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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Book Review: Death By Prescription

I just finished an excellent book by Dr. Ray D. Strand called Death By Prescription: The Shocking Truth Behind an Overmedicated Nation. Dr. Strand opens the book with an examination of the very chummy relationship between the FDA, the organization charged with protecting consumer health, and the pharmaceutical companies. This relationship results in huge conflicts of interest with the FDA groups that approved a drug also being the ones in charge of removing a harmful drug from the market. Dr. Strand also discusses how and why drugs are released much quicker than previously (hint: pharmaceutical companies can pay for "fast track" status). Reading just the first section, you'll realize that the FDA is more on the side of the pharmaceutical companies, who help finance the organization, than it is on the side of the medicated public.

The other sections of the book discuss over-the-counter medications and herbal concoctions, drug combinations, and the problems resulting from our reliance on specialists instead of a family doctor. And he even gives some guidelines at the end to maintain a healthful lifestyle and avoid prescription drugs. Unfortunately, he's a doctor, not a nutritionist and advises the same low-fat stuff we commonly hear about avoiding saturated fat and worrying about cholesterol levels. Regardless, if you just avoid the health guidelines chapter, Chapter 14 (or read it for a good laugh), you'll get much out of the book.

Through it all, he regales the reader with stories of individuals (both healthy and unhealthy) killed, nearly killed, or crippled by adverse drug reactions. When you combine adverse reactions to properly prescribed medications and adverse reactions to improperly prescribed medications (such as a screwup at the pharmacist), adverse drug reactions are the third leading cause of death in America. It sure makes me want to avoid pharmaceuticals more than I already do.