Recently, I read an article from NPR about how people in the United States are often rushing to get brain scans at the first sign of a headache to make sure they don’t have a brain tumor. Researchers at the University of Michigan have found people in the US spend around one billion dollars a year because they have a simple headache.
This made me think about the state of the medical system in the US. In my opinion, it seems we are moving to be a country of hypochondriacs because many people go straight to the emergency room at the sign of a sniffle.
A lot of this change in culture may be caused by the pharmaceutical business practices as a whole. Since the beginning of drug regulations in the mid 1900s, pharmaceutical companies have made the pharmaceutical industry more of a business of selling sickness, and less about finding the right drugs for actual sicknesses.
In fact, pharmaceutical companies spend about nineteen times more money on marketing than basic research. This marketing includes advertising, paying doctors to promote and prescribe certain drugs, and sending pharmaceutical representatives around the country.
While many people obviously have a sickness that can be aided by certain drugs, I think pharmaceutical companies are selling us sickness, and in turn causing people to look to take a pill for anything that might be wrong with them.
The fact that people are bombarded with ads about different diseases may also cause people to become paranoid, and assume they have a certain ailment. Many doctors complain about the “WebMD patient” who diagnoses themselves with a disease and only go to the doctors to get a prescription. This type of practice is putting healthcare in the hands of people who aren’t trained in medicine.
Many people agree this pharmaceutical marketing practice has some downfalls, and recently, GlaxoSmithKline announced they will stop paying doctors to promote their drugs.
What are your thoughts on the current pharmaceutical industry setup? Do you think it is fine the way it is, or should changes be made?