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And do you want pills with that?

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Article: Dr Ross Walker, Switzer Daily, Thursday, June 06, 2019

The first line of the Hippocratic oath is “first do no harm”. For something written 2 ½ thousand years ago, it still is highly relevant for today’s practice of medicine.

“I often state the statistics that the commonest cause of death and disability in the world is cardiovascular disease...(t)he second commonest cause of death and disability and closing in fast is cancer”.

Disturbingly, Dr Walker comments, “the third commonest cause of death and disability is Western Healthcare. The most expensive health care system in the world, the United States of America, rates number 45 in terms of longevity. Clearly, over investigation, unnecessary medical procedures and the excessive use of pharmaceutical drugs contribute significantly to this statistic”. Terribly, the audience is not particularly shocked, or horrified with this statement, even after processing cognitively. Is this what we accept? To be killed by ‘Healthcare’?

Of course, “there have been enormous strides in medical investigations and therapies over the past few decades, significant complications of medical procedures and side effects from pharmaceuticals are unfortunately rather commonplace. It could be easily argued that, if the person was left alone, their underlying condition could either cause them significant issues or even bring on an early death. But there are increasing concerns, both within and outside of the practice of medicine, that we should look carefully at the medications we prescribe and the medical procedures we perform on many patients”. Is sounds like we, as a community, have an outlook of ‘it’s too good to be true, but I am going to do it anyway, because the doctor said so’, or, worse than that: the doctor said so!

Notably, Dr Walker refers to “(t)wo recent studies(that) have clearly shown the concern over commonly prescribed medications. The first from the University of South Australia published in the journal “Australian Prescriber” looked at just under 8,900 veterans with hip fractures and compared them to 35,310 people without this condition. The average age in the study was 88 and 63% were female. The study showed that those patients who were chronically taking antidepressants, opioid painkillers, anticonvulsants and the common anxiety relieving pills the benzodiazepines such as Valium, had a significant increase risk for hip fractures. One or a combination of any of these medications may lead to an alteration in the level of consciousness, dizziness, blurred vision and unsteadiness. All these factors can then contribute to a fall leading to a traumatic hip fracture”. Clearly, and even on a basic level, a contradiction of intent and purpose versus reality and harm.

Dr Walker reiterates that it “(i)s estimated that if an older person is on one of these medications, he or she has double the risk for hip fracture but, for example, if you combined antidepressants with anti-anxiety treatments, the risk is five times”. Whoa! Stop press! Are you READING this? FIVE TIMES THE RISK!

And Dr Walker is NOT talking USA either, which can often desensitize the feeling of “what’s happening in Oz”. No, he says, “(i)t is estimated that in Australia alone there are 28,000 hip fractures per year in people over the age of 50! (Editor’s note: OMG, I am 50 in a few years!). Alarmingly, “(five percent) of these people die during the hospital stay and 10% are admitted to aged care. Clearly, the best treatment of hip fracture is prevention and most doctors and patients need to examine carefully the medications they are prescribing and swallowing to determine whether they are vitally necessary”. (Note the word, VITALLY)