Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Melody Petersen is YOUR Champion

In hunting for websites and education resources for patients, I get emails from people trying to sell me their medications. I get emails from people who are trying to convince me that things like Goat urine and Emu oils are the cure I am seeking. And, I get emails from people who are also fighting their insurance companies, their doctors, and even their own families for an opportunity to simply be heard. And, every so often I get emails from book companies that offer ideas for different resources. It was through this email that I discovered a writer who understands the American medical system so well she wrote a book about it. No other book can compare and I need to recommend "Our Daily Meds" by Melody Petersen to anyone who is capable of reading, and an audio version to anyone is not.

When I was a child, I remember news stories about Miracle Drugs, and then talk shows interviewing well-dressed, sage-looking people who would sputter on about what we needed as a civilization to survive. Mike Douglas, Phil Donohue, and 60 Minutes each focused our attention on pills and super-drugs designed to eradicate our depression, ensure our vitality, and certainly end all need for diets. In truth, the marketing of these medications has not changed much from the days when Snake Oil salesmen would come to towns and offer a song and dance regarding the magic of their potions. The only difference is the numbers in millions of people who are now sold these oils, disguised as real cure-alls.

Aspirin, antibiotics, and anesthesia did change the landscape of medicine so that people would be assisted- enhancing the quality of life. The packaging of drug after drug, that never gets tested on the demographic for which it is alleged to help, is just a new way of selling snake oil. Melody Petersen wants YOU to be aware of these tactics and the abuse of pharmaceutical companies to the detriment of our health.

Within the first two chapters, you are given examples of pills that have, in fact, killed people when tested against placebos. The medications were approved through the FDA, not through extensive tests comparing efficacy against similar medications, but against their efficacy in comparison to sugar pills. Asprin isn't tested against another form of pain medication. Meridia isn't tested against another form of appetite control. All responses are based on that formula's failures against simple sugar. We are, in fact, sold medications through marketing, and NOT through actual patient histories. The general public isn't tested, in broad studies, encompassing children, seniors, men and women, of different nationalities, or different diets. The testing of medications is done on volunteers, generally between the ages of 18-24, generally male, and predominantly through the idea that the people trying these will be compensated for their responses. A man will be tested for a birth control pill before a woman will.

Ms. Petersen exposes dozens of medical failures. She also exposes the increasing number of medical professionals who are swayed by gifts, financial gains, and by vacations, all funded by pharmaceutical companies to promote and increase the number of prescriptions of their current hot medication. Many of the stories posted in the press are written by authors who are subsidized directly by the marketing departments of drug companies. More money is spent on marketing medications in one year, than is spent on educating our children in school systems, over a ten year period. There are more medical researchers who spend their midnight oil on the discovery of wrinkle cures than there are on cancer cures because there are far more dollars to be made through a general population seeking youth.

Vitamin deficiencies in our diet, now peppered with processed food, drive-through dinners, and lack of vegetables and fruits cause myriad problems. But, pharmaceutical companies help to promote the idea that new illnesses have come to fruition over the last twenty years- including restless leg syndrome, bladder incontinence, attention deficit, and the always controversial fibromyalgia. In fact, these issues have been in our population for thousands of years, but the marketing of medications to 'manage' these issues has only been a billion dollar industry since the increase of mass communication. Melody Petersen points out the ways industries have not only tried to get the general public to beg for these cures, but the ways these companies have re-worded, and re-tooled natural issues in our lives into a financial windfall by inventing illnesses and catch phrases to describe them.

Insurance companies are in constant conflict with these corporations. If you look through the Medicare Approved Prescription list for 2009, you will find that much of the formulas listed are older than fifteen years. The general public has gone through at least some long-term history with the drugs approved. Remeron, for instance, is an older medication for both depression, mild psychotic episodes, and attention issues. It costs pennies to make this drug, and the generics are available, as mirtazapine. Ritalin, Paxil, AND Ambien are prescribed to patients for the same issues that one medication has proven in aid to these patients. Meridia, unavailable as an antidepressant, is not marketed as any thing other than a "weight control medication", yet reading the description of the chemistry put into this drug, it is has affects on seratonin- the chemical believed to have an affect on depressive disorders. It isn't available in generic form, so the insurance companies have less interest in approving the drug for depression.

Melody Petersen also points out that our doctors are often educated directly by the pharmaceutical companies, both in their medical studies, and beyond. Wings of universities are named for drug corporations. Events are sponsored by the fad drug of the month- something muttered by Oprah ends up on the news, whereas a researcher in Italy who uncovers the connection with fiber rich diets and breast tissue density isn't given a mention.

The fact is IF there were magic pills to prevent aging, stop us from getting heavier, or increase our sexuality and attractiveness to the opposite sex, the plastic surgery industry wouldn't do so well in places like Hollywood, where beauty is the primary concern of many of those seeing medical help. If pills could stop us from being socially awkward, force us to pay attention, and stop sadness, there would be no psychotherapy. There are improvements in treatments of epilepsy, Alzheimer's, and breast cancers, among other illnesses and syndromes. However, the advances in our health are always secondary to those methods that increase stock holdings, cash value, and the price of a medication.

Petersen is your champion, and she's mine, for pointing out that our doctors are sitting in offices decorated in the logos of drug companies. We spend less time with our doctors talking about the side effects of a pill than we do watching a commercial for the medication we're given. She also wants us to understand that covering up side effects of one pill with another isn't a way to improve our health- and could cause long-term issues.

Today's questions- Who has pointed out different medications you could take for your conditions? Have you ever felt pressured by a doctor to "try" something you didn't feel was right for you? Do you find yourself talking about medications because of television, internet, or magazine ads?

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