Gold Coast, January 11, 2014 (Alochonaa): It is inevitable that our reliance on drugs has significantly increased, with elevated levels of antibiotic resistance, disease complications and the ageing population. Therefore we have an ever so increasing consideration of diseases. And even the developed world experiences the effects of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer. Thus it is to say, drugs to some extent are necessary for our survival. But it is also important to know that it is not the only solution to everything.
When a person consumes an apple, they believe it is healthy. Why? For multiple reasons. Namely in the context for myself, it’s because my parents always told me, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. The use of authority in the context provides a prime example of how we perceive what is good from bad. If more prestigious or important people suggest something is good for you, we are more likely to believe this is true. This is the same in the context of drug therapy. But is it always the answer to all of our problems?
Paracetamol is a prime example of one such pharmaceutical product. We take it for granted, whenever we have the common cold, or some illness whereby we do not necessarily know what the original cause was. This is of course, unless things turn serious that we decide that the need of alternative treatment arises, due to complication of the disease. For example after a 40 degrees Celsius of continuous fever for days, I was taken to hospital, which required me to take 3g amoxicillin (an antibiotic) per day, due to pneumonia development. However panadol (a paracetamol brand in Australia) was my first choice. What is funny is that we have no idea how or why paracetamol works effectively in minor cases of infectious disease. Yet we still decide to provide it towards the public (and I still decide to take it), since it works to some degree. From my early years due to sensitisation to the drug, I have constantly taken it as my first choice in medication. Although not as dangerous as other drugs in the market, overdosing has been recently determined to actually cause potential harm.
Other drugs, for example statins have also multiple side effects. Statins are usually prescribed to patients who are at risk of cardiovascular disease. Statins induce their positive effects by reducing serum cholesterol levels, by inhibition of an enzyme known as HMG-CoA reductase in the liver. One of the most notorious effects of statins is myopathies, which can lead to dysfunctional muscle fibres, causing muscle weakness. They are beneficial drugs, however sometimes it may be overhyped, due to some understandable human errors. As it is now understood, the levels of cardiovascular disease are still largely prevalent even with the presence of statin therapy. Whilst it is not the fault of the drug that there are elevated levels of CVD, but the alternatives to pharmaceutical medications hae long been dismissed as either unachievable or unattainable. Whatever happened to exercise remains a mystery; however people have every right to know of its continuing solemn existence and incredible effectiveness. Although rodent or human experimentation does demonstrate significantly the beneficial effects of statins in most extreme situations, this does not mean that such benefits can always outweigh the detrimental negatives in all scenarios, including for the majority which lies within the means of social norms. What the emphasis that should also be examined, is the strong urge to help patients initiate a healthier lifestyle, and an eventual removal of the reliance on medications towards simply eating healthy and exercising moderately if the severity of disease progression is not catastrophic.
So why is it that drugs, like panadol only get noted to have overdose complications after all this time, and drugs like statins are still around and highly recommended by health professionals? The answer lies in the process of approving drugs for human consumption. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) normally believes in the principle of innocent until proven guilty, similar to the American court systems. In other words, a drug is approved and released into the public, after some precautions, however it is not until there is a significant levels of problems with the drug, that it is reconsidered and revoked from the society. Thus paracetamol, because did not alarm any real issues until today. Statin therapy also, does provide benefits to cholesterol levels, but in the future, perhaps the risks of the various side effects, should allow for considerations of exercise and lifestyle interventions.
The real problems lies in the mixture of highly beneficial drugs to less beneficial drugs all being spread throughout the market. Perhaps a rating system of how effective a drug really is should be implemented, so that users of drugs can provide detailed feedback into how the drug helped, or did not help, so that the deciphering of profit orientated pharmaceutical products can be separated from beneficial drugs with positive implications. This article is not to discourage the decline of your prescription medicine however please do take precautions when using such products, and remember you can always ask for a second opinion from many health professionals. It is important to acknowledge the usefulness of pharmaceutical products, however one must also consider the limitations of their effects, and also consider the more viable means for solving any issue. Eat healthy, exercise regularly and keep strong.
*Masa Oi is a B. Biomedical Science (Honours) graduate. He has interests in medicine and improving quality of life, and is currently studying Doctor of Medicine. Although from a scientific background, he also has interests in interfaith, political and government matters.
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