It’s Not “Anti-Drug” to Advocate Consumer Caution About Medications

Suzy-Cohen-1Dear Pharmacist,
While I enjoy your columns and the wealth of information you give the public, I detect a bit of an anti-drug attitude. I find that ironic, since it is drugs that support your business of pharmacy. As a retired physician, I know we need our medications and I don’t understand why a pharmacist is so averse to them.
L.S., Long Island, N.Y.

Answer: I’m not averse. I just want to be sure they’re taken correctly, in proper dosages, for adequate indications, when nothing else works, in combination with other therapeutic modalities, for a reasonable length of time — assuming no intolerable side effects develop.

There, I feel better for having clarified myself…

Many people take prescription medicine they don’t even need and sometimes it makes them feel sicker. For instance, some people are on antidepressants for years when they are simply deficient in nutrients like B12 or folic acid, or have low thyroid or adrenal hormone. Some people are given drugs to mask the side effects of other drugs, and this builds like a staircase — for example, they take acid reducers to relieve heartburn caused by arthritis med. And so on.

Prescription usage is on the rise, according to the advocacy group Families USA. In 1992, Americans took, on average, 19 different medications during the year. That number is projected to nearly double by 2010. Do you see anything wrong with this picture? With all our drugs, surgeries and procedures, and our state-of-the- art health-care system, we are sicker and fatter than ever.

Most consumers are still under the impression that the medications they take are relatively safe. Relative to what? Why should the public be alarmed when there are thousands of drugs on the market and only a few get recalled? Doesn’t the FDA protect consumers and don’t they approve medication only after years of intensive clinical studies? Nope.

Some drugs are fast-track approved after only a few months of human clinical trials. People buy these “new and improved” drugs, then more clinical studies take place — on the public itself. Published data and clever TV advertising may paint a new product as a dream drug, when in reality it could become your worst nightmare. Feeling like a lab rat yet?

I’m a consumer advocate, working to keep the public safe on their medications and teach them about natural options. Pharmacists are not licensed to push pills for some pharmacy retailer. We’re licensed — and trusted — to give people truthful, accurate drug information. As I see it, people want more information about their medication, and I’m not afraid to give it to them.

Did you know? Attention, cold sufferers: A little zinc and some vitamin C will go a long way to shorten the duration of your misery.


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