As mentioned in my previous post about the true nature of the pharmaceutical industry, there are some very positive things that have come out of the research and advancements we have made in the 20th century. The question is, how has the pharmaceutical industry made our lives better?

One of the biggest advancements of course is the eradication of many infectious diseases. We have made a tremendous amount of progress here, especially when you look at small pox, polio, measles, mumps and rubella. These have virtually been eradicated through vaccinations. Being born in 1976, I didn’t even receive the vaccine for small pox (most of my friends who were born the year before did).  That threat, has for the most part been completely eliminated.

On the flip side of this, is the current controversy about the danger of vaccinations.  As more and more vaccines are created (chicken pox, flu virus, HB) there are concerns about vaccine safety. Most recently, the study that had shown that vaccinations cause autism has been retracted, so there is still much confusion on this part. So even though this is one of the best ways the pharmaceutical industry has contributed to our health and longevity, there are still challenges and concerns when it comes to taking the products.

Another positive discovery was of course, antibiotics. This is another case of a truly amazing product being mis-handled and mis-used, and now we are in a situation where antibiotics that used to work are no longer effective. Super-bugs are becoming resistant to all current antibiotics and we have run out of options in many cases. What happened was that patients were requesting (and probably still do) antibiotics for everything – even viral infections which cannot be treated with antibiotics.

Combined with doses that are not completed and you get Super-bugs that are resistant to current treatments.  The biggest challenge here is that there is little money in discovering a new antibiotic, so the research in this area has been virtually stagnant. “In 2002, for example, Bristol-Myers, Abbott Laboratories and Eli Lilly halted or substantially reduced their efforts to discover antibiotics”. source

It is a bit alarming that the most positive things about the pharmaceutical industry have begun to take a wrong turn. More research is needed, for viruses and bacterium that are not big money makers but could save lives. More education is needed about the value of discoveries that cure diseases and not just mitigate symptoms.  We as consumers need to educate ourselves as well, not only through advertising and the media, but through non-fiction reading and perhaps, taking a closer look at alternatives to pharmaceuticals.  Feel free to share your opinions below, I’m curious to hear about where other stand on this issue.

Next time, I will take a look at prescriptions vs. supplements, mostly in Canada.

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