Skepticism is essential in any scientific pursuit. I would like to see our profession move to greater honesty with the public regarding the risks and benefits of drugs. For our profession to flourish, we must be seen as unbiased sources of information about the risks and benefits of drugs. We cannot debase our degree and our profession by becoming cheerleaders for drugs, even though our employers and Big Pharma surely wish that we would.
The large number of potential side effects should prompt people to do everything they can to prevent what are, very often, simply diseases of modern civilization. Hypertension, heart disease, elevated cholesterol levels, stroke, type 2 diabetes, many cancers, gout, and kidney stones account for the majority of prescriptions that pharmacists fill.
Our healthcare system is all about monetizing the maladaptation of humans to modern societies. We have an absurd healthcare system that gives priority to pills rather than prevention because there’s little money in prevention.
In the view of some pharmacists, prevention includes using drugs to treat elevated blood pressure and cholesterol so that these conditions do not progress to heart disease. This is known as medicalized prevention. But shouldn’t our healthcare system give priority to nondrug approaches like dietary/nutritional and lifestyle changes?
Near my home, there is a large hospital and a large farmer’s market. I prefer the model of health represented by the farmer’s market rather than the hospital. I prefer a model based on whole (unprocessed) foods that exist in nature, rather than the mechanistic and reductionist model of modern medicine which uses drugs to overwhelm the delicate processes of Mother Nature. These processes have been fine-tuned over thousands of years of human evolution, yet modern medicine views humans as a rickety old machine that is constantly prone to break down.
There are, of course, many drugs that are essential and even life-saving. On the other hand, can anyone deny that prevention is better than treatment?
Dennis Miller, R.Ph. is a retired pharmacist living in Delray Beach, Florida. He welcomes feedback at [email protected].