When many people go to the doctor, they get a verbal diagnosis "it seems you've got mumble mumble", and a verbal treatment recommendation "I'm going to put you on mumble mumble, take n pills a day until it runs out and we'll see what happens." You get a written prescription, which you may, or may not be able to read.
Your prescription, if it is properly written, has your name, the name of the medication, the strength, the frequency to be taken, the amount, the refill information. But.
Your prescription, even if it is properly written, does not have the name of your disease or diagnosis.
Studies of medical diagnosis estimate that diagnosis errors occur from 5 to more than 50 percent of the time, depending on the illness. There are many different types of diagnosis error, from wrong diagnosis, to no diagnosis when one should have been made, to overdiagnosis when none should have been made.
When you leave the doctor's office with a verbal diagnosis and head over to the pharmacy for your medication, you have poor ability to check your diagnosis, and poor ability to research the effects of your medication on your diagnosis.
Everyone has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of healthiness. But, it's difficult to exercise this right if you can't spell your diagnosis. You have a right to research your diagnosis - to validate it in your own mind. To seek another medical opinion if you believe one is needed.
You also have a right to validate the treatment recommended. Only you can ultimately decide if it is right for you, for your diagnosis, for your specific situation.
It is estimated that, even in hospitals, medication errors occur more than 10 percent of the time, although most errors are errors in dosage.
It's easy, once you have a prescription, to learn the 'side effects' of your medication. But it can be very, very difficult to learn the medical effects. Take a few of the top selling medications for 2012, (Humira, Enbrel, Advair/Seretide, Remicade, Rituxan, Crestor, Lantus, Herceptin, Avastin, and Lipitor) and jump over to Wiki to try and find their success rate for each of the conditions they treat. Good luck. You might learn, if you take the time, that NONE of the top ten selling medicines for 2012 actually cure a disease. They all qualify for the Medicines Myth. Most of them simply mask specific disease symptoms.
How well do they work?
If you can't find the success rate - can your doctor? Does he have some secret that you don't know about or can't find? Well, he does if he looks for it, but it's not an easy read.
The Physician's Desk Reference of medications lists clinical results, for example, of Humira for rheumatoid arthritis, which can be summarized as: about 50 percent of patients had positive results, and as the dosage was increased - fewer had positive results. So, the right dose works about 50 percent of the time. That means it fails about 50 percent of the time. Studies show diagnostic errors in juvenile rheumatoid arthritis range from 12% underdiagnosis to 30% overdiagnosis. In the case of misdiagnosis, all you get are the side effects of a medicine, which in this case, include fatal infections.
Your doctor might say "take this and we'll see if it helps". It's anybody's guess as to what might happen in your specific case. The manufacturers of Humira, and other top selling medications, consider their drug a success - they have little financial interest in learning 'why it fails some of the time'. Just sell it to everyone, and let them sort it out.
What can you do? You need to get as clear a name, and description of your diagnosis as you possibly can. For your health. You are the one person who must understand, validate or challenge your diagnosis. You need to get the stats for medicine or treatment that has been prescribed. It's easy to find the 'side effects' list, but side effect statistics can be difficult to find. As the medicine is used more - more information becomes available. Your doctor cannot possibly keep up to date on all of the medicines available. Health, and freedom, do not come to those who sit and wait.
It's up to you to exercise your health freedom. Learn to spell the name of your disease.
Some people may say that 'challenging' your doctor is a bad idea. Doctors are smart, hard working people. They deserve our respect. But remember that even the best doctor makes some mistakes.
Suppose you have arthritis. There are many different types of arthritis. There are dozens of different 'treatments' for arthritis. Most medical references say that arthritis is incurable.
Suppose you have rheumatoid arthritis. None of the patented treatments for rheumatoid arthritis has an effectiveness rate much over 50 percent reduction of symptoms. None claims to cure rheumatoid arthritis. Fifty percent symptoms reduction is the score of the top selling medicine of 2012.
Unfortunately, no-one studies arthritis healthicine. When treatments for arthritis are tested, they are usually toxic patented chemicals that work by decreasing your healthiness instead of enhancing it. Few scientists are busy measuring healing or healthy treatments - even if they might work better - there's little money to be made.
GreenMedInfo is a database for natural medicines - not patented, not sold by the big drug companies (because there is less profit). At GreenMedInfo you can learn that in one study, Cod Liver Oil proved as effective as the current best selling patent medicines for relief from rheumatoid arthritis. With fewer side effects.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, or many similar diseases, you need to accept one thing. Unless you find a cure - you have this disease for life. You've got an entire lifetime of decisions to make. Some people do manage to treat this disease effectively, but it's not easy, maybe it's not always possible.
You have one lifetime. In that lifetime, you can try your best. The medical establishment considers rheumatoid arthritis 'incurable' - as it does many other illnesses, including cancer. The Arthritis Foundation says "Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease, meaning it can’t be cured." I believe that if you think you can't - you are right. However, doctors also recognize that sometimes, due to unexplained circumstances - rheumatoid arthritis, like many incurable illnesses, goes into 'remission'.
When you go to a doctor and get a diagnosis, and a prescription, you have a choice. Accept what the doctor says, or try to learn more.
I recommend you try to learn as much as you can about your illness and about possible treatments. The longer you have the illness - the more time you have to learn about it. Learn to spell your disease.
For the health of it.
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: