The following is an abstract from the website of Dr James Le Fanu [www.jameslefanu.com] a highly respected medical practitioner well known for his weekly medical column in the Daily Telegraph.
Dr Le Fanu’s most recent book ‘Too Many Pills’ investigates the reasons behind the threefold rise in the number of prescriptions issued by doctors over the past fifteen years and the devastating consequences for many of a ‘hidden epidemic’ of drug induced illness.
The number of prescriptions issued by family doctors has soared threefold in just fifteen years with millions now committed to taking a cocktail of half a dozen (or more) different pills to lower the blood pressure and sugar levels, statins, bone strengthening and cardio protective drugs.
In ‘Too Many Pills’ James Le Fanu examines how this progressive medicalisation of people’s lives now poses a major threat to their health and wellbeing, responsible for a hidden epidemic of drug induced illness (muscular aches and pains, lethargy, insomnia, impaired memory and general decrepitude), a sharp increase in the number of emergency hospital admissions for serious side effects and implicated in the recently noted decline in life expectancy.
The origins of this medical catastrophe go back to the 1970’s and the immensely profitable shift in the marketing strategy of the pharmaceutical industry in favour of ‘selling to everyone’. Extrapolating from the certain benefits of treating those at high risk of stroke, heart attacks, diabetes and other illnesses, the drug companies have targeted the much greater numbers of the healthy redefining the normal as abnormal, exaggerating up to fifty fold the results of clinical trials designed to demonstrate the need to take medicines indefinitely.
This policy of mass medicalisation is now deeply entrenched in routine medical practice with family doctors financially incentivised to prescribe, their income dependent on their success in hitting targets of the proportion of their patients on treatment.
The paradoxically harmful, if increasingly well recognised, consequences of too much medicine are illustrated by the remarkable personal testimony of the readers of James Le Fanu’s weekly medical column, coerced into taking drugs they do not need, debilitated by their adverse effects – and their almost miraculous recovery on discontinuing them.
The only solution Le Fanu argues is for the public to take the initiative. His review of the relevant evidence for the efficacy, or otherwise, of commonly prescribed drugs should allow readers of ‘Too Many Pills’ to ask much more searching questions about the benefits and risks of the medicines they are taking.