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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Dangers of a Little Knowledge Revisited: Medications, Benefit or Just Money?

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 8th 2008

On February 1, 2008 I wrote a web log entitled, "The Dangers of A Little Knowledge." One of our readers was good enough to respond to that entry with some very good points that I would like to address. The log entry and response may be found at the following URL:


Here are the major points made by the reader:

1. The reader points out that medicine is a business and that pharmaceutical companies want to make a lot of money.

2. It is also pointed out that her doctor did not know the ingredients of the particular medicine that was being prescribed and advised calling the drug company.

3. In addition, the reader makes the point that some medicines can be addicting and, perhaps, that is a way for drug companies to keep people on medicines after they are no longer needed.

4. Finally, the issue of natural remedies is raised and why it is that information is not available about those because they would be a lot less expensive.

Some answers:

1. It is true that medicine is a business. Medical Doctors are working to make a living and drug companies are working to make huge fortunes. Those working for those companies are also attempting to make a living. For some reason, the fact that people are making money in the medical business makes some of us very suspicious. It is important to state that just because people are making money does not mean that they are not delivering an important and often life saving service.

Because so much money is involved, the Federal Drug Administration is present to prevent corruption and make certain that quality controls are operating so that the medicines we purchase are genuine and not corrupted with dangerous and deadly ingredients. We have seen the awful consequences when a nation, such as China, does enforce quality controls through the government.

2. It is always important to select doctors who meet the needs of a patient. If anyone has doubts about their doctor there is no question that they should go elsewhere. If a doctor does not seem to know about the medicines being prescribed then that could be a sign that you need to look elsewhere for someone in whom the patient can have full faith and confidence. This even extends to the doctor taking time to answer questions and to listen to the worries and concerns of the patient. In the end, medical doctors are just people. As people, they can be warm and supportive or abrasive, impatient and sarcastic. Maybe some patients like the abrasive style and that is fine for them. Anyone else should seek medical attention elsewhere.

3. There is no question that some medicines can be addicting. Whether those medicines should be taken or not depends upon the condition of the patient being treated, the judgment of the doctor and the willingness of the patient. Sometimes, in situations where a patient is suffering immense pain very addicting drugs may be administered. In those cases, the judgment is often that the greater good is served by pain relief as compared to worries about addiction. I have known many people in those circumstances, who, after recovery, were gradually weaned off of the drug and had no further side effects.

I sincerely doubt that any medical doctor or even any drug company would want people to be addicted to medicines in the service of making more money. The numbers of people with serious illnesses makes it unnecessary for anyone to have to profit from getting people addicted. At least, this is my opinion.

4. There are many natural remedies available for the treatment of many illnesses. In fact, there are medical doctors, fully licensed, honest and legitimate, who practice "Holistic Medicine" rather than purely western medicine. Among these are physicians trained in the use of acupuncture as well as the use of nutritional supplements and other "natural substances." I have known many people who have gone to these doctors and were satisfied with the results. I should point out that these are doctors, who, when they are up against a serious illness return to the practice of traditional western medicine. In other words, these are honest and capable medical doctors who use all the available techniques to bring relief and cure to people.

As for "natural medications" it is important to state that these are readily available over the counter in health food stores. It is also important to remind everyone that these medicines are also expensive, not covered by insurance reimbursement and that the manufacturers of these also earn millions of dollars in profit. As for ingredients being "natural" most drugs are made from natural substances, whether holistic or not. In addition, it is very easy to overdose on natural substances and cause self harm.

One of the major differences between natural remedies and medicines sold in health food stores is that they have not been tested by the FDA as to the maximum and safest dosage, how long they should be taken and what the side effects might be. Nevertheless, there are a few studies on the usefulness of medicines such as St. John's Wart, SAM E and other substances for the treatment of mild depression. These studies are available Online and can be read by anyone who is interested.

Please remember that these natural substances are not covered by insurance companies and can become expensive as compared to prescription drugs.

I also want to remind everyone that many medications are now available in generic form and that makes them far less expensive than the big name drugs. For instance, Prozac is now available in generic and, thus, far less expensive form.

Please remember that nothing in this life is ever perfect and people, like the reader who sent this comment, have legitimate gripes.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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