It is not an unspoken fact that the over-prescribing of drugs is a serious issue facing Americans today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 259 million prescriptions for painkillers were filled out by mental health workers in 2012, with approximately 46 people dying each day as a result of overdosing from painkillers. A number of other trends factor into this potentially harmful equation, as the number of available psychiatrists is greatly overshadowed by the steep increase of various mental disorders in the last decade or so.
Fortunately, some needed technological improvements are now positively affecting how patients receive their medication. Manufactured by Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering, the new tool aims to replace the simple pill bottles that most pharmacy visitors are familiar with. While aesthetically it may look like a metal tube, this cylinder is tamper-proof and also outfitted with a fingerprint scanner that only responds to the patient’s unique pattern. The container is filled with the appropriate dosage and can even be programmed to only administer the medicine at certain times. Overall, this invention eliminates any possible pathways of misuse and abuse, which is greatly needed for such powerful substances.
While game-changing innovations like these are appreciated by many, the United States has a history of dynamic changes regarding mental health that have not always benefited society altogether.
How health care has historically adapted to pharmaceutical innovation
Most news sources focus on the resulting effects of mental health care changes, such as the heavy reliance on prescription drugs, the lack of attentiveness in primary care physicians to mental as well as physical ailments and the hidden threat of doctor shopping and fraud from patients. However, an often unasked question about this nationwide transition in treatment seeking and receiving behavior begins with “how.” How is the health care industry shifting its ideology and economy as a whole?
Health care entrepreneur and author J.D. Kleinke explored this topic back in his 2001 article, “The Price of Progress: Prescription Drugs in the Health Care Market.” In the piece, Kleinke explains the added costs associated with the multiple breakthrough medicines of the 1990s. He said that over time, public health has moved “from the provision of traditional medical services to the consumption of medical products.” However, Kleinke details this shift as a positive one. Many pharmaceutical companies do pay dividends to the U.S. health care system that exceeds their cost. In addition, these pharmaceutical solutions lower medical costs over the long term, such as with length of inpatient stay and subsequent hospital visits.
Fast-forwarding to current trends, Kleinke’s evaluation of where U.S. health care was going may not be as accurate as he would have hoped. In addition to the risks of abuse and addiction, many Americans report an inability to afford their required medications and need a safe alternative for their assorted ailments. In a survey conducted by Bloomberg Business in 2014, which measured the average of wholesale prices on brand name drugs, found that 73 top branded drugs had increased their prices by 75 percent or more from late 2007 to early 2014. The Drug Channels Institute also found that half of all generic drugs rose in price during the last year, with one increasing by a staggering 1,700 percent. Due to these startling developments, multiple investigations have begun to seek out what is going on behind the scenes.
Johns Hopkins University’s medication-assisting device is a new type of breakthrough. Instead of reallocating money into certain treatment options and neglecting others, the novel invention seeks to increase compliance rather than profit. When combined with the recent push for Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs), both medical and pharmaceutical industries are beginning to experience improvements that increase one’s quality of life, just as breakthrough medications have done in the past.
Sovereign Health of California offers treatment programs that specialize in addressing underlying mental health conditions by utilizing innovative and cutting edge cognitive testing, rehabilitation and evidence-based treatment modalities. If you, a family member or friend is in need of mental health or addiction care, contact a Sovereign representative online or call (866) 819-0427.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer