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October 2005 after the first frost and summer grasses had turned brown.  The growth of winter grasses was delayed by the drought.

Drug Use in America

Column #198

Everyone knows a lot of people take prescription drugs. But the actual number of Americans taking prescription drugs is absolutely staggering. You won’t believe the data.

What’s also amazing is that seemingly there’s no price resistance for prescription drugs. Normally, when prices for things increase relative to all other things, demand for them can suffer. That’s basic Economics 101. But when it comes to prescription drugs, that hasn’t been the case.

Eric Topol, MD, of Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, and colleagues in JAMA Network Open, studied the pricing of 49 common top-selling brand name drugs. Twenty-one of them doubled or more in price from January 2012 through December 2017. Among the drugs available since the beginning of that period, 39 saw a rise in out-of-pocket and insurer costs of over 50%.

So how many people take prescription drugs? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) it’s a lot. The CDC asked, “What percent of persons used at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days?” They determined that fully 48.9% of all persons answered in the affirmative! Literally every month half of all persons living in the nation takes a prescription drug. But “that ain’t all.” Nearly one in four takes two prescription drugs and nearly one in eight takes five or more.

Physician office visits resulted in 2.9 billion drugs ordered or provided: Fully 73.9% of the visits involved a drug therapy. The most frequently prescribed therapeutic classes:
●    Analgesics (painkiller)
●    Antihyperlipidemic agents (cholesterol lowering)
●    Dermatological agents (anti-inflammatory, anti-fungals, skin)

Hospital emergency department visits resulted in 359 million drugs given or prescribed. Fully 80.4% of the visits involved a drug therapy. The most frequently prescribed therapeutic classes:
●    Analgesics (painkiller)
●    Antiemetic or antivertigo agents (vertigo, nausea, and vomiting)
●    Minerals and electrolytes (restore the body’s fluid balance)

Out of the 3.3 billion drugs ordered or provided, physician office visits prescribe 89% of the drug use.

Drugs account for 10% of all healthcare costs. Since healthcare is 18% of the nation’s gross domestic product, drugs are 1.8% of GNP. Who pays that tab? According to statistics from Peterson-Kaiser Health Tracker, it looks like the biggest spender will soon be Medicare. All other forms of payment are declining.

This data shows that most people do not pay 100% for their drugs out of pocket. Most pay indirectly through insurance or partial pay, making drugs similar to a free lunch. The end result is that a majority of consumers do not actually care all that much about the cost of drugs. The drugs provide relief and that’s what they want above all else. Another indication of their lack of concern for cost is that only 9% of the people on drugs claim that paying for drugs is “very difficult.”

Far and away most of the prescribed drugs are for chronic conditions. Most chronic conditions are caused by, and can be suppressed by, the diet depending on which foods are eaten. But the gumption required to change the diet to the best foods doesn’t match the simplicity of taking a pill. And often the foods that are low glycemic, nutrient dense and diverse, with close to 1:1 balances of Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) cost more than the traditional fare. So where is the greatest resistance? It’s for the products people must pay 100% for directly.

Because they don’t pay directly, most folks want drugs even though drugs mostly mask symptoms rather than actually cure disease. Paying more for slightly more expensive food that might fully suppress and “cure” their afflictions doesn’t gain traction in comparison. That’s in spite of all the warnings about side effects from drugs.

Amazingly the public doesn’t seem to understand the comparative risks that exist between drugs and proper foods. The really big reason to avoid the “free lunch” drug bandwagon is that all drugs are chemical interventions. Every drug has consequences. Addiction comes to mind. But in the list of additional side effects death is often listed. Theoretically most drugs are designed for only a single target. However, in most cases, they go beyond the target and can cause issues elsewhere in body function. In addition, nearly all diseases involve multiple abnormalities which often requires more than one drug. This greatly compounds the impact of side effects.

When a proper diet (foods that are low glycemic, nutrient dense and diverse, with 1:1 EFA balances) is combined with sleep, exercise, and meditation, that combination creates a very powerful metabolic approach that addresses multiple modalities. Not one drug can compare in the effectiveness of this broad-based approach. And the long-term risks with food are far lower.

Side effects from the best qualifying foods, grass-fed meats, Omega-3 meats, and wild-caught seafood, are almost nonexistent. (Some shell fish can be an issue because of toxins.) The better green leafy vegetables come in a close second. Other foods such as grains, seeds, nuts, fruit, and grain-fed meats have various issues. They can contain anti-nutrients, mycotoxins, be high glycemic, or have significant nutritional deficiencies.

We all have choices. All too often in the choice between drugs and food the seemingly more difficult road is the most economical and safest route in the long run. Of course actually eating a healthy diet based on food chemistry is very poorly understood. In fact most so-called healthy diets incorporate politically-correct foods that fail to provide proper food chemistry. Instead of focusing on the actual overall chemistry of individual foods, “health” promoters focus on schmooze (nice labels), scaremongering, scams, and myths which abound in the health food business and lead people astray.

The real health food path is traveled by only the more exceptionally aware people who, in most cases, can always shun drugs.

To your health.

Ted Slanker

Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.

Don’t miss these links for additional reading:

Surprise! Drug Prices Continue to Soar by Ashley Lyles, Staff Writer, MedPage Today

What are the recent and forecasted trends in prescription drug spending? by Rabah Kamal, Cynthia Cox and Daniel McDermott at the Kaiser Family Foundation

Therapeutic Drug Use

Prescription Drugs: 7 Out Of 10 Americans Take At Least One, Study Finds

Polypharmacy Among Adults Aged 65 Years and Older in the United States: 1988–2010

Trends in Prescription Drug Use among Adults in the United States from 1999–2012

What You Need to Know About Opioid Addiction and Older Adults

Food Analysis: EFA, Protein to Fat, Net Carbs, Sugar, and Nutrient Load by Ted Slanker