A recent article in the Wall Street Journal describes a phenomena that must terrify Big Pharma: people deciding not to take prescription drugs due to disclosed and increasingly publicized health risks.
Many consumers have doubts about the safety of their medications, although drug industry officials say the heightened skepticism might be temporary. Only 27% of the public feels “very confident” that prescription drugs sold in the U.S. are safe; just over half feel that pharmaceutical companies do enough to test and monitor the safety of their drugs, according to a study this year conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health.
Such people are described variously through the article as overwhelmed, unduly alarmed and confused. If only people could understand the great benefits of modern drug therapy, say concerned doctors, they would gladly accept the risks.
On the one hand, we agree that patients should consistently be informed of all of their treatment options (including the option to have no treatment at all), as well as their respective risks and benefits. This is the nature of informed consent: one of the fundamental principles of our practice.
Unfortunately, not all practitioners habitually inform their patients of all options. Instead, they tend to privilege one treatment, and for conventional practitioners treating chronic conditions, this is often drug therapy. If the patient raises concerns, such a doctor talks around them. If the patient asks about other options, the doctor just says that the recommended therapy is the best, end of discussion. If the patient chooses to not pursue treatment – or chooses a treatment other than what their physician has recommended – the doctor complains that the patient is not, in the terms of the trade, “compliant.”
And the Medicine Industry doesn’t understand why people are skeptical…