Medical science has come a long way in the last hundred years. The medical field has made huge strides in diagnosing and treating ailments and illnesses.
We have cures and vaccines for diseases that were debilitating to humans merely a century ago. However, even with the positive that the medical field can bring the shift from holistic care to a medical model has shifted some things for the worst. In this new modern medical model, symptoms are diagnosed and treated in the most efficient and quickest way possible. Most time, this consists of prescribing a pill for whatever is wrong.
Pills have become the go-to way for most ailments. Most of the time insurance will pay for them and prescription drug companies pay millions of dollars each year to market them to doctors. Just a year ago, drug companies spent more than $9 billion marketing their drugs to doctors in the United States. Even when the number of doctors in this country generally stays the same, the number of drug reps has tripled over the last 20 years.This culture of prescribing pills for everything and not looking for underlying causes of conditions can have very negative unintended consequences. Two major examples of questionable prescribing practices highlight this issue: prescribing birth control pills without the full information about the consequences, and the over prescription of opioid pain killers which was a major influence of our current opioid crisis. The invention of the birth control pill was a leap forward for women’s reproductive rights.
For many women, taking the pill helps them feel in control of their body and their choices. The CDC reports that more than 8-% of sexually active women in the United States will use the pill during some point in their life. It also has an efficacy rate of over 90% and, when used correctly, is extremely effective in preventing pregnancy. There are many things that are positive about birth control pills. However, because they’ve become so often used and so well loved many doctors and women’s health care providers prescribe them for reasons other than birth control. It is estimated that 58% of women who are currently taking the birth control are taking it for reasons other than birth control. So, over half the women currently on the Pill are not using it for birth control at all, or not only using it for birth control. When women are prescribed the Pill for reasons other than birth control, it can delay the diagnosis for issues they may be having.
When the pill is prescribed to teenagers for something like painful periods it can mask the symptoms of larger issues such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). When diagnosis is delayed, sometimes by years, women can miss out on treatments that can truly help their conditions. When doctors use the pill as a cure all the fail to see the issues the Pill could be causing. Many people report major side effects with using the pill and are met with dismissal by their doctors. Often it is just suggested they try and different brand of pill instead or even told the pill could not be causing their symptoms. A recent study out of Australia was validation for many women when it found that women on the Pill were twice as likely to experience depression and anxiety among other things. Overprescribing something like the Pill can take a medical intervention that has a certain use can lead to a delay in diagnosis for other severe medical conditions and the oversaturation of the Pill in the market can mean women struggle to be heard when they have issues with the doctor’s usual go-to.
The second example of a certain type of pill oversaturating the market is opioids being mass marketed for all types of chronic pain. Starting in the early 2000s the United States began to increase their use of opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. By 2010 the United States was consuming 99% of the world’s hydrocodone and 80% of the world’s oxycodone. This comes into perspective when you realize that the United States only has 5% of the world’s population. This increase in the use of opioids stemmed from changes in regulation, deceptive marketing practices, and incentives to use these types of drugs. One of the reasons doctors changed the way they looked at pain was because in 2001 the Joint Commission, the major health care accreditation board in the United States, began issuing pain management standards that prioritized pain treatment over other treatment measures.
Suddenly, doctors needed new ways to treat pain. In came the companies that produced opioids. Opioids had been used for years for major surgeries and cancer patients, but now the companies were marketing them as viable tools for chronic pain such as back and neck pain. Unbeknownst at the time, many of these companies knew their opioid drugs had addictive properties, but failed to mention it to the doctors they were trying to sell the drugs too.
Opioid prescriptions surged, and so did deaths from overdoses. Studies began to reveal that patients receiving these drugs were less likely to recover function and were less likely to go back to work. The issue became so apparent that the FDA tightened the regulations for how doctors prescribe narcotics. States tightened laws and many implemented tracking systems to track doctors who were participating in unethical prescribing practices. Many states also brought and won lawsuits against the drug companies that marketed the opioids.
If the model of taking a pill for every health matter is not reviewed it can lead to even more situations like birth control pills and opioids. Doctors would do well to implement a team approach to address health issues. Discuss more than symptoms with patients, include things like diet and lifestyle as well. Also, bring in pain specialists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and other professionals to get to the root of patient’s problems instead of just prescribing a pill to mask the symptoms and never getting to the underlying cause.Sourceshttps://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/who-is-responsible-for-the-pain-pill-epidemichttp://www.elle.com/beauty/health-fitness/advice/a12605/birth-controll-pills/http://www.economist.com/node/1580138