Estimates show that one-third of all healthcare activity has no benefit for patients. Given the fact that drug companies’ primary responsibility is to provide profit for their shareholders – rather than provide quality patient healthcare – this fact is far from surprising. For pharmaceutical drug companies, customers are those with illnesses. In order to make a profit, as in any other business, these companies must expand their customer base and secure repeat customers. In the drug business, expanding the customer base means finding new ways to make more people sick by changing the definition of existing diseases so that they apply to more people or by inventing entirely new ones.
Internationally renowned professor of diabetes, Director of the Centre of Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford and the past President of the Royal College of Physicians, as well as, former doctor to the Queen Dr Aseem Malhotra stated that “Prescribed medications are estimated to be the third biggest killers, after heart disease and cancer. Big Pharma makes millions selling drugs people don’t need and destroying their lives! For years, public health advice across Europe has got it dangerously wrong.”
Pharmaceutical companies have had a pervasive influence on policies which force doctors to prescribe unnecessary and potentially harmful treatments, rather than providing patients with basic lifestyle solutions. In the UK, more than half of all adults take at least one prescription medication, with 50% of those who are over 70 on at least three.
In fact, it is the elderly who are most at risk of so-called polypharmacy – the taking of multiple drugs by a single patient. The problem with polypharmacy is that the more drugs you take, the more likely you are to experience side-effects. Doctors and nurses then misinterpret these side-effects as symptoms of diseases that need treating with additional medicine.
Dr. Malhotra went on to state that “With global health systems forecast to collapse in the next few years, two things are driving ever-increasing demand: The escalating burden of chronic disease, caused by entirely preventable lifestyle illnesses, and over-treatment, seeing millions taking drugs and undergoing surgeries that will provide zero benefit and, as a result, cost national economies billions.”
The system is broken and it cannot be fixed by simply pouring more money into it.
For the sake of our future health and the sustainability of our healthcare systems, it’s time for real collective action against the problem of prescribing ‘too much medicine’. Of course, it is impossible to abandon medicine in modern life altogether. There are situations and conditions in which taking medicine is necessary. However, it is undoubtedly possible to begin treating your body as a whole and consciously and cautiously control the use of medication. We know that lifestyle changes can incredibly improve a person’s health without the use of medication. Weight control, an active lifestyle, a conscious diet and an optimistic mood have no side-effects other than better health! By making the right choices, we improve not only our health but also begin to fix our broken healthcare systems.