Wednesday, February 4, 2009

You, Your Kids and Medication

I have had bad health since I was a child. Up to now, I can't ever recall exceeding the 125 lb mark or outgrowing 25 inch waistline pants. I've had backaches, toothaches, typhoid, fever colds etc repeatedly growing up. My worst enemy of all, however, was asthma. Ever since we were toddlers, me and my sisters exhibited a propensity towards developing asthma. Luckily, they were able to grow out of it eventually. I can recall my sister having her last ever asthma attack at 18 years old and almost nothing after that. I though, have to be a lot more careful. Up to now, if I fail to get a decent night's sleep in 2 days, I just know I'm going to get sick.

We've had a family doctor, who is a family friend and a relative. He was already quite old when I got to know him, a little less older than my grandparents. He has been treating our family (our whole clan probably) and guess what, he never lets us pay. Whenever someone in the family comes down with something, we call him and he drops by to check up on us for free. Almost everybody who is sick dreads visiting the doctor, but with us, it feels like he is just a friend visiting. After the checkup, injections or whatever is needed to be done, we all go to the kitchen and have some coffee and snacks and talk about things. Of course we had tried to give him his consultation fee a number of times but he just refuses.

We fondly called him Doc V.D., that was his initials and as you can imagine, it also stands for something else so his friends jokes about it a lot! He passed away around 4 months ago and we sorely missed him. He was a good doctor and a good friend.

He used to be the only doctor who treated our family and everything he said, we took for gospel. However, my mother had her doubts. I'm still not entirely sure up to this day if what she did was right or wrong.

The good doctor prescribed a medication for my asthma, the generic name is betamethasone. I cannot mention the brand name . I got started on it when I was 5, even earlier says my mom. On really bad attacks, I would be on this every 4 hours. Now what is so bad about this?

My mom, along with some relatives were convinced that my health never recovered because I was exposed to a lot of strong medication when I was young. Her older sister too, was given strong medication which included betamethasone, which we also suspect was the cause of her slight disfigurement. So whenever the doctor prescribed the drug, my mom would cut the dosage in half. If the attack wasn't so bad, she would do away with the drug altogether.

Betamethasone is classisfied as a glucocorticoid steroid used to treat a number of disorders ranging from respiratory, muscular, skeletal, gastrointestinal to skin conditions and many more. Basically, corticoid steroids are a class of steroid hormones that are produced in the adrenal cortex. Steroid hormones are steroids which act as hormones, hormones being chemicals which are released b.y cells that affect cells in other parts of the body. Everyone practically knows what steroids or "roids" are by now right? Most athletes and bodybuilders who desire immediate gain in muscle mass or performance turn to steroids. But not all is well and good, steroids are so potent they can easily create an imbalance in the body (an understatement) which can lead to death.

Now how could our good doctor, who always had our well being as his utmost priority, prescribe such a drug to such a young child? Let me jump to another story...

I was in a forum the other day, arguing about the merits of alternative medicine. The guy who I was discussing with was so adamant, claiming that there is no such thing and at best, what alternative medicine provides is a placebo effect. I think we were on different wavelengths on the discussion, perhaps what he had in mind was crystal therapy and such while I was just talking about cures and medicines one can find in the kitchen and the garden. Anyhow, here's my thing against most synthetic and commercially produced medicine:

1. Big pharmaceutical companies are profit driven organizations while alternative medicine in not a profit driven endeavor. Information on how to heal oneself is readily available everywhere while synthetically produced commercial medicine are prohibitively expensive, trademarked and proprietary.

2. Despite all the funding, research and ultimately, agressive marketing for commercial medicines, a lot still manages to get recalled. Usually somebody has to be gravely ill or die first before the recall gets initiated. Alternative medicine, especially Chinese Traditional Medicine has been around for centuries and uses ingredients readily found in nature. I don't think TV and other media would have been there back then for this to get advertised. A lot of people has professed and still professes to being healed, this being another reason why western medicine finds it hard to penetrate China and neighboring countries.

3. Yes, alternative medicine is fast becoming a multi-million dollar enterprise in the US and other western countries. Even big pharmaceutical companies are getting in on the act much like Shell and other big oil companies are going into renewable energy. But sometimes you just instinctively know when someone is earnestly interested in healing you PERMANENTLY and when someone just wants you to be perpetually dependent on a drug which at times, makes you feel well.

There are so many more arguments to be said but lets focus on the useful stuff first.

I got into thinking and came up with several reasons why our doctor prescribed the drug I mentioned earlier.

It is possible that since he was already old, he failed to keep up with the newer innovations in the medical community. Highly unlikely because as far as I know doctors are required to attend seminars to be updated...

The agent and the pharmaceutical company he was working for who endorsed the drug to our doctor failed, or intentionally kept information about the side effects of the drug. Of course, the information would be printed on the brochure, but take a look at this example:

Did GSK trial data mask Paxil suicide risk?

At times, only the information that would not scare off people are put on the brochure.

Ironically enough, I also have a cousin who works as a medical representative for an international pharmaceutical company. I have confirmed that indeed, these drug companies give doctors cash incentives, free vacations, gift baskets etc etc etc just to prescribe their drug, only their drug.

Pretty scary huh? Well you have a fighting chance. Here is what I propose you do.

If you are really unsure about the drug or the course of treatment given to you by your doctor, ask for a second and third opinion. Here's another funny story...

My youngest sister is another one who is suffering from multiple afflictions. One minute there's colds and cough, at times bruising or rashes, warts, fevers and and the all time favorite: asthma. At 15, she complained of a sharp pain near the diaphragm. My parents took her to an internist ans said she had problems with her spleen and she had to had an operation! My mother was shocked but went ahead to another doctor to ask for a second opinion. This time, the second doctor gave her a combination of laxatives and told her to drink cranberry juice, dismissing it as nothing more than cramps. Occam's Razor, we opted to for the laxative and juice treatment. She has been well ever since.

Another one. My dad is a diabetic. Some time ago he was having problems with his legs retaining fluids because of his heightened glucose levels. They had it checked up by a doctor who prescribed some albumin tablets. So they went shopping for those and found them to be prohibitively expensive! Went to another doctor. This doctor recommended just taking egg white instead along with this korean jade bed thing treatment. I myself was skeptical about this and just recommended the albumin tablets. We compared and contrasted the cost of both methods and found that egg white and jabe bed treatment would be much cheaper. Lo and behold, after several sessions the swelling indeed go down!

There is nothing wrong with taking commercially made medicine. My point only is this, if you are going to take medicine, do your research first. Get a consultation from a trusted doctor, then a second opinion, then research the facts on the Internet and library before proceeding with the treatment. If you find some conflicting information, consult again with your doctor. I am sure that if he has your best interests in mind, he will welcome your input.

A good doctor is also open minded. After all, where do you think most medicines come from? From Nature of course! He should be humble and open minded enough to propose course of treatments which are the cheapest and least invasive. A lot of alternative medicines and methods are now being accepted as legitimate medical treatments. For example, honey or Manuka Honey is now being used to treat burns:

Honey as a topical antibacterial agent for treatment of infected wounds

As always, your best weapon would be awareness. One has to read, compare and contrast before making a decision. Studies can be manipulated, people can be bribed, sometimes but not all the time.

As for my asthma, I have been using Ventolin (Salbutamol) for several years now but fortunately I haven't had an attack for around a year already. If I feel like I'm coming down with it, I make sure to get some rest and sleep, drink plenty of ginger tea, eat well. Only when worse comes to worse do I use the inhaler. It is still full now but already about to go into expiration so I must be doing something right.

1 comment:

  1. Manuka Honey is an excellent natural ingredient to be used on wounds and burns. It has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help eliminate infections and relieve pain. Because Manuka Honey is a natural ingredient, its been found to have no negative side effects when used for medicinal purposes.