Sign Up Now Keep up to date with the latest blogs, books & events
Questions ? Call 248-851-1600 a 0 Items - $0.00

We Take Too Many Prescription Drugs

We take too many prescription drugs.  A study in JAMA(2015:314(17):1818-31. Nov. 3, 2015) was titled, “Trends in prescription drug use among adults in the U.S. from 1999-2012.”  The authors used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) which included 37,959 adults.  The authors found an increase in overall use of prescription drugs among US adults between 1999 and 2012.

In 1999, 51% of U.S. adults reported using any prescription drugs and 59% reporting use in 2012.  That  is a 16% increase.  The prevalence of polypharmacy (>5 prescription drugs) increased from 9.2% in 1999 to 15% in 2012—a 64% increase.  The prevalence of drug use increased in 11 drug classes included cholesterol-lowering agents, antidepressants, and prescription-proton pump inhibitors.

Comment:  There are two major reasons we are experiencing an increase in prescription drug use.  The first is direct-to-consumer advertising.  These are the drug ads we all see on television and in print.  We are only one of two countries that allow direct-to-consumer advertising.  Studies have shown that the marketing of drugs to consumers results in more prescriptions and greater profits for Big Pharma.  Direct-to-consumer advertising should be stopped.

The second reason we are seeing a marked increase in prescribing patterns is due to how doctors are educated.  In medical school, when evaluating a patient, I was trained to make a diagnosis and prescribe a drug (or drugs) to treat that diagnosis.  I was taught that nearly every complaint could be managed with a drug.  That would be fine if the drug treated the underlying cause of the illness.  However, the opposite is true:  Most drugs—over 95% (my estimate)–do not treat the underlying cause of an illness.  Nearly all prescription drugs treat the symptoms of a disease.

The most upsetting part of this study was the polypharmacy aspect.  The researchers reported that 15% of Americans use at least five prescription drugs.  Folks, this is a disaster.   Where are the studies that show it is safe to take five or more prescription medications at one time?  There aren’t any.

Perhaps the increased use in prescription medications resulted in better health outcomes.  If you believe that, I may have some swampland in Florida for you!  In every health indicator the World Health Organization tracks we finish last or near last among every Western country.  We don’t live as long as other Western people and we have more chronic illness.   Things are getting worse for us, not better.  And, we spend nearly 20% of our GNP on health care–over two-fold higher than any other Western country.

Clearly taking more drugs is not the answer.

What is the answer?  The answer is to educate yourself before taking a prescription medication.  Ultimately, you are responsible for every drug you put in your body.   The patients that get the best results are the patients who take an active role in their health care decisions.  You should study how the drug works and see if there are natural alternatives available to you.   I feel that it is best to work with a holistic health care practitioner who is knowledgeable about drug and non-drug therapies.

I wrote my book, Drugs That Don’t Work and Natural Therapies That Do, to educate the reader about the problems with the most commonly prescribed prescription medications and what natural therapies may be used instead.  The classes of medications that I cover in this book include:

  • Antacid Drugs (Proton Pump Inhibitors)
  • Antidepressant Drugs
  • Anti-inflammatory Drugs
  • Cholesterol-lowering Drugs
  • Diabetes Drugs
  • Osteoporotic drugs
  • Synthetic Hormones

If you are taking too many drugs, don’t allow yourself to feel overwhelmed.  Start to educate yourself about the drugs and see if they are right for you.  Most of all, ask questions about any drug therapy you are prescribed.

Author Info

David Brownstein

Comments ( 22 )

  • Author Icon

    Am so happy to see your blog Dr. B! You provide sound insignts into total wellness that I have used again and again when considering what my doctor offers. I have an earned Ph.D. In a science and still I find the physicians I consult are not willing to speak with me frankly about research on drugs and conditions. I have known about the considerable potential for drug interactions for years and have constantly fought to minimize my Rx meds and those of my father who spent his last years in a nursing home. He was put on statins in his 80s and developed diabetes and a severe case of brain fog. When taken off statins, he returned to his old cheereful and talkative self. It was like a miracle. Unfortunately, at 89.5 years old, the facility decided he was due for a colonoscopy, which was done as an acute care hospital where he contracted c. Diff and never recovered. The colonoscopy was negative for cancer. What’s worse is his death certificate showed “natural causes” as his cause of death. My sister and I were too devastated to protest.

    Thanks for reminding us to be watchful and questioning of any procedures or drugs offered. As my personal physician says he was “taught to prescribe drugs” and not dietetics (an active duty Navy physician in Japan) you can see what I am up against as a healthy vegan who follows your writings. If I had other choices of providers, I would certainly take one who follows your practices.

  • Author Icon

    I tend to think much of the killings, shootings going on in USA
    are due to many Drugs given out today, such as many Anti-
    Depressants. Too many children given drugs if their Behavior slightly
    out of “medicines, Govts., Norms.” Parents, family, must be more involved
    with their children & young adults. WE BEING trained there is a drug to
    fix anything,everything. So many younger people we see on news
    shootings, it turns out, all on Rx drugs, often some antidepressant
    etc. They suffer on many drugs, getting worse.Rx may work, but then
    may get 5 more worse side effects. i think warning signs are always
    apparent to someone .

  • Author Icon

    Good article. A third and important reason why we are taking more drugs is because there is so little visible cost. Most people, for the more common drugs, pay only a few dollars for them out of their pocket so they perceive them as being “free,” or nearly so. There is no resistance to price so they continue to rise — although not to the consumer.

    This is also a big reason why there is a huge demand for health care overall. With a nearly unlimited demand but a limited supply, this cannot end well.

    With low out-of-pocket costs people go to the doctor when they otherwise might not. With third-parties paying the huge majority of all costs there are no price signals to the consumers themselves — us. But we are ALL paying ALL of the costs.

    • Author Icon
      David Brownstein

      Dr. C (see great statin debate on my blog) made the same argument–statins are inexpensive. He said I need to stop saying they cost too much money. Statins don’t work for 99%–therefore the cost issue should be irrelevant.

  • Author Icon

    A new study just came out: “Myocardial Infarct Size in Patients on Long-Term Statin Therapy Undergoing Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention for ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction”, American Journal of Cardiology: Dec-2015 (Volume 116, Issue 12), showing that those on statin “therapy” worsen their condition with respect to people not on statins:”long-term statin therapy before primary PCI in patients with STEMI is associated with smaller IS and higher MSI”

  • Author Icon

    for david,
    There are alternatives to Armour Thyroid aka NDT or Ambien or Flowmax or imitrex I think you are depending on your doctor too much instead of finding alternatives yourself. Most of what you appear to need is a boost in metabolism, that diet and sleep could improve. Although, I imagine nighttime urination ruins night time sleep. A low metabolism will cause headaches and a myriad of other symptoms….including edema. Edema is excess fluid in tissue spaces it doesn’t belong…prostate, spinal column joints, muscles, etc.

    NDT: Natural Dessicated Thyroid is available for less than 25 cents per 60 mg tablet if you source it out. Hang out where people talk about hypothyroidism and ways to naturally boost your metabolism and you’ll find the source/s.

    Read: articles

    But you need to start with your diet and how much fluid you push into your body. Sodium bicarbonate can help with that, although at first glance it would seem counterproductive….as in fear of salt.

    Stop eating or adding polyunsaturated oils in your cooking or foods for starters. Eat real butter, red meat fats, whole eggs fried in butter or poached. Eat some sugar and see how your body reacts….just for fun, see how your hands and feet warm up. Fruit can do that too, but sometimes you need the white stuff to prove it quickly. And some fruits often have too much water or is too fibrous for the digestion of people with cold bodies. You need to Eat For Heat which is also the title of a book.

  • Author Icon

    I live in Mexico and there is a farmacia all over the place. Many specialize in generics whose dosage may be half of the name brand drug. Maybe that is a boon to those taking the drug.

    I was only on an antibiotic and ointments in June after I was bitten by a dog and the wounds got infected. They were deep.

    Now, I am on none and plan to stay that way.

  • Author Icon

    I totally agree, but I read something interesting recently that made me stop and rethink the drug ads. Someone posted a story on Facebook that said there was a recent effort by the drug industry to stop the TV ads. I thought that was strange but when I read the comments, it started to make sense. The potential side effects are so terrible–suicidal thoughts and actions, depression, cancer, driving while asleep, temporary paralysis, etc.–and the fact that by law they have to list them, it may deter some people (at least the ones who think) from ever taking them. If the doctors just prescribe them the patients rarely read all that microscopic, multi-page booklet that buries the possible side effects. I think we should stop the ads but also force the doctor to read every possible side effect to the patient and make them sign something that says they know the possible side effects before they can fill them.

  • Author Icon

    Dr. B,
    First of all I would like to wish you and your family and staff a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

    I enjoy both your blog and your books. I have gleaned enough information and facts that I can now challenge my doctors on their choice of treatment[s]. I ask them to explain why I have to take this drug; what are the side affects, how long do they expect me to be on the drug or is there an alternative treatment besides drugs?! The best part is when the doctors try to intimidate me into taking the drug I just sit back and open my notebook and read the Crestor trials results to them and ask why do they issue drugs that are slowly killing people with deadly side effects and the NNT is so high as to show the drug is ineffective. I highly recommend that readers of your blog look at your on-line library of books and read them. Then they to can go see their doctors armed with knowledge to challenge the drugs being prescribed.
    I have several of your books and have ordered and sent some of your books to friends of mine who have health issues.
    Thank you Dr. B for all you do and have done for those of us who want more control over our health and quality of life.

  • Author Icon

    I definitely get the picture, but not quite the math. 51% to 59% to me is a 16% increase in number of adults on Rxs, and polypharmachy, 9.2% to 15% is a whopping 63% increase!, not 39%

    keep up the great work!

    • Author Icon
      David Brownstein

      OY VEH! You are correct. Sorry for my math error.

  • Author Icon

    Your posts are so encouraging – that there is a doctor who thinks this way. My husband has high cholesterol and we have stood our ground about him not going on statins because of the dangers they pose and the fact that they are not effective for people who’ve never had a previous heart attack. But the doctor constantly “bullies” him to try and get him to start using fear tactics. It’s difficult to find a doctor on our insurance who is committed to doing things naturally and not resorting to drugs for everything. As a health coach it’s especially frustrating to me.

  • Author Icon

    Susan, your Father-In-In-Law is a lucky guy. My mother (85 y) is in a retirement home, and her roomate who is 97 y old was put on statins 2 years ago. Needless to say that she is a healthy person and physically active. Her only known disease is “high cholesterol”. In my opinion her “high cholesterol” is highly accountable for her healthy 97 years.

    • Author Icon
      David Brownstein

      You are correct. And, there are ZERO studies showing a 90 year old benefits from statins. This is another example of what is wrong with medicine and why we spend so much money on health care.

  • Author Icon
    Dr George Demko

    I guess you could have titled this blog:

    There’s a Walgreen’s and CVS on every corner!

    Nothing to see here, just move along.

    • Author Icon
      David Brownstein

      Dr. George,
      Not only are they on every corner, they are usually on prime real estate corners.

  • Author Icon

    I so wish I didn’t need to take the drugs I take (4 prescriptions). Unfortunately I have found no alternatives to them. I have been prescribed statins and blood pressure meds and I refuse to take them. But I have not been able to find non prescription alternatives to Armour Thyroid or Ambien or Flowmax or imitrex.

    I do not eat junk food. I am in top condition for my age. Yet still need the RX’s.

    • Author Icon
      David Brownstein

      Not every prescription is a problem. I think statins are as well as others. Docs are too quick to prescribe a medication for every complaint. And, too many medications just don’t work in the vast majority who take them–see my book, The Statin Disaster.

  • Author Icon

    Thank you for posting this. My 91 yr old Father-In-In-Law is on 6 different medicines and most make him dizzy or make him have hallucinations. I made an appt for him to see a functional dr here to get his opinion on how many of these drugs he can get off of. I think he will get him off of all of them! I am so excited! He deserves a better way to spend his remining time and not to spend it being miserable. His new dr actually took him off of zoloft and his statin med but the following week, wanted to put him on an alzheimers med but I stood my ground and said we would wait to see what the functional dr said. His statin drug ruined his muscles so now he has to use a walker.

    Thanks again for keeping us informed and safe!

    • Author Icon
      David Brownstein

      A 91 year old on a statin medication? Shameful.

  • Author Icon

    I also blogged about this recent JAMA article. Could not agree more. People are relinquishing way too much of their power to healthcare practitioners, instead of doing their due diligence and leveraging that to get the best healthcare possible. Ultimately it really does fall back on the individual to exercise critical thinking. Drugs are clearly not the answer, as we are a very sick society and getting worse.

Post a Comment