The recent revelations that some widely prescribed pain medicines can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke should serve as a warning to all of us: There is no magic pill.
We are probably the greatest pill-popping nation in history. In part that's because the Rockefeller interests set up a commission years ago to study medical schools and decided those that didn't train doctors to prescribe drugs were "unscientific." Then, in cahoots with the American Medical Association, they began to lobby legislatures to outlaw most forms of nonallopathic medicine. Of course, by coincidence, the Rockefellers were in the drug business, among many others.
It's only been in recent years that alternative medicine has become available to most Americans, though there is no magic in that field either, and there are plenty of quacks. Most drugs treat symptoms. Few offer cures. I'm often reminded of a chiropractor's statement about medical doctors that "if they can't drug it or cut it, they don't know what to do."
The fact is that the mortality rate for the human species is 100 percent. Whether we receive excellent health care or no health care, we are all going to die eventually of something or other. Health care is never a question of saving lives but rather of prolonging them.
Surgeons, who can be thought of as body mechanics, can prolong some lives by cutting stuff out and sewing new stuff in, though one should always remember that surgery is traumatic and carries with it certain risks.
Doctors of allopathic medicine, which is what most medical doctors are, generally prescribe drugs or refer you to a surgeon. Those diseases that are caused by bacteria, which are separate little critters, can often be combated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, these are often overprescribed, and as a result, some bacteria are developing a resistance to the antibiotics. As with all drugs, there can also be some unpleasant side effects in some people.
Science has been far less successful in dealing with viruses and the diseases they cause. That's because a virus, unlike bacteria, is not an independent little fellow that can reproduce itself. Instead, it has to insert itself into a cell and use the cell's reproductive mechanisms to replicate. Scientists are having a difficult time trying to figure out how to kill the virus without killing the cell. The fact that viruses mutate doesn't make anything easier.
The best thing the government can do is to ban prescription-drug advertising on television. Drugs should not be prescribed because patients demand them after having watched the ridiculous television ads that make them seem like magic pills. Drug companies should not be allowed to bribe doctors with fancy vacations or other premiums, nor pay consulting fees to people in the research field.
Money is no less a corrupting factor in health care than it is in politics or other forms of business. A lawyer recently asked me if I was pro-lawyer or pro-doctor, and the answer is I'm neither. Some doctors kill their patients, and some lawyers rob the survivors. Neither doctors nor lawyers have a good record of cleaning up their own houses. Both professions, however, are necessary, and both contain many good people. As with everything, it depends on the character of the individual.
As one writer in the field has pointed out, sanitary engineers have saved more lives than the medical profession by providing people with clean water and sanitary sewers. Practicing personal hygiene, drinking sufficient water, a proper diet and exercise remain the best prescription for a healthy life. When that's not enough, try to find a good doctor, and keep your brain fully engaged. Don't be afraid to ask questions or seek second opinions. Doctors, after all, are fallible human beings like the rest of us. As for drugs, prescription or otherwise, more is definitely not better than the correct dosage.
Try not to get uptight. All the media attention on drugs and diseases can easily make one a hypochondriac by exaggerating risks. Almost everything in health care, including drugs, is a matter of balancing risks against benefits. Nothing is risk-free, including life itself.
January 4, 2005
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.
© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.