With so many different treatments, pills and surgeries available, how can you figure out when something is more than you need? Today's doctors are quick to prescribe medicine for any ailment you may have, and this could be causing unnecessary side effects. In fact, numerous studies are showing that doctors are now being much more aggressive when it comes to performing diagnostic tests and prescribing medicine as compared to past decades. Researchers are attributing it to rising fears of being sued, misdiagnosing or mistreating illnesses
, and less time available to spend with a patient.
In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine
, a survey yielded unsettling results. Of the 627 doctors that participated in the survey, over 40 percent of them said that their patients were being purposefully over-treated
, and less than six percent thought they received insufficient treatments.
Why would doctors be recommending more procedures and treatments than necessary? Wouldn't that end up costing the hospitals as well as the patients more money? The study cites that cost isn't on anyone's mind when they are being over-treated; they would rather prevent the risk of being sued for under-treating. This does not benefit the patient, however, as over-treatment can become harmful if you end up getting more MRIs or taking more pills than you need . . . and consequentially absorb more radiation or build up the immunity of your disease until the pills start losing their effectiveness.
Dr. Rita Redberg, an editor for Archives of Internal Medicine, says the trend in medicine has been toward running more diagnostic tests than usual and using more invasive procedures. This is becoming common practice even though tests may sometimes call for equally effective, yet less invasive treatment alternatives that may be less risky and could even end up costing less.
Prescribing too much medicine is also becoming a common problem; some examples include the increased use of opioids for chronic pains (increasing the risk of becoming addicted
), long term use of a proton pump inhibitor
for those with acid reflux (which could end up causing severe magnesium deficiency, among other problems) and the widespread prescription of statins for patients who don't even have coronary artery disease, despite the well know adverse side effects.
A study that was highlighted in the journal had doctors review the medical charts of elderly patients who took many different pills on a daily basis. The doctors were able to find so many unneeded prescriptions that they discontinued nearly half of the elderly medications without any detriment to the patient's health.
To prevent being over-treated, it is important to be well educated and informed on any conditions you may have, ask plenty of questions, find out if there are any alternative treatments, and seek second (and third, if you can) opinions to get a different perspective.