Medication Nation

While flipping channels on TV, I see American pharmaceutical companies put out a barrage of ads for their new drugs. These commercials seem to highly focus on its side effects. (I know the ads are required by law to mention side effects.) The key point is consumers should consult their doctors before using these medications. In comparison, Chinese TV commercials do more bragging on the medicine, whether or not it is effective.

But the number of Americans that rely on daily medicine is striking. More than 50% of insured residents of the United States regularly take prescription drugs for at least one chronic health condition, according to a study conducted by Medco Health Solutions in 2008. In other words, half of the national population is unhealthy.

I’ve never seen so many pharmacies around one neighborhood until I came to America. From Wal-Mart to Target, from Rite Aid to Walgreens, from local supermarkets to online drug suppliers, you can fill your prescription anytime, anywhere. I’m sure the pharmaceutical industry in America is a big piece of cake that lures everyone for a bite.

It’s understandable that chronic patients need to take prescription pills on a daily basis. But a healthy person may also take nutrient supplements. To rephrase my mother’s warning—if you’re not myopic, why bother to wear glasses? If you’re fit as a fiddle, why bother to take pills? But that’s certainly not the American philosophy.

My husband has diabetes and a heart condition. His current daily medicine meal is twelve pills a day. The pills he takes are colorful like a handful of candies. I always wonder if each kind counter-affects the other. As long as his mind stays lucid to keep track of the amount and the color of each drug. Knock on wood! Now when my husband sees his doctors, he has to give out a long list of medications. If only one has a super memory to remember those pharmaceutical names.

I also wonder if taking medicine gives a patient more psychological satisfaction than the medical effect in itself. Psychiatric medicine is often controversial. Can medicines really combat one’s depression and stabilize one’s mind? Or does the action of taking them relieve the patient’s mental condition? And if one accidentally overdoses, tragedy ensues.

Perhaps because of the environment, I also have contracted an unprecedented, come-and-go health problem in America—“sun allergy” as one doctor called it; “skin herpes” another doctor named it. I never had this skin issue in China. Now I take medication if the problem recurs—just as the Americans do.


Filed under: Prose, Songyi Zhang's America