Herbs and Drugs – Be Informed to Make Safe Choices

What sources are to be believed when it comes to herbs and prescription drugs? The advertisers? The articles planted in magazines by manufacturers? Something your neighbor told you? A news story on TV that was actually written by vested interests? The latest results of some attention-grabbing new research that was paid for by those same interests? In other words, how can you separate fact from fiction to make choices that are in the best interests of your own health and well-being?

A basic understanding of herbs and prescription drugs can aid you in making decisions that support your better health.

Herbs & Pharmaceuticals

1. The difference between herbs and prescription is that herbs are botanical agents made by nature, while prescription drugs are chemical agents made in the laboratory (with few exceptions).

2. They each have a different history. Herbs have been around forever. They have been used as medicines since time began – to prevent and treat diseases, aid recovery, adapt to stress, eliminate toxins, relieve pain, aid digestion, clear congestion, lift the mood, reduce nausea and vomiting, clear infections, reduce inflammation, reduce cramping, stimulate colon cleansing, build health and vitality and more. It is the true traditional medicine. Using herbs to address such physical health issues is called phytotherapy. Prescription drugs have been around since 1890 or so.

3. Herbs have effects. Herbs are used for the most part for supporting the body to do what it is designed to do. Pharmaceuticals have both effects and side effects. They are used to reduce or eliminate symptoms. This is accomplished by stimulating, suppressing or replacing some bodily function. Because drugs interfere with or substitute for substances or processes inherent to the living body, they carry powerful toxicities. In other words, they are directed against biological process.

4. The same pharmaceutical agent is employed with everyone who has the same symptom. The assumption is that if the symptom is the same, the treatment will also be the same. For example, high cholesterol is treated with statins. While herbs can also be used for symptom control, use of herbs has a different aim. It is based on the assumption that this symptom which appears to be the same in a number of people, is the body’s way of dealing with a problem, that forcing the body not to have the symptom (high cholesterol) doesn’t solve it, and that suppressing symptoms makes them worse. The problem (the inflammation giving rise to the high cholesterol) is still there, but the suppressing agent handicaps the body in its attempts to resolve the cause. And it recognizes that the symptom (high cholesterol, in this example) is a result of inflammation, which can have unique causes for each individual. That’s why several people with high cholesterol might each take different herbs to address their condition.

The Relationship between Herbs and Drugs

The large majority of the population of the earth – especially in emerging nations, still depends on medicinal plants and herbal medicines for primary care. The World Health Organization estimates that well over 75% of the world’s population currently uses herbs in this way. Naturally, this means that there are any number of traditions and systems used to employ herbs. Four primary traditions operate currently: Ayurveda, Unani/Tibb, traditional Chinese medicine and Western herbal medicine.

The other 25% of the world population depends largely on modern pharmaceuticals. These patented medicines used today are actually based on herbal medicines and many still come from herbs. In short, herbs are a major source of drugs and the development of synthetic drugs. For example:

· the heart medicine digitalis is from Foxglove,

· the antispasmodic Atropine is extracted from the deadly Nightshade,

· the first antibiotic is from Penicillin mold,

· painkillers are from the Opium Poppy,

· muscle relaxants from Valarian,

· aspirin is from White Willow Bark.

According to World Resources Institute, forest peoples originally discovered the medicinal uses of three-quarters of the plant-derived drugs currently in wide use. In the northwestern Amazon alone, indigenous people use at least 1,300 plant species.

Modern drug companies still have their agents scouring the rainforest and living with the indigenous healers. Because natural herbs cannot be patented, their aim is to learn the skills of herbal medicine and translate them into patentable – and therefore highly profitable – synthetic medications in the laboratory.

Despite this dependence on herbs, the marketing arm of the pharmaceutical industry constantly releases inaccurate information to the public about herbs. They fund studies to elicit negative effects and then sound the alarm by placing stories throughout the media that herbs are dangerous.

They also operate in the political arena to have herbs removed from the marketplace. One documented negative reaction is often sufficient to stimulate contact with well-placed political officials (who often received campaign donations through the drug company). The official then places a rider on a bill to prevent the legal use of the herb. If this succeeds, it leaves the marketplace wide open for the patented pharmaceutical derived from the herb, which can then be marketed free of competition.

This is especially obvious when an herb is an effective agent but its availability competes with a pharmaceutical product. Such was the case when the herb Kava Kava, an effective relaxant and sleep remedy, was removed from the marketplace because it presents an effective alternative to Ambien(®), the sleep aid that was being promoted at that time. (Kava is since back on the market).

Nonetheless, the need for the phytotherapeutic approach at this time in history is underscored by some alarming statistics. They reveal that, regarding properly prescribed pharmaceuticals:

in the U.S. in 2011 doctors wrote 4.2 billion prescriptions – a little more than one per month for every man, woman and child;

· 100,000 people die from adverse drug reactions each year;

· another 200,000 per year are seriously injured from adverse reactions;

· more than 4,000 people every day are admitted to hospitals due to adverse drug reactions;

· properly prescribed pharmaceuticals are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.;

when improperly prescribed pharmaceuticals are added, they rise to the third leading cause of death after heart attacks and cancer;

· more that 50% of all medicines are not correctly prescribed, dispensed and sold;

· 68 million prescriptions each year contain some sort of error.

Meanwhile, there is all manner of debate about illness and even deaths due to use of herbs. However, even counting all those blamed on herbal use, the statistics don’t even begin to match the huge numbers from pharmaceutical drug use.

Tips to Save Money on Prescription Drugs Effectively

Drugs can be quite expensive now, and not everyone has insurance coverage that covers their prescribed medications or makes the price lower with a co-pay. In other cases, people have to pay full price for their drugs, which can be pretty expensive. This can happen even if they have a medical insurance plan, but it doesn’t cover the specific drug.

People with and without medical insurance could use some of the following methods to mitigate the effect of expensive drugs on their wallet.

There are several tips on how to save money on prescription drugs. Those tips exclude unsafe ways to obtain medications, like buying them on the street or ordering through an unlicensed pharmacy.

Generic drugs instead of brand-name

This tip is the first that comes to mind when it comes to saving on prescribed medications. Indeed, generics in most cases have the same efficacy as their brand-name versions, but patients can obtain them at a significantly lower cost. If a physician said that a patient may replace a brand name drug with its generic substitute, or didn’t prescribe the drug to be “dispensed as written”, purchasing a generic alternative would be a wise decision.

In most cases, pharmacists provide their customers with generics unless they see “DAW” on the prescription.

For example, Prilosec. This brand-name drug used to treat GERD costs about $230 for 30 capsules, and its generic version costs only $13 for the same amount. Prices are valid as of February 2, 2017, for New-York city. All of the estimated prices are taken from Goodrx.com for Walmart pharmacy. Lower prices may be found in other pharmacies or areas.

Using preventive care services

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare), people have access to preventive care services for free, regardless if they have any type of medical coverage or not. This method will not help to save money on current prescriptions, but will decrease the chance of drugs needed in the future.

Using patient assistance programs

If patient can’t afford a specific drug, using patient assistance programs is an option.

Those programs are run by pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer. Also, there are federal and state programs available for patients without medical coverage or those who cannot afford vital drugs.

Rx Outreach and NeedyMeds are only a few of the programs available across the U.S.

90-day supply instead of 30-day supply

A 90-day supply is almost always cheaper than a 30-day supply. In the long-term, this method can save not only money but also time spent to visit a doctor or a pharmacy.

Plus, if a patient has private health insurance, they can get a 90-day supply using a mail-order pharmacy. This will save even more money and it’s more convenient.

Mail-order pharmacies

Patients could save money on their prescriptions by using mail-order pharmacies. This method is more convenient than going to a pharmacy, but patients should be really careful when using online pharmacies.

Some of them could be fake and simply looking to scam customers. However, patients could avoid those issues if they use the BeSafeRx program from the Food and Drug Administration.

Pill splitting

If a physician says it is okay to split the pill, you can, as long as it is not a birth control medication or a long-acting drug. There are also drugs that are not designed to be split or drugs that have a special coating to protect the stomach. It is impossible to split these and use them without any consequences.

In all other cases, it’s a very smart move to make 20 10mg tablets out of 10 20mg tablets. This method uses the same principles as getting a 90-day supply: a twice-higher dosage does not mean a twice-higher cost.

It is very important to ask a physician about pill splitting in every specific case.

Exemption right

It is possible that medical coverage will not cover the drug that is lifesaving or really important for the patient’s health. If the patient’s physician provides the insurer with proof of the importance of the drug for the patient’s life, there is a chance the patient could get a right for exemption. With this right, the health insurer would cover the drug that is not covered otherwise.

Spending some time on a call to the insurance company could save a lot of money.

Another pharmacy – another price

A patient with an insurance plan could obtain his drugs for different prices from different pharmacies in your area. The difference could be small, only saving a couple cents, but it could be significant as well.

For example, 60 pills of Adderall will cost about $45 at Walgreens and about $79 at Kmart. That’s $34 saved just by walking to another pharmacy.

If this example is not shocking, just imagine the amount of money that would be saved if there are several drugs prescribed.

Using online medication coupons

If a patient has a high deductible plan, or if the drug is not covered, it is a good idea to check if it is possible to get the drug at a lower price by using online coupons. It is hard to save a lot of money on commonly prescribed drugs, especially generics, but savings could be huge for brand-name drugs.

One of the most commonly used services for getting online coupons is Goodrx.com.

Another way to save money is to check if there is a manufacturer discount available for the drug. If a patient is eligible for the manufacturer discount, there is a possibility they could get the drug at a low cost.

Overall drug savings

These tips, combined together, will save a lot of money on prescribed drugs for people with or without medical insurance. Each of these methods is safe for patient health, as the patient will obtain only original medications without any additional substances, which are common in counterfeit drugs. If you are not sure if some of these tips would work for you specifically, don’t hesitate to ask a physician.

Will New FDA Approved Drugs Help Alleviate the Mental Health Crisis in the USA?

The death of Robin Williams and child star Sawyer Sweeten has brought focus to the mental health crisis in the US. Although there has been a growing debate on whether mental illness is given the attention and health dollars needed to effectively treat the people who are afflicted, there may be some new hope on the horizon.

One of the major mental illnesses is Major Depressive Disorders, (MDD). As defined by Mayoclinic.org, MDD, also known as Clinical Depression, is a mood disorder causing a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. In severe cases it causes suicidal thoughts and depression accompanied by delusions or hallucinations, which may involve themes of personal inadequacy or negative themes. There are approximately 15 million adults in the US with MDD, and many of them go without treatment because of lack of understanding, healthcare coverage reasons, cost and access to care. Mental health resources are stretched thin across the country. Unfortunately, for many who do receive care, current therapies and treatments are not always effective and often lead to people abandoning medical assistance with potentially dangerous results.

However, some major pharmaceutical companies have been putting dollars into research and have promising pipelines. Companies like Lundbeck A/S have focused their research and development efforts on creating new and innovative pharmaceuticals for the treatment of brain disorders with some positive results. According to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), in 2014 America’s biopharmaceutical research companies were developing 119 novel medicines to help improve the lives of people with mental health disorders. The medicines in development are all either in clinical trials or under review by the Food and Drug Administration. Some of these medicines should be to market shortly like Rexulti® (brexpiprazole), which will aid in the treatment of MDD and Schizophrenia, anticipated to reach the public in August of 2015. It is hopeful that these news drugs will help address cost and access barriers to treatment.

The upshot, the mental health-care system in the United States is a multibillion-dollar industry that’s still not big or effective enough to serve all those who need it, but its working to get there. Mental illness and addiction related issues are an unfortunate growth industry, not only with in the pharmaceutical world, but treatment and care centers are also taking off, as stigmas around the disease fall away and improved health insurance allow greater access.