Personal responsibility in our healthcare and by pharma

IN BRIEF: At some point, we need to realize that good health is our personal responsibility. All prescription drugs don’t make us healthy; they just mask a potentially unhealthy lifestyle that eventually will cost patients and our healthcare system a lot of money, time, and pain.

Responsibility for health should be a collaborative effort among individuals and the societies in which they live. Individuals should care for their own health and help to pay for their own healthcare, and societies should promote health and help to finance the costs of healthcare. But what happens when that isn’t the case?

The idea that Americans should take personal responsibility for their health is a topic that needs to be addressed in relation to healthcare costs. The call for personal responsibility is not new, nor just conservative. Barack Obama said, “We’ve got to have the American people doing something about their own care.”

Many Americans think it’s OK to ask people with unhealthful lifestyles to pay higher insurance premiums and deductibles. Efforts to inject more personal responsibility into health care, however, have not consistently been shown to lower costs, improve outcomes or save lives. Effectiveness — or lack of it — is often in the eye of the partisan beholder.

Do pharmaceutical companies have a part in raising awareness of unhealthy lifestyles?

Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are largely preventable. About 9 in 10 cases in the U.S. can be avoided by making lifestyle changes. These same changes can also lower the chances of developing heart disease and some cancers. Where does pharma’s responsibility in this area?

Most people who go to pharma product websites already have a health problem and they are looking for solutions. Too often those solutions are as simple as taking a pill. Yes, pharma is filling a need of the market but should they also remind patients that some chronic health issues are in their control?

Some people would argue that it wouldn’t do any good to remind people that high cholesterol can be controlled with diet and exercise, so why bother? That’s the opinion that is leading to a resurgence of COVID cases in the U.S. People who refuse to wear masks and practice social distancing are a huge reason why COVID surges continue. My feeling is that every healthcare touchpoint should remind people that many health problems are under their direct control.

I also believe that too many within our industry discount the influence that pharma has on patients. Sure the industry has taken its lumps because of drug costs, but people still use pharma product websites when searching for health information.

The most trusted source of health information continues to be physicians, and pharma, along with insurers, should be supplying doctors with all types of patient information that can be used during office visits. Just as my insurance company sends me reminders for a flu shot and colonoscopy, they should also be sending information on the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and obesity.

Pharma companies too often see themselves as just a business that provides a product. That thinking is quickly passing with changes in healthcare and patients. They should see themselves as part of an integrated solution to improving a nation’s healthcare in an era when personal responsibility seems all but moot.

Originally published at on April 1, 2021.



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