I recently read two articles touting alternatives to prescriptions for very common medical scenarios. The first was about treating depression, the second was about treating ear infections in children. Antidepressants and antibiotics for ear infections are very close to the top of the list of most frequently mentioned prescriptions when we ask Colorado health insurance clients about their pre-existing conditions. Obviously there are times when these drugs are called for and are very beneficial. But if we look at the recurring scenarios, it seems that prescriptions for these ailments are definitely overused. Pharmaceutical reps encourage docs to prescribe, patients encourage docs to prescribe, and let’s face it – it only takes a minute to write out an Rx and send a patient on her way, as opposed to spending 30 minutes discussing alternatives that the patients often don’t want to hear – they came for the drugs.
The ideas in the articles are not new ones, and forward-thinking patients, parents, and doctors have been using them all along. Things like exercise, a balanced diet, and social interaction to help with mild depression. And treating ear infections with otc pain meds and warm baths rather than relying on the “magic bullet” antibiotics that are fueling the drug-resistant strains of bugs. Not only do these things make sense, they’re also a lot cheaper than antidepressants and antibiotics. Now it’s just a matter of convincing the public that in some situations, a prescription is not what the doctor ordered.