Pill Pushers

Pill Pushers, Drug Dealers
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About twice as much money is spent by pharmaceutical companies on promoting and marketing their drugs as on researching them.

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This involves careful wooing of health professionals. Drug multinationals restricted by law in the West have a field day handing out free samples and 'sweeteners' in countries with more lenient legislation. The OTA concluded that reliance on the information provided by manufacturers could lead to 'serious or life-threatening medical problems or, at best, ineffective treatment'. The WHO lists chemical substances that are enough to meet the world's basic health needs. But the market is flooded with as many as , drugs. However, up to half the world's population are too poor to buy even the essential drugs they need.

A survey by Health Action International which covered Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean found that four out of every five antidiarrhoeal products were useless, four out of five cough and cold products had ineffective ingredients, while one in two had ingredients which could cause harmful reactions. More than four out of every five vitamin preparations could not be recommended, with half being irrationally formulated and nearly half containing excessive dosages.

The drug companies target sections of the world population they think are particularly vulnerable to their hard sell. Women, children and the elderly population are in their gunsights and that means at least two-thirds of the world's population.

pill pusher

Women are a major target for drug companies, who encourage doctors to prescribe drugs - like tranquillizers or antidepressants - for problems which may be related more to women's status in society than to any actual illnesses. In India the company Sandoz recommends giving women with anxiety thioridazine, an antipsychotic drug usually reserved for the treatment of severe psychoses such as schizophrenia.

In the West, hormone replacement therapy treatments for menopausal women have been the biggest growth area: The hormones are not missing: Women in the Majority World are the target for invasive and dangerous contraceptive treatments. Children have frequent but not usually serious illnesses which are part of a natural process that helps build up immunity. For many of these a wide range of drugs is not required. According to the WHO, two-thirds of all drugs used by children may be of little or no value. From Peru, Pakistan and the Philippines come reports of claims by vitamin and tonic manufacturers that their products improve children's intelligence.

No such drugs exist. In Brazil, a study of some 6, children aged three to four years found that nearly 60 per cent had used one or more drugs in the previous two weeks and nearly 10 per cent had been given medicine daily for a month or more.

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Loss of appetite was the main reason for the use of the medicines. Health problems are highly prevalent among the elderly, with 80 per cent having one or more chronic condition. But often these problems are only compounded by overprescription of drugs and by doctors relying solely on manufacturer's claims.

Old people metabolize drugs differently and problems as diverse as incontinence and dementia can sometimes be drug-related. In the US one out of every six people is over But they consume one out of every two sleeping pills, two out of every three antihypertensives, one out of every three antidepressants and two out of every five gastrointestinal drugs. There is a growing trend worldwide to shift the payment for medicine from state to consumer, by encouraging more self-medication.

This means moving more products from prescription-only to over-the-counter classifications. In many countries of the South, prescription-only drugs are often freely available. If you want no part in this future, you will have to be extra vigilant. Try to obtain the fullest information possible about any drug you may consider taking and weigh up the risks. Ask doctors about the medication they prescribe for you.

Two organizations that provide invaluable information for consumers and which lobby for the rational use of drugs are:. Andrew Chetley has researched and published widely on health issues. Problem Drugs Zed Books, London , his latest book, is an extensive study of misused medicine. Chetley Zed Books, London This article is from the October issue of New Internationalist.

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Pill Pushers, Drug Dealers

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Hazel Healy travelled there to find out. Serah Tomba went from being a student to sole carer of seven orphans. A patient with a sore throat is being seen via a telemedicine consultation. The doctors recommends antibiotics for what is most likely a viral URI. A psychiatrist is a member of a pharma speakers bureau.

After signing up there has been a noticeable change in her prescribing habits to a drug that the sponsor makes. A patient presents with vague complaints and the doctor is not sure what's wrong. He recommends to the patient that she do nothing with the expectation that things will get better on their own or the patient has a disease for which there is no prescribed drug treatment. A patient presents with a problem list as long as your arm.

By the time the doctor has entered the information into the computer, a significant amount of the minute visit has passed. A doctor with a significant position in drug company stocks routinely writes prescriptions for drugs made by companies in his portfolio.

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