With the hum of the election campaign and the debate of "big business," versus human interest, I decided to do a bit of muckraking into the art and science of the recent removal of Merck's Vioxx. My motivation of course; to look for clues as to the role drug companies play in our health and wellness (or lack thereof).
Here's some symptoms giving me trouble:
Symptom #1: After pulling Vioxx from the shelves, drug company, Merck, (as well as the media) made the "only 7.5 in 1,000 patients could be at risk for heart attack or stroke" sound like a simple omission.
Symptom #2: Prior to the pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies clearing their shelves of Vioxx, studies had shown the drugs destructive effects for over four years (Check out the proof for yourself in this article: http://my.webmd.com/content/Article/95/103442.htm )
Symptom #3: We are given all of this data in a most nonchalant fashion, prior to learning the amount of money Merck was pocketing on the drug: current tally, $2.6 billion (reference article above).
Symptom: #4: We are meant to be comforted by the fact that the drug, Vioxx, was released with only limited clinical testing. And gosh, if no one from the random sample had any cardiovascular consideration to begin with, who knew it would cause heart attacks or stroke (ref. http://my.webmd.com/content/chat_transcripts/1/103031.htm )?
Symptom: #5: (Even if we are to digest this) Perhaps they shouldn't have told us that in 2002, according to a report from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association ( www.bcbs.com ) over $160 million dollars was spent to advertise Vioxx (which was higher than advertisement dollars for both Pepsi and Nike).
Shall I continue?
Why not... here's more off the cuff musings:
On the other side of the coin, Merck has set off a chain reaction. Each and every day I see advertisements from lawyers on my local upstate New York television asking for Vioxx users to step forward. Yes, if you dial 1-800 they're at your disposal, poised and ready to sue the pants off Merck.
And so I ask you... Do two wrongs make a right?
Here's my assessment of the situation based on clinical experience: When we're sick, we trust our doctor to help us come back to health. We trust the pharmaceutical companies to support research and create drugs to prevent disease and ailments. Yet, in a fear based society (assuming death to be the fear we speak of) we hear precious little about the trust we should place on our bodies own natural ability to heal itself. It's just that simple.
Let's all be honest with each other, drug companies are betting that you are going to get sick ? and if and when you do they will be happy to accommodate you. When doctors prescribe drugs, pharmaceutical companies make money. And when a doctor prescribes a certain "brand" of drug, the doctor receives a kick-back from the company. It's simple supply and demand.
What's more, now their digging a little deeper into your pocket and your psyche. Here's a prime example. Turn on your television set during ? let's say football season just to be timely. You'll notice prime?time advertisements by your favorite (or not so favorite) celebrities promoting Celebrex, Levitra and so on... These advertisements bypass the medical profession placing drugs on the table for commercial consumption.
So this all begs the question - are drugs bad for you? The answer can be both yes and no. All drugs have side effects. Most drugs are created from organic sources but are then chemically manipulated to cause a favorable reaction in the body. When you take a drug, basically, you're putting an inorganic substance into nature.
Therefore, the hullabaloo makes me think ? how do we stay out of the machine? Or better yet, if there are drugs which will help people become well (which I believe there are) how do we keep the money-hungry honest? Here's my 5 remedies:
Remedy One: Educate Yourself
What drugs can do is be a means to wellness. But you need to know the facts. If you walk into your doctor's office with a list of symptoms, you will receive a drug that promises to (on paper) relieve you of your symptoms.
But what if those symptoms are trying to tell you something? And what if the drug your doctor prescribes could make you sicker? Here's what you can do: If you are given a drug, check out the side effects and interactions here, then decide: http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/
Remedy Two: Think Complimentary Medicine
So, Laura, what is complimentary medicine? Complimentary medicine asks you to take a long look at yourself, your body and your beliefs about why an illness has developed. It's not about treating one ailment (joint pain, an injury, an illness) ? it's about looking at the whole picture: your posture, your diet, your lifestyle. Then, creating an exit strategy for your illness.
Complimentary medicine asks you to take a look at your relationship to the affliction and then ? with your doctor's facilitation - developing a treatment program as a means to health (which can include medication). This way you become fully active in your illness and treatment.
Remedy Three: Practice Prevention
The best way to approach wellness is when you are well. Then, if the time should come for you to become a part of your own health care, you can be honest with yourself and how you feel about your body.
Start now. Take a long look at your self. Begin by checking your score on the wheel of life: ( http://www.onlinewbc.gov/docs/manage/lifewheel.html ) Are you taking ample time for yourself? Time for exercise, time for play? Are there outside forces instigating stress in your body? By taking the wheel of life exam you'll understand that your personal fulfillment can pay dividends on your health.
Remedy Four: Have Routine Check Ups
This one is easy. Create a relationship with your doctor: Make continuous notes of all your concerns and talk to your doctor about them. Most doctors will only spend a limited time with you, so get your notes together before hand and aim to keep the lines of communication open.
Step Five: Live a Healthy Lifestyle
Be Kind To Yourself: Start by taking a few quiet moments each day to silence the outside world and allow the heart rate to slow. Continue your process to be well by becoming conscious of all that is around you.
Nutrition: Practice becoming aware of what you are putting in your mouth ? try to focus on the naturals: fruits and vegetables and go for lean meats and low fats. Finally, don't forget to drink your 8-oz glasses of water.
Exercise: Be sure to find an exercise program you enjoy and be consistent with your workouts: My philosophy: spend 1 hour per day at least 5 days a week. This is just a guideline. Find what kind of exercise you enjoy most, and be consistent. Your body will thank you.
Learn to get to know your body. Your body and your relationship to it will give you signals as to how to take care of it. You can keep the drug companies honest by asking questions, challenging information and making the most of the time you spend with your doctor. By creating a positive atmosphere and a positive lifestyle you are certain to find yourself betting on wellness and keeping the pharmaceutical monies right where they belong: in you own pocket.
About The Author
Laura Turner is a writer and author. She publishes the bi-weekly New Body News and Wellness Letter, 'The eZine healthy people read!'( http://www.new-body-news.com ) Her latest book: Spiritual Fitness: The 7-Steps to Living Well is currently available. Learn more here: http://www.new-body-news.com/Spiritual_Fitness.htm.