Today's Consumer Demanding More Health Information

Article excerpt

Consumer interest in personal health care has never been more robust, to judge from the attendance at the annual conference of the National Consumers League, held in mid-April in Philadelphia.

Under the umbrella title "Health Care: How Do Consumers Manage?" the speakers covered such aspects of health care as drug costs, drug-taking habits, and alternative medicine. Top-shelf organizations represented included Ford Motor Co., Pharmacia & Upjohn, National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, and many others.

According to J. Lyle Bootman, dean and professor at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, health-care costs in the United States account for some 15% of the total gross domestic product, with drug costs ringing up some 8% of that figure-less than the cost of drugs in Europe and Japan. A growing problem in Americans' drugtaking habits is that the percentage of patients who continue to take their Rx drugs according to their physicians' schedule drops year by year, so that after several years only a small percentage are still following the schedule. Prescribers and R.Ph.s will have to address the problem. It can only intensify as Americans grow older, sicker, and more forgetful.

Michael D. Miller, director of federal relations for Pfizer Inc. and a member of the committee of the Genome Action Coalition, reminded listeners that the number of diseases linked to specific genes now stands at 71 and will rapidly increase. This indicates that R.Ph.s, along with other health-care professionals and consumers, will have to become more knowledgeable about genetics and genetic diseases. The question of confidentiality about drug-taking habits will also have to be addressed, as personal data become more widely available.

"Less than 3% of the total cost of medical care is devoted to research. And less than 1% of that total comes out of the pockets of the American public," according to Mary Woolley, president of Research!America, a grassroots public education and advocacy group. "The public wants more information from the media and from health professionals. …


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