Can You Get Too Much Medicine

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998, the number of people who die from adverse drug reactions each year is more than 100,000. Other studies find the number in the tens of thousands. Eli Lilly and Company just recently agreed to a settlement payment of $62 million to 32 states for deceptive marketing practices of its blockbuster drug zyprexa (no wrongdoing admitted). How many times each week are you told to “ask your doctor if it’s right for you”?

We want so much to find the fountain of youth that we’re willing to pop any pill that pharmaceutical companies tell us, or our doctors, is going to be good for us. I recently heard one of my fraternity brothers tell how he gave his doctor the answers required to receive a sample of Viagra so he could find out if he’d end up with a four hour erection. He got a pounding headache for his trouble, but imagine!

My doctor and I have had an ongoing fight about my taking statins. I have an incredibly high cholesterol level. I get it genetically from my mother. By any other measure, I’m in excellent health. I have no other indicators of heart disease. I come from a long-lived family. I exercise regularly and eat more healthy meals than most Americans. Add to that the fact that no studies have concluded that statins do anything to reduce heart disease. They can prove that they lower cholesterol, but that’s a surrogate. In people like me, elevated cholesterol has never been shown to be an indicator of heart disease risk.

I’d rather go with my genes and perhaps live to 100 with a cholesterol level more than double that than to take a drug that might cause all manner of severe side effects, any one of which could end my life.

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