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"Over the past two decades the pharmaceutical industry has moved very far from its original high purpose of discovering and producing useful, new drugs. Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit, the industry uses its wealth and power to corrupt every institution that might stand in its way, including the US Congress, the FDA, academic medical centers, and the medical profession itself."
-Marcia Angell MD, Former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine
Every day I encounter people who are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. They are often the folks who have fallen victim to the mantra "a pill for every ill", or the belief that vaccinations are a fool proof bet to prevent disease; they have been riding on the medication merry-go-round for far too long and they want off.
I personally would like to see my colleagues making more recommendations on diet, nutritional supplementation, drug induced nutrient depletions, and mind-body medicine. These are core to the history of pharmacy, not the vaccination indoctrination which seems to be the flavor of the day.
I believe in the body's inherent ability to heal itself when provided the environment to do so. More often than not, the environment will not be found within a prescription bottle. Addressing multiple factors including ones thoughts, emotions, beliefs, diet, exercise, and most importantly- taking 100% responsibility for one's health is what's needed. This does not mean, "do it all yourself", this means that if you are going to attain 100% vital health- it won't be by handing your health over to someone else- you must become an active participant in the decisions which are made.
The Hundred Year Haul of Industrial-Aged Medicine
Compared to traditional systems of medicine, such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, our Western medical system is very new, only about 100 years old. At the beginning of the 20th century the medical landscape was a mixed bag of naturopaths, a growing industry of chemical based medicine, and of course your snake oil salesmen and charlatans- the American medical system was ripe for a take-over.
In 1904 the American Medical Association (AMA) created what was known as The Council of Medical Education (CME) whose objective was to restructure the American medical educational system. The CME appointed Abraham Flexner to conduct a survey to assess the American medical educational system. The results of this survey were released in 1910, known as the Flexner Report.
One could argue that our medical system at the time was in need of reform much the same way our current industrial food and medical complex is today; as a result, the Flexner Report supported what we consider industrial age medicine.
Flexner clearly favored forms of medicine such as vaccinations and chemical based patented drugs. Disciplines such as naturopathy and homeopathy opposed this agenda; the schools, which taught these disciplines, were told either to eliminate the courses from their curriculum or they would be forced to close their doors.
The impact of the Flexner report re-sculpted the practice of medicine in America. There became limited options of treatment and care; only chemical based patented drug therapy was taught in medical schools, thus widely practiced. This ended up restraining and eliminating natural disciplines of medicine. This led to shortages of practitioners, less availability of care and increased costs.
...If this sounds eerily familiar to what is happening today, it is.
Since the inception of the Flexner Report, our medical system has been under a constant 'hi-jacking', taking power away from patients, practitioners and educators, creating an indoctrination, or lemming affect where all participants are supposed to fall in line, and accept what's delivered to them.
The Solution: A Shift Towards Information-Age Medicine
In 1994 as I was finishing up pharmacy school, I read an article in the Whole Earth Catalog Millennial Edition, which turned out to be one of those big ahh-haa moments that would set the stage for my career in the years to come. The article titled, From Industrial-Age Medicine To Information-Age Health Care, was ahead of its time, addressing and even foreseeing the current challenges our health care system faces, with the solution being a greater shift towards information based self-care.
The article highlighted both systems of medicine, where industrial age medicine encouraged high dollar professional care first, regardless of the problem in health, and discourages low dollar self-care. Information age medicine is just the opposite where it encourages individual self-care first and discourages health care professionals as ultimate authorities, unless needed.
The big take home is that the low dollar, information age health care promotes self-responsibility, and the high dollar is more akin to giving way one's responsibility, leaving people to solely rely on the system itself- a system where Big Pharma makes the rules.
In the information age health care, there are 6 steps which start at low dollar health care promoting self-responsibility and transition to high dollar medical treatment, if and when needed.
- Individual Self-Care- Individual practices preventative wellness and first attempts to recognize, manage and/or treat on their own.
- Family and Friends- When individual self-care does not work or there are questions, people then turn to family, friends and neighbors for advice, information and support.
- Self-help groups and networks- When the above groups are not sufficient, people turn to experienced self-helpers and support groups. The Internet has made this ever so more accessible and possible.
- The Health Professional as Facilitator- Basic electronic communication between patients and professionals for the professional's expertise could cut costs, save time, and improve care. Professionals would put aside their authority role and serve as advisors, facilitators, and supporters of self-provided care.
- The Health Professional as Partner- A more formalized and frequent arrangement of care then the facilitator role. Serious or chronic problems often require regular contact between professionals and patients whether it is via phone, video chat, in office, home or hospital visits.
- The Health Professional as Authority- This is indeed sometimes needed, although not the hub of the medical system. This would involve emergency situations, needed surgery as well as high tech diagnostics and interventions.
As you can see, this model puts responsibility in the patients' hands, while providing for needed intervention, support, and consult from experts in the field. This model allows for education, specialized and customized treatments based on ones needs and current state of health, opposed to being herded like cattle down a 'one size fits all' path.
This model is already catching on, with the growth of evidence based wellness related sites such as the one you are reading, or even medical practitioners who have shunned being slaves to insurance, gravitating towards concierge- cash based practiced; with results of peoples health improving and the cost of health care declining.
With some simple shifts of perception, attitude and action toward a self-empowered system of health care, we have the ability to reverse the trends of the "modern day diseases" that come as a result of an over-medicated medical system.