A Bit of an Anti-Rx Rant

As I struggle to wean myself off of this medication (prednisone), I find the flippancy with which it’s often prescribed appalling. I know it saves lots of lives (possibly mine!) So I don’t ever want to diminish the life-saving value of pharmaceuticals. They really are amazingly effective in many situations. I just think they are grossly overused these days, and we are blindly popping pills with the assumption that they will heal our problem. When was the last time you went to the doctor for an ailment, and left without a prescription? That’s ALL they’ve got. That’s all they know to do to help you. And while all these medications are so important in certain cases, they also have some pretty crazy side effects and are toxic, particularly over time. Though my doctors prescribed prednisone within a year of my diagnosis, I didn’t take it and managed my symptoms with a steroid mouthwash (I was also breastfeeding at the time, so that was added motivation to tough it out without taking meds internally). As soon as my daughter was weaned (just shy of her 2nd birthday) I started taking colchrys (colchicine) and did well on that for a year. The plan was to stay on it for a year, then try to get off and see how I did without it. But just when that one-year mark rolled around, I ended up in the hospital with the craziest flare of my life. Enter prednisone (and lots of other medications- antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, pain medications) that ultimately resolved the crisis and I’m pretty sure saved my life. So I thoroughly appreciate that. But if not for my own research and the support of an integrative doctor, the only option I had when I couldn’t get off prednisone was to start taking a steroid substitute, methotrexate, a chemo drug. Methotrexate has less severe long term side effects compared to prednisone, but it comes with it’s own set of drawbacks. And when I asked my doctor how long I’d need to take it, the answer was: the rest of my life. So, it’s not like this medicine would HEAL me, it would simply (hopefully) mask my symptoms enough for me to live a normal life. That just isn’t an acceptable solution at this point in my life. It’s not enough. I want to HEAL. I want to be WELL. I want to be HEALTHY from the inside out. I walked out of that doctor’s office and called the Center for Natural and Integrative Medicine from the parking lot. That was seven months ago.

Part of what prompted this post involves a realization I had reading a magazine recently. For the most part, I restrict my exposure to conventional thinking and have focused on media that supports a more natural, sustainable, organic lifestyle (whatever that means). I got a great deal on a subscription to a Martha Stewart publication called “Whole Living”- filled with whole foods recipes and detox plans and natural cleaning methods. I loved it. But for some reason, they stopped making the magazine and started sending me “Family Circle” as a replacement until my subscription runs out.

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As I flipped through the magazine, I was amazed at the number of ads (eleven) for prescription medication or ads sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. For one, I don’t understand the point of advertising prescription drugs to the public. It’s not like we can just go and buy it. All the ad is telling us to do is “ask our doctor” about it. If this is the medication we should be taking, wouldn’t our doctor know about it?

The first Rx ad I see is for an asthma inhaler, then something that looks like a public service announcement for the shingles virus, then a vaginal cream for menopause, another PSA-type ad for lupus (thank you, GlaxoSmithKline), then an ADHD med, another asthma inhaler, then a med for osteoporosis (for all the people who spent too much time on prednisone!), another shingles vaccine ad, a nerve-calming med for fibromyalgia, and, finally, an ad about migraines (sponsored by Allergan, Inc. -NOT out of the goodness of their hearts). There’s also an article about acne that recommends oral antibiotics and Accutane for kids with “severe” acne. I took Accutane when I was 17/18, and my integrative doctor is pretty sure that’s where my digestive issues started. I wish someone had told me to eliminate dairy and do a juice cleanse. Much more effective, and I wouldn’t have had to deal with the painful dry skin, lips, and nasal passages, and the humiliation of going to the doc as a teen with my mother to get the required birth control (it causes really severe birth defects, so I was told I needed to be on birth control whether I was sexually active or not- just in case). My point is, despite what magazines or your dermatologist suggests, DON’T LET YOUR KIDS TAKE ACCUTANE (now known as isotretinoin). There are better ways to get good skin, and cosmetic issues are NOT worth such serious drawbacks.

I rarely watch regular television either, but the few times I have, I noticed a similar saturation of pharmaceutical ads. What is up with this? Are we sicker? (I think, yes.) Are there just more amazing drugs that we need to know about? Do our doctors not know enough about the medications that the pharmaceutical companies now want patients to specifically ask for these drugs? I don’t get it.

A few other things I noticed in the magazine that bothered me…

This ad, attempting to position McDonald’s as a restaurant that sources family farms for the potatoes for its fries. Ridiculous.

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And this ad, equating a box of glutinous pasta with the nutrition in 35 leaves of Swiss chard, six ounces of walnuts, and 11 eggs.

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Again, ridiculous.

And this…

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Because if your kid eats this sugary, gluten-filled cereal, they just might grow up to be a doctor. Good thing. Because eating this stuff, we’re going to need a lot of them.