Are pills killing us? Few know that GPs are paid extra to prescribe drugs... but while many are beneficial one doctor argues wanton doling out of medicine could explain a fall in life expectancy
So she simply stopped taking them. ‘Within a fortnight, my activities returned to normal and I can once again climb the fells.’
A bizarre one-off case? Sadly not. As a GP who has a weekly newspaper column, I’ve received thousands of similar letters over the last ten years.
Most describe the misery of suffering from aches and pains, lethargy, insomnia, impaired concentration, gut disturbances and general decrepitude — and their almost miraculous recovery on discontinuing their drugs.
Worse, many — like the fell-walker — were being treated for conditions they didn’t actually have.
These striking accounts are powerful testimony to a vast and hidden epidemic. Put simply: we’re taking too many pills.
It’s all part of the progressive ‘medicalisation’ of people’s lives to no good purpose.
You’ve probably experienced something similar: unnecessary tests, over-treatment of minor symptoms, inappropriate use of life-sustaining technologies, and a constant stream of —often contradictory — warnings about trivial threats to health.
The mass prescribing of drugs, however, is far more worrying, because it poses a substantial threat to our health and wellbeing. And it’s now spiralling out of control.
In just 15 years, the number of prescriptions issued by GPs in Britain has tripled.
The driving force behind this is the widening of the scope of those deemed eligible for treatment.
In the last few years, however, doctors have turned to treating millions of people like the fell-walker and the cyclist. People whose blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar levels are only modestly elevated.
This has led to a truly astonishing seven-fold increase in the numbers of prescriptions for blood pressure-lowering drugs, a five-fold rise in diabetic medication and a 20-fold increase in statins.
Yet there’s probably very little wrong with these patients — or nothing that a better diet and exercise won’t fix.