A pill for every ill

When people think of the 'drug problem', they usually think of illegal drugs, like ya ba or heroin. However, there are also significant problems with legal drugs as well.

One of the major drawbacks of modern medicine is an overuse of pills. Many doctors and patients believe there is 'a pill for every ill'. This can lead to:

  • Overprescription: doctors tend to prescribe pills rather than other treatments

  • Overmedication: a patient takes unnecessary or excessive medications

  • Polypharmacy: a patient uses a number of medications at the same time.

It is very important that people in developing countries, such as Myanmar, as they move away from using traditional medicines to greater use of modern medicines, are aware of some of the problems that currently exist with modern medication in developed countries, such as US. The article below details some of the problems of the overuse of pills in US.

  1. Read the six questions below and highlight the keywords.

  2. Find the keywords (or synonyms) in the text and read carefully.

  3. Answer the questions with NO MORE than TWO WORDS from the text.

a) What sport did Michael Russo compete in?

b) What illness required him to be admitted to hospital?

c) In the last 20 years, which group has dramatically increased their use of medication?

d) What does polypharmacy increase the risk of?

e) What caused over 5 million Americans to seek medical care?

f) What do drug companies often portray their medication as?


In 1995, Michael Russo (not his real name) was in his mid-50s and in remarkable health, effortlessly running half-marathons and playing competitive racquetball. But when Russo sought treat­ment for his moderate Crohn’s disease, he soon became the victim of a prescribing cascade. As each new medication brought on a new, often serious side effect, another medication was prescribed.

He was 59 when one medication prescribed for his Crohn’s disease activated latent tuberculo­sis, which led to him spending 31 days in the hospital, 17 of them in Intensive Care, including 11 on a respirator. From 2001 until his death in 2014, Russo was in and out of the hospital, taking many medications and suffering multiple side effects. At the end of his life, he was taking more than 31 pills a day, but not one of his 15 physicians saw this as a problem worth addressing. Ultimately, it wasn’t the Crohn’s dis­ease that killed him—it was the drugs and their devastating side effects.

Unfortunately, Russo’s story of harm caused by too many medications is not unusual. Over the past two decades, the number of older Americans taking five or more prescription medications—a red flag for potential harm—has tripled, rising to more than 42 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Taking many medications has become the new normal, a trend most striking in older adults, but growing across all age groups. As this trend progresses, so has polypharmacy-related harm, an epi­demic that experts call “medication overload.” In light of this growing crisis, the Lown Institute re­viewed what is known about polypharmacy and the harm it can cause. This past April, the Institute released Medication Overload: America’s Other Drug Problem.

The report found the following: Harm from multiple medication use is frequent and increasing. While many patients ben­efit from taking multiple medications, polypharmacy also increases a person’s risk of suffering se­rious, sometimes life-threatening side effects. At the same time that medication use among older adults has increased, the rate at which side effects send older adults to the hospital or to the emer­gency room has risen dramatically. Last year, an estimated 5 million older people in the United States—about one in ten—sought medical care for adverse drug events.

There is no single driver of medication overload. Many aspects of our healthcare system make it easy to prescribe medications, but it is far more difficult to review or stop them, even if a medication is likely to be causing harm to a patient. One powerful push factor is our culture of prescribing—the belief that there is a “pill for every ill.” Doctors want to show their patients that they care, and often the easiest way to do that is by pull­­ing out the prescription pad. Meanwhile, drug company marketing—to doctors and directly to consumers—often presents medications as quick fixes, while downplaying the risks. In Russo’s case, no one on his medical team thought to question whether his medications might be the cause of his worsening symptoms.

Full article: https://www.asaging.org/blog/stopping-scourge-overmedication

When you are ready enter your answers in the sheet

Remember: Check feedback on your incorrect answers to identify areas for you to improve (e.g synonyms, vocabulary)


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