Many doctors rely on pharmaceutical reps and materials for the latest information on treatment options. And they’re inundated with reports — that may or may not be credible — about the latest research. As Golomb notes, clinical studies designed to prove the efficacy of a certain drug have inherent limitations, particularly as it relates to examining safety.
For patients seeking unbiased information, two credible resources are The Cochrane Collaboration (www.cochrane.org) and Clinical Evidence (clinicalevidence.bmj.com/ceweb/index.jsp), both of which feature summaries of valid pieces of research that provide important, relevant, more accessible information to patients and doctors.
At the very least, patients should ask their doctors to explain the pros and cons of every drug in a way they can understand, so patient and doctor can share the decision about treatment, says Brownlee. “If your primary-care doctor says, ‘I’m ever so busy, I’m not going to do that,’ you might need to find a new doctor who will help you be informed and who will share treatment decisions with you,” she says.
Patients must be “assertive, smart consumers” to make sure they are not being overmedicated or getting drugs they do not need, says Joseph T. Hanlon, PharmD, MS, professor of medicine in the University of Pittsburgh’s Division of Geriatrics and Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics, and health scientist at the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System. “Make a list of every drug you are on and make sure you can answer five questions: What is it called? What are you taking it for? How and when are you taking it? What are the common side effects? And when will the treatment stop?” Hanlon says. “Medical schools don’t always do the best job of teaching prescribing. You are your own best advocate.”
Pamela Weintraub is features editor at Discover and author of Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic (St. Martin’s Press, 2008).
Many Problems, One Cure
You’ve probably heard the line in plenty of pharma ads: “When lifestyle changes aren’t enough . . . ” But changing your life can and does work, even in tough cases — as long as you’re making the changes that really count.
In fact, research shows that basic shifts in nutrition, activity, stress and other lifestyle factors can be more effective than drug protocols in treating inflammatory health conditions — dramatically improving overall health and fitness in the process.
Unfortunately, most people (including many primary-care physicians) don’t know what kinds of lifestyle factors actually work, or how to go about embracing them. So we’ve gathered articles from our archives that cover effective interventions for tackling chronic health problems. Get all 11 in one downloadable PDF by clicking “Get the PDF” to download.
Tips from the Archives at ExperienceLife.com
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