Buried in Pills

By Drs. David Niesel and Norbert Herzog, Medical Discovery News

Have you ever heard doctors referred to as “pill pushers”? While medical professionals provide necessary and admirable services, it does make you wonder how many pills we take in a day, a month, a year or even a lifetime.

In the British Museum in London, along with the Rosetta Stone and an Easter Island head, there is an exhibit with an expansive glass table, more than a yard wide and at least 20 yards long. On it rests a tapestry-like depiction of the number of pills two individuals would take over their lifetimes in various colors and sizes.

On one side is the medication record of a 76-year-old man and on the other side, a parallel record of an 82-year-old woman. Their life histories as told in pills stretch essentially the whole length of the table. These people led normal lives.

The man had childhood asthma and hay fever but was in generally good health until later in life, when he was treated for high blood pressure and eventually died from a stroke. The woman took contraceptive pills and later hormone replacement therapy. She was treated for breast cancer and then arthritis and diabetes later in life.

The average number of pills taken over their lifetimes was over 14,000! Astoundingly, half of these pills were taken in the last decade of their lives.

There are not any directly comparable statistics, but data suggests Americans are in the same or a very similar situation. For example, more than half of Americans aged 55-64 used one to four prescription drugs and just over one-fifth used five or more over a 30-day period in 2009-2012, higher than the previous —> Read More