What Is So Wrong With Taking Meds?
There appears to be a real hate-on for taking medications, and at the pharmaceutical industry who make them. I don’t like to take meds. However, I do. I never planned to ever take meds either. As a matter of fact, I spent 8 years working very hard to avoid needing drugs for my medical conditions. I take meds for diabetes. I take meds for asthma. I need the meds to assist in controlling my blood sugars and my breathing. I am on meds for cholesterol, to prevent heart disease from non-dietary issues, as potential for damage to the heart and blood vessels exist from high cholesterol levels and diabetes.
What I understand about taking medication for type 2 diabetes
I’m struggling to understand the whole picture related to taking medication and the drug industry in general. Here’s what I think I understand.
Some are philosophically opposed
There are people who philosophically are opposed to ever taking medication. Their belief system developed, not to hate the idea of taking meds, but because natural alternatives are better.
Some are opposed to certain medication
There are people who will not take certain TYPES of medication. They are not opposed to all, just types. This debate goes on in my own family. One of my adult kids believes a certain class of drugs has been necessary and helpful for health. The other adult kid was influenced by the very strong opinions of a university professor who opposed that whole class of drugs. The professor was very convincing that there were more risks than benefits to those drugs.
Some can't afford their medications
There are people in all countries around the world who cannot afford their medication even if they wanted to take it. Insulin is a very good example. People are dying in all countries because they cannot afford their life-saving medication. People obviously aren’t opposed to taking these drugs, they are angry at not being able to access them.
Pharma makes a ton of money
The pharmaceutical industry makes a butt-load of money off medications. The most recent estimates of what profits drug companies make is approximately $27 billion dollars in Canada and over $400 billion dollars in the USA.1,2 *These numbers are based on sales alone and does not include research and development.
US regulation is limited
In the US, there is no regulation over what can be charged for any medication, especially life-saving medication. In Canada, there is regulation that would explain the difference in profit the pharmaceutical companies make between the two countries.3
I will state, we can argue opinion but when we get into arguing belief systems it's a no-win argument for either side. But there can be learning and healthy discussion if we allow it.
What I don't understand about medication and pharma
Here’s what I don’t understand:
Is pharma evil?
The belief that the pharmaceutical industry is ‘evil’. Perhaps some of that thinking is based on the fact that drugs are priced so high that people cannot afford them. That is wrong morally and ethically. I‘m not a big supporter of conspiracy theories. I’m not saying these theories don’t give pause to make you think about it but I tend to believe more in the inherent good than the inherent bad.
What is so wrong with taking medication?
I’m not being glib when I ask this question. I truly do not understand how it could be considered wrong to take medication that will deal with a health issue or will reduce the risk of complications. Obviously, it can be easier to take medication than to change what we can to support our health. Yes, there are risks in taking drugs. There are side effects, some small, some large. And yes, some of those risks are blown out of proportion. Each of us has to decide if taking the drug will be of benefit. Perhaps we don’t need to take ALL the drugs 'recommended’ for a medical condition.
Personal dilemma about adding more medication
I’m currently dealing with this dilemma myself. I have been pelted by my specialists with the research regarding taking an ACEi medication to protect the small vessels of the kidney. The main risk factors for kidney damage are diabetes and high blood pressure. I will state my A1c is approx 7.1-7.3 mmol consistently every 3 months. My target is to be below 7. I just miss the mark trying as hard as I do. This is a risk factor. I am aware of that. My lab work also states repeatedly that my kidney function is right in the middle of the range of where it should be. It is not just normal, it is a healthy normal. My blood pressure runs low. Some diabetes medications can lower blood pressure. I am taking one that does, on top of running low in the first place. ACEi are drugs that lower blood pressure. Why in the world would I take a med that has the potential to tank my blood pressure?
My monitoring plan
Because I feel like I’m not being heard by the specialists, my family doctor and I made a plan together:
1. Keep working on lowering the A1c to below 7. I will continue to do my best with diet and exercise on top of my diabetes meds. We set a limit on what we consider reasonable for an A1c for me so diabetes will not burn out my mental health - always worrying about what my body can or can’t do. We set my A1c to be below 7.4 consistently if its not reasonable to get below 7.
2. We will watch the lab work related to kidney function. If it indicates a risk to the kidney, then we will reconsider the ACEi being added to my med list.
3. If my blood pressure starts to rise consistently, then again, we will reconsider and add.
Evidenced-based medication decisions
For me, there has to be evidence behind the use of drugs to treat medical conditions. Not opinion. Real evidence based on the best research available. Pharmaceutical companies invest billions of dollars into research/ development and must get independent governmental approval before they can market any drug. Am I naive enough to believe in the total benevolence of drug companies? No, not totally. Do I believe they are totally malevolent? No, I don’t believe that either. Drug companies will only get away with what they are allowed to. That’s the real problem. They are allowed to entice doctors in many ways to use their products. They are allowed in some countries to charge what they want to increase their profits. I’m sure they are allowed to do many other things I can’t think of at the moment.
Ask yourself these questions about medications
But the real questions for me are:
- Is the drug necessary?
- Does research support that necessity?
- How do I feel it will benefit me?
- What are the risks specific to me in taking this drug?
Look, no one wants to pop pills or inject medication. But again I ask, what is so wrong with taking meds? Is it the taking of the meds that is the problem? Or, is it our anger that the industry can do what they are allowed to do? I don’t want us to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’. I just want us to be as healthy as we can be and not unnecessarily avoid medications that could help us.
Did you know that diabetes is a risk factor for developing chronic kidney disease?