“Pharmaceutical companies sell disease” and the fear of disease. Life and its problems have become diseases needing medication intervention. We are nothing but consumers unable to deal with life and its problems and challenges without taking a pill. Shyness is now “social anxiety disorder”. Trouble sleeping has become insomnia in search of the right pill. Pain is not to be endured and certainly can’t be treated short of taking the right pill.
Pharmaceutical company advertising expenditures are about $4 billion a year. In 1994 (about the time I wrote “Brown Bag Syndrome”, regarding the perils of polypharmacy, for Emergency Medicine Reports) the average American had 7 prescriptions a year. In 2004 that number was up to 12 a year.
Pharmaceutical companies know that a drug ad increases the sales for all of the drugs in that category of medication. They know that the ads will return $4 for every $1 they spend. They sell the disease so you have to have the pill for the cure.
What can come of this polypharmacy (other than great profits for the pharmaceutical company)? It drives soaring system-wide medical cost and patients badgering doctors for more meds and that one “perfect” pill. People get sick (and can die) from the side-effects of one medicine, but few studies have been done on the potentiation of side effects from ‘mixing’ meds. More meds around also increase the chances of ‘punch bowl’ parties allowing for the ‘snacking’ of mixed meds as if they were jujubes. Polypharmacy can be a fatal.
Medicine should be about healing people, not persuading more of them that they are “sick”. Medicine should be advising folks about health, not pushing pills. Proper diet (weight control, general well-being, specific issues), exercise (weight reduction, general conditioning, pain control), non-toxic modalities like massage therapy and yoga, are all non-medication paths to health. It takes more work than swallowing a pill, but you can be in charge of your health and forestalling your death.