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Death By Medicine

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This letter appeared in the Chicago Sun Times July 31, 2008.

I hope readers appreciate the irony behind the news that Viagra may help women suffering low libido because they’re taking antidepressants. Here’s a drug with significant side effects itself to treat side effects for a drug they probably didn’t need in the first place.

Most antidepressants are prescribed by male doctors for the lamest of reasons: ”We can’t find anything wrong with you. You must be depressed.”

Physicians are recognizing that the pharmaceutical industry controls the medical profession. The weekly Journal of the American Medical Association has sunk to endless articles extolling the latest new non-generic drug. The authors of these articles are generally on the payroll–“research grant”–of a drug company, and the results are notoriously biased in favor of the drug’s beneficial effects.

Most important, the public needs to be aware that most prescription drugs are unnecessary, overprescribed, and often dangerous. Every year, about 120,000 people die from the side effects of correctly taken prescription drugs. This makes “death by medication” the fifth leading cause of death in America.

Antibiotics don’t cure colds; cholesterol lowering drugs don’t prevent heart attacks except among people who have had a heart attack already. Antidepressants rarely cheer you up. But taking prescription drugs may lull you into believing you’re actually doing something “healthy,” allowing you to ignore the really useful steps of losing weight, reducing stress, and exercising a bit. The next time your doctor reaches for his prescription pad, it’s perfectly all right to challenge him: “Do I really need this? Can’t we come up with something safer?”

David Edelberg, MD
Medical Director, WholeHealth Chicago

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