Money, business, politics, and medicine -- their influence is overpowering. For years, I have written about the broken system of American health care. A collusion of dominant, money-hungry corporate and governmental forces has helped create a terrible health epidemic that cripples this nation. People in prominent positions cloaked by trusted institutions are killing the largely naive public. If this sounds like crazy conspiracy theory ranting, let it be. I feel we desire the truth, and I believe what I am saying is true.
And, what bothers me most about the carnage is that most people are so used to the abuse, the lies, and the malpractice that they are effectively anesthetized Healthspeak Addicts. These Healthspeak Addicts are Big Pharma-driven, media-gullible guinea pigs who are more than willing to open up and swallow almost any snake-oil pain reliever or corporate-touted miracle cure, no matter its real effectiveness or dangerous side effects.
An analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today in 2012 found doctors with financial ties to drug companies have heavily influenced treatment guidelines recommending the most lucrative drugs in American medicine.
These guidelines affect how doctors across the country treat patients for everything from diabetes to asthma, chronic pain, depression and high cholesterol.
Issued by leading medical associations and government institutions, treatment guidelines are supposed to be based on rigorous science. But the committees that write them have been dominated by doctors who have worked as paid speakers, consultants or advisers for companies selling the recommended drugs.
Please consider the direct consequences of medical malpractice. In some cases, guideline panels have recommended treatments that have not been proven to make a meaningful difference - or that could even harm patients.
For example, guidelines written by conflicted panels have encouraged prescribing highly addictive narcotic painkillers to treat long-term chronic pain, an area where the safety and effectiveness of the drugs remain unproven.
"OxyContin, a popular and addictive opioid, was the 19th best selling drug in the United States last year, with $2.9 billion in sales. In 2009, the American Pain Society and the American Academy of Pain Medicine issued a guideline endorsing opioids to treat chronic pain. The guideline was written by a panel where 14 of 21 members had ties to drug companies.
"Also in 2009, the American Geriatrics Society advocated for greater opioid use to treat chronic pain in seniors. That guideline recommended that over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, be used rarely and that doctors instead consider opioids for all patients with moderate to severe pain."
(John Fauber and Ellen Gabler, "Doctors With Links to Drug Companies Influence Treatment Guidelines," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 18 2012)
Misuse of opioids is a national epidemic with skyrocketing addiction to painkillers and a tripling of fatal overdoses in the past decade. Emergency room departments across the country are adopting policies to discourage doctors from prescribing narcotics to patients with chronic pain and advocates are asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to restrict companies' marketing of the drugs.
Evil In the Healthcare System
Why would health care stoop to these lows? The answer is their absolute love of money. Greed drives the system, and it starts at the top -- whopping manufacture, loose control, unscrupulous marketing, huge distribution, and ineffective policing. Drugging a hurting America is big profit for all involved and an easy sell to a country dubbed The Prescription Nation. Healthspeak Addicts demand their pills, and the system is more than willing to comply in the name of pain relief.
Isn't it ironic that the very substances touted by manufacturers and doctors to be effective for relief of horrible pain actually cause an epidemic of pain, destruction, dependency, and addiction? We must wonder if those in control really care about anything other than silver and gold.
Just allow me to explain how something like a pill mill (illegal pain clinic) can be a lucrative business venture. Unchecked, these mills swim in the growing waters of chemical blood money.
If a clinic (And, yes, a doctor) sees 30 patients per day at a cost of $300 each, it's generating nearly $10,000 daily, or about $2.2 million annually under a standard work year.
Add a low-cost operation with expenses for a storefront office and minimal staff, including a front desk and medical assistant, and the cash rewards are tremendous to prostitute your medical license for this type of pill-mill practice.
Meanwhile, an enterprising patient with a 90-count supply of 40 milligram Oxycodone can sell them for $1 a milligram, or $3,600. Subtract the $300 clinic visit and $600 to get the prescription filled and the patient can pocket around $2,700 in profit.
As you can see, it's very tempting for people to get into that business and even if they get shut down, as long as they don't go to jail, they'll just pop up somewhere else.
On the flip side, if a clinic or a doctor is doing medication management right, it's really not that lucrative. Procedures, including nerve blocks and injections, are what pay most of the salaries at legitimate pain clinics.
The Need for Urgent Reform and Immediate Public Reaction
Please, read these statistics about prescription drugs from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA, 2011):
In 2010, approximately 7.0 million persons were current users of
psychotherapeutic drugs taken nonmedically (2.7 percent of the U.S.
population), an estimate similar to that in 2009. This class of drugs is
broadly described as those targeting the central nervous system,
including drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders (NSDUH, 2010). The
medications most commonly abused are:
- Pain relievers - 5.1 million
- Tranquilizers - 2.2 million
- Stimulants - 1.1 million
- Sedatives - 0.4 million
Among adolescents, prescription and over-the-counter medications
account for most of the commonly abused illicit drugs by high school
seniors (see chart).
- Nearly 1 in 12 high school seniors reported nonmedical use of Vicodin; 1 in 20 reported abuse of OxyContin.
- When asked how prescription narcotics were obtained for nonmedical use, 70% of 12th graders said they were given to them by a friend or relative (MTF 2011). The number obtaining them over the internet was negligible.
- Among those who abuse prescription drugs, high rates of other risky behaviors, including abuse of other drugs and alcohol, have also been reported.
What is driving up the high prevalence of prescription drug abuse? Consider the following:
- Misperceptions about their safety. Because these medications are prescribed by doctors, many assume that they are safe to take under any circumstances. This is not the case. Prescription drugs act directly or indirectly on the same brain systems affected by illicit drugs. Using a medication other than as prescribed can potentially lead to a variety of adverse health effects, including overdose and addiction.
- Increasing environmental availability. Between 1991 and 2010, prescriptions for stimulants increased from 5 million to nearly 45 million and for opioid analgesics from about 75.5 million to 209.5 million.
- Varied motivations for their abuse. Underlying reasons include: to get high; to counter anxiety, pain, or sleep problems; or to enhance cognition. Whatever the motivation, prescription drug abuse comes with serious risks.
Simple Beginnings That Help Change
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist about your medication, especially if you are unsure about its effects.
- Keep your doctor informed about all medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications.
- Read the information your pharmacist provides before starting to take medications.
- Take your medication(s) as prescribed.
- Keep all prescription medications secured at all times and properly dispose of any unused medications.
This is a battle that can only be won when the masses educate themselves. Otherwise, it will be "business as usual" and "open up and swallow." Go that direction, if you choose. After all, the government, the FDA, Big Pharma, the media, and doctors are trusted entities... aren't they? Are't they...?