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Enhanced Prescription Drug Coverage - A Good Thing?

Government to Heighten Focus on Treating Symptoms of Illness Rather than Preventive Care

The headline in a local newspaper reads, "White House to Strengthen Prescriptions in Health Law", indicating enhanced coverage for medications for the millions that will receive coverage through the health care system overhaul mandated by the Affordable Patient Care Act, which has come to be known as "Obamacare".

This increased benefit will surely be seen by some as a positive development.  I question whether that is the case.

Although we spend more per capita on health care than any other country, our nation is the sickest on the planet and we consume the vast majority of the world's dangerous drugs.  Increasing access to prescription medication is unlikely to change that.

Prescription medications carry serious side effects, including death.  In recent years, these drugs have been marketed directly to us on television, thus we insist that our health care professionals prescribe them based on our layperson's analysis of what is best for us. These drugs do not provide cures, rather they treat symptoms.

Much of the illness and disability that we experience is self-inflicted through poor diet and nutrition, smoking, consuming alcohol to excess, and a sedentary lifestyle for which our bodies were not designed.

Providing more coverage for drugs takes the focus off of preventive care and away from taking responsibility for one's health.

From personal knowledge and experience, I am aware that in addition to exercise, a diet rich in whole grains, fiber, a large daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, and bolstered by key vitamins and supplements, are critical components of good health, including a strong immune system, and that good health does not sprout simply from taking pills.

Where in the Affordable Patient Care Act is government recognition and endorsement of the importance of nutrition and non-harmful, non-side-effect-ridden vitamins and supplements? To my knowledge, it is nowhere.   There is no coverage for key supplements such as turmeric, iodine, magnesium, fish oil, or multi-vitamins, but if one desires addictive tranquilizer Xanax or controlled drug pain reliever Oxycodone and a health care professional is willing to prescribe it, it will be paid for by the government (we who pay taxes).

If we were truly interested in preventing disease and illness rather than treating symptoms once a serious health problem has developed, health care plans would serve to encourage the elements of a healthy lifestyle.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

JS December 02, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I agree, the government, pushed by corn belt legislators have gone too far with the ethanol program. It does not save energy and apparently is not good for all cars. What that has to do with drug and supplement testing, I can't tell. As usual, those of a certain idealogical bent tell us the government can't do anything, yet don't tell us who they think should be testing our drugs. Or maybe you're suggesting drug companies should be able to put any drugs on the market and it's up to the individual (individualism is big in some circles) to decide what to take and pay the consequences if it's not safe. The Republicans and the right are doing a lot of soul searching after the last election. This is a perfect example of one problem with them - lot's of no, the government can't do that, but not nearly enough alternatives.
Kathleen Gaberson December 03, 2012 at 12:10 AM
No, Oren, the real reason that supplements are not regulated by the FDA is the influence of a powerful supplement and "natural" remedy industry lobby. Do you have any evidence that Big Pharma contributed its support to these lobbying efforts? It would make more sense for the pharmaceutical companies to have supported FDA regulation of supplements because they know that there is little credible, scientific evidence to support the safety and efficacy of those products. If they were regulated, there would be far fewer of them on the market, thus Big Pharma would have less competition. Merck withheld information about Vioxx's safety from the FDA, and that's why the drug was approved. Once the FDA found out about the deaths, it banned the drug. This is not a reason to condemn the FDA; this is how the FDA protects US citizens. If vitamins and herbal supplements were regulated by the FDA, the same reporting requirements would apply to them. Then adverse effects of vitamin and supplement use could be reported to the FDA, and the agency would have the authority to ban the use of the products that were involved. We are not hearing about the untoward effects of vitamin and supplement use because there is no one agency designated to receive those reports and inform the public.
Kathleen Gaberson December 03, 2012 at 12:21 AM
The establishment of Medicare Plan D prescription drug plans was the worst piece of Federal healthcare legislation passed in my memory. The creation of a "doughnut hole" during which the sickest of senior citizens would pay the full price of the medications they need to live was an outrage. You're right, Oren--the pharmaceutical industry was heavily involved in support of that legislation. It has made them tons of money at the expense of senior citizens who live on fixed incomes, are REQUIRED to have a Medicare Part D plan and who PAY A PREMIUM FOR IT! The Affordable Care Act will make health care costs decrease because virtually everyone will be in the insurance pool and paying premiums. That will decrease the amount of uncompensated care that taxpayers pay for now. This uncompensated care tends to be more expensive than the preventive health care that the ACA will provide coverage for because it typically takes place in hospital emergency departments and other acute care facilities where high levels of care are required to treat advanced disease.
Oren Spiegler December 03, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Thank you for your entries, Ms Gaberson. To follow in this note is a link to a June 2012 Wall Street Journal news article, "Obamacare's Secret History", noting the unseemly influence the pharmaceutical companies exerted in the development of the Affordable Patient Care Act. I was appalled. I would welcome any evidence from a credible source that you can provide to indicate that lobbying of nutritional supplement makers has precluded the companies from being overseen by and subject to regulation of the FDA. I do not believe you have such evidence. If one looks at the history of mammoth pharmaceutical company settlements with the federal government and the number of individuals that have been harmed, even killed by prescription medications, it is clear that the FDA is NOT protecting us. You are welcome to stick with the prescription medication that you obviously favor as I ingest vitamins and supplements. I am confident that, along with a nutritious diet and daily aerobic exercise, I have an outstanding shot at maintaining my generally excellent health. I hope you will as well, whichever path you choose. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303830204577446470015843822.html
Kathleen Gaberson December 05, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Oren, I do have evidence that lobbying by vitamin and nutritional supplement manufacturers influenced the exemption of those substances from FDA regulation: http://www.uspharmacist.com/content/d/consult%20your%20pharmacist/c/11002/ This is an article by a pharmacist and professor of pharmacy, published in a peer-reviewed professional pharmacy journal. I believe that his credentials are appropriate to support the credibility of his assertions and conclusions. This is not my only source of this information, but I chose this one to post because it gives a succinct history of this issue supported with appropriate citations. Please note the discussion of the "tryptophan tragedy." And I do take some vitamins and minerals, but only those prescribed by my primary care provider to treat a deficiency diagnosed through laboratory and other tests. Like Tracey, I think the best way to get the vitamins and minerals I need each day is by eating a balanced diet of real food.

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