Medications - a personal diatribe

by William McGaughey

It is the middle of May, 2017. I am 76 years of age and living in Minneapolis. My life has changed profoundly during the past year. I now have chronic health problems brought on, I think, by seeking assistance from the health-care industry.

This started a year ago when I ran in the New Hampshire presidential primary and went to the doctor to check my medical condition. Diagnosed with diabetes and "small-vein disease” in my brain, I was in the hospital for five days. This resulted in prescriptions for medication. Warfarin and metformin were the drugs of choice. I pin my medical condition primarily on them. I have not yet recovered, if, indeed, I ever will.

I visited doctors at Hennepin County Medical Center eight times in May and June. But I was in reasonably good health through the summer of last year (2017), even traveling in Europe. My troubles began in the fall - late August, September, and October - when as a landlord I stopped driving, stopped receiving rents and paying bills, stopped writing checks, and turned everything over to my wife. I continued to visit doctors and receive medication. But my mind draws a blank when trying to recall that period.

In early November, about the time of the national election, I “woke up”, so to speak, and realized what was happening. I changed doctors and then stopped seeing doctors altogether. Starting in January 2017, I spent virtually all my time doing machine translations of articles on the web and adding them to my personal website, BillMcGaughey.com.

Now, in May, I have taken no drugs in over six months yet there is a tingling in my lips left over from that period. Those drugs were potent.

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That’s my personal story. Now let me give my opinion of the medical industry or the “health-care” industry, as it is euphemistically called.

It starts with the commercials on television. It seems to me that a high percentage of the commercials are plugging branded medications of one sort or another. We are supposed to ask our “doctor” (whoever that is) if Brand X is “right for you.”

This is strange because lay people, the patients, are not supposed to be making decisions about which medication to use for a given condition. And yet, the commercials are targeted to us, the patients and consumers of medicine. It is assumed that we all have doctors. We all are in need of those medications. The commercials would have us bug the doctors to prescribe a particular brand of medicine for whatever ails us.

I happen to believe that the body primarily heals itself. It’s possible to go through life in a reasonably healthy state, avoiding medications altogether. But the television commercials are promoting a different kind of life. Obviously, there’s money for the people behind this scheme. Through the commercials, they are paying for our “free” entertainment.

If this society’s decision makers really wanted to promote good health, they would promote healthy activities and allow working people more time to pursue them. But the U.S. workweek has not been changed since I was born - and that was 76 years ago. Again, it’s all about money.

Drugs, drugs, drugs. A recent article in AARP Bulletin (May 2017) reports that pharmaceutical companies are now the most profitable sector of industry, far outstripping the automobile industry, steel companies, and other industrial leaders of the past. *

The drug companies keep developing expensive products that they market through the medical industry and whose cost is borne primarily through insurance. (And, of course, these are the same people who incessantly advertise their products on television.) They have monopolies on the patented drugs which allows them to raise prices to the limit.

Doctors are the key link in the chain. They make the purchasing decisions for medical consumers. (We consumers are not allowed to buy the drugs without a prescription from a doctor.)

Let me point out that medical doctors are educated persons. They are products of a long and expensive process of education and training. Follow the money. Education is expensive. At the same time, it provides lucrative employment for millions of persons. This is a growth sector in the economy. Medicine and education have replaced agriculture as our nation’s prime industries.

So this is the type of society in which we live. We could have a society in which technological progress and improved labor productivity makes it possible to satisfy life’s material needs on a smaller input of labor. We could have a society that expands personal freedom. Instead, we have more education, more medical services, and more drugs. In the name of good health, we are being chained, mentally and physically, to an unhealthy mode of living.

 

* The gist of it is that U.S drug companies are using patent protection and their access to doctors and the public to reap inordinate profits. The industry spends $24 billion a year on marketing to health-care professionals. Corporate profits in this industry soar. The profit rates of Amgen (42.6%), Abbvie (36.6%), Johnson and Johnson (29.4%), Roche Holdings (27.8%), and Pfizer (26.0%), among others, in the health-care industry, compare favorably with those of well-known companies in other industries such as Alphabet or Google (26.3%), Walt Disney (25.8%), Verizon (21.5%), Coca-Cola (20.6%), General Electric (14.4%), General Motors (5.7%), Exxon (3.7%), and Ford (2.7%).

"Tens of millions of Americans suffer from conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes (same as me) all of which can be treated successfully with prescription medications," the article reports. Much of this cost is dumped upon insurance. Insurance rates are high for many healthy persons because they are subsidizing other people's medicine. The health-care industry successfully lobbied Congress to prevent the government from negotiating prices under Medicare Part D. The drug companies have also found ways to extend patent protection on their branded products beyond the 20-year limit by making minor adjustments to the original product. The system is obviously broken but there seems to be little inclination to fix it.

(written Saturday, May 13, 2017)

 

See - Ask your dok-ta if living past the age of 40 is rite 4 U.

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