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Opting out of the system

For the first half of the last century the Tobacco Industry pretty much had a clear run of things, and what a fantastic business model it was. Tobacco is relatively cheap to produce, it grows in the ground.

It requires very little processing to turn it into a product that is highly addictive, ensuring once a person is hooked they will buy the product for the rest of their somewhat shortened life.

There was a time when doctors would even recommend their patients smoke. They would tell their patients, it calms the nerves. Menthol cigarettes help congestion, etc., etc.

Through the Great Depression of the 1930s the Tobacco Industry did just fine, people had to have their cigarettes, they were addicted. I’m sure in many cases cigarettes came before food.

Everything began to change in the mid-1950s when the medical profession linked smoking with lung cancer and other ailments. Since that time the Tobacco Industry has declined very slowly. It is still the same fantastic business model it always was, just not on the same scale.

So what replaced the Tobacco Companies as industry giants? The Pharmaceutical Industry, the Drug Companies. The Drug Company’s business model has so many similarities to that of the Tobacco Industry.

Drug Companies tell us they spend billions on research, but once a new drug is approved it costs pennies to produce and the sky is the limit for what they can charge for it. One tiny pill can sell for more than the cost of a whole carton of cigarettes.  

Pharmaceutical Companies do not cure diseases, there is no profit in curing things. They produce drugs that control symptoms. Like the tobacco companies before them, this ensures the consumer has to buy the product for the rest of their life.

Just as some will go without food to pay for cigarettes, some elderly people have to choose between food and medication. The drug industry is pretty much recession proof, in the same way the tobacco industry was through the great depression of the 1930s.

It was the medical profession that brought down the tobacco industry. The drug companies will not make that mistake, they have the medical profession onboard as part of their plan.

I feel doctors and hospitals should be allowed to make a fair return for the service they provide. But it seems morally wrong to me that people’s health should be run as a multi-billion dollar industry. We have the medical profession, the drug companies, and now the insurance companies all taking their slice of the pie.

For fifty or more years people were told smoking cigarettes was a good thing, now we know different. Will it be another fifty years before someone tells us our whole health care system is wrong. I can’t wait that long, so I am doing my best to opt out now.

I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s when everyone smoked tobacco, I chose not to. Today I choose not to pay these ridiculous prices for a medication that will not cure me, and can possibly harm me.

My health plan is simple… To avoid getting sick if I possibly can. I am doing this by exercising (Riding my bike regularly.) and eating a healthy diet.

The other part of my plan is to avoid taking any medication as long as possible, preferably never. When a medication is advertised on TV, the long list of side effects they read off as a disclaimer leaves me wondering if the cure is not more deadly than the ailment.

This is not advice, I do not have the qualifications to give advice. It is simply an opinion, feel free to weigh in with yours.


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Reader Comments (20)

Man-o-shevitz! You have hit the nail on the head. My wife and I were just talking about this a few days ago. At fifty, I am nearing the time when quite a few people are getting to the age when drugs are a part of daily life, or soon will be.

I have discovered through tons of reading, that just about any ailment can be eliminated, or drastically reduced by exercise and diet.

I know people that have had their lives destroyed from the effects of addiction because, as pharma reps, they got a little too careless in sampling their wares. Then there are the ones that have to have a pill to fix everything. And doctors for the most part will prescribe medication for just about anything.... just ask! It's a shame they don't look at getting to the root of the problem and fixing it. It is an attitude of "Oh, you have this, or that? Cool, take this. Next!"

January 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBrett G.

The fact that a good diet and exercise will help keep you healthy is not a new idea, but it is certainly getting trendy. Of course, both of those things require work, and people are generally lazy. Eat fresh vegetables? Well, OK, but this doughnut tastes so good! Go for a bike ride or run? I would, but my favourite TV show is on, and I'm getting really good at this video game!
In the absence of a willingness or ability to make healthy choices, drug companies are quite willing and able to sell you a pill to help. Blood pressure and anti-inflammatory meds for the symptoms that come with being out of shape and overweight leap to mind.
However, I believe that there is a difference between those lifestyle cheats, and medications that help people to deal with things like clinical depression, cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, etc.
Maybe it's OK to charge through the nose for something most people could do without by making lifestyle changes, as long as you use that money to subsidize those drugs people can't do without?
Oh, and in terms of analogies, how about sugar as the new tobacco? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCUbvOwwfWM

January 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNeil

I assume, then, that when you used to sell bikes you only sold them for the basic cost of materials and labour and did not recover any investment costs (e.g. workshop equipment) development costs (your time choosing components, designing frames and colour schemes) or running costs (rent, rates, accountants, buying, etc).

January 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMick Sperry

I've got a nasty habit of reading medical journals (though I'm not a doctor) and what one learns is pretty astonishing. A great example: The Canadian Medical Association discovered that dark chocolate has the same cough suppression effect as codeine.

Doctor magazines contain advertising that rivals that of Cosmopolitan and Esquire. The detailed information contained within drug ads is both enlightening and frightening. Drugs can work wonders but there is more and more evidence that we are overdoing it in almost every regard. Drug interactive issues abound and more and more articles focus on that potentially deadly subject.

EVERY drug alters body chemistry and EVERY drug has side effects. Even the 81 mg aspirin regime is starting to show problems that might not be worth the potential for avoiding heart infarction issues.

Dave's advice is best: Eat well and exercise. In my opinion the television is nearly as bad as smoking. You're just sitting on your behind, watching it grow. Get out and enjoy the world. Walk downtown. Walk to the store. Bicycle to work or school. Lose your car keys and never regret it. Give your car away and take public transportation.

It works beautifully and the amount of money you'll save is frightening.

January 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

Actually the free market determined the price of my frames. I could not sell a frame for more than my competition, which was mainly the Italian import frames. It was then up to me to run my business efficiently, and build and sell a certain number of frames per month in order to be profitable.

January 22, 2015 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I agree with you Dave, both on the health issue and the business one. Neil has some good points too. Oh and I wish you still made bike frames!

January 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSJX426

That is just not true. There are many drugs prescribed to combat a physical or mental ailment that suppress dangerous symptoms until the body can regain enough resistance to handle the problem itself.

January 22, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

Like Dave, I spent my working life in the bike business. I'm a capitalist through and through . . . Making money is, for the most part, a good thing. I understand that pharma companies have huge costs to produce their drugs and that the actual sale of the end product has to reflect development costs as well as productions costs, and profit to continue to operate. However, I also agree with Dave that the system is flawed and as it manifests in our economic culture, it's a huge problem. I doubt there is any solution to the economic conundrum as long as the insurance, pharma, and the medical community continues to operate as a "capitalist, free market" niche. As visitors in England 20 years ago, my wife needed to go the the emergency room in London. Even for non-citizens, the medical care was free - completely free. It's a completely different business model, and IMO, a better one than we have here in the states.

I don't think our medical system will ever improve significantly as long as it's operating on free market, capitalist principles.

January 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRick

Great article. I think as people we really take our health for granted, and don't really put enough time into maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This is one of the reasons I studied nutrition in college. People don't take enough time to understand what they are getting into. I still think there is hope though. Pharmaceutical companies are finding it increasingly difficult to make new drugs, and the ones they do develop often have a long list of side effects. To make one more point our current healthcare system including pharmaceuticals is far from a free market system. One of the main reasons that pharmaceuticals are so expensive is that due to insurance, people only bear at most a small portion of the cost. Their insurance plan pays for most of it. Because of this companies selling drugs or other health services don't have the incentive to lower costs. This is called the third party payer crises. There are two main solutions to this a single payer system where people pay the entire cost of their healthcare using an individual health savings account or a single payer system paid for and controlled by the government such as the National Healthcare System in the UK.

January 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJustus Gunther

Completely agree with you. Our health care system is broken. Health insurance premiums are a major financial burden for my family. We are all very healthy and basically are paying much more into the system than we will ever get back unless someone has a catastrophic accident or gets cancer. The number one cause of bankruptcy filings in the U.S. is due to medical bills. That isn't right. I am on the same plan as you- let exercise and healthy food be your medicine. Even though I have health insurance, I do not visit a physician unless I have broken bones.

January 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterConrad

Dave - I'm a physician and couldn't agree more - your approach to health is ideal and you have identified Big Pharma for what it is. While many drugs have contributed to the increased longevity seen over the past several decades, many others are 'me too' drugs that rely on over prescribing to recoup R&D costs and drive profits. Don't even get me started on what I refer to as 'TV diseases' (restless leg syndrome, social anxiety disorder) where the ads prey on everyday habits and insecurities. My other pet peeve is the link between Big Food and Big Pharma. One generates obesity and diabetes by feeding us s**t, the other treats it with pills, and shamefully for my profession, operations.
The amount of breast and uterine cancer driven by the marketing of estrogen to post-menopausal women and the amount of prostate cancer driven by testosterone for 'male menopause' are staggering. On the physician side, most of my colleagues are oblivious but well-intended in their prescribing habits - there's no conspiracy with the rank and file physician, just cultural bias that medications are inherently good. The individual physician just matches pill to symptom out of habit and time pressure.
Most worrisome to me is the over diagnosis of psychiatric disease for the normal spectrum of human behavior. The subtleties of the commercials that prey on this trouble me particularly. This is one field where organized medicine and Big Pharma are in bed together. The APA defines mental illness in a tome called DSM. The latest version (V) describes many normal personality traits as mental illness. Some of the funding for this came from the pharmaceutical industry directly and indirectly.My particular gripe is with ADD and ADHD. While some people really have them, we're medicating a generation of spirited kids (especially boys) into docile pets.

Sooooooooo.....eat right, exercise, have a glass of red wine and moderate your involvement with organized medicine. Don't let anyone near your kids with any medication that alters behavior. For adults, screening for breast CA, prostate CA, and colon CA are still very much a good idea. (Medicare making some subtle attempts to discourage this now to save federal $ - don't believe new screening guidelines - these are all common and easy to treat if caught early). You may need a med or two here and there for things that crop up in life, but otherwise beware.
PS: just so folks don't think I'm a hypocrite since I make a living as a physician, I'm a trauma surgeon. When you get shot, stabbed, or run over, you pretty much need organized healthcare.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLuigi

One key to living like this Dave is finding a Dr that thinks your way.
When I need medication my Dr is always looking for one with a long track record, minimal impact on other issues that I have, and the smallest dose that will work.
All that I take is one med for high blood pressure (to protect my remaining kidney), as I have lost weight and gotten in better shape we have cut the dosage multiple times and changed meds.
Yes I was glad for big healthcare when I had the four CA surgeries, but sticking to a path that keeps you healthy is the best way.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered Commenteredstainless

Hi Dave,

an excellent piece and comments.

As my mate from Belfast says to anyone that has the sense to listen, "The 6 most common forms of suicide are"

Knife - Fork

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKeith. British Columbia

They produce drugs that control symptoms that people think they have after watching advertisements on TV.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBill K

Giving free medical treatment to non UK residents is one reason why the NHS is in such dire straits.

January 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJW

A lot of people have real problems that need medication. Chronic pain is one. I too ride my bike and exercise as much as possible but have chronic sciatic pain that will keep me awake at night without medication. Maybe I am addicted, but the quality of my life is better from the medication. Mr Moulton is indeed fortunate if he can get along without prescriptions at his age.

January 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCyclist in California

There is nothing drugs can't help you with. Are you healthy? So what, our drugs will help you enjoy life even more. The sales pitch promotes dependance, just as so many are addicted to technology. Ride a bike? So what, you need our Power Meters to become a better rider!
The Medical Industry spends millions lobbying Congress to protect their pricing. They aren't about to give that revenue stream up.
Maybe that will be the next Occupy Movement: A Revolt against the Health Care Industry.

January 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I know of two drugs that will help you enjoy life more - coffee and beer. Taken in moderation they can lift your spirits and quench your thirst.

Taken to excess they can make you jumpy (like Zoloft) or damage your liver (like Tylenol).

The best part is that these two "favored" drugs are widely available (except in Saudi Arabia) and subject to the competitions of the open market. Drink up Señor, all will be well in the end.

January 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

You so nailed this. Our health care system depends so much on medicines and not enough on changes in lifestyle. Typical is the patient I had with gout; when I asked him if his primary care doctor had talked with him about what foods to avoid he said, "No, I'll just take the pills". The system here in the USA is broken and the changes that need to be made are monumental. Meanwhile I'll keep exercising, getting enough sleep, eating well, and staying hydrated while avoiding sugar (for the most part).

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJerald Somdahl

So antihistamines cause Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease!?! Does the Pharmaceutical Industry warn people about this S*it? Certainly not. Get them addicted, and F*ck ‘em all!
Big Pharma is worse than your local Drug Dealer. At least you know you’re taking a risk with Joe Dealer.
As the person who jumped off the building said:
So far, so good…
Problem is, it isn’t how you fall, it’s how you land.

January 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
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