We see them all the time – “Ask your doctor if ________ is right for you” – drug commercials telling us that we need the latest medication for whatever ails us.  Sure, it’s expensive, but isn’t your health worth it?  So patients are coming in their doctors’ offices demanding prescriptions for these drugs when they are not medically necessary, and many people are saying this is part of what is driving up our medical costs.

According to a recent article on Medscape.com, 84% of patients request a specific prescription or test when they visit the doctor and about 80% of those requests are granted, often even when the doctors would not have prescribed that medication for other people with the same symptoms.  Some argue that doctors are jumping to prescriptions too quickly, and that what patients really want when they request advertised medicine is a conversation with the doctor about benefits, risks, etc.  But many doctors, overbooked and under tremendous pressure to see more patients, just want to get people out the door quickly, so they whip out the prescription pad.

This unnecessary prescribing has got to be costing us lots of money.  Patient satisfaction is important, but at what cost?  Are the advertisements to blame or is it the doctors who are too quick to write prescriptions?  It seems like we need a change in the way we all  think – patients and doctors.  Patients need to realize that just because it’s on TV does not mean they need it or that it is even good for them, and doctors need to spend more time listening and talking with patients before any medications are prescribed at all.  Talk is cheap, they say – but really it is invaluable.  We can save money on medical costs and probably improve people’s health and lives in the process.

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