Lifestyle Drugs and Risk

Posted on July 15, 2007  Comments (11)

I see taking drugs as risky. Certain drug have long histories and seem safe and even seem to have positive side effect like Aspirin (though even it is not without risks – see below). Even if a drug has a good chance of a positive result in treating some medical condition – assuming it is otherwise safe is not wise. I believe you have have a significant positive known benefit to consider taking drugs given the unknown problems that are likely to be lurking. I find the pop a pill culture for anything that might be a minor annoyance to be foolish – taking risks without consideration. Taking drugs entails taking a risk and the more you take the risks of interactions and cumulative effects increase the risks to you. Business Week (somewhat surprising given the huge amount drug makers pay to advertise lifestyle drugs) has a decent article pointing out some of the foolishness involved in the Lifestyle Drug Binge:

The renewed excitement is most evident in four treatment areas that account for the bulk of lifestyle-drug sales: weight loss, hair loss, sleep, and sexual dysfunction.

This trend is surprising because such treatments can expose patients to risks, sparking criticism of drug companies at a time when patient safety is already under a spotlight. Lifestyle drugs are defined loosely as products used to treat conditions that are not life-threatening. Because people take them over long periods of time, sometimes on a daily basis, they may be more dangerous than they first appear.

We have found amazingly helpful and useful drugs. This is great. But people need to remember these drugs are not without potential negative consequences. Take advantage of them when appropriate but don’t forget the risks each instance has for negative side effects. Related: health care improvement articleshealth care blog posts

Can daily aspirin therapy save your life? (from the University of Michigan):

Although taking aspirin leads to a wealth of potential health benefits for adults, people should realize that even a baby aspirin is not free of dangerous side effects,” says A. Mark Fendrick, M.D., an internist at the U-M Health System. “Therefore, in my opinion, aspirin should not be taken on a daily basis without first discussing it with your health care provider. According to Fendrick, aspirin use should be based on the tradeoff between the risk of disease you are trying to prevent, such as a heart attack, and the risk of side effects, such as a bleeding ulcer. “Most consumers are not aware of this tradeoff,” he says.

“I think aspirin is currently undergoing a bit of an identity crisis,” says Fendrick. “Because it’s been around so long and is available over the counter for pennies a day, many people can’t believe that aspirin is equally or more effective than prescription drugs that cost over a hundred times more.”

“Aspirin is not benign,” says Fendrick. “Thousands of people die each year in the United States from complications related to taking aspirin and other NSAIDs.

11 Responses to “Lifestyle Drugs and Risk”

  1. CuriousCat: Overrelience on Perscription Drugs to Aid Children's Sleep?
    August 10th, 2007 @ 1:23 pm

    “They found that 81 percent of these cases resulted in the prescribing of a drug to treat the problem. Only 7 percent of patients received dietary counseling, and only 22 percent were given behavioral therapies such as psychotherapy or stress management counseling…”

  2. CuriousCat: Drug Price Crisis
    March 17th, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

    “The mounting U.S. drug price crisis can be contained and eventually reversed by separating drug discovery from drug marketing and by establishing a non-profit company to oversee funding for new medicines…”

  3. Addiction Rehab Centers Blog » Should Rehab be Enjoyed?
    June 23rd, 2008 @ 10:34 am

    “Less than a decade ago, a stint in rehab was assumed to be a body- and soul-wrenching experience. Today a sojourn at a boutique establishment like Promises in Malibu… is openly discussed and in some quarters glamorized as a hip, if costly, refuge for the gilded set.”

  4. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » How Prozac Sent Science Inquiry Off Track
    July 7th, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

    “There’s only one problem with this theory of depression: it’s almost certainly wrong, or at the very least woefully incomplete…”

  5. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » New Antipsychotics Old Results
    September 16th, 2008 @ 11:29 pm

    “A new government study published Monday has found that the medicines most often prescribed for schizophrenia in children and adolescents are no more effective than older, less expensive drugs and are more likely to cause some harmful side effects…”

  6. Dino De Lellis
    November 13th, 2008 @ 3:35 am

    I agree we must be careful when it comes to taking drugs , Once cannot stress enough the importance of consulting a doctor before taking drugs , and if need be get a second even a third opinion before making your decision.

    It’s a bit worrisome that we have become a ” pill-popping” society and that taking pills is now a knee jerk reaction , a this is dangerous

  7. Anonymous
    November 20th, 2008 @ 4:25 am

    Lifestyle drugs are more famous these days and it is easily available. Maybe, the government need to filter those products and have stricter rules like test results for 10 or 20 years before approving it to the market. Most of this drugs are sold as dietary supplements or food and supplements category which will approved faster registered drug. The authority need to closely monitor weight loss, hair loss, sleep disorder and sexual dysfunction drugs before it goes in to public market.

  8. Matt Wutzke
    January 20th, 2009 @ 5:28 pm

    Dino De Lellis you make an interesting point that we should consult a doctor, but isn’t it the very same doctors that have encouraged us to become a “pill-popping” society?

  9. Keeley
    January 27th, 2009 @ 7:06 am

    Such an interesing article, especailly the bit about aspirin. I never realized that taking it daily could have side effects, my grandmother took one aday for years, was rarely ill and lived to the grand old age of 95. But the sad fact is that things are so different now and we live at such a fast past that we all want quick fix solutions and pills are far to ready available for everything. I really do agree that the government should do something about this.What kind of a future are we creating for ourselves?

  10. Ritalin Doesn’t Show Long Term Effectiveness for ADHD » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 4:37 am

    […] As I have written before I am skeptical of the amount of drug use our health care system encourages: Lifestyle Drugs and Risk. […]

  11. Europe Bans Certain Pesticides, USA Just Keeps Looking, Bees Keep Dying » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    May 9th, 2013 @ 4:06 am

    […] On lesson, it seems to me, is that it is wise to err on the side of caution. When we don’t understand the risks we are taking we should take fewer risks. Taking risks we don’t understand is dangerous. In general I believe we are too cavalier about the risks we take environmentally and with our own bodies (drugs etc.). […]

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