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Peak oil and Health -- you might not even be ill
on September 17, 2006
After oil production peaks, higher energy prices are likely to sink the world economy into a never-ending depression, so it will be important to stay healthy, because everything, and especially medical costs, are likely to be more expensive in the future. Before you incur high medical costs you can little afford, make sure you're even ill first. A great deal of fat could be cut out of the health care system right now and used instead to help people who are truly ill.
Getting healthy people to buy drugs they don't need, which won't cure what they don't have, and potentially have unpleasant to dire side effects, sounds like such a crazy premise, even Hollywood wouldn't buy it.
Yet that's just what's happened, as Moynihan and Cassels document in their book "Selling Sickness". The 500 billion dollar pharmaceutical industry has plenty of money to spend convincing us that our ordinary travails mask mental illnesses, and common aches and pains need treatment.
Americans represent five percent of the world's population, but we consume fifty percent of prescription drugs.
Millions of healthy people have asked their doctor about that purple pill they saw on television, or been given drugs pushed by the army of 80,000 drug salesmen who've influenced your doctor with free lunches and far more.
Many people now take drugs that may have harmful side effects and won't make much of a difference in improving their health. Hormone replacement therapy turned out to increase the chance of heart attacks for women, one of the blockbuster cholesterol lowering drugs was withdrawn from the market because it was implicated in causing deaths.
The FDA isn't looking out for you either, as shown in the chapter on irritable bowel syndrome. The FDA let the drug Lotronex remain far too long on the market, despite evidence coming in from doctors that it was killing, hospitalizing, and causing complications never seen before by doctors treating this syndrome.
How has the pharmaceutical industry pulled this off?
1) The point where you "need" to take a particular drug is continually lowered (i.e. for cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc), often far lower than necessary. Many of the doctors setting these lower standards have financial ties to the drug companies, so when more drugs are sold to more people, they stand to profit. Every time the good cholesterol level is lowered, millions of new customers are created overnight.
2) New diseases are invented that don't really exist. Menopause, for example, is a natural part of the life cycle. It's doubtful that attention deficit disorder and other "diseases" in the book exist.
3) Pharmaceutical companies exaggerate the good the drug will do for you. Brittle bones are only 13% of the problem in osteoporosis, which tends to affect people the last chapter of their life. Far more important is: don't fall! Be sure you've got good eyeglasses; your rugs won't slip, exercise, and so on.
4) You'll never see ads telling you the one thing you need to know: if you want to lead a healthy life, eat a good diet and exercise. But you will see all sorts of deceptive ads, which this book does a good job of describing. You'll be angry and sometimes shocked when you see the dirty tricks used to promote drugs.
There are people who stand to benefit from these drugs, the book is definitely not saying they're totally useless, and in fact, many of the people who do need these drugs aren't getting them.
But before you decide to take a drug, be sure to do research first to make sure you really need it. If you have one of the following, or know someone who does, you might want to read this book, which discusses depression, high cholesterol, menopause, attention deficit disorder, high blood pressure, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, social anxiety disorder, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and female sexual dysfunction. The final chapter is entitled "What can we do?"