Drugs for chronic diseases are usually bought with a doctor’s prescription, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now eyeing changes to this practice. They recently held a two-day meeting to discuss whether medications for chronic diseases like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma, and migraine should still require a prescription. They claim that eliminating the need for a prescription will let people access the drugs more easily, allowing them to save time and reduce overall health care costs.
Dr. Joseph Mercola disagrees, and believes that Americans are already taking too many prescription drugs. Easier access to prescription meds by making them over the counter (OTC) drugs will only put people at a higher risk of severe side effects.
“Make no mistake about it, when you combine medications you are essentially acting as the guinea pig in your own science experiment,” he warns.
Americans Are Taking a Staggering Amount of Pharmaceutical Drugs
The use of pharmaceutical drugs is widespread in the United States, with nearly 40 percent of the population taking four or more prescription drugs, along with an untold number of OTC medications. An average 65 year-old adult has over 31 prescriptions per year, while those ages 19 to 64 have more than 11 prescriptions. Even children use an average of four prescriptions, according to the Kaiser Health Foundation statistics (link).
Dr. Mercola says that the FDA’s plans to change prescription drugs to OTC drugs may be supported by many Americans. A survey sponsored by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) says that 80 percent of U.S. consumers used an OTC medicine in the last year, while 86 percent believe that these medications helped them lower health care costs.
In addition, 89 percent believed that OTC medications are important to their overall family health care, while 81 percent use them as a primary response to minor ailments.
However, Dr. Mercola says that this practice is disconcerting. “Many are lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to OTC drugs, but the side effects and risks are just as severe as those for prescription medications,” he says.
The Alarming Effects of Polypharmacy
Polypharmacy refers to the practice of taking too many drugs, either because more drugs are prescribed than clinically indicated or when the excessive number of pills becomes burdensome for the patient. Instances of death from drug overdose have increased by almost five times since 1990 (link). The more drugs you take, the more severe and life-threatening the side effects are.
“While the drug label will contain some safety information, it cannot possibly warn you about the risks of every medication combination. For one thing, oftentimes the risks are not yet known; there are more than 100,000 OTC medications on the U.S. market alone, making the combinations virtually endless, and a detailed risk assessment equally unreachable,” Dr. Mercola explains.
Signs and symptoms of drug overdose or side effects include:
- Tiredness, sleepiness, or decreased alertness
- Chronic or intermittent confusion
- Anxiety or excitability
- Constipation, diarrhea, or incontinence
- Dizziness and/or falls
- Skin rashes
- Loss of appetite
- Depression or lethargy
- Decreased or altered sexual behavior
Drug side effects can manifest immediately or may appear after some time. Different factors may affect this, so do not dismiss these symptoms just because you’ve already been taking the drugs for a long time. Ironically, polypharmacy is often confused with other health problems, leading to more prescriptions and ultimately worsening your condition.
You Can Improve Your Health Without Drugs
Dr. Mercola believes that people are misguided into taking medications to immediately treat health ailments. The truth is that many chronic diseases and health problems can be addressed with a few simple lifestyle changes and without any drug intervention. Here are five strategies he recommends:
- Eliminate sugar from your diet, especially fructose and most grains.
- Consume unprocessed and high-quality organic foods. Dr. Mercola recommends his nutrition plan to help you make healthy food choices.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels through safe and adequate sun exposure.
- Consume sufficient high-quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil.
- Follow a regular exercise routine that incorporates high-intensity burst exercises like Peak Fitness.
“If you start with just these five steps, you will be embarking on a journey to outstanding health and drug-free wellness,” says Dr. Mercola.