Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another edition of the weekly newsletter sure to satisfy your appetite for all things related to being well.  I'm your writing host, Dr. Chad McIntyre, and I was inspired last night while watching the Presidential address to write a letter to Mr. Obama concerning one major issue that he's facing right now: Health care.  Perhaps one day it'll find it's way onto his Oval Office desk, so that he may actually be able to truly address the root cause of the problem.  Here we go...
 
President Obama,
 
I write you today because I want to help you.  I have sat quietly and watched your health care reform unfold for the last 10 months, during which time I have researched the facts of our current health care system along with my own clinical experiences as a doctor in North Carolina.  There are a few things that I would like to bring to your attention, knowing that you are a busy man with hundreds of items that you must deal with on a daily basis.  For that which may seem repetitive to you, I apologize, but bear in mind that amidst the facts of which you are aware, there is information that you may never have been previously exposed to.
 
First, since 1800, we have amassed a total debt in this country of almost $10 trillion.  The majority of that figure has arisen in the last 30 years.  In 1980, we had a national debt of $990 billion.  It has increased an average $333 billion per year ever since.  As of 2002, $258 billion dollars or more per year has been spent on Medicare.  That's 77% of the debt in the country.  Granted, that does not take into account the actual ebbs and flows of the American debt over that 30 year period, but the figure is nonetheless stifling.  In 2007, $440 billion was spent on Medicare.  That's nearly 5% of our entire national debt.  Let's move on.
 
Second, the pharmaceutical industry has seen its meteoric rise occur over the same 30 year period as our national debt.  This may very well be coincidence, but let's look at it further.  Big Pharma is a $280 billion industry in the US per year based solely on sales in drug stores and online pharmacies.  That does not include the drugs used in hospitals.  The industry's growth directly coincides with our government's policies.  In 1980, a series of laws were passed that helped make drug research less about saving lives and more about making money.  These laws allowed university-conducted research (where the majority of drug research takes place) to be patented, whereas before the research was free for anyone to use.  Universities began selling their patents to drug companies and charging royalties.  Health care became a business.  Get more drugs out and patent them - make more money.  Drug companies used TV advertising to hype up their products and the rest is history.  Big Pharma has been relatively immune to economic downturn, as it is far and away our country's most profitable business.  Americans consume 80% of all the drugs in the world, so that should come as no surprise. 
 
The third topic of discussion makes the second seem less favorable.  Despite the fact that our drug companies, which produce cutting edge medication after cutting edge medication every year, are the top industry, health care quality in our country has never been worse.  We rank 40th out of the 40 most industrialized nations in terms of our health care system.  We rank 72nd in the world in overall level of health.  We are 52nd in the world in life expectancy.  All the while, we have better access to medications than any other nation.  While the drugs may be expensive, the fact that Big Pharma has held steady in their profits and sales suggests that Americans will spend what they must to get their medications.  The industry will continue to grow, Mr. President.  Of that, there is little doubt.  Pediatricians around the country are calling for children to begin taking cholesterol medications.  There are nearly 80 million kids under the age of 18 in this country.  That's 80 million new customers to ensure that the pharmaceutical companies continue to flourish.  Keep this in mind as we move forward.
 
I want you to know that I understand your point of view.  You are looking at the best way to make health care cheaper and more accessible.  Yet, I am a doctor that does not have to work through the pharmaceutical network, so I am looking at the best way to make health care BETTER.  Thus, the fourth thing that I think you need to realize is that in order to truly reform health care, you're going to have to start redefining what it means.  Big Pharma's greatest accomplishment has been convincing the American people that they can't live without drugs.  It is also their greatest crime.  The universities that do the research that helps get more drugs into the market also teach students basic biology, human anatomy, chemistry, and physiology.  Sir, you mention God fairly often.  Well, lost amidst the pharmaceuticals that make up 95% of our health care system is the fact that God created us to be well and to be capable of overcoming disease.  A fully functioning human body, which 3 weeks into its development created a beating heart out of nothing more than a few cells, is capable of preventing and/or overcoming just about anything.  All it needs is no interference to its ability to do what it was intended to do - and that's to thrive, not just survive. 
 
The fifth and final thing I'd like to talk about will be brief, but I am not one to tell you all about your problems and then offer you no solutions - that's not my goal as a doctor, nor will it be my goal today.  If you want to make health care in this country better, then focus not on better ways to offer drugs to the public, but rather on how to educate the public on nutrition, exercise, and function - the three cornerstones of what it takes to be healthy. 
Our own ability to heal is not factored into our current health care system.  Instead, drugs are its focus.  Drugs are designed to mask symptoms, as they always have been.  The only difference between the drugs now and the ones 50 years ago are that the new drugs are better at it.  In redefining health care, you must make it clear that the absence of symptoms does not mean you are healthy.  Thus, urge private sector insurance companies to follow suit with your revised definition of health. 
 
I thank you for your time, Mr. President.  Realizing that health care is in shambles not because of lack of access or cost of medications and understanding that health comes from within will allow you and I to accomplish both of our goals.  You'll get to make health care less costly to the American people because their overall health will dramatically improve.  Americans will no longer have to spend as much of their income (nor their tax dollars) on health care.  All the while, they'll be happier and healthier.  If you can do that, Mr. President, you're place in history will be set in a very positive light.  
 
Yours in health,
 
Dr. Chad McIntyre