hypochondriacs with the help of commercials and “Dr. Google”. There’s a medication for pretty much any ailment you think you have. Sometimes it feels like we’re not far away from just being doped up on Soma (Brave New World). What was once considered “sad” is now “depression”. And how much of the onslaught is because the consumers have demanded it? They wouldn’t put up the money if there wasn’t going to be a return. And if the statistics are right in the post, then it’s proven to be a lucrative investment. We all want to be “in the know”, but how many of us take the time to do our own research and not take the commercial at face value or even read the small print that usually says “results may vary/ results not typical”.

    Thankfully these are by prescription only. The companies may be trying to push the medication of the moment, but it’s up to those whole have gone to school for years to know the specifics of the medications. Which is why the commercials say to talk to your doctor. As much as I would love commercials to be just about a PSA, no company would spend all that money for one and not try to sell a product of theirs. If they were to try to put in all the pluses and negatives in a commercial it would no longer be one due to its length. And I have yet to see a medication that has no potential side effects. I believe one of your other commenters was right in saying it’s a double edge sword.

    On the flip side. No doctor worth their credentials would prescribe a medication they didn’t trust nor would they prescribe a medication they didn’t feel was appropriate for a person’s problem and would strive for a lowest effective dosage (I see this every day at work and this is just a veterinary clinic). And each person reacts differently to medications. And unfortunately it’s a gamble prescribing a new medication for that reason.

    I wonder how often some of the commercials have helped open communications between people and their doctors allowing them to explore that avenue. “Hey, I saw this commercial the other day and I think it resonates with me. I’d like to talk to you and see if you agree.” AKA – know yourself, know your doctor. You’ll find the best path for you. (Sorry for the longevity!)

    • Dani, thank you for your detailed and thoughtful comment. WordPress flagged it as spam (I guess due to its length) so it ended up in the offline comments queue rather than joining directly to the post. Ergo, my delayed reply.

      This post has generated considerable comment, much of it aligned with the articles critical focus. While this is simply my thought, I do not believe the article’s author was attempting to project himself as a doctor or medical professional. Rather, I suspect he is more in the vein of investigative journalists who research topics and then share their findings and views with interested readers.

      Your statement, “How many of us take the time to do our own research…” is in part, largely why I chose to share the article in a post. I remain hopeful that more people do or will.

      I will, however, share that I do not believe your assertion that “No doctor worth their credentials would prescribe a medication they didn’t trust nor would they prescribe a medication they didn’t feel was appropriate for a person’s problem…” is entirely accurate. This would imply that every licensed physician acts in total integrity and would never be swayed by the perqs and benefits that are dangled by Big Pharma sales/representatives. This is a delicate (and potentially harmful) issue that the author also broached.

      And the author also addresses the matter of direct consumer advertising prompting people to have conversations with their health care provider(s) when they don’t even need the drug or have a diagnosis that a given drug is cleverly advertised to help. This, in part, is why I suspect he chose to title his article as he did. People are going to their doctors armed solely with what is being conveyed to them in a commercial, not have any idea beyond the ‘Oh wow’ factor.

      This blog, as it is titled, is significantly about creating awareness around topics that may educate, motivate and/or inspire people. And part of the inspiration is intended to encourage readers to take prudent, if not needed, action in order to live healthier and more meaningful lives. I trust you appreciate this. I am simply a ‘messenger.’ 🙂

      I genuinely appreciate your obvious interest in communicating worthy subjects to our fellow bloggers. Your personal passion about this matter shows you care.

  12. Wise words, Eric! I recently listened to my body when I was prescribed a “high fashion” aggressively marketed cholesterol drug. My body said not good. And I stopped, went with a natural supplement that has lowered my cholesterol more than the expensive, much touted and still patent protected drug. My doctor said “whatever you are doing, keep doing it” – it’s so worth being vigilant.

    • You know, Helen, MO & PO (they’ll always be MO & PO to me) don’t take prescription drugs. And look at the glorious lives they live! Rather than acquiesce to what medical “experts” recommend, if we simply pause to consider viable alternatives, they might just be right in front of our noses. I have been on a significant statin dose for years and I am becoming less convinced (with the more reading I do) that I need it. My counts are now enviable and I feel great. If you are willing to disclose the natural supplement you have found to work, I would appreciate your personal ‘referral’ as I look into it. And… perhaps other readers much equally benefit. Thank you!

  13. You and many other people are blessed in this way, Audrey. Kudos for seeing the opportunity to gauge how prescription medication may be impacting loved ones who need to take them. Or, if they would be open to your suggestion(s), perhaps you could invite a conversation with them around what other healthy choices/alternatives they might be willing to consider. Thank you for acknowledging the post’s significance and the site’s focus.

  14. You get a great discussion going.
    My youngest daughter was diagnosed with JRA, which led us to go to Children’s Hospital from age 13 to 21. After taking Vioxx and Celebrex for pain, she had less red blood cells and too many white blood cells. We were not sure if her stomach was bleeding due to side effects so she started taking Prilosec. Once you read all of the deterioration of organs you realize it is hard to decide one’s actions. She had the joints of a 65 year old at a young age, determined thru an OSU study over those 8 years of measuring and testing. It is good to look for natural pain killers, homeopathic doctors or specialists who offer alternatives. She doesn’t take meds but feels pain often in her joints. She will never stop trying things which include eliminating processed foods, dairy, gluten. . . 🙂

    • It is real, first hand stories such as your, Robin, that validate this post’s message. It is sad to learn about anyone’s debilitating conditions yet it is heartening to read that your daughter’s awareness is heightened due to her diagnosis. The fact that she is vigilant about trying alternative diets to see what may help with her pain versus just taking more pills is to me, noble and encouraging. I wish her improved and continued wellness, with diminished pain and no toxic pharmaceuticals.

  15. I shall not leave more of a comment than to agree with everyone here… Very thoughtful post, Eric, as per usual. I was talking to a friend recently and we were saying that if he were a kid in today’s world, he would have been put on Ritalin or Concerta or something of that ilk… *way* back when, it was unheard of. The man is brilliant and nothing came in and took away his creativity nor his learning how to cope with his excess energy…

    • My understanding, Dale, is that there are voluminous stories that mirror your friend’s childhood experiences and what physician’s did (or did not do) then — and the ease with which they auto-prescribe drugs today. There *are* many adults who had similar younger symptoms who turn out to be fine, fully functioning adults. Sometimes, I wish I had the hyper-abundance of energy that some people have. I believe I would find a way to cope with it. 🙂

  16. This is so true, Eric. My husband and I were just talking about how every other commercial on Hulu (we don’t have cable) is for some kind of prescription drug. If you listen to the side effects that they run through so fast, some of them even say risk of death. I mean, seriously? I can’t imagine that we need all the drugs that are being barked about. It’s like watching the old traveling medicine man in the old West. And I haven’t trusted anything the FDA has to say in years. The pharmaceutical companies have deep pockets and big lobbyists. ‘Nuff said on my part. I’m sure you get what I’m saying!

    • I apologize, Linda, for inadvertently missing your appreciated comment. I do get what you are saying and if you read some of the other blogger’s comments, you know that most of us are on a similar page when it comes to drug advertising, Big Pharma and the FDA. I guess there is credence in the expression “every man (or woman) for them self.” It is my hope that each of us performs due diligence when it comes to putting potentially toxic chemicals into our sensitive bodies. Our canine and feline companions must think some of us are nuts. 🙂 Thank you for adding to this thread.

  17. Eric we live in a world where we want everything fixed immediately and depression and anxiety are on the rise. I often wonder why that is. Maybe more people should stop watching the news and reading the paper. I don’t watch much TV, I never watch the news because I have a child with high anxiety who distress’s if he sees how messed up our world is. I have discovered I don’t miss much as the big news filters through in other ways. You will often find in our house no TV just book reading and I enjoy that much better.

  18. I hear and empathize with you, Kath. Our world is messed up, in so many respects. Yet there are ways and mediums through which we can read, hear about and be thankful for a lot that is not messed up. It’s just that mainstream media is biased toward sensationalizing the negative – which unfortunately clouds the good. I know I am ‘preaching to the choir’ yet I refuse to be overwhelmed by the constant stream of fulminating. I, as are others, are committed to changing this and providing your son (and subsequent generations) with a safer, kinder and more loving world. It’s a monumental effort yet we are taking baby steps. Thank you for your thoughtful share.

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