A Pill for Every Ill Pt. 3: Tell me the truth doc, how bad is it (for you)?

April 18th, 2016





“The best doctor gives the least medicines”

-Benjamin Franklin




Walk a mile in their shoes


In the first two instalments of this short series (click here and here if you missed them) we looked at the largely unchecked rise to power and influence of corporate medicine.



In this third and final instalment, we walk a hospital corridor mile in the squeaky, orthopaedic shoes of those hard-working men and women who have been forced to find ways to adapt in a changing and often hostile medical landscape. Finally, we will outline what we as medical consumers can do to stay healthy under a barrage of pressure to take more pills.



Ok, let’s get popping then…



Putting the squeeze on medical staff


overworked medical staff


While medical budgets only continue to grow, the caring, hands-on side of medical practice is shrinking. Ironically, this means there is less and less percentage of the medical budget allocated to those actually practicing medicine. To put it into industry parlance, the shift has steadily moved away from a focus on ’low-tech, high-contact’ to a ‘high-tech, low-contact’ one.  


In a ward that used to have 3 nursing staff now only uses one and possibly a nurses aid. All the small, therapeutic moments that once formed part of nursing, like compassionate listening, touch and counselling, are no longer possible. Nurses have become time-stressed, technical administrators of rigid treatment protocols – even when they see it is making the patient worse.


tired nurses


At the hospital ward level, doctors have even less patient time and contact and tend to be guided by the abstract information on a patient chart rather than the living evidence in front of them which would require greater engagement and time.


Abstract, impersonal information leads to abstract, impersonal treatments like yet more medication. Meanwhile, the patient never feels seen as a multi-faceted human being whose illness is just one expression of the totality of their life. 




Individual consultations are also time contained. The estimated average consultation time is 7-9 minutes which plays into the hands of prescribing drugs instead of other alternatives. When was the last time you felt a meaningful engagement with your doctor during an appointment or did they spend more time looking at a computer screen?


This structure plays directly into the hands of the pharmaceutical companies. The result is that, as the medical budget grows, medical staff who are the primary contact with patients has shrunk – and those that are left are more stressed and limited in what they can offer their patients. If that is the case then where has the money gone? What or whom has taken a bigger slice of the pie? No prizes for guessing the answer to that.



A new medical pyramid emerges



OL'S (OPINION LEADERS):They occupy top of the pyramid and who are usually full time university professors or leaders of medical associations.

OL’S (OPINION LEADERS):They occupy top of the pyramid and who are usually full time university professors or leaders of medical associations.


This is why doctors, who were once considered the apex of medical knowledge and influence have suddenly found themselves largely disenfranchised from their own profession. Now, all corporate medicine needs to do is target the so-called ‘opinion leaders’ to influence a whole industry.


The unseen elephant perched atop the apex of the modern medical pyramid are the pharmaceutical corporations telling the opinion leaders what to opine. 


Many of the doctors I have talked to do not want to even consider that their industry is corrupt as they themselves are dedicated and sincere in their desire to help others. The sad fact is, the reason they do not see this corruption is because they have been left out of the loop of power and influence long ago.


Why would a medical corporation waste time with them when some strategic (and ethically questionable) influence of a few ‘opinion leaders’ will suffice to achieve their goals? It is highly unlikely this corrupted elite will be eager to divulge what is really happening. Why would they? They have nothing to gain and, potentially, quite a lot to lose.


However, rather than be critical of doctors and medical staff, who after all now find themselves at the bottom of the medical pyramid, let us try and understand a typical working day from their perspective.



A doctor’s dilemma


Imagine for a moment you are a doctor seeing a patient. You may have up to 40 patients to see over the course of a day so you can’t spend much time with each one. There certainly won’t be time for them to tell you any information not appearing to be directly related to their presenting symptoms and you probably have become skilled in guiding them to reach the point quickly. In any case you hope that whatever you didn’t give them time to say will not be relevant anyway – but who knows, right? Oh well, moving on.



As far as diagnostic method goes, well, there’s no time for any hands on techniques like palpation, massage, muscle testing, joint manoeuvring and so on. That medical stethoscope doctors love to be pictured wearing on the covers of books or articles? – it has become largely costume jewellery by this point.


medicine at the computer


Neither is there time for outlining a plan of exercise or diet the client could do as self help or prevention. Even that would imply that doctors themselves have had any training or personal experience and practice in such things. Oops, not there either. The majority of their training has slowly but surely been eroded away from patient care and become almost exclusively focused upon the biochemistry of drugs than treating living people with multi-faceted problems.


While this might be appropriate training for future specialisation or a research technician (or indeed a drug company lab worker) it is poor preparation for a physician whose aim is to help heal and aid the sick and suffering on the frontline of patient contact.


If today’s doctor does manage to muster some people skills or bedside manner it will not be due to their training but despite it. The original altruism of medical practice has been railroaded by corporate medical self interest to guide the would be doctor into very narrow channels of service – but service to whom?



Guaranteeing the ‘write’ result




So, what can a conscientious doctor do within these narrowly imposed constraints? The harsh reality is that with such little time and such a specialised training background, doctors can only realistically do one of three things.


  • Refer a patient for technical testing like X-rays, blood tests and so on.
  • Make a recommendation for sick leave
  • Write a prescription


The first two are limited and medical budget makers discourage them as much as possible. That just leaves, conveniently, the option of writing a prescription.


Lest this seem like a criticism of the doctors themselves try and look once again from their point of view. They have at least a five to six year education. They want to help their patients and demonstrate that desire and their skill to act upon it in some tangible way.


Saying “I don’t know, I can’t help you.” – let alone “Have you investigated alternative methods for your problem?” – is a challenge to their professional pride. Of course they are most likely to write a prescription.


As we have seen earlier in this short series, the drug companies are only too eager to make sure they have created ‘a pill for every ill’ that the doctor can prescribe in any situation (whether it actually works or not) and have made very sure the doctors are aware of these. We have also seen the various subtle and not so subtle ways doctors and medical purchasing staff can be pressured into selling more.


Is it any wonder we have become so over-prescribed with medical drugs? Is it any wonder iatrogenic diseases (a.k.a. ‘side-effects’ from previous prescriptions creating secondary health issues) are at an all time high?



The cynical view on profiting from misery


On the subject of life saving drugs and major diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease it should not be forgotten that none of these diseases have been cured or eradicated. Here is one albeit cynical view of why that might be after more than 80 years and trillions of dollars in funding.


Conservatively, the cancer industry alone is valued at over 100 billion dollars per year. Remember, this money funds the search for a cure. Actually finding one would mean the elimination of all other funding except for the successful party. Whole industries would collapse.


preventative medicine kills return business


Widespread and growing rates of diseases like cancer and diabetes present huge business and investment opportunities. If we were to cynically sum up the situation from a psychopathically-driven, corporate business perspective – which is after all what Big Pharma has unapologetically become – it would be this:


The best medical customer is not one that is healthy nor one that dies quickly. It is one who lingers on under various medications for decades.



drugs for drugs



The vaccination, cancer and diabetes ‘industries’ have exploded in the wealthiest countries (who can afford its exorbitant cost) and there are currently moves afoot in the US and EU to enforce compulsory vaccinations of some diseases.


Is there really any doubt left that the noble roots of medical care have been hijacked by the ‘robber-barons’ of the pharmaceutical industry and their disproportionate representation and influence over government policy and private medical practice?



The mainstream media view: No conspiracy, science just isn’t there yet.


So far in this series the case has been made for the negative and even sinister consequences of the rise of corporate medicine. Of course this is not everyone’s view. In the following (Forbes) magazine article the argument is made against those who would cite industry greed, corruption and coverups for the lack of progress with our understanding of disease.


Its argument is that conspiracy theories are not required to explain our current medical dilemma. The more logical reason is that medical science is simply not up to the task yet (click here for the article link). 1


However, to entertain that argument for a moment and agree that yes, science simply doesn’t have an effective cure for these diseases yet. The question then begs to be asked:


Why do methods known to not work and do have known, negative and often lethal side effects keep being promoted and funded?


For those interested enough to find the time, the video documentary below posits some disturbing reasons in relation to medicine’s search for a cure for cancer.




What we can do


OK, enough gloom and doom for one Monday – what can we do about it as individuals and healthcare consumers? The obvious answer here is to stop our passive, ‘the authorities know best for us’ approach and take back control over our own health.


We can control what goes in our mouths, how we exercise, manage our stress levels, create loving relationships and so on. In other words: We can choose – as long as we don’t keep giving our will and freedom of choice away.






Specifically, we can:


  • Get informed. Don’t assume your doctor knows the latest information on the drugs they are prescribing. Once they are ensconced in a busy medical practice there is little time or energy to keep updating their knowledge – particularly when medical drugs are changing so rapidly and, as we have seen, much of their post-degree, ‘continuing education’ comes from the companies selling the drugs.
  • Do your own research. Visit online chat rooms where patients discuss their own experiences with longer term usage of prescription medicines and medical procedures.
  • Investigate alternative methods. This may mean other mainstream medical alternatives or alternative and complementary health care approaches.
  • Inform your doctor that you wish to investigate methods that, where possible, do not involve drug prescriptions. If you are taking medicine, work closely with your doctor on an exit strategy to get off them again as soon as possible
  • Get second, third and tenth opinions if you are told you must take a drug for the rest of your life. Remember, this is not the military and you are not a subordinate in your own life and health choices. You are a consumer of a service. If you are not happy with what’s on offer, shop around.
  • Focus on making your body stronger and healthier. A healthy body will not accept disease or toxic medications. Therefore, get regular health and disease prevention treatments before you develop health issues.
    • These types of treatments are usually far more enjoyable than the stronger interventions that may be required later if we remain passive. This is the best prevention of all.
  • This earthly vehicle we call our body which we think we own is really part of mother nature. One of the best prescriptions we can write ourselves is to release us from our mental and physical captivity and introduce our body back into the wild. (Don’t) ask your doctor if Nature is right for you. Just do it.




Till another Monday makes us the opinion leaders of our own lives, health and happiness,



I feel duty bound at this point however to note that this article comes from Forbes magazine – a business centric publication and not a medical one. One can make one’s own conclusions from that.


© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation: info@jeremyhalpin.com


Related Posts

Leave a Reply