Thursday, January 13, 2011

Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer

"Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer"... and I would add "Why You Should Not Put Too Much Faith in the Advice of Your Doctor." This is a must read for anyone trying to navigate the medical industry these days.

I write this blog because I am a cancer survivor and I have learned firsthand how important it is to be in charge of your own health.  But this book is important even if you don't think you are sick, or like everyone who hasn't had cancer, you may assume that is something that happens to other people.  It is not a book about cancer, it is a book about the medical industry and how it works, and how information is getting to the consumer.

Yes - consumer.  Not patient.

Think about drug ads on tv.  Think about how there's a quick message about some woman who isn't sure whether she should take this drug because she sometimes has some anxiety.  Then they proceed to quickly go through a lengthy list of side effects: dry mouth, depression, intestinal bleeding, death...  Then it says "Ask you doctor if this drug is right for you."

It is not just cases like cancer where we need to worry about the treatments that are prescribed to us.  And after reading this book, I also think it is not just about reading the list of side effects.

Think about the recent FDA recall of Avastin.  This became an incredibly political topic.  It was a dangerous drug, with "a number of serious and life-threatening side effects" with very little benefit.  But, the drug company stands to lose a lot of money, so they create a campaign to scare people into keeping the drug.  Among the group fighting to keep the drug are doctors, doctors who want their patients to stay on the drug - that is scary to me.  

This book explains how things like this happen.  It is far more involved that I can possibly get into here, but it affects EVERYONE.  One example is a college student who is convinced he needs drugs to sleep better, and after a series of events eventually commits suicide (a side effect on an anti-depressant taken for a side effect of the sleep drugs).

There are some parts of the book that I think are dismissive.  For example, in the discussion of unnecessary back surgeries, I was someone who had a very-much necessary back surgery, some of the language seems as though most procedures can be avoided.  There should be a bit more in there to help someone determine when is it necessary or not...  but that is not really the point of the book - and everything else is very eye opening, and when you begin to see how the system operates, then it does empower you to make these decisions for yourself.

If you haven't read this, you should.  The healthcare system is getting more and more complicated.  For your survival (really) it is important that you read this book, and not assume your doctor, or specialist are recommending the best treatment for you.  

They want to treat the symptom - You want to live.

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