Combating Pharmaceutical Overuse – Health Evolution or Revolution?
Hallelujah. The healing paradigm is finally shifting in the U.S. and the time is ripe for doctors to rethink how they prescribe medications. Less is more. I believe medical students and residents should be taught creative ways to utilize drugs sparingly. After all, most medications were not intended to be taken for life. Drugs can become one of many, customizable tools in a virtual health tool kit that can be intermixed and matched to each patient’s unique lifestyle. This approach is one of back-to-the basics healing using the wisdom of the ages.
Envision a country where you as the patient could be asked to select from a menu of non-invasive, evidence-based holistic regimens that your doctor directs and manages. You would help choose your preferred intervention based on your lifestyle and health priorities! And your doctor would expect you to do the work. Aromatherapy, guided imagery, spiritual retreats, Yoga, Tai Chi, personality testing, and acupuncture would be covered by insurance or included as part of the total office visit fee or worked into a doctor’s boutique practice fee structure. Your doctor would collaborate with evidence-based, non-traditional medicine practitioners in your area for your best possible outcomes. This model is evolving in many office practices around the country right now.
For perspective, seniors over the age of 65 years represent 12% of the U.S. population and consume 32% of prescription medications. Many take five or more prescription medications, intentionally combining them with other over-the-counter (OTC) medications and multi-ingredient dietary supplements like vitamins. Yet studies are inconclusive with regard to the benefit of multiple vitamins and minerals in preventing chronic illnesses (Huang). Furthermore, nearly 25,000 emergency room visits in the U.S. each year are due to unwanted reactions to these supplements (Geller). We all have some skin in the game in pushing back against this pharmaceutical epidemic and staying safe.
For starters, here’s a list of possible complementary options to discuss with your doctor at your next office visit.
Sleep Restoration – drink a cup of chamomile tea, lavender tea, or decaffeinated green tea before bedtime; try a few minutes of slow, deep breathing before you retire to inhale life-giving oxygen and calm you down from the day’s challenges; journal any concerns and give yourself permission to let the day go.
Stress/Anxiety – repeat positive, affirming statements about your life blessings (we all have them); read up on the benefits of acupressure (Gach); give thanks to your Creator
Weight Loss – eat apples and drink water for snacks; walk around the dining room table and up/down home stairs for ½ hour a day (yes, and let your neighbors see you through the window J).
Arthritis Pain/Inflammation – talk with your doctor about the appropriateness of taking glucosamine sulfate, turmeric, methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM), or consuming olive oil, fish oil, oily fish (salmon, tuna, herring), nuts, or avocadoes instead of years’ worth of NSAIDs like Naprosyn, Motrin, Celebrex, many others that can irreversibly damage your kidneys, heart, and stomach.
Viral Colds – eat chicken noodle soup; try zinc lozenges at the beginning of symptoms, as directed on the package label.
General Health – exude a positive attitude; teach your family to learn, cook, and eat for a fuel based diet based on principles from the Mediterranean Diet (e.g., olive oil, colorful fruits and vegetables, moderate wine consumption for heart health, nuts, fish for brain power); prefer whole (not processed) foods for your nutritional regimen, locally grown in your own organic garden or community supported agriculture farm.
Health Tips -
Let your feet do the shopping. Choose a primary care doctor that thinks out-of-the-box and is open to integrative health principles & practices for you.
Don’t expect to get a prescription medication every time you leave the doctor’s office.
Incorporate medicinal herbal spices and teas into your nutritional regimen for nutritional value, health, and taste to eliminate or reduce the use of salt and refined sugar.
Take charge of the total holistic you in your body, mind and spirit journey.
Be aware of, and inquire about, all medications and dietary supplements your patients are taking; supplements are FDA-regulated as foods but act like drugs, and have interactions and potential side effects that you must acknowledge and manage with the assistance of a trained pharmacist.
Treat your patient as an equal partner in the decision-making process and consider his/her point of view and lifestyle before prescribing a medication. Present her/him with accurate information including long term side effects before prescribing any medication. Give the patient enough time to weigh the benefit/risk of the medication before deciding to start it.
Consider prescription drug dose reduction strategies for your patient (e.g., using one medication as opposed to several for the indication, or using the lowest dose possible to reduce the possibility of side effects).
Try periodic drug holidays that are supported by the medical literature (e.g., see the FLEX study with Fosamax for osteoporosis).
Try evidence-based, alternate drug regimens (e.g., every other day Zocor for high cholesterol instead of daily dosing).
Promote healthy nutrition to your patients at every office visit; discuss the connection to eating whole foods and a healthy immune system.
Explain to your patients the importance of shopping at one pharmacy for all prescription medications.
Get educated on whole nutrition, medicinal herbal teas, and dietary supplements; teach other health care professionals in your community about the same.
Recommend herbal teas or topical products (e.g., creams, ointments) when asked about oral medications whenever possible.
Talk consumers out of seeking antibiotics from their doctors for every respiratory infection to combat antibiotic resistance or worse.
If you are currently taking prescription medications, please continue to do so as directed by your doctor. Please do not make any medication changes without first discussing them with him/her. Your doctor knows your medical history and will give you important medical advice.
Integrative health and medicine is here to stay. Find a doctor that is open to this type of practice. Get more involved in a lifelong learning class in your local community. Teach your grandchildren about integrative health and medicine as your contribution to your family legacy. Be a part of the health evolution revolution.
Aggarwal. Healing spices. How to use 50 everyday and exotic spices to boost health and beat disease. Sterling 2011 New York, New York.
Amagase. U.S. dietary supplement labeling rules and the possibility of medical cost reduction. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol 2015;61:S136.
Collaborators. American Geriatrics Society 2015 updated Beers Criteria for potentially inappropriate medication use in older adults. J Am Geriatr Soc 2015;63:2227.
Gach. Acupressure for emotional healing. A self care guide for trauma, stress & common emotional imbalances. Bantam 2004 New York, New York.
Geller. Emergency department visits for adverse events related to dietary supplements. N Engl J Med 2015;373:1531-40.
Huang. The efficacy and safety of multivitamin and mineral supplement use to prevent cancer and chronic disease in adults: a systematic review for a National Institutes of Health state-of-the-science conference. Ann Intern Med 2006;145:372-385.
Rosenbaum. Don’t Sweep It Under the Drug! Integrating Evidence-Based Body Mind & Spiritual Practices into Your Health & Wellness Tool Kit. Createspace 2015.
Starr. Should states and local governments regulate dietary supplements? Drug Testing Anal 2015. doi 10.1002/dta.1926
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Cathy Rosenbaum is a Cincinnati-based holistic clinical pharmacist, member of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, and Founder & CEO of Rx Integrative Solutions a consulting practice in holistic medicine. She has traveled to China to study herbal research and global healthcare solutions. Dr. Rosenbaum is the author of the award-winning book, Don’t Sweep It Under the Drug! Integrating Evidence-Based Body Mind & Spiritual Practices into Your Health & Wellness Tool Kit c2015 available @ www.whitneybooks.com . For more information please visit www.rxintegrativesolutions.com .