It is no secret that Americans are some of the biggest pill-poppers on the planet – thanks in no small part to Big Pharma’s aggressive, fear-based marketing and the industry’s practice of offering physicians “incentives” to prescribe its products. As a result, U.S. health care consumers now are now expected to be shelling out $400 billion a year by 2020 – an increase of 22 percent over 2015. And that’s a low-ball estimate; according to figures from QuintilesIMS (formerly IMS Health Holdings Inc.). The figure could go as high as $640 billion.

It gets worse as we grow older. On average, elderly people take five different prescription drugs on a daily basis. Needless to say, this increases the chances of undesirable side effects (including addiction) and interactions. In fact, often a second drug is necessary in order to counteract the effects of a first one, which may produce interactions and side effects of its own…and so it goes. For example, one patient was prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication for his rheumatoid arthritis, known as Meloxicam. This caused him to develop an ulcer, so his doctor prescribed Nexium – which is known to cause kidney damage and osteoporosis, among other side effects.

Another elderly woman, on multiple prescriptions, developed new symptoms as the number of medications she was taking increased. Eventually, she had exhausted her savings and wound up selling family heirlooms in order to pay for it all. And the only result was that she continued to feel worse. Significantly, when she switched to a new doctor who took her off of about half of those medications, her health and well-being improved dramatically.

What this woman’s new physician did is called “de-prescribing” – and it represents the inevitable pushback against the corrupt, greedy pharmaco-medical “Disease Establishment” that cares nothing about curing people’s disorders, but rather focuses on profiting by continuing to sell questionable “treatments.” Dr. Ranit Mishori, who practices family medicine in Washington D.C., is among a growing number of physicians who are re-thinking the number of prescriptions they write. This year, she resolved to write fewer prescriptions, and at the same time, get her patients off of as many as possible.

In an editorial originally published in the Washington Post, Dr. Mishori wrote that while it is important for doctors to learn about the effects, benefits and risks of all the medications available to them, they also need to be trained on when not to prescribe medications – and when to take patients off of them. She says:

Deprescribing is its own process, requiring extreme caution and a certain skill on the part of the physician. It is a skill, however, that is not being taught, and it is barely studied to develop best practices. And that hurts patients, because few drugs are meant to be used forever, and all have potential to cause harm.”

While an increasing number of physicians are turning toward de-prescribing, it is important for patients to educate themselves as well. Physicians cannot force their patients to take a particular medication. If you have doubts about particular medications, or if you notice negative changes after taking a prescription for a time, get a second opinion. This is especially important if you are prescribed antidepressants, antipsychotics, statin drugs and proton pump inhibitors.

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K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.