There has to be a better way… Re: Doctors on TV, medical advertising, and stuff

Sorry, it has been a long time since my last post. I ended up in the hospital- unfortunately not that unusual for me these years. I end up with a major hospitalization (or period of multiple hospitalizations) once every 2 years or so. Then even after getting home I just wasn’t into writing. I started a few posts but never finished any, and ultimately deleted them. Who knows if I’ll finish this one.

My rant today is about doctors on TV, and the practice of advertising prescription medications directly to the consumer. First, doctors. I don’t want to limit someone’s free speech but there needs to be some system in place when a doctor goes on the morning news, or even their own show, and starts talking about their own medical opinion, if that opinion is vastly different from accepted medical science. I envision a big red banner scrolling across the bottom of the screen like WARNING: THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION DOES NOT AGREE WITH THIS NUTJOB. A couple months ago I was watching a morning news show and they had some doctor from some hospital on talking about Vitamin D. He said in no uncertain terms that virtually no one should be taking Vitamin D pills. He said taking Vitamin D pills were not proven to have any health benefits but were proven to have negative effects like kidney stones. Even the news anchors were a little shocked by his bluntness and tried to see if he was just being dramatic. He stuck to his guns. He was absolutely certain of this. As someone with very low Vitamin D levels I was prescribed by my doctor to take a 50,000 unit pill once a week. I also have an unfortunate history of kidney stones. I stopped taking the pills. (There were other long periods in my life I had stopped taking them for other reasons with not noticeably apparent issues so I wasn’t too concerned.) However by the time I saw my doctor and explained what this doctor said my doctor said the exact opposite. They said they definitely believed I should be taking Vitamin D and never heard of the claims this other doctor was making. Who was right? There’s no way to know. If anything, they are probably both right. There are probably studies that point to Vitamin D both being good and bad for you to take. The icing on the cake was watching the same morning show on the same station some months later they do a story on how important it is to take Vitamin D supplements if you’re not getting enough sun.  Of course they don’t bother to mention that weeks ago the had an expert saying the exact opposite.

The problem is, it isn’t just Vitamin D. Everything in medicine is up for debate. There is very little settled science. Worse, even things you may have thought were settled, like eggs raising cholesterol 10 years ago, have been overturned by more modern studies. Hardly a week goes by without Coffee being labeled good or bad for you.  The government itself seems at odds with doctors on the frequency and necessity of mammograms. And the news reports both sides like it is gospel. The unfortunate fact is the general public isn’t really able to understand the ramifications of many of these studies- indeed the scientists themselves are often unable to as well so what hope does the public have? We are frightened into buying supplements, herbs, food high in wheat, then food without gluten, organic foods, GMO vs Non GMO, and so on, and it never ends. And it never will end. I propose we just stop reporting. Stop reporting the results of any study until the results are so solid they are considered absolutely accepted science. Even then there will be changes, but much less.

Then there are the commercials for prescription medications. I cringe every time they come one- I have to remember they are being made by someone trying to convince me I need their product- and in all likelihood I don’t. Yes, Shingles can be painful, and yes a small percentage of people who get it, get the most severe cases of it. But the reality is most people who get Shingles get over it without life changing pain. They need to stop showing commercials that just get people scared of getting Shingles. Also most people who have dry eyes don’t need a prescription medication for that. I would end the practice of directly advertising prescriptions to the general public. The general public can’t buy these medications without going through a doctor- so limit the advertising to doctors or people who specifically  look up these symptoms. Also- don’t advertise the side effects. We know all medications have side effects. People can look them up or talk to their doctor about them. Anytime I see a side effect before I begin taking a med I have a much higher chance of having that side effect. It’s just the way humans are, we are too open to suggestion. That is what makes these commercials so effective to begin with.

So many changes needed for medicine, these are just a start.