Thursday, April 26, 2012

An update on prescription drugs

I think it's funny how I sometimes cover certain topics on the blogs in bunches, then ignore them for a while, before coming back to them again (think: China and currency manipulation). I can't fully explain why that's the case, though I'd love to spend some more time thinking about it.

At any rate, the reason I'm thinking about that dynamic today is that I recently came across this article (shared by Tim Iacono) regarding the explosion in painkiller prescriptions--specifically hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin/Percocet)--over the last decade. I was pretty sure that I'd covered this topic before, and indeed I had--three separate times. A sample take-away from what I wrote is this:
In general, I believe that we have become a nation that is incredibly good at treating symptoms, but woefully inadequate at solving underlying problems. Not feeling too happy today? Don't bother asking why, just pop some prozac. Short attention span? Here's some ritalin. Cholesterol hitting the roof? Don't pass on the steak and eggs just yet, just take some lipitor and don't look back. (Yes, I'm getting a little rant-y here, but I think it's justified). 
I've long complained that the problem with most government policy is that it is too reactionary, rather than pro-active. Affirmative action and the Patriot Act are frequent targets of my ire, for exactly that reason. We declared war on drugs without bothering to ask what made drug use so prevalent (could it be that recreational drugs and prescription drugs go hand-in-hand?). We fought a war on terror--and sacrificed personal freedoms--without wondering why we were the target of a terrorist act in the first place (it's best that I not go down that road).
To be clear, this kind of thinking isn't at all unique to government policy--the government (any government) simply reflects what the citizenry demands, and lately the citizenry has demanded that we treat symptoms, not causes. That's why I'm completely unsurprised by these graphics, although the growth rates were staggering even for me. (Side note: given the brand names in question, I'm not totally shocked that oxycodone sales increases have significantly outstripped hydrocodone sales increases over this time period--either way, both have skyrocketed).

[Yahoo! Finance]

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