What should you know before you take a pill or capsule?

Drugs, medications, “meds,” pharmaceuticals, vitamins, minerals, supplements and neutraceuticals. This is what some of us fill our bodies with in our daily pursuit of health and wellness. Take a closer look in your cupboards and at the way you live your life and you will see to what extent you are an active participant in this modern phenomenon. The sad fact is that we, in the western world at least, have become pill-popping populations. Too many of us are dependent on drugs for our perceived survival.

“So what!” you might say, “if these medications help us, alleviate unnecessary pain and suffering, prevent disease and prolong life then what difference does it make?”

This is a very reasonable question and some medications are beneficial and life-saving. However, the reality of our medicated world is that many of the chemicals we take can and do have adverse effects; they can harm and they do also kill. Adverse drug events (ADEs) result in more than 770,000 injuries and deaths each year according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services http://www.ahrq.gov/qual/aderia/aderia.htm.

They can also be expensive (think arthritis and cholesterol lowering drugs), they may not work as well as we are led to believe (think Alzheimer’s and diabetes drugs) and in fact there may be a poor scientific basis for taking them at all (think weight loss drugs). Drugs also interact with each other and when multiple medications and chemicals are taken simultaneously it can become very difficult to predict their effects on a particular individual.

A recent article I came across in the International Herald Tribune is well worth reading http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/02/opinion/health-cares-trick-coin.html?ref=global-home&_r=1&. In this global opinion piece, Dr. Ben Goldacre (a doctor, epidemiologist and author of the book “Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients”) explains how only half of all clinical trials ever conducted and completed on treatments in use today have never been published in academic journals. He goes on to reveal that positive results (to the drug company of course) are twice as likely to be published.

While the FDA has legislature to deal with this dangerous state of affairs, he cites evidence that shows they do not enforce their own laws. He also gives the example of the drug Tamiflu made by the huge drug company Roche. Half of their clinical trials on this drug have never been published. Should make you think about what you take if you get the flu this year.

We have to watch what and in whom we trust! Science is not science when we are privy to only half the information.

Bottom line here: Take care and do some research before you pop any pills.

Watch a good TED on “Battling Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre: http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_goldacre_battling_bad_science.html

DMB

*** Minding science and your body: Embodying your mind ***

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