Hold those drugs, doctor

Mon Jun 13, 2011 11:28pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - U.S. doctors are too quick to reach for their prescription pads, according to a report urging them to think more about side effects and non-drug alternatives.

Nearly half of all U.S. residents have used at least one prescription drug in the past month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, and experts say over prescribing is rampant.

"Instead of the latest and greatest, we want fewer and more time-tested drugs," said Gordon Schiff, associate director pf the Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, a non-profit organization that studies ways to improve safe practices in healthcare.

"We are really trying to promote a different way of thinking about practicing," he added of the report, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Widespread prescription means that more people are being exposed to side effects, sometimes fatal, without the benefits that would justify those risks.

But many doctors are quick to prescribe, partly because they have limited time to deal with individual patients or because they and their patients have been bombarded with ads from the pharmaceutical industry.

"Often what is really bothering them is not cured with a pill, but rather through exercise, physical therapy, or diet changes," Schiff said.

Yet "there are no drug reps coming to my office pushing this."

In an editorial in the same journal, researchers describe how opioid painkillers like Vicodin and Percocet have become increasingly common without good evidence that they help patients in the long run.   Continued...