Friday, 10 February 2012

The benefit of a healthy lifestyle and pharmaceutical consumption

We have become accustomed to turning to our very well-stocked medicine chests or if that fails us, to our friendly pharmacist for immediate  relief to all our ailments. This tendency has led us to be symptomatic  in our treatment of disease, rather than attempting to get to the root of the problem. 

It is unfortunate that this attitude has crept into  the manner in which health professionals approach most medical  problems presented by patients. The quick fix consists of а prescription, or in the case of a pharmacist a recommendation for а particular drug or referral to a certain physician. This has led to an  increase in the demand for medical services and pharmaceutical  products, with a concomitant increase in the financial pressures on  the payer, whether the cost is state-financed or paid out-of-pocket.

It is quite likely that a percentage of patients being treated with  lipid-lowering pharmaceutical therapies and anti-hypertensive  medication, would achieve the same or improved treatment outcomes, without treatment(or at least at a lower dose and variety), if induced  to adopt lifestyle changes that are conducive to better health. In  other words, if the patients on the above mentioned drugs are  overweight, smoke and possibly consume amounts of alcohol that аре above the recommended limits, then there is room for improvement. Persuading these people, indeed the whole of the Maltese population  that lifestyle and positive health outcomes are inexorably linked, would be beneficial to all of society as a whole.

In fact, not only would patients be better off if they required less  or no medication, they would also reap the benefits of an improved  well-being and healthy outlook. Society at large would gain, and the  state would also see a reduction in the increase in pharmaceutical  expenditure that is threatening to derail the whole public healthcare  system.

The subject requires a much deeper and considered discussion, but one  cannot discount and ignore the positive effects of combining health  promotion and prevention together with treatment. It is unfortunate  that, especially locally, we are dedicating most of our efforts and  funding towards the latter, and ignoring the long-term benefits that  the former could provide.

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